Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Substance over style

President Obama's ham-handed trek on the road to Damascus wasn't pretty. There's plenty to criticize about his handling of Syria over the past two years. And yes, as Kevin Drum opined, the president's team "probably blundered into the possibility of a diplomatic solution on Syria." But given the mind-numbing difficulty of the Syrian problem (it's akin to 12-dimensional chess), Obama's "accidental diplomacy" is probably beside the point. After all, as Drum rightly notes, "it’s rock solid certain that Assad isn’t going to launch another gas attack anytime soon, which means that, by hook or by crook, Obama has achieved his goal for now. No, it’s not the way he planned it, but the best war plans seldom survive contact with reality, and the mark of a good commander is recognizing that and figuring out to react. It may not be pretty to watch it unfold in public in real time, but it’s nonetheless the mark of a confident and effective commander-in-chief. It’s about time we had one." It is also worth noting something Obama himself said recently about his critics: "Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq war." Good point. Still, Obama should do himself a favor with a closer study of both Machiavelli ("Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are") and Sun Tzu ("Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt").

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