August 31st, 2013

President Obama announces he will strike Syria…

one of these days.

Perhaps when Congress returns and approves, which won’t be until after September 9th. But he reserves the right to do it before:

Before revealing he would seek approval from Congress, the President made clear that “we are prepared to strike whenever we choose.”

Strikes would be “effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now,” Obama said, adding that he is “prepared to give that order.”

Since this seems to be merely a symbolic gesture, I suppose it doesn’t matter how telegraphed it is, or when it occurs. Actually, for symbolic gestures, perhaps the more telegraphed and delayed the better, in order to build apprehension.

I think what happened is that President Obama may have been surprised by the relative unpopularity of his initial announcement that he might be about to attack Syria. He hadn’t intended to seek Congress’s approval, but he may have been convinced that it was necessary to win over the American people (although such considerations don’t often stop him).

This is interesting as well:

Also on Saturday, U.N. chemical weapons inspectors arrived in the Netherlands, where samples they collected in Syria will be evaluated in laboratories. The goal will be to check them for traces of poison gas that may have been unleashed in an Aug. 21 bombardment of a Damascus suburb.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Saturday “whatever can will be done” to speedup the analysis, but he gave no timeline for a report on the results…

The experts took with them blood and urine samples from victims as well as soil samples from the affected areas for examination in laboratories in Europe.

Considering it’s the UN, my guess is that it will take quite a while. I wonder, if the report were to indicate that chemical weapons were not used, whether Obama would back off (my guess, however, is that the inspectors will find that they were, although I would not be completely shocked either if the opposite occurred).

The parallels between Syria now and Iraq in 2002-2003 is ironic, including the need to try to present the evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The differences are ironic, too, because there were many additional reasons to attack Saddam Hussein besides WMDs—most prominent among them his continued and repeated defiance of the UN inspections that had been imposed on him as a condition of the end of the Gulf War.

Despite this—and the fact that Saddam Hussein had also used chemical weapons against his own people, in 1988 on a much larger scale—Obama was opposed to attacking Iraq, although he was a mere state legislator rather than US senator at the time. Another ironic difference between the Iraq buildup and the present Syria one was, of course, that unlike Obama, Bush actually got the serious cooperation of a number of countries in the international community.

So, what will Congress do? Obama may have called their bluff. If they agree, they will be partially responsible for the result of any action he takes. If they disagree, and Assad continues his behavior, they will be responsible for allowing that to happen and Obama can say “Ah, if only you’d let me do it, none of this terrible stuff would have happened.”

28 Responses to “President Obama announces he will strike Syria…”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    The Emily “Never mind” Litella Foreign Policy Gambit

    “Never mind” was a frequent exclamation of Emily Litella on Saturday Night Live. Miss Litella meant the third of the following Wiktionary definitions of “never mind”

    don’t worry

    it doesn’t matter

    I was wrong; I withdraw the statement; pretend I didn’t say it.

    In saying “Never mind”, Litella acknowledges her error in misapprehending some expression and speaking out about the perceived issue on national television.

    “Never mind” was a running gag and a catch phrase during the character’s 26 appearances in the Weekend Update portion of the comedy series.

    In quoting Litella, a person acknowledges a mistake, or that a previously-expressed concern is no longer to be considered valid.

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/2364

  2. Steve Says:

    Journalists, Politicians Refuse to Post Lawn Sign saying HOME IS PROUDLY GUN FREE:

    http://commoncts.blogspot.com/2013/08/journalists-politicians-refuse-to-post.html

  3. Mr. Frank Says:

    Obama has gotten out of the box. He wanted to act decisively, but that inept Congress wouldn’t let him.

  4. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    neo: “He hadn’t intended to seek Congress’s approval, but he may have been convinced that it was necessary to win over the American people (although such considerations don’t often stop him). ” Sure wish he had taken more notice of public opinion before ramming the ACA down our throats. :-)

    Today Obama seemed to argue that we are the world’s police. He says a crime has been committed, and we must react. However, he suddenly remembered he is President of the oldest Democratic Republic and he needs advise and consent from the people’s representatives. Obama has argued against intervening in the internal affairs of a sovereign country when it suited his political purposes. We mustn’t react to the crimes of those thugs because they have brown skin, they had terrible childhoods, U.S. foreign policy made them do it, they ‘re only following their religious beliefs, etc.,etc. But now, he shot his mouth off, and finds that if he doesn’t intervene in another country’s internal affairs, he has torn both his credibility of that of the USA to shreds.

    I don’t know about others but I am enjoying watching him try to tap dance his way out of this. I do think that if Congress doesn’t give him the go ahead, he will heave a big sigh of relief and blame it all on the cowardly Republicans. You know, “I wanted to do the right thing but those gutless Rethuglicans wouldn’t let me.” And the MSM will trumpet the narrative. And so it goes.

  5. KLSmith Says:

    I am too stupid to appreciate the best, most wonderful president we have ever had.

  6. Eric Says:

    The Iraq problem confronted by Bush has more differences than similarities with the current Syria problem.

    By the time Bush inherited the Iraq problem, it already had a long, well-developed, and distinct case history with the USG and UN, an overflowing statutory history, and a clarified applied procedure.

    The opening stage of the Iraq mission happened under Bush Senior and the ultimate stage of the Iraq mission happened under Bush, but every developmental milestone in between the 1st act and last act, including the penultimate stage that finalized the procedure to solve the Iraq problem, happened under Clinton.

    The point of this that relates to Obama and Syria problem is that the Democrats, including Obama, misrepresented Bush’s confrontation of Saddam as a wholly new and unique episode. The Democrats lied. In fact, Bush’s action on Iraq was only part of a contiguous sequence.

    There’s no doubt Bush did his job and put in the time and elbow grease to lay the presidential groundwork for the Iraq mission in 2002-2003. But Bush was only picking up on the same job site that Clinton had built up for 8 years, who in turn picked up on the foundation laid by Bush Senior. For the most part, the support Bush garnered in 2002-2003 was the same support for Clinton’s military action on Iraq in 1998. The opposition to US-led military action in Iraq fell along similar lines in 1998 and 2002-2003, too.

    I wonder, did Obama actually believe the Democrats’ lie that Bush’s action on Iraq was a new and unique episode? If so, that may help explain his confusion over being rebuffed now.

    Obama probably also is confused by what’s changed between Libya and Syria.

    Bush’s road to Iraq was the Appian Way that was built before he was President. With Syria, Obama is just sort of running off into the woods on his own yelling ‘Follow me’.

  7. kit Says:

    He made this announcement and then he skipped happily away to play golf

  8. carl in atlanta Says:

    I hate to admit it but this will probably prove to be a diabolically clever move politically, for the reasons stated in neo’s last paragraph.

    With this guy it’s always politics. Domestic politics at that. He could give a rat’s ass about the victims in Syria.

    And shame on the MSM chorus, as usual.

  9. Eric Says:

    With the right maneuvering, if the opportunity presents with Obama on the stand, the GOP could use his defense of a Syria intervention as a sneaky jumping off point to set the public record right on Iraq and rehabilitate Bush’s legacy.

  10. Ann Says:

    In line with the put-the-onus-on-Congress plan:

    Via Kathryn Jean Lopez at NRO — a Mia Farrow tweet: “Actually it’s flabbergasting and appalling that, at a precipice like this, Congress won’t give up any of their vacation time. Sack them all.”

  11. expat Says:

    I certainly hope the Congess will attach some strings to their authorization that prevent Obama from laying the blame on them if things go belly up. At least they could require regular public and classified updates. I imagine the Obama Bush-bashing videos will be all over the internet as Obama justifies his plans.

  12. James Says:

    This is what Congress should do:
    Make the Dems introduce the resolution, make every one register a roll call vote. Require all extra funding to come from the existing budget. Require the Administration to explain if this is a declaration of war, if not why not? Make the Administration go on record as to what is exactly their authority to do this without Congressional approval. Make them explain why if it is in their authority to go without Congressional approval that they are here asking for it.
    Do not let them hide on this make them explain everything publicly. Congress should remember that Obama is coming to them not by Congressional demand!

  13. rickl Says:

    Oh, this is good.

    Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding the Middle East

    Be sure to click on the chart.

  14. JimBobElrod Says:

    Obama and the media can play the “blame the Republicans” game all they want. Out in the real world, Iran, Russia, China and others have already taken the measure of our affirmative action President. The consequences of Obama’s dithering will start to be seen in ways not favorable to the U.S. I fear the possibility of a regional war in the Mideast involving Israel has just increased exponentially. We are so screwed.

  15. Eric Says:

    rickl,

    Good stuff. I saw a clipping of the letter earlier. The chart really emphasizes the point.

    Congress needs to nail down Obama on his long-term, big-picture plan for Syria, the region, and how this intervention fits into it. Make him explain why and to what purpose. Make it a detailed referendum on Obama’s Middle East policy.

  16. KLSmith Says:

    Just saw on Weasel Zippers that a State Dept official told James Rosen @ FNC that Obama will hit Syria whether Congress votes yes or no.

  17. Cornflour Says:

    Just want to say that I agree with “Carl in Atlanta.”

    This is all about a calculation for the 2014 midterm elections. In this country, there are many millions of people who know more about foreign policy than Obama. Obviously, he’s clever about winning elections, and he wants the left wing of the Democratic Party to keep winning elections, but he’s not more complicated than that.

    Obama is a very simple and very ignorant man, who knows how to manipulate white guilt and black anger. That’s what he always does, and that’s what he’s doing with the Syrian problem, but he can’t quite figure out the best way to fit Syria into his standard formula. People are always giving him both too much and too little credit.

  18. Don Carlos Says:

    I expect the Ministry of Propaganda to now regularly report suspected chem weapons’ deaths of innocent Syrians, especially women and children.

    And it will be the GOP’s fault. Go get it, you stupid LIVs, and you thank God for wily Dems, the Children Savers.

  19. Eric Says:

    Don Carlos: “And it will be the GOP’s fault.”

    They’ll say that the GOP supported invading Iraq over false intelligence on WMD yet oppose punishing Syria over a real chemical attack.

  20. parker Says:

    In my neck of the woods, no one, self identified as liberal or conservative, wants to become invovled in the carnage in Syria. I know this is true because I’ve talked with neighbors over a 20 block Fridaywhere we discuss local, regional, national, and international affairs.

    The messiah may be able to convince the MSM he is the messiah, but the red line doesn’t count for much in flyover country.

  21. M J R Says:

    Looks like the disaster-in-chief has found a way to wriggle out of this one (that he himself created, but you all know that, and *he* knows that).

    Krauthammer: “Amateur Hour” at the White House.

    Transcript . . .

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/08/31/krauthammer_on_obama_statement_boxed_himself_into_a_corner_and_is_looking_for_a_way_out.html

    CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: I think this is astonishing — the way that my colleagues have described it — but the most astonishing thing is the lack of any urgency. As you say, Congress will be back in a week. He says, ‘I can strike in a day or a week or a month,’ as if he is a judge handing down a sentence and the execution can be any time in the future. There’s a war going on! Do you think everybody is going to hold their breath, hold their arms? Step aside until Obama decides when he wants to go to Congress?

    Look, I think he should go to Congress. I think it is absolutely necessary, but he’s done no preparation. What they should have done — I mean, this is sort of amateur hour. When there was the first attacks six months ago or, if you like, when we had the current attacks, he should have immediately have called in the Congress — the way that the prime minister of Britain had called in the parliament — had a debate and got a resolution and then went out and told the world we are going do ‘x’ or we’re not going to do ‘x.’

    But the idea that you make the case, you leak the details, you tell the world that this has to be done, and then you say,’ well, I’ll take my time and go to Congress and we’ll see.’ This should be done in three days. It isn’t as if people aren’t aware of the arguments. He should go out there and bring them in, have it done by the end of the week, and the world, I think, will have a little higher respect. This looks as if if you are a cynic, meaning if you’re sitting in Syria, or in Iran, or in Moscow, it looks like a president who boxed himself into a corner and is looking for a way out.

  22. Harold Says:

    I don’t much care about the people in Syria and I don’t think their death and the use of poison gas much effects US national interests.

    However since Syria is an ally of Iran, taking down the Assad regime would be a serious blow to Iran’s ambitions in the region. But the attack that the messiah is planing doesn’t address this issue. It is a purely domestic political plan. It will have little to no effect on Syria or Iran. A robust plan to take down Assad and his military would indeed address a possible US national interest.

    And it truly is amusing to see Kerry and Obama shedding their anti-American pacifist positions to justify war. Their motto used to be “war, huh, yeah, what is it good for. Absolutely nothing” (Edwin Starr lyrics).

  23. southpaw Says:

    If there was some way to tie the events in Syria to security the US, BO might might score some political points by claiming the republicans blocked him, but polls have consistently shown Americans aren’t up to being world’s policemen any longer. There’s very little American support for for more US involvement in places they cant find on a map or make any connection to themselves – in spite of the media’s harping on the chemical weapons story.
    I’m giving Americans more credit here for recognizing if it is the right thing to intervene killing your citizens with chemical weapons, it’s the right thing to intervene killing them with any weapons.
    The American public has been conditioned since the first Gulf War to be horrified by the use of chemical and biological weapons as a way to help define the monsters who have used them to commit masss murders in their own countries, as if mass murder with conventional weapons is somehow less barbaric. They’re used because they’re cheaper, leave infrastructure in place, and in recent times, are psychologically effective. You can’t see or smell the thing that’s killing you, and have no warning to get away.
    But using the instrument of human destruction as the red line for intervention, rather than mass murdering itself by any means, is a ludicrous and dishonest argument. If Obama or any would be savior believes the right thing to do is stop the bloodshed, then make that case and stand by your belief. quit making lame excuses.

  24. Eric Says:

    southpaw,

    Unlike Presidential election, Presidential leadership is not a popularity contest. Bush’s foreign policy was unpopular, largely due to the Left and Democrats’ propaganda, but Bush was also right.

    I agree with you and Harold that what needs to be held to scrutiny is whether Obama’s proposal is a rational application.

    Not whether it’s popular.

    Bush rationally matched means to the ends of American liberal world leadership. Despite ostensibly pursuing the same liberal goals as Bush, Obama’s foreign affairs have not been rational. Obama’s proposal with Syria also seems to fail the test of rationally matching an action to effective US foreign policy.

  25. Harry the Extremist Says:

    “I think what happened is that President Obama may have been surprised by the relative unpopularity of his initial announcement that he might be about to attack Syria.”

    I think what happened is that Obama was surprised by the unpopularity of undertaking any action in Syria from liberals and “progressives”. I think he could care less what anyone elses opinions are.

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    Back in 2004, the media and the Left + Democrats did their best to try to demoralize the American people about Iraq.

    Remember what they used to call people who supported the Iraq effort?

  27. Eric Says:

    Ymarsakar,

    If the GOP was smarter than they are, they would use the platform provided by the Syria issue to set the record right on the Iraq intervention. Doing so would include holding the Democrats to account for their false narrative and propaganda sabotage of a critical American mission.

    It’s not just about partisan political advantage.

    The Democrats’ false narrative of the Iraq mission has metastasized into a fundamental guiding principle of American foreign policy. It needs to be excised and its progenitors publicly discredited in order to restore rational decision-making to our foreign policy.

  28. Don Carlos Says:

    Can anyone explain why McCain and Graham are beating the drum so vigorously in HusseinO’s support?
    Would we have been better off with McCain as POTUS? As the years roll on, I see less and less evidence to support that idea.

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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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