August 20, 2012:
Chuck Todd: Mr. President, could you update us on your latest thinking of where you think things are in Syria, and in particular, whether you envision using U.S. military, if simply for nothing else, the safe keeping of the chemical weapons, and if you’re confident that the chemical weapons are safe?
President Obama: I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement in the situation. But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
September 4, 2013:
Yahoo News: Recasting his role in setting a “red line” on Syria, President Barack Obama insisted on Wednesday that Congress and the world will lose credibility if Bashar Assad’s alleged chemical weapons massacre goes unpunished.
“My credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’ credibility is on the line,” Obama said during a visit to Stockholm, Sweden.
“I do have to ask people, well, if, in fact, you’re outraged by the slaughter of innocent people, what are you doing about it?” Obama asked. “The moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.”
The president rejected any notion that he needs to use military force against Syria in order to preserve his personal standing in the world after calling a chemical weapons attack a “red line” in an Aug. 20, 2012, press conference.
“I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line,” he insisted.
So is Obama now not merely U.S. president but also president of the world? When he says “my calculus” this doesn’t merely reflect his own thinking — it represents the will of humanity?
The people who fear world government are mostly nutcases, but when Obama talks like this he fuels their paranoia.
You — Barack Obama, the guy sitting in the White House — it was you who set that red line. You weren’t giving a legal interpretation of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which Syria isn’t even a signatory.
Moreover, it’s worth noting, as the Washington Post points out, Syria’s possession of chemical weapons stockpiles “results from a never-acknowledged gentleman’s agreement in the Middle East that as long as Israel had nuclear weapons, Syria’s pursuit of chemical weapons would not attract much public acknowledgement or criticism.”
Obama now says: “The moral thing to do is not to stand by and do nothing.” True. And given that, how does he account for the fact that for the last two years, as 100,000 Syrians have been killed, he has essentially stood by and done nothing?
As always though, this isn’t a choice between nothing and something, the “something” now seemingly reduced to a Goldilocks military strike — one that is not too hot, nor too cool.
In several directions there are diplomatic doors inching open — in Iran and Russia. Instead of pursuing those, Obama appears to insist on a course of action that might end becoming worse than nothing and there’s nothing moral about that.