From the Roosevelt Corollary to peace through strength, great commanders-in-chief often introduce new terms into our foreign policy vocabulary. Presidents who really shake up the paradigm are honored with their own doctrine—from Monroe to Truman to Reagan.
So far President Obama has racked up two proud additions to the august library of foreign policy. First there’s the Mockery Standard:
One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.
And then there’s the Cheerios Doctrine:
A second senior official, who has seen the most recent planning, offered this metaphor to describe such a strike: If Assad is eating Cheerios, we’re going to take away his spoon and give him a fork. Will that degrade his ability to eat Cheerios? Yes. Will it deter him? Maybe. But he’ll still be able to eat Cheerios.
I think the Cheerios are the sarin gas in that metaphor, which makes this the first time that chemical weapons have been compared to a nutritious breakfast cereal. Also apparently the government is flat-out admitting that Assad will still be able to use his heart-healthy WMDs following our attack. No wonder he’s fearlessly issuing vague threats of retaliation.
When I was young, there were TV commercials for the cereal Trix starring a cartoon rabbit who kept trying to steal children’s breakfast bowls and who was, by all appearances, clinically psychotic. After foiling his latest scheme, one of the kids would scold the creature: “Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids.” I think it would be far more appropriate for the president’s officials to name-drop Trix instead, since lately their rhetoric can only be taken seriously by very young children.
Several commentators who are usually reliable interventionists, from Peter Wehner to Charles Krauthammer, have thrown up their hands and said the United States should stay out of Syria, not because they oppose it on principle, but because they’re appalled by the president’s flaccid approach. I think we should stay out of Syria either way, but given the rhetoric from the executive branch recently, it’s certainly easy to understand where they’re coming from.