August 27th, 2013

Why attack Syria?

Is Obama really going to attack Assad’s regime in Syria, or is he just talking? And if he does attack, how far will he go, and what is his ultimate goal?

There’s no dearth of speculation on all those questions. We have Ralph Peters in the NY Post:

Mr. President, do you really think it’s wise to send our missiles and aircraft to provide fire support for al Qaeda? That is exactly what you’ll be doing, if you hit Assad.

Assad’s an odious butcher, filth on two legs. But in the world of serious strategy, you rarely get a choice between black and white. You choose between black and charcoal gray…

For the record, I don’t regret getting rid of Saddam or Khadafy. I regret the ineptitude with which we did these things. When you propose a war, don’t ever expect a cheap date…

We have a president who thinks that, “Gee, maybe, well, gosh, I said I’d do something, so maybe I should…”

That last sentence I quoted in particular seems to describe Obama’s likely state of mind. He drew the line in the sand, and cannot afford to go back on it. And I believe that whatever military response he is contemplating is highly likely to be small and symbolic, in the mold of some of Clinton’s efforts (Bill, that is).

Paul Mirengoff of Powerline is also against an inadequate and half-baked response:

…[W]hen our interest in preventing an Assad victory is factored in, I believe the case for military intervention becomes solid.

But that case rests on selecting military action that sets Assad back significantly. Otherwise, our action won’t help prevent his victory, won’t meaningfully punish him, and will have no hope of deterring him — a difficult task in any case, given that Assad is fighting for survival and his supporters see themselves as fighting to avoid genocide against their minority group.

In other words, if Obama aimlessly launches a cruise missile or two, his action will be a mere gesture — a transparent, and transparently weak, attempt to save face in light of the “red line” remark. It will be deserving of ridicule and contempt, and will be worse, in my view, than no response at all.

Whatever action Obama takes should meaningfully degrade Assad’s military capacity. If it doesn’t, then Assad will assume that the military benefits of using chemical weapons outweigh any cost Obama is willing to inflict. And the rest of the world will conclude that, to paraphrase Kerry, the international norm against using chemical weapons can be violated without meaningful consequences.

Ah, but Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney has gone on record in saying that the goal is not to oust Assad:

I want to make clear that the options that we are considering are not about regime change,” said Jay Carney, the president’s chief spokesman. “They are about responding to clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”…

“It is our firm belief that Bashar al-Assad has long since forsaken any legitimacy that he might have to lead and that Syria’s future must be one that is without Assad in power,” Mr. Carney said.

He said it’s in the national security interest of the U.S. to make sure the use of chemical weapons “not go unanswered.”

So, if one believes the administration (always an iffy proposition), it appears that Obama is contemplating a small action of some sort to show he means what he says, sort of; does not intend to directly overthrow Assad but to somehow weaken him and encourage his overthrow; and has no idea what would happen next except turmoil.

That’s the best I can do to understand what’s going on, but it makes sense from what I’ve gleaned about Obama over the years. The whole thing reminds me a bit of the first few lines of one of Macbeth’s famous speeches:

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly. If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come. But in these cases
We still have judgment here, that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague th’ inventor: this even-handed justice
Commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice
To our own lips.

[ADDENDUM: Here's Richard Fernandez's perspective.

Also this:

Obama is trapped by his own propaganda, the victim of his own myth. He came to power on the strength of his supposed genius; his messianic transcendance. He was destined to make the world America’s friend; usher in a world without nuclear weapons; and fundamentally transform the nation. He was even going to make the oceans fall. Why he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in anticipation of achievements he had not yet even attained.

It is these expectations that weigh down on him like lead. Had Obama not made any of these vaunting boasts he might not look like the fool he is now. But as his speech on “Red Lines” exemplifies the teleprompter can write check[s] his autopen doesn’t even know how to sign.

Perhaps the only remaining reason for striking Syria without first deciding policy is simply to demonstrate to low information voters that he’s still President; that he can still do something, even if that something is pointless.]

51 Responses to “Why attack Syria?”

  1. carl in atlanta Says:

    We must always and ever believe this administration.

    And Ace has noticed the Vice President’s earlier remarks:
    http://ace.mu.nu/archives/342865.php

    “Part of courage is simple consistency.”
    - Peggy Noonan

  2. Mr. Frank Says:

    Obama ran his mouth thinking his great speechifying would do some good. Now he is in a box. Look like a wimp or look like a warmonger. Too bad we are along for the ride.

  3. Steve Says:

    If the US bombs Syria and Iran responds by bombing Israel? What then?

  4. Ymarsakar Says:

    Obama desires to help the Islamic terrorists gain a foothold in Syria, in order to get rid of Iraq, which Obama has spiked with his Status of Forces sabotage.

    If can send US troops and US diplomats to die there… all the better. Cleans up some voter rolls for Chicago machine. If he can’t, he’ll make bombs and send it over there, with inside contracts to his friends in the industry. If bombs are too expensive or we’ve run out, he’ll just use up American taxpayer money to buy foreign weapons and give it to Islamic terrorists.

    Whatever is good for evil, is good for Islamic killers.

  5. Eric Says:

    This is what a foreign policy based on the principles of ABB, BDS, and not-Bush will get you when Bush was fundamentally correct as far as rationally matching means to ends in an American liberal leadership posture.

    I disagree with COL Peters’ false equivalency between the Iraq mission and Libya mission. Did Peters forget all about the COIN ‘surge’ and all the blood and treasure we spent in Iraq? From day one, Bush made clear we were committed to robustly and directly supporting a (relatively) liberal post-war transition in Iraq. Not so in Libya.

    Was our post-war, UN-sanctioned, peace-building mission in Iraq flawless and smooth? No, nor reasonably should it have been.

    Enemy is not ‘red team’ OpFor and Real-world is not Notional. The enemy and real-world get veto power over Plan As.

    Our military history has always required steep learning curves. In Iraq, it just so happened that our learning curve was steeper in the post-war than in the war, but that’s the nature of the enemy and the mission. We eventually figured it out in Iraq.

    I’m disappointed that COL Peters doesn’t appreciate that aspect of the Army heritage he and I share.

  6. Ymarsakar Says:

    Peters has never been a supporter of COIN or anything of that sort. His goal is not to free anyone, other than his own career from gravity.

    Such is the limitations of one man against the regime of terror.

  7. Mike Says:

    Attack to….

    1. Deflect from Benghazi

    2. Deflect from Gestapo IRS

    3. Deflect from NSA Spying

    4. Deflect from Obamacare

    5. Deflect from Economy

    If there was ever a Wag the Dog situation this is it.

    Tens of thousands die over a year? No prob.

    300 WMD’d last week? Obviously time to bomb, with the added bonus that it weakens America!

  8. Ann Says:

    The historian Andrew Roberts had a good piece in the Wall St. Journal a couple of days ago, “Syria’s Gas Attack on Civilization: It takes a barbarian to employ poison gas: Assad joins the ranks of Mussolini, Hitler and Saddam Hussein”, showing why there’s an international ban against the use of chemical weapons. Here’s some of it:

    In 1987 and 1988, Saddam Hussein launched attacks on no fewer than 40 Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, using new mixtures of mustard gas and various nerve agents such as Sarin, Tabun and VX. (Ten milligrams of VX on the skin can kill a man, while a single raindrop weighs eighty milligrams.) The worst attack came on March 16, 1988, in Halabja.

    Iraqi troops methodically divided the town into grids, in order to determine the number and location of the dead and the extent of injuries, thereby enabling them scientifically to gauge the efficacy of various different types of gases and nerve agents. One of the first war correspondents to enter the town afterward, the late Richard Beeston of the Times of London, reported that “Like figures unearthed in Pompeii, the victims of Halabja were killed so quickly that their corpses remained in suspended animation. There was a plump baby whose face, frozen in a scream, stuck out from under the protective arm of a man, away from the open door of a house that he never reached.”

    Between 4,000 and 5,000 civilians, many of them women and children, died within a few hours at Halabja, through asphyxiation, skin burns and progressive respiratory shutdown. However, a further 10,000 were “blinded, maimed, disfigured, or otherwise severely and irreversibly debilitated,” according to a report by the University of Liverpool’s Christine Gosden.

    These victims later suffered neurological disorders, convulsions, comas and digestive shutdown. In the years to come, thousands more, the State Department noted, were to suffer from “horrific complications, debilitating diseases, and birth defects” such as lymphoma, leukemia, colon, breast, skin and other cancers, miscarriages, infertility and congenital malformations, leading to many more deaths.

    I don’t see how we can just do nothing in the face of this.

  9. expat Says:

    Eric,
    I think Peters also doesn’t understand the complexity of foreign relations or how we sometimes rely on other countries to supply our troops. Bush had to dance on a lot of eggshells. And he had to take more unjust criticism than any president that I can remember.

  10. blert Says:

    The grand assumption that Assad used chemical weapons against the rebels is very likely to be entirely wrong.

    1) All modern militaries have abandoned classic chemical warfare — and adopted nerve gases — which are not really gases, at all.

    2) Consequently, it’s very doubtful that Assad could even launch a gas attack with phosgene or mustard gas.

    3) The agitprop photos show rather plainly that the gas used — if any — was NOT a nerve agent. It’s humanly impossible to perform the Islamic burial rites on nerve agent fatalities. Period, stop. Any attempt to do so will cripple, then kill, the mortician. It’s a slow, painful death. Sarin and its kin are that toxic. They do not blow a way. They do stay on the skin — and on the clothing.

    4) Thoughtful fanatics have uploaded to the Web video of them firing off improvised chemical weapons. (gas) They managed to cobble together small propane tanks/ Freon tanks to 122mm rockets or grenade launchers. ( Based upon their videos.)

    5) AQ and such performed EXACTLY the same type of attacks during the Iraq campaign against American forces in Baghdad. (!) In that specific case, the opfor used commercially available chlorine gas intermixed with ball bearings, nails, glass and other boosters — all rocket or mortar propelled. DoD still has the records on the set up; it was captured.

    6) The dead in the agitprop appear to be amplified via Pallywood techniques: the living are lying down with the dead. This makes five into eight, etc.

    7) The dead in the agitprop have clearly been Islamically processed for burial — in less than 24 hours from death. Making it extremely likely that IF they died from chemicals — these were conventional (Islamist) chemical weapons.

    8) Islamist videos clearly show KSA labels on their chemical bottles. Within them, there could be no end of toxic chemicals, all available through ordinary commercial means from KSA chemical plants.

    9) Bottles of this size are very commonly used by industrial chemists for research purposes. It doesn’t get any publicity — for obvious reasons — but even phosgene is available this way. It’s used across industrial chemistry. It’s the intermediate of choice to make polycarbonate — the stuff of CDs. It’s manufactured by the ton just about everywhere. It’s toxic effects are stark. And they perfectly fit the profile for this atrocity — IF it was a chemical attack.

    10) Phosgene attacks the lungs — leaving no outward signs to speak of. It then, in warm temperatures, will blow completely away, to break down in the atmosphere.

    In which case, the dead may well be Alawites! Indeed, with these chemicals, one could gas the victims Zyklon B style and stage everything. It’s the kind of gambit the Nazis used to launch their war against Poland.

    =======

    It’s essential to find out what killed the victims. If it was not Sarin — then Assad is exonerated. Like the USSR/ Russia, his stuff is dialed into nerve agents ONLY.

    The purported communication intercepts could have been spoofed by parties unknown. Doing so was a staple of Mission Impossible plots going back forty-years.

    With digital telephony, it’s now possible for anyone to ‘audio photoshop’ any voice on the planet. It’s the exact same principle. (!) All that you need is enough baseline audio to sample the target voice.

    The Wan is being led around by his nose.

  11. Ymarsakar Says:

    2) Consequently, it’s very doubtful that Assad could even launch a gas attack with phosgene or mustard gas.

    Unless those weapons were imported from Iraq. Degradation in potency may also explain other issues.

  12. James Says:

    Well it looks like the bluff is called and the narrative has failed. There seems to be no lie now to be told that anyone will listen to. Do we fight for no good reason or run in humiliation? It may not matter for events seem to have over taken and passed well laid plans. This has a feel similar to August 1914 and all we see happening a prelude to a harsh reckoning.
    It’ll be the Israeli people and or american grunts who’ll be left with a mess to clean up.

  13. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    blert makes a compelling case for Assad’s ‘innocence’, certainly these facts would caution against premature action by the US. I certainly don’t put it past the ‘rebels’ to fake gas attacks in order to draw in US/Nato forces, they’re losing and desperation calls for desperate measures.

    “Perhaps the only remaining reason for striking Syria without first deciding policy is simply to demonstrate to low information voters that he’s still President; that he can still do something, even if that something is pointless.” Richard Fernandez

    Bingo, that is exactly why Obama is considering ‘pointless’ engagement of the Assad regime.

  14. Ann Says:

    About sarin — the Russians said sarin was used back on March 19 in a suburb of Aleppo, although by the rebels, not Assad:

    Moscow’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Russian experts visited the location where the projectile struck and took their own samples of material from the site. Those samples, he said, were then analyzed at a Russian laboratory certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

    “It was established that on March 19 the rebels launched an unguided Basha’ir-3 projectile towards Khan al-Assal controlled by the government forces,” he said. “The results of the analysis clearly indicate that the ordnance used in Khan al-Assal was not industrially manufactured and was filled with sarin.”

    “The projectile involved is not a standard one for chemical use,” Churkin said. “Hexogen, utilized as an opening charge, is not utilized in standard ammunitions. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that it was armed opposition fighters who used the chemical weapons in Khan al-Assal.”

  15. Charles Says:

    “without first deciding policy is simply to demonstrate to low information voters that he’s still President; that he can still do something, even if that something is pointless.”

    That last sentence sums up Obama – his whole presidency has been rather pointless. Messy, and the ill effects will be felt for quite some time (and in the case of healthcare, perhaps, never to be undone); but, he is pointless, other than being the first black president.

    Oh wait, I forgot he got a Nobel Prize for being the “non”Bush. That was a remarkable achievement, now wasn’t it? What a natural talent, that guy! We should be so lucky as to have term limits removed so he can run again!

  16. southpaw Says:

    Mis-direction is a time tested military tactic to confuse your enemies and keep them off guard. Obama may be the first to employ it on his own administration and allies, although the reasons are a mystery to us all.

  17. Oldflyer Says:

    I still believe that Bush’s plan for Iraq was sabotaged by Colin Powell and others.

    The original plan was to use vetted members of the Iraqi military and bureaucracy, along with competent expats (Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress for instance) to establish a government immediately. Powell and his allies undercut Chalabi with allegations that may or may not have had merit. Part of their opposition seems to have been that he was close to Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservatives. Interestingly, Chalabi was the first Oil Minister, and later Vice PM of Iraq. Needless to say he had some grudges against faction in the U.S.

    Powell pushed Paul Bremer as the U.S. man in Iraq, and Bremer, with Powell’s support, veered almost completely from the original Bush concept. Bremer became a virtual Czar for the first few years; until Ryan Crocker and Gen Petraeus finally got control of the American effort. From then until Obama announced our retreat, conditions improved.

    By the way, if anyone looks up Chalabi they will find that his enemies have managed to pretty well tarnish him in the past five years. How much of it is justified is problematical. No way to know for sure.

  18. Oldflyer Says:

    Ann, I got off on Iraq, but your comments are very valid. The question I keep asking is why would Assad use gas when he knows that is the one action that would bring intervention by the (former) great powers?

    Although I never shared Hillary’s view that Assad was a “reformer”, I never considered him either stupid or suicidal.

    Something does not smell right.

  19. Cornflour Says:

    Al Queda is fighting Hezbollah and civilians are getting in the way. How can American armed forces fix this situation?

    Chemical weapons — or fake chemical weapons — don’t change the equation.

    As far as I can tell, Obama’s new attitude is based on a fear of losing the 2014 mid-term elections. His Syrian calculation would be designed to maximize domestic benefit and minimize foreign involvement.

    Or else I’m just too simple-minded for all this politics stuff.

  20. Ann Says:

    Oldflyer, according to the Times of Israel the information about the chemical attack apparently comes from Israeli intelligence:

    While Israel will almost certainly take no direct part in a military strike, Israeli intelligence information is widely believed to have played a central role in enabling the US’s adamant conviction that Assad’s regime fired chemical weapons at civilians outside Damascus last Wednesday, killing hundreds of people and wounding over a thousand, according to Syrian rebel groups.

    A large delegation of senior Israeli security officials is currently in Washington holding talks with top administration officials led by US National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

    and

    On Friday, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the weapons were fired by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division of the Syrian Army, a division under the command of the Syrian president’s brother, Maher Assad. The nerve gas shells were fired from a military base in a mountain range to the west of Damascus, the TV report said.

    With regard to your comment about Assad being aware that “the one action that would bring intervention by the (former) great powers” would be the use of chemical weapons — is there a possibility that his brother was acting on his own, or at least given pretty much a free rein?

  21. rickl Says:

    I don’t think you can go too far wrong by assuming that Obama is simply playing to low-information voters. They’re his most loyal and dedicated base. Presumably they’ll now regard him as a steely-eyed military leader, I guess.

    They’re the people “who don’t know which side of the spoon holds the soup” as I saw in a comment at Ace’s today.

  22. JimBobElrod Says:

    Does anyone have any theories on what Russia might do to make Obama’s life difficult if he follows through on his threat to strike in Syria? I hear they play a decent game of chess.

  23. rickl Says:

    They could sink a couple of our ships and say, “What are you gonna do about it?”

  24. Ann Says:

    Give Snowden a lovely dacha? ;)

    Haven’t the latest Russian and Chinese statements been based on there not yet being full proof that chemical weapons were used? Perhaps that will be an out for them if the UN inspectors provide such proof.

  25. blert Says:

    The Russians are ALREADY on record that the Islamists have Sarin in their possession — and have previously used it.

    Assad has lost control of vast areas of his nation — with associated ammo dumps.

    And what are we to make of Islamist Web videos showing THEM using chemical weapons?

    Something about geese, as I recall.

    For the matter at hand, it’s best that we stay out.

    As for the Israelis: it is entirely rational for them to want America, Britain and France to take down the Assad air defense; which is the single most likely first step of any campaign/ spanking. So, they are hardly a disinterested party.

    Cruise missiles are the wrong tool for deep ammo bunkers. They are of greatest utility knocking down air defenses. (e.g. Libya)

    Without his air defenses, Assad will be under drones. The IDF will have an open corridor to Iran. (Iraq has no air force, at this time.)

    This is so obvious that Moscow and Tehran are certain to be frantic about this turn of events.

    If Barry fires off million dollar missiles to kill camels… then we have clear cut evidence of insanity in the Pink House.

  26. Mike Says:

    @ Ann: “I don’t see how we can just do nothing in the face of this.”

    Some 90 to 100 thousand have been killed in Syria (by both sides) in the “conventional” way. No red lines.

    Some 3 hundred were killed by chemical weapons. So let’s bomb now?

    Huh?

    1. Obama says he knows Assad did it. Obama is a proven and pathological liar. If he said the sky was blue on a sunny day, I’d check. He NEVER does anything on principle – unless the principle is amassing personal power to continue to destroy America (the nation he hates more than any other in the world. Period).

    2. Even if Obama is right that Assad did it…why do the 300 take precedence over the 100,000?

    3. Will bombing Syria make things worse all around? Does Obama have any idea what will happen? Does anyone?

    Surely there are compelling reasons at this point NOT to bomb Syria.

    A better solution would be to haul Obama before Congress on Impeachment charges. That is what he deserves; and that would be the single greatest “peace” move since this miscreant Napoleonic moron was elected by the miscreant morons who voted for him.

  27. Ymarsakar Says:

    2. Even if Obama is right that Assad did it…why do the 300 take precedence over the 100,000?

    Cause the Islamos might have gotten hit hard by the chem attacks or just screamed for reinforcements now that the hammer was being brought down.

  28. Capn Rusty Says:

    I have a kid in the military. Her oath was to uphold the Constitution. Where in the Constitution does it say that the President has the authority to can attack a country which has not attacked us? Even if that country does bad things.

  29. ziontruth Says:

    blert,

    “As for the Israelis: it is entirely rational for them to want America, Britain and France to take down the Assad air defense”

    No. This is about the Israeli leaders’ rational-clothed cowardice, not the Israeli Jewish populace’s rationality. As I said before, my prime minister and most of the members of his party are unbelievers who think Israel can’t survive external threats unless the U.S. is there to help, and they’re willing to pay through the nose with insane concessions like apologizing to the neo-Ottoman Sultan in Ankara and releasing more than a hundred Arab murderers.

    The man in the Israeli Jewish street isn’t overly concerned about Syrians killing each other and is a bit more apprehensive that Assad would lash out on Israel with rockets like Saddam did. But the opinion of that man is little heeded by Israel’s shtetl-Jew-like leadership.

  30. IGotBupkis, "Faeces Evenio", Mr. Holder? Says:

    }}}For the record, I don’t regret getting rid of Saddam … I regret the ineptitude with which we did these things.

    INEPT? What obscure meaning of the word “inept” applies here? Saddam had one of the largest armies in the world, and we took the whole place over in something like 4 weeks… He maintained his freedom for a bit longer than that by hiding like a dog in a hole in the ground.

    Pacifying the nation after that and attempting to provide it with A SEMBLANCE of a modern government took a good bit longer but that wasn’t ineptitude by any meaning of the word, that was just a difficult task made more difficult by our wonderful harpy media.

  31. scottthebadger Says:

    Commander Salamander had a good post on this subject Tuesday: http://cdrsalamander.blogspot.com/2013/08/syria-subjective-desires-fed-by.html

  32. Eric Says:

    Oldflyer: “Ann, I got off on Iraq …”

    The Iraq mission is topical with Syria because the principle of not-Iraq is a constant factor in Obama’s foreign policy, no more than with Iraq’s immediate neighbor. Therefore, the issue of US intervention in Syria cannot be accurately weighed without the Obama administration’s misbegotten path and prejudices on Iraq as context.

    expat: “Bush had to dance on a lot of eggshells. And he had to take more unjust criticism than any president that I can remember.”

    When the costs and obstacles of the post-war peace-building mission in Iraq are analyzed, an often overlooked factor in the costs and obstacles is the sabotages and corrupting elements within the process here rather than the ones over there within the borders of Iraq.

    Yet friends who served in post-war Iraq have told me that the dysfunction within the USG over the Iraq mission had profound effects downrange on their mission on the ground in Iraq.

    It’s highly compelling how quickly and the degree with which the COIN ‘surge’ turned Iraq around despite that it was implemented when Iraq was in its worst state. The reasonable expectation was that the COIN ‘surge’ was too little, too late. Yet it worked surprisingly well.

    The success of the COIN ‘surge’ – when it shouldn’t have worked according to the prevailing view of the situation – implies that Iraq really was as ready for post-Saddam liberal reform as Clinton and Bush had claimed.

    The question is begged: If the US and the West had been on the same page with Iraq and fully committed from the start of the post-war, even with the Islamic terrorists invading, how much better the decisions, the costs mitigated, and downstream problems precluded?

    Once again, the perception of the Iraq mission has a direct impact on decision-making regarding Syria, even more than with Libya.

  33. Capn Rusty Says:

    “OBAMA: The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
    3/18/2011 as reported in: Salon

  34. Eric Says:

    Capn Rusty,

    One, that wasn’t my oath when I became a soldier, and unless the oath has been rewritten in the last decade-plus, it wasn’t your daughter’s oath, either.

    Two, Candidate Obama’s statement on the President’s war powers was as deceptive and misleading as the rest of Candidate Obama’s foreign policy statements.

  35. Don Carlos Says:

    To Ann re Andrew Roberts:
    I spent my blogging time yesterday at the WSJ because of the Roberts piece. It is a disgrace (if such still exists) for WSJ to print it. It is a classic piece of Agitprop, full of assertion and opinion but quite devoid of fact. Facts should still matter, but the nature of propaganda is that they must be asserted as such, never mind the contrary or absent evidence.
    Roberts the Historian is unworthy of that title.

  36. Oldflyer Says:

    Ann, I was not going to get into Israel’s role and motivations in this, but since you brought it up, I will note that in my opinion, there are two entities that would like to see the U.S. drawn into the conflict vs Assad.

    One entity is the Syrian opposition, which seems to be dominated now by the Islamist faction.

    The other is the government of Israel.

    Having ventured into this I will also note that I admire the Israelis greatly for their fortitude. I respect the fact that they are in constant danger of annihilation, and must put their national survival ahead of all other considerations. For that reason, I do not trust them whatsoever whenever their perceived interest is at variance with ours. I have never considered Israel to be an ally of ours, willing–or able– to stand shoulder to shoulder. Most of the benefit flows in one direction.

    My comments about Assad having much to lose and nothing to gain by using chemical weapons certainly applies to his brother, or any other subordinate Commander. These people run the same risks as Assad, with the additional risk that he would have their heads for rogue activity that endangered his regime.

    As far as I am concerned, nothing is clear. Until it is, we should stay out of it.

  37. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    Col. Peters makes a good point, “our enemies are killing each other, why should we intervene?”

    With the exception, perhaps, of airlifting Coptic and other endangered Christians out of the Middle East, we should only intervene in the Middle East if necessary to aid our ally Israel, to protect our access to oil, or to topple the religious dictatorship in Iran; otherwise we should stay the hell out. Why?

    Well, let’s count the whys:

    Because the ME –at war forever–is the ultimate “quagmire,” none of the Islamic peoples or governments there are really our friends, and are not worth the loss of a single American life. Containment of the Umma is the best approach.

    Moreover, the do gooder’s dream of “planting democracy” ain’t gonna work in countries that are firmly in the hands of Islam, where large majorities of the heavily indoctrinated populations i.e. “the street” as opposed to a few western educated students and intellectuals– “don’t want no stinkin’ Infidel “democracy*.”

    Next, there is the fact that Obama and his hand-picked crew of supposed intelligence and foreign affairs experts and tame, PC generals are incompetents, likely to screw up a one car funeral, and if we intervene in Syria there are going to be a lot of funerals.

    Finally, there is the fact that Iran (Saudi Arabia a close second) is behind the trouble in Syria and practically everywhere else in the ME, and would like nothing better than to suck us into that trap, getting us involved in an endless, unwinnable conflict there that would bleed us dry.

    If we just can’t help ourselves, and have to intervene, the place to focus our forces on is on the source of the trouble, Iran.

    * Democracy ain’t everything. It might be remembered that apparently democratic and fair elections in Gaza held a few years ago resulted in the terrorist group Hamas winning and coming to power there.

  38. southpaw Says:

    Given that it’s a foregone conclusion (according to World Police Hero Captain John McCain), maybe the best we can hope for is the missile strikes will take out both sides. Although I’m actually in favor of bombing the rebels in this case.
    But since the object is to show the world that BO is a man who keeps the many confusing and contradictory words he reads from a teleprompter, it really doesn’t matter what the outcome is.
    Anyone want to bet that BO delivers an address to the American people tonight, explaining how we’re rescuing the Syrian people from a brutal dictator, so they are free to elect another dictator to brutalize the people who voted for the other guy? Public opinion about our king is likely to go lower, which is all he’s ever interested in rescuing.

  39. Don Carlos Says:

    From a WSJ commenter (not a jornolist!) today:

    “We are preparing to kill Syrians to stop Syrians from killing Syrians. We are gearing up to blow up and burn up Syrians to reinforce acceptable killing techniques in a horrible civil war that we should not be getting involved. After we get through killing Syrians, Syrians will continue to murder Syrians! I seriously doubt our bombs will instill morality. The winners will still hate Americans.”

    Well said.

  40. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    The BS just keeps on coming!

    If our intervention in Iraq has demonstrated anything, it is that intelligence gathering and analysis is not a precise science but an art; a series of deductions, estimates, possibilities, calculations, and educated guesses. Moreover, it has also very abundantly demonstrated that intelligence information that may well be true can be so manipulated, muddied, discredited, and dumped down the memory hole* by the MSM and all of its allies—before and after the fact–that black becomes white, yes becomes no, and up becomes down.

    In the case of Iraq, where all the major intelligence agencies in the world, Congress, the British Parliament, and the UN had virtually unanimously agreed beforehand that a lot of very good intelligence information made a very strong case that Saddham had and had used all sorts of chemical weapons (and was likely developing biological and radiological weapons as well) was correct—the MSM and its legions of flying monkeys would scrub, belittle, twist, and bury that information and the fact of the near unanimous pre-invasion consensus of the world’s intelligence agencies, so that now it’s became virtually an unassailable truth that no one but the deluded or willfully ignorant, looking for an excuse to invade, really believed that Saddham had CW.

    • I find it very interesting how the MSM was never interested in or detours around the few news stories out there that reported that satellite imagery, backed up by communication intercepts, and other intelligence told about how, just prior to our invasion, very long convoys of trucks, supposedly holding Saddham’s CW arsenal, and guarded by Russian Spetznaz flown in for that purpose, made their way from Iraq across the border into Syria.
    I noted a few days ago that one news report asked the question—I guess the reporter didn’t get the memo—about just where Assad had gotten his CW arsenal.

    I also followed the reports coming out of Iraq from our military units tasked with trying to find any Chemical, Biological or Radiological weapons or evidence thereof. Reports that never seemed to get much play in the MSM or on TV, but which cumulatively told of a wide array of evidence, from all sorts of locations, that those weapons had been there—very elevated radiation readings here and there in certain research facilities, abandoned or buried research/production equipment, CW protection suits and protective atropine syrettes, lots of artillery shells meant to be filled with Chem or Bio agents, and the occasional shell still full of chemical agents.

    It seemed, though, that unless we could come up with an ammo dump containing 100,000 CW filled shells, or a fully functional A-bomb or two, there was “no real proof of WMDs.”

    I particularly liked our MSMs treatment of one particular story about our troop’s find of an abandoned, very high tech and very expensive to create custom made mobile biological lab, crammed into an easily movable and concealable trailer, that had been thoroughly scrubbed down and decontaminated; an odd and improbable thing to find in Saddham’s very poor Iraq. Said the MSM, claims that this was a “smoking gun” and proof of BW research were obviously wrong; this was very obviously merely a mobile lab, meant to be used for the humanitarian purpose of checking for outbreaks of disease. How dare we connect it in any way, shape, or form to BW!

  41. Eric Says:

    Wolla Dalbo,

    Regarding Iraq, it’s critical to include in your premises that from a legal and policy perspective, Saddam’s Iraq was both established and presumed guilty on the WMD issue as the basis of the UNSC resolutions and their enforcement. This foundational premise was operative from day one of the ceasefire under Bush the father, clarified by Clinton, and inherited by Bush the son.

    Much of your argument is actually irrelevant because the burden of proof was entirely on Iraq, not on the US nor the UN. Moreover, the standard for Iraq to prove its rehabilitation was driven higher by the series of violations between the 1991 ceasefire until OIF.

    In other words, if Bush had simply stated – as Clinton effectively stated when he bombed Iraq in 1998 – that the US and UN had no affirmative knowledge of Iraq’s state of WMD, that would have been legally sufficient cause for military action.

    In terms of policy, based on Iraq’s history, track record of deception, defiance, and belligerence, established and presumed guilt, and the stakes involved, Clinton and later Bush officials with the added threat considerations in the wake of 9/11 were obligated to view any intelligence on Iraqi WMD in an unfavorable light for Iraq.

    As Clinton explained in 2004, “I thought the president had an absolute responsibility to go to the U.N. and say, ‘Look, guys, after 9/11, you have got to demand that Saddam Hussein lets us finish the inspection process.’ You couldn’t responsibly ignore [the possibility that] a tyrant had these stocks”.

    Bush’s Iraq policy was a consistent extension of Clinton’s Iraq policy.

  42. Eric Says:

    Wolla Dalbo: “Moreover, the do gooder’s dream of “planting democracy” ain’t gonna work in countries that are firmly in the hands of Islam”

    It was working in Iraq at the point that Obama passive-aggressively sabotaged the SOFA negotiation. The COIN surge didn’t only work because US soldiers were the Peace Corps on steroids. It worked because of the Iraqis, too. But the case may be that, in the region, the relatively conducive conditions in Iraq for liberal reform are distinct to Iraq.

    There’s a difference between democracy and liberal democracy, emphasis on the liberal.

  43. Eric Says:

    Add: I’m not saying our choices in Syria today are the same as our choices in Iraq.

    In Syria, the 2 choices are the autocratic tyrant and Islamic terrorists.

    In Iraq, there was a 3rd choice, established by Clinton and followed by Bush: liberals.

    There may have been a 3rd choice in Syria early in the Arab Spring, but Obama wasted it.

  44. Ann Says:

    Eric said: “In Syria, the 2 choices are the autocratic tyrant and Islamic terrorists.”

    From a couple of days ago:

    Senior Research Analyst for the Institute of the Study of War Elizabeth O’Bagy broke down the state of affairs in Syria Monday on FNC’s “Special Report.”

    O’Bagy explained contrary to fears that Syrian rebels are predominantly extremist, many of the groups composing rebel forces have formed alliances and incorporated goals conducive to U.S. interests.

    These allied groups with sympathies to U.S. interests, O’Bagy said, actually make up the majority of the Syrian rebels

    Do you think we can give any credence to that?

  45. Eric Says:

    Ann,

    Just on face value, there are a couple of fuzzy words in that quote.

    Even so, fuzzy words might be good enough if we have a sufficient center-of-gravity presence on the ground to properly align the orbit of these groups, as exemplified by the Iraq mission.

    But we don’t, so the Syrian ‘rebels’ will align according to whatever centers of gravity are actually on the ground in Syria.

    Or are we a few policy steps away from boots on the ground again, but this time next door to Iraq?

  46. Ymarsakar Says:

    Islam cannot be contained for the simple reason that the Leftist alliance, with its Democrat founding members, in the US will continue to provide open sabotage, false flag operations, covering for Islamic sleeper agents like Hasan, and various other leaks and benefits to their Islamic allies.

    How exactly does anyone expect the US to be able to defeat or even “contain” Islam given this fact of life?

    The Left may be defeated by first defeating Islam. Islam can only be defeated or hurt if the Left inside America is destroyed first.

    This is a paradox, given that Americans haven’t done a damn thing against the Left.

  47. Ymarsakar Says:

    Do you think we can give any credence to that?

    Sympathy doesn’t win wars.

    The media is not only full of liars, but they believe so much disinformation that their “analysts” have about as much analysis power as my Pinky.

  48. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    In the wake of various director’s wrecking crews, the CIA, I understand, is very low on humint people, add in the inevitable chaotic situation on the ground in Syria, the incidence and success of various “disinformation” and “false flag operations,” Muslim group’s habit and success in faking various still shots and videos of supposed “atrocities,” then add highly skewed “all Leftist all the time” MSM and BBC reportage to the mix, and it would seem to me that it would be very hard indeed to know, in a short time and with any degree of confidence, which group or groups in Syria had used WMD, ”who really shot john.”

  49. Promethea Says:

    Walla Dalbo @ 2:45 . . .

    Re the BS just keeps on coming!

    Great post with so much detail from the past. I too followed the WMD arguments closely in 2002 and 2003 and watched how the MSM manipulated all the facts so that the average reader would only follow the traitorous Dems talking points. That’s also when I became hooked on the internet as a better source for information.

    Threatening to attack Syria is Madness! What could the US possibly gain from such an attack? The invasion of Iraq made sense for various geographic and political reasons, but Obama pissed the victory away.

    Our federal government is currently in the hands of vicious children. Bullies and nitwits. The Bill Mumy kid from Twilight Zone.

    I can’t imagine a favorable outcome unless the Russians, Chinese, and Saudis help to keep a lid on things. Our national future depends on the common sense of our enemies. Not a good situation to be in. :-(

  50. Ann Says:

    Oldflyer, with regard to your comment “in my opinion, there are two entities that would like to see the U.S. drawn into the conflict vs Assad. One entity is the Syrian opposition, which seems to be dominated now by the Islamist faction. The other is the government of Israel”, I suggest you read Jonathan Tobin’s “Syria and Israel Lobby Conspiracy Theories” over at Commentary; here’s some of it:

    …some in our nation’s capital also seem to subscribe in some ways to the Arab world’s conspiratorial view of Israel. That was evident in a Politico story published last night that pondered why it was that the so-called “Israel lobby” was “silent on Syria.”

    The assumption behind the story and the headline seems to be that anything that happens in the Middle East or any foreign policy initiative undertaken by the United States has to be in some way the result of machinations by supporters of Israel even if the conflict in question is one on which they have no rooting interest. That Jerusalem doesn’t have a favorite in a fight between a genocidal maniac dictator and an opposition that is heavily infiltrated by people related to Al Qaeda is a given. But the fact that backers of Israel are as divided about what the U.S. should do about Assad’s atrocities as the rest of the country is seen as somehow anomalous.

  51. Ymarsakar Says:

    One of the reasons Japan and other nations dislike US occupation forces is precisely because relying on a foreign power makes for a useless, serf like population that always looks for other people to save them from themselves.

    The concept of independence, the concept of individual pride and self reliance, all of that is shattered so long as American Democrats force foreigners to bow to American power and money.

    If any American tries to change this, the Democrat will sabotage the effort, kill a bunch of Americans, “declare victory”, and then redistribute the war funds to their personal bank accounts. Mission Accomplished.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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