One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity "just muscular enough not to get mocked" but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.
There’s nothing like acting out of an acute fear of mockery to get you mocked, I suppose. Remember “leading from behind”? This quote ranks up there in the did-someone-actually-say-that category. (By the way, I don’t doubt the accuracy of the reporting, I’m just incredulous that someone in a position of responsibility would be so brutally frank.)
“Muscular,” by the way, is one of those words — like “robust” — that Washington policy makers use to describe foreign and defense policies that otherwise might not be mistaken for muscular or robust.
But put the semantic issue aside: If this is indeed the goal of the Obama administration — to look tough without being tough, to avoid threatening the existence of Bashar Assad's regime, and to avoid angering Iran and Russia — then, really, let’s not bother with this attack at all.
For other reasons, I’m opposed to this sort of attack on Syria. But if the goal is merely to save face in light of President Barack Obama’s (morally and politically appropriate) drawing of a chemical-weapons red line, then this forthcoming attack is a very, very bad idea.
Jeffrey Goldberg is a Bloomberg View columnist. He is the author of "Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror" and winner of the National Magazine Award for reporting. He has covered the Middle East as a national correspondent for the Atlantic and as a staff writer for the New Yorker. Read more reports from Jeffrey Goldberg — Click Here Now.
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