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SaraKay Smullens

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What If? A Case for a President Skilled in Political Psychological Warfare

Posted: 09/11/2013 2:14 am

Yesterday I spent as much time as I could reading about the president's push to launch a Syrian strike, and responded to some blogs and comments on The Huffington Post. I also received some very interesting reactions to my blog. Those who read it know that I drew parallels between dealing with tyrants in our political world and dealing with them in private lives. In a nutshell, I warned that if you can't get far away from or isolate inhuman behavior, it is wise to do all you can to push its perpetrators off-balance, causing them grave fear.

As I read that the president said that Michelle Obama opposes a Syrian strike, a lightbulb went off in my head: For I know President Obama is smart, very smart; and I truly believe him when he says that for him violence is a last resort. With this comment about his wife, I began to detect the president's brilliance in political psychological warfare and timely planning, and pieces of a puzzle started to fall into place.

Our president had to know that Congress, representing a war-weary nation, was being asked to vote once again to put sons and daughters in harm's way. Understandably, his fierce critics as well as his supporters would be very hesitant to approve this action. In other words, President Obama had to know that asking for support would buy precious time so that hopefully he would not have to attack.

I began to suspect a definitive calculation: Unfolding incidents were planned by the president to involve the world community, pitching to what he wanted to achieve, in order to pull the rug from under Assad and make him afraid, very afraid. For psychological warfare with bullies (causing them to really squirm -- not knowing what, if, when something is going to happen) is extremely effective, and is also one means of isolation.

With this in mind, I wrote the following in response to the blog about the First Lady's opposition to a Syrian attack: "Perhaps, just perhaps, and wouldn't it be wonderful if Obama had a complex, well calculated plan in motion all along, one that accomplished his important goals with no bloodshed. Let's see: Kerry's offhand remark, Putin responding to it, and then the Presidential disclosure of Michelle Obama's views......As I wrote in my blog on this topic, reason never works with a bully. But fear does."

Huffington Post reader WacokJacko responded to my comment: "Could be, could be, one for the history books to reveal, I think."

There is more to assess in this "Maybe, Could be" scenerio, one that I believe we can figure out now, not waiting for historians: Soon after Secretary of State Kerry's supposed off-hand remarks during a London news conference that to avoid a strike Assad "could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week... without delay," the Russian Foreign Minister appeared in Moscow next to his Syrian counterpart. He proposed the chemical-weapons turnover, and the idea was immediately accepted. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, an opponent of military intervention, entered this fascinating detour drama by offering UN oversight of a weapons handover to France and the UK. The Secretary-General encouraged Syria's compliance while warning that Assad now had an opportunity to avoid a strike. Putin (whom the president let us know he had spoken to while in Russia and following his trip, not filling us in with specifics) publicly offered to act as liaison. (Yes, I am sure that Putin has ulterior motives; but for the moment this offer of support is very helpful in the president's structured, limited goals.) Further, Congress and the American people are now able to take a welcome breather, as an intense congressional debate about all new events continues to unfold.

And there is more: Amidst voiced skepticism by several, including President Obama, Obama's staunch and trusted supporter Representative Jim Moran's (D-Va.) stated that Russian involvement "may be a game-changer." (Could Moran be in on things?) Plus British Prime Minister David Cameron and the French foreign ministry agreed publicly that close examination was deserved. In the timing department, all of this unfolded on the eve of the president's planned nationwide address on this crisis.

Meanwhile, on the Hill and everywhere he can, the president has continued to vigorously detail grave, perilous dangers of non-intervention when Assad has vast stockpiles of mustard gas and the nerve agents tabun, sarin and VX stored in various sites. He has said that he will carefully study Kerry's supposed out-of-the-blue idea, yet cautions vigilance (further building support for military intervention, if necessary). State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, "Assad has repeatedly lied about his use of chemical weapons and the fact hat he has them."

At the same time, the president has told his Secretary of State to "run this to ground" with this "potentially positive development," adding, "If in fact there's a way to accomplish [what we need to] diplomatically, that is overwhelmingly my preference." But also he reminded us of what has became obvious: This opportunity would not have happened without the "credible possibility" of military action.

I believe it is through calculated effort that our president has involved many in the world community in his plans to rid Syria of chemical weapons. There is now a growing list of supportive players who in their efforts are both exposing and isolating Assad. They will not be pleased if they give their all, while Assad continues to lie, distort, and betray. Such paths will garner greater support for military intervention.

One more thing: Remember when Vice President Biden's supposedly caught the president off guard with his support of gay marriage? I am now wondering if those who believe this may be interested in a bridge in Brooklyn.

 

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