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Home The Big Fat Red Line

The Big Fat Red Line

Someone chalked a long red line along the street outside my building. The line is sloppy, it turns, wavers and meanders. Car tires have already rubbed it pink in places and dogs have done to it what large four-legged animals do naturally when taken out of the confines of narrow apartments. The line turns a corner and dives inside a pothole near an exposed sewer grate. And then it is gone.

Obama's red line is more famous than my red line. It appears in the Washington Post and the New York Times. There are reams of speculation over what the nature of the red line is, whether the red line has been crossed, what Obama should do about the crossing of the red line and how many devils can dance on the edge of a red line while juggling Sarin canisters.  

Despite being much more famous, Obama's red line matters about as much as the one in front of my building. It's there one day and gone the next and no one really cares.

The red line, the famous one in D.C. is meaningless. It exists because politicians and reporters expect it to exist. It's a necessary optical illusion that convinces them that Eisenhower or JFK are still in the White House and that the United States of America is a rational world power with standards on truly important matters such as human rights and the percentage of cow flatulence that is to be allowed to ascend into the atmosphere.

Obama's red line never existed. It was the sort of thing that Obama occasionally said because people expected him to say it. Chemical weapons are bad, okay? If you use them, we'll get really upset. And the White House press corps pawed its iPads, hardly able to type for the thrills shooting through their nervous systems at being in the presence of a leader they could truly respect for his compassion and wisdom.

But Obama and his teleprompter are far too elegant wordsmiths to get bogged down in red lines. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation,” Obama declared at one point, channeling his inner Stephen Hawking, but sounding more like a punchline from Big Bang Theory. Whatever changes have happened to Obama's calculus equations from the possible use or non-use of chemical weapons, the equation is still up there on the blackboard and it has no solution.

The idea that Obama has a red line governed by the number of people who are killed is slightly sillier than the plot of every big budget summer movie rolled together. As far back as his campaign, Obama made it clear that genocide in Sudan or the Congo was not a criteria for military intervention. But when Gaddafi took the initiative, Obama went to war in defense of a lovely peaceful city named Benghazi that the Nobel Peace Prize winner declared was on the verge of being exterminated.

What set one African country apart from another? Cynics might point to oil and race, but those are just elements of the larger calculus equation that makes Obama do things. It's his real red line that doesn't show up at press conferences because it doesn't sound good. The real red line has nothing to do with how many people die in Syria. It has to do with how those deaths slot into the larger agenda for the region.

That might be okay if the agenda were remotely coherent. It isn't. It might be okay if he didn't have a habit of saying stupid things and then flailing around afterward.

Obama allowed the thin red line myth to go forth and now he's stuck with it. The old liners at the Washington Post who still think that we're living in 1958 keep calling on Obama to show leadership. But how is he supposed to do that? He's not a leader. And even if he were, he certainly would not be their kind of leader. Or at least he is the kind of leader they deserve.

The left has a long history of marrying incompetence and malice. It excels at taking power and fails at trying to use it. It is good at convincing people of things, so long as those people are out in the streets shouting about jobs and food. It is quite capable of looting a country, but incapable of building it up except through the crudest brute force forms of industrialization that fail before too long.

Behind the big fat red line of the Soviet Union was a monstrous regime that got its ass handed to it by its Nazi allies in a hot war and then got its ass handed it to it again in a cold war by the United States. The United States saved the Soviet Union twice, once from famine and once from war and nearly saved it a third time economically. The Soviet Union had thoroughly infiltrated Western elites and even received nuclear weapons technology from them that it could use to destroy the world. And it still failed miserably.

Obama's red line leadership marries incompetence and malice. The left's big idea of dismantling American power leaves it with few ways of using American power. Like the idiot who campaigns against hammers only to realize he has no way of nailing up his anti-hammer posters, he is stuck between making empty threats that no one believes in and then having to either back down or nerve up and carry them through because the threats alone have no credibility.

The foreign policy establishment threw itself into the idea that the Arab Spring represented a historical movement that could not and would not be denied. (Except in Bahrain where the protesters were Shiites going up against the House of Saud which happens to own the White House mortgage.) The dictators, the ones without oil, were told that standing in the way of a historical movement of price protests hijacked by left-wing and Islamist mobs was futile. Either they would step down or the people would throw them down.

Gaddafi chose to test the force of history and won. And once it was clear that he was winning, the jets that no one thought of sending out to stop genocide anywhere in Africa were dispatched to protect that jewel of democracy, Benghazi, the heartland of the Libyan revolution. Now Assad is testing the farce of history. And while he isn't winning, he hasn't lost either.

Obama's real red line has nothing to do with how many Syrian civilians die. No one in Washington cares about dead Syrians. They care about who is going to win in Syria. Their credibility has been staked on a rebel victory. Their red line is a rebel defeat like the one that forced Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron to jump into the Libyan War on the pretext that they were protecting the civilians that they couldn't give a fig about anywhere else in Africa.

Dead civilians are worth a stringer's photo with the contrast enhanced to show the magnificent desolation of war. It's the sort of thing that Bush might have naively cared about, but we all know he was a moron who just wanted to start crusades, kill Iraqis and paint dogs. His far more moral successor only starts smart wars in defense of grand historical movements that globalist flat earthers like Thomas Friedman insist will usher in a new age in the old Middle East.

If Syria actually did use chemical weapons, then all it did was embarrass the emperor of peace by exposing the nakedness of his pretensions. The State Department hemmed and hawed and the occasion was seen as sufficiently drastic that the New York Times for the first time ever told the truth and admitted that there are no secular forces fighting in Syria. It's Assad or the Islamists.

It's nice of the Times to tell the truth on a Sunday to explain to its readers why the grand crusade for human rights that they were expecting hasn't begun yet. The pity of it is that by Tuesday, the Times will be back to talking about why we should be aiding the Syrian secular forces that it already admitted have the same level of material existence as the Easter Bunny, the moderate Muslim and the shovel-ready job.

But Times readers should be used to it by now. Clinton shrugged his shoulders at Rwanda and Sudan, but spent a good deal of time bombing Yugoslavia over false claims of genocide. It did not take very long for his ideological successor to do the very same thing in Libya. It doesn't matter how often George Clooney goes a week without shaving, shoots his cuffs and has his assistant chain him to the fence of the Sudanese mission, the right to protect is never going to show up over Sudan.

None of this is about human rights. It's not even about humans. It's about big pictures and even the
devoted readers of books about the Post-American world order still have their big pictures.composed of grand historical movements and massive chess games in which leaders can be raised and toppled, in which power can check power until a perfect stabilizing point is reached and the rest of the world decides to start killing its own babies, dismantling its own industry and dedicating all its efforts to turning out graduates with three degrees to teach small children about transgender identity.

That obviously isn't going to happen. The plan to turn over the region to the moderate Islamists worked out about as well as the plan to use the Ayayollah Khomeini as a stabilizing force in Iran. Fortunately believers in grand historical movements don't back off because they have been proven wrong. They don't stop when the bodies begin piling up. Instead they move forward certain that they are doing the right thing, even if the dimmest man alive would have figured it out by now.

The red line in Syria isn't chemical weapons or blood. It's ideology. It's the red-green alliance exacting its deadly toll while the Great Teleprompter squats behind his curtain making shadow puppets on the wall and telling self-deprecating jokes to the press corps that waits for leadership and worries that the dictator, the other dictator, has called his bluff and one of these days he is going to have no choice but to ante up or fold.


  1. What if, after 9-11, someone had told you that the highest level American politicians--including actual Republicans--were to advocate, even insist, that we should arm Al Qaeda? Could you have invented any scenario whatsoever to invent that? And yet here we are...

  2. Where is the evidence that the plan is to over the region to MODERATE Muslims? The plan seems to be to help Saudi Arabia achieve whatever the royal family wants unless that plan conflicts in a big way with turning the country over to whatever Islamists are ready to shoot their way to the top of the Islamist heap (but solid Muslim Brotherhood credentials strongly preferred). Overall though the differences between the US foreign policy in the region and that of Saudi Arabia seem smaller than the foreign policy differences between Kerry and Hagel. He who owns the mortgage decides on how the rent is to be paid.

  3. pygmies, people can be incrementally moved in small steps to any level of insanity so long as it seems consistent with the previous step

    igor, it's political Islam. The idea being that if they can convince Islamic terrorist groups to run for office, they'll stop carrying out terrorist attacks

    Of course that is just how the Saudis sell their agenda to the infidels

  4. Daniel, my real point was that there is one particular infidel who is not so infidel-ish, and thus may not be motivated so much by stopping terrorist attacks. I haven't seen any evidence that he actually collaborates in them, or even enjoys them, but to him they are just unavoidable bumps in the road. He may very well believe that what he is doing is for the good of humanity, or perhaps he is quite a bit more malicious, or perhaps he is extraordinary adept at using his natural confirmation bias, but there seems to be precious little evidence to decide what is the exact motivating factor. His connections to the mortgage holders may go back decades, and to some degree they almost certainly do, although the full extent cannot be determined by a casual observer because so much is hidden. I find figuring out the motive the most difficult part of this detective story, but it may be premature that he simply wants to convert some really bad Islamic hombres with kindness and compliance.

  5. Infidels don't think of themselves as infidels and he has the background to make his place in that order ambiguous enough. For now he's following the left's program toward third world violence, understand it, appease it, empower it.

  6. ... because those who use power against the western order make useful allies

  7. That's an interesting thought. This mixture of Communism and Islam has always bothered me when it came down to the level of a single person because while they are both totalitarian one really can't believe in both, but using his expertise in one in the service of the other is as good a model as some others, perhaps better. I've understood for a long time that that's how the Left looks at it, but this guy is a real expert so his method may be a lot better thought out than what the generalized Left can come up with. Perhaps the "strapping young Muslim Socialist" joke the other day was a lot subtler than I realized.

  8. Anonymous30/4/13

    Theres no plan for moderate anything. The plan is for extremists to take over as they have in Libya, Egypt.

  9. Igor, Islam is communism created for primitive society. In the 20s Communist commissars explained to the Muslims of Russian empire that they do what
    prophet Mohammed did: murder the rich caravan owner
    and take all his possessions.

  10. Gould K.L. Brownlee30/4/13

    Wow. Where is the "Like" button. I'd like this several times. Bullseye.

  11. I fear you are once again underestimating Obama. There is a more obvious but sinister reason why he broke from his own MO and gave assistance to the Benghazi al Qaeda. They are in fact known to be al Qaeda. Al Qaeda has been leading the charge against the infidels in the West, and that is his Muslim Brotherhood mission.

    Plus Libya is another strategic staging ground for the destruction of Israel. Egypt controls the Southern border. Syria controls the Northern border, Jordan to the West. Libya provides easy access to Israel's Western Coast. If all these places are controlled by Islamists serious about the eradication of the Jewish state, Syria falling in the hands of al Qaeda is the last piece of the puzzle before the ultimate invasion.

  12. Libya was distinctly different. Gadaffy's blunder was to ANNOUNCE he would wage genocide. Whether he had the capability or the intent was of little real import. More than anything else, the west sees itself as the rhetorical savior of the world, the aspirational world of ideas. The west could never accept that it stood on the sidelines while someone stated they would thumb their noses at western ideals in the extreme. But the other crucial factor was far more mundane - geography. Not only was it fairly simple fly around Northern Libya at will and be home for dinner, it was the EU - specifically Italy, France and Malta who realized that under their own laws they could be faced with hundreds of thousands of refugees they could never be rid of, could never return home or move to any other country. Those are their laws. Malta for instance is already home to thousands such refugees it can't return home since they declared themselves refugees, can't move to another country and can't simply allow them to wander around Malta freely as EU citizens which they are not. So it was vitally important to the EU to quash this ASAP and ensure that no human wave ensued in advance of Gadaffy's purported intention to exterminate Bengazi.

  13. Gaddafi didn't announce that he would wage genocide. The White House claimed that his threat amounted to genocide, which it didn't.

    The West stood on the sidelines in Sudan. So genocide wasn't the issue, except for the useful idiots like Elie Wiesel. The issue was the Arab Spring and as you said, to some European countries, the refugee problem.

  14. Anonymous30/4/13

    If Obama had the best interests of America and it's people at heart, as we subconsciously expect of any president, then his policies and actions would be incomprehensible, but if you understand that his motivation is a very personal hatred of white people (he said so in so many words in "Dreams from My Father" ) then, as shocking and disorienting as it is, you can understand that the contradictions, failures and inefficiencies of his poilcies are irrevelant. There doesn't have to be a well thought out grand plan, just any opportunity that comes along to stick it to white America.

    "Dead Syrians" are only good for manipulating American public opinion, otherwise their life or death is irrelevant to el Presidente.

    PYGMIES - we WERE arming Al Qaeda BEFORE 9-11. Osama bin Laden was "our man" in Afganistan when we were trying to drive out the Russians. Talk about having the arrogance to try to run the world without bothering to read the owners manual. What I mean is, I dare say that not one of the people responsible for American policy has ever bothered to sit down and read the Koran from cover to cover. If they did we would have a very different policy.

  15. Anya, it's a matter of being able to serve two masters. The two ideologies appeal to similar instincts but no remotely sane person can really claim to follow both at the same time. My bias has been that he is a Communist with a cultural affinity for Islam, but I really have no idea.

  16. Obama talking about calculus is really another big step into fantasy-world. I doubt he even passed beginning algebra.

  17. Bin Laden was never our man. We didn't arm Al Qaeda. We did however funnel money into ISI which moved it all sorts of places.

  18. Anonymous30/4/13

    That crack about being "no longer a strapping Muslim socialist" was not funny. To see those fools guffaw was incredible. That was the only believeable statement he has ever made.

  19. Anonymous30/4/13

    I'm wondering how all of this reflects the huge changes in OPEC's loss of energy dominance. Israel has started developing the fields of its coast. Fracking is freeing up oil and gas in countries across the world.
    In another 20 years Saudi Arabia will be back to being a lot of sand. And no one will care.
    Do you think they don't know that? How do you think this figures in?

  20. Anonymous30/4/13

    The US government trained, armed, funded and supported Osama bin Laden ... billion US dollars), the CIA effectively created and nurtured bin Laden's al-Qaeda ... bin laden to do their bidding ie recruiting jihadist fighters, with American funds.

  21. Anonymous30/4/13

    Sleeping With the Devil: How U.S. and Saudi Backing of Al Qaeda Led to 9/11

    Very interesting, I just found it myself, but it succinctly summarizes and conforms with all the information I've been getting for years.

    Read the link and then you have to think that all the American victims of Jihad are just so much embarassing collateral damage to be swept under the rug in the masterminds pursuit of their grand design.

    Makes me think that nothing has changed and that the continuing use of Islamic terrorists is just business as usual.

  22. The United States did not arm, fund or support Bin Laden.

    Bin Laden did not need and would not have accepted such funding. It would have undermined his entire case against the Saudi monarchy.

    The United States did arm, fund and support the Mujahadeen, but not any of Bin Laden's people.

  23. The Washington blog article quickly and predictably turns into 9/11 Trutherism.

    The CIA funded Bin Laden myth is toxic leftist and Paultard spew and is usually traceable back to the usual anti-war sources in the US and the UK.

    The United States poured money into ISI and the ISI has and continues to work with terrorists. The United States did not however knowingly have any dealings with Bin Laden.

  24. Anonymous1/5/13

    I compiled some cursory research a while back, and welcome you to use it without copyright, except an attribution to "Walford Sterling." Obama has FAR less leadership than any president in American history.


  25. Anonymous1/5/13

    Obama is conflicted On Syria. He wants to see Assad be overthrown by his al Qaeda
    and Muslim Brotherhood allies, but he can't help himself but to admire Assad's brutal dictatorial tactics.
    Obama can hardly wait to employ them here on us ... All that's standing in his way is that he hasn't been able to disarm us yet.
    Hitler would have been envious of the resources available to Obama. Several generations have been hoodwinked and brainwashed through "public education" and a compliant, leftist media to see the leviathan of government as their protector and provider, rather than the oppressor it has become.
    I would submit that we are at a worse place than Germany was just before Hitler's total takeover and that Obama is capable of even greater evil than Hitler and Stalin combined.
    Just think, Obama admires Mao ... He has Mao ornaments on the WH Christmas tree.
    “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” – Mao
    Obama and his inner circle revere Mao and the way he ruthlessly grabbed power in China. The fact that he murdered about 100 million Chinese to do it is, to them, a “feature,” not a “bug."
    Wake up and smell the tyranny!

    1. Anonymous1/5/13

      I completely agree.

  26. Anonymous1/5/13

    The CIA, concerned about the factionalism of Afghanistan found that
    Arab zealots who flocked to aid the Afghans were easier to read than the rivalry-ridden natives. While the Arab volunteers might well prove troublesome later,
    the agency reasoned, they at least were
    one-dimensionally anti-Soviet for now. So bin Laden, along with a smallgroup of Islamic militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria andPalestinian refugee camps all over the Middle East, became the reliable partners of the CIA in its war against Moscow.

  27. And the source for this is an MSNBC article by Michael Moran with no actual sourcing of its own.


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