posted at 8:31 pm on April 8, 2017 by John Sexton
President Trump launched a limited strike against a military base in Syria this week. His swift and somewhat unexpected response to a chemical weapons attack earlier in the week put Democrats and especially Obama partisans in an awkward position. Trump’s response was an implied (and often explicit) rebuke to President Obama’s decision not to enforce the red line in Syria back in 2013.
President Trump said the chemical attack was a “consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.” Yesterday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended the strike saying, “crimes against humanity could no longer be met with empty words.” Ouch! The response from many Obama partisans has been predictable and bitter. From the Associated Press:
Obama aides took to Twitter and the airwaves this week to point out what they called the hypocrisy from Republicans and from Trump himself.
“Times change. In 13, Speaker asks Obama how: ‘justification comports with exclusive authority of Cong authorization’” tweeted Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser under Obama.
Tommy Vietor, former spokesman for the Obama National Security Council, sent out Trump’s tweet demanding Obama get congressional approval. “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval,” the businessman tweeted in 2013.
Ben Rhodes is also clearly upset with the positive press being given to Trump in the wake of the attack. Today he linked to a Washington Post story criticizing the media’s reaction and encouraged followers to ponder the “incentives” this might create for “future military action.”
Stop and consider the incentives being created for future military action with a President like Trump. https://t.co/UhKGC8LBXf
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) April 8, 2017
What’s really astounding is how tone deaf this is. Ben Rhodes is the last guy who should be warning anyone about bad incentives for military action. Rhodes’ former boss gave Assad a pass on the red line against the use of chemical weapons. Instead of holding Assad accountable, Obama waffled, dithered and eventually agreed to a deal in which Assad pinky swore to turn over all of his chemical weapons to his partners in Russia. We’ve seen how well that worked out over the past four years with multiple confirmed chemical attacks including the latest sarin attack this past Tuesday.
But not everyone who was part of the previous administration is playing defense for their former boss this week. Politico Magazine reports some Obama alumni say the strike was long overdue:
Many of the most head-snapping comments I heard came from Obama’s own top advisers, who had long pushed him to confront Assad more aggressively and viewed his 2013 refusal to take military action against Syria after drawing a “red line” on chemical weapons use as a major American foreign policy debacle. There’s no love lost for Trump in this group, whose members found themselves in the uncomfortable position of cheering a leader they still both loathe and fear.
“Our administration never would have gotten this done in 48 hours,” one former senior official of the Obama administration told me. “It’s a complete indictment of Obama.”
“I feel like finally we have done the right thing,” Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as Obama’s first-term chief of policy planning at the State Department and long publicly urged a more forceful response to Assad’s horrific attacks on civilians during the six years of war that have wracked Syria, told me. “The years of hypocrisy just hurt us all. It undermined the U.S., it undermined the world order.”
That quote about this strike being a “complete indictment” of Obama is really the key. If you had any doubt why many of the former president’s aides are upset about the strike, that’s why.