Fundamentally Freund: Israel and the decline of Western resolve

Somewhere beneath Damascus, in a reinforced underground bunker, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is undoubtedly doubled over in laughter, heartily enjoying a lengthy chortle for the first time in years.

Ahmadinejad Assad Damascus 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Ahmadinejad Assad Damascus 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
Somewhere beneath Damascus, in a reinforced underground bunker, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is undoubtedly doubled over in laughter, heartily enjoying a lengthy chortle for the first time in years.
Just when it seemed that the West, led by the United States and Great Britain, were about to make him pay for gassing his own people in broad daylight, their political leadership developed a nasty case of wobbly knees.
Indeed, in the course of just 48 hours last week, the two most powerful countries in NATO revealed themselves to be desperately lacking the elementary courage necessary to stop a rogue regime from using weapons of mass destruction.
This is an alarming development, one that does not bode well for global stability and international order. And with the Iranian threat looming in the background, it behooves Israel to pay close attention to this disturbing turn of events.
The first sign of weakness was visible on the floor of Westminster, when the British parliament refused to authorize the use of force against the Syrian regime, rejecting a proposal put forward by Prime Minister David Cameron and dealing him a humiliating political defeat.
The outcome left many observers stunned. Was this really the same country that stood alone so valiantly against Nazi Germany in the summer of 1940? The nation that once produced Churchill now produces little more than a whimper. On the world stage, Britain has gone from Great to gratuitous, a society unwilling to marshal the resolve even to fire a few rockets from the air at one of the presidential palaces in Damascus.
Perhaps not wanting to be outdone, US President Barack Obama went on television two days later and delivered his own bombshell, so to speak.
In remarks that raised more questions than answers, the leader of the Free World effectively looked into the camera and said that he needed to get his mommy’s permission before he can come out to play.
While declaring that he had decided to take military action against Syria, Obama said he would seek Congressional approval before firing a shot. If Assad hadn’t managed by now to hide his most prized military and strategic assets, he was just given an extension to complete the job.
So instead of missiles raining down on Damascus, there was malarkey being hurled in Washington.
The president who has overseen a ballooning fiscal deficit has now added to that a leadership deficit too.
In case there was any doubt as to how all this would be interpreted throughout the Middle East, the Syrian media wasted little time in crowing over Obama’s about-face.
The state-run Damascus daily Al Thawra gloated that Obama’s decision to seek Congressional approval marked “the start of the historic American retreat,” insisting that the president was overwhelmed by a “sense of implicit defeat and the disappearance of his allies.”
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil echoed these sentiments and lauded the readiness of his country’s military, which he insisted had “warded off US aggression against Syria.”
However laughable this assertion might sound to us, it speaks volumes about the damage that Obama has wrought to America and its credibility in the region.
The US is perceived as having backed away from its leadership role, so much so that even when it draws a clear line in the sand – as Obama did last year regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons – it has trouble mustering the fortitude necessary to back its threats with action. After all, if Washington is gun-shy about deterring Damascus, does anyone really believe it will be tenacious in tackling Tehran? The lesson for Israel is clear. The Jewish state cannot and must not rely on the West to tackle the Iranian nuclear program.
Regardless of whether it is “Iraq fatigue” or recession woes, or simply an anemic president, America is remarkably hesitant about getting entangled in yet another Middle Eastern conflict. Even a dalliance in Damascus.
This means that the world is entering a potentially dangerous phase, one in which the bad guys will feel further emboldened by a rudderless and leaderless wishy-washy West. Don’t be surprised to read in the coming months that the Ayatollahs have sped up their nuclear program and move ever closer to crossing the atomic finish-line.
It was Winston Churchill who once remarked that, “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure.” If Washington and London fail to heed those words, it may leave Israel with no choice but to do so on its own.