President Obama’s apparent inclination to bomb Syria even without international support shows, yet again, the pitfalls of his high-blown rhetoric to mask crass political deal-making.
Presidents are often called, “The Most Powerful Man on Earth.” That conventional wisdom seems even more true regarding Obama than his predecessors.
Obama and his team have dispensed with many of the niceties of U.S. and international law. They have assumed the power to launch wars against those who do not threaten U.S. national security, albeit without the death totals as high as during the Bush administration. They launch action without votes by Congress or the United Nations — and hinted late Aug. 29 at moving forward against Syria even though Britain’s Parliament backed away from a strike.
The White House orders death by drone of those residents of foreign nations and their families whom they think dangerous, based on secret evidence.
And they spend vast amounts during a period of national austerity that helps the defense industry even without specific appropriations from Congress. A strike against Syria will cost hundreds of millions of dollars — and thus helped boost stock prices this week, according to a report this week by Defense News.
Update Aug. 30: Following a surprise vote by Britain’s Parliament late Aug. 29 against military action against Syria, White House sources suggested that the United States could proceed on its own.
The White House photo at left shows several of the Obama team’s key players speaking with the president in the Oval Office this June. From left are Samantha Power, former senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, along with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Ambassador Susan Rice, the U.S. representative to the United Nations.
Power and Rice are leading advocates of a so-called “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine whereby nations, especially under U.S. leadership, are entitled to take military action worldwide in situations whereby their leaders see a dire need to protect the afflicted.
Also, Power is the wife of former Obama White House regulatory chief Cass Sunstein. As a response to the domestic spying scandal, Obama this month named Sunstein to the panel to review National Security Agency surveillance methods.
The Sunstein appointment underscored the close bonds of decision-makers. Sunstein, while generally regarded as an esteemed liberal, is also notorious for advocating in a 2008 paper that the government secretly hire academics and journalists to disrupt activities of those millions of voters who believe in conspiracy theories. Power and Sunstein, friends of the president, are Harvard Law professors when not on the Obama administrations payroll full-time.
Obama knows better than anyone that he ascended to office only because of the hidden help of the nation’s private sector dynastic powers, as documented in my new book Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. I argue there and in this column that Obama seeks to serve those masters on core issues, despite his branding to the public as being to the left of his fellow puppets who lead the Republican Party.
But the kingmakers do not necessarily agree among themselves on what they want. Neither do they always act in the high-minded fashion that their minions in office are supposed to voice to voters.
Many decision makers who operate out of sight above public stage create further confusion by changing their minds about what they want the government to do.
Some masterminds and their operatives may even seek to trap or otherwise embarrass a president, thereby obtaining even more leverage over his administration
Watching Obama trying this week to please so many VIPs, including his opponents, has reminded me of how a sting unfolds. An investor thinks he’s going to make a killing and feast on the spoils. Then he learns, too late, that his advisers were leading him on.
“What’s for dinner today?”