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In the opening stanza of his speech Tuesday night, the president was at his best. His discourse on the horror of chemical weapons and his pleadings on behalf of the innocent victims in Syria was eloquent and moving.
But that part of the speech, as well-written and well-delivered as it was, shed no new light. We already know that chemical weapons are horrible.
The president’s objective on Tuesday was to make the case for using military force in response to those chemical weapon attacks and toward that goal, he accomplished nothing. Nothing he said offered anything to the American people as to how military intervention in Syria would make any lasting positive difference. Nothing he said offered any assurance that a military intervention would not touch off a storm of unintended consequences.
The people know that a military action that is “unbelievably small” and one that will have meaningful impact on the enemy’s bad actions cannot exist simultaneously. Military intervention is for one purpose – to project force onto an enemy with sufficient impact as to deny him the means and the will to continue his malfeasance. Military force is not about subtlety.
The president’s attempt to explain to us that his intended use of force will be so precisely calibrated as to be infinitely nuanced was unconvincing for the simple reason that such use of force is not possible.
We are now right back where we started. The president laid down an ill-considered marker last year with his “red line” that he is now stuck with. He is now looking for a way to avoid looking weak and ineffectual.
His speech Tuesday night did nothing to convince us that the use force is the way to solve that problem for him.