After this morning's news report that President Obama has decided to deploy a small contingent of special forces in Syria in the wake of 19-party talks considering an end to the Syrian civil war and a transition government at the end of which dictator Assaad's grip on power will come to an end, everyone who's anyone on the national media is busy telling us that in 2013, the President promised not to boot American boots on the ground in Syria.
Heck, even C-Span got in on the action, linking to the president's 2013 address, but skipping the entire half of the speech that came before the ZOMG-quote of the day.
The meme, though, neither provides context nor represents the President's remarks correctly. First, the context. The speech everyone is referring to was the President's address asking for Congress to vote on authority to use American military intervention in Syria as Assaad was using chemical weapons to kill men, women and children.
Here, in context, is what the President did say.
He was asking Congress for authority to use military force there, and was speaking only of his planned actions at that time, should Congress authorize the strike.
Congress, reaching into its infinite reserve of stupidity provided by ideologues from both political ends - Tea Party Republicans who had to oppose anything Obama supported, and the ideologue Left led by Alan Grayson, who laughed at the slaughter of Syrian children - refused, and the Islamic State took hold in Syria, thanks partly to that inaction - which is what is now provoking the president's action with regards to the special forces.
It should be noted that the Islamic State as a unified power structure across Iraq, Syria, and other parts of the middle east didn't take full root until late 2013-early 2014, and they didn't declare themselves a caliphat until June 28, 2014. In other words, subsequent to Congress' refusal to act and long after the president's speech, the terrorist threat on the ground ballooned. One of the reasons Islamic state became so strong is because the people of Syria found out that they couldn't count on the American Congress when their leaders were gassing them.
You'll hardly find anyone in the Get-Obama brigade, though, that will even remind the public of that, let alone make the very reasonable suggestion that perhaps it was that unwise inaction by Congress that has caused a prolonging and deterioration of the civil war in Syria, and has forced the president to decide to send about 50 special forces to Syria.
One should also note that the special forces President Obama is reportedly sending won't engage in battle themselves.
One of the reasons President Obama's foreign policy is effective and successful - from winding down wars to killing Osama bin Laden to deposing Gadaffi to the Iran nuclear deal - is because he doesn't just pay lip service to developing a strategy that meets the demands of the time and conditions on the ground rather than holding some artificial rigid position for all times and all places.
Finally, the legal situation is changed. While in 2013 the President asked for military authority to act against a humanitarian crisis and were he to act alone the legal foundation would have been the UN's plenary authority for member nations to act, American law - the AUMF, specifically - particularly and expressly authorizes the president to use force to fight terrorist groups, of which the Islamic State is one.
That's what's going on here. The world is paying the price for Congressional ideologues' refusal to act when the President urgently asked them to, and the President is doing what is necessary at this time and place. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who knows how President Obama works that this announcement comes at the same time as the international talks on Syria are beginning.
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