…this is what he might say:
My fellow Americans, I have called this press conference in order to explain to you the truth of why I intend to order an attack on Syria. And I really aim to tell the truth here, so this speech is apt to be unlike any other you have ever heard.
The first thing you must understand is that my proposed attack has nothing at all to do with whether or not chemical weapons were used in Syria. We’re pretty sure they have been used, by someone, but there is absolutely no way in the maelstrom of anarchy that is Syria for anyone, except perhaps the antagonists themselves, to confidently ascertain who might have been the culprit. Frankly, we can’t be a hundred percent sure that they have even been used.
But just like the Maine wasn’t the reason for the Spanish-American War, nor Pearl Harbor for World War Two, nor the Gulf of Tonkin incident for the Vietnam War, nor weapons of mass destruction in Hussein’s hands for the Iraq War ten years ago, chemical weapons usage is not the reason for intervention in Syria. All those previous incidents I cited were only pretexts for war. So, too, is the purported chemical weapons usage just a pretext for attacking Syria.
I don’t want to sound too condescending, but does anyone pay any attention to history, even that which happened during their own lifetimes? I mean really, my predecessor used practically the exact pretext for getting the Iraq war rolling as I’m using for Syria, and never apologized for it, even after it was proved false. At least Lincoln didn’t use freeing the slaves as a pretext for the Civil War. It only became a reason to fight when the purpose of preserving the Union just didn’t seem to inspirational enough for the Union draftees to think serving and dying was necessarily worthwhile. War is not about morality. It is only pretexts for war that are couched in moral terms. War is about power. It is about imposing one nation’s will upon another by force. You people need to just grow up.
There are two real reasons an attack on Syria is indicated. The first has to do with domestic politics and some of my own personality quirks, a reason, which frankly, is of dubious validity so far as the welfare of the republic I am charged with protecting and enhancing is concerned. The second has to do with international affairs, and is for a perfectly good and legitimate purpose. Let me start with explaining this latter reason first, though I only vaguely understand its implications.
So far as this matter concerns international affairs, I’ve been informed that the reason to order an attack on Syria is because Syria lies at the vanguard of the American Empire, and it is imperative that I prove the capacity of the United States to impose its will by force in a dinky little unimportant country like Syria if the Empire is to be sufficiently feared by more substantial rivals for power in the region, meaning of course, Iran. An ascendant Iran in the Middle East complicates an already complicated power situation in the area, and the Middle East is still quite important to American imperial interests, as the Empire, and all of its client and corollary states, still substantially rely on oil to provide the cheap energy economic systems require if they are to thrive. And let’s be real. Things are spiraling rapidly out of American control in the Middle East, Syrian chemical weapons and civil war, or no.
But I should assert that any intervention in the Syrian civil war will not be intended to in any way aid America’s putative ally in the region, Israel. The US, so long as I am president, will not be Israel’s puppet. (And to my critics, don’t accuse me of secretly being Muslim while at the same time claiming I am a puppet of the Jewish lobby.) As a matter of international affairs, this intervention has no nation’s interest in mind save that of the United States of America. We have to fight wars on the fuzzy vanguards of the Empire if our imperial imperatives are to be taken seriously, and our economy depends on our imperial imperatives being taken seriously in the Middle East.
There is, however, one aspect of this intervention that is related to chemical weapon usage in Syria, but only in the abstract, and in a highly attenuated manner. When I foolishly claimed that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war would cross a “red line”, I committed the United States to respond in some manner if they were used. This was not wise. The most critically important asset in international affairs, apart from having the power to induce fear by the ability and willingness to impose one’s will by force, is having the freedom to act in whatever manner is appropriate in the premises to protect national interests. With my “red line” comment, I foreclosed the option for the US to officially ignore happenings on the ground in Syria, if doing so were in its best interests. I am now being pressed by the world community and several domestic leaders to live up to my word. This is no way to conduct foreign relations. As President of the United States, I am the most powerful leader in the world. But I will lose credibility, and with me, so too will the United States, so long as I am its president, if I don’t back up my reckless words with actions.
The second reason to attack Syria has to do with domestic politics and some particular quirks of my personality. I have often been described as “No Drama Obama”, but people who describe me this way do not understand me. I relish drama, because it is through dramatic situations that I can express my cool, detached reserved self. My brilliant leadership abilities are not showcased except in the dramatic times of crisis. I exude grace under pressure, and thrive on looking cool and unfazed by the pressures of office during a crisis. If the occasion arises when there is no dramatic issue facing the country, I will cast about looking for one, even going so far as to create one myself (as I am doing with Syria), so that my best qualities can have an opportunity to shine.
It is this flair for the dramatic that led me to seek congressional approval for the Syria attack. I knew it would set the whole country in a tizzy arguing over whether and what should be done. I have no intention of allowing Congress to limit my decisional leeway, as I plainly stated when I sought their approval, but I knew by asking for approval that I would initiate a dramatic argument among Americans (one that would be filled with nonsensical moral platitudes and such), that I could leverage to my advantage by appearing to rise above the fray, keeping my head when all those about me are losing theirs. (Yes, I read and internalized some of that British imperial organ Kipling in school). In this domestic imbroglio about what to do about Syria, I’m like the fireman who starts the fire so he can heroically put it out.
There is also the political principle (so far as such a phrase does not lie in the realm of oxymoron) that one should never let a crisis go to waste. But how can one not let a crisis go to waste if there isn’t a crisis? With the end of the Great Recession and the passage of Obamacare, the crisis cupboard was looking sort of bare. And there were a growing number of revelations about how my White House operated that needed diversion from the public’s attention. But the chosen crisis had to be one that would implicate the heart of the American character; it had to have a moral element. Thus I chose a crisis over intervening militarily in another nation’s civil war over their purported use of chemical weapons. The need to lend the crisis gravitas sufficient to divert attention from domestic affairs and to make my management of it seem sublime demanded that it be couched in terms of our moral duty to act, with the implicit fear of what might obtain on our shores if we don’t act. This is why Syria’s purported use of chemical weapons serves as a perfect pretext for the proposed attack. It is always better to have a great and amorphous fear to use in creating a crisis. It always helps to have as one’s constituent beneficiaries of action the innocents and children who would otherwise suffer. The greater the dramatic flourish, the better are my leadership qualities showcased while resolving it. And I always get my way in resolving crises. After all, I am the first black president. It would be racist to deny me my prerogatives. Besides, as I’m the one who created the crisis, I am the one who must resolve it.
By dint of my condescending to speak to you, you are perhaps being led to believe that the opinions of the American people, i.e., your opinions, matter. Don’t be silly. They don’t. I’ve already told Congress that I have the power to act unilaterally, that I don’t really need their approval, even as I’ve claimed to seek it. If I don’t need Congressional approval, how could you possibly believe that I need the approval of the American public? No, this seeking of approval, both directly through this speech and indirectly through your congressional representatives, is superfluous. It is a political ploy, intended to remind you that it is I, not you, nor Congress, who is the most powerful man in the world. But I must admit, it feeds my megalomania and narcissism to rub shoulders with mere mortals as I’m doing here tonight. I always look good by comparison.
So, strap in and get ready. The US is going to war in Syria, if I so desire it. Though I’ve pledged to keep it limited, don’t count on it. I will escalate the war in so far as doing so usefully serves my interests. The US itself has only a very limited interest in Syria, arising from its position in a part of the world where it is critical that the US be capable of imposing its will by force, as I described earlier. My interests are more quotidian, or at least could be considered quotidian among the set of world leaders who are megalomaniacal narcissists like me. My personal interest in the war arises from my need to constantly feel as if it matters that I, Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a coal-black Kenyan, am the most powerful man in the world. So long as the war keeps that feeling of immense power surging through my veins, I will continue to wage it. The war resolves an existential crisis, but not for the US. Only for me.