'Throughout the conflict, President Obama used the inevitable divisions and squabbling among some of the Syrian opposition groups that sought Washington’s support to highlight their deficiencies and to distort who they are. President Obama was disingenuous, to say the least, when he kept referring to the moderate opposition with his now infamous labels of: farmers, pharmacists and teachers, ignoring the fact that many of those who took up arms against the Assad regime initially were former members of his armed forces. These were the nationalists who preceded the Islamists who would dominate the later stages of the conflict. Obama’s inaction at that crucial time; that is before the destruction of some of Syria’s famed cities such as Aleppo and Homs, before the emergence of the murderous Nusra Front and ISIS and more importantly before Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah took charge of the counter revolution, that inaction is in part responsible for Syria’s descent to hell.
In a moment, certainly not befitting the memory of Pericles, President Obama at an impromptu press conference on Aug. 19, 2012, issued a warning to Assad that the use of chemical weapons would constitute crossing a red line that “would change my calculus.” Obama stressed that “We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.” A year later, the Syrian army unleashed a barrage of rockets laden with sarin gas against the Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, killing 1,429 people, a third of them children. What followed were an embarrassing series of fumbles and missteps that exposed Obama’s leadership to severe criticism and ridicule. After committing himself publicly to punish the Assad regime militarily and after dispatching naval assets to the Eastern Mediterranean to deliver the pounding, Obama characteristically backtracked saying he would seek congressional approval. The military option died when the Russians saved Obama by committing Assad to discard his chemical arsenal. As David Rothkopf noted in his excellent new book National Insecurity: “The red-line fumble prompted an avalanche of questions from some of Obama’s closest allies and supporters about not only his own leadership but on America’s future role in the world.” '