War Averted?

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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140 Responses

  1. George Turner says:

    Well, the article mostly illustrates why the world is laughing at the US Administration. Follow along.

    U.S. President Barack Obama, seeking to boost support for military action against Syria, said on Monday that Russia’s offer to work with Damascus to put its chemical weapons under international control could be a breakthrough – if it is serious.

    You can’t boost support for military action when you’re waving around a non-military option and hailing it as a breakthrough. That’s like hopping off a plane waving a peace of paper and hailing “Peace in our time!” and simultaneously and excitedly expecting Parliament to pass a war vote. It’s incoherent.

    “This could potentially be a significant breakthrough,” Obama told NBC News in an interview. “But we have to be skeptical because this is not how we’ve seen them operate over the last couple of years.”

    Seen who operate? The Syrians or the Russians? I don’t recall the Syrians ever offering to give up their entire stockpile of chemical weapons. I don’t recall the Russians ever offering to mediate such a move. If Obama meant “playing me for a fool”, well yeah, but everyone abroad does that all the time.

    Obama gave six television interviews on Monday, and was due to visit the Capitol on Tuesday to make his case to lawmakers from both parties before making a televised address from the White House in the evening.

    The president told CNN that any diplomatic effort to resolve the conflict in Syria must be serious.

    “And we don’t want just a stalling or delaying tactic to put off the pressure that we have … right now,” he said.

    We don’t actually have any pressure right now. Harry Reid is talking about not even voting because the administration would lose it – in the Senate. The House probably isn’t even going to bother because the outcome is a foregone conclusion. On the military front, Kerry, our Secretary of State, can’t overemphasis how weak and meaningless any US attack would be. McCain has called his remarks “unbelievably unhelpful.”

    As for delaying tactics, Obama was threatening a strike in the immediate aftermath of the chemical attack, and then went golfing, saying our response could be put off for weeks or months without hurting our goals. The head of the Joint Chiefs had to dance around in front of Congress on all the problems the delay caused to our target list, as the Syrians moved all the leaked targets somewhere else.Report

    • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

      It would seem strange and irrational for the world to laugh at us for moving in the direction of doing precisely what they want us to do, which is not get involved militarily. Perhaps you are listening to a different world, though.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        Hahaha. F***king Obama, doing the right thing. What doofus! Haha!

        He (Obama) also said that this offer of a resolution wouldn’t have materialized without the credible threat of military action. He might be right.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:

        I think George largely exists in a different universe than the rest of us mere mortals.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

        “Hahaha. F***king Obama, doing the right thing. What doofus! Haha!”

        Here’s the endgame in what is now the best case scenario. (note: I’m the fishin’ isolationist here, so I don’t care, but this is for all you liberal interventionists)

        1) No US strike
        2) Russia’s, and specifically Putin’s, stature is greatly enhanced.
        3) Syria makes a show of turning over its chemical weapons, but between the complexity, the bureaucracy, and a no kidding civil war, it’s able to fart around on compliance indefinitely
        4) Assad holds onto power and keeps killing people conventionally.
        5) The rebels keep on getting more radical elements, as the ‘good’ rebel composition continues to be diminished by attrition.

        So yeah, the President scores a big win on this one. I guess.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Chris says:

        Kolohe, you forgot to point out that Syria will probably get to decide whether we have a square or round negotiating table. In fact, Syria will probably have to conduct an archeological dig to produce the proper negotiating table, however many years that might take. They have some incredible Greek and Roman era ruins, and I’m sure there’s a great table somewhere in all that rubble.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        I think you just talked me into supporting military strikes Kolohe…

        More seriously, was there ever a best case scenario? The starting point was already pretty heinous.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Chris says:

        Still, exactly it’s Kobayashi Maru all around. Which is why the Administration’s policy over the last few weeks of speaking loudly and carrying a small stick – unbelievably small – has been singularly ill-advised. Likely cause is that this administration no longer has the A team working for it.Report

    • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

      So is your complaint we have a democracy, that the president isn’t ignoring congress, that congress isn’t ignoring the president, that he consulted congress, that you can’t complain about him not consulting congress, that congress isn’t bomb thirsty enough, that we should have already bombed, that we shouldn’t bomb, that you can’t complain about how poorly the bombing worked, that complaining about diplomacy isn’t as fun as other complaints or those kids won’t get off your lawn?Report

    • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      They are laughing at us because we’ve gone from competence to bouncing into things in the kitchen with a Doritos bag stuck on our head.Report

      • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

        Yeah people just love pointless killing as long as it is “competent” . Oh thats right your a fan of Putin and China.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Except that Putin and China aren’t advocating any pointless killing, Obama is, making it explicit that the killing will, in fact, be pointless, lest having a point scare anyone.Report

      • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

        So you are all for the killing then, just as long as it looks strong and confident.Report

      • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

        Dude, you know what the world thought of the invasion of Iraq and our subsequent handling of it? I can’t imagine they’re not thrilled at this change in behavior. For once, the U.S. didn’t flex its muscles and show that it’s still the playground bully when it looked like it was going to do so. I can’t remember a time in my lifetime when it looked even possible for cooler heads to prevail when the U.S. had moved towards military action. Most of the world probably can’t either. If we continue to move away from armed intervention, this will be a day for the world to celebrate.

        But most of the world is not suffering from the myopia of American partisan politics, so that’s probably difficult for you to grasp.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Chris, Bush spent 18 MONTHS building a case to topple Saddam, and the coalition he built was bigger than the one HW Bush had in the Gulf War, which was the first time in history that the UN gave sanction for regime change and invasion.

        In contrast, Obama was threatening to conduct missile strikes within DAYS of an attack, even though we still can’t say who actually ordered that attack. Almost immediately, much of the world lined up against us, saying we didn’t have any evidence. Russia and China blocked any strikes in the UN. Great Britain voted not to support us. France decided to vote after our Congress did. Putin said we were a monkey with a hand grenade.

        Surprising his military advisors, Putin punted to Congress, then demanded that they approve strikes. Then he said that he’d strike whether they approved it or not. Then he said that it didn’t matter if it delayed the strikes for a few weeks or a few months, we would hit Syria so hard that they couldn’t recover. Then Kerry came out and claimed that our strikes wouldn’t actually hit anything important (except of course for all the people who would get killed when Tomahawks fall like rain on built up urban areas, where the Syrians keep their weapons).

        Finally, taking an advantage of a critical and boneheaded mistake by Kerry, the Russians and Syrians have seized an opportunity to avert war, and done it so well that Obama, though still demanding war, is left floundering.

        It has been horrifying in the extreme to watch the US lash out like an idiotic bully, without doing the necessary ground work to build a solid case against an enemy regime, and not even felling the need to build a case. He didn’t feel the need to take the time and energy to build international support for action, nor even feel the need to win over the American public (who are staunchly opposed), or the US Congress. All he’s done is issue threats that the missiles would fly within days.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Bush spent 18 MONTHS building a case to topple Saddam,

        It takes a long time to convince people to not believe their own lying eyes.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        And yet what do our lying eyes (our intercepts) tell us?

        That there is no direct evidence linking Assad to the chemical attack. That’s attested by all members of the US government and foreign governments.

        That we can’t absolutely rule out that the rebels (who we are supporting) conducted the attack. We don’t think they did simply based on the fact that we don’t think they had the requisite rocket launchers, not that we don’t think they had the chemical weapons.

        We’re not sure we’re attack the victim, and not the perpetrator.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        And yet what do our lying eyes (our intercepts) tell us?

        That there is no direct evidence linking Assad to the chemical attackHussein to 9/11 or Al Queda.

        Fix’t that for ya to stay on point.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

        We still have a moral obligation to kill Assad and Assad’s children, though.

        With great power comes great responsibility.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Jaybird, I think you’re trivializing things in a way that doesn’t further your position. If you think intervention is morally wrong, then you need to make that case. You haven’t yet, on all the threads I’ve been on with you. You’re argument has been purely political. That’s a fine argument, of course. I mean, I can’t defeat it, but that’s obvious.

        There appear to be more dimensions to this than the purely political. For example, Blaise’s argument from this morning that I noticed you didn’t respond to. And there is room for a person to think that chemical weapons attacks on civilians require some type of response without that person advocating for bombing Assad and his grandchildren into dust.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:


        That there is no direct evidence linking Assad to the chemical attack Hussein to 9/11 or Al Queda.

        And by gosh, I’m happy they didn’t try to make that point. The liberal press did, but the administration didn’t.

        The closest was Dick Cheney who cited European intelligence (since mostly discredited, which he couldn’t have known) citing a possible connection between one of the 9/11 perpetrators and Saddam. Much more direct was the link between Saddam’s regime and Barrack Obama’s house in Chicago, which Saddam apparently paid for in part via a third party. But almost all ultra-rich Middle East despots are nice like that.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Sorry George, I must be mistaken, having lived thru that period where the Al Queda link was crucial for the UAMF to extend as far as Iraq.

        But hey, have it your way. There was no 9/11 or AQ connection. The war was then clearly illegal and and act of aggression.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

        Well, the main arguments that I’ve seen in these threads is that George doesn’t really have the right to oppose what Obama wants to do.

        The moral arguments for intervention all make assumptions that I’ve not seen anyone argue for explicitly… for example, if we just fire off some missiles, we are all in agreement that that’s a bullshit response, morally. The moral response is to maybe get the ICC involved. Arrest the guy, throw him in the dock. Perhaps “Regime Change”. Perhaps even “Boots On The Ground” to make sure that the transition of the reigns of power between dictatorship and fledgling democracy happens with less violence than happened in Iraq.

        But, oddly enough, the stuff we’d need to do if we were going to treat this as a moral obligation on our part isn’t on the table.

        What is on the table?

        (holds up pinky finger)

        *THAT* is on the table.

        So we’re back to talking about how stupid George is. LOL! He supported Iraq!Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        If you think that’s what’s being discussed with George, then I can only assume you’re viewing the “pro bombing” (???) argument in the same light. {{{Is anyone on this board arguing for a bombing campaign? I haven’t seen anyone say anything like that. Perhaps you view a lack of rubust opposition as advocacy?}} The issue people are taking up with George isn’t the arguments he makes against the Syrian intervention. It’s that those arguments apply mutatis mutandis (!) to the Iraq intervention that he supported.Report

      • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

        My argument in this thread, in case it’s not clear, is that George is absurd. I’m not really saying anything more than that.

        My problem with this is not the particular positions that George is taking, but the fact that it is illustrative of the all-too-partisan nature of our political debates surrounding very serious issues like bombing people. He’s opposed to the bombing of Syria if Obama’s going to do it, but if Obama isn’t going to do it, he’s opposed to his not doing it. It’s a game to him, clearly.

        Also, I’m very glad we’re likely not going to be bombing Syria.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Um, Stillwater, I’m sorry to break this to you, but the Al Qaeda/Iraq connection mostly existed in your head. You won’t find links to it except for those from the anti-war crowd. The only Iraq/Terrorist link the Bush Administration produced was the link between Iraq and all sorts of other terrorists such as Abu Nidal (who as I recall died a mysterious death from a bullet in the head), Abu Abbas, and a host of others who’d found refuge in Iraq, plus a bunch of meetings between Al Qaeda and representatives of Iraq who couldn’t reach much agreement on mutual cooperation. It was all laid out in the bipartisan report on the 9/11 attacks.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        George, I agree with you that there was no AQ/Iraq connection. Cheney sure pushed it hard tho, yeah?Report

      • Kolohe in reply to George Turner says:

        “Perhaps you view a lack of rubust opposition as advocacy?”

        Well, then, why aren’t people that are in opposition just ignore Mr. Turner and make their own arguments on why the President’s call for military action has been wrong – and calling out such transparent BS like

        Obama also added that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had talked about the plan now on the table both during the recent G-20 meeting in Russia and during another meeting last year in Mexico.

        In other words, the proposal is a true diplomatic breakthrough long in the making.


        (you know who else had a secret plan to end a war?)

        What I’ve seen here in the last two Syria threads before this one is either silence or responses to Mr. Turner – and some people actually praising President Obama for his handling of this issue.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        In fact, the first reported presence of AQ in Iraq was after the occupation was in full swing and the administration tried to spin it as proof of an AQ/Iraq link prior to the invasion.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Kolohe, I thought I had. See, for example, this, or this.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to George Turner says:

        So to be clear, Kolohe, to you it is transparently clear that Obama is stone cold lying that those discussions with Putin happened.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to George Turner says:

        I have made those arguments Kolohe calls for as well – or, at least, I have made my arguments why kinetic military action would be wrong. It significantly less clear that Obama’s call for kinetic military action has been wrong or unproductive.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to George Turner says:

        …Though according to Jack Balkin, I had the relevant part of the UN Charter wrongly identified in the (to me) important follow-up comment I made to add in an important problem with (carrying out) the proposed strikes: it would be as illegal as anything can be under international law without sudden turnaround in policy by Russia and China.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to George Turner says:

        @michael-drew there is no fishin way that the “plan on the table” – turning over Syria’s chemical weapons to the UN – has been previously discussed by Putin and Obama. The fact that the State Dept walked Kerry’s comments back, (at first) means there was no plan, not even a notional one, up for discussion.

        Ok, there is one other option. Putin and Obama *had* this discussion as stated. And Obama told no one else in his administration, much less the public, keeping the deal to himself – in order to do what, exactly? Hope that something magical happened? Like his Secretary of State running off at the mouth?

        To be fair “In other words, the proposal is a true diplomatic breakthrough long in the making.” are NPR’s words, not the Administration. Which means one can still count on the Prius set to slurp up the Administration’s spin, no matter how mendacious.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to George Turner says:

        I was just trying to clarify your view.

        The initial State walkback – and indeed Kerry’s own – certainly does suggest that it wasn’t coordinated policy. But it doesn’t seem that much more ‘what-the-fish’ to for the whole Kerry-Foggy Bottom fiasco to have gone down when Obama and Putin happened to have talked a bit about what it might take for Obama to back off, as it does for it to have happened when they didn’t. I’d say it’s maybe 60-40 more likely that Obama’s completely fabricating having had those discussions with Putin, but I don’t see any utterly transparent obviousness about it. It seems like there’s in fact try little transparency here; we don’t have much visibility into a good deal of what’s going on.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Heh. Getting Syria’s chemical weapons on the table have been Fishin’ Discussed for many years now. Ever hear of an EAR embargo? Syria is comprehensively embargoed, especially for fluorine, a precursor to sarin gas.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

        The issue people are taking up with George isn’t the arguments he makes against the Syrian intervention. It’s that those arguments apply mutatis mutandis (!) to the Iraq intervention that he supported.

        While it could certainly be argued that George has information now that he didn’t then, let’s stipulate that George is thick and hasn’t absorbed any of that info.

        My questions become “have the arguments against the Iraq war lost any of their sting? Do they apply, mutants, to Syria?”

        Where in the hell have the anti-war protesters gone? Oh, they’re over there, making fun of the Republicans and spending more time explaining how they opposed war back before it was cool than opposing war.

        Meanwhile, the Republican hipsters are explaining how they liked bombing brown people back before it was cool.

        So I’m just seeing a bunch of hipsters making fun of each other for being a bunch of pretentious douches which, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely *ADORE*… but I’m not seeing why non-intervention isn’t the closest thing to a principled position *THAT IS ACTUALLY ON THE TABLE* given the realities of the pissing contests going on at the highest levels of government between Syria, Russia, and the US.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        I did praise Obama’s handling of this situation. He is keeping his enemies’ sphincters tight, both within and beyond our borders, some within the domain of regular commenters aboard this blog. Obama’s pick of John Kerry for SecState was inspired. Finally, a SecState who can speak a second language with some degree of fluency and think on his feet.

        Is it beyond reason to say such things? Where was this good news about getting the gas munitions out of Syria in the communiques from G20? How odd, that such a clever notion didn’t make it into the press — until the American Secretary of State brought it up, and doubtless the objections everyone else had raised.

        Obama Derangement Syndrome. We had Kerry Derangement Syndrome from the same fucking idiots back in the days of Swift Boat. Nobody can say anything decent about Obama, lest he be dubbed a Fanboi — but every imprudent, stupid slander against him must be treated as Holy Writ.Report

      • North in reply to George Turner says:

        When, precisely, has foreign policy been particularly competent this millennium? I’ll admit I was mildly supportive of Obama’s slow halting unwinding of his predecessors (toweringly disastrously historically criminally) incompetent foreign policy errors but never more than mildly. I wish Obama had been less adventurous in general (though I’m still haltingly in favor of his Libyan gambit) but I do admit to the political considerations he has to deal with as well.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to George Turner says:

        @blaisep no, getting Syria’s chemical weapons turned over to an international body was never on the table.

        the EAR is a general counter-proliferation framework, not one specifically aimed at Syria. The section of that which deals with Syria (in the section that also deals with Cuba and the DPRK) derives it’s authority from the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003. (as do the Treasury sanctions)

        The primary focus is on Syria’s malfeasance in Lebanon (and Iraq), not its ongoing WMD programs (plural). The only thing is says is that Syria’s WMDs are a problem. The authority to waive the sanctions is based on Syria cutting Hezbollah off and gaining rapprochement with Israel – not dismantling Syria’s WMD program.

        So, no, EAR and OFAC are not a longstanding administration play to get Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to an international body. That’s would be the mother of all retcons.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Are you saying Syria isn’t subject to EAR sanctions for gas munitions precursors such as fluorine? Is that your line, Kolohe? Stop throwing foo-foo dust around. Syria’s been a problem child for the international community for a very long time now.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to George Turner says:

        @blaisep So you think Kerry’s statement at the press conference w/ the UK Foreign Secretary was completely deliberate and an outgrowth of previous discussions the Administration had with Russia at the G-20 summit? Really?Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        I dunno. We might attribute it to a particularly baroque Tourette’s seizure, Kolohe.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to George Turner says:

        Ok Blaise, I’m done* You refuse to actually understand anyone’s else’s argument, and, as usual, accuse other people of obfuscating when you yourself are shifting the terms of what is being discussed and bringing up stuff that has nothing to do with the price of tomatoes in Mongolia.

        *again. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, won’t get fooled again.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Heh, There is a fishin way that the “plan on the table” – turning over Syria’s chemical weapons to anyone – had been previously discussed by Putin and Obama. Why would Kerry have said it was doubly impossible, otherwise? Putin and Obama have discussed nothing but Syria — and Snowden — for some while now.

        Where’s your proof it wasn’t discussed? You have no more for it than against it. It’s not even a plan yet, just some idea everyone finds clever and face-saving for all concerned, even for Bashar Assad, whom the Germans are saying has been refusing to use chemical weapons, even when his own commanders ask for it.

        Perhaps you think this just came a-spoutin’ out of Kerry’s loquacious head. Anything, anything but admit Kerry came up with a good idea. Syria’s chemical munitions have earned it a full EAR comprehensive sanction. Guess who else is on the comprehensive EAR sanction list, maybe you can Google that up as fast as it took you to dig up that resolution. I understand the gist of your argument as well as you can write it, which isn’t all that well, might I add, that I could misunderstand it that badly, if I did, which I didn’t.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Foreign policy isn’t the sort of endeavour where competence has much sway. It’s rather like bartending. Half babysitting, half psychiatry. Every day’s newspapers furnish fresh hell and the best statesmen can do little more than react to it all.

        Take Reagan in Reykjavik. One of the weirdest, most quixotic men to ever be president. For all that fiery rhetoric about Mr. Gorbachev Tear Down This Wall, he managed to convince the same Mr. Gorbachev to stop the arms race and start reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons.

        Competent? That’s not competence. The Competent Guys all thought it was impossible. But Reagan jumped in with both feet and the world’s a better place for it. Maybe we need less Competence and more Audacity, the kind which doesn’t put much stock in Competence,Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to George Turner says:

        BP, K, neither of you have actual evidence. BP makes a good argument that it’s hard to believe Obama and Putin didn’t discuss it. K makes a good point that Kerry seems not to have thought about it before. Neither of those is solid proof of anything.

        Here’s more proof-less speculation. Obama and Putin discussed it, sure, but the discussion came to absolutely nothing, else the administration wouldn’t have been so caught offguard by Putin’s response. So Kerry’s mention was still ad lib, unintentional, and not intended to have any actual effect. You’re both right.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Where in the hell have the anti-war protesters gone?

        Those guys? Who the hell are those guys?

        Lots of people who vote D Afghanistan. Lots of those people also opposed Iraq. In fact, I don’t recall there being too much opposition to the proposed strikes/boots on the ground in Afg., tho people did disagree about the efficacy of bombing urban centers on the premise that it would drive AQ from their distant caves. Kerry expressed most clear thinking people’s views about terrorism in Afg at the time: it’s a problem best treated as a criminal problem resolved by cops and courts and not the military. Oh well.

        Be that as it may, there was a rationale for intervention in Afg that people accepted as valid: that that’s where AQ was holed up with the (ostensible) aid and comfort of the Afghan government. Opposition to Iraq – for those who opposed it – was much clearer: there was no rational rationale for bombing, invading, overthrowing and occupying that country consistent with our own laws, international laws, or folk morality. If you’re winder where those people are, you’re asking the wrong question, I think. Lots and lots of those folks weren’t Anti-War fulls stop, since many of them probably supported attacks on Afg.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

        To clarify: when I talk about anti-war protesters, I’m talking about people who protested war.

        To point out that there weren’t *THAT* many people protesting Afghanistan is likely true but, I assure you, they got coverage at the time. I’d also think that pointing out that there were anti-war protesters who showed up to anti-war protests to the war that quickly followed Afghanistan (and, I’m sure you recall, were painted with the “these are the same people who protested Afghanistan!” brush) would result in you remembering other protests.

        Where are the people wearing Hamas scarves while they make giant puppets dance? Where are the people holding up signs talking about Mumia? Where are the people handing out Marxist literature to families who showed up to talk about Iraq?

        Where, for God’s sake, is ANSWER?

        Good lord, Occupy had better turnout.Report

      • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

        I protested Afghanistan. There were a lot of us. Not enough, not nearly enough, but more than I think a lot of people remember or, due to a lack of coverage, even realized at the time.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

        The Afghanistan protests got a lot of coverage in the neo-con corners, at the time.

        “Look! Here’s a picture of a guy in blackface burning the Queen in effigy in order to protest Afghanistan!”

        That sort of thing.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Jaybird, I don’t think most people actually believe we’re gonna launch missiles at Syria, for starters. For seconders, if Obama continues to make the case for military strikes despite the overwhelming opposition to doing so, those folks will get out in the streets. For thirders, you’ve defined the “anti-war” crowd as people who will protest even the mere mention of using military force to achieve political ends. That’s a pretty small group of people, it seems to me. Like, tiny. It seems to me that most people – and I have nothing to back this up except my own experiences – are opposed to a particular military intervention for myriad reasons: the arguments justifying military force, the legality of doing so, both domestically as well as internationally, the ostensible goals being pursued, the time/monetary/skin commitments being made, the likelihood of success, partisanship and ideological sympathies, etc.

        On the other hand, I’m not sure why you’re criticizing people for a lack of opposition to an attack that apparently isn’t going to happen. Well, actually, of course I understand your criticism of those people. They’re unprincipled.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to George Turner says:

        “Where, for God’s sake, is ANSWER?”

        ANSWER’s been in front of the White House every day for the past 2-3 weeks, with occasionally forays to Capitol Hill.

        The better question is, why aren’t protests receiving any substantial coverage?Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Here’s the deal. Strategy is about achieving objectives. In an ideal world, Bashar Assad would declare a truce, invite in UN peacekeepers, make arrangements to dispose of his chemical weapons. Burma kinda got around to that position. Nobody’s quite sure why, but Burma is now on the road out of Pariah Town.

        Nothing much has changed, politically. Burma is still fighting insurgents, the Kachin. But they’re working on reforms.

        What would it take for Syria to do what Burma has done? Same sort of problem domain, years of military autocracy. Stagnant, statist economy. Brutal repression of ethnic minorities, drugs, Burma makes heroin. Tons of problems.

        Think big, I say. Other regimes have turned around and gotten right. I don’t want to see another Iraq or Lebanon come out this situation in Syria. Or Libya, which has turned into a nightmare. If Bashar Assad gets rid of his chemical weapons, he would earn substantial cred with the outside world. He’s gotten a Margin Call, his bet has not paid off. He needs a way out of this predicament. He might be amenable to reason.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        The press now reports that the last time Obama and Putin discussed Syrian chemical weapons was a year ago. Keep in mind that Kerry only made his off-the-cuff statement in response to a reporter’s question asking what Syria could possibly do to avoid US strikes, and Kerry answered with a hypothetical that he immediately dismissed. A White House spokesmen told CNN that Kerry had clearly gone off script and that his statement was a major goof. This is what the media is clearly reporting, so there really isn’t any way to spin it otherwise.

        I haven’t seen any media outlet claiming the statement was any kind of strategy or plan on our part. The closest I’ve seen to the idea of getting Syria to abandon its stockpiles is a suggestion made days ago to Charles Crawford, former UK ambassador to Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Poland, where someone suggested, off-the-cuff, that if we threatened to give the rebels parity in chemical weapons, Assad would load his entire stockpile onto Russian ships the very next day, for disposal by Putin or the US.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Where is ANSWER? Why would Obama send them out to protest his own policies? That wouldn’t make much sense.

        As an aside, the percentage of people at anti-war rallies who self-identified as Democrats dropped from 50% to 20% after Obama took office. The anti-war people are still there, but most of the Democrats left, including just about everyone in the press. So no coverage.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Tourette’s Syndrome, I’m tellin yez. Secretary of State Kerry just had a big ol’ seizure and said something smart. Gosh, maybe he’ll do it again!Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        I hope so. Kerry probably hates me for some very lengthy analyses of his Vietnam War claims (said by many to be the most in-depth on the web), so I’d guess he ranks me just below Jerome Corsi and John O’Neill on his enemies list. But hey, that’s part of why Ace and so many others put me on their blogrolls.

        I like to think I cost Kerry several thousand votes, and perhaps several hundred in Florida, but then Kerry deserves most of the credit for keeping George W in office, with his random, boneheaded statements on the campaign trail, his meandering performances, his off-the-cuff remarks. Liberals should remember why they concluded, in the aftermath, that Kerry was a bumbling airhead and a horrible candidate.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to George Turner says:

        Kerry should have thrown the CIA guy’s hat over the White House fence.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to George Turner says:

      So once you’ve decided that military action is an option, you must immediately disregard any non-military alternatives, even if the situation changes in a way that allows you to achieve your goals without going to war?

      That strikes me as ridiculous.

      I don’t want other countries to support the US on this, because going to war in Syria is a terrible idea, but if one DID want to rally broad support for a war, demonstrating that there is no potential for achieving objectives through non-military means is a valid and necessary precursor to such action. Which means that, before you go to war, you make sure you’ve tried all methods short of war.

      The appeasement comparison makes even less sense than your overall point, because what Obama’s saying is that if Assad does what the US wants – gives up chemical weapons – then the US won’t attack. If that’s the outcome, then the party “giving in” is not the United States.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

        So once you’ve decided that military action is an option

        “Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.”

        That not putting forth military action as an option, that’s declaring it a fait accompli. But remember, President Obama’s credibility is not on the line.Report

      • Chris in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Kolohe, do you favor military intervention?

        Because honestly, it seems to me that a potential reversal of course once our government appears to be headed inevitably towards violent military action, or war, is an incredibly positive development, but people who I suspect (or in George’s case, know) were actually against armed intervention just the other day are treating it as a bad move precisely because it involves reversing direction against what the administration had made seem like a necessary and therefore inevitable violent military act. In other words, you were against the intervention, but if we’re going to say we should do it, we’d better do it? That’s a nonsensical position to me, and smacks of partisan political calculus.

        People who take this position appear no more serious to me than the people, and I’m sure there are plenty of them, who supported intervention but, had our president had an R after his name, would surely have opposed it. Worse, by potentially exacting a political cost in cases like this, they make it less likely that future actors will feel they can reverse course in similar situations. The broken political game becomes a broken decision-making process.

        If you were opposed to us attacking Syria, it seems to me that this should be a cause for celebration, not criticism. If you were just opposed to Obama doing whatever Obama was going to do, however, I suppose it makes no difference what Obama is doing. Do you contradict yourself? Very well then, you then, you contradict yourself. You contain partisanship.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

        @Chris I am against ‘kinetic military action’ in Syria. But the operative emotion to the most recent developments is relief, not celebration. And regret that it got this far (and that the Russian international position has been elevated). And worry that because this latest development is complete accident, we can again stumble out of this resolution to the crisis.

        My narrow point in this subthread was that the President never proposed an ‘option’ of military strikes – he proposed military strikes, period.Report

      • Chris in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Politically, that seems inevitable. He’s not going to be able to sell a strike unless he sells it as necessary. I can’t imagine anyone doing it differently. I’m just glad that for once we headed down a path, saying that the path was inevitable, and then changed course. That truly is, to me, a cause for celebration.Report

    • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      But the problem is that the Administration never once offered any non military options, nor laid out any list of requirements for the Syrian regime to meet to avoid military options, even unmeetable or unworkable ones just to pretend they’re presenting non-military options. Kerry offered one by accident, immediately dismissing it, and they jumped at it.

      If the Administration is using “smart” diplomacy, why didn’t they march out a raft of options on Syria? Why did they reach the simplistic conclusion that since maybe Assad, or someone on his side, used chemical weapons, that we had to blow him off the map with a Tomahawk missile strike (before ruling out actually hitting anything with said missiles, lest we make things worse).

      The Syrian regime, like Saddam’s, is probably wildly uncomfortable with having nerve gas because they don’t really trust anyone, even their own generals. Even the US keeps its stockpile locked down in depots, surrounded by guards. If you think anyone in your country would like you dead, and like your family dead, the last thing you want is for any nerve gas to be running around.

      Even the Syrian regimes supportive population can’t be comfortable with possessing nerve gas because if the tides of war shift at any point, and a depot is overrun, their enemies will have their nerve gas, and their enemies will use it. But they won’t use it all at once. Some of them will wait, perhaps decades, for the opportunity to strike with it, perhaps at a pool party or child’s graduation.

      Convincing an embattled regime to get rid of any nerve gas within two-hundred miles is actually pretty easy, because the regime’s leaders are generally going to be the ones most afraid of it. But we didn’t even try to start a dialog on the subject.Report

      • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

        Convincing an embattled regime to get rid of any nerve gas within two-hundred miles is actually pretty easy, because the regime’s leaders are generally going to be the ones most afraid of it. But we didn’t even try to start a dialog on the subject.

        George has inside sources.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        My inside sources are the world’s press, which just noted that Syria’s leaders jumped at the chance to get rid of any nerve gas within 200 miles of them. I’ve cleverly penetrated the Internets to get access to major newspapers who report stuff like that. Perhaps when you figure out a way around “parental controls”, you too can access sites like The New York Times and the UK Telegraph.Report

      • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

        George, the inside sources would be required to demonstrate the last sentence was true. I’m sure you knew that’s what I meant, though.

        Anyway, I’m sure you realize at this point how unserious you are about this issue. I’m sorry for encouraging it.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to George Turner says:

        The sad thing, Chris, is I’m not sure he does know. Read his claim about me defending Hitler on the Senate resolution post. It’s too bizarre to even be offensive, but he sounds like he actually means it. Is he just silly, or is he actually at a less…aware…level.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

      Who, exactly, is laughing at the USA, George? Nobody is laughing at the USA. You wish someone was laughing at President Obama. Repeat that phrase George. Roll it around in your mouth like so many marbles — “President Obama” — , and will make a Demosthenes of you, yet.

      Your schtick is wearing thin. Do you think President Obama is thumping the desk in the Oval Office, with the Chief of Staff furiously hitting all the speed dial buttons, summoning up all the Minions for some Nefarious Deeds of War? We’ve never had a President do any such thing. We did have a Vice President panic and break out in a rash of assholes quite recently, goobering up the intelligence gathering process — Cheney, but never a President.

      Scoffing at Neville Chamberlain and his famous “peace in our time” remark is the signature of the bogus historian. Don’t do it again, not around me. Makes me disrespect your otherwise solid thinking. The hallmark of the bad historian is that he views the past through the eyes of the present and the present through the eyes of the past. Neither perspective works. We must live in our own times.

      Neville Chamberlain was arming Britain to the hilt, knowing war was coming. He couldn’t do anything about Czechoslovakia at Munich but he could damned well do something about Britain and he did. All those old Battle of Britain documentaries, all those lovely Spitfires and Hurricanes zooming around in PBS war porn, you may thank Chamberlain for them, not Churchill. Chamberlain cleared away the wreck that was Depression-Era Britain, tore down old factories and built new.

      Obama has earned a reputation as a sneaky puncher. Now, when he makes threats, people take him seriously. Obama took the drone war to places it had never gone. He got Osama bin Laden. He got Awlaki. He got Qaddafi. He’s completely ruthless, in his own inimical way, a basketball player with a sharp elbow and a pretty good fadeaway jump shot. He’s not an excellent b-ball player. He’s just a passable street ball guy. That’s how he thinks.

      So lay off the Hatin’ Obama schtick. It’s ridiculous. You don’t have to like the guy. Just quit with the 11 dimensional chess stuff. You don’t have an answer to any of these problems.Report

  2. zic says:

    So last week, I suggested on TNC’s blog that to avoid war and rebalance constitutional powers in the government, Obama had to ask for war, and force the Nobamas into action;

    My theory, in this case, would play out to Obama saying “Attack Syria,” and the Not-Obama’s saying, “NO!” which creates space to actually send the plan to Congress, where it belongs in the first place; and that would be, I suspect, Obama’s real goal; dismantling the executive powers grabbed in recent years and returning to some constitutional balance.

    And linky goodness or it didn’t happen:


    Of course people thought I was just being fanciful.

    And here we are, today, with Congress resuming it’s powers to check the executive. George all a twitter with a dorito bag on his head, and things at home beginning a return to something that looks constitutional.Report

    • George Turner in reply to zic says:

      In olden times Presidents could uphold the Constitution by asking Congress for war resolutions which did have a chance of passing, and they made it look like it took place in the normal course of events.

      He’s done it many times, but this is another repeat of Obama’s “Stop me before I kill again!” stance, which he took on drone strikes and several other executive actions.Report

      • zic in reply to George Turner says:

        Yes, george. He’s an enraged murderer. It’s so good that he could count on people like you to restrain his out-of-control angry responses, before he did something stupid like invade the wrong country.

        I’m just delighted that Congress finally found the will to put him in his place.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        The problem there Zic is his previous statements about his drone campaigns, where he asserted that Congress and his Administration should pass legislation and further refine the guidelines to restrict his rampant attacks. It was quite bizarre, which is where the whole “Stop me before I kill again” thing took off online. It was widely mocked, then largely forgotten because of all the other scandals.

        It may be that he thinks it is actually a valid political position, because he never seriously got called on it before (just mocked by the usual people who mock him).Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Don’t go there, George. Bombing people is serious business, especially with drones. He’s asking for limits on his powers — and you find this troubling? In case it’s escaped your attention, the ROEs for a drone strike require a Go from POTUS. A drone strike is like a goddamn execution, which for all practical purposes it is, for some hapless moving dot down there in the dark as the FLIR camera stares at him. A whole lot of folderol and buy-in and last-minute reprieves. Goes back to Clinton’s era, where he called off a strike on OBL because there were too many kids within the potential blast radius.

        Who makes the rules on this stuff? There aren’t any rules, yet. He’s damned if he does, for drone strikes do not make friends down there on the ground. And he’s damned if he doesn’t, for people like you are going to say he’s wishy-washy and won’t Fight Turrism or whatever the hell it is you want today, which sure as hell isn’t what you wanted yesterday and won’t want tomorrow — whatever President Obama wants, that’s what you don’t want. Even if it’s Obama proposing limits on his own power, asking for this new technology to start abiding by some rules.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Exactly. “Please – someone stop me before I kill again! I can’t control myself!”

        That sounds familiar. *looks for it*

        Yes, it’s a quote from Brit Hume, who said back in May “It is almost like he’s saying, with regard to the drone policy, ‘We need something to stop me before I kill again.’ I can’t control myself!

        This keeps coming up because it’s so similar to Obama’s stance regarding all the NSA spying he keeps approving. Just the other day it was revealed that he had reversed Bush’s limits on some of their activities. As he does this, and defends the eavesdropping, he meets every expression of outrage about it with the suggestions that maybe someone should rein it in, perhaps putting limits on his powers. By gosh, he would stop it if only someone would make him stop it.

        Many pundits even noted that he seemed to be seeking limits on the power of his likely successor, as if he was really trying to hamstring Hillary if she ever takes office.

        Others wonder whether he picked up an odd fighting behavior in the Muslim world where two angry and aggrieved parties make a threat display by flinging themselves into the arms of the surrounding crowd, both hollering “Hold me back!!! Hold me back!!! I’m going to tear him limb from limb!”Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        That paragon of neutrality, Brit Hume? Do you ever think for yourself, or are you some Chatty Cathy doll, pull your string and you’ll quote Ace or Fox or Dana Milbank? You’ve never killed anyone, George, and it shows.

        The courts have ruled on metadata, back in 1979. Don’t like Obama’s NSA policies? I don’t like them, either, but the courts have given him carte blanche to do these things and so has the FISA court. Make up your mind, George, if you have an opinion of your own, a conclusion I am coming to increasingly doubt with every comment you make.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Well, when you get into NSA data handling and the White House, it brings up the sad case that the Syrian War intelligence that was presented to Congress was about as honest as the Benghazi talking points, and the same procedures seem to have been used to create it.

        Interpress story

        Contrary to the general impression in Congress and the news media, the Syria chemical warfare intelligence summary released by the Barack Obama administration Aug. 30 did not represent an intelligence community assessment, an IPS analysis and interviews with former intelligence officials reveals.

        The evidence indicates that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper culled intelligence analyses from various agencies and by the White House itself, but that the White House itself had the final say in the contents of the document.

        Leading members of Congress to believe that the document was an intelligence community assessment and thus represents a credible picture of the intelligence on the alleged chemical attack of Aug. 21 has been a central element in the Obama administration’s case for war in Syria.

        That part of the strategy, at least, has been successful. Despite strong opposition in Congress to the proposed military strike in Syria, no one in either chamber has yet challenged the administration’s characterisation of the intelligence. But the administration is vulnerable to the charge that it has put out an intelligence document that does not fully and accurately reflect the views of intelligence analysts.

        Former intelligence officials told IPS that that the paper does not represent a genuine intelligence community assessment but rather one reflecting a predominantly Obama administration influence.

        It finished by saying:

        Opponents of the proposed U.S. strike against Syria could argue that the Obama administration’s presentation of the intelligence supporting war is far more politicised than the flawed 2002 Iraq WMD estimate that the George W. Bush administration cited as part of the justification for the invasion of Iraq.

        And that story doesn’t come from Fox News, it comes from Gareth Porter, who is a staunch anti-war activist who also writes for Huffpo, Al Jazeera, The Nation, and TruthOut.

        Maybe Chris Mathews is still getting a tingle up his leg, but many in the press are finally giving up on that lovin’ feeling. A rush to war can do that.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Sigh. The stories I could tell you about MILINT and CIA. Anyone who is cited as Former Intelligence Officials is a bullshit artiste. I could pass myself off as a Former Intelligence Official, not that I would. That sort of hubris is too grandiose, even for me. I was a nobody in the process. People far above me in the food chain processed the sitreps I wrote. It was like being a frog in a well, with about two arc-seconds of view overhead. Sometimes a seagull would fly overhead and shit on me. That’s it.

        When you leave the service and they pull your clearances, you leave “clean”. They actually test those revocations, it’s part of the discharge process. I’ve had subsequent military and intelligence clearances — as a two-bit software contractor with zero view into the production intel pipelines. My J5s made sure I didn’t. I made sure I didn’t, even by accident. And when I was done with each such gig, they took back my CAC card.

        Former Intelligence Officers are all liars. Every one of them. MILINT will say one thing, CIA will say another and not one of these FIO bastards has been read into any of this.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    If Obama can somehow talk his way out of this war that Bush maneuvered him into, he will deserve that Peace Prize.Report

  4. RTod says:

    You know what strikes me about this comments section?

    You could replace “Syria” with any single other issue involving Obama since I’ve started here, and the whole damn thing would read exactly the same.Report

    • Scott Fields in reply to RTod says:

      Tod –

      I’ve noticed the same thing and not just here, but over all the media.

      I’m convinced that pundits and casual observers alike really have no idea what to make of Obama’s brand of principled pragmatism. All the talk of fecklessness or 11-dimensional chess, depending on the ideology of the commentator, overlooks what appears to me as a very consistent pattern with Obama – he just doesn’t give a damn how he gets there, just that he does.Report

  5. George Turner says:

    Checking how the US press is covering the welcome Russian initiative this morning, they’re not even trying to cover for the administration. The headline in my local paper was praising Putin for coming to the rescue, while the Washington Post, normally staunch Obama defenders, made it very clear that there was no way we were responsible for the current breakthrough, and indeed, paint the administration as not even understanding what happened.

    Dana Milbank, in the WaPo opinion section, was brutal regarding the Administration sending out Susan Rice, who lied about Benghazi one year ago Wednesday, to deliver CIA talking points to Congress.

    Now there is another crisis. Obama needs congressional support for a military strike on Syria, because a “no” vote could cripple his presidency and damage American credibility. So what do the big brains in the White House do? They put Susan Rice in front of TV cameras to read CIA talking points.

    Yep, that’ll seal the deal.

    He followed that up with

    As Obama staffed the White House for his second term, there was criticism that he was isolating himself by promoting loyal aides who lacked the independent standing to tell him when he was making a mistake. Now, regarding Syria, we see the consequences.

    USA Today is run a lead about plummeting support for military strikes, along with plunging approval ratings for the President. Even Diane Feinstein jumped on board with Putin’s offer, and Harry Reid said he’d delay the Senate vote as Senators continue to jump ship. So now France will try to get a measure through the UN to follow through on the Russian proposal, while Obama is still banging his sippy cup, demanding a war vote, and saying “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.” It’s hard to imagine a more inappropriate turn of phrase, because it means he had the gas pedal to the floor in a headlong “rush to war” – or driving the country over a cliff. Take your pick.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

      So how would you handle this, General Turner/Turgidson? Any war we can avoid fighting is a good war in my book. Dana Milbank has been a consistent McCain fanboi for many years, he’s a useless git. Called Hillary Clinton a mad bitch. This is your idea of “They”? Why not just drag in more of your Ace-isms and stink up the joint further, eh?Report

    • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      While the world is trying to head off military strikes, Susan Rice is out there still trying to get us to hurl missiles based on emotional reactions – ironically to Internet videos, saying “Every adult American. Every member. Of Congress. Should watch those videos. For themselves. See that suffering. Look at the eyes. Of those men and women. Those babies. And dare to turn away. And forsake them.

      *tears up and pouts sadly*

      She also added “We cannot allow terrorists bent on destruction or a nuclear North Korea or an aspiring nuclear Iran to believe for one minute that we are shying away from our determination to back up our long-standing warnings.”

      In short, we must declare war to honor the cherished memory of the Archduke and avenge his assassination, so people will know we’re serious!

      What intrigues me is whether the entire Administration read their history books (assuming they ever did that) thinking that bad decisions were what other people made, and therefore anything they think of can’t be a bad decision, because only other people make those kind of screw ups, relying on emotional appeals and mindlessly beating war drums because they’ve decided to beat war drums, and they wouldn’t be beating those if there were other, much better options.

      The plan they had was bad, wouldn’t achieve any of our goals, and indeed was being dismissed by our Secretary of State as an “unbelievably small effort.” They leaked the target list to the Syrians weeks ago, rendering any attacks moot and probably resulting in the conversion of all the targets into daycare centers. They failed to build support, kept talking up war, and indeed, what led to the Russian initiative is a hole in an off-the-cuff threat by Kerry, one that the State Department (which he heads), dismissed as “rhetorical” so that nobody would possibly take advantage of the mistake. The enemy did, grabbing it with both hands, thankfully.

      Now if someone can possibly convince the war mongers like Obama, Kerry, McCain, and Lindsay Graham that the new proposal is vastly better than what they were pushing, the world might end up much better off, and Syria might even give up its chemical weapons.

      Keep in mind that the previous “plan” was to allow Syria to keep ALL its chemical weapons stockpiles – intact. We were just going to target some air defenses, headquarters, and delivery systems that Syria doesn’t even need in a short-range civil war.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Wise up, George. I mean it. The more you say, the dumber you sound. Wilfred Owen:

        Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
        Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
        But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
        And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
        Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
        As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
        In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
        He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
        If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
        Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
        And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
        His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
        If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
        Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
        Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
        Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
        My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
        To children ardent for some desperate glory,
        The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
        Pro patria mori.

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        So how does Wilfred Owen’s poem (I love WW-I poetry) argue that we should let Syria keep all their chemical weapons, and keep them under Bashar Assad’s control, as is the Obama/Kerry plan, as opposed to following the Putin plan of just getting rid of all their chemical weapons or putting their stockpile under UN control?

        Rice went out insisting that we lash out at somebody by firing missiles into dense urban environments. Skynews reports that the rebels have been giving us information on targets they want us to hit for them in our attack, to clear a path towards a rebel victory. As it says:

        The FSA says 13 of its brigades will join as one in the aftermath of “substantial” US attacks and will co-operate with jihadi groups in a push on Damascus and to the west towards the Alawite strongholds in Latakia on the Mediterranean seaboard.

        We really were about to hire ourselves out as Al Qaeda’s air wing, and Kerry was even bragging that the various emirs, royals, and potentates would pay us.

        That isn’t upholding an international norm, that’s prostituting ourselves out to foreign powers bent on exploiting a bitter civil war, and having us become one of the active participants in it. And if our strikes were intended to bring about a fairly rapid rebel victory while leaving all those chemical weapons intact, it means the 1,200 rebel groups, including Al Qaeda and Al Nusra, would be free to loot those weapons. How is that making us safer? How is that making anyone in the region safer?

        Why would anyone still be pushing for such a plan?Report

      • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

        “An ecstasy of fumbling” is one of the most perfect phrases I’ve ever read. That is a spectacularly horrific, and painfully beautiful poem. It’s so evocative of the horror of war that the last lines are almost unnecessary.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Kerry came up with the idea, not Putin. Putin thinks it’s a great idea. Saves face for everyone. See, Putin is not an idiot. Neither is John Kerry.

        George, I think I must stop responding to every dumb noise you make around here if this is the tenor you feel you must take. Maybe it’s just that you’ve never met up with a place like League, you’ve obviously developed bad habits elsewhere. Here, you must think for yourself. Blind pigs do find acorns from time to time and we must praise the few good things our enemies do, for they are no less convinced by facts than we are, whatever they may say. Rise to the occasion, transcend the partisan cheap shots, think for yourself and you will find a warm welcome here.

        Obama is not an idiot, nor is John Kerry, whose off-the-cuff remark has saved the day. It’s not one I would have thought of, myself: just turn over the chemical weapons to someone else. Russia and the USA have a long history of disarmament. The Nunn-Lugar initiative has done more to eliminate the threat of nuclear war than anything in human history. Cooperative Threat Reduction it was called.

        I call upon the USA and the world to be done with chemical weapons, thrust them all into the furnaces, they’re nothing but disasters waiting to happen. Russia has pledged to eliminate its own stockpiles of chemical munitions, partially under the aegis of Nunn-Lugar. The money we’ve spend on Nunn-Lugar is the best use of American taxpayer dollars, ever. Chemical weapons have no place on the battlefield, no matter how terrible battle may become. Our standing in the world would only improve were the USA to pledge to incinerate its own stockpiles of chemical weapons. Considering how abysmally low that standing has become, any improvement would be welcome.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Blaise, even the State Department dismissed Kerry’s statement as “rhetorical”. Even John Kerry dismissed his suggestion in his very next sentence, saying that the Syrian government could not disarm. Maybe the fact that Kerry didn’t believe his own statement, combined with your contention that Kerry is smart, should indicate that Kerry was smart not to believe his own off-the-cuff statement.

        He only heard that the Syrians were in fact going to disarm when the Russians called and told him – while he was flying home on an airplane.

        In response, support for Obama’s war effort has collapsed in Congress, and Reid says he probably won’t even hold a vote, or will delay the vote for a very long time (meaning never).

        Meanwhile the UK Daily Mail ran this:

        We will pursue this diplomatic track,’ Obama said. ‘I fervently hope that this can be resolved in a non-military way.’ He acknowledged, however, that he hasn’t decided whether to attack Syria anyway if Congress rejects his proposal for a military use-of-force authorization.

        He’s still gotta rattle those sabers. The world is watching in stark amazement.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Yeah, yeah, George. Of course it was rhetorical. All those State Department and WH myrmidons were caught off-guard by someone firing a few neurons of his own. Guess acting like a statesman and not a parrot is a bit confusing and even scary these days for some people. Does it scare you, George? You’ve become a bit of a parrot yourself and I’m getting tired of it.

        First you said it was Putin who came up with this. It wasn’t true. It was Kerry. Putin likes the idea. So does anyone with a clue about the nature of chemical munitions. It’s not like we’re going to extract those artillery shells under fire, or drop a JDAM on them. What’s your problem, George, that a few parrot bureaucrats are saying this was Rhetorical and not the usual overcooked porridge prose we get from State Department? Who’s in charge here? Who’s doing the thinking? That would be John Kerry, folks, and thank God he is.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to George Turner says:

        To echo and expand on Blaise P.

        Kerry’s words may very well have been off-the-cuff, or a verbal gaffe as some in the media have called it, and certainly he never expected it to be taken seriously (his own following phrase, “but he isn’t about to do it and it can’t be done,” is evidence of that). But the idea is out there now, and has received an at least facially positive response from both Syria and its crucial ally Russia.

        Kerry’s disclaimer had two parts: Assad is not going to give up chemical weapons and the task can’t actually be done. But is the first part true? Syria has signaled interest in surrendering their chemical weapons to Russia. Whether that’s a true signal or just a smokescreen we cannot say yet with real certainty, and of course it’s quite reasonable to be skeptical about Syria’s sincerity. But consider that Assad definitely does not want a U.S. attack. The question becomes, how much is avoiding that attack worth to him? Also, at this point further use of chemical weapons poses a threat to him–if he continues to use them, eventually the U.S. will attack, quite possibly with British support (their refusal at this time says nothing about their future choices if the use of chemical weapons continues). Probably they’ll also get some pressure from Russia, which surely wants to get this whole business over with and doesn’t really enjoy having to defend Syria’s actions. And giving the weapons up voluntarily, to an ally, is a big face saver, as compared to giving them up to a hostile power or to the UN.

        So maybe, possibly, Assad does have sufficient reason–in his mind–to give up the weapons.

        Can it be done? At a minimum it will take some time to inventory and verify it all, if they have a stock of any real size and that stock is in dispersed storage. More importantly, on a point Blaise P. raised recently, does Assad actually have effective control over the chemical weapons stock? He argues probably not, and I’m inclined to agree. It’s been obvious since the initial protests that he was not running the whole show. And it’s not just Assad fighting for his life. The officer corps of Syria’s army is very corrupt and has been profiting heavily from their positions in the regime. Loss of power threatens all they have, including their lives. Are they willing to go along with Assad if they think he’s taking a path that threatens them?

        So, maybe. There’s reason for both hope and doubt.

        But assume for the sake of argument that it can be done. We have the following outcomes.

        1. Syria is bluffing, trying to buy time and hope Obama cools down. OK, Obama loses (the U.S. loses, however you want to phrase it), but Assad can’t use the weapons again without increasing his odds of Obama launching an attack. It’s not a terrible outcome. (Folks with Obama Derangement Syndrome will think Obama failed terribly and made America look weak; but they’re the same ones who were denouncing him for trying to take strong action, so we can ignore them.)

        2. Syria is serious, but fails to comply due to Assad’s lack of control over his own military. Now his position is doubly threatened–from without and from within. Syria still has the chemical weapons, and they are perhaps more likely to be used since individual commanders may feel freer to make their own decisions. Obama/America still doesn’t win. Is it a terrible outcome, though? No, if it weakens the regime through infighting (which could cause more military officers to switch sides); Yes if it increases the use of chemical weapons.

        3. Syria is serious and complies, even if reluctantly and with delays and attempts to hide some of their stock. Obama wins. His threat, which had begun to sound increasingly hollow, would have actually pressured Assad into giving up his chemical weapons. If we want to eliminate chemical weapons from the world, and we’re faced with a choice between 1) punishing a dictator while leaving the weapons in his hands, and 2) not punishing him while getting the weapons out of his hands, which action gets us closer to our goal?

        That’s the structure of the current situation as I see it. That, I think, is what we should be discussing, not whether Obama’s an idiot or a genius.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to George Turner says:

        There’s no need to get all frothy about Obama a’la George.

        It does seem to me that an ecstasy of fumbling, though, does apply to the Executive’s handling of the affair.

        It is clear from the context that Sec. Kerry put a card on the table that he thought was the equivalent of lassoing the moon; in short, a rhetorical justification for attacks as a last resort. The fact that Russia is playing off that card is interesting. If it offers a way to disarm Assad and de-escalate then it was a serendipitous mistake. Good. But let us not overlook the mistake nor the serendipity. Kerry appears unfit for the job.

        As to the way forward and Obama’s “true intentions” – I don’t know. I’m open to the idea that he and his team are capitalizing on a potential solution they thought so far fetched as not even to consider. On the other hand, there might be disappointment that what appeared to be the simple exercise of Executive authority has degenerated into a diplomatic quagmire with internal political implications. I don’t know.

        Let us advocate for a constructive deescalation without praising Obama and Kerry for a serpent-like wisdom they did not exhibit nor a crushing stupidity they do not possess.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Kerry’s many enemies are loth to call it serpent-like wisdom but it remains the smartest thing anyone’s yet said about this Syrian Gas mess.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to George Turner says:

        It does seem to me that an ecstasy of fumbling, though, does apply to the Executive’s handling of the affair.

        I think “muddling through” is a more apt term. And despite what most political thriller authors (Tom Clancy, etc.) would have you believe, muddling through is the norm, while having a clear strategy that is well-designed for the situation is the exception. There’s even a (small) set of academic literature on it, beginning with economist Charles Lindblom’s “The Science of ‘Muddling Through,'” back in 1959.

        Kerry’s many enemies are loth to call it serpent-like wisdom but it remains the smartest thing anyone’s yet said about this Syrian Gas mess.

        It really is. But the fact that Kerry said it so off-the-cuff, apparently without having giving it real thought, does undermine the claim a bit, in my purely personal opinion. But well thought out or not, it’s the best thing that’s been said yet, by far.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        Sophocles long ago
        Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
        Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
        Of human misery; we
        Find also in the sound a thought,
        Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

        The Sea of Faith
        Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
        Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
        But now I only hear
        Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
        Retreating, to the breath
        Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
        And naked shingles of the world.

        Ah, love, let us be true
        To one another! for the world, which seems
        To lie before us like a land of dreams,
        So various, so beautiful, so new,
        Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
        Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
        And we are here as on a darkling plain
        Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
        Where ignorant armies clash by night.

      • Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

        Man, this is an awesome comment James.Report

    • KatherineMW in reply to George Turner says:

      I am entirely fine with this being a political embarrassment for Obama. He deserves to be embarrassed. Widespread anti-war sentiment, the US not going to war, AND Syria getting rid of their chemical weapons is an all-around best-case-scenario. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s what’s going to happen, but I will be very pleased if it does.

      This isn’t about partisanship, or shouldn’t be. This is about a war that didn’t need to happen, and that all too many people in both parties supported, (hopefully) not happening.Report

  6. North says:

    A few scattered thoughts.
    If this results in actually extracting the chemical weapons from Syria and putting them in Russian or international hands this’ll be a huge success for the admin though it’ll likely not be spun as one.
    This does allow some significant leverage against Russia to make this plan work. It’s a definite win for them if they can pull it off. Policy wise I see little to no problem with Russia getting some prestige if it prevents the US having go in militarily. This is –not- a zero sum game. Russia getting a feather in its cap is not a loss for the US nor for Obama.
    Obviously if this plan comes through the rebels loose out because the status quos will probably endure and currently things seem to be going the regimes’ way. Then again the situation in Syria is very dynamic. Who knows what’s happening on the ground?
    The Russians and especially the Iranians actually have some good incentives to try and make this work. Both wish to prop Assad up as their client state and for Iran specifically this chemical weapon talk is quite bad for them internally. Saddam used chemical weapons on the Iranians in their war and the Iranians remember it. Standing up for a man using chemical weapons now is not a position they’re happy about being in.

    This undermines Obama’s case to congress even further. Good I hope he loses that vote. I’m baffled about his tone on this entire thing. Astonishingly hawkish, did some Neocon get him into a closet and switch brains with him while the secret service was on bathroom break?
    If Obama loses the congressional vote or if a non-attack option pans out everyone will spin this as a big loss/embarrassment for Obama. In real political terms this will have absolutely no negative effect on the President or his party. Credibility is a screaming joke; one of those intangibles that Neocons and liberal interventionists screech about like domestic politicians yodel about Presidentiality or gravitas. The voters will have completely forgotten about the supposed “embarrassment” in less than a month other than perhaps a satisfied feeling that we didn’t embroil ourselves in another Middle East adventure. Not being in more wars will be helpful to Obama, especially with the upcoming budget fights.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

      Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

      If Obama and Putin manage to get those weapons out of Syria, and I hope they can, it won’t be a big old win for anyone. It will just be a catastrophe averted. Kenneth Waltz once said:

      Asking who won a given war, someone has said, is like asking who won the San Francisco earthquake. That in war there is no victory but only varying degrees of defeat is a proposition that has gained increasing acceptance in the twentieth century.Report

      • North in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Agreed completely. Still, if one must traverse a morass a certain satisfaction can be taken if one manages to do so with the minimum amount of entanglement and mudcoating realistically possible.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

        For me, it comes down to what our enemies truly want. The longer we consider our enemy’s situation, the more we come to understand his plight.

        Bashar Assad didn’t ask to become President of Syria. He was perfectly content to be an ophthalmologist in London. His brother Maher is a maniac and his father Hafiz didn’t trust him. Bashar had to be rushed through his Dictator Basic Training and he’s just not up to handling this mess. If anything, Russia’s influence varies between benign and positive: Russia’s fought Islamic insurgencies and understands this fight as well as the USA does, Chechnya, Afghanistan — they aren’t fools. Prideful, spiteful perhaps, not our friends, that’s for sure — but nobody’s our friend. Nobody’s America’s good buddy, we have allies of convenience.

        Putin is a bastard but he’s a Russian bastard. He’s got his own set of problems, too. The least-worst thing we could do in this situation is to work with him, much as we dislike him. He has his reasons for thinking we’re monkeys with hand grenades. We didn’t learn a thing from the USSR’s occupation of Afghanistan. Repeated all their mistakes. Our war in Iraq was monumentally stupid. The worst thing we’ve ever done as a nation, well, there is Vietnam, another war we got into without a clue. And all those tinhorn dictators we connived with, including Saddam Hussein.

        We need a larger vision, of a world where governments are of the people, by the people, for the people. Human beings may be outgrowing the Nation State as we understand it today. Congratulating ourselves on disaster averted is sometimes warranted. Means we’ve learned something from previous disasters. The Arab Spring was not the harbinger of democracy, any more than the overthrow of Saddam. We need statesmen who can see beyond the present conflicts to something larger, the ebb and flow of human societies. This is just a guy broken down ten miles from the nearest town congratulating himself on not being broken down in the middle of Death Valley.Report

      • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

        “Human beings may be outgrowing the Nation State as we understand it today. ”
        straight into a secret police state, which Hoover understood quite well.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Blaise, if Assad didn’t want to be president of Syria, why didn’t he just appoint an interim successor when the rebellion started getting serious, make some statement about being in favour of a transition to democracy, and go back to being an opthamologist in London? It certainly would have put him in a lot less danger.

        Why go to such lengths to hang onto power if you never wanted it?Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    ANSWER’s been in front of the White House every day for the past 2-3 weeks, with occasionally forays to Capitol Hill.

    I didn’t know that.

    *THAT* is really interesting.

    The better question is, why aren’t protests receiving any substantial coverage?

    It’s a local interest story?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

        And that is yet another example of anti-anti-war protesting.

        It’s not about “what should we do?” but “can you get a load of those people who don’t think we should do anything?”Report

      • Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Jaybird, it seems to me that comic is exactly what you do when you criticize liberals for making hypocritical arguments because it’s “their guy” in the WH. It’s exactly what you love to do. ANd I don’t mean that as a negative judgment. Exposing hypocrisy – and bad arguments, etc – is important.

        It seems to me, from what I can gather from comments you’ve made on this thread, that your opposition derives from viewing the main argument as advocacy for missile strikes. But it isn’t. Or certainly doesn’t have to be. I mean, I didn’t read it that way.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

        I assure you, if no one were mocking Iraq War Supporters for not supporting Syria, I wouldn’t find the notable absence of the anti-war folks half as interesting.

        But, as I’ve been digging, there *ARE* anti-war folks showing up. They’re protesting, holding signs, and singing songs to their congresscritters. It’s the *MEDIA* that isn’t showing up.

        When it comes to the mockery of Iraq War Supporters not supporting Syria, I’ll just ask this: do you really think that the default position of someone watching the last 10 years ought to be “well, we’ll get it right next time”?

        Hell, in any given argument over whether we should invade or fire missiles at another country, shouldn’t “well, what are our political opponents arguing” be a tertiary issue AT BEST???Report

      • Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Hell, in any given argument over whether we should invade or fire missiles at another country, shouldn’t “well, what are our political opponents arguing” be a tertiary issue AT BEST???

        And who among us is without sin?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Sure. Just as long as you and me are grouped in with the sinners on this one.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

      It’s also worth noting that Code Pink has been at nearly every Congressional committee hearing on the Syria issue, conducting (mostly) silent protests. So props for consistency there, too. And MoveOn has a fairly sizable ad campaign currently underway (focused on MSNBC* viewers) advocating against a military strike on Syria.

      *now MSNBC, *there* were some people that were contorting themselves last week on the Syria issue. This recent proposal to turn over Syrian chemical weapons to international control gave that network the biggest lifeline of anyone.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

        Just saw this video:


        War Protesters hecking Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.

        It looks like, golly, the anti-war types *ARE* showing up. Huh.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

        With the exception of the Iraq War protests, which saw an influx of people who were more anti-Bush, or at least specifically anti-Iraq war, than anti-war period, war protestors are some of the most consistent people I’ve known. If you protested Kosovo, then chances are you protested Afghanistan, and if you protested Afghanistan, you definitely protested Iraq, and if you protested Iraq, you probably protested Libya, and if you protested Libya, you are probably protesting potential military action in Syria now.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

        That’s actually good to know. Now we’re just stuck wondering why they’re invisible this time around.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

        I dunno. I’ve seen them here, but college campuses will have protests if someone looks at someone wrong.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

        Well, I’m not exactly counting those with the same weight as the actually organized ones.

        Our local college has recently instituted a “you need a permit” policy for protests but we still have ones against, oh, fracking, general “occupy” protests, and, of course, a protest protesting the closing of a local thrift shop.

        (It’s because the college policy on marijuana is to follow Federal Law rather than State Law, I just know it.)

        I was more thinking of the grownups who do this stuff in spite of the fact that they’re not 22 anymore. (And I’m delighted to be wrong in thinking that they’d disappeared like so many anti-war Hollywood celebrities.)Report

      • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

        Ah, that’s always been a fairly small number of people, but I’m sure they’re out there. I know I’m not the only one who became completely disheartened after the start of the Iraq War, so there may be fewer of them now than there were ten years ago, which is saying something, but some of them have more hope than I, and so are undoubtedly protesting somewhere.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Kolohe says:

        For what it’s worth, I’d be very surprised if the anti-war movement was remotely as visible and sizable now as it was in 2003, even if it were a Republican in the White House. While people are overwhelmingly opposed to doing anything militarily in Syria, often even for many of the same reasons the Iraq War was worth opposing, there’s a lot of differences that undermine the level of passion for that opposition here:

        1. This is all happening very quickly. That makes it very difficult to build the level of organization needed to attract people for massive protests outside of those who are longstanding core members of anti-war organizations.

        2. At this moment, the only thing that is officially on the table is limited airstrikes. Even if you think it will ultimately snowball into something more than that or think that there are plans to escalate it to the level of regime change, there is currently no sign of massive mobilization of the Army and Marines, nor any Reservist call-ups. Few people are thus being directly confronted with the possible consequences of this action, and as such there is little to personalize opposition to attacking Syria.

        3. The evidence that Syria not only possesses WMDs, but is actually in the process of using them is close to undeniable, even if it is arguable as to whether it is legally sufficient; by contrast, the evidence that Saddam possessed WMDs at all was far from legally sufficient, and heavily debatable (and in fact outright disputed), and absolutely no one was trying to suggest that the use of those weapons was imminent or ongoing. That makes the would-be casus belli here largely immune to the perception that it is a mere pretext for war.

        4. Along those lines, Syria lacks oil, so unless you believe that Obama is secretly a supporter of al Qaeda, there’s no reason to think that there is an ulterior – and wholly inexcusable – reason for the action.

        To be sure, there are certainly some for whom the fact that it’s a Democrat giving the orders plays a major role. But for most people, I think it’s entirely understandable and justifiable for opposition to this to be less vocal than it was in the run up to the Iraq War.

        On the flip side, it does seem like there are a fair number of right-wingers who have realized that the Iraq War was a bad idea, and those people should be welcomed into the anti-war fold.

        There are also, however, those who still think the Iraq War was a great idea, but who complain that this action is based on weak evidence, is overly expensive, lacks a clear objective, etc. Those people are hypocrites who deserve to be called as much.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

        Those people are hypocrites who deserve to be called as much.

        Perhaps, but being called as much by people who opposed Iraq (or come across as interchangeable with those who opposed Iraq) has less sting than you’d think it would.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Kolohe says:

        It’s not so much an issue of “sting” as it is an issue of credibility; the support of such persons is ultimately irrelevant to the success or failure of any opposition to this action, and to the extent it is relevant, it is relevant only insofar as it provides the powers that be a convenient excuse for ignoring the whole of opposition to the action. Simultaneously, lending credence to such persons as war opponents gives them a reserve of credibility they do not deserve and which such persons will be able to tap into the next time someone of their tribe is in power.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

        From what I can tell, public support seems to have been irrelevant in general.

        And if we want to get into whether someone can credibly say “jeez louise, look at Iraq!” versus whether they’re cynically saying “jeez louise, look at Iraq!”, it seems that we’re going down the path of “motivation of critics” rather than the path of “what in the hell should we do?”

        The fact that so many letters are being spilled over “motivation of critics” rather than “what in the hell should we do?” is indicative of the fundamental issue here: our options suck to the point where “do nothing” is one of the best ones (if not *THE* best one) and discussions where people want to point out whether I am a hypocrite for saying “we should do nothing” rather than whether we should do nothing strike me as attempts to obscure that poor state of affairs.Report

      • Mark Thompson in reply to Kolohe says:

        @jaybird You misunderstand me. If someone wants to say, in opposition, “Geez, Louise, look at Iraq,” then I agree their motivation is pretty much irrelevant – if they’re admitting Iraq was a mistake now and using the fact of that mistake as a basis for their opposition, then they are being either irrelevant or marginally helpful in the here and now, and either irrelevant or marginally helpful for the future. If, however, someone known to be a continuing supporter of the Iraq War wishes to be a vocal opponent of this particular action, then they are either irrelevant or marginally unhelpful in the here and now, and are setting themselves up to cause significant problems in the future.

        There is a huge difference between one who says “I was wrong for supporting the Iraq War and I have no intention of being wrong about Syria” and one who says “I have no regrets about supporting the Iraq War, but Obama’s proposed attack on Syria is an unprecedented abuse of power.”

        Similarly, there is a huge difference between “I took to the streets to oppose the Iraq War but I’m only tepidly opposed to this war,” and “I mocked – and in fact, still mock – those who took to the streets to oppose the Iraq War, but the proposed attack on Syria is an outrage.” Hell, as I pointed out the other day, I think it’s even possible to support the attack on Syria (I don’t, by the way) despite having vehemently opposed the Iraq War without being a complete hypocrite; I don’t think that works in reverse, though.

        That said, I find it rather encouraging that the opposition to the attack on Syria is so overwhelming on the whole even as the reasons for opposing it are significantly less compelling than the reasons for opposing the Iraq War. That suggests that there has been a noticeable shift in Americans’ attitude about the role of the country and the propriety of military force.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

        Hell, as I pointed out the other day, I think it’s even possible to support the attack on Syria (I don’t, by the way) despite having vehemently opposed the Iraq War without being a complete hypocrite

        Hypocrisy strikes me as being not terribly interesting under the best of circumstances.

        In this particular case, we’re talking about a policy that should, in theory, have measurable goals.

        If we are to intervene in Syria, what kind of intervention are we talking about?
        What would failure look like? What would success look like? What would failure so bad that we should say “well, better cash out and go home” look like?
        And, the kicker: Is our intervention likely to result in success?

        We should be able to have answers to these questions and they strike me as much, much, much more important questions to have answered than “what’s your opinion on the Iraq war?”Report

      • George Turner in reply to Kolohe says:

        Hypocrisy doesn’t apply if you’re weighing each battle plan on its merits.

        Bunker Hill? Saratoga? Yorktown, New Orleans, Antietam, Gettysburg, Custer’s last charge, the Marne, the Somme, Gallipoli, Guadalcanal, D-Day, Iwo Jima, Dien Bien Phu. The list of battles and battle plans is endless. If you support them all, or oppose them all, you’re probably not thinking, or you’re really, really opposed to war on moral grounds.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Kolohe says:

        I agree with almost all of what Mark says, but I disagree that it’s hypocritical to oppose strikes in Syria while having been for the Iraq overthrow. You just have to be for war and occupation for imperialistic regional strategic domination (even if doomed to undermine regional influence), or for ground-forces-led regime change to improve the humanitarian situation relating to how the state treats citizens, and against limited, targeted use of force to back international efforts at controlling unconventional weapons arsenals and their use. Or, at least your principles have to allow you to have those positions on those specific instances of those kinds of policies. A person can absolutely be consistently for one and against the other. Whether one should be is another question, but if one is this does not make one into a hypocrite.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    One thing I don’t get: Why the hell is France so particularly touchy about chemical weapons use? *France*?


  9. George Turner says:

    Well, the White House says that Obama is now with Hollande and Cameron in agreeing to work with the UN, the UN Secretary General, and the Russians and Chinese on Syrian chemical weapons, which seem to confirm Hillary’s statement, made within hours of the proposal, that the United States was seriously pursuing the initiative. Or maybe her new-found love of a peaceful solution was another brick in the wall, of the box, that the administration found itself in.

    Some wonder what draft Obama’s speech writers are going with for tonight, but all he has to say is “Oh, nevermind.” Last week the administration spokesmen were saying this was the world’s Munich moment. And they were right! Bring an umbrella and don’t reflect on what happened the last time a Russian communist and a national socialist made such a surprise diplomatic move.

    The liberal New Republic headlined their story on it “The Syria Solution: Obama got played by Putin and Assad

    So now Obama is for pursuing a peaceful, diplomatic solution. I’ll bet all the war mongers feel silly, and blowing in the wind. They might even get thrown under the bus.Report

    • North in reply to George Turner says:

      Here’s hoping Obama throws the lot of em there… a series of speed bumps on the road to war made out of neocons would be a significant boon to the infrastructure of DC.Report

    • zic in reply to George Turner says:

      George, can you imagine getting to this point any other way? If Obama had pushed for peace, he’d have been called all kinds of names that pertain to girl parts and I find offensive when used to insult men, because the very insult is to suggest weakness, as if women are weak. So he’d have been called weak.

      But by going all manly, all attack and war-mongering, the NoBama’s had to ‘put him in his place,’ and they got a good dollop of help from the Left’s peaceniks. And suddenly, here we are, with a peaceful solution on the table, a restoration of respect for norms of not using chemical weapons, a return to the notion that Congress has a say in matters of war, and is not the President’s floor mat.

      If Obama had said he’d wanted these outcomes, would the Republicans in Congress have cooperated? Of course not, they won’t cooperate with anything. But a bit of reverse psychology, the kind my kids sussed out by the time they were seven, achieved some amazing results.

      I’m quite sure when Obama asked for authority to attack in Syria he meant it; he wanted to end the barbarism if he could. But I’m equally certain that a better path to this outcome was in his mind as a potential; and asking for the opposite of what he wanted was a pretty safe bet. But he had to seem very sincere, didn’t he? You had to seriously think he loves dropping bombs on folk from drones and needs to be talked down from him murderous rampage.

      Where on Earth do you get that garbage? You really should take it out, it’s beginning to reek.Report

  10. NotMe says:

    Sure, Obama got to tuck tail and run without doing anything, Putin got to humiliate the US and save Assad and Iran got the message that we don’t have the stones to back up our “red lines.”Report