OTB: Trump Orders Syria Strikes. So Now What?


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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117 Responses

  1. Avatar InMD says:

    Joyner and everyone else knows exactly what happens now. Now we do the same stupid thing we always do every time our government intervenes in messy civil wars across the globe. We destabilize existing states and feed the chaos and fanaticism that sets the stage for the next intervention, heedless of the humanitarian cost and whether or not any of this is actually in the interest of the American tax payer.

    The gas attack (assuming it was a gas attack and it was carried out by Assad forces, both things which are far from clear) is just a pretext for what establishment hardliners have wanted from the beginning. The fact that the mainstream media immediately trumpeted this as an Assad atrocity and began beating the drum for war shows why, despite all their crying to the contrary of late, they don’t deserve the trust of the public.

    Edit to add, anyone who thinks its clear that the gas attack, again, assuming it was one, was committed by Assad should read this analysis of the sources of information that the government and mainstream media are relying on:


    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to InMD says:

      Prashad thinks we should be skeptical of sources, and even cautious that the UN can’t assess things objectively in a complex situation. Fair enough.

      that’s not what he says about Yemen though, where the UN reports need to be taken at face value and the main sources for all the bad stuff that happened in the Yemen raid came from AQAP affiliated stringers.

      eta – ISIS was even a decent enough source for the civilian causalities in Mosul to indicate that something needed to be investigated.

      It’s exactly because of people like Prashad that the US should do absolutely nothing about Syria or Iraq or ISIS or anywhere else. His global southerners can then either step up or shut up.Report

      • Avatar InMD in reply to Kolohe says:

        No disagreement from me. What I think is good is the overview of the sketchy sources policy makers and American journalists rely on when making hysterical claims and urging military action. It’s maddening to me that even after Iraq supposedly reliable media will spoonfeed the claims of activists and charlatans with stakes in the conflict to the public as objective and unbiased.Report

    • Avatar notme in reply to InMD says:

      Everyone seems to agree that it was gas and was done by the Syrians.Report

      • Avatar gregiank in reply to notme says:

        Which Syrians?Report

        • Avatar notme in reply to gregiank says:

          The ones most likely to have poison gas and a plane to drop it from. As well as an airbase to deploy those aircrft from. Does that narrow it down for you?Report

          • Avatar gregiank in reply to notme says:

            How sure can we be it was dropped by planes?

            Or to get more to the point. There are no good guys in the fight there. It is an ugly civil war. The best we can do is help potential victims get away from their killers not take petty revenge after the killing has happened.Report

            • Avatar notme in reply to gregiank says:

              You are so right. It couldn’t have been Assad b/c we all know that Obama got all his WMDs. In that case we should import every Syrian that wants to leave.Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to notme says:

                If we are willing to strike Assad for killing his people then helping them escape also seems like a reasonable option. But the “we’re too terrified to let you in our place but we’re willing to use mostly ineffectual missile strikes to stop the wrong kind of weapon use” seems weak.Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to gregiank says:

                Not really. They should be able to live at peace in their country, not ours.Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to notme says:

                Sadly that isn’t an option for them to live in peace in their country although it would be nice. But we can’t make Syria peaceful and ineffectual missile strikes won’t do squat to save any future victims. So whats the point then?Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to gregiank says:

                Can we really import every person from every war torn 3rd world nation? Nope, as much as the left might like to. I guess there is no point then. It’s all for not I’ll clutch my pearls and head toward the couch.Report

              • Avatar gregiank in reply to notme says:

                Nope we can’t import everyone. We agree on that. High fives all around. But if we care enough to blow things up then it’s a puzzlement that we don’t’ care enough to help those very same people find a safe place to live.

                If you are arguing that we put tens of thousands of troops into Syria to take down Assad and push aside his sponsor, Russia, then run the country until it’s safe and peaceful then that is a coherent argument. Not a good idea or possible but at least coherent.Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to gregiank says:

                No, I don’t think we should invade Syria. Maybe the Syrian refuges can to a Muslim country, one of those rich gulf states where they may speak a similar language and have a similar culture? I don’t see why the left’s answer is always import them here.

                Heck the best answer would be to tell the males that the UN will feed their family at a refugee camp if they will go back and fight.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to notme says:

                Can you name all the wartorn 3rd world nations? There actually aren’t that many of them. (Mexico’s quiet right now).

                I think we could handle… probably all of them.

                It’s the economic migrants we can’t handle. There’s a billion of them, for god’s sake! Quadrupling our population will NOT WORK.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I am curious operationally why the mil planners thought that one airbase required 59 TLAMs? Odyssey dawn’s kickoff used a bit over a hundred, and (looking it up), the Kosovo air war used a bit over 200, and OIF used a bit of 800.

    Were they worried about attrition via Syrian IADS? There are a lot of bunker looking things around the base (and I’m not sure what those U shaped things are).

    I’m also kind of wondering about the Navy’s public information stance for this strike. I’m all for saying the US Navy did it, but I don’t know if I would have been upfront off the bat about which individual vessels executed the strike. Though it’s not like you can hide a DDG operating in the Eastern Med.

    It sort of makes sense that if you’re worried about WMDs, you hit something once to destroy it, then hit it again to bury it and prevent dispersal. But I have no idea if that’s actually works.

    In any case, that’s a lot of Tomahawks.Report

    • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Kolohe says:

      There seem to be two different types of U-shaped formations: some are connected to the runways and taxiways, others are smaller and unconnected. Some of them seem to have vehicles parked in them, so I would presume that they’re for providing some level of protection to vehicles left in the open.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

      Hmm, the official US gov spokespeople are saying that the possible sites of chemical weapon storage were deliberately avoided (which does seem like a good idea). But that makes it even more curious as to why so many missiles were used.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Kolohe says:

      It does seem like overkill. It’s only one airbase and we weren’t taking out any key facilities.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to gregiank says:

        I’m also wondering if they fired 59 missiles because they didn’t have 60. If you take an average deployed (PDF link) Burke VLS loadout, you’ll get about 30 TLAMs on each ship. The guys that focused on anti-air and ASW will have a dozen or less, while the guys focused on strike will have as many as 50. But you also usually have other assets that can pick up the TLAM slack (i.e. cruisers and SSGNs), so I think the normal practice is to underload the DDG’s wrt TLAMS in favor of Standard missiles and ASROCs. (but then again, each theater might have its own habits)Report

        • Avatar gregiank in reply to Kolohe says:

          That makes sense though I’d wonder if they carried all that many ASROC’s in that area. How many subs are they worried about there? Seems like anti-air and strike missions are their primary purpose in the med. I wouldn’t think they would want to offer up the location of any subs by having them fire off the strike.

          One thought is that they spent so many missiles in this strike since they aren’t planning any follow up anytime soon so they could afford to empty the tubes.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to gregiank says:

            You’re probably right about the ASROCs, my knowledge of both the platform and the theater is all second hand. (I was always a Pac person, only hit the greater Mideast at the very end when I was totally in the rear with the gear)Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Kolohe says:

      I am curious operationally why the mil planners thought that one airbase required 59 TLAMs?

      What makes you think it’s necessary that they did? Maybe they recommended five.

      Trump has small hands.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Patrick says:

        EUCOM/CENTCOM almost certainly have the capacity for a larger strike still if anyone asked for it. There should be at any given time an SSGN (converted Ohio class) within a week’s days sail of the Eastern Med, capable of launching close to a hundred missiles just on its own.

        And the Brits are always happy to lob a Tomahawk or two (but not too many more) at anyone we ask them to.

        (Eta – if anything that might have been the missed opportunity of this strike – showing that post Brexit England still wants to work with collective security)Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

      JUST IN: Syrian warplanes take off from air base hit by U.S., carry out strikes in Homs countryside – Syrian observatory for human rights


      So, again, what the heck did all those warheads actually hit?

      (Eta – I’m not 100% confident in the accuracy of this report)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kolohe says:

        What’s the point of hitting an airbase if you don’t atleast take out the runways?Report

        • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Stillwater says:

          Once upon a time, when I used to know something about TLAMs (when there were only three types), one type was bomblets for area dispersal, to get at troop formations and runways.

          There has been a movement over the past many years to ban such cluster munitions by treaty. I’m almost positive that the US hasn’t signed that treaty, but I’m wondering if the newer TLAMs aren’t mostly single warhead high explosive anyway.

          The general pattern of the air campaigns in the past few wars has been to use TLAMs and stealth bombers to take out the high end air defenses and the most vital command & control nodes, then use more conventional strike aircraft to take out the rest of the planes on the ground and other air warfare infrastructure. And then, with total undisputed air superiority, just go to town to do whatever you wanted to do in the first place.Report

          • Avatar scott the mediocre in reply to Kolohe says:

            Yeah, all the operational runway denial weapons I know of (like you, my info is way out of date – I left the MIC nineteen FSM-blessed years ago), things like Durandal/BLU-107 (not a cluster munition, so still deployed) and JP233 assume the standoff weapons are for C3 decapitation and SEAD, then the fixed wing strike packages take out the runways and revetments and whatnot. Apparently there was serious interest in adding the BROACH hard target penetrator to the CALCM upgrade but it wound up not happening. I have no frickin’ clue what, if anything at all, this strike was supposed to achieve at the tactical level (I assume it was a pony at the political level).Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Kolohe says:

        Everytime I click on a link to Twitter I ask myself why are you people on Twitter? Have you seen Twitter?Report

      • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Kolohe says:

        CNN has satellite photos. They don’t seem to account for nearly all the missiles, but they include a bunch of buildings. I think the spam filter ate a link I left earlier to Sputnik’s ground photos, which showed similar things (destroyed aircraft in hangars, some additional damage in the open). Also some suspicious containers near some sort of bunker.Report

  3. Avatar Kolohe says:

    As for the bigger picture, I did think 24 hours ago that the overall plan would be to continue to press against ISIS in the territory they still control until Raqqah et al finally are secure (in either the Army or Marine Corps sense of the word). At that point start looking west and shift to fight to Assad forces – cutting some sort of deal with Russia to get them out of the way (at the minimum, guarantee that they’ll still be able to hold on to Tartus navy base and an air base or two in the post-Assad rubble)

    Since the fight against ISIS at the current pace may take years, when the shift to Assad is at hand, Assad’s regime forces will be even more battle weary, and even Putin may have found his grip on power somewhat reduced (there’s an Presidential election in Russia this time next year. How much Putin has to cheat will be a demonstration of his grip of power.)Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kolohe says:

      *sigh* if only people had paid attention to how much Clinton had to cheat to win the primary…Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Kolohe says:

      All of this assumes that removing Assad is sound strategy. Don’t take this as an endorsement of his government but I don’t believe there is anything better available to replace him, now or in the future. At absolute best you get another sectarian government, beholden to foreign powers and unable to control it’s own territory, much like the regime at Bagdhad. The likely outcome is something like Libya.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to InMD says:

        Assad isn’t keeping the peace now. He serves no purpose. There is a strong case to be made that the US shouldn’t be involved in any way with whomever replaces him because of credibility issues that person would have, but Assad is useless even in the ‘known dictator asshole who keeps a lid on things’ metric.

        (If ISIS had decided to work with, instead of against, Al Qaeda and its affiliates, Assad would probably already be gone.)Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Kolohe says:

          I don’t think we should prop him up (the Russians can do that if they want) but nor do I think we should do anything to hasten his demise. I also wouldn’t be so quick to say he, or someone else from the Allawite class operating in his place, can’t keep the (relative) peace as long as he has support from Russia, Iran, and other regional actors. At the very least I think the government headed by Assad or part of his clan has a better shot at it than the possible alternatives.Report

  4. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    There are no good guys in Syria. There is not even a reasonable prospect that any group strong enough to emerge from the civil war victorious would wind up particularly friendly with the West; the protection Russia has extended to Assad will all but certainly be offered to any non-Daesh successor regime.

    Back in the Cold War, we would have said “This is the Russians’ problem,” and turned our backs on the matter, cynically hoping it would become another Afghanistan for them.Report

  5. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I really hope McMaster is writing down everything he is thinking and someone else is writing down everything McMaster is saying and the decisions & recommendations he is making.

    Because the man made his career on how the decision loop on exactly this sort of thing can go sideways.

    (I’ve thought for a while now the biggest risk McMaster has in taking the Nat Sec Advisor job is that he would become the Samantha Power of his profession – made a name by speaking a particular truth to power, only to be suck into and stuck in the same dynamics of all those they criticized once actually in power)Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe says:

    For perspective of yesterday’s airstrikes.

    As of March 28, 2017, the U.S. and coalition have conducted a total of 19,300 strikes (11,460 Iraq / 7,840 Syria).

    The U.S. has conducted 15,258 strikes in Iraq and Syria (7,789 Iraq / 7,469 Syria).
    The rest of the coalition has conducted 4,042 strikes in Iraq and Syria (3,671 Iraq / 371 Syria).

    Between Aug. 8, 2014, and March 27, 2017, U.S. and partner-nation aircraft have flown 145,469 sorties in support of operations in Iraq and Syria.

    As of February 28, 2017, the total cost of operations related to ISIL since kinetic operations started on August 8, 2014, is $11.9 billion and the average daily cost is $12.8 million for 936 days of operations.


    • Avatar InMD in reply to Kolohe says:

      And all without a single vote in Congress on the actual issue.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to InMD says:

        tru datReport

      • Avatar notme in reply to InMD says:

        Did Obama need a vote in congress when he bombed Libya? That was more involved than this.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to notme says:

          Obama cited the 2002 AUMF to bomb Libya.

          “That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

          AQ Libya became therefore a rhetorical seed that made Libya party to the Sept 11 attacks… or something like that.

          Trump hasn’t cited anything; I expect the team who prepared his No-Fly EO’s will cite the same AUMF.

          But, given that Assad is fighting AQ Syria, ISIL and any other splinter branch that might touch the poisoned root of AQ… even the torturous application of the Obama administration to Libya couldn’t possibly pass muster against Assad.

          Unless, it works like vampire rules where you can just declare Assad AQ and now the 2001 AUMF applies to him too.

          So, yes, he needed authorization from Congress… but No he didn’t seek it. Even he, though, knew he needed new Authorization for Syria in 2013… which he dropped amid strong resistance.Report

          • Avatar notme in reply to Marchmaine says:

            Wow and I thought we were helping the Europeans overthrow Muammar Gaddafi when he started.Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to notme says:

              Why overthrow when you can own? We owned him at the end.

              But this is really infantile with regards foreign policy… we don’t have bff’s and personal nemises. When we can align interests, forcibly, peaceably, or manipulatively in our direction… we win.Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I agree that we owned him, there was no reason to help the Euros overthrow him. There were some lefties whining that we should do it to stop the harm he was doing to his own folks. The Elias Isquith types.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to notme says:

                eh, that’s the problem with doing foreign policy by tv. We care about Syria where there’s little we can do, but not Yemen where there’s a lot we could.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I should feel more guilty about Yemen than I do.
                I think I’ll just balance it with Eritrea, and call it a day.Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Kimmi says:

                Well, you’ve earned it. Tell your boss I said you could have the rest of the afternoon off, too.Report

          • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Marchmaine says:

            I’m not sure that Obama cited the 2001 AUMF for Libya. I remember the administration relying on its inherent Art II authority as CinC, and stating that it (along with allies) were enforcing the recently passed UN resolution.

            Which is bs constitutional law, but a different stretch than trying to use the 9/11 authority.

            (For that matter, if you squint, you can sort of see the authority to go after ISIS in Iraq in the Iraqi Freedom authorization. But OIF authority doesn’t apply in Syria, and neither does the 9/11 one, as ISIS is a declared enemy of AQ, and vice versa)

            (And nobody’s been sweating SOFAs for the past 3 years, which used to be the biggest deal before 2011)Report

            • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Kolohe says:

              I think you are right…at the very beginning the assumption was that the kinetic action would last less than 60-days and that it therefore wouldn’t trigger the war powers act. Then once even the 90-day limit was past, it didn’t really matter much.

              However, subsequent actions retconed the AUMF, so yeah… Its coming back to me now a little bit.

              At any rate, the principle is war first justification second.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to notme says:

          Simple answer- yes and I think his failure to obtain it violated the Constitution. The fact that war making has de facto become the decision of a single person and almost totally divorced from the democratic process is terrible for our country.Report

  7. Avatar gregiank says:

    So what now? Umm nothing. We can’t get Assad out unless the Russians want it and push him out. We’ll continue supporting the slow grinding war against ISIS. The Russian’s will likley replace the material we destroyed. Assad will have learned to kill civilians in the PC manner. So nothing will happen.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to gregiank says:

      At least Trump has learned that various establishment media and political figures will shower him with praise for blowing stuff up, no matter how precipitous and shambolic his plan may be.

      That certainly won’t cause any problems in the future.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to gregiank says:

      Libya turned into a BNB (Big NothingBurger) here at home and a MCF (Massive ClusterFish) for the actual Libyans. Why shouldn’t Syria be treated the same way?Report

      • Avatar gregiank in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Carl’s Jr menu or American foreign policy, who can really see the difference.Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        One thing the pro-intervention side has going for it is that it’s not going to be easy to make Syria more of a horror than it is already.Report

      • Avatar notme in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Because one happened under Obama and this one under Trump. The left gave Obama a total pass on his and the MCF afterwards.Report

        • Avatar gregiank in reply to notme says:

          I guess you didn’t notice all the crap Hillary got from liberals and the left over her hawkishness. There was plenty of that.

          Both parties have let multiple Prez’s get away with unauthorized military actions. Trying to pin it on just the party you don’t like is silly. It’s a bi-partisan clusterfish and few want to change that.Report

          • Avatar notme in reply to gregiank says:

            President Hillary? Or maybe Senator Hillary, whose opinion mattered for squat?Report

            • Avatar gregiank in reply to notme says:

              Many on the liberal/leftie side have always been unhappy with the hawkish side of the D’s. It’s not new at all.Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to gregiank says:

                I know it’s not “new,” neither is the pass that Obama got from them on this issue or the drone strikes.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to notme says:

                for the LOVE OF GOD, get your facts straight.
                Obama got a free pass on his Deportations, not on drone strikes.

                Seriously, you couldn’t even FIND a liberal bitching about Obama deporting people, and he threw tons out of the country.

                I know, it doesn’t fit the narrative, and all that. But he did.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

                Whenever I brought it up, I was told that “deported more people than any other president” was a useless measure. I needed to measure how many undocumented dreamers he deported per capita.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

                Okay, you get a Gold Star! For paying attention to the news, and trying to ask people to think about things.

                (Personally, I’m more okay with us getting rid of the fucking slaves rather than subsidizing forced labor with the ICE used as a stick).Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Kimmi says:

                Very astute, and accurate as well.Report

    • Avatar Brent F in reply to gregiank says:

      I don’t think this was a something really happening event. This was a signalling event. The Syrians wanted to know how much rope they have to do what they want to finish up the civil war with the new Administration so they pulled a minor atrocity using chemical weapons they aren’t supposed to have. The Americans formulate a response based on their own message sending. Its diplomatic notes with live ordenance because you can trust what someone does more than what they say.Report

      • Avatar gregiank in reply to Brent F says:

        Yeah i agree. It sets the limits on how to kill your own people. But other than that it doesn’t add up to much.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Brent F says:

        It does however at least raise the question… why at this stage derail the momentum? Implicit in this logic is that this small incident would have led to massive gas attacks… something in my military calculus brain doesn’t add up.

        Honestly, this makes more sense if Assad is going down the shitter… it seems a desperation move, not a sound military step. I wouldn’t be surprised if the more desperate team is the real culprit. But very possibly my Syrian desperation kit doesn’t calibrate very well here in Virginia.Report

        • Avatar Brent F in reply to Marchmaine says:

          I’d say the contrary at this point, they are now sufficiently secure that they can run some risks to see what is and isn’t on the table because the tipping point of a Western backed ouster is past. They can run risks when they are secure and they can run risks when they have little to lose, they can’t run risks in the middle period where they are winning but with a tight margin that can change easily.

          Hence dipping your toe in the water of breaking international norms. There’s very little risk now that anyone will push for regime change, all the Westerners have signaled they see Assad as not worth the effort.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Brent F says:

            Makes sense right up until we get to the the big lakes of poison gas. I guess that’s my head-scratcher… its not a legitimate calculus that if a little poison gas is ok, then oceans of it would be ok too. Plus, one of their Sponsor States, Iran, is rather vocal against Poison Gas.

            If we come in and dismantle the Assad Regime… who gets Damascus?

            I’m not saying it wasn’t Assad, I’m just saying that the reasons I’m being told that make it obvious it is Assad don’t make it obvious. But, then I’m still holding out hope that we find WMD in Anbar… I’m an optimist that way.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

          Honestly, this makes more sense if Assad is going down the shitter… it seems a desperation move, not a sound military step.

          Do you mean the gas attack itself, or Assad testing the seriousness of Tillerson’s policy re: Syria?

          Adding: Kolohe woudl undoubtedly know more about this than I pretend to, but one of the mechanisms by which Gulf War I was conducted by Bush I was to signal to Sad-damn that he had a green light to invade Kuwait over their angle drilling into Iraqi oil reserves. Hussein took the bait, the US launched a war. So it’s not unreasonable – at least to me – to think Assad took Tillerson/Trump at their word when they said he effectively could run his state as he saw fit with impunity.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

            Why test Tillerson with gas at all? What did they gain by killing 72 people with gas that they couldn’t have done with Barrel bombs? Was there a coordinated offensive to take advantage of the dispersal? Were they facing waves and waves of insurgents coming over their lines?

            Maybe he did; I can’t calculate Assad’s desperation… but I’m not sure we’re in possession of all the… erm, data?Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

              Why test Tillerson with gas at all?

              Well, it’s possible that Assad didn’t order the gas attack in which case he didn’t test him. Is that +/- what you’re thinking right now? Ie., that the logic of Assad ordering this particular gas attack makes no sense?Report

              • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Stillwater says:

                The calculus is off… whoever did it, Assad or Rebels, there’s logic to it somewhere – I don’t presume to know why.

                But even in this NYT article which is laying out the case for the “Grim Logic” of Assad’s chemical attack they include these paragraphs that seriously undermine their lede:

                After Mr. Trump came into office, proclaiming a wish to work with Russia and maybe even Mr. Assad against the Islamic State, expectations grew that the international community would accept relegitimizing Mr. Assad. And last week came the statements from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, indicating effectively that Washington could accept Mr. Assad remaining in power.

                On Monday, Western officials were gathering in Brussels to weigh billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to the Assad government, amid opposition fears that they would drop their demand for a political transition first.

                By Thursday, however, American military officials were discussing a possible military strike on Syria, and Mr. Tillerson was saying there was “no role” for Mr. Assad in Syria’s future.

                To be sure, Assad would not be the first leader to make a horrible miscalculation that led to his demise… but the NYT article doesn’t really convince me in the first half, and very nearly convinces me of the opposite in the second.

                Regardless… the question still remains… to whom are we giving Damascus? What’s the plan?

                edit: NYT Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/06/world/middleeast/syria-bashar-al-assad-russia-sarin-attack.htmlReport

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Marchmaine says:

                The calculus is off

                I agree that it’s off from a conventional logic pov. But if the goal is to goad the US into taking the next step (which it did) on the premise that increased US activity in the ME favors Russian policy goals by increasingly undermining US credibility within the region, not to mention increasingly corroding westerner’s faith in Western institutions, then the calculus may make perfect sense. The goal may not be a specific strategic target or asset, but undermining US/Western institutions generally.

                I don’t know, of course. But it’s no less likely than what you’re presenting as a motive for engaging in military strikes in Syria.

                And btw, only the lord knows how prevalent the pretext of a war emerges from a desire to pay private contractors for “reconstruction”. Kosovo comes to mind.Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

          This is one of the reasons I think that jumping to the conclusion that Assad’s forces were behind the attack is premature. There have been articles over the last couple years suggesting al-Nusra and other rebel groups may have chemical weapons of their own. Another interesting article from a less partisan source:


          • Avatar notme in reply to InMD says:

            So a rebel group got poison gas and an aircraft then dropped it on civilians to pin it on Assad so we would bomb him? Clever!Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to notme says:

              Where are you seeing definitive evidence that it was delivered by aircraft? Chemical weapons can be delivered with mortars and rockets. There’s also the possibility that it wasn’t released intentionally (I’m seeing some sources that say Assad forces bombed a rebel chemical weapons site and gas was released).

              Now the Assad government obviously lacks credibility but I don’t really get why equally sketchy groups invested in the conflict somehow have more credibility. No one really knows what happened at this juncture.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brent F says:

        This was a signalling event.

        Not entirely signaling, as you suggest in your comment. Assad wasn’t merely signaling in his chemical attack since – presumably – the information he intended to glean was if he could gas his own people without suffering US/Western reprisals. Trump’s response, for similar reasons, strikes me as more then merely signaling in that he’s now committed the US to a policy in which Assad cannot gas his people without suffering US reprisals. This theory seems especially insightful given that the gas attack came only a week after Tillerson said the US was going to have a ‘hands off’ policy regarding Syria and Assad moving forward. Assad was in effect either testing or acting on the Trump admin’s stated intentions.

        Beyond that, tho, it’s hard for me to see what’s been gained by Trump’s response other than signaling re: the US’ tolerance for the use of chemical weapons. For example, is Trump now committed to US air strikes if Assad utilizes conventional weaponry to kill innocent men, women and children? None of Trump’s words or actions provide any guidance on what US policy might look like in response to the actions Assad has taken as a matter of course over the last 6 years.Report

  8. Avatar gregiank says:

    Ug. From The Onion yet painfully true.

    Assad Vows Swift Retaliation On Syrian Civilians In Response To U.S. Missile Strike


  9. Avatar notme says:


    I’m sure Tump’s Russian masters must be quite upset with him right now.Report

  10. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I have a random observation/question on the “enemy of my enemy is my friend”
    A guy I knew in grad school just posted a meme on FB on why the US might not like Syria and the reasons were stuff like “Syria is GMO free” and “Syria dropped the US dollar” and such. Basic hippie/leftie/anti-Corporate America stuff (ironically the guy teaches at a charter school.)
    Trump’s actions are morally indefensible and dangerous but I am kind of gobsmacked that someone could post such clear propaganda just because Trump did something. That should not turn Assad into a friend of the left. I’m pretty sure this guy posted pro-refugee stuff before and anti-Muslim ban stuff.
    Is the enemy of my enemy is my friend that powerful as a pull?Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      People are basically tribal so I’d argue that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is a very powerful pull.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The irony is that folks who embrace this type of thinking only apply it to other people but never to themselves. When they act that way they’re not thinking “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. They’re thinking “my enemy is bad and must be destroyed come what may”.Report

    • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The anti-imperialist left has something of a habit of valorizing despicable governments that happen to get on the wrong side of the US government (this is very different from the US government, which valorizes despicable governments that get on its right side).Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Autolukos says:

        Very true. Lots of earnest lefties have embraced bastards just because they were opposed by US.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

          This shows up in some odd places. Many leftists that remember the Cold War actively tend to be surprisingly warm to Vladimir Putin because of lingering anti-Americanism from the Cold War. Chavez and Castro occupied a similar place.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Old lefties who were anti-imperialist ( which i’m fine with) still generally didn’t trust the USSR. If they were undiscriminating they fell for third world leaders who appeared to be charting their own path outside of the two big powers. Very few people in the West ever trusted KGB types like Putin.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Autolukos says:

        This is true. I think the guy has a lot he is justifiably angry about but this thing was sheer stupidity that it makes me wonder how someone manages to finish a Masters but still get pulled in by that kind of stuff.Report

        • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          There is a measure of truth in the “something so stupid only an intellectual could believe it” line. Being smart (and, worse yet, believing oneself to be smart) opens the door to entirely novel ways of getting things wrong.Report

          • Avatar scott the mediocre in reply to Autolukos says:

            + number to be determined, but large

            There’s a very good (sorry, VD) Scott Alexander post some time back about how certain sorts of misdirection only work on “smart” people, and in fact rely on the target’s intelligence for their effectiveness.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Yes it’s a powerful, and stupid, pull. It is driven by partisanship, the kind that makes people turn their brain off.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      It’s a foolish position. I think there might be an argument that the Assad government is the least of the many evils currently vying for control of Syria but that’s an extremely low bar. It’s certainly not a regime that should be celebrated (and I’m hoping my earlier comments in this discussion don’t suggest that I think otherwise).

      As I said to Kolohe above I think we work to overthrow it at our own peril. Even if Assad himself has to go I think the nominally secular Ba’athist state, repressive as it is, is a better starting point for the future than what the militias have on offer. After Iraq there should be no illusions about what happens when you purge the secular nationalist class from the government of a country seething with sectarian strife.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to InMD says:

        You might be right on the low bar and argument about the dangers of “regime change” and what happens next but I still think it is strange and very stupid to try and turn Assad’s Syria into some moral-leftie country because it is obviously is not.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Is the enemy of my enemy is my friend that powerful as a pull?

      In the case of your friend, I’d say “no”. He’s just pissed off about a whole bunch of things and is lashing out in a way he views as ideologically defensible. He’s a dumbass. The most important thing to remember in US politics is that it’s 90% grievance based and the other 50% is a desire for punition. The remainder is a mix of sane policy and pure signalling.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

        He is not quite a friend and this was the kind of post that pushed me over the edge to defriend this grad school acquaintance.

        “The most important thing to remember in US politics is that it’s 90% grievance based and the other 50% is a desire for punition. The remainder is a mix of sane policy and pure signalling.”


    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      its international relations equivalent is stuff like this, which, while excellent trolling, is probably not that helpful overall.Report

  11. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Trump’s already driven an airline into bankruptcy, right? Trump should just buy out the Syrian Air Force; that way, they’ll cease operations within 3 years.Report