There is danger in making dramatic but idle threats. President Obama and his administration have been given to extremely muscular rhetoric to warn adversaries away from certain actions only to back down when their warnings are not heeded.
The neocons pounce on such unwise habits, attempting to trap the administration by its own rhetoric into fulfilling its wildest threats. It is a lose-lose with the administration but for some reason they keep it up.
With Crimea, Kerry made threats of a "huge price to pay" for Russia not heeding US demands to recognize and make peace with a government in Ukraine put in power by a US-backed coup. Obama warned "there will be costs" to Russia's actions in Ukraine and Crimea.
In the end, Crimea is now gone from Ukraine and thus far the US response has been rather less than advertised. A few Russian lawmakers are under US sanctions, including, strangely, Yelena Mizulina, who had little to do with Crimea and Ukraine but found herself on Washington's "hate list" for drafting the infamous law to ban homosexual propaganda to minors in Russia. Perhaps Crimea gave Washington the opportunity to settle old scores as well.
"Defeated" in Crimea, it seems the administration might again be turning its sights to Syria. The past 24 hours saw a flurry of activity suggesting that a US administration chastened by the Crimea result may take out its frustration on a Syria that had been put on the back burner since the US bombing backdown in the summer.
Appointed just days ago, new US Special Envoy to Syria Daniel Rubenstein has hit the ground running. He has upped the anti-Assad rhetoric several notches and has announced concrete steps suggesting the US will be entering a more active phase.
For example, today Rubenstein announced that the US would be shutting down any remaining Syrian diplomatic activity in the US.
[I]n consideration of the atrocities the Assad regime has committed against the Syrian people, we have determined it is unacceptable for individuals appointed by that regime to conduct diplomatic or consular operations in the United States.
Consequently, the United States notified the Syrian government today that it must immediately suspend operations of its Embassy in Washington, D.C. and its honorary consulates in Troy, Michigan, and Houston, Texas.
In a "Tweet" that hardly reassures that adults are in charge of US foreign policy, the State Department makes a kind of joke of the decision to kick out the remaining Syrians from the country:
It is a grim reminder of the mentality that spawned then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's gleeful comment on the rape and murder of Gaddafi -- "we came, we saw, he died.".
It seems the State Department no longer does diplomacy. Everything it does has to lead to surrender or bombing.
It is clear that with Rubenstein in the saddle, the US regime-change operation in Syria has been given new life.
He repeats the old canards we have heard about Saddam and Gaddafi -- he's killing his own people:
Bashar al-Assad has refused to heed the call of the Syrian people to step aside. He has directed a war against his own people and created a humanitarian catastrophe in order to hold on to power and protect his narrow interests.
But considering the prominence of foreign jihadists -- backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the US -- is it really true that he is making war on his own people? And who really created the catastrophe, the Syrian government resisting an armed overthrow or the foreign sponsors of that overthrow?
And how is it that the US can provide both covert and overt assistance to the rebels in Syria, but when Americans attempt to travel to Syria to help these rebels they are arrested by the US government on terrorism charges? Does that make sense?
Rubenstein ends by promising that:
"The United States will continue to assist those seeking change in Syria..."
New blood, suspension of diplomatic ties, renewed fiery rhetoric. Something may be on the horizon for a US foreign policy establishment seemingly looking to flex its wounded muscled on a weaker victim...