UN Ambassador Puts ‘The Onion’ Out of Business

Every time I think I’m done talking about Syria, the Obama administration pulls me back in.  But this time I’m pulled in not to discuss policy, but to just throw up my hands and give out a hearty “Oh Good Grief,” Charlie Brown style.

I’ve previously wrote here and here about the absolutely amateurish way the Obama administration is handling their self made Syria “crisis.”  But it seems the amateurishness and naivety runs all the way through this administration.

Last Friday UN ambassador Samantha Power spoke to the Center for American Progress, a left wing advocacy organization, on Syria, in an effort to shore up support among President Obama’s normally reliable allies; some of whom are feeling a bit queasy in supporting missile strikes against Syria. I don’t know successful she was in convincing a group of people who are normally anti-war no matter what that this was a good old fashioned humanitarian war, but she did reveal an astonishing lack of realism regarding Russia and Iran as she related in her speech:

“We worked with the U.N. to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing its people. We expanded and accelerated our assistance to the Syrian opposition. We supported the U.N. Commission of Inquiry. “

So… our UN ambassador, who is part of the team that is crafting US foreign policy, thought that by showing proof that Syria was actually using chemical weapons; Iran and Russia, on some sort of vague humanitarian grounds, would drop their support of the Syrian government.  I can only conclude that we have high school model UN’s that are more serious than this administration’s UN ambassador.

There doesn’t seem to be much to add to that.  I can’t imagine that the governing class of either Russia or Iran cares about videos of gassed children.  These are amoral and deadly serious regimes that are playing the long game. The fact that the Obama administration thought that would make a difference in Russian or Iranian calculations is ridiculous.  Did they really think that those governments were just sitting around blindly supporting the Syrian government and would be shocked, shocked (once again, with apologies to Captain Renault!) that Syrians are using gas on the battlefield?

I think this puts the administration beyond parody.  I mean, how do you top that? That’s why I think the Obama administration has finally broken the back of The Onion.  There is no way The Onion will be able craft a more ludicrous story than this real one.

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Syria Backtrack

I was as shocked as anyone that President Obama did an about face on firing his phallic symbol-like missiles in Assad’s general direction.  Although I had previously called the administration amateurish, they managed to redefine the word amateur down.

First we’re going to attack, then we’re going to get Congressional approval, but don’t worry, that doesn’t matter, since Obama states he still has the authority to attack anyway, and will, regardless of the vote.

Huh?

Although there are conspiracy theories that the rebels, not the Assad government, actually used chemical weapons as a false flag to trick the US into intervening, I prefer to consider such theories ridiculous until proven otherwise.   As far as figuring out a position on what to do in Syria, I’m just taking the administration’s word that the intelligence is good, and that Assad is the culprit.

However that doesn’t give guidance on how the US should react.

I would really like to support the President in this.  Politics stops at the water’s edge and all that’ however Obama has managed to make it as difficult as possible to support a policy in which the publically stated goals are to accomplish nothing.  They’re not to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons, cripple the regime, or do anything of any military significance. It’s a military mission with no military objectives, and frankly, not even political ones.

Syria isn’t a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention, so in a technical sense, they didn’t actually violate “International law.”  The administration is well aware of that since they use terminology “International Norms,” which means things that the international community, such as it is, doesn’t like.  Although no one in the international community feels their norms were violated enough to actually do something about it.

Obama should have just fired his missiles last week without all of the foreplay and advanced warning.  We would have already been on to another issue by now with the feeling that we had sort of accomplished something.  Instead, there was the desperate pleading for international support, an embarrassing House of Commons vote, and now an upcoming Congressional vote that’s likely to be even more embarrassing.

And how will Congress vote?  Very unconventionally apparently.  Noted warmonger Rep. Nancy Pelosi, after wresting with the issue with her 5 year old grandson, is on board to attack Syria. And John McCain, between Smartphone games of poker, is always up for another bombing.  How will the rest of the Congress vote?  It’s not as easy to predict.  Although I can guess how a certain young Illinois lawmaker would have voted:

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now let me be clear–I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied U.N. resolutions, thwarted U.N. inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

But the 2002 edition of Barrack Obama was quite a bit different from the current model.

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Do We Need to Police Syria?

Although not a neo-con, as the term is commonly used now, I do recognize that the US has a distinct role to play in the world, at least for this period of our history, in helping maintain a stable world order.  In a limited sense, it’s not a fool’s errand.  The best example was the Gulf War.  Saddam Hussein annexed neighboring Kuwait, and began massing his armies on the border of Saudi Arabia.  Although I am no friend of the House of Saud, I sure didn’t want it replaced with Hussein’s dictatorship, and leaving Hussein on charge of the majority of Persian Gulf oil.  There was a principle to be adhered to; you can’t just conquer other countries, strip them for parts, and steal their national resources so you can hold it hostage on the world market.  The United States, acting through its sock puppet the UN (at least for that issue), assembled a coalition which included Syria, and kicked Saddam out of Kuwait.  Establishing a cost for a country that tried to conquer it’s neighbors willy nilly helps keep that sort of that action extremely risky, not matter how militarily weak one’s neighbor is and as a result, it’s a relative rarity in the post World War II era.

English: Brasilia - The president of the Syria...

English: Brasilia – The president of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar Al-Assad during a visit to Congress Português do Brasil: Brasília – O presidente da República Árabe Síria, Bashar Al-Assad, em visita ao Congresso Nacional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is another principle at stake now and the Obama administration is preparing to attack Syria based on it; you can’t use chemical weapons; particularly on civilians.  There are not many taboos in warfare, but using chemical weapons would certainly be on that short list.

But in this case, there are competing interests and principles involved.  Prohibiting the use of chemical weapons is a taboo for those countries that were involved in World War I.  Those nations were horrified by what they had done on the battlefield and although almost all of them kept some manner of CW weapons in stock during the 20th century, they weren’t used and relatively few of the former World War I combatants have active stockpiles now.  Even Hitler didn’t use them, although he had them.

But the rest of the world doesn’t necessarily share those taboos. Certainly Saddam Hussein didn’t share them during the Iran-Iraq War, or when he gassed his own people at Halabja in 1988.  And Bashar Assad doesn’t share them now.

So, if we are going to enforce as a norm, the idea that using chemical weapons against civilian populations is verboten, then we have to react.  Although I can’t believe that was actually Obama’s plan.  The reason we are attacking Syria is so Obama can feel butch. He made up that “red line” statement about chemical weapons thinking he would never have to pay up since at the time, all of the experts were saying that Assad had only weeks left.

So here we are 30 months into a Syrian civil war and the experts were wrong, as seems to be the case quite frequently, and now Obama is trying to make it look like his word means something.

But as I said, there are competing interests.  Just like the Iran-Iraq War, in which Henry Kissinger said, “It’s a shame they can’t both lose,” there are no good guys in the Syrian conflict.  There is a choice between an anti-American dictatorship that is a state supported sponsor of terrorism, or a fundamentalist Islamic regime that almost certainly will be a state sponsor of terrorism.  So  foreign policy of the old “realist” bent would be interested in keeping the war between our enemies going on as long as possible.  The longer they are concerned with each other, the less they will be concerned with us.  That was basically our strategy with Iran and Iraq during the 1980’s.

So which is more important?  Leaving secular Baathists and Islamic fundamentalist to fight it out, or interfering and possibility helping the Islamic fundamentalists by inflicting damage to the Syrian Military?

Left out of most of this discussion is what is in the national security interests of the United States?  To me, that has to be a key component of any US military intervention and I just don’t see it in this case.

Although I’m as opposed to the use of chemical weapons against civilians as the next Westerner, we let the Iraqi’s go at it against the Iranians for years and didn’t lose any sleep over it, and in this case, my inclination is to just get a good night’s sleep.  Eventually, the conflict in Syria will be over, and an enemy of the United States will be in charge.  I don’t see much advantage in hastening that day.

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