Obama Adopts ‘The Office Doctrine’ For Dealing With Syria

michaelscottMy wife and I were big fans of NBC’s The Office. Back before Steve Carell left the show (it became unwatchable after that), we never missed an episode. Even these days, after we put our kids to bed at night and can’t find much on television, it’s not uncommon for us to turn to our DVR for one of the old, syndicated episodes that we’ve probably already seen a dozen times.

Being pretty familiar with the writing style that made The Office successful, I sometimes notice newer sitcoms borrowing from the show’s winning, comedic formula. What I’ve noticed lately, however, is that it’s not just television writers who are trying to emulate the show.

Lately, we’ve been watching the Obama administration take a crack at it. Our leadership’s handling of the situation in Syria might as well be known as “The Office Doctrine” because as best I can tell, its channeling the show at every twist and turn.

There was a memorable episode of The Office in which it was revealed that Michael Scott, when he was younger, promised to pay for the college tuition of every student, in an inner-city class, that graduated from high school. Based on his pledge, the kids (realizing that they had been given an amazing gift by a generous man) worked hard, stayed in school, and earned their high school diplomas. The problem, of course, what that Michael had no means of paying for any of their college educations. The promise he had made years earlier was done in the heat of the moment, without him even considering whether or not he would actually be able to fulfill that promise. He enjoyed the notoriety and accolades he received for the gesture, but once the reality settled in of what he had committed himself to, his hope was that he’d somehow be miraculously bailed out of the predicament, and never actually have to make good on his promise.

That’s how I see the “red line” promise that President Obama made last year – the one in which he declared that the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict would result in military invention by the United States. Obama threw out that reckless warning in order to portray himself as a bold leader. He probably never even considered that the Syrian government might actually cross that red line and use chemical weapons against its people. Thus, he likely didn’t think he would ever have to make good on his promise of U.S. intervention.

But according to our own government’s intelligence, that’s exactly what the Assad regime did. It gassed his own people, and now our president has found himself in a position in which he either needs to make good on his promise and intervene in the conflict militarily, or somehow figure out a creative way of squirming himself out of the situation he created, while still preserving some semblance of dignity.

And just like with what we’d expect out of Michael Scott, Obama is now floundering around awkwardly and embarrassingly, trying to figure out a way to escape culpability for what he said. For months, he tossed aside reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, seemingly in conscious denial of the changing landscape there. But after the latest attack, and the State Department stating definitively that Assad had indeed used chemical weapons, it seemed denial was no longer an option. There was a clear sense from the White House that our military was about to take quick action in response. That’s when the momentum came to a screeching, unexpected halt with the president’s call for a delay and congressional hearings.

The president seems desperate to avoid having to make a definitive decision on such a serious, consequential issue, and it appears he’s now searching for an excuse for inaction. In other words, he’s looking for a Dwight Schrute to take the fall for his bad idea, and he’s hoping congress will play the part.

Who is tasked to play the part of secretary Pam Beesly, the person who has to formulate a way to rationalize Michael’s incoherent, indecisive behavior to upper management while he’s locked away in his office with the blinds shut (or in Obama’s case, out on a golf course)? Secretary of State John Kerry, of course!

I almost felt sorry for Kerry, as he sat out in front of the cameras over the weekend, trying to explain why the administration’s dramatic change in approach wasn’t a change at all, but was instead “consistent” with the polar-opposite messages coming out of the State Department only days earlier.

Right now, the American public is like CFO David Wallace, face twisted in confusion, trying to make sense out of what exactly is going on. And the people laughing aren’t part of the viewing audience at home, but rather the leaders of countries throughout the world who are witnessing how impotent we’ve become as a nation.

Maybe taking the decision to the legislative branch is ultimately the right one, but how we’ve gotten to this point is absolutely foolish and embarrassing.

I think we all know that the president’s decision had nothing to do with bolstering the importance of the U.S. Congress in key decision-making practices. It had nothing to do with strengthening our country, as John Kerry managed to tell Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday with a straight (and oddly wrinkle-free) face. After all, Obama has taken sharp executive actions on a variety of big issues including Libya, immigration, and gun control, all for the explicit purpose of side-stepping congress. When out on the campaign trail, the president never misses an opportunity to denounce congress for incompetency, right before proudly threatening unilateral actions on policies.

No, Obama decided to take his case to congress because he doesn’t want to take the fall for the ultimatum he carelessly laid out. If congress votes for the United States not to intervene in Syria, Obama will then be off the hook. That’s most certainly his preferred outcome, because he clearly doesn’t want to get involved in the Syria mess. If they vote to grant him authority to take action, he won’t like it, but he’ll know that he can pin partial blame on congress for whatever goes wrong in the operation, or the unintended consequences that stem from it. Heck, with the help of the media, he could probably even find a way to pin all of the blame on congress. It’s certainly worked for him in the past.ad6

There’s no doubt that Syria is a very complex issue. I’m certainly not trying to make light of it. The argument for intervention is a strong one, and the argument for non-intervention is also a strong one. Both come with their own negative consequences, and no one can entirely foresee the extent of those consequences. That’s why it’s extremely important to have a competent, confident leader in the White House who can approach such issues with the direness they deserve. It’s important to have a president that both Americans and other countries can respect during times like these. It’s important to have a president who understands the ramifications of his own rhetoric.

Does anyone honestly believe that Michael Scott fits that bill?


Update: This morning, on September 4th, 2013, President Obama told a reporter in Sweden the he never set a “red line” on intervention in Syria in the first place. This, despite past statements in which he did exactly that. More Michael Scott antics, folks! Give him the Emmy.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
Author website: http://www.johndalybooks.com/
  • sniper2535

    Do you think The President will offer congress lithium batteries to smooth things over?

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      HA HA HA HA HA!

  • Brian Fr Langley

    Wow??? Now apparently the administration refuses to call a strike on Syria an act of war? Not defining the act as war, leaves few options. Perhaps we might call it an act of terrorism? (You know blowing stuff up to further your ideology) Or since we’re trying to send a message, perhaps we might call it a “reprisal”? Nazi’s and mobsters were quite adept at the art of reprisal. Or I guess we could just call it a message. As the glory of the Nation (Tomahawks) complete their business, Assad we’ll likely have his own message, “is that all you’ve got”?

  • Jeff Webb

    If the Republicans had any brains, they would have reacted to Obama’s whole “I don’t need Congress’ permission, BUT…” tack with “Okay, we’ll just sit this one out, Slappy. You just go ahead and show the world what a brilliant leader you are.”
    Sadly, most of the Republicans keep letting smarter, bolder, and more aggressive people bully them at every turn. When Bernie referred to them as “wimps” in a previous book title, he was being kind.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      I can’t disagree. BTW, based on your use of the word “Slappy”, were you a WCW fan back in the late 90’s? 😉

      • Jeff Webb

        Don’t know what WCW is; First time I heard it was when Nick DiPaolo said it in his stand-up routine.

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          lol. There was a professional wrestler who used to call people that all the time. I had never heard anyone else say it.

  • cmacrider

    John: As a citizen in a parliamentary democracy, I haven’t the foggiest notion why McCain and Graham were clamoring to have the Syria issue debated in Congress. It is a no win situation entirely created by Obama’s reckless red line rhetoric. If they had left this whole mess in the Oval Office, Obama would never have made a decision …. he probably would have asked the EPA to do a study on the effects of a missile strike on global warming. Obama is the same guy who has procrastinated for 3 years as to whether the XL pipeline is “in the national interest.” Does anyone seriously think he has suddenly developed the intestinal fortitude to institute military action for which he would have been solely responsible with no potential scapegoats… when he has a whole constituency of peace niks within his base supporters???? Now, as you indicate in your articles, the Republicans are going to end up wearing some or most of the blame for a military venture which has no viable goal and the potential for disastrous unintended consequences.

    BTW … the chances of PM Harper and the Canadian Government supporting Obama on any military venture is about as likely as you betting on a mule to win the Kentucky Derby.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Very little of what’s happening makes sense.

      I’m not sure that McCain and Graham were all that interested in debating the issue in front of congress. I think they just want whatever action Obama takes to serve some meaningful purpose.

      Ironically, I think congress is showing more support for an attack than Obama probably anticipated. I think the president really wants congress to veto involvement in Syria (like with what happened in the UK) so he can pretend to be helpless on the matter, but I don’t think it’s what’s going to happen.

  • VermontAmerican

    Obama said, “I didn’t draw a red line”–when in fact he did!–“the American people and the Congress drew the red line.” What does that mean? That he doesn’t include himself as part of the American people? I’m an American. When did I draw a red line? No. He shot his mouth off. Now he’s going to commit American blood and treasure so he can save face. Typical Lefty.

  • Wheels55

    Opinion polls show a large majority do not want any military action. Call it war fatigue or perhaps the logical conclusion that limited strikes won’t do much and may hurt us even more. Obama just can’t say he was wrong. And, since he flapped his own gums by saying the red line stuff, he has to be creative to blame others. I bet this is why he goes to congress, not for approval, but for his now famous finger pointing. Already he is saying this wasn’t HIS red line, it was everyone’s red line. So, why are we so alone with the military action thoughts?

    I see Obama more as Burt from the show “Soap”. He thinks his actions are invisible.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Plus it should be noted that Obama and his fellow Democrats applied such evil intentions and endless demagoguery to the Bush administration’s waging of the Iraq war (after initially supporting Bush), that they can’t possibly expect majority support from Americans to jump into another conflict in the Middle East.

      • Wheels55

        Yes, it seems that being a hypocrite is the norm these days for Democrats. The left continues to treat Americans, especially the followers of the left, as stupid people. But their Jedi mind tricks won’t work on me.

  • GlenFS

    Good observations, John. The relative merits of either choice might depend upon a person’s perspective, but Obama’s performance on the world stage is a farcical comedy.

  • http://www.e-marketingpartner.com/ Bob Weber

    Great analogy. One thing that I also thing is very Michael Scottesque, Obama thought he had the support of the world. He was blustery when he thought global opinion would be behind him, but suddenly he doesn’t have anyone willing to side with him. The UN, Nato, even the UK have bailed on him and just like Michael Scott would, Obama has lost his nerve without a crowd of supporters.

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      Good point!

  • Brian Fr Langley

    While I don’t disagree with your analysis, (on the Obama administration) I’m not sure I agree that there could actually be reliable intelligence on who used gas? Civil war by definition pits evens families and close friends against one another. As well, Arabs are no strangers to subterfuge, machinations, and war by guile. (remember the now proven false allegations against the Iraqi’s by Kuwait to gin up world outrage against the Iraq invasion) That gas was used I have no doubt. But that it was used by a regime on the verge of winning, maybe, maybe not. Worse for the West (U.S. and allies) is as demonic as the Syrian leader Assad is, his opponents are worse. His loss will bring about the wholesale dislocation and murder of thousands of Syrian minorities (Christians in particular) And how is it, that mainstream media continually displays image after image of suffering Syrian’s (especially children) but remains (mostly) silent on the staggering destruction (and murder) of entire Christian communities and their Churches throughout Syria, Egypt, and other (so called) Arab spring Nations?

    • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

      I understand the skepticism people have about who actually used the chemical weapons, but my analysis is based on what our government’s intelligence agencies have concluded.

      Are the intelligence agencies 100% reliable? As we found out in Iraq, the answer is no.

      I very much agree with your point about the media’s lack of interest in reporting on what’s happening to Christians in the Middle East. It’s very telling.

      • Brian Fr Langley

        Before the holocaust of WW2, the Ottomans (Islam unified under a Caliphate) murdered some 1.5 million Christians (because they were Christians) during WW1. Hitler himself, pointed to world silence (on this holocaust) as evidence no one would speak out when he began his holocaust. The truth here is, missiles shot at Assad, are missiles shot at Syrian Christians and their Churches. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but consider this. It may be hyperbole to me and thee, sitting here fat and happy, sheltered by two giant oceans in North America. But to the Christian men, women, and children being murdered in Syria, (by Assad’s foes) those American missiles (aimed at Assad) will taste a lot like infamy.

        • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly

          It’s a valid point for sure. Military action in the Middle East is always way more complicated than people realize.

          • Brian Fr Langley

            So we’ll be complicit in killing natural allies, (Christians) complicit in supporting avowed enemies, (Al-Quaeda) and pundits like yourself aren’t vociferously objecting to the military option? Liberals are well known for a morality that the “ends justifies the means”, (which is really no morality at all) conservative thinkers (like ourselves) should do better? Until an administration makes a clear convincing argument, that killing people in foreign lands, (an act of war), is absolutely required for the defense of the Nation. Men of conscience should say, NO. (and shout it to the heavens). This is NOT to say a pre-emptive strike in self defense is unethical. For a bellicose threat, with intent( and commensurate ability to follow through), the best defense, still remains a strong offense.

          • cmacrider

            Brian Fr Langley …. good post … well reasoned and supported by facts

          • http://johndalybooks.com/ John Daly


          • Brian Fr Langley

            Gotta love a website where you can say “men of conscience” (in reference to humanity) and not get 10,000 outraged (all feigned) libbers, screeching for death and destruction, to the misogynistic ogres, who say (or allowed to be said) “men” for mankind.

          • Brian Fr Langley

            I hate to be a pest, but, to add just a smidgeon, more grist to your mill. The media photo’s of Syrian children being killed is heartbreaking beyond belief, but in one year, the year 2010, (the last year numbers are available) 660,000 persons (almost all children under 5) died of malaria. A disease 100% preventable and or treatable. The only impediment? Money. (Political will) Some on the left, (Greens) go so far as to suggest, intervention may hinder efforts at controlling world population. (which may explain the complicit media silence) Worse the populations most affected are found in Africa. Talk about racism with a capital “R”. (do you really believe, death rates like this, would be allowed in the west) How is it, that it’s so easy, to spend lives and treasure, in arena’s so complex, we can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys, yet won’t lift a finger, to save hundreds of thousands of children, which at the very least, have as much right to live as Syrian children?