Obama As Captain Sobol From Band Of Brothers
President Obama continues to telegraph to Syria that while he’s going to attack them, he’s not really going to attack-attack them.
From pool reporter @JimAcostaCNN: Pres Obama reaffirms no American boots on the ground in Syria and that US response will be “limited.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) August 30, 2013
This “take your medicine and move on” approach to foreign policy reminded me of this scene from the great HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. As you watch it, think of Obama as Captain Sobol (the officer siting and played by David Schwimmer from Friends)as Obama as he punishes Lieutenant Winters/Assad.
Sobol/Obama just wants to smack Winters/Assad around for show but not enough to do any damage. It’s simply posturing. The problem becomes Winters doesn’t “just take the punishment” but insists on going to a court martial. In the end that plays a major part in Sobol losing command of his company to Winters.
Like Sobol, Obama thinks he can carefully calculate just how much humiliation he can inflict on Assad before Assad bites back. It’s not hard to see many scenarios where Assad, who is in every sense fighting for his life, does not react with the resignation of a school boy being sent to detention but as an animal backed into a corner trying to survive.
Read enough about history and warfare and you’ll hear plenty of supposed “First Rule of War” sayings, but one that really is important and that policy makers either forget about or ignore is, “the enemy gets a vote”.
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry don’t see Assad as an enemy but as a future negotiating partner to a political settlement of the Syrian civil war. It’s unlikely that Assad shares that same civilized view of things. From his point of view he will either continue to be the President of a subdued Syria or he’ll be dead.
Assad will get a vote on the reaction to the upcoming US strikes. So will Iran and maybe even Russia.
Captain Sobol didn’t have a fallback plan when his adversary took the “or else” part of his ultimatum. Does anyone really believe Obama has one or that Assad will just take his beating like a man and move on? It’s a hell of a gamble.