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Less and less thrilled with this Syria strike

by Greg Krehbiel on 10 April 2017

The more I think about it, the less I like it.

There is one good thing to be said about it, which is that it shows resolve. Obama had a reputation — at home and abroad — of not liking the military and being too tentative. It projected weakness.

Trump is definitely not projecting weakness.

Still, I return to my most basic political principle, which is that I don’t trust people with power. Consequently, I don’t like this idea that the president can unilaterally toss bombs around the world.

There are other questions to be asked about the whole thing, but for me it comes down to that. The president has to go to Congress before using the military unless there’s a clear and present danger to the country. Assad doing a small chemical weapons attack in Syria is hardly that.

2017-04-10  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 27

  1. smitemouth
    10 April 2017 @ 10:01 am

    At least you’re basically consistent on this issue.

    In 2013, Obama went to congress and couldn’t get support. Trump didn’t bother to ask.

    I think if Obama had proposed increased military spending, decreases in entitlements, and lowering taxes, McConnell would have opposed him.

    I saw a portion of MTP Sunday morning. Lindsey Graham was on and they were asking about what if Assad kills his people with barrel bombs or such. What makes gassing different? His reply was that morally, there is no difference. However, legally there is a difference because all these civilized (haha) countries have signed treaties to not use chemical weapons and Assad broke the treaty. Trump may have broken the constitution/law himself… Who knows…

    You’re right that Assad certainly is not an immediate threat to the US. The Russians were supposed to ensure 4 years ago that Assad turned over all his chemical weapons. Again, what were Russians doing on an air base that had chemical weapons on it? What will Tillerson say to Putin this week?

  2. Robin R.
    10 April 2017 @ 10:52 am

    Quote: There is one good thing to be said about it, which is that it shows resolve. Obama had a reputation — at home and abroad — of not liking the military and being too tentative. It projected weakness.

    You are confusing “resolve” with “trigger happy”, “not like the military” and “being too tentative” with “being cautious”.

  3. Robin R.
    10 April 2017 @ 10:53 am

    *”not liking the military”

  4. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    10 April 2017 @ 10:55 am

    You can quibble over words if you like, but (from what I have heard) a lot of the reaction internationally has been “finally, the U.S. is leading.”

  5. Robin R.
    10 April 2017 @ 11:46 am

    No, the international reaction is “the U.S. is becoming volatile and dangerous”.

  6. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    10 April 2017 @ 11:49 am

    Where are you getting that idea? News reports don’t say that.

  7. Robin R.
    10 April 2017 @ 12:15 pm

    This is a clear-cut case of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

  8. William
    10 April 2017 @ 1:00 pm

    Wait-a-minute…Obama went through the correct channels and the Congress balked at the idea of taking action. Yet he was criticized for not taking action. Ralph Peter even called him the “P” word on national TV during his presidency (which I suspect has never happened to any other sitting president). Yet, Trump does the exact OPPOSITE of what he criticized Obama for in 2013 and goes for a power grab and now he’s a hero….the paragon of strength? I know POTUS’ are always in the position of being criticized and I’m not a big Obama supporter but this reaction is clearly partisan male bovine manure!

  9. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    10 April 2017 @ 1:15 pm

    From what I’ve read, the world saw Obama as too timid. They want America to lead, and Obama didn’t lead.

    It’s entirely possible that he wanted to, but Congress prevented him. But I think that’s more spin than reality.

    Valerie Jarrett was reported to be very skeptical of U.S. power, and she pushed Obama towards minimizing it.

  10. William
    10 April 2017 @ 2:04 pm

    Let me see if I can get this straight. Some feel that Obama was “legitimately” criticized for being too timid despite Syria not posing an authentic threat to the US, the majority of Congress not being supportive of taking action and even our current POTUS spoke against taking action (at that time). Fast forward, we now we have a similar set of conditions and the current POTUS takes the very action he spoke against, the majority of Congress wasn’t support of (neither were consulted before this current action was taken) and Syria still isn’t considered a serious threat…but he’s to be commended and considered an example of strength. Yep, that’s really “interesting” thinking!

  11. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    10 April 2017 @ 2:06 pm

    I don’t think you can judge Obama’s perceived timidness only in the context of Syria.

  12. William
    10 April 2017 @ 2:20 pm

    Obama’s detractors would likely cite other examples. Yet, it’s also true that he was criticized for being too timid in that specific situation.

  13. Robin R.
    10 April 2017 @ 2:34 pm

    Since when is leading to be equated with military action?

  14. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    10 April 2017 @ 2:36 pm

    @Robin, who said it was?

    The reports I’ve heard say that other nations felt as if the U.S. wasn’t leading under Obama, and they do feel as if Trump is leading. (Even before the Syria nonsense.)

    You’d have to take up with those other nations as to what they defined as “leading.”

  15. Robin R.
    10 April 2017 @ 3:35 pm

    I’m not sure of that. I don’t have time to check it. But even so, it can be a bad thing that Trump is leading and Obama was not. There are, after all, bad leaders.

  16. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    10 April 2017 @ 3:47 pm

    “Leading” is certainly not a good thing in and of itself. The Pied Piper was also a good leader.

    So far — from what I’ve heard — other nations appreciate what Trump has been doing.

    I’m not saying that’s the measure of all things, and as I’ve said specifically re: Syria, I have serious doubts. But so far he seems to be playing decently well on the world stage — in that narrow regard.

  17. Scott Wicker
    10 April 2017 @ 4:29 pm

    Yes, “Trump is definitely not projecting weakness”. Even though his actions are mostly stupid, he is nonetheless decisive. As Martin Luther advised, “Sin boldly!” Contrast this with Obama’s effeminate, non-committal dithering. Obama’s vision never extended beyond plans for his next golf outing.

  18. Dave Krehbiel Dave Krehbiel
    10 April 2017 @ 5:29 pm

    My understanding was that the president has 90 days to go to Congress.

    I would personally rather have our enemies perceive our president to be unpredictable and decisive rather than passive.

  19. RR
    10 April 2017 @ 10:15 pm


    Obama sent more troops to Afghanistan early on in his presidency. He also made a gutsy call in ordering the raid to kill Bin Laden to proceed. In addition, he approved of air strikes on Libya. Finally, he did approve a number of drone strikes against terrorists.

    Granted, the only of these actions that I think did any good was the raid that killed Bin Laden, as well as perhaps some of the drone strikes. Still, I don’t see how Obama projected weakness simply because he backed off bombing Syria.

    For Trump, one could also just as well argue that he isn’t being “strong” in bombing Syria. Rather, he is reversing his position based on emotions, which is hardly indicative of strength.

  20. William
    10 April 2017 @ 11:07 pm

    Hypocrisy at its best…

  21. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    11 April 2017 @ 7:51 am

    @RR, I was listening to a conversation on CSPAN radio this morning about immigration, and Obama’s decision to increase immigration from Syria to 50,000. It was interesting, but one series of comments grabbed my attention.

    They were pointing out the difference between political decisions — things that play well in the U.S. — and strategic / foreign policy decisions.

    Some of the speakers characterized Obama’s immigration decisions as political rather than strategic.

    The point, I think, is not that Obama lacked courage or convictions. You’re right, the raid to get Bin Laden was risky.

    The point, rather, is whether his actions fit into a coherent, strategic foreign policy.

    IMO, his only real foreign policy was to get the U.S. less involved overseas. That might be a perfectly reasonable goal. In fact, I’m for it. We spend way too much time, talent and treasure on the rest of the world, and we should stop that.

    But my impression of news reports of late is that the rest of the world wants the U.S. to be involved and to lead.

    Maybe Obama is right. Maybe the rest of the world needs to mind their own business and quit relying on us to pay for and/or solve things. That’s a reasonable debate.

    My point is that (from what I’ve read) Trump is perceived as restoring American leadership. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s what I hear.

  22. William
    11 April 2017 @ 12:21 pm

    QUOTE: My point is that (from what I’ve read) Trump is perceived as restoring American leadership.

    The perceptions of the great convention of “they” can be quite interesting. We are in the midst of a season where a crowd gave great laud to Jesus and not even a week later shouted crucify him. At the onset of his presidency, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the awards committee, it was for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. Also, according to early polls, the world perception was fairly favorable (see link below). Yet, somewhere along the way, that changed. Interestingly enough, during the campaign season, it seemed a general perception of Trump was he was a “donkey” (see link below). Now, he’s a “leader”. Interesting, indeed!

    Given the obvious fickled nature of public opinion, its seems a greater measure of leadership would be to examine if the leader has built and executed a sustainable strategy that has had effective outcomes. Despite that, public perceptions can be fun to observe…especially when ideology becomes more important than empirical evidence and facts.

  23. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    11 April 2017 @ 1:05 pm

    The comparison to the peace prize is quite apt.

    There’s no telling how Trump will be treated a month from now — especially since he seems to flip flop on issues all the time.

  24. William
    11 April 2017 @ 2:58 pm

    QUOTE: There’s no telling how Trump will be treated a month from now — especially since he seems to flip flop on issues all the time.

    I suspect Trump could cure ALL the ills of the US/world and there would still be 20% of the population that would oppose him. He could call Mother Teresa a harlot and spit on her grave publically and there would be 20% that still supported him (and likely vow that she deserved it). Yet, what will be most interesting to see is how he consistently engages the 60% that can be influenced. Will history capture him as a hero or a heel or both? It surely will be interesting to see.

    As for now, even with the Syria strike and the current euphoria about him restoring American leadership, it doesn’t seem he’s been able to restore that 55% approval rating he cited from Rasmussen Reports (the anti-fake news) in February. I guess the good news is that it’s at least stopped dropping and moving in a positive direction.

  25. William
    11 April 2017 @ 6:41 pm

    PS…I forgot to post this link to research that indicates that near the end of Obama’s second term (in key parts of the world) there still seemed to be confidence in his leadership, despite declining from his first term. Global confidence in Trump, not so much during that same period.

  26. RR
    11 April 2017 @ 9:58 pm


    I’ve live in Europe (France and Germany) for three years and have traveled in Latin America as well. I agree with your impression of news reports that the rest of the world wants the U.S. to be involved and to lead. However, many countries are often hypocritical about this. They want the United States to do the heavy lifting in the event of an international crisis and in organizations such as NATO. Yet they are often critical of American actions. While it isn’t realistic for the United States to completely withdrawal from world affairs, I don’t think we Americans should care if other countries want us to “lead.” That often just means cleaning up someone else’s mess and catching grief for it in the process. The United States should mainly be concerned with advancing its own national interests. And intervening in a complicated civil war halfway around the world that doesn’t endanger American security certainly doesn’t qualify.

  27. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    12 April 2017 @ 8:40 am

    @RR, they want us to take care of things for them. 🙂