The perils of Barack

Will he or won’t he?

So here we are.  Americans elected Barack Obama, and now he appears to be within a breath of embroiling us in a military confrontation in Syria.  If the most recent polls are a good indication, Americans are strongly opposed to intervening in Syria.  Even if there is incontrovertible proof that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people on 21 August, 46 percent of poll respondents last week said they would still strongly oppose a U.S. intervention in Syria.

Bret Baier laid it out in his Fox News broadcast this evening:  the opposition to intervening in Syria is by far the highest amount of public opposition to any proposed intervention or other military operation in the last 30 years.  The numbers against Syria bear no resemblance to the numbers on anything Americans can remember, whether Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, Somalia, Haiti, Panama, or Grenada.  Americans aren’t sold on the necessity or wisdom of a military attack on Syria; in fact, opposition to it, in the absence of conclusive proof that Assad used WMD, is a whopping 60 percent.

The reasons for this are the same reasons that few can find a brief, cogent way to talk about the issue.  For the American people, I think – speaking as one of them – the biggest concern is a simple one: ain’t nobody tellin’ us nothin’.  What the heck would an intervention look like, and why exactly would we be doing it?  Fine, “WMD”; but what would we be doing about “WMD”?  Hunting it down?  Taking it out?  Just punishing Assad for using it?  If so, by doing what?  Attacking his airfields and warehouses?  Blowing up his warplanes?  Pumping a few Tomahawks into a presidential palace?

There are brief, cogent things to say about Syria, about the threat its civil war poses to stability, and about the security problem of chemical weapons use by Assad.  But no one in the Obama administration, from Obama himself down through his cabinet-level representatives to Jay Carney, is saying them.  We literally do not know the administration’s answer to the most basic question about this whole thing: what would we be conducting a military attack on Syria for?

There is a big difference between proposing to punish Assad, with no decisive end-state in view, and proposing to take action designed to shape or at least promote a particular end-state.  The different goals would entail different levels and types of military action.  Ideally, they would entail different packages of non-military action as well: principally diplomacy, to lay out, sell, and negotiate any end-state we had in mind.

In any case, military action will draw a big reaction from Assad, and a less predictable but potentially more dangerous reaction in various dimensions from Iran and Russia.  This will be true regardless of what our goal is, and what level and type of force we use.  Syria is not Libya, a point I have made on numerous occasions (e.g., here).  Iran and Russia are both too invested there, for immutable geostrategic reasons, to simply stand back and let the Western nations bomb their client until we feel satisfied.

Breaking the peace

So there are a handful of key ways in which to frame the Syria question.  One is the way I outlined yesterday: what is the extent to which the brittle peace we have today will be disrupted by great-power action and reaction in Syria?  Russia and Iran are warning us about that; do Western leaders see the dangers?  Are they thinking about them?  Can we detect any assumptions they have in mind, which might be guides to what they’re going to do?

Breaking promises

Another way to frame the Syria question is to view it in terms of threats, promises, and credibility.  Barry Rubin, inspecting the situation in those terms, asserts flatly that Obama has no intention of using military force in Syria.  Promises and credibility don’t mean enough to Obama – demonstrably, based on his record – and the American people are against attacking Syria, at a time when the hazards of doing so promise to be great.  No matter what it looks like through the lens of the “drive-by” media, the answer just can’t be that Obama is going to take this step into quicksand.  That means the U.S. is headed for a huge loss of credibility.

Rubin may well be right.  I would have simply agreed with him a couple of days ago, when the rumors about an impending attack on Assad were first flying.  But then, as a counterpoint to the continued bombastic vagueness of Team Obama, Cameron, Merkel, and Hollande began talking in serious and concrete terms about military action.  (The latest I’ve seen is Australia’s Kevin Rudd chiming in.)

I am concerned about their categorical approach given the very real hazards of trying to shove an intervention down Russia’s throat – but it defies logic to think that they have all simply lost their minds, and are speaking so specifically and determinedly of an action they have no intention of taking.  It looks to me like they really mean it.  The drumbeat from Europe sounds similar to the one that struck up in March 2011, prior to the Libya operation.

Of course, if they – and we – draw back now, after bustling about so energetically, the geopolitical egg on our faces will take years to scrape off, and the world as we know it will perish from sheer, embarrassed unsustainability anyway.  The cynical pundits are all right about that.

Breaking with rationality in warfare

A third way of framing the Syria problem is in terms of what the main objective could be.  Military specialists have spoken clearly about the kinds of target sets we could choose, if our desire is somewhere close on the spectrum to encouraging the demise of the Assad regime.  Most analysts are disdainful of the idea of simply punishing Assad, with no larger motive.  They rightly point out that, since we would incur the same outrage from Russia and Iran with a small, meaningless strike as with a bigger one, we’d be better off to get what we can out of it.  Go for the bigger prize.

But Obama has a joker to play in this hand: the same one he played in Libya.  Our passive-aggressive stance there was constrained by the concept of “non-hostile kinetic military action,” which was meant to try and protect innocent civilians, while yet effacing itself from any hint of trying to force a particular political outcome; i.e., help one faction or another win the war.  Samantha Power has long been a high-profile advocate of the concept of a “responsibility to protect,” which would basically amount to an obligation on the part of a nation like the United States to shoot, regardless of any other feature or consideration of a given conflict.

That is indisputably a recipe for disaster down the road.  But it was essentially the basis on which the Obama administration undertook the intervention in Libya, under the aegis of Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, and Valerie Jarrett.  It is problematic – idiotic? – as a rubric for planning an operation in Syria, where its potential for having any meaning, given how well armed the rebels and the regime both are, is even less than it was in Libya.  But as a political mantra, responsibility to protect (or, perhaps, “atrocity prevention,” another banner with the Power stamp on it) is tailor-made for the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack on civilians.  There is no reason to imagine that John Kerry or Chuck Hagel will shift the locus of strategic thinking in the administration away from its earlier patterns.

With these three frameworks laid out, we circle back to the problem that the U.S. administration has addressed none of them before the public or Congress.  We don’t know how much or if Team Obama, or our eager allies, have thought about what it will mean to the peace to cross Russia and Iran with a military action in Syria.  For all we can tell, it has not even occurred to them.

We don’t know what their thinking is on the choice between evils:  the evil of intervening or the evil of failing to after defining a red line.

And we don’t know what the driving objective of an intervention would be.  That said, we do have an informative (if disquieting) data point from 2011.

Given all these factors, most of us can form a pretty solid opinion of whether we should intervene, and if so, for what purpose.  What I have been unable to predict is what Obama is going to do.

Will Obama break his silence?

I’m not as certain as Barry Rubin is that he will take the hard-headed if ignominious route of shrugging and saying, “Oops, forget about it,” sometime in the next couple of weeks.  I suspect Samantha Power really, really doesn’t want him to, and that she has important supporters in the administration.

Obama himself has been silent as the Sphinx on what the whole Syria problem might mean to him or the United States, but the rest of the administration is making a tremendous amount of noise having what Charles Krauthammer has called a “moral spasm” over the Syria situation.  The frantic pace comes off almost as a campaign within the administration to box Obama in, so that he has to conduct an intervention in some form.

Obama has no geopolitical instincts or judgment whatever; none of it seems to register as real with him, in the way community organizing, ward-heeling, and constituency-tending do.  I don’t read him as sure-footed enough in this arena to make independent decisions with confidence.  Characteristically, he was maneuvered by many of the same advisors into an unexecutable hybrid strategy in Afghanistan and a sort of anti-strategy in Libya.

He mostly sent out others to announce and explain his policies, as he does on everything not directly related to constituency-tending.  But his pattern of actual decisions on national security issues – as opposed to their presentation – has not been predictably cynical, poll-oriented, or even path-of-least-resistance.  It has instead alternated between feckless, ideological, and dilettantish.

Obama may surprise us and authorize a military action against Syria.  If so, it will probably be another annoying hybrid operation, trying not to be too purposefully forcible while still requiting the sentiments of moral outrage.  Doing this would require assuming away the predictions of messiness and manifold consequences that should otherwise, as Rubin suggests, make him throw in the towel.

The European allies may get cold feet, realizing that with America dazed and confused, they are out of position to plan comprehensively for major blowback from Russia and Iran.  Then again, they may not.  I have been surprised by their air of confidence in the last couple of days.  Unlike the days of Libya in 2011, their posture has been neither tentative nor long-building.  About a tougher and more multifarious problem, they seem to have fewer qualms.

One factor may prove to be the most reliable clue: the preparations, if any, that Russia makes.  It’s not clear how visible they will be.  But if the Russians feel it necessary to make new preparations, such as moving military forces into the Caucasus or flying things into Syria, it will be because they seriously expect an organized Western action of non-negligible scope.

My assessment is that right now, they can’t predict either what Obama will do, and perhaps aren’t so sure about Cameron and the other Europeans.  A perilous situation – and one that is giving bad actors ideas as I type this, regardless of the outcome of the Syrian chemical weapons event.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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32 thoughts on “The perils of Barack”

  1. ‘all necessary measures to protect civilians’ is what the BBC is reporting at the moment.
    ok, now the BBC is praising Israel’s intel on Syria.
    No, no pigs were flying in the background 🙂

      1. maybe, but I have never before heard anyone on BBC news ever praise anything that Israel does.
        In retrospect, praising Israeli intel on Syria just sets Israel up to take the blame if Obama’s ‘plan’ fails.

        Too much to hope the ‘plan’ centers on Jordan occupying Daraa province, allow the refugees from Daraa in Jordan’s huge refugee camp to move back, under military protection by Jordan.

        Would Assad then declare war on Jordan?

        With simultaneous declaration of an autonomous Druze/Circassian state-let on the Syrian side of the Golan, while the Iraqi & Syrian Kurds announce they will be seeking statehood at the UN in September.

        There is a saying: good fences make good neighbors. In the case of MENA, good maps would make better neighbors.

        1. “…Observers say that towns bordering Jordan have seen “huge numbers” of migrants from Syria’s capital, Damascus, arriving but that closed ports and tightened entry conditions to refugee camps in the neighboring country mean that people have nowhere to go. …”

          “There is news that al-Zaatri camp has stopped further entry because numbers of displaced exceeded 120,000,” said Nayef al-Sari, 40, with the opposition in Daraa. “Jordanian authorities have issued orders to stop entry for 45 day — even the wounded have some difficulties entering. …”
          as reported by

          [keep your eyes on Daraa province]

  2. If our troops go in, I regrettably expect they will be confronted by a chemical attack at the outset, the moment they cross the Syrian border. It may or may not be preceded by either a private or public warning by the Syrian government on their use. From the Syrian government’s perspective, any incursion into Syrian territory will only be interpreted as an unprovoked, wanton act of aggression, warranting a full defensive response by all available means. My estimation is Assad has certainly learned the lessons of survival in the region and won’t repeat the mistakes of Milosevic, Saddam and Qaddafi.

    Then what are we going to do? Cauterize the whole friggin population of Syria in retaliation? The same population we were supposed to “save’ from Assad?

    God damn the liberal interventionists.

    1. JGets…

      This will be, if it occurs, a Buzz Bomb barrage of some number of bombs aimed at targets presumably occupied by valid targets… It might be accompanied by stealth bomber attacks from high altitude at night… under most of the same conditions.. and then their might be some Eurofighter eggs dropped just to make them feel better…

      Then they will fold their tents and go. There will be no ground troops, and frankly who would host them except Israel and maybe Jordan, where such a position might put Abdullah in serious jeopardy for more than his prestige.

      Like I have said… this was and is a completely moronic track. It speaks of a lack of any understanding of foreign policy by the Evil Party and its figurehead ruler.


      1. I did say “if’ our troops go in. And my dramatization was intentional in order to highlight the gravity of our actions.

        Our ground troops are currently training “rebels” in Jordan/Turkey and have covertly infiltrated Syria in small numbers.. Lebanon can be utilized as an intermediate staging area for an eventual Syrian invasion as well. Although, this would require a different, possibly more successful, strategic approach.

        The Israelis are providing covert support to the “rebels”. You underestimate the willingness of our vassal/ally/dogwaggers, including Israel, to encourage a Syrian invasion by American ground forces, wherever it begins from. This is an auspicious development for them. American troops fighting their mortal enemies to further their strategic interests? Hava Nagila.

        Some of our political leadership have the tendency to forget that Israel along with Turkey and Saudi Arabia are foreign countries with their own interests, that do not necessarily coincide with our own 100% of the time.

        Depending on the outcome of the buzz bomb strikes and how successful Assad’s defense and counterattack is, Obama might have to escalate just to save face.

        This is a slippery slope, once we directly engage, even with buzz bombs, we cannot know the final outcome.

        1. Just so you understand the military angle…As a matter of doctrinal policy, a few special ops and Special Forces military trainers are not considered ground troops. These are as their categorization denotes “Special” and their role is not as combatants… ok ok… I know… my Dad spent two tours in Vietnam… I know what can happen with “Advisors”.

          Ground troops to the Army entails the big three of combat arms, Infantry, Armor, and Artillery, presented with a full logistical tail required for at least Regimental (in the case of an Armored Cavalry Regiment) / Brigade (in the case of Infantry combined arms activity) level at least.

          Of course anything short of a multi brigade commitment would be pure suicide. Or the first stone in the soup, so to speak.

          It would also be a disaster from the start, and as you and JE point out, lead to God only knows where…

          We have idiots running our foreign policy, and idiots do one thing very well…

          I’ll leave the goat and activity to your imagination.

          Very Respectfully – John

  3. I agree with Col. Peters. Why is it in our interest to stop our enemies killing each other. Civilian carnage is horrible, BUT we have no interest there.
    It is an un-civilized part of the world. I am sure Islam will protect the civilians.

    Note to JE: Both young, option QB’s were in a dead heat for the starting job at OU. Bell was going to be 3rd. Kendall Thompson was injured in practice. Bell moves up to back-up.

  4. Regional armed forces going on various levels of alert.

    ‘The Aviationist’ has some posts on aircraft traffic.

    SSGN 728 in the EMED, unconfirmed.

    Iranian sources (press tv) assert US troops mobilized along Syrian-Jordanian border. No way of telling if this is disinformation or not. but we will be seeing a lot of that shortly.

    Guess Obama might want to get this started before the G-20 in Moscow next week.

    1. Yeah, we’ll be spooked and interpreting every gently lapping wavelet as a submarine crouched to strike, over the next few days.

      I saw Dave Cenicotti’s report on the E-4B being seen at Incirlik. There is no role for the E-4B in a limited strike on Syria, and I don’t think it’s in the theater for that purpose. SECDEF has used it for his official travel for a number of years now, and I’m told the Chairman is occasionally allowed to use it for travel as well. Dempsey is in-theater — was in Jordan for the military chiefs’ conference the last couple of days — and that may be why the E-4B is tooling around in EASTMED.

      WSJ points out today that it is utterly moronic to leak your entire strike plan to the New York Times:

      In a laughable counterpoint, Max Fisher at WaPo calls it preternatural wisdom to leak your entire strike plan to the New York Times:

      Money quote (Fisher speaks here of Clinton’s Desert Fox op in 1998):

      “Iraq knew that it was coming and was mostly unsurprised, which meant that it didn’t escalate.”

      Nonsense. It didn’t escalate because it was the United States, with two carriers, six TLAM/Aegis ships, a couple of TLAM submarines, a whole theater Air Force, and a passel of allies in the Gulf, striking Iraq, which had never recovered combat capabilities lost in 1991, and would have been insane to escalate anything. Saddam had been under two no-fly zones and a relatively effective UN embargo for nearly 7 years in December of 1998. In terms of the potential for conventional “escalation,” he was pinned down like a bug on a specimen block.

      Assad is not.

      My own take on the Obama admin “leak” to NYT — one of those slavishly repeated, perfectly crafted talking-point leaks — is that it’s intended to reassure Russia and Iran that our intention is not to escalate.

      This makes the whole thing a poorly conceived exercise in the pointless use of military force. Sort of military force as performance art. Call it the Sarin Monologues.

      Meanwhile, yeah, the G20. What will Russia do if Obama simply ignores Russian warnings about Syria, and wanders into the G20 in Moscow next week with a whistle and a grin? A year ago, I might have come down on the side of expecting the Russians to grind their teeth and remain quiet. Today, I no longer have an inner certainty about that.

      Assuming the G20 does go on as scheduled, I suspect we’re going to see all the strategic bombers Moscow can muster zooming the North American ADIZes while it’s underway — along with Hawaii and Guam. Japan, Norway, and Britain had better make sure their fighter CAP alerts are awake.

      1. on the leak stuff…organizations and the people in charge of these situations can be a little out of touch with reality, being that they exist in a bubble and all..makes em do dumb things.

        I’m not certain that this is a pointless military exercise from the vantage of some of the Syrian opposition’s backers though, whoever they are (Saudis, Turks, etc.), and for whatever reason.

        They had to do something. It might fail, but the had to do something. There was an urgent need to manufacture a pretext for direct Western intervention. The “opposition” was, (and still is), collapsing. I’m coming down to the conclusion, based on certain recent regional events, meetings between officials, deployments, that the chem attack in Ghouta was a false flag.

        On the G20. .Well, at least I haven’t spotted any Russian subs in this year’s rendition of the EASTMED follies…maybe when Obama lands in Moscow? 🙂

        Be well Optcon

        1. I am somewhat fascinated by the problem of proof. I will generously grant that we have evidence sufficient to prove a civil case — that is, by a preponderance of the evidence, Assad was probably responsible for the chemical attack. I have seen no evidence that could approach the certainty we require to prove a criminal charge.

          To place American lives in danger by commencing an act of war against another nation, in circumstances where no American interests, people or places have been attacked or threatened, we should require even more certain proof. Even then, the argument for intervention is not strong, the objective of any such action is not clear, and there are difficult issues of international law to consider.

          Now, if Americans were attacked, we would not have the luxury of demanding certain proof of the attacker, and a response would be justified based on whatever evidence we had. That, of course, is the type of situation in which this Administration would dither and fail to act, as it has failed to act in response to the act of war against us in Benghazi.

          A comment further down suggests going after Iran as the ultimate perpetrator of the atrocity. But we have evidence that Iran was responsible for attacks on American armed forces in Iraq, and we did nothing. What kind of evidence should we require to attack Iran for something that was not directed against Americans or American interests?

  5. Ms. Dyer,
    The analysis is spot on–not least because it agrees with my armchair diagnosis!!–, and as usual you have operational analysis and theater-specific detail that I cannot hope to match. This information is much appreciated. Keep it coming!

    Wanted to remind the group of an entertaining movie in regards to a winning strategy that most certainly will be avoided by our President and his consiglieri. ‘Searching For Bobby Fischer’ features a young chess prodigy who winds up in a chess match with an evil counterpart, another child honed to be a brutal opponent and a not-very-nice person in the manner that had been planned for the young hero, Josh. In a fun cinematic moment climaxing the struggle Josh goes through to be his same sweet self in the face of unreasonable expectations by chess tutors, teachers, parents and peers, he has the moment seized by seeing a looming mate situation many moves on from the poor board situation he has at the moment. The character of a street-wise auto-didact chess champ played by Laurence Fishburne says to the closed circuit monitor filming the match, as if addressing Josh, ‘Don’t move until you see it.’ We see the little boy’s eyes brighten as he does, in fact, see it, and in a gesture of pure grace he offers a draw to his foe. The other, trained for no mercy, rejects the offer as a bluff and forces the checkmate to unfold upon him.

    Chess metaphors are to military strategists what sports metaphors are to politicians. But…

    If Barack Obama were to use this moment–that he is almost certain to squander–to attack Iran in a brutal and complete fashion and urge Israel to finish Hezbollah in Lebanon, he would solve 5 problems at once. And I’d urge him not do anything until he sees it. If it were proven fact that the destruction wrought in Syria is truly a proxy war by Iran, then it would follow, strategically, that the party with the most to lose in this fight would be Iran. Take out Iran, its QODs force and all missile batteries and aircraft, followed on by an onslaught on its centrifuges, and Russia will be left holding the bag for Syria’s strategy and survival. Syria exists, as Barry Rubin says, to make mischief. This is the grand strategy that the Alawites have mobilized for since the fall of the Ottomans. Remove this Iranian prop and it will be up to the Russians to decide whether they want to go to the mat for a troublesome country that, as David Goldman says, is an economic basket case. Even if the US does nothing after Iran is shellacked by the US, Russia will be on the hook for everything the Alawites get from Iran, plus feeding them. But now the use of chemical weapons can be stopped outright, not merely as performance art, but as a true purge of evil, with the field cleared somewhat. Iran is presently using a forking maneuver with Assad’s WMD’s and Hezbollah’s rockets pointed at Israel. Essentially, I want our President to see that he should eliminate the Queen. In a matter of weeks, there will be no nuclear threat from Iran, no support for Syria, no threat from Hezbollah as they will be pushed out of Lebanon, Iran’s citizenry will find the way cleared to seize their country back from the mullahs, Lebanon will feel its Christians and Druze come back to their strength, we will have protected Eastern Mediterranean oil and gas interests, and supported our ally Israel. And we will be in a good position to destroy al-Qaeda in Syria.

    Don’t move until you see it. It’s the correct move. The one that shows strategic insight, and it’s all laid out for the President to pluck the opportunity, as if out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower safety!

    He won’t do it. Any involvement of Turkey in an operation would be a sure sign the mission is compromised. There don’t appear to be any strategists making clear-headed analyses for our President, but then he has the advisors he wants. And we let him have them.

    ‘Searching For Bobby Fischer’ is really about people in this life who are a force for good. Everyone they come in contact with, they raise up by their energies. It is cinematically fun to see this in a small boy. The one thing I expect my President to do is learn; to see his strategic errors and adapt, not shed his skin for campaign management and, as you say, ward-heeling. That an uninformed citizenry voted a strategic naïf to be the Commander in Chief of America’s Armed Forces is a tragedy on its own, but a man who will not learn bids to be a tragedy we will all share in.

    For this, Israel would be most wise, to follow its own counsel. Leaving things to the US when the rubble bounces around Damascus, or, for that matter, cooperating by non-interference when these matters bear most on her own security and the likelihood of being in the crosshairs when things go south should put the fear of God in them about taking the precautions they must to practice smart self-preservation.

    A movie is a very poor analogue for what’s in the works now. But there’s lots to learn from movies nevertheless.

    Your loyal reader…

    1. Keefe Goldfisher — welcome, and my apologies for the delay in responding to your post. One thing it highlights is something those with a military analytical background have long known: that if we “go” against Iran, it only pays to go big. For the United States, and OUR strategic interests, limited strikes that targeted only the nuke facilities would be insufficient under any circumstances to justify the deliberate breach of the peace, with all the consequences it would bring.

      That has never meant that we need to put boots on the ground or try to occupy Iran. The Iranians are well capable of reconstituting their own nation, if the current government is rendered non-viable by an obliteration of its defenses.

      That said, I have also believed all along that we don’t need to go this route, and that we could induce the mullahs’ regime to lose focus and legitimacy with a comprehensive campaign of pressure and intimidation.

      Not under Obama, of course. Nothing is possible with him in the Oval Office. I note additionally what I have noted before: that Israel’s perspective is different from ours, and from hers, there will come a point at which it does pay to conduct the only strike she can at Iran, which is a limited one, targeting only the most important facilities.

      The chess analogy is always fun and useful. The problem with real life is that it doesn’t operate according to rules, the way chess does. It operates according to patterns — and patterns get broken. That actually makes it more interesting, at least some times.

      Great to have you here with us. Don’t be shy — you’re “approved” now, so keep ’em coming.

  6. The President backs down? Already? Did he get a quid pro quo at least?

    They’ll be dancing in the streets of Damascus

    Good news that he didn’t compound his error, that we won’t be killing people with robots for nothing, but at a humiliating price. Do you see his body language, expressions and eye movement? He’s alone, over his head and scared. I admit I feel for the guy.

    Expect heads to roll. God damn liberal interventionists.

  7. OK, enough with the GDs, jgets, huh?

    No clue where Obama’s headed with this. As K2K points out, Cameron has just encountered a brick wall hastily erected by Labour, and we’ll have to see if the Conservatives can come up with a back-room deal to get that obstacle out of the way (or, indeed, if they want to. I’m not so sure).

    I’m no fan of Labour, but I suspect they are reading the yob vote more clearly than Cameron has taken time to. The man in the street on both sides of the Atlantic seems to have a more sensible view of the proper use of force than the West’s current crop of leaders. There IS an actual civil war going on in Syria, after all, with a brutal thug dictator, tanks, assault helicopters, WMD, Iran, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon, and 57 varieties of jihadis. Yeah, THAT’s the situation we want to go toss a few more bombs into, just to check off the list and say we did. Why not just cross the street so you can pop a few rounds into a bar fight between 20 angry drunks you’ve never seen before?

    There’s nothing like dithering for days on end in full view of the public to inspire confidence in your leadership. Russia and Iran are getting this one for free, to boot.

      1. Gosh darn just didn’t seem weighty enough to convey my opposition to R2P.

        I did say months ago the current make up of the US foreign/defense policy team would lead to the most absurd compromises.

        Anyway, Russian naval vessels head back to the EASTMED in greater force. Which port(s) of call they’ll be visiting will be interesting. The sight of U-2’s taking off from RAF Akrotiri in the background, with Russian missile cruisers moored in Limassol in the foreground, will be an amusing end of summer vacation snapshot for the groups of Russian, Israeli and European holiday makers. Don’t ya think?

  8. whew. am not following Cameron anymore!

    The rush for gas masks in Israel, and the High Holy Days starting Sept. 4 has me remembering the Nazi roots of the Ba’ath Party, and the Muslim Brotherhood.
    and because Chris Matthews said that Hitler did not use chemical weapons.
    How can anyone be that ignorant?

  9. I think it’s easy to overestimate public opposition to striking Syria. Even if large majorities appear to be against it, the key is that most people don’t care very deeply about it, so the cost in political capital is relatively minor.

    In any case, governments have a duty to do things that are unpopular, but correct. If W had followed the opinion polls in 2007 we would never have had the Iraq surge, and hundreds of thousands of people could have died.

    While it would have been better to intervene in Syria two years ago, doing nothing would be a travesty and a betrayal of Nato’s role.

    1. Doc, I can’t see where any NATO treaty obligations kick in based on the conduct of a civil war in Syria. What did you have in mind?

    2. Dr. Partridge — the newer post on “slam dunk” intel is basically my response to your point here. It’s easy to get discouraged by the corner Obama has backed us into, and that’s what I see in the public consciousness. But US policy on Syria should start from a different point anyway.

      We need not constrain ourselves to launch a “punitive strike” on Syria, as if that is the only obvious or possible response. A more effective response is possible,

      That said, Obama is really only capable of the linear-logic, a-strike-for-a WMD-use response — and the widespread concerns are valid, that danger will arise from how badly Obama could mishandle it.

      I view the alternatives posited for us right now as equally bad. We can’t trust Obama to manage a punitive response against Assad wisely (and “wisely” actually means making it stick and getting something out of it, rather than keeping it so limited as to be meaningless).

      Yet the whole pattern of standing by while Syrians are slaughtered in huge numbers, and now by WMD, is a failure of Western leadership. It is important because it rewrites the narrative of our current, relatively peaceful global status quo. It raises game-changing questions about what our international commitments really are. Those who want to bust the status quo — in whatever way — will be taking furious notes from it.

      The way to enforce a lesson with aspiring status quo-busters is to make sure Assad goes, without alibi or delay. Nothing else will serve to abash or deter them.

      On the other hand, congratulating ourselves that we punished Assad for using WMD, but held firm to our principles and didn’t prevent either Assad or a radical Islamist coalition from taking all of Syria captive, would be a form of mental illness.

  10. Looks like the makings of a possible face saving climb down in Syria for all concerned are becoming apparent.

    Blame the chem attack on a “rogue element” of the Assad regime.

    Let’s see if Lavrov and Kerry can make something outta this…

    1. Grease with which the Oboingo Regime could perhaps extricate its naughty bits from this particular vice… Too many Viagra spiked cocktails (hee hee.. don’t get cancer) at the 19th hole (oops there we go again…) of the Army/Navy Country Club?

      The Regime is about to get it’s out… the UN won’t dare say that they have any evidence of any chemical attacks by anybody in particular on anything in specific.

      Like tossing water on chickens and cats… lots of fur.. lots of feathers.. awful noise… and not much else…

      1. That’s fine with me.

        Anything that reduces the possibility of this administration, led by this president, dragging us into an engagement with no end is all right by me.

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