Authored by Jim VandeHei, originally posted at Politico,
The Ironic War Plan
Imagine Dick Cheney in a “Saturday Night Live” skit fantasizing about Barack Obama handling the pressures of going to war.
Cheney’s sitting there, yucking it up with Rummy and the boys, eating yellow cake. He laughs off his own reckless rush to an unwinnable war fought on flawed grounds. His thought bubble pops up.
Obama would be droning on about the complexities of Syria, the limits of U.S. power in the region, the danger of action and the wisdom of caution.
He would promise swift action only if true red lines were crossed. The deaths of 100,000 people would not be one of them.
He would feel self-conscious about looking weak, so he would talk to those in the press who truly understand his complex views. In doing so, he would spring a surprise on his advisers and say the movement of or use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would be the trigger to “change my calculus.”
His staff would leak that it was improvised, so even it didn’t know if it was real.
Syria would then cross that red line, using chemical weapons in defiance of Obama and other leaders of civilized nations, a provocation the president simply could not ignore.
So Obama would promise swift, decisive action. But not until aides leak to the media that he doesn’t really want to do it.
Obama would know his anti-war base on the left would simply hate another war based on allegations of weapons of mass destruction.
So he would promise swift but very limited action. Of course, he won’t topple the regime like that crazy Bush did in Iraq, his staff would privately explain to the press. Of course, it will be short, targeted, with no boots on the ground or sustained effort, it would add.
Obama would seek the backing of world leaders, to find only Britain and France would immediately stand with him and that the same nations who refused to help in Iraq would refuse to help him here. Vladimir Putin, the guy Obama took office promising to straighten out, would thumb his nose.
Obama would get hung up on legal justification for action, finding out quick that it’s scant or at least dubious in the eyes of many.
Just as he appeared ready to hold his nose and hit the button, The New York Times and Associated Press would report that the intelligence brief is not a “slam dunk” and there is “no smoking gun.”
This would come only hours after the president tells PBS that the chemical weapons could, possibly, maybe be one day be directed against the United States because there are so many of them and who knows who could get their hands on them.
So, there Obama would stand in the White House, looking like Bush before he hit Iraq, staring at intelligence that can never be infallible, listening to intense dissent around him, feeling pressure to act to show strength. But unlike Bush, everyone in the room — everyone in the world — would know he was only acting reluctantly, with virtually no chance of ending a horrific civil war and absolutely without intending to follow through to finish the job.
The thought bubble closes. Cheney, who became a parody of the excesses of the right wing approach to military power, grins as he thinks of Obama becoming a parody of the liberal approach to military power on Syria.
The skit ends with Cheney grimacing:
“Live from Washington — it’s NOT Saturday Night.”
And because it never gets old…