Mark Mardell: Obama's Syria speech almost irrelevant

 
President Barack Obama at the White House (10 September 2013) By the time Mr Obama reached the podium for his long-awaited speech, events had rendered it largely irrelevent

"The US military does not do pinpricks." That was about the only good line in a speech by President Barack Obama that may not have won many converts.

He stood behind a podium rather than sitting at the desk in the Oval Office, and made a speech that was clear but almost entirely lacking in passion and devoid of new arguments.

Indeed, the first two-thirds seemed cut and pasted from earlier speeches.

The trouble was that while he made the clinical case for military action against Syria, we knew there was a "but" coming.

Had he still been calling for a vote in Congress in a few days' time and had he wanted the American people to pressure their politicians, he would have had to make a much stronger speech about the dangers of inaction.

As it was, Syria's acceptance of the Russian plan to give up their chemical weapons has changed everything.

He didn't express any cynicism about the idea but said it was an "encouraging sign". He had asked Congress to delay a vote, and said the US, Britain and France would work through the UN and talk to China and Russia.

They would wait for the UN inspectors to report. The military would stand ready to respond if diplomacy failed.

All this leaves more questions than answers.

We don't know how long Mr Obama will give diplomacy or what its failure would look like.

We don't know if the three Western nations will go ahead with a resolution backed up with force or go for something more modest.

We have no idea how UN inspectors could do their job in a country ravaged by civil war.

The President's speech was for a few days a hugely important date in the diary, but by the time he came to deliver it, events had rendered it almost an irrelevance.

The next key event is likely to be the meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday. The speeches that follow that meeting might actually tell us something.

 
Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 376.

    #375 sieu

    "Casualties have also been minimal"

    -- A pity ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 375.

    This war is only 12 years old, at least since we started fighting back.(Al Qaeda's earlier attacks went unanswered.) The cold war lasted 45 years. This one could last 145 years.Americans had better brace themselves. We're at the beginning, not the end.Good news, cost has been minimal, barely 1% GDP.Casualties have also been minimal.Military is all volunteer.Lefties miss the draft, protests, 1960s

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 374.

    #370 Sieu

    "I am tired of hearing how tired Americans are of war."

    -- You don´t believe them ?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 373.

    If Putin or Assad think Obama will put up with the same garbage Bush put up with from Saddam Hussein I think they'll find they miscalculated. Russia is a one trick pony. We've seen that trick already. Stall, give inaccurate, incomplete, obsolete information, block inspectors, do whatever it takes to push the US away. A few Cruise missiles will pierce that tissue of lies.I'd give this about a week

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 372.

    "Feinstein and Schumer's authoritarian idea of who's a journalist and who isn't may make it into the final version of the bill. And that stinks. The truth is, both sides want to end the influence of bloggers and new media writers because they can't be controlled."

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2013/08/feinstein_looks_to_exclude_bloggers_new_media_from_press_shield_law.html

    --Big Brother

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 371.

    America is up to its usual games.

    --Passing new laws on who can call themselves journalists -- Assange and Snowden are of course excluded. Must have worked as journalist for a company.

    -- self employement is problematic.

    Expect more news control --even on Syria.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 370.

    I am tired of hearing how tired Americans are of war.Washington and his men were tired when they crossed the Delaware in winter in the dead of night. They were cold, hungry, exhausted, ill equipped, dispirited.But they fought on.Fewer Americans died in Iraq and Afghanistan in 12 years than die in motor vehicle accidents every two months.Most are unaffected by wars.War on terror will take decades.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 369.

    363"USA and Russia have always been competitors"

    Throw away your history books. Get your tuition money back. Talk to people who were adults when they went through the cold war. The US and USSR each had 20,000 thermonuclear weapons on a hair trigger poised to strike each other on a few second's notice.The world would have ended. You wouldn't exist.Competitors NYET! Deadliest of enemies DA!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 368.

    #363 LucyJ

    "happened before I was born" -- 1982 ?

    --age 7 -when the Berlin Wall fell !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 367.

    Just watched PBS Nightly News re Syria.Russia and Syria are up to their usual games. They insist the US take military action "off the table." That will not happen. How look will Obama put up with it? Not long. As soon as he's convinced Russia and Syria aren't serious he'll give the command to strike with or without Congress.But by then Congress may be so angry they'll tell him "Go git 'em cowboy!"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 366.

    "General Salim Idriss, the head of the main rebel Free Syrian Army, told U.S. National Public Radio his forces had been poised to launch attacks coordinated with U.S. missile strikes.

    "We were and are still waiting for these strikes," he said."

    --------------------

    Now we have to worry about the Sunni NATO member Turkey ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 365.

    Putzky's letter isn't just irrelevant, positively irritating.Trying to circumvent the entire US government looking for some bizarre popular uprising only harms what little credence Putin has in America.

    He really is disgusting. A lying murderous hypocrite if ever there was one. Russia heal thyself. As for Syria, either surrender all CWs immediately for destruction or get blasted by the US.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 364.

    Is anyone up-to-date on the Turkey- Kurd-Al Quaeda triangle ?

    Kurds have complained that Erdogan is not keeping his part of a ´peace´ bargain. The kurds have been attacked by the Al Quaeda rebels from Syria.

    -- Erdogan is Sunni, supported Morsi and wants the US attack on Syria to occur.

    --Any other news or explanations ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 363.

    In all honesty Putin's letter actually reminded me a lot of Samantha Smith, the American school girl who wrote a letter to Russia
    (happened before I was born but I have read the story)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samantha_Smith

    USA and Russia have always been competitors
    but there have also been times when we have worked together for the good of the world

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 362.

    Obama doesn't strike me as the kind of man to lick his political wounds without contemplating what strategy he will use to deal with his enemies including Putin...especially Putin. That little twerp had better watch it. The US has countless way to punish Russia that will hurt badly. Not by military force but by other means just as effective.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 361.

    Neither Iran nor Syria ever suffered a direct military attack from a nation affected or threatened by their state terrorism.That's why they continue on with impunity.It's time to change that.They should get their first taste of what it's like to be on the receiving end of a real military attack.Perhaps it will give them pause to realize those they threaten have the power to strike back much harder

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 360.

    From articles in BBC it appears Brits are easily buffaloed.No so Americans who see thought Putzky's thin false façade.Even if he told us the truth for once we'd figure he's lying.There is no one in Congress or the Administration I'm aware of who doesn't think Assad's government was responsible for the CW attack.The only difference among them is how to respond.Putzky can only provoke undecideds

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 359.

    What American would believe a man whose deepest regret is that the USSR collapsed before he could become another Joseph Stalin, probably the greatest mass murderer in the history of the world, having killed more than Hitler and Mao combined? He his buddy Assad had better surrender Syria's CWs or there will be a military strike.At the first sign of delay Obama should launch 50 missiles, a pinprick

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 358.

    Putzky is so stupid his NYT letter will have exactly the opposite he intended effect.It convinces anyone that this is a cynical liar, the lowest of the low.

    "US military strike against Syria could unleash a new wave of terrorism."

    Putin IS the new wave of terrorism. Doesn't he know how much we hate him?

    "spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders"

    Assad already did that

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 357.

    Are we still looking for the missing evidence - can't we buy a really big pair of binoculars?

 

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