The Senate Drafts a Joint Resolution Authorizing Military Force in Syria


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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176 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Did you see the “red line” comments made by the President recently? That’s some stuff, right there.

    Anyway, if we’re going to be doing this at all, it’s best to go through the entire process of getting Congressional authorization… if only because, hey, maybe that’ll make things more difficult *NEXT* time.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      You’ve heard of Wars of Aggression? This will be the first War of Passive Aggression.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Obama has proven himself wilier than his enemies and considerably smarter than those who would deign to call this a War of Passive Aggression. Back when Saddam was using nerve agents against Iran, the USA connived in all that. Rumsfeld famously shakes Saddam Hussein’s hand. Guess that wasn’t an Unknown Unknown.

        No, Obama has played his cards rather well with this hand. A lot smarter than any Republican would have played them. We know what they do, the bastards. They get into wars and can’t get us out. All those War Hawks, so goddamn sure of themselves. Fucking idiots all of them. Passive Aggressive. Eet eez to larf.

        No, this isn’t Passive Aggressiveness. Obama is dragging this out, keeping sphincters tight everywhere, especially in Syria, Iran, Russia and Lebanon. At last, we have a President who knows how to use fear, uncertainty and doubt properly. He doesn’t just wade into these things, he lets the situation develop in ways he can utilise to his own advantage. Syria knows something is coming — but no idea when and no idea how.

        But anything Obama does will be an improvement on what a Republican would do. Now we see the War Hawks trying to justify their positions and doing a wretched job of it, making bigger asses of themselves with every passing moment. The Arabic papers are all running around, sure this will result in regime change in Syria. Likely it will go down that road. This pause is giving Bashar Assad’s enemies enough time to round up their cadre of plotters, preparing for what’s sure to come.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Per the Secretary of State, the Administration is not even asking for a war. Just a tailored airstrike of limited duration with no boots on the ground in order to degrade the regime’s military capabilities.

        You know, like Pearl Harbor.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Like Pearl Harbor? Is this what you would call a Tailored Airstrike? No, Kolohe, Obama is leaving his options open, as he did in Libya and his drone war against the Taliban in Pakistan. Obama is not a Passive Aggressive sorta guy. He took the drone war to unprecedented levels and has shown himself perfectly willing to hit whom he wants when the moment suits him.

        Nobody’s asking for a war? Let’s rephrase that for English speakers with a clue: Nobody in Congress wants to call this a war. According to some folks, whatever B Hussein Obama does, it’s always bad. Let Obama go to Congress, put a wet finger in the wind, now it’s dubbed a War of Passive Aggression from the likes of you.

        Obama has a clue. His enemies don’t. As with his drone war, he’s shown a whole host of Moustachioed Generalissimos from Pakistan to Libya what he thinks about their precious sovereignty. He never makes the first move. He responds.

        And I’ll tell you this for free, before all is said and done in this action, Obama is not going to confine this strike to the borders of Syria. Hizb’allah has hung its hairy ass out the window. Hizb’allah will attempt to respond to what Obama will do in this situation. When they do, and they will, the press will go apeshit, as they always do. At which point, Obama will proceed to pull a Wesley Clark and continue his air war, week after week. For the Shiites will respond to all this. They will not take this lying down. That’s when it’s going to get very ugly.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        You know, I’m down with the whole “Obama isn’t as horrid as his worst critics say he is” thing but this whole “Syria just demonstrates how many dimensions are on the chess board that Obama is using!” is a bit… well. It seems to be the other side of the coin.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        C’mon. This isn’t a chess game. For one, what few rules there are — such as Don’t Use Poison Gas — were broken.

        When the Allies were coming ashore on D-Day, the Germans had enough Tabun gas in barrels to annihilate the invaders on the beaches. The Nazis weren’t above using chemical agents against Jews but they understood what would come of any such action. It’s time for the world to learn the lesson with a practical application of consequences. It’s just that simple, Jaybird.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        If I thought that our intentions were little more than pulling a Dresden, I’d have a lot more hope for the success of the campaign.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well, this one is so screwed up that if we go in with conventional air power and start losing aircraft to intact Syrian air defenses, we’ll have to hope that our pilots eject over enemy territory so they won’t fall into the hands of our allies (who might decapitate them, eat their organs, and post it on Youtube).Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I doubt many manned aircraft will be sent over Damascus. I foresee lots of X-47B strikes, though. America learns its geography from the war reporting but it learns telemetry with brush fire wars.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well, using pre-programmed cruise missiles against targets in a mixed urban environment (pockets of enemy and allied forces in fairly close proximity, with only vague ideas about where the rather fluid lines are), would normally be a risky undertaking. But in this case, who cares? We’ll either hit monsters who use poison gas on civilians or we’ll hit genocidal jihadist zombie cannibals, so it’s not like we can really miss. ^_^

        What’s kind of disturbing is that as we weaken the Syrian government side, and Christian and Alawite communities start to get overrun (assuming we’re still providing air support and haven’t just washed our hands of it), we might actually need to target both sides, trying to create and maintain some sort of cease-fire line to limit the amount of ongoing ethnic massacres.

        A lot of Syrian refugees are telling the press that we screwed up from the start in not giving support to the initial rebellion in its formative stages. As is said, war is like a filter that distills out the essence of us (blah blah blah, crystal clarity, diamond bullets, and all that).

        Among all the people who wanted to topple Assad’s regime, those that were less committed, merely wanting some freedom and democracy instead of an oppressive secret police state, were more likely to decide that they didn’t want it that much, and for the protection of their own lives and their families would step back, displace, or leave. The Sunnis who viewed the conflict in stark ethnic, religious, and even apocalyptic terms were more likely to stay fighting.

        One of the ongoing problems with disorganized, unofficial forces is that since they’re all self-selected, as time goes on the core fighters are made up of the ones who are either very strongly committed to the enemy’s defeat, or who just like killing, chaos, and mayhem. You end up with a force that’s largely driven by hatred, vengeance, or belief that the world would be a better place if the enemy people was wiped off the face of the Earth.

        In short, the Syrian rebels who wanted Sunnis to have the same job opportunities as the Alawites are sitting in Jordan or Turkey. The Syrian rebels who want all the Alawites to die are running around firing improvised rockets at pro-government hospitals.

        One of the long term issues we faced in supporting one African warlord after another (praising each one as a new guiding light for his country), till we finally wised up and tired of it, is that the people who make successful rebels and war leaders in the chaotic environment of tribal warfare are the ones who are best at exploiting ethnic divisions and employing ruthlessness in pursuing their goals. Almost none of them, upon taking power, produce anything but misery and strife, because either their ability or natural inclination to exploit that is what got them to the top in the first place.

        At this point the quite moderate rebel leaders have failed or been displaced by more radical ones, and won’t be players any longer. Unless allied forces can impose a set of more moderate leaders on the rebellion, the post-rebellion leadership of the new Syria will be drawn from exactly the people who shouldn’t be in charge of employees at a falafel stand, much less running a nation.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Every rebellion faces a conundrum: what can we do in the here-and-now versus what can we do after the rebellion has succeeded. America’s revolution faced this dichotomy. The Continental Congress was pretty much useless. Even after hostilities had ended with the Treaty of Paris, nobody was quite sure what to do.

        Was it to be a state-by-state proposition or a federal proposition? Took us the proverbial Fourscore ‘n Seven Years (and the Civil War was only half-done when those words were spoken) for the triumph of federalism to answer that question. Still causing us grief these days, for all that.

        Iraq and Lebanon provide us with examples of how Syria will likely end up. Used to be a Christian was always the president of Lebanon. Now Lebanon and Iraq are non-countries. The Kurds run their area of Iraq, ignoring what’s said in Baghdad. The Sunnis likewise control their areas, leaving the rest to the do-nothing Shiite central government.

        Damascus will be sorted out into ghettos, as are both Beirut and Baghdad. Aleppo, likewise. The Alawites will be backed into their own corner. The Christians will be run off, as they were in Baghdad — as the Jews were before them. The Christians, Druze, Alawi, a few other minorities will make alliances with each other. As in Iraq, the Kurdish areas will cut themselves loose from the central government and may ally themselves with the Iraqi Kurds, to the annoyance of Turkey, but it will be in everyone’s best interests to keep another Strong Man from arising. At any rate, nobody wants to occupy Syria.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I am not particularly worried about Al Qaeda influence in Syria. Iraq showed how all this worked out. When the Sunni Saddam Hussein ran Iraq, he played favourites with his own tribe. Beyond that, he persecuted only those who schemed against him.

        But after Saddam was overthrown, the Sunni / Shiite split gaped open. Into that fight crept Zarqawi of Al Qaeda. They fought alongside the Sunni for some while. And for a while they were tremendously effective, as we now see in Syria. But Al Qaeda is not Sunni, not really. It’s Salafi. Big theological differences. Al Nusra is attracting jihaadi fighters, who gravitate to all such fights. But these jihaadi are not locals, they aren’t bolted into the society. They will never run Syria. As in Iraq, eventually they will turn on the Sunni sheikhs. For a while, they might succeed but not for the long haul. The far more numerous Sunni will overwhelm them and drive them out.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        I think much of that is likely, if either side would rather compromise than push for total victory, but I think the Christians will stay as long as they and the Alawites can hold together against a complete Sunni takeover, which is possible considering that they’re only still there now because both live in mountainous, difficult terrain. In the cities outside their historic strongholds, all bets are off.

        I think several things argue against compromise. On the pro-Syrian government side, everyone remembers the ongoing terrorist bloodbath of the Muslim Brotherhood years, and are probably convinced that unless the rebels are crushed, and crushed utterly, violence and terror will stalk them forever, with several car bombings and insurgent attacks a day defining “peace”.

        They probably could live with losing most of eastern and southern Syria to the rebels, along with the cities there, as long as those weren’t serving as bases for attacks on the western areas. But Alawites are probably not going to be safe in an rebel controlled city, and they’re not going to feel safe if Sunnis can freely come and go into their own cities from the rebel held areas. Modern weapons make a shared (or split) city a long term problem, with each one becoming a new civil-war era Beirut, because the violence has probably passed the point where either side could resist shooting at the other, at least in the near term.

        On the rebel side, they are convinced that Assad and his regime must go, and a lot of them are convinced that the Alawites and anyone who supported the regime must go, too. With good reason, they know that he will be coming for them as soon as he is able. If given the means, they would probably not be content with stopping short of traditional Alawite strongholds and leaving them be, but if they lack the forces to seriously threaten those areas, they might be content to hold the rest of Syria, perhaps forming a loose Islamic state and treating it as part of western Iraq, as they’ve already talked about.

        Iraqi Sunnis might actually go along with that idea to an extent, because the weight of Syria’s Sunnis, if partially adding to their own numbers, would offset Iraqi Shia dominance.

        I suppose one principle that might apply is that ethnic and geographic alignments that can’t work, won’t, and ones that can might arise from the chaos.

        BTW, the President of Lebanon is always a Maronite Christian, by their Constitution. The PM is Sunni and the Speaker of Parliament is Shia. Considering the alternatives, that might not be such a bad system.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Nobody’s going for total victory in this mess. By my estimation, the Arab Spring ought to be interpreted as the Failure of the Failed States.

        Kenneth Waltz, whom I eulogised here some while back, said “if we are to have peace, we must learn loyalty to a larger group. And before we can learn loyalty, the thing to which we are to be loyal must be created.”

        Look at all these nations, going ape these days. Who made the borders of these nations? Not the inhabitants thereof. Government of the people, by the people, for the people — is impossible under such conditions. The Arab Spring, like the collapse of the USSR, just means nobody believes in these nations anymore.

        Since the Ottomans, nobody’s been able to govern these people. The Ottomans had a fine technique for managing this sort of mess. When Basra kept rebelling, they cut it loose as its own vilayet. The Ottomans governed inefficiently and from a top-down perspective but they did make it work for 600 years. Let these idiotic Colonially-Created Nations lapse into irrelevance. Sure, we’ll be in for many a century of troubles, that’s my guess, but they’ll find reasons to ally with each other.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Darn tootin’ the Japanese strike on Oahu was narrowly tailored. Especially by the standards of the day, where whole cities were leveled (by both sides) for strategic effect. In fact, the target list was too narrow; the IJN should have included the fuel farms and drydock facilities in their target package. (even if they could never find the USN carriers)Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Darn tootin’ eh? What’s so passive about this aggression? Enquiring minds want to know. Kerry saying he’s not going to wade into Syria like Bush the Dumber — sounds like a reassuring noise to me. Wars of Passive Aggression is a neat-o zinger. Perhaps you’ll get around to expanding upon it for the benefit of those who don’t see it your way,Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I think most people know what I’m talking about (based on J@m3z Aitch and Barry’s comments – two people that couldn’t be father apart politically). But, as mentioned below and above, I am referring to Secretary Kerrry’s Senate committee testimony and President Obama’s remarks during the press conference in Sweden. I’ve had the advantage of having the week off and caught a good chunk of both of them live, but the videos have been in wide circulation around the net and on the cable news networks I have seen.

        *Kerry* was the one that insisted – in his *prepared remarks* – “President Obama is not asking America to go to war” – asserting a distinction between whatever we plan to do in Syria, and every other non-war in living memory. Of course, to anyone killed, it makes no difference whether it’s a kinetic strike, a police action, or a war. It’s Kerry that wanted to play the semantic game. And Kerry is literally the most experienced person in the world at US Senate committee testimony, being on both sides of the table since before most of us were born.

        President Obama said “My credibility isn’t on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America’s and Congress’s credibility is on the line.”

        Now, if he would have stopped with “and America’s credibility is on the line” it would have been fine. But he’s the fishin’ President of the United States. He’s not a gorram spectator. He is a partner with Congress when it comes to American foreign policy. (I originally wrote co-equal, but took it out. One can debate the relative aspects of their partnership – but nevertheless they’re *both* in the game) It’s either both him and Congress on the hook, or it’s neither.

        Putting aside this week’s testimony, the Administration has indeed been completely passive aggressive about this. Talking about red lines, walking it back, spending months with just leaks from ‘senior US officials’ instead of on the record statements. This crisis has been at least two years in the making. At any point, and particularly after the Administration’s statements last year, the Administration could have asked Congress for authority to take action in the contingency where chemical weapons were used, or whatever other threshold deemed appropriate. Bush did with the 2003 Syria resolution (cited in the current Senate draft resolution). And Obama did it previously with the LRA, taking action (with Special Forces troops) about a year later when the timing was more ripe.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        this whole “Syria just demonstrates how many dimensions are on the chess board that Obama is using!” is a bit… well. It seems to be the other side of the coin.

        Yes, it is. The reality, as I see it, is realistically complementary to the president. He fully understands just what a busted egg this mess and the real improbability of ever making an omelet out of it, but for reasons of commitment to certain national interests and to certain pretty good international ideals* finds staying wholly out to be problematic as well. So he’s going slow because he realizes it’s not simple, and because he’s thinking seriously about how to do something that neither ensnares the U.S. nor is ultimately merely symbolic.

        It would take a lot more than that to make me a fan of Obama, but I think he deserves credit–measured credit, not fanboyism–for this.
        * Some say international laws; I say the term is substantively empty.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        That’s great. Everyone gets this but me. So be a clue to the clueless here and tell me how War is defined, if not by a Declaration of War. Does every discharge of a firearm define a war? Mr. Aitch and I agree on many things, it’s just our terminology which gets in the way of progress at turns.

        Words like “rational” and “war” come down to definitions.

        I have been busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, running someone else’s business for the last few days, up at 0400 and running around this guy’s basement office, collecting wet ink signatures from drug addicts being driven to court-ordered dosing and counselling, dispatching a herd of drivers around this landscape. Has Obama asked for a declaration of war and I missed it?

        Felix Guattari once said that once upon a time, international solidarity was a main concern for trade unions and leftist political parties but these days such ideas are only the province of humanitarian outfits. He continues, saying advocates of social liberation face the task of remaking of theoretical references to illuminate the route out of the current nightmare, a historical period lacking any precedent.

        That’s where we are. Nobody wants a return to the gas attacks of the Somme. International Solidarity is nonsense: every leader of every nation acts in his own best interests: Bashar Assad believes firing sarin gas on his rebels is a bet which will pay off. When it comes to Semantic Games, what will come of more finger-scraping and condemnations if the world just harrumphs about this sort of action? More of same, that’s what. That’s what Credibility means. Doing what you say you’re going to do. Obama got the green light, within Carefully Tailored Parameters you find so Passive Aggressive. Obama has his own political minefield to navigate. Should he act unilaterally, the usual suspects (may I include you in that suspect list?) will say he’s being a Warmongering Tyrant. There’s no pleasing the likes of you.

        That said, War is being redefined, as it’s always been redefined in every age. Now we have nuclear weapons and interlocking economies with nations we cannot trust. Wars are purposely kept small, lest someone detonate a nuke. Old ideas about warfare are irrelevant. In a choice between Passive Aggressive and Warmongering Tyrant, it really doesn’t matter which meme-du-jour is currently being bandied about. B Hussein Obama is the President and he doesn’t have the luxury or the mandate to declare war. That’s up to Congress.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        As an aside, if we really wanted to make sure that the Syrian regime and its backers don’t use any more gas attacks, one approach would be to simply note that only one side has long range rockets capable of launching mass nerve gas attacks – and by gosh, that’s just not fair, and we’re willing to correct the imbalance.

        I imagine the Alawites would be dump their nerve gas in the ocean the next day, because they have no illusions that their opponents wouldn’t gas them all and laugh as their babies twitch, spasm, and die.

        But that would be escalation, and it would set a bad precedent.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “Anyway, if we’re going to be doing this at all, it’s best to go through the entire process of getting Congressional authorization… if only because, hey, maybe that’ll make things more difficult *NEXT* time.”


      “Did you see the “red line” comments made by the President recently? That’s some stuff, right there.”

      Frankly, his statements were stupid. I thought/hoped that he was using Congressional approval as a way to buy time, and perhaps step back.Report

  2. Avatar Marchmaine says:

    I just realized that I used to get Senate resolutions from my parents all the time: Here are the keys to the car, drive carefully, no drinking, and be home by mid-night… 1 am, if you call. What could possibly go wrong?Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    There’s not much to worry about in here, if you believe blowin’ shit up will drive your enemies to negotiate, which I don’t believe. Nobody should. Want to blow things up? Great. Just don’t expect the other side to come to their senses. They’ll just start blowing up your stuff, if they can.

    It’s consistent, all right. Syria’s been embargoed for lo these many years. Somehow stuff still gets in through shell corporations. Israel has bombed Syria any number of times recently and Congress thinks anything Israel does is great, so I guess it’s consistent with US policy. Nobody dares cross AIPAC anyway. A little bird tells me the USA will clear anything they’re planning to do with Israeli bosses allies anyway, so no fear. When Israel has us by the Short and Curlies, our hearts and minds are sure to follow. Gotta wait for Israel to get all their gas masks issued before we send any of our shiny hardware o’er the Land of Syria.Report

  4. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    Whereas the Arab League has declared with regards to the August 21 incident to hold the Syrian regime responsible for this heinous crime

    So, where the hell are they?

    Whereas Syria’s use of weapons of mass destruction and its conduct and actions constitute a grave threat to regional stability, world peace, and the national security interests of the United States and its allies and partners

    Threats in order of appearance: if the region we’re talking about is Syria; not bloody likely; and, lastly, if Syria ever poses any kind of security threat to the good ol’ US of A, then we’d better just lower the flag and blow taps.Report

  5. Avatar Barry says:

    “Like Pearl Harbor? Is this what you would call a Tailored Airstrike? ”

    It’s a snarky comment playing on Kerry’s dumbf*ck statement that this would not be a ‘war’, just ‘targeted airstrikes’.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Of course it will be a Tailored Airstrike. So was the air war in the Balkans. Kerry isn’t going to use the word “war” — I’ve got no patience for petty jackassery of this sort, Barry. It’s a war when Congress calls it a war and not one minute before. Trust me, the grownups are in charge over at 1600 Pennsylvania, not the previous bunch of GOP fatheads.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        It’s a war when Congress calls it a war and not one minute before.

        Says the guy complaining about petty jackassery? Really? So the U.S. hasn’t been in a war since 1945? You didn’t fight in a war in Vietnam? My former good student now an alcoholic suffering from PTSD wasn’t in a war in Afghanistan?

        Please pause to reconsider.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Do you think John Kerry is a dumbfuck for saying what he did? Let’s get that straight, I wouldn’t want to misunderstand you. Kolohe might be cranking the Barrel Organ o’ Snark but Barry is the monkey energetically dancing The Jackass. Hee friggin’ haw.

        Wars are what Congress says they are. No Declaration of War, ergo no war. No tickee no washee. We are in perfect agreement on all these brushfire wars: wars are what happen when the politicians stop doing their jobs and the shooting starts. The shooting stops when the politicians start doing their jobs again.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Do you think John Kerry is a dumbfuck for saying what he did?

        No, but that’s the wrong question. Kerry’s job is not to parse words for precise truth, but to use words to persuade, regardless of how great or little the truth value in his use of those words. Given his job, he would be a dumbfuck if he did always use words with their most accurate meaning.

        But as for accurate meaning, airstrikes are an act of war. Let’s not pretend they’re not. But if we choose to restrict the use of the word war to refer to a more sustained or deeper involvement than a handful of airstrikes, I won’t object.

        But what I do object to, and say is an abuse of the meaning of language, is to say actions can’t be war unless Congress calls it war. A sustained bombing campaign as in Kosovo, or boots on the ground as in Afghanistan, is war whether Congress is brave enough to call it war or not.

        I’m in partial agreement with you on ths page, partial agreement with Kolohe, and partial agreement with Barry, but not quite whole agreement with any of you three. But your insulting tone against them does not send anyone else here the message that they’re wrong. It just makes you look incapable of thoughtful discussion. And insulting their arguments while making your own argument that nothing counts as war until Congress says so…that doesn’t even begin to demonstrate that you understand all this better than they do. Like it or not, I think you’re inadvertently sending the opposite message. I’m not saying that opposite message is correct–not criticizing your understanding (which is why I didn’t call you stupid, but asked you to reconsider)–but saying that’s the message that’s coming through, in contrast to the message you’d like to come through.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Arab League, Arab League,
        Arab League onward,
        All in for a lunge to War,
        Bode the committee.
        ‘Forward, the Lie Brigade!
        Charge them with gas’ he said:
        Into the valley of Death
        Bode the committee.

        ‘Forward, the Lie Brigade!’
        Was there a man dismay’d?
        Not tho’ the pundits knew
        Some one had mumbled:
        Theirs not to make reply,
        Theirs not to answer why,
        Theirs but to spin and lie:
        Into the valley of Death
        Bode the committee.

        Lawyers to the right of them,
        Lawyers to the left of them,
        Lawyers in front of them
        Holler’d and thunder’d;
        Storm’d at with shout and yell,
        Boldly they scold and quell,
        Into the mouth of Hell
        Bode the committee

        Flash’d all their fables bare,
        Flash’d as they spun thin air
        Twisting the logic there,
        Sitting on armies while
        All the world wonder’d:
        Plunged by the chemical-smoke
        Right o’er’ the line they stroked;
        Shia and Sunni
        Peel’d for the coming vote,
        Chatted and wonder’d.
        When we’d hold back, but not
        Not the committee.

        Butchers to right of them,
        Butchers to left of them,
        Lawyers behind them
        Voted and bluster’d;
        Storm’d at with shout and quell,
        While town and city fell,
        They that had fought so well
        Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
        Back from the mouth of Hell,
        All that was left of them,
        Was the committee.

        When can their glory fade?
        O the wild charges made!
        All the world wonder’d.
        Honour the charge they made!
        Honour the Lie Brigade,
        Noble committee!


        Burned about 15 minutes on that one in response to somebody’s blog post titled “Charge of the Lie Brigade”, though I had done a few lines a day or so ago as an experiment and abandoned it.Report

      • Avatar Murali says:



      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        “No, but” is hardly an unqualified No. Kerry’s job is to more to allay fear than to persuade. World markets would go crazy — well, crazier than they’ve become, which is pretty crazy already. I’ve often quoted Men in Black in such a context:

        Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.

        A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

        I don’t see my definition of war as an abuse of language. It’s in perfect congruence with the US Constitution and all subsequent legislation. Look we’re often in perfect agreement on everything but definitions.

        Nor will I be lectured on my insulting tone. I did not call the Secretary of State a dumbfuck. Perhaps, in charity, I should presume you think I’m persuadable, that I might take such criticisms to heart. May I assure you, now and in future, I do not and will not. I shall write an it pleaseth me to write. My message is clear enough. Given the slippery definitions of wars and conflicts, given that not every discharge of a firearm constitutes a war, and given that you haven’t furnished a discriminant for the difference — I say Congress declares war and controls spending, not you, not me, not Kolohe and certainly not Barry.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        “I’ve got no patience for petty jackassery of this sort, Barry.”

        Yes, you do, since it’s your trademark.

        “It’s a war when Congress calls it a war and not one minute before. ”

        No, it’s a war when military forces start shooting at people.

        By your standard, Pearl Harbor was not an act of war, until the Japanese said so.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Heh. (waves hand limply) Oh, Barry, you’re such a card.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One dynamic that seems to be floating around is not exactly support for the kinectic movement of things into Syria, but it’s opposition to the people who are opposed to it.

    Something like “I don’t support intervention but the Bushiites who are opposed to it don’t have the right to be opposed to it!” Sometimes it’s “Man, you just know those people who oppose Syria would line the hell up if there were a Republican in the White House!” (usually said without any, like *ANY*, sense of irony)

    It’s weird.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      This one is fun. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) attacks Obama as weak for asking Congress to authorize military action, and insists that Reagan would have responded immediately to chemical attacks on civilians, you know, the way he did when Saddam used them against Iranians and Iraqi Kurds.

      So, yes, when Republicans oppose everything Obama does as too weak, too dictatorial, or both at the same time, I don’t pay much attention.Report

    • Avatar Barry says:

      “Something like “I don’t support intervention but the Bushiites who are opposed to it don’t have the right to be opposed to it!” Sometimes it’s “Man, you just know those people who oppose Syria would line the hell up if there were a Republican in the White House!” (usually said without any, like *ANY*, sense of irony)”

      Considering the fact that the current situation seems to be a large chunk to a majority of Democratic Congresspeople oppose it, that’s not very ironic. And considering that the right really, really loves bombing brown people, with no thought as to the consequences, it’s even less ironic.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        These criticisms strike me as unfocused, though.

        Is it that we finally find some brown people who need to be bombed and, jeez, the Republicans aren’t wiling to step up?Report

  7. Avatar George Turner says:

    In today’s news Jpost is reporting, based on ABC and NYTimes reports, that the strike plan has been expanded into a massive two-day air campaign that includes 200 Tomahawks, B-1’s, B-2’s, and B-52’s.

    “This military strike will do more damage to [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s forces in 48 hours than the Syrian rebels have done in two years,” a national security official told ABC News.

    Meanwhile Iran is threatening massive retaliatory strikes, so we evacuated our embassy in Lebanon.

    The House whip count already has enough “no” votes to prevent Congressional authorization, even as Obama is ordering expansions to the target list to blow Assad’s regime off the map without UN or Congressional authorization, or a single ally.

    The storm is coming.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      I doubt it’ll only be two days, but if it is IMO that limits the extent to which we can call it massive in any kind of relevant comparative sense compared to operations with similar objectives. And if it is and we do call whatever happens in those two days massive, I’m gonna need a pretty fine-grained account of the plans for those two days that have now been superseded before I conclude that what had been planned before I wouldn’t have characterized as massive in the same sense that it now will be massive according to the new plans. I was always assuming that if the operation ended up being limited to the kind of timescale that has been discussed all along(two days, like you say), that what was going to happen during those two days was likely going be aptly described as “massive.”

      At this point, though, I have pretty significant doubt that whatever is going to happen is going to done happening within 48 (or 72) hours of starting. I could be wrong.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        …If it happens, that is. He’s also signaling he has no intention of ordering strikes if they are voted down. (Though he still holds he has the legal authority to do so).Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      The House whip count already has enough “no” votes to prevent Congressional authorization

      Cite? Everything I’ve seen says most are still undecided.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Firedoglake’s whip count

        30 Firm yes, 32 leaning yes — 64 in favor
        106 Firm no, 116 leaning no — 222 opposed

        John Fund at NRO reports that the House might not even vote if the vote will obviously fail:

        “I just don’t believe that if defeat is certain, the House leadership will want to see a president utterly humiliated on the House floor in a public vote,” one top aide to the Republican leadership told me.

        (link omitted to avoid the spam filter)Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        >>> 116 leaning no

        Remind me never to take you seriously.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Despite the incredible oratorical skills and persuasive powers of a President who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the best arguments of two past Presidential candidates (one of whom actually won the popular vote), only 64 of 435 Representatives are even willing to admit that they lean in favor of a strike on Syria. I’m sure Obama’s upcoming speech (about the urgent need to weaken the Shias and Christians so the Sunnis can finish them off) will push that past the 15% threshold, but with 222 already on the record as opposing action, and with polls showing that Democrat voters are opposed, Republican voters are opposed, and independents are extremely opposed, passage is extremely unlikely.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        “If the House voted today on a resolution to attack Syria, President Barack Obama would lose — and lose big.
        That’s the private assessment of House Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides who are closely involved in the process.”

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Yes, you despise the guy, and that totally justifies you in describing votes leaning against as part of “already has enough “no” votes”.

        And feel free to give more anonymous quotes from NRO. They’re so convincing.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        The word “today” is important there, since the piece goes on to explain what might change that. The count it currently predicts is 165-190 for, with 218 required for passage, and since the administration and both party leaderships are in favor, there will be some further movement.Report

  8. Avatar Barry says:


    “Nor will I be lectured on my insulting tone. I did not call the Secretary of State a dumbfuck. Perhaps, in charity, I should presume you think I’m persuadable, that I might take such criticisms to heart. May I assure you, now and in future, I do not and will not. I shall write an it pleaseth me to write. My message is clear enough. Given the slippery definitions of wars and conflicts, given that not every discharge of a firearm constitutes a war, and given that you haven’t furnished a discriminant for the difference — I say Congress declares war and controls spending, not you, not me, not Kolohe and certainly not Barry.”

    This is just great – ‘sippery definitions’, ‘not every disharge of a firearm’, blah blah blah.

    The military forces of country A attack country B with aircraft, bombs, air-to-surface missiles and cruise missiles, ‘delivering’ hundreds of tons of high explosives, all in an attempt to ‘punish’ the government of country B, alter its behavior and/or remove it from power.

    And that’s not war, according to you. And Secretary Kerry, and President Obama, and nobody else who’s not paid to say so.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      …Words strain,
      Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
      Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
      Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
      Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
      Always assail them. The Word in the desert
      Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
      The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
      The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

      Here’s a clue, Barry. The military forces of Country A enforce the writ of Country A’s government. Above those governments is nothing but the empty sky. Wars happen, Rousseau tells us, because they cannot be prevented.

      Now James Hanley, here’s a guy who knows what he’s talking about. We both agree “war” is a slippery word. He’s a political kinda guy, teaches it, if memory serves. I set the bar rather higher than he does, choosing to define War legally, according to the US Constitution. This leaves out many conflicts others would call wars, I’ll stipulate to all that.

      Your sea-lawyering about the Military Forces of Country A is nonsense. It doesn’t encompass non-state actors. Once that flaw is exposed, the whole silly argument comes down crashing in a stinking heap — for what constitutes a State, to the exclusion of any other rebellion or insurrection or terrorist group?

      Treason doth never prosper and what’s the reason?
      Why if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

      The current debate about war is a mess. I say it’s up to Congress in the absence of any other authority, for anything else is just a brush fire and we have too many of those to call them wars.Report

  9. Avatar Barry says:

    BlaiseP: “It’s in perfect congruence with the US Constitution and all subsequent legislation.”

    See how ignorant I am? I didn’t even *know* that there was a definition of war in the the US Constitution.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      May I refer you to the Constitution itself: The Congress shall have Power… To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

      The War Powers Resolution is over here. Take hope, Barry, for ignorance can be cured. Stupidity goes right to the bone.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well Blaise, now you’ve stirred up a serious definitional mess.

        To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

        Marque: A model or brand of a manufactured product, especially an automobile.

        We could probably have a comedic field day with that, followed by a cute Monty Python skit about the official rules of capture:

        “But you have to surrender! I captured you fair and square!”
        “Did not.”
        “Did too. It’s a rule.”
        “What rule?”
        “The rule book Congress made. Page 32, rule 98: ‘If a cannon ball fired by the offense in the second volley bounces off a defender’s canon such that it ricochets back to the offense’s ship before the defender’s volley can land, while the defender’s captain is more than eight paces from the ship’s wheel while the offense’s boarding party is on deck, it shall count as two points and the defending ship shall be ‘captured’.”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Heh. Letters of Marque is a great tune by Allan Holdsworth, a wonderful artist nobody seems to know about.

        I set the bar higher than other people. So what? Is firing on a pirate an act of war? It’s all so asinine, George. Someone around here needs to get busy and fire a few neurons and convince me my definition is wrong by providing one which encapsulates non-state actors. The terrorist entities all call themselves nations, too. A placard in the UN doesn’t mean a damned thing.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        That tune sounds like something our cable TV’s “chill lounge” music channel would play. 🙂

        Regard the definition of war and the Constitution, the current action fits the general purposes of a Letter of Marque and Reprisal a whole lot more than it does “war”, specifically, a limited act of Reprisal to punish party A who transgressed against party B. We’re not raising forces, picking generals, and waging a series of campaigns to either preserve the nation or force capitulation, nor were we directly or indirectly attacked as a nation.

        Of course, the attack may blow up into war-war, but in some regards the attack itself, in the middle of an already ongoing conflict, is sort of the thing the Navy and Marines in olden times would just go ahead and do, telling us about later when they sailed back into a US port.

        I remain opposed because we don’t seem to have a plan to improve the situation, and the plan we do have might easily make things worse. The latest leaks say that we’ll be striking lots of Assad’s conventional forces but won’t dare strike his chemical weapons for fear of causing a disastrous toxic cloud.

        Being one possessing a logical mind, my thought on that is that the regime only used a gas attack because they’re a bit desperate not to get defeated (and see half their population slaughtered by a bunch of crazed Sunni jihadists). The stronger their conventional forces are, the less likely they’ll feel the need to resort to chemical warfare.

        If we specifically destroy their conventional forces while leaving their chemical weapons intact, as is the current plan, they really won’t have anything left to defend themselves except chemical weapons. Since they’re in an existential war of survival, they will then have to use lots more gas attacks.

        On top of that, Putin is already saying that Russia will replace anything we destroy, so the stalemate stays stalemated.

        The entire world, except for the jihadists, wants all the killing to stop, with neither side’s people getting slaughtered. Surely smart diplomats and smart political and military planners could come up with a way to work with that consensus, finding new options for both sides that they don’t currently have – because singly they don’t have the resources to establish such an option.

        But I fear the passion for war has drowned out any search for alternatives, or even just throwing ideas at the wall to see if there’s anything else that could help ease the crisis.

        Could the world create the world’s most convoluted, gerrymandered DMZ?

        Could we get the Syrians to elect new leaders for their rebellion so it doesn’t totally suck? Instead of paying rebels to fight, what if we paid them to stop?

        Could we force all Shias and Sunnis in the region to convert to Mormonism so they’d just annoy the heck out of their regional neighbors?

        Could we give every Syrian a free biochem warfare suit in the interim?

        Instead of focusing on what we can blow up with missiles, what if we focused on all the ways we could move the Syrian civil war to something a bit less vile?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I’ve previously said the USA should convene the more important players in this mess and basically say

        “By firing chemical munitions, the Assad regime in Syria has committed war crimes of a sufficiently heinous nature for him to be removed from power. Come one, come all, we’re meeting in Geneva next Wednesday to work out who will replace him. Everyone’s invited, even the Ba’athists, even the Islamists of every stripe, everyone’s voice will be heard and everyone else will hear them and we’ll let the Swiss police keep you lot from blowing each other up. Russia, Iran, come ye, come ye, your voices are needed, too. Assad may be your ally but you don’t fire poison gas on your enemies, you’re doubtless as disgusted with this as anyone. The USA will not run this show. You come up with a solution, we’ll help implement it. But know this also for a fact, Bashar Assad will go before the the Hague for his crimes, as did Milosevic. Maybe some of the rebels need a ticket to the Hague too. Talk is better than war.”Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        That would be a good stick, but we also need some carrots. We’ve gotten a few dictators to resign by offering great retirement inducements. However, in this case I’m not optimistic because too many Syrians think Assad is their only salvation from chaos, anarchy, and death by decapitation or firing squad.

        Also, unless we hiding our good evidence, there isn’t much to connect Assad to the chemical attack other than general circumstance (We’re pretty sure Assad’s side carried it out, although some rebels are claiming credit), and he’s in charge of his side – in theory.

        If Assad was assassinated tomorrow I don’t think it would really change anything regarding the regime’s forces, or their public support, and it might even enhance that support. However, it might help soothe the rebels’ ire and thirst for vengeance, or at least the breadth of their appeal, depending on how many of the regime’s opponents are focused on Assad (blaming him for all evils), and how many think he’s just a figurehead symptomatic of the evil, genocidal, heretical nature of Alawites and regime supporters in general.

        My feeling is that the civil war is like a microcosm of the Nazi/Soviet conflict. They’re in it all the way, they absolutely fear and loathe each other, are committed to utterly crushing their opponent, and determined to fight to the last man.

        To break out of that spiral will require something big, clever, I’d and perhaps unusual. I’d say what that is, but a black cat has just occupied my chest and is determined to put his head in my way so I can’t see the screen.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Murdering Bashar Assad would only kick the hornet’s nest. His enemies aren’t great readers of political theorists or jurists: let’s just put it baldly, they all want power for its own sake, for their own sake and for no-one else’s.

        The veneer is peeling up on Syria. The wood’s all rotten underneath. A power-sharing arrangement is the only route to stability in the short term. I’m not smart or informed enough to say what ought to happen in the long term. This much I can foresee: the Ba’athists have had their day. The Era of the Strong Man is over. It’s been tried everywhere, not just in the Middle East. Islamism isn’t working either. Something will replace it, something much older, the tribal model.

        I really should get off my dead ass and write something about Syria. Trouble is, everything I’m reading is contradictory. The Egyptians, great gossips and bandiers-about of rumours, think Assad has played a fine game of pulling the Big Guys into this fight: Iran, Russia, China, the USA. Before the gas attack, the Big Guy looming over the landscape was Turkey. Not true any more.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        This Reuters’ story confirms my worries that we don’t really have any evidence that Assad or his top leadership was involved in the gas attack.

        Committing to a massive air attack that could turn the tide of the war towards Al Qaeda and a massive Sunni genocide of ethnic and religious minorities, based on outrage, emotions, and a need to maintain our “credibility” is not good judgment. And taking strong military action when we’re not even sure who committed the atrocity seems the height of arrogance and stupidity. Where will our credibility be if it turns out we were completely wrong? Where will it be a the tide turns and rebel commanders post more and more Youtube videos of the massacres and executions that they are committing?

        I have little confidence that our attack will stop the killing, and a strong feeling that it will accelerate it. When it comes to genocide, it’s best to never be the perpetrator or the victim. It seems the administration is now too focused on what they can blow up to heed that wisdom.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        What are the attacks gonna target? If past experience is any guide, we’ll hit bridges, water treatment and electricity plants, some schools and hospitals, etc, thereby imposing a choice on the Syrians: either live like animals amidst the devastation caused not by us but yourowndamnselves, OR! … let the IMF loan you money (at reasonable rates!) to pay Western firms to rebuild your bridges, water treatment plants and schools, all the while “modernizing” as a free bonus.

        US taxpayers will of course pick up the tab on replacing all those Tomahawk missiles and whatnot, so the Syrian’s are off the hook for that expense. Which is nice.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        However this ends up, it won’t be with the Sunnis in charge. Certainly not with Al Qaeda in charge. Syria is already starting to look like Bosnia/Serbia/Kosovo. Russia backed the Serbs, they’re now backing the Ba’athists.

        Further parallels:

        The USA is backing the Muslims. An air war is proposed. No troops on the ground, none foreseen. Much stupid fuss and bother about getting dragged into a larger conflict. Icing on the cake of parallels, the Balkans War had been dragging on for years while the world stood by and let war crimes go unpunished.

        How did the Balkans War end up? Trick question, the war isn’t over. Peacekeepers are still patrolling up in those hills. The Serbs still hate us. The Serbs have their own enclave now, the Bosnians have theirs, the Kosovars have theirs. A sort of un-Balkanisation of the region: trying to cut these pieces smaller and smaller really does work, if it forces them to be interdependent.

        Whether or not we intervene, the killing will go on. Let’s not get too fussy about all this, we’re already involved and have been for many years. Wisdom never guided mankind. That’s the problem with wisdom, it sits there and ponders the past. It has no answers for the present. Other skills are required. Leadership, audacity, purpose, strategy, an understanding of persons, not the clean straight lines of the geometer.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        One difference between Syria and Yugoslavia is that Syria’s large cities were largely integrated, which is why so much of the fighting is over neighborhoods. That makes it much harder to untangle the combatants.

        Also, in this one, we’re on the “Serb” side, since it’s the Sunnis that want to crush the Alawites, while their opponents, our enemies, were committed to making a multi-ethnic state sort of work. The downside is that their multi-ethnic state was an Arab socialist police state that played power politics, but unfortunately the rebellion against that pointless tyranny got hijacked by the Sunni/Shia civil war and the desire to turn Syria into another hard-core Islamic Sunni republic. Unless we create another viable alternative, neither outcome is desirable.

        The White House is perhaps short-sightedly viewing the conflict in narrow geopolitical terms, trying to “send a message” to Iran, or perhaps even just trying to bump all the White House scandals off the front page (which has been largely successful).

        Yet if the Alawites and Christians start losing, with frequent massacres in the process, they’ll be forced to flee into Lebanon or Jordan, and the newly formed Sunni Islamic Syria, flush with victory in Syria, will probably extend their reach into Lebanon to continue their campaign against Hezbollah, Shia, Alawites, Druze, and Christians.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Damascus is very well sorted out by neighbourhood. Over the years since this fighting began, checkpoints have been established, every square metre of Damascus is now someone’s turf.

        If the USA was on the “Serb” side, we’d be fighting for the state government. Not sure what you mean. Ba’athism is toast. Has been for many years. The first Ba’athists wanted socialism and not autocracy. Once Ba’athism came to power, it was a two-for-one deal, socialism aaaaand autocracy. Which sums up to statism, subsidies for the poor and great wealth for the few.

        Look, all these tribes and whatnot? They’re just ancient gangs, grown up with each other. There’s never been sufficient law enforcement to attenuate their power. This isn’t a Sunni/Shii war, it’s a host of disparate gangs all set about overthrowing the current godfather. Jabhat al-Nusra would like you to think it’s Sunni/Shii. It’s not. It’s gangland deluxe. The Wahhabi fanatics are not coming to power, nor will the Sunni warlords. Syria is anciently run by a merchant class, they don’t take sides though lots of them are Shii. Whoever comes to power will have their backing. To get that backing, the leaders will have to be reasonable or everyone will starve.

        This isn’t a message to Iran or anyone. It’s mostly a message to the markets, America is paying attention to this fight, we’re not going to let this brush fire burn down the region. That’s the message, because that’s what everyone fears. These Syrian fucks are busily cutting each other’s heads off and hearts out and generally being beasts, we don’t give a shit about their quarrels, as we didn’t in Iraq. And that not-caring is stupid. Willfully ignorant of an ancient and still dangerous reality, one which we will ignore at our peril. The Alawites have been persecuted before and like the Kurds, they’ll survive in their mountains. The Christians, well, they’re fucked. They might hang on in some quarters, if they keep their heads down. Wouldn’t be the first time Christianity has been practiced in secret. The Sufis are also being persecuted everywhere. They’re surviving.Report

  10. Avatar Barry says:


    “ome one, come all, we’re meeting in Geneva next Wednesday to work out who will replace him. Everyone’s invited, even the Ba’athists, even the Islamists of every stripe, everyone’s voice will be heard and everyone else will hear them and we’ll let the Swiss police keep you lot from blowing each other up. Russia, Iran, come ye, come ye, your voices are needed, too. Assad may be your ally but you don’t fire poison gas on your enemies, you’re doubtless as disgusted with this as anyone. The USA will not run this show. You come up with a solution, we’ll help implement it. But know this also for a fact, Bashar Assad will go before the the Hague for his crimes, as did Milosevic. Maybe some of the rebels need a ticket to the Hague too. Talk is better than war.””

    Wow. Why didn’t anybody think of that earlier?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Did you hear about such a convention, Barry? All I read is about bluffing and posturing. Maybe you think bluffing and posturing works, Lord knows you do enough of it. But seriously, the advantage of my scheme is that it would work. It’s the only scheme which would.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      That sounds pretty similar to what the Pope said, warning that Obama’s strike is futile.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Stalin’s interpreter, Valentin Berezhkov:

      In 1944, at a time when the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the struggle against Nazi Germany, it was important to convince Stalin that the Western democracies accepted him as an equal. “‘In the world of the future, for which our soldiers have shed their blood on countless fronts”, the British Prime Minister said in his bombastic style, “our three great democracies will demonstrate to all mankind that they, both in wartime and in peacetime, will remain true to the high principles of freedom, dignity, and happiness of the people. That is why I attach such paramount importance to good neighbourly relations between a restored Poland and the Soviet Union. It was for the freedom and independence of Poland that Britain went into this war. The British feel a sense of moral responsibility to the Polish people, to their spiritual values. It is also important that Poland is a Catholic country. We cannot allow internal developments there to complicate our relations with the Vatican…”

      “How many divisions does the Pope of Rome have?” Stalin asked, suddenly interrupting Churchill’s line of reasoning.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      As it turned out, enough to topple the Warsaw Pact once they took to the streets. ^_^

      The Daily Telegraph is reporting on Kerry’s plan, and it shows how bizarrely idiotic it is. For example:

      “Kerry also suggested that U.S. military actions should stop short of driving Bashar al-Assad from power, instead damaging his chemical-weapon delivery systems while leaving the Syrian dictator in possession of the chemical agents themselves.

      Kerry described a strategy for keeping those deadly chemical agents out of the hands of groups like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the al-Nusra Front and Jund al-Sham groups in Syria.

      U.S. officials, he said, have discussed the need to avoid empowering such radical groups that oppose Assad but which might not be any better for Middle Eastern stability.

      So we’re attack Assad so as not to remove him from power, and to show how intolerable chemical weapons are we want to make sure he keeps his chemical weapons intact. Wouldn’t the best way to accomplish the goals of our attack be found in not carrying it out in the first place? That way, Assad gets to keep his chemical weapons, as intended by our attack plans, stays in power, as intended by our attack plans, and various jihadist groups don’t get their hands on any chemical weapons, as intended by our attack plans.

      Some military reporters are saying that the Pentagon is just freakin’ embarrassed at having to plan something so stupid.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Unless and until there’s someone to replace him — and there isn’t just now, getting rid of Bashar Assad is the dumbest possible thing anyone could do right now. It’s been a consistent problem since the Vietnam Era, allowing the first English-speaking dumbass we can find to seize power. Come to think of it, even before Vietnam we were making the same mistakes, Iran, case in point.

        There’s only one way out of this mess: it won’t look terribly democratic but it will be a rough sort of government of the people: get all the players in a room, convince them it’s in their own best interests to find a compromise, then wait for them to come out with a solution.

        In 1269, the college of cardinals had been deadlocked for many months, trying to elect a pope. St Bonaventure ordered them to convene in a church without a roof. Charles of Anjou ordered the cardinals put on a diet of bread and water. Despite the cardinals’ protests, it seems to have hastened things along.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        If you convened a meeting of all the top players, wouldn’t that be the perfect place to release a bunch of sarin?Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        BTW, here’s an article on a fairly recent attack on Krak de Chevaliers near Homs, using Migs and rockets. I don’t think the crusaders designed it for that.

        Times Of Israel story, with video.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Here’s a letter from the Speaker of the Syrian Parliament to the Speaker of the House.

        It lists more than a few incidents of their enemies being caught in possession of chemical weapons, and raises a lot of interesting questions, like why would they commit a chemical attack during a UN delegation visit just four miles from the UN representatives’ hotel?

        They also ask us to send our own investigators and representatives to meet with them and try to get to the bottom of things. Since we actually don’t have any evidence linking their government to the gas attack, and since we are actually fighting a common enemy, it would seem the height of warmongering, arrogant idiocy not to follow up on the offer.

        But of course Obama won’t, because it would make him look less decisive. In fact, it might make him look like a fool, and this is a war to save his reputation.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Sufficient tar has already been brushed on everyone involved to believe nothing said by the Syrian government. The rebels are hardly better but they’d have to be gassing their own if the Syrian government is to be believed — and nobody does.

        The facts are these: the Syrian government possesses chemical weapons and as early as this January, the US State Department was saying Agent 15 had been used in Homs. It hardly matters: dead is dead. Nobody will be punished for any of this. The Russians will protect their mad dog and we protect our own. With every passing day, the entire world is more disgraced as it watches and does nothing.

        Several generals have said “War is hell.” I don’t agree. If Hell is what the theologians say it is, Hell should b full of sinners worthy of eternal punishment. But war, well, war punishes everyone. Innocent bystanders, children, the undeserving of punishment. The first casualty of war is the truth, we are told. I would argue the first casualty of war is the human conscience.

        So most people think we shouldn’t intervene in this war. That’s fine. I’ve said this isn’t our war, that we have few strategic considerations in this fight. Mankind believes what he wants to believe and will justify anything, including the use of chemical weapons. How we can live with ourselves, the sheer unadulterated hypocrisy of it all — saying we’re willing to punish Syria for the use of chemical weapons — while the USA still maintains its own stockpiles of Sarin and Victor X-Ray — the hypocrisy boggles the mind.Report

  11. Avatar NotMe says:

    Apparently Obama’s new excuse to bomb Syria is that it will send a message to Iran about their WMD program. Did he forget to pay the WH telephone bill? Maybe he could get an Obama phone and call the Iranians? I doubt it would work as the Iranians already know that he has no credibility.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      It’s beginning to sound alot like Bush’s rationales for going into Iraq: WMD!; Al Queda!; topple a brutal dictator!; Democracy!. Throw them at the wall in succession and while everyone’s trying to figure out what’s sticking go ahead and act on the already-decided plan.Report

      • Avatar NotMe says:

        Funny thing though, Bush never used a Nazi comparison as a reason to attack but now Harry Reid is scraping the bottom of the barrel to save Obama.

      • Avatar greginak says:

        wha huh??? you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a “MUNICH” or “APPEASEMENT” fear monger leading up to the Iraq war. People talked about how bad ww2 was and how it would have been better if we didn’t wait for Hitler to attack. The entire run up to Iraq was a display of people who learned their ww2 history while nodding off to a history channel doc after eating a spicy sausage and a few to many beers.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        See? This *IS* just like Iraq!Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        No i don’t think we’ve ever been fine with Syria gassing people like we were with Iraq when they only gassed Iranians. But i’m willing to send Rummy over to shake hands with Assad to see how that works out.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        The problem with Iraq is that we didn’t invade it when it was just Syria. Now, with Syria, we have the change to invade Iraq WHEN WE SHOULD HAVE.

        Some people might disagree but some people think we should pull out of NATO and the UN. Some people think we should go back to a gold standard. Some people think aliens built the pyramids.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        See here.

        Alaska Republican Ted Stevens: “When Hitler occupied the Rhineland and the Anschluss in Austria, no nation tried to stop him,”

        Donald Rumfeld: “Think of all the countries that said, ‘Well, we don’t have enough evidence. Mein Kampf had been written. Hitler had indicated what he intended to do. ‘Maybe he won’t attack us.’ Well, there are millions of dead because of the miscalculations.”

        Richard Perle: “A pre-emptive strike against Hitler at the time of Munich would have meant an immediate war as opposed to the one that came later. Later was much worse.”Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Aliens did build the pyramids. Didn’t you ever watch Stargate?

        The Hitler/Iraq comparisons cut both ways. Once we’d liberated France, Italy, and the Netherlands, Germany was “contained”, just like IraqReport

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Per greg’s point. And ironically, Jaybird’s point too.

        As documented in 2002 by Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, the Reagan administration knew full well it was selling materials to Iraq that was being used for the manufacture of chemical weapons, and that Iraq was using such weapons, but U.S. officials were more concerned about whether Iran would win rather than how Iraq might eke out a victory.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Actually almost all of Iraq’s chemical weapon capabilities came from Germany, the Soviet Union, France, and other countries. German firms sold Iraq over one thousand tons of chemicals for weapons manufacture (Sarin, etc). Brazil sold them about 100 tons of mustard gas. That supply was replaced when the UK built their chlorine plant for producing mustard gas. Singapore and Inida supplied them with ingredients for Tabun and VX.

        Iraq was a Soviet client state. The US weapons were in Iran.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        And per George’s point:

        the Reagan administration knew full well it was selling materials to Iraq that was being used for the manufacture of chemical weapons, and that Iraq was using such weapons, but U.S. officials were more concerned about whether Iran would win rather than how Iraq might eke out a victory.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        And were any of these chemical agents we sold them ever named? Not really, because they couldn’t be weaponized except for an Iraqi-run company in Tennessee that got busted. What we provided Iraq was targeting and reconnaissance, and things like welders, cutting tools, and a ton of stuff only used to make nuclear warheads. Oopsie.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Welders? Cutting tools? Really?

        It’s amazing that a WaPo reporter got it that wrong.

        Thanks liebrul media!Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Wait, are those reasons that we should invade Syria or that we shouldn’t? Or are they reasons that the people who are opposing our invasion of Syria reasons that they shouldn’t?Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well, since you’re more familiar with the WaPo reporter’s work than I am, can you list some of the chemicals he said we supplied?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Wait, are those reasons that we should invade Syria or that we shouldn’t? Or are they reasons that the people who are opposing our invasion of Syria reasons that they shouldn’t?


      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        George, you haven’t cited anything yet, so there’s that.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        So working from your sources, you can’t cite any actual chemicals we supplied? Why not just blame it all on the evil Jooooos?

        We supplied dual use equipment, some insecticides and pesticides that can’t be weaponized (at least not without major difficulties), while Iraq was purchasing chemical weapons directly from all sorts of other countries. We did supply laboratory samples of anthrax and about four other biological agents, via the CDC and universities, but back then even I could’ve gotten samples from them.

        Hughes sold them about sixty helicopters equipped for crop spraying, which they used for crop spraying, because buzzing people who have AK-47’s doesn’t really work out real well. We managed to sell them a few APC’s and other random things, but never penetrated the market to any degree because the Soviet and Chinese equipment is simply more bang for the buck.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        What we provided Iraq was targeting

        We didn’t give them chemical weapons; we just gave them targets for their chemical weapons! George, you are not the world’s best defense attorney. (“My client did not give the murderer the gun; he just pointed out the victim.”)

        But perhaps here’s the spurce of confusion (possibly a deliberate confusion?). It wasn’t chemical agents the U.S. supplied to Iraq, but biological agents, including anthrax and bubonic plague. So our hands are (chemically) clean!Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        And notice that George is the only one here who has not specified any sources for his claims. Particularly that bit about only research amounts of bilogical agents from universities needs some backing up.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        @J@m3z Aitch

        It wasn’t chemical agents the U.S. supplied to Iraq, but biological agents, including anthrax and bubonic plague. So our hands are (chemically) clean!

        Thank you!!! I would’ve wasted about 45 minutes digging up the refutation of the chemical weapons claims for the sixtieth time.

        Note that the CDC and universities were obligated to send the biological samples to Iraq under WHO guidelines, and that he never actually used them anywhere. He produced thousands of liters of things like anthrax (which is useless against people who have penicillin), but then ended up destroying it. Note also that all the equipment he used to produce the weapons were imported from France, Germany, and Russia. All our universities supplied was some samples, which they’d have sent to me, too.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Are you really that naive? The fact that Hussein didn’t use the biological weapons doesn’t mean he wasn’t developing them. And U.S. supplies, facilitated by Rumsfeld, were used to help develop a biological weapons program. You’re going to try to persuade us that the U.S. new Hussein was using chemical weapons, but never suspected it might be complicit in a biological weapons program?

        And of course you haven’t dealt with the issue of U.S. complicity in Hussein’s use of chemical weapons.

        This is the kind of slippery ducking and dodging that comes from people who can only argue ideologically. It’s not unusual for such people to have command of copious facts, but not be able to engage in an objective analysis, one not twisted so as to support and not threaten their ideological commitments.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Nobody seriously realized Saddam was developing biological weapons until the aftermath of the Gulf War, except perhaps for the European companies who were supplying him with equipment. We weren’t really tracking the samples of biological materials we sent him because universities could send those over in envelopes, and at the time you could get such biological samples from anywhere. You or I could get them. We could even wander out into a cow field and find anthrax samples, and botulism samples were just a peanut-butter jar away. These are common diseases, easily treated by antibiotics, which is why both the Russian program (run by Ken Abilek, who defected) and the US programs didn’t consider them very useful as weapons.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Once again George provides no sources. Intelligent reliable folks provide sources. The failure to do so is a warning sign that the person is not reliable, even if intelligent.Report

      • Avatar NotMe says:

        If I’m wrong I.m willing to admit it. It is sad to see all the same lines liberals complained about from the hopey changey guy who promised he would be different.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        It is sad to see all the same lines liberals complained about from the hopey changey guy who promised he would be different.

        Maybe his real hopey was that he’d get to changey to a different job.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        notme- You do know that the Syria clusterspork is unpopular among D’s. It’s not actually popular among any group, but D’s are not buying all the crappy stuff the admin is trying to sell.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        J@m3z, here we can provide only one link before hitting the spam filter, and I’ve argued these points so long back in the day that I can do most of it right off the top of my head. At one point when the liberals were screaming about Bush’s VA budgets, I had so many hits that the VA contacted me to provide constant updates because I was getting more hits on their budget questions than they were, and they thought I was doing a good job of correcting the wild, paranoid, unsupported rumors that were circulating. (Their budget was actually skyrocketing, because everyone kept claiming that their budget was being slashed, so every politician was adding more on top). They were tired of fielding angry calls from people who had no idea that their budget wasn’t being slashed.

        Your claim about sources reminds me of the hilarious Hitler debate last week, where Chris claimed I my provided quotes were apocryphal, not even bothering to read his own probable cites that acknowledged that Hitler in fact said exactly that, but only said it to attract support from the socialist working class (which describes just about everything that Hitler said). If I have his source right, the person made a pretty good stab at arguing that Hitler wasn’t a socialist, making it through almost a dozen posts before having an epiphany and dropping completely off the Internet, having realized that the Nazis were wild-eyed socialists. Most people only make it through six or so posts before they hit one too many original sources and it hits them.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        J@m3z, here we can provide only one link before hitting the spam filter,

        Excuses, excuses. I’ve been providing that one link per, and you’ve made enougj comments that you could have, too. This is transparent weaseling.

        and I’ve argued these points so long back in the day that I can do most of it right off the top of my head.

        Yes, so can I, and yet I was decent enough to provide sources instead of asking people to just assume that I remembered correctly and/or was being wholly honest. One question you have not addressed is why anyone should trust you when you’ve done nothing to earn that trust.

        Your claim about sources reminds me of the hilarious Hitler debate last week, where Chris claimed I my provided quotes were apocryphal, not even bothering to read his own probable cites that acknowledged that Hitler in fact said exactly that, but only said it to attract support from the socialist working class (which describes just about everything that Hitler said).

        Yeah, that was hilarious. You were completely incapable of recognizing the actual significance to the concept of socialism of Hitler rejecting Marx. I’ve been familiar with Calvin’s archive for a long time now (used some of it in an art and politics class). It’s clear to me that you read a lot of it, but didn’t really understand it. Chris, on thevother hand, I’ve known on the internet for years jow. The dude knows his stuff and doesn’t blow smoke either out of his ass or up anyone else’s.

        I’m sure you think you don’t, either. Idelogues never do realize how much they’re deceiving themselves. But here’s the key point: you didn’t put up. You just made excuses. I don’t expect you to shut up, either, of course. But I’ve wasted more than enough time trying futilely to squeeze some little bit of honesty out of a weasel.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      If we want to send a message to Iran, it would make more sense to bomb Indonesia into the stone age, then tell Iran we’re working our way down the list of countries in alphabetical order.

      Stillwater, at least Bush’s reasons made logical sense. In this case we’re attacking so as NOT to have regime change, and in fact not to hurt the targets military in any significant way, lest they collapse militarily. We also bombing to help Al Qaeda, our enemy, who we want to prevent from taking over Syria by, um, blasting them a path to victory.

      Among the latest brilliant stratagems Kerry has announced is to target the Syrian governments chemical weapon delivery systems while leaving the chemical weapons intact. Well, their delivery systems are designed for hurling their chemical weapons at places like Tel Aviv or Beirut, not five blocks down the street from where they’re stockpiling them, which is what they need in ongoing block-by-block urban combat in the heart of their own cities. Medieval catapults would meet the Syria’s WMD delivery needs quite well, as would pickup trucks and station wagons.

      It’s all so boneheaded that even if you support the administration’s goals in Syria, you can’t support the plan because the plan doesn’t even try to achieve those goals, and in fact seems to work against them.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        It’s all so boneheaded that even if you support the administration’s goals in Syria, you can’t support the plan because the plan doesn’t even try to achieve those goals, and in fact seems to work against them.

        So, the analogy still holds then?Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        No, because there was a large list of reasons to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime (I was pushing for invasion long prior to 9/11), which was our stated goal, and our war plans were tailored to achieve that goal, which they did.

        In this case, it would be like invading Iraq to keep Saddam Hussein in power, even though the only threat to him remaining in power was our invasion — undertaken to keep him in power. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

        It’s different from wanting to do something, perhaps something that isn’t really wise, and coming up with a workable plan of doing it. This is more like watching a really drunk person trying to accomplish some goal, but going about it in a way that can’t possibly result in what they’re trying to accomplish – because they’re really really drunk and don’t realize that at best, their efforts will just result in a viral “Drunken FAIL” video.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        (I was pushing for invasion long prior to 9/11)

        As were most of the policymakers in the Bush Administration, but for some reason they were unwilling to say publicly “We’ve wanted this invasion for a decade and now we finally have a pretext for it.” Hence the 100% BS content of what they did say.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        They did lay out the argument for invading Iraq publicly, and some had been doing so almost since the Gulf War, when it became apparent that our assumption that Saddam couldn’t survive such a staggering military defeat proved unfounded.

        I’m chatting right now with an airborne Arab Linguist who was flying over Iraq during that period and had to listen to Saddam’s ground commanders slaughtering southern Shia’s. Another chat buddy was in the no-fly zone in northern Iraq trying to coordinate relief and political efforts, sometimes meeting with PUK and PDK officials. It was pretty obvious early on that leaving Saddam in power was a big mistake.

        Of course one reason to invade was to enact Bill Clinton’s Iraq policy, which was regime change, so he’d have a legacy. But that meshed with about two-dozen other reasons to topple Saddam, and no compelling argument in favor of keeping him in power, since he was one of the most brutal and repressive dictators on the face of the Earth. We certainly didn’t, however, want to just decapitate him because then his sons would take power, and they were worse than he was. We also didn’t want to leave a power vacuum that Iran would immediately fill, which argued that if we did topple Saddam’s regime, we’d want to occupy the space with troops on the ground.

        Then Fallujah happened and we realized that much of the Middle East is just a vicious civil war waiting to uncork. Early on it was apparent that Assad was responsible for quite a bit of the carnage, and Bush wanted to get tough with him. However Biden, Hillary, Obama, and Kerry rushed to Assad’s defense, calling him a reformer, so we didn’t take any actions against him. Once he pulled out of Lebanon and the Cedar Revolution occurred, we didn’t give him much more thought, aside from making a delightful dinner companion for John Kerry. It seems we’re still not giving him much thought.

        For Iraq we had a huge coalition, because most of the world, and the region in particular, wanted Saddam’s regime gone. This time around we’ve only got the staunch support of the Saudis, who are in it up to their eye-balls because for them, Assad is a proxy of Iran, and Iran presents a very serious strategic threat to Saudi Arabia, possibly an existential one to the Saudi royal family.

        They don’t really care if Assad, along with every Alawite, Shia, and Christian in Syria get slaughtered, as long as their side wins. If we attack, pointedly not targeting Assad, they’ll be right there with us, using Tornado attack aircraft firing British/French Storm Shadow precision land-attack missiles right at Assad, and they’ll probably have a pretty good idea where he is because they’re running much of the rebel opposition to him.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        It was pretty obvious early on that leaving Saddam in power was a big mistake.

        I seem to recall the Bush the Elder was pretty candid about why he didn’t want to topple Sad-damn back in the dat: it would create s sectarian war that would be worse for the people of Iraq, the people in the region, and would undermine US interests in the middle east.

        Along those lines, a quote from Powell: Interviewed in 2007, when the U.S. had been fighting in Iraq for more than four years in a war initiated by Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, Colin Powell remarked, “In recent months, nobody’s been asking me about why we didn’t go to Baghdad. Pretty good idea now why Baghdad should always be looked at with some reservations.” Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        We also didn’t want to leave a power vacuum that Iran would immediately fill, which argued that if we did topple Saddam’s regime, we’d want to occupy the space with troops on the ground.

        Who would be greeted as liberators and not have to stay any longer than it took to finish the mopping up and hand over the keys to that nice Mr. Chalabi. Certainly the occupation wouldn’t last a decade and have costs measured in the trillions.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Long before that interview, Powell had said that the failure to roll all the way to Baghdad in the Gulf war showed the danger of getting involved in a coalition. One of the reasons he and HW Bush didn’t advocate a further prosecution of the war, turning it into a deep pursuit and occupation, was that such an act was far outside the mandate of the coalition they’d so carefully put together. A coalition broadens your support and enhances your forces, but it also inhibits your freedom of action.

        Or more precisely, if he really did think a massive civil war was going to be the result of an invasion in the Gulf War, he would’ve been thinking the same thing when he was planning the Iraq War – and obviously that wasn’t part of his planning. Claiming retrospective wisdom is so easy, if it weren’t for historical actions that bely the claim.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Who would be greeted as liberators and not have to stay any longer than it took to finish the mopping up and hand over the keys to that nice Mr. Chalabi. Certainly the occupation wouldn’t last a decade and have costs measured in the trillions.

        And that’s why I think everyone in Congress should pressure Obama to withdraw our massive forces from Iraq before starting another war in Syria. A decade is long enough to achieve victory or go home.

        And although the costs are measured in the trillions, up to six trillion, the way the cost estimates reach those numbers is extremely sketchy, if not bizarre. In fact, if you assume that each US serviceman with a lost limb was given a permanent staff of six nurses and a private jet helicopter, you still don’t reach the range of some of the university estimates (like Brown’s), which not surprisingly didn’t involve their colleges of finance or accounting, but did rely heavily on their English and psychology departments.

        But instead of rehashing all the reasons some of those costs are just nutso, I’ll just note that the UK sent about a third as many troops as the US, was also heavily involved in Afghanistan, and suffered 9% as many fatalities as US forces. Yet somehow their total cost estimate for both wars was only around 20 billion. That implies that either we’re using two entirely different accounting schemes, or it costs the US 27 times more to produce a single casualty than it does the British. I could see two or three times more, but probably not 27 times more, because we’re using much the same equipment supported by the same supply lines.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Or more precisely, if he really did think a massive civil war was going to be the result of an invasion in the Gulf War, he would’ve been thinking the same thing when he was planning the Iraq War

        He was opposed to the war. Were you old enough to remember those events in real time? His speech before the UN was a punishment for arguing against the Neocon first-choice of military intervention/occupation.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Old enough? I wouldn’t be surprised if they were using some of my arguments. It wasn’t long after that that the BBC even cited me as a conservative pundit. ^_^

        And, um, how do they punish a general like that? Is it because he’s black? Did you buy into the whole “house n***** line of argument that was hurled at he and Condi Rice?”

        In any event, yes, he believed the intelligence that Saddam had chemical weapons. In fact, one of his big worries was how the US public would respond when our forces had to fight their way through massive chemical weapons attack. He was concerned that they’d feel outrage bordering on hysteria.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Here’s the first link I could find:

        Yet the Bureau was spectacularly right in its highly critical assessment of the most important claim in the Bush White House’s case for war: that Sadam was “reconstituting” a nuclear weapons capability. For example, on a key issue-the Iraqi purchase of aluminum tubes–INR dissented from the assertions in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that the tubes were for gas centrifuge enrichment technology for a nuclear weapons program. Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Yes, they were mistaken about the tubes, with one agency thinking they were for centrifuges and another agency insisting they were not. As I recall, they were seamless scandium aluminum, which is a pretty unusual requirement. As it turns out, they were to be used for higher performance solid rocket motor casings. Saddam wasn’t supposed to be building those, either.

        In fact, he would give us a new pretext for war every two or three days, because he was violating the terms of the cease fire thousands of times. When we rolled in we found thousands of things he wasn’t supposed to have, like brand new prohibited weapons imported from Europe. The question during the whole period was whether we’d ever actually do anything about his violations, and he needed to continually create violations because he’d decided that keeping his own population and his neighbors convinced that he was a genocidal monster who was armed to the teeth was a wiser course of action than coming clean.

        Like aspects of the old Soviet Union, large parts of his arsenal were just a Potemkin village, with most of his scientists and generals thinking that his real weapon’s programs were at other sites. His lack of WMD actually worked out well for Iraq, the US, and the region, because if he had possessed them they would’ve fallen into the hands of all the warring tribes, factions, and terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda in Iraq.

        There are some Iraqi generals who remain convinced that he did have quite a large number of chemical weapons, which he shipped into Syria in massive convoys observed by both them and the US during the debates over going to war. It would be curious if some of the administration’s reluctance to take direct possession of Assad’s chemical stockpiles is because we may find large numbers of munitions with Iraqi military markings, solving a mystery that most people have long since given up on.

        And, as has been often said, the real WMD in Iraq was Saddam. He could use food and water, and lack thereof, to commit genocide. If you have the organization, fear, and simple methods, you don’t need snazzy equipment to kill vast numbers of people.

        This week a Washington DC fashion model who dressed the wives of Senators and other politicos revealed that her father, though very loving, murdered about 1.1 million people when he was the commander at Auschwitz. Fashion industry jokes aside, that’s pretty weird.

        Oddly, I think I’ve gotten drunk with one of her nephews or cousins who runs a big limousine company. He had the same last name and faced a long interrogation by a couple of elderly Jewish Nazi hunters in a packed restaurant in Argentina because yes, his close relative had murdered about a million people. The couple had a discussion among themselves, thinking he couldn’t follow it, not realizing he spoke seven languages that included theirs. I related how my own cousin was executed at Nuremberg, so we got along wonderfully, swapping stories and showing clever methods of inflicting excruciating pain (I study medieval German martial arts). He showed me the simple hold he’d used earlier that week on a drunk teen who tried to climb into one of his limos rented by the rock band playing at our big arena, which had the teen screaming for his friends to call the police. I was impressed.

        We live in a world filled with monsters. Some you can deal with, some you can’t, and some only seem like monsters based on things people say about them. Others are more frightening because they’re like a toddler running around with a machine gun, or a “monkey with a hand grenade” as Putin put it.

        According to German signals intercepts from their ship offshore from Syria, Syrian army commanders have requested permission to unleash with chemical weapons many times in the past 4 1/2 months, and each request was denied. Those requests were denied when the Syrian army was desperate and losing ground. So why on Earth would a request be approved when Syria was gaining ground, and why would that request be approved for a strike in Damascus just four miles from the hotel where the UN inspection team was staying?

        Where Hillary, Obama, Biden, and Kerry completely wrong when they judged Assad’s character? Was Kerry completely wrong about his frequent dinner companion?
        Is Assad the monster, or is he an eye-doctor who’s been trying to quell the monster that is the Syrian government’s vicious, Stalinist, genocidal tendencies even during the emotional, vengeful throes of a brutal civil war against jihadists who commit constant atrocities (trying to match the atrocities committed by the Syrian army)?

        We don’t know, because our intelligence is pathetically thin, probably only 5 or 10 percent as good as the intelligence we had prior to the Gulf War, where we spent a decade penetrating the veil as best we could. In Syria we have hardly even looked.

        Yet once Bush decided on a course of action on Iraq, they spent 18 months building their case. Obama has hardly spent 18 days. Bush got virtually everyone on board, with even more countries involved than the prior Gulf War. Obama probably can’t even get Democrats to vote in favor, and France may jump ship. Bush produced a vast, decade long laundry list of reasons to go to war. Obama has one chemical attack and can’t even definitively say who committed it, and can’t even rule out that the rebels we’re supporting did it.

        So if your position is that I’m wrong about the intelligence on the Iraq War, and I say that the intelligence on the Syrian attack is hardly 10 percent as certain, how on Earth could you support a strike on Syria based on intelligence that an Iraq War supporter finds sketchy to non-existent?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Why do you think that I support an attack on Syria or that Stillwater does?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        So why on Earth would a request be approved when Syria was gaining ground, and why would that request be approved for a strike in Damascus just four miles from the hotel where the UN inspection team was staying?

        Because Maher al-Assad’s unit is not like the others. Maher al-Assad is the Chemical Ali of Syria. He does what he wants. Syria is a bigger horse than Bashar al-Assad can ride. Bashar’s in charge because he’s got brains. Maher is just a killer.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Why do you think that I support an attack on Syria or that Stillwater does?

        One theory might be because you find it so much easier to attack the Republicans for invading Iraq and then for being hypocrites because they’re now attacking Obama for wanting to invade Syria than to attack the idea that we need to invade Syria.

        Now, of course, that theory assumes a fundamentally binary way of looking at the world. If you’re attacking Republicans, it must be because you support Democrats which means support for invasion. It’s fundamentally fallacious.

        But that doesn’t mean it’s not a common theory.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Jaybird, in all seriousness, putting aside the (entirely real and reasonable!) Rep/Dem political goat rodeo about Syria — is there a downside to shining on this gas attack ? Maybe we shouldn’t do anything. Just let war crimes of this sort go unpunished. War is itself a sort of crime — but damn…..gas.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Treating it as a crime, what would we need to do before we determine whether and how to punish it? And have we done it yet?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        For a war crime, we’d need to present an indictment at the International Criminal Court. I don’t know about their rules of evidence.

        We’re far better off, rhetorically, to call this a war crime and let the ICC court sort this out. Does two things for us: one, we don’t have to cast aspersions on either Syria or the rebels. Two, it would put Syria’s allies on the defensive.

        Syria is known to have massive stores of chemical munitions. Nobody just cooks up a batch of Sarin. Even if everything the Syrian government said was true, the world can’t go on with these cockamamie stories. Someone’s lying.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I don’t understand why “we” have to do whatever it is that needs doing, in this case.

        Is it “we’re the moral agents, we’re the grownups, and it’s our job to oversee those who are, to put it gently, not”?

        Is it that we feel like we shouldn’t be able to feel like something ought to be done if we’re faced with a situation like this and nobody does anything?

        I don’t even know what our goals are. This means I don’t know when we’ll be able to say “we’re done” or “can’t be done”. And that freaks me out, given the last handful of times we played this game.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot3 says:


        With great power comes great responsibility.

        The U.S. will often have a duty to act when, say, Micronesia does not.

        I’m not sure that this is a wise action, but if it is wise, then it is our duty to do it.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Hee hee. “Doody”.

        Anyway, Even assuming P -> Q, isn’t it pretty freakin’ important to figure out whether P is true?Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Your argument seems to be read as “We are not moral agents. We are not the grownups, and it’s just fine if poison gas rejoins the standard arsenals of the world.” Bear with me here, because that might just be the only honest position to take.

        The USA has Sarin and VX. For us to get all hot and bothered about the use of chemical munitions while they’re still in American arsenals is a bit precious. The USA should use this incident to finally dispose of all our chemical munitions: while we have them, who are we to say anything about their use?

        And the USA never ratified the Treaty of Rome, our hemming and hawing about the International Criminal Court is famously stupid. Here’s a case where we need a court to sort out a truly grisly war crime — and we haven’t even gotten as far as ratifying the ICC.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Jay, I use “we” in this case under the assumption that we are acting in accordance with what Blaise sees as a moral imperative for us (or so I gather from his comment to which I was replying). It seems to me that, given the way we’re handing it now, going through the ICC would be a step in the right direction. The question of why we, specifically, have any responsibility here at all then becomes a different conversation, one not just about moral responsibility, but about the purpose of our involvement in foreign affairs in the first place.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I agree with Blaise, this seems like a perfectly good opportunity to rid ourselves of all of our chemical weapons.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        but if it is wise, then it is our duty to do it.. Nonsense. It is not wise and it is not our duty. Our troops are not the world’s policemen. It’s high time someone either started paying for our services or we stopped doing the job. Everyone hates us for it, anyway. Anyone who says it’s our duty to sort out these bastards slitting each others’ throats ought to climb his stupid ass into a uniform and go over there and do it himself.

        My old First Sergeant used have what he called the Good Samaritan Rule: the Good Sam who tries to break up a bar fight is always the first one in the ambulance. Let law enforcement deal with it. Our troops are not sworn officers of the law — precisely because there is no goddamn law in a war zone.

        Wars are kinda like forest fires. Let enough kindling and dried underbrush build up and they’re almost inevitable. Smoky the Bear and GI Joe have been telling us “Only We Can Prevent Forest Fires and Genocidal Wars and Other Nasty Incidents of This Sort.” And it’s just not true. All we do in those situations is spend more money and make more enemies. Worse, every time we do enforce a little peace on some shithole corner of the landscape, we end up stuck there for decades. Or paying for peace, as with the Cold Peace between Egypt and Israel. Billions of USD a year we spend on keeping those two sets of maniacs from destroying each other.

        Duty, my ass. Our troops’ duty is to their commanders and to the mission and to support and defend the US Constitution. Not go poking our grubby fingers up other people’s patoots.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        The question of why we, specifically, have any responsibility here at all then becomes a different conversation

        One way to answer it would be this: Assuming nations are moral actors, and supposing that the moral case against Assad has been made, the only nations obligated to act would be those which effectively can act. And the US – for a number of reasons – has the capacity to act. So the US has an obligation – moral imperative – to do so.

        Whether that obligation can be defeated by considering other factors or whether that obligation in fact obtains in the first place is an open question, it seems to me. Blaise is giving reasons to think it does.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Here is where things become complicated. What if the ICC, or the UN, or some other international group determines that there is a moral imperative for action, but the American people overwhelmingly disagree. What, then, is the U.S. government’s imperative: act in accordance with the moral imperative for action determined by an independent observer (UN/ICC/whoever), or in accordance with the will of the people whom that government serves and represents?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Your argument seems to be read as “We are not moral agents. We are not the grownups, and it’s just fine if poison gas rejoins the standard arsenals of the world.”

        Not exactly. My argument ought to be read as “the burden of proof should be on the person who wants to bomb the ever-living it-shay out of another country” followed by “I do not know that the Spider-Man argument for American Jurisdiction is particularly compelling.”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Political opinion is of no real importance. Any competent speechwriter can create a war for his client, especially if he has a good art director and photographer. America’s just a bit sick of war just now, having gotten a gut full of it over the last thirteen years. Mostly, I think, America’s sick of paying for these wars.

        We need a new model for American intervention. As for intervention in Syria, we’ve been selling KSA and the Gulf States all these shiny jets and missiles — let them fly up to Damascus and thump the rubble if they’re so dead-set on intervention.

        Back when Carter was at Camp David, talking to the Egyptians and the Israelis, he pointed out how every time the Arabs started ululating for war, it was always the Egyptians who ended up doing all the fighting and dying. This point was not lost on the parties involved. Egypt got back the Sinai but they’ve never been able to control it, any more than we have been able to control Afghanistan. It’s a big place, hard to patrol, lots of mountains and hidey holes. It’s been a sore spot with Israel and Egypt, that they’ve never been able to enforce their own writ in the Sinai.

        Iraq can’t enforce its own writ on the Kurds. Libya can’t enforce its writ on the desert peoples. Libya’s turning into a godawful mess, too. Oil production is down to nothing. The EU ambassador was almost killed in a car bomb. The desert people are causing no end of trouble. It’s just a dog’s dinner. Lebanon’s government, same story: can’t enforce its writ.

        Syria’s government can’t enforce its writ.

        What does Nation Building mean? I contend it can’t be done from the outside. Peace keeping — maybe. Nation building, never. All these old Colonial States have to be thrown in the dust bin along with the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman and British Empires. They’re irrelevant.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:


        That theory would work somewhat better if I had ever used the word “hypocrite”.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        That’s the great thing about the fallacious theory. It doesn’t require that you use particular words, just that you use particular behaviors.

        “How come the Oath Keepers never set up under Bush???”

        That sort of thing.

        You don’t have to look at whether the government is engaging in illegal or unconstituional behaviors. Why would you want to look at that? You just look at the timing of the people arguing against the government. “Why do they suddenly care about whether we’re killing brown people?”Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        (I was pushing for invasion long prior to 9/11),

        Are you actually, eh, proud of that?Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Oh heck yeah, as proud as I would’ve been calling for decapitating Hitler and the Nazi party, despite the vocal opposition from their ardent supporters in the anti-war movement.

        As the former head of the UK communist party put it, looking back on the protests, why on Earth did people committed to human rights give their all in support of one of the most vile, repressive, genocidal regimes on the face of the Earth? Nobody really knows. Even our enemies in Iraq agreed with removing Saddam.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Well, George, there’s the inconvenient little fact that Hussein’s removal resulted in a civil war that’s caused more civilian deaths than his regime did; a civil war that was predicted by just about everyone who knew the region. So did you not know that, not believe it, or not care? I’m not sure which of those is something to be proud of.

        As for our enemies supporting his removal, what do you imagine rhat oroves, other than the old adage that the enemy of our enemy is our (very temporary) friend?Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well gee J@m3z, are you a Hitler apologist too?

        Well, George, there’s the inconvenient little fact that Hussein’s removal resulted in a civil war that’s caused more civilian deaths than his regime did;

        The high-end estimate for the deaths since 2003 is maintained by Iraq Body Count, which puts the number at 117,000 to 125,000. They count each body twice, once from a press report and again when the body shows up in a morgue, so their true figure should be around 55,000 to 62,500.

        Saddam’s brief Anfal campaign killed 50,000 to 180,000 Kurds. After the Gulf War, his strikes killed somewhere between 20,000 and 100,000 more Kurds, and 60,000 to 120,000 Shia.

        The New York Times estimates that he killed about a million Iraqis and a million Iranians. The low-end estimates are at least 250,000 dead. We uncovered the mass graves of his victims. I had to look at thousands of photos of them.

        How you can support such a man is beyond me, but then genocidal killers always have their ardent supporters.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        J@m3z, the epidemiologists “deaths” were as laughable, based on phone surveys of a genocide and asking Arabs if any of their family members had been killed, not correcting for the fact that their “families”, meaning brothers and cousins, numbered into the thousands.

        That’s why nobody, even the anti-war NGO’s with bug-eyed believers, could come remotely close to the figures from a random phone survey.

        Following along on how you’re a Nazi apologist, if you repeated the survey methods with Jews, you’d have discovered that Hitler killed at most a couple hundred thousand people, because gee, dead Jews don’t answer their phones. Had Hitler succeeded in killing all of them, your chosen survey method would’ve revealed that Hitler hadn’t killed a single one, because none of them would’ve been left to answer the survey.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        And you’ve provided what evidence? A fanciful, wholly unsourced, claim that the real death count is half what’s reported because every body was counted twice. You’ll believe that, why? Because there’s anybactual evidence for it? Or because you’re a blind ideologue who will latch onto any ridiculous claim so long as it supports what he wants to believe?

        Another survey suggests over a million Iraqis died as a result of the civil war. Is it correct? I don’t know, but I do know that every sourcevI’ve seen suggests a much higher death toll than what you claim, and are apparently incapable of finding a source for. When you cling to a figure that is a dramatic outlier among all the varioys counts, you are making an extraordinary claim, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And yet you have provided no evidence; not even merely ordinary evidence.

        It’s a simple challenge for you, George: put up or shut up.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        By the way, George, your own example showing why the survey was flawed suggests that, if anything, it massively undercounted the real number of dead. Congrats on nailing down the coffin lid on your own argument that not so many died.

        That’s awesome, man, just smokin’ awesome.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        J@m3z, I ask you to use your freakin’ brain. It’s logic and common sense, based on the actual procedures used by Iraq Body Count (I downloaded their entire database of incidents on several occasions and spent weeks going through the raw data in spreadsheet form, because I love math).

        Their count is based on two sources, local newspaper and press reports of attacks (and almost ALL attacks would make their local press), and morgue counts done much later, sometimes months later as their agents visited hospitals throughout Iraq and asked their doctors for tallies about how many people died “by violence” of some sort.

        The result of that is that almost each person who dies by violence creates a newspaper account. Having looked at those accounts, they almost never include any names. They just say things like “Five residents of Basra were killed when their bus was attacked by insurgents. Two of the insurgents were killed when Iraqi security forces arrived.”

        So later, perhaps months later, IBC swings through the local hospital and asks for all the morgue counts since the last time they were there. The victims mentioned in the press report (already counted by the IBC) obviously arrived at some morgue. If IBC visits all the morgues in the country, it is 100% guaranteed that those victims will be some of the tally in one of those morgues. It cannot be otherwise. The IBC adds the morgue count to the press report count, even though the same people have to be in both counts.

        That results in double counting, and it cannot be otherwise. If every person who is killed is buried, and you add up the number of people who are killed to the number of killed people who are buried, you end up with exactly twice the number of people who were killed.

        It’s called “math”. Learn it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:


        A. Every source on the ground reports a higher body count than you, and at least two sources on the groundcreport a much higher count than the IBC. But you, not on the ground and using your own interpretation of the IBC methodology, provide an outlier body count and you expect that people will find your count the most reliable?

        B. You are extremely ideological, and your bias clearly shows in all your arguments and interpretations. You don’t get any benefit of the doubt–any more than certain liberals here–because people with such strong ideological biases inevitably skew their interpretations to prop up their beliefs. If you (or certain liberals here) claim the sky is blue, I begin to question my beliefs and hasten to the window.

        C. I’m supposed to trust that you did the math well, but recent research suggests I’d be unwise to trust an idelogue’s math, especially because of your alleged mathematical ability.

        No, George, you’ve done a great job of persuading me that anything you write is not to be trusted. I’m done here.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well, I know that math and logic won’t persuade you, because like most who support people like Hitler and Saddam, you’re not going to be amenable to logic and math.

        You have your reality where the Germans and Iraqis were defending themselves against the evil Jew, and you’ll marshal obviously unworkable research methodologies to bolster your case, and I cite simple things like counting – with numbers, and showing how those numbers were counted.

        It has always been so.

        When you count bodies and attach names to the bodies your counting, both the Holocaust deniers and the IBC counts shift dramatically. The university counts based on phone surveys go right out the window. Using other methods anti-war activists used, it’s apparent that Bill Clinton murdered about 150,000 pregnant teens and disappeared their bodies, because the there were a lot more pregnant teens when he took office than when he left it. What happened to them? Why did they disappear?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        You have your reality where the Germans and Iraqis were defending themselves against the evil Jew,

        For the win!Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:


  12. Avatar George Turner says:


    UK Guardian article

    Kerry said the Americans were planning an “unbelievably small” attack on Syria. “We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war. That is exactly what we are talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”

    Well, I’m sure that’s stiffened world resolve… Why not just hit Assad with a $5000 fine? Then the US treasury would be $5000 to the good, whereas launching 200 Tomahawk land attack missiles at about $1.5 million each, not to mention the use of B-1’s, B-2’s, and B-52’s, is real money. Then we take the $5,000 and use it to hire a private investigator, who will fly to Damascus and ask the Syrian government what the heck happened. Charlie Rose flew in and asked Assad a bunch of questions, and Assad doesn’t seem really sure what happened either.

    If his government was desperate enough to use chemical weapons, they’d have used them on a particularly tough target, something like a concentration of rebel forces armed with heavy weapons. If Assad’s enemies (on either side) were using chemical weapons to try and frame him and elicit a US response on the first anniversary of Obama’s red line speech, they’d have picked a particularly soft target, something like a neighborhood with lots of young children running around.

    The head of the US intelligence committee, privy to our most classified data on the attack, says that we don’t really have anything other than that the attack was launched with rockets and we don’t think the rebels have access to those, so someone on Assad’s side of the war probably carried it out. Aside from Assad’s brother (who may wish him ill), in the early phases of the civil war the Syrian army had constant defections from high ranking officers who were fed up with Assad. Not all of them might have defected yet.

    Meanwhile Kerry is out painting more red lines, giving Assad one week to hand over all his chemical weapons or we’ll attack, then adding that he didn’t expect Assad to actually hand over his chemical weapons.

    Perhaps part of the US problem is that the administration keeps sending out bald-faced liars to make its case. Susan Rice is most famous for claiming Benghazi was a spontaneous protest over an Internet video, and John Kerry spent his life claiming he dropped off CIA agents in Cambodia in 1968 to fight the Khmer Rouge, probably right before he led a raid on the Island of Misfit Toys.Report

  13. Avatar George Turner says:

    And Kerry has, amazingly, shot the Administration in the foot again with his new “red line” statement giving Assad a week to hand over all his chemical weapons – or else we’d attack, and then stupidly adding that they would of course not go for such a proposal.

    Well, the went for it, along with the Russians.

    So now the Syrians and the Russians hold the reins of the diplomatic solution that actually produces the desired US outcome of stripping Syria of chemical weapons, something Obama’s planned military strikes aren’t even intended to accomplish. This goal is such an important element of the US position that there’s no way the US can reject it and have even the slightest shred of credibility left, and of course any US attack would forever torpedo the opportunity of lasting peace and stripping the Syrian regime of nerve-gas stockpiles that have been used on civilians.

    This new Soviet initiative, of course, comes a day before Obama is supposed to address the nation and the world about the reason he wants to attack Syria with hundreds of land attack missiles, none aimed at Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, in a strike that even John Kerry says is an “unbelievably small” effort. The Syrian offer will now be the backdrop to Obama’s speech, which will either be totally rewritten throughout the night or it will come off as mindless, idiotic war mongering. If Obama goes ahead and strikes, he will be condemned for all of history as the arrogant narcissist who forever destroyed any chance of stripping Assad’s regime of chemical weapons and finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

    If we instead go for the offered negotiations, well, those take time and they’ll be run by the Syrians, the Russians, and the Chinese. They’ll be convoluted, and Syria will have months, if not a year, to figure out what to do next, and America will sit on the sidelines, because as Obama said, he didn’t “paint that line”, the international community did.

    If you ever get a chance to play poker with this administration, make sure you take enough empty suitcases to take all your winnings home.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      What will have been the cost of initiating this process to bring Syria, if informally, into the CW control regime and pressuring Russia into putting pressure on its ally to restrain himself at least so much as to respect the international norm against CWs in controlling his domestic unrest through the application of a credible threat of force? Will it be so high as to wish Obama had not ramped up talk of a military response after the 8/21 breach of the Red Line?

      Your analysis seems operate from the assumption that it’s a clear loss and embarrassment for Obama if he does not bomb, when the reality s that he is leveraging a threat of force whose real credibility has been deteriorating by the day for more than a week into what might be real concessions. Once the rejection of an authorizing resolution became all but assured, if not before, it became distinctly no in Obama’s political interest to end up having to follow through with strikes. So it’s no longer a loss for him if he does not.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      Oh, it’s a loss, as pretty much every newspaper in the world will point out. Maybe MSNBC will try to spin it in his favor, but no one else will. But then, they tried to spin his belated request for Congressional authorization as a historic return to Constitutional principles (as if Bush hadn’t sought Congressional authorization on Afghanistan and Iraq, as opposed to Obama who hadn’t sought it on Libya).

      Perhaps our threat of force would’ve been more credible if the administration didn’t have John Kerry and a raft of leakers going out every day explaining how we planned our strike to be meaningless, that it was a token gesture tailored to be just strong enough not to get mocked (they really said that), and even giving the press the target list so Assad would have weeks to move or defend anything important. Of course striking Syria was never high on the White House priority list, despite Obama’s vapid rhetoric, because if it was they’d have been meeting with the House and Senate to line up the votes for it. Congressmen have confessed that they don’t even know who the White House sent over, assuming it sent anyone at all.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Not carrying out bombings that have no ostensible purpose other than quite conjecturally deterring future CWs use but gaining an international regime backed by Syria’s allies to secure its chemical weapons and disallow their use would be a loss? I’m glad we have that straight.

        I’m fairly sure the outlying spinners in that scenario (which by all means remains unlikely) would be the ones trying to spin it as a loss. I could be wrong, though. I’m not an expert on political PR.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        You’re assuming the Syrians are actually going to give up all their chemical weapons. That wouldn’t be a wise assumption to make.

        One day the internal memos on all this will be revealed. Putin’s advisor’s memo wll say, “I suggest pawn to queen bishop four, on level three.”

        Obama’s memo said, “Valerie, does rock beat paper? I forget.”

        The White House can’t even fathom that Syria might strike us in retaliation, with the WH spokesman saying “It’s not in his interest to escalate. That would only invite greater risk for him.” So Syria can’t strike back because we don’t see how he’d gain from it? Have these people even read a newspaper article about the Middle East, ever?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        You’re assuming the Syrians are actually going to give up all their chemical weapons.

        No, I’m not. I’m positing that an international regime backed by Syria’s allies with full accountability to work to secure them would be a real gain and a clear win relative to bombings whose deterrent effects are at best speculative (though certainly far greater than there being essentially no strong response to this CW use).Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        This will go down just like it did with the Serbs, when the Russians got all nasty-like. Clinton gave the Serbs a beating and the Russians stood by and let him. Syria has precious little capacity for retaliation. Hizb’allah does have such a capacity. When Israel blew up all their shipments of Russian missiles, Hizb’allah did nothing then, either. They flew a drone at Israel and it was shot down.

        Syria will take its beatdown. The Iraqi papers, even the Shiite propaganda organs, are not standing up for Assad and they’re the ones to watch. Hizb’allah has enough problems in Lebanon just now. If the Shiites get stupid, they’ll get such a beatdown as they’ve never yet seen before and it would be entirely deserved, as simple payback for 1983. That’s never been avenged, the murder of all those Marines.

        Really, George, your Obama Derangement Syndrome gets in the way of your otherwise-excellent judgement. The US military watched as Al Qaeda came over the border from Syria, funded by the rump Iraqi Ba’athists. So did the Iraqi Sunnis, who bore the brunt of AQ’s cruelty. Iraq’s coming to terms with its new status in the region, rising considerably now that the Americans are gone and they seem to be making some progress. They’re the dog to watch in this fight.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        The White House can’t even fathom that Syria might strike us in retaliation

        In your view, how would Syria be able to strike at us?Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:


        Obama looks profoundly unlikely to win the votes at this point. Are you predicting he goes without approval after asking for it and not getting it (perhaps with Senate passage and no vote in the House), or are you predicting they’ll end up getting the votes.

        At this point, to me the only scenario in which the House passes it is if Pelosi can basically whip the whole caucus, and they pick off a few R’s to gain the majority. Which would mean a final vote to approve a use of military force resolution in the House would end up being within 15 votes or so of straight party line. Which would be… clarifying, to say the least.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well, let’s see. They have about 160 Scud missiles, some probably armed with chemical warheads. They’ve got perhaps a thousand multiple launch rocket systems. They’ve got about 80 Soviet Frog-7 tactical ballistic missiles, and over 600 liquid-fueled long range ballistic missiles with a 2,000 lb payload, a 400+ mile range, and a CEP of about 50 meters. And they have many hundreds of other big, medium range missiles from Iran. The Russians, Iranians, North Koreans, and Chinese kept Syria armed enough to present a big threat to Israel.

        Obviously we can take out Syria’s weapons in a long air campaign, although it took us forever to hunt down all of Saddam’s Scuds, and we’ve already evacuated some of our embassies in the area in case they do strike back.

        But of course war mongers never imagine that the enemy will actually shoot back with something.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        @george-turner In fairness, The Executive Branch (no need to absolve Sec. Kerry) was playing the more complex version of Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock.

        But to Michael’s point, if the gaffe opens the door to a Russian lead initiative that secures the Weapons and keeps Assad in Power? I for one would see it as an improvement; but would have to admit that the US was gamed.

        Whether or not Russia could (or wants) to carry out such and endeavor, I have no idea.

        Irony is not a voice one should ever use in negotiations.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Arming and fuelling a SCUD is not a trivial exercise. Though we didn’t get very many of them in Iraq, we’re substantially better at it now. We’ve had plenty of time to emplace our own counter-missile batteries and the drones are hugely improved. The Syrians have already been firing SCUDs at the rebels, some with horrific effectiveness, but they’ve shown themselves unable to hide the transport of medium range missiles from the Israelis and therefore from the USA.

        If the Syrians respond, it will not be against the Americans. It will be against their own people. Everyone is loading up, getting ready for what the Americans are about to do.

        I’m not saying it’s the smart move, I’ve said we should find a replacement for Bashar Assad before we make a move, just declare his mandate forfeit. But nobody’s listening to me. What do I know. I can read Arabic, that’s it. I presume lots of people at CIA and DIA can read Arabic. Obama has upped the ante. Not what I would have done. One thing’s for sure, he’s saying this for a larger audience than Assad the Ophthalmologist. He’s saying it for the benefit of the US Congress, who will either be With Him or Against Him.

        Back when Nixon was trying to get North Vietnam to the peace table in Paris, the Vietnamese were arguing about the dimensions of the table, dragging out everything. So Nixon started bombing the living hell out of Hanoi. The North Vietnamese called up Kissinger, screaming bloody murder. Kissinger said “I can’t control Nixon. He’s gone crazy. I think he intends to annihilate you.” Within weeks, a treaty was signed.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Of course the Russians and Chinese hold the reins. They always did. Add Iran to that list, too. Syria is their client state. Israel is ours and we can’t control them any more than the Russians can control Syria.

      Obama is going to give Bashar Assad a whack. Everyone knows it. It’s been ongoing since early 2011, everyone’s sick of it. My guess is, Obama and Putin have agreed to disagree, up and down the military and political food chain, Russian and American counterparts are working out how to keep this from turning into a bigger mess — and nobody’s under any illusions any more, not even the US Congress, much given to delusions and pontification.

      Obama tried the Narrowly Tailored Resolution already. Congress won’t act. So now he’s issuing an ultimatum: turn over the chemical weapons. If none are forthcoming, he will whack a Bad Dog’s snout for that failure to deliver. Russia would be well-advised to whisper some words in Assad’s ear: turn over the chemical weapons. You don’t need them to win this fight.

      Obama’s not really a narcissist. Enough people are obsessed with his every move to warrant the opposite conclusion. No matter what he does, the usual crowd of haters will reflexively bark at some perceived failure to do what they want. I don’t think he cares much about what we think and I’m pretty sure Obama is a better poker player than either of us.

      There is no peaceful solution to this mess, not at this point, not at this point, not after firing sarin gas on his own people. He will either cough up his chemical weapons or he will get whacked. If it was me in the Oval Office, I’d say Assad’s mandate to govern was forfeit and he’d have to go to the Hague for war crimes. Obama and Kerry have sharpened that pencil a bit, saying he has to surrender his chemical weapons. It’s really the same message, just phrased slightly differently.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      Obama tried the Narrowly Tailored Resolution already. Congress won’t act. So now he’s issuing an ultimatum: turn over the chemical weapons.

      Unfortunately, journalists already have the record of what transpired, and already printed it. Obama didn’t issue an ultimatum, Kerry babbled a threat and then dismissed it almost in the same sentence. As the Daily Mail put it:

      Kerry had announced in London that the Obama administration would not launch a military strike against Syria if dictator Bashar al-Assad were to ‘turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week.’

      ‘He isn’t about to do it,’ Kerry quickly predicted, ‘and it can’t be done, obviously.’

      The US State Department then dismissed Kerry’s remarks as “rhetorical.”

      A few hours later the Russians and Syrians said, “THANK YOU!!!!”

      Now the White House is in a box. The UK Guardian reports

      The White House said it would now work with the Russians to explore the deal proposed earlier on Monday by foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, after an apparent off-the-cuff remark by US secretary of state John Kerry. The administration stressed that these discussions would take place “in parallel” with continued efforts in Washington to persuade US lawmakers to authorise the use of military force against Syria.

      As I predicted, the White House is going forward with the war mongering option and trying to distance itself from an actual solution. That will fail, and fail spectacularly.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Oh please. Syria can’t even control its own troops at this point, their C3 efforts are now reduced to battalion level control at most. They can’t even manage a combined arms assault at this point, their military is riddled with maruq embedded defectors. CIA and DSGE are disbursing cash like crazy, everyone’s paying Bad Men for Good Information. The Syrian regime is so closely watched, every intelligence agency in the world is counting the corn kernels in Bashar Assad’s turds. His idiot brother fired that gas, that’s what everyone’s saying — and that’s because his C3 is all broken down and so is his authority. Bashar can’t trust anyone at this stage.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        The Germans ruled out his brother based on their signals intercepts. At this point, nobody seems to know who launched the weapons.

        That’s kind of disturbing, because back around the time of the Iraq War the NSA developed the technology to exactly mimic anyone’s voice and verbal tics based on audio samples, shocking our top generals during a demonstration in which they thought they were talking on the phone with Colin Powell and George Bush. They were talking to a computer interface. The technology was aimed as a way to sow massive chaos in an enemy’s high level command network.

        So the US is among the people who could’ve ordered the attack. I don’t think we did because if we had, we have left evidence clearly implicating Assad, and we’d have had a coherent response prepared instead of just outrage and emotional reactions to Youtube videos.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Yes, yes. I have heard the same, Bashar rejecting the request for firing chemical weapons. The Israelis and French are saying the same. Doesn’t mean Maher al-Assad didn’t fire them, though.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Which just shows the absurdity of the position Obama has put us in. If Maher launched the weapons, probably in hopes that we’d kill Basher for him, and we do that, not only will we have played along with the person who launched chemical weapons at children, we’ll have put him in power.

        Whether you watch The Borgias, Game of Thrones, or any other such show, that is called “getting played.” The way to avoid getting played is not to let emotional reactions dictate your course of action. Don’t drum up a will to strike before you even figure out who you should strike at. Don’t get in bed with allies whose goals aren’t remotely the same as your own, and don’t destroy your own credibility and influence by issuing so many nonsensical blood curdling threats riddled with caveats and evasions that even old friends who’d normally be inclined in support find themselves backing away in disgust.

        This latest White House blunder means Congressmen, who have to explain their votes, will either choose to have Syria destroy all its chemical weapon stockpiles, assuring that no more such attacks can happen no matter who is responsible for the last one, or they can choose to support the Administration’s plan to fire missiles with the intention of not hitting anything, in fact specifically intending for the Syria government to retain its stockpiles of chemical weapons under Basher Assad’s direct control, while risking the possibility of a wider regional war.

        It’s very doubtful Congress will approve the strikes, and in voting “No” the President will be Constitutionally forbidden from striking (though he might choose to do it anyway). That will remove any immediate threat hanging over Syria, and also strip the US of any serious negotiating position regarding Syria’s abandonment of its chemical weapons, vis a vis Russia, China, and the UN, since Obama has already disowned his own “red line”.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Look, George. I don’t play 11 dimensional chess. I don’t ask Why any more. My time is constantly occupied by the other Ws, Who, What, When and Where. The historians can answer Why. And the armchair generals. And the Chattering Classes. And other categories of useless persons.

        Let’s look at this without the lenses of objectivity here. It all comes down to people, nu? This war has been cluttering up Obama’s morning security briefing for years now. Now comes this gas attack. He’s royally pissed. He’s got every right to be. Every minute of his administration has been hamstrung by wars. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, he lost an excellent ambassador, one of the very best — every time some poor bastard gets a ride to Dover AFB in a box, he knows about it. Signs condolence cards. Goes out there to Dover and meets the bodies. He’s just sick of war, a good deal sicker than we are, I sense. If he’s not behaving rationally, he’s behaving predictably. He got this way about Libya, too.

        On the domestic front, he’s faced with a Congress full of jimsonweed-crazed Tea Partiers who’ve called him every nasty name in the book from Marxist to Kenyan to Martian. These people are crazy. Unhinged. No reasoning with them. Their own leadership can’t reason with them. No compromises with them.

        And the budget crisis is just about to rear its ugly rear. Again.

        I wish Obama would have done something smarter, back when the Arab Spring began, back when he could have said “Look, the Arab Spring means the old arrangements are dead and so are all these failed states. Book up every suite in some hotel in Geneva Switzerland, bring in everyone with a grievance, get them all talking, let them work out what’s next because none of these countries are worth preserving intact. They’re all rotten to the core, just get everyone talking, every day, in a neutral setting, we just foot the bill, turn the Arab Spring into something other than a shooting war.

        It could have happened. I might not indulge in Whys but sometimes I reward myself with two fingers of the Good Stuff from the bottle of Woulda Coulda Shoulda. And thus endeth the rant.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Well, the rock, scissors, paper, lizard, Spock player-in-chief just faked himself out again

        President Obama on Monday took a sharp turn away from his “red line” threat to Syria on the eve of taking his case to the American people, saying in an interview with Fox News that he’s open to negotiations on an alternative plan that could avert a military strike.

        The president was responding to a proposal, formally put forward by the Russians, to have the Assad regime turn over its chemical weapons to international control.

        “We will pursue this diplomatic track,” Obama told Fox News. “I fervently hope that this can be resolved in a non-military way.”

        The president indicated he still wants Congress to debate a resolution to authorize a strike against Syria. “I think it is important for us not to let the pedal off the metal when it comes to making sure they understand we mean what we say,” Obama said.

        The only real reason Democrats were voting in favor of authorizing strikes was to support Obama’s position, which is now against strikes, which he still wants them to vote in favor of….

        Does Spock choke lizard or does lizard eat Spock? Obama seems confused. Meanwhile McCain, who supports strikes probably more than anyone, has been calling Kerry’s remarks “unbelievably unhelpful.”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        I don’t buy any Becauses at this stage, George. You’re doing well, laying out your case for calling these irrational responses. I can accept them at this stage. I can’t sign up for this partisan malarkey, I just can’t. The Democratic partisan part of my email corral is chock full of No War screeds. The Democrats don’t want this war.

        As for the Lizard part, all that comes to mind is the HHG bit about Lizards.

        “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

        “But that’s terrible,” said Arthur.

        “Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.” Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        *cough* Lizard poisons Spock…

        I have no idea how politically feasible this would be, but my current prediction on the Syria Crisis: John Kerry is constructively promoted to a position where he does not speak for the President, and is not required to brief congress on matters touching on National Security. Is Postmaster General still a sinecure in the hands of the President?Report