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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8 thoughts on “Syria Backtrack

  1. It’s time to face reality. The only people who take threats from Barack Obama seriously are congressional Republicans. Syrians, Iranians, Russians and other assorted villains know he’s a complete joke. His backtracking on the whole “red line” thing (“Who, me? Oh no, not my red line. It’s the world’s red line. Or something.”) in an attempt to save face just compounds the problem.

    As far as intervening in Syria, I’m convinced it’s a bad idea. If there’s anything that the so-called Arab Spring has taught us, it’s that the Islamists are the best organized of the resistance groups. If Assad is deposed, it’s a near certainty that AQ-friendly forces will eventually take charge, And without a pro-Western military (like Egypt’s) to sort things out, we’ll wind up having a new terrorist safe haven in the Middle East. I say save the bombs and bullets, we’re going to need them for Iran soon enough.

    • I wouldn’t even mind a little bombing if there was an actual reason for it. If there was a mission to take out the chemical weapons, that would be worthwhile. I figure that if I don’t like Assad having and using chemical weapons, I really wouldn’t like these rebels to control them. But that doesn’t even seem to be on the table.

      • That begs the question of whether we know where the chemical weapons are. We probably know where some of them are. But all of them? I’m inclined to doubt it. Without American boots on the ground — which the President assures us won’t happen — verifying our success at destroying the chemical weapons would also be problematic.

  2. A mission to take out the chemical weapons is hard; for all of the reasons you mentioned. If you are just firing missiles at Syrian command and control, well that’s easy. But which one actually applied to US national interests?

  3. Michael, I thank you for your thoughts on this matter… I am confused that you would simply take the word of an administration who has a dubious claim to veracity and truth in matters foreign and domestic that we simply “know” that the Syrian military used the chemical weapons, and not the rebels. Yes, horrible videos were shown of people suffering from Sarin-like symptoms, but really, what else has been provided? the righteous indignation of Kerry when he is questioned on any of the “evidence” speaks volumes to me… No quiet confidence, no offers to provide “proof” to the world (with apologies to Gen Powell,) no real ideas… just anger and indignation…
    Also, who has the most to win by dragging us into the conflict in any way, shape or form? Al Nusra, et al. They don’t care about truth, only about power, and the rebels are desperate to once again turn the tide in their favor.
    That all being said, I have seen NO Proof that would convince me that we have ANY business acting in this situation. None. Forget the red line crap, forget the 100,000 dead, etc as any kind of barometers. In the Iran/Iraq war, Sadam Hussein used gas on Iranian troops in the swamps of the Persian Gulf, and American reporters saw the corpses first hand. In Rwanda over 800,000 died and we did exactly nothing in the name of humanity, or our own “vital National Security interests.” Again, what tangible evidence has been offered to show that ANY interest of ours is at stake in this horrible civil war? None. None. and that should be the sum total of our response to this horrible action.

    • Thanks for your reply Eric. I appreciate your thoughts.

      There are two aspects of this that you brought up, whether we are getting the straight story from the administration and if it’s in our national security interest to intervene. Let me take these one at a time.

      First, in the two, well now three posts I’ve written on this subject, I’ve purposefully not addressed the issue of whether we are getting the straight story from the administration in regards to whether it was the Assad government that used CW weapons or whether it was the rebels in some sort of false flag effort to pin the use of chemical weapons on the Assad regime to generate some sort of international response against Assad. And the reason why is because from a US national security viewpoint, it doesn’t matter. But more on that later.

      As far as the truthfulness of the administration goes, I trust them about as far as I can throw them (which isn’t very far as it turns out). However I also have no faith in the competence of the Obama administration to pull off any sort of deceptive false flag operation of their own. Exhibits A through Z are their handling of this entire “crisis.” They created a political mess for themselves and devised a trap that leaves the President looking weaker no matter what decision he makes at this point. Nothing about their mishandling of this suggests to me that they have the capacity to fool anyone who doesn’t sincerely want to be fooled.

      Given that, even if they tried to order up fake US intelligence reports to back their story, I just don’t believe they would get them. Maybe I’m naïve, but my experience with US intelligence makes me think we are dealing with a cross between The Office and The Big Bang Theory; not jackbooted Obamatrons, willing to provide fake intelligence to order.

      Secondly, and I alluded to this a few paragraphs ago, I don’t think who used the weapons actually matters that much as far as US national security is concerned. Unlike the administration, I don’t see their use in the Syrian civil war as any sort of breach of international “norms” other than it’s unusual for there to be any use of chemical weapons. It just doesn’t happen that often. Syria isn’t a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention and I’ve not heard it articulated that this is a Geneva Protocol violation since this isn’t an international conflict, it’s internal.

      The civil war, in and of itself, is not relevant to US national security. But since the likely winner of the war will be an enemy of the US (either Assad wins, which I have my money on, or the Al Qaeda backed rebels win), I’m not fond of the winner having chemical weapons. So if there was an option to take out the chemical weapons themselves, I would be in favor of it. However the Obama administration seems to have tailored a military mission that accomplishes absolutely nothing. Really, for as little as they want to do, I don’t know why Obama is taking all this political damage when he wants a military attack that will have zero effect.

      This may all be irrelevant since as of this writing Putin has managed to outfox Obama and offered a potential solution for Obama to bail out of his crisis at the loss of face worldwide and the elevation of Russia as international power broker.
      See? These guys just are not smart enough to set this up. It’s more like they’ve been set up.

  4. Amen. I agree on both points. They are not smart enough to manage a conundrum as multi-layered and dangerous as this one. .. I do agree that some valid INTEL must be in hand, but there are disputed versions(so what is new?) This piece was interesting.
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/09/201515/intercepts-caught-assad-rejecting.html#.UjC1n38YNH0

    Putin, whom I would never tag as clever or overly machiavellian in his exploits clearly played the whole gang of Kerry, Obama, Powers et al for rubes on this one. They earned it. Set up, indeed! in spades…
    EZ

    • I have to agree that Putin surprised me too. He’s always been so over the top overt with his behavior, I didn’t realize he could play a fairly good policy game and easily outfoxed Obama/Kerry. Plus he showed the world that Russia is loyal to it’s client states and will go to bat for them. Meanwhile, we tell our client states that they “must go.” If you are a third world country, it’s pretty obvious which nation it makes more sense to align with.

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