Former Newsweek reporter Michael Hirsh – now with National Journal – broke out his rhetorical baseball bat on the supposedly sedate and civil Diane Rehm Show on NPR Friday.
When another reporter noted that foreign ministers were shaken by Obama’s failure to take action after drawing a “red line” on Syria, Hersh launched into an attack on the “absurdity” of Dick Cheney attacking Obama as “laughable.”
HIRSH: Let's step back for a moment and look at reasons why Obama has been reluctant to use force. And this goes back to what we were talking about earlier, which is the absurdity of people like Dick Cheney and other advocates of the Iraq War, to be out there criticizing the President or any U.S. policy right now. They're the ones who created this sense of vulnerability that undercut the image of American power. Remember, in 2002, no one had even heard of what an insurgency was. We didn't have a situation where our troops were on the ground occupying Iraq and being exposed to IEDs.
I mean, this was all because of the decision to launch an Iraq War, in fact, the last time that U.S. power was seen as utterly dominant. And it's important to remember back to the first Gulf War to Kosovo, when the U.S. power from the air was seen as, you know, virtually invulnerable -- a reputation that continued up through the defeat of the Taliban in late 2001, early 2002. It was the decision to go into Iraq that created this whole wave of insurgency and exposed the vulnerability of American troops on the ground.
So getting back to the caller's question, I mean, that's one reason why we're looking so snake bit now. So to have the Dick Cheneys of the world coming out and talking about the mistakes of Obama is really sort of laughable.
Indira Lakshaman of Bloomberg set Hirsh off by saying “ I've heard foreign ministers and, you know, diplomats from around the world telling me that that was a really seminal moment for them, when Obama did not do airstrikes after the chemical weapons, because they felt like, well is he going to come defend us in the South China Sea?”
After his rant, she conceded his point, and then repeated hers.
LAKSHMANAN: There's no question that President Obama has increased the use of drone strikes geometrically from what it was even under George W. Bush. But that's kind of a form of remote-control war. I mean that's, you know, obviously, as he says, trying to pick particular targets and hit those targets. Now I want to amend what I said at -- I'm not saying that it would have necessarily right to do airstrikes on Syria.
But I think the criticism that we hear from -- as Matt said, Eastern European allies, Southeast Asian allies, who are sort of menaced by their larger neighbors, is that don't set a red line if you're not actually going to act on it. So that might have been the mistake, to say I will act if blank-blank happens, if maybe that's not the course that you actually want to take.