Good Cop / Bad Cop?

Although I doubt this was planned in advance, it seems to me that presidents Putin and Obama are doing a near-perfect good cop/bad cop routine, with our president playing the role of bad cop. This may or may not have anything to do with John Kerry going “off message,” but if the result is that Assad relinquishes control of his chemical weapons, allowing President Obama to back down from a bombing threat, it’s good for everybody. Including President Obama.

Someone at New Republic is saying that President Obama “got played” by Putin and Assad. I’m not seeing that, exactly. If the good cop/bad cop act causes Assad to relinquish control of his chemical weapons, which is apparently acceptable to President Obama, how is President Obama getting “played”?

Update: Ezra Klein says the White House may really be about to win on Syria.

20 thoughts on “Good Cop / Bad Cop?

  1. If this is a case of 11th Dimensional Chess, then I’m all for it!

    I’m just not smart enough to tell, if it is, or not!!!

    Poor, poor, Republicans!
    The political versions of Elmer Fudd.
    Wight now, it wooks wike dat waskawwy wabbit, Pwesident Obama, has the wast waugh – dhe Wepubwicans hawe egg on dhere faces, and dhe yolk’s on dem – AGAIN!!!


    What dopes!


  2. I can understand why that “somebody’ at the New Republic didn’t want to put their name on that fine analytical piece of workmanship. Obama has achieved 100% of his objective, and if Syria plays games (which they won’t) then the Russians get egg on their face. Common sense tells you that the use of chemical weapons served no strategic advantage for Assad’s military and that in hindsight I’m sure Assad realized it wasn’t worth whatever he hoped to gain by it.
    Assad gets a reprieve, Putin gets an atta boy, Obama gets the glory for being the defender of principles…. and Kerry gets to showcase his diplomatic brilliance. 🙂

    Win -win!

  3. Yah, I’m guessing this very much WAS planned in advance. Not in an 11th dimensional chess kind of way, but more in a pursuing both diplomatic and military solutions at the same time kind of way. It just all works out too neatly for this to have been nothing more than an accident … and it very much explains why Obama has been working through congress to get a force authorization when everybody knew from the start that the process of doing so was going to be loud, ugly, and almost certainly doomed. The loud and ugly part is what allowed us to be such an effective bad cop.

    I’m guessing that if this had fallen through, AND Obama had failed to get a force authorization out of congress, he would have declared the attempt to do so as the necessary step of consulting with congress and then would go ahead and do whatever he was going to do anyways.


  4. Yeah, I’m not really seeing how Obama is getting “played” here either. I’m assuming that his goal has not in fact been to shoot missiles at Syria, but to respond appropriately to the use of chemical weapons over there. How shooting missiles was supposed to be an appropriate response is kind of beyond me, actually, but at any rate I would think the best possible outcome for Obama would be where the chemical weapons are gotten under control without having to blow anybody up. And he appears to be on the verge of getting that.

    I’m also not at all convinced that he has ever really wanted to shoot missiles at Syria, despite anything anybody has said. The reason for this is that if he did want to shoot missiles, he could have just gone ahead and done so without waiting for Congress. It’s amazing how quickly people forget what happened just a few days ago, but the fact that he even asked for authorization took everyone by surprise, including Congress. I’ve been figuring all along that it was a way to buy some time while he kept looking for a nonmilitary solution.

  5. Well, I gotta admit I must have some conservative residue left in my soul…I’m almost a full fledged liberal.. but I was kinda hoping for a Shock and Awe®. Not just any shock and awe — a shock and awe viewed with a 52″ HD TV on Fox News.

  6. Asking for authorization may have been a big political win. Republicans have been comfortably sniping at Obama from a distance. With the promise of an impending military strike, the request for Congressional input has forced republicans (particularly potential presidential contenders) to take a stand – and they run the spectrum from isolationism to war pigs. Statements made today might come to haunt candidates in the primary in 2015.

    On the speech itself, I am not sure what the plan really is. Obama talked of the need for a strike against Assad for much of the speech, dangling the prospect of a diplomatic alternative only at the very end. That will worry opponents of a strike but realistically – if Syria can make a promise to avert a punishing strike AND THEN prohibit inspections or verification, then they can keep on doing what they did while dodging the American bullet. A real deal has to actually get chemical assets into Russian hands and allow a trustworthy team of inspectors access to guarantee that Assad isn’t holding back.

    This is the solution that Code Pink would like, I suspect. That solution isn’t going to happen if Obama backs off with the treat of force PRIOR to the details of an agreement between Putin and Assad. So Code Pink will protest the speech – which they probably should – but IF the prospective deal is in the works, sabre rattling is still an essential component of a non-military resolution.

    That said, I return to my suggestion yesterday. We can’t take sides in this war because both sides have too much innocent blood on their hands. However we CAN back the neighboring countries who are offering sanctuary to refugees and promote the idea with refugees that they have the opportunity when they return to insist on some Muslim version of democracy and ask the UN to back a populist movement when the conflict ends.

  7. Is Obama playing 11-d chess? Did he luck out? Either way I’ll take it. Ditto with was-he-a-player-or-was-he-played.

    Actually, chess itself is often a kind of game of chance. The winner is the one who makes the next to the last mistake.

    The situation remains fluid. Keep paying attention.

  8. John Kerry going “off message,”

    I’m losing what little confidence I have in Kerry as SOF. He seems like he really wants to be secretary of war? I can’t hardly watch him with that lizard like thing he does with his tongue, it’s really creepy. I remember it from his campaign, I didn’t like it then either!

  9. Now the left has to follow up this victory with unrelenting praise for John Kerry. It will throw the wingnuts into a tailspin.. Just little innocuous statements like: Kerry is the greatest Secretary of State America has ever had, or Kerry was born for this moment in history. Maybe give them a… John Kerry- first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.
    You get the point.. the righties can’t muster enough venom to spit at Kerry as it is, but with a little subtle antagonism they’ll be frothing at the mouth in rage. Who knows? maybe it could even knock Pelosi out of the top spot.

  10. I’m losing what little confidence I have in Kerry as SOF

    uncledad.. I never had confidence in Kerry.. When I saw him speaking about Syria I thought this is the same guy who expects to broker a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians? And expects that it can be done by Israel giving up all occupied territory. Anybody with only a cursory knowledge of the Israeli -Palestinian situation knows that under the terms Kerry envisions with his rhetoric that it’s never gonna happen.
    He’s got to be delusional if he seriously thinks the can accomplish a peace agreement. Even tonight with Obama giving his Syria speech Obama was obliged to slip in his affirmation of inseparability to the State of Israel. Which tells you that Kerry doesn’t have the tools necessary to do the job, but he plods on like he does.. Either it’s theater or delusion, but it can’t be serious unless Kerry is a complete buffoon.

  11. Pingback: Such Sophisticated, Edgy Commentary on Syria! - Not the Singularity

  12. I keep thinking back to the charades leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Our saber-rattling got Saddam to allow weapons inspectors back in. At that point it was a BIG win for Bush, but of course weapons control and successful statesmanship were never his intention. Before the inspectors could do their job, Bush warned them to leave Iraq, and then… “shock and awe.”

    A reasonable leader accepts the win and moves on. Otherwise the result can be years of cluster bleep, and many thousands dead.

  13. Of course, we’ll never know for certain if these statements and events were carefully planned out in advance, but I tend to believe that they were.

    If your objective is to try to prevent another humanitarian disaster by ridding Syria of chemical weapons, the best way to do so is to provoke the rest of the world into serious diplomacy by having them believe that military action is imminent. Obama is the type of man, it seems to me, who is both willing and able to set an objective, think through alternative courses of action, and choose the most effective approach to reaching his objective. Even if it means subjecting himself to charges of “gaffes” and “being played.”

    The problem with the wingnut crowd is that, for them, saber-rattling is never a tool used to reach a diplomatic objective. Instead, saber-rattling is itself the primary objective. For them, the need to ease personal insecurities involving their appearance of “manliness” seems to take precedence over all other objectives. I have little doubt that if we were enduring life under a McCain or Romney presidency we’d now be at war in Syria. While the end of the story has not yet been written, I believe we can thank Obama for keeping us out of yet another war. At least for now.

  14. I keep thinking back to the charades leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

    Me too, Joan. Remember Jimmy Jeff who turned out to be bulldog? “when will we get to see the rape rooms”. Thinking back on the early days is almost comical now. Bush’s army of paid internet trolls pumping out endless comments designed to distract and mislead the American public.. Bush with his bring it on machismo and his telling Saddam by way of the world stage that he would allow him 24 hours to get out of Dodge if he wanted to forestall the invasion.
    It was a great period of American history when men would say what they mean and mean what they say. Not like the vacillating Obama.

  15. Yes,swami. It was a time when a man could simply make up a word, if need be, and create new realities.

  16. UncleDad, maybe he’s still trying to prove himself to the boys who “swiftboated” him. A real man has to continue to prove his toughness since your only as tough as your most recent scrap.

    I still have many questions about Russian solidarity with Assad. There may be multiple elements involved but in what proportion? As a means of countering the US because it’s the US? Economic reasons? Because of their own Islamic Chechnya problem? History of strongman dictator types?

    I feel like I’m only scratching the surface with my understanding.

  17. I wonder how small a victory chemical weapons elimination might seem if peaceful protest in Syria still results in large-scale slaughter with more user-friendly weapons. So if we do agree not to sell more arms to the rebels this might be seen as a win-win and we never hear anything less than a need for total capitulation/surrender/defeat from the right, even those who now oppose bombing. Not saying we it wouldn’t be good for him to get rid of the weapons or that we should do otherwise…just wondering whether there might not be much larger issues and whether the focus on chemical weapons might not be a little transient and myopic.

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