Tag: Bashar al-Assad

Virtue Signaling with Bombs

It would appear that we are moving toward getting involved with Syria. Images have emerged of a horrific chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians, including children. Multiple independent organizations are pointing the finger at Assad. And various Trump officials are making noise about attacking Syria in retaliation. So far, a number of politicians have indicated support for such an action, including Hillary Clinton and John McCain, even though it carries the danger of a conflict — by proxy or directly — with Russia.

I have long been wary of intervention in Syria. The reason is not because I am insensitive to the suffering of Syrian civilians or the house of horrors that is Assad. It’s because it’s not clear to me what the hell the goal would be. Sean Davis raised 14 questions that our leaders need to answer before they commit to military action — all good questions that no one has answered. The logic seems to be:

  1. What’s happening is awful.
  2. Let’s drop some bombs.

But what will that do? If we destroy his air force, does that simply drag the war out? If we remove Assad, do we just get more chaos for ISIS to move into? Is this virtue signaling with bombs?

I find myself agreeing with our friend Thrill:

My other thought is that one of the top five reasons I voted for Trump was that I thought he was less War Crazed of the two major candidates. You can argue with me all you like, but Clinton was creaming her pantsuit in anticipation of dragging us into more international conflicts. Trump convinced me that he wasn’t interested in any further needless military interventions and I’d prefer not to be proven wrong.

I’ve seen the images coming out of Syria. Yeah, it’s awful.

But it isn’t our war.

It isn’t our fault either. There’s nothing we stand to gain from it. It isn’t even within our ability to resolve. I’m not indifferent to human suffering, but I don’t support any war that doesn’t further the best interests of the United States. There’s no way I support Trump if he moves forward with military action against the Assad regime.

Something else to think about: why is Assad’s use of chemical weapons the red line here? Why is it so much more horrible than the bombs he’s been dropping on his people or years, bombs that have left many children dead or screaming in pain or maimed for life? Let’s say we eliminate all his chemical weapons — hey, remember when John Kerry said we’d gotten rid of them all? Will that ameliorate the suffering of Syria’s children? Will he not just drop more conventional bombs?

The more I turn this over, the more I think this is virtue signaling with bombs. Something horrible has happened and we want to show that we don’t like it. But that’s not enough for me. You’re going to need more than that for me to support committing blood and treasure to what looks like a massive dangerous quagmire.

Update: As I was writing this post, CNN announced that we have launched 50 tomahawk missiles against airfields in Syria. That was fast. And there was no approval from Congress.

Our Incompetent Media

August was a very slow news month, as you may have noticed. Congress is on vacation — again. We’re all bracing for the trainwrecks of Obamacare implementation and the next budget fight. Syria was pretty much the only big news (well, that and some washed-up child star reminding people that the MTV music awards still exist).

But our media abhors a vacuum. So they’ve blown up Syria in a mega-criss that will define Obama’s presidency. Seriously:

Syria coverage in America’s newspapers is the latest example of purportedly neutral, “objective” press coverage that’s bursting with contestable assumptions, often without the reporters and editors involved quite realizing their biases. The core news: President Obama asked Congress to vote on intervening in Syria. The way it’s being framed in accounts billed as straight news?

The New York Times cast it as a roll of the dice:

“In one of the riskiest gambles of his presidency,” they wrote, “Mr. Obama effectively dared lawmakers to either stand by him or, as he put it, allow President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to get away with murdering children with unconventional weapons.” But Obama is a lame duck, few Americans care about Syria, no one is going to take to the streets if the U.S. doesn’t intervene, and striking Syria’s regime without Congress while flouting public opinion was a far bigger gamble. In fact, you could easily write that Obama averted one of the riskiest gambles of his presidency by postponing a strike and consulting the Congress.

If you’re someone who personalizes politics, fetishizes disagreement, and intends to treat a Congressional rejection of a strike on Syria as a “humiliation” for Obama, the Times frame makes some sense, but make no mistake: its assessment of the Syria debate’s impact is self-fulfilling prophecy from an insular, status-obsessed elite. Obama’s approach is “a gamble” because and only because other insiders imagine that a president being denied by Congress — gasp! — is embarassing, rather than a healthy manifestation of Madisonian checks.

The executive is more prone to war than the legislature or the people. This was foreseen.

And come January 2017, when Obama leaves office, it’ll be hard to find an American outside D.C. who’d treat failure to intervene in Syria as a defining moment. The economy, health care, the end of the war in Iraq: those are his legacies, for better or worse.

You should read the whole thing, because it gets far far worse. The media seems to be ignorant of the Constitutional limts on Obama’s authority, oblivious to the text of the War Powers Act, unable to read their own archives on past debates over war and obsessed with making this the MOST DRAMATIC DECISION EVER! The belief that we must do something about the atrocities in Syria (even though we haven’t done anything for two years and there are atrocities going on elsewhere) is not to be questioned.

The media doesn’t want a political debate; they want an episode of The West Wing.

Once More Unto the Breach

The problem with drawing a red line, as any parents knows, is that when it’s crossed you have to either act or lose your credibility. Looks like the Obama Administration is deciding to act:

Few question that there was a major chemical attack in Syria last week, and the United States has made clear that it blames the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Now, the question is how President Barack Obama will respond.
For almost two years, Obama has avoided direct military involvement in Syria’s civil war, only escalating aid to rebel fighters in June after suspected smaller-scale chemical weapons attacks by Syrian government forces.

However, last week’s attack on a Damascus suburb that reportedly killed and wounded more than 3,000 people obliterated the “red line” Obama set just over a year ago against the use of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks.

The Administration, through John Kerry, has indicated they will act. They’re not going to send in soldiers or establish a no-fly zone, which is wise. Most likely we are looking at a cruise missile strike and air strike on al-Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles and facilities. This is unlikely to happen right away. China and Russia are backing al-Assad, a coalition needs to be put together and — I know I sound like a nut when I say this — Congress should, you know, approve any act of war. But my gut feeling is that Obama, like most Presidents, will respond to being stymied on domestic matters by acting on international ones.

In principle, I don’t oppose destroying Syria’s chemical weapons. No matter who wins the Syrian civil war, it is possible that those weapons will fall into very bad hands. There’s some talk of attacking Assad’s conventional forces and “sending a message”. Either would be a waste. The opposition to al-Assad is not composed of nobel democratically-minded reformers but includes hard-core Islamists. No matter who wins, we lose. Our only interest is in making sure the chemical weapons aren’t used for nefarious purposes.


My God (content warning):

Across Houla, an anti-regime suburb of Homs, images emerged indicating people there had been treated like something less than animals. The bodies of 108 people killed, most of them women and children, filled rooms, rugs and the backs of trucks.

Children were missing limbs. Others suffered gaping head and chest wounds. Images showed children sprawled on blood-stained floors, their lifeless eyes staring into oblivion, their clothing torn and stained crimson. While many young victims were apparently shot, there were reports that children had been stabbed to death or attacked with axes.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the United States was horrified by “credible reports” of the massacre, “including stabbing and ax attacks on women and children.”

In one video posted online, a man shows a room full of dead bodies covered with sheets. He pulls back one and asks Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a pointed question: “Here are the children. What was their crime, Bashar? What was their crime, Arabs?”

Here’s the worst thing: there’s not much we can do about this. The UN is proposing another strongly worded letter. Sanctions are still going. Several countries have expelled Syrian diplomats. But I don’t see these doing much. Short of invasion or arming the resistance (assuming we can do either), we have few options beyond being horrified.

What is telling is the inability or unwillingness of Syria’s neighbors to do anything about this. Indeed, most the horrors that go on the world go on with nearby nations simply looking the other way. As long as they are massacring their own people, everyone is kind of fine with it.

Don’t expect things to get better anytime soon.

Steamrolling Hama … And The UN

Remember when Bill Clinton bombed Iraq because he wanted to do it before Ramadan in order to not offend Muslim sensibilities? (Muslim sensibilities apparently being fine with having Ramadan amidst the rubble). Well, yeah, funny story. Turns out the evil slimeballs running Syria don’t have that rule and are rolling through Hama, slaughtering civilians left, right and center. We’re not doing anything about it and, even if we could, we probably shouldn’t. Apart from putting a smart bomb up Assad’s ass — which might not be the worst idea — I don’t see that we can do anything other than burn money and kill people for no readily explained reason.

But, the UN has now moved into action and announced that will not take this lying down!

In its first substantive action on the uprising in Syria, the UN security council has condemned human rights violations and use of force against civilians by Syrian authorities.

Prompted by an intensification of the three-month-old bloody crackdown against anti-government protests, the statement was agreed after three days of hard bargaining. It ‘condemns widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities’. Syria’s neighbour Lebanon has dissociated itself from the text.

What’s notable is what the UN decided not to do. They didn’t call for a weapons embargo or for Assad to step down. They didn’t call for outside intervention. They just said they didn’t like what was going on. It’s like Assad used the wrong fork at dinner.

My UN sources inform me that if Assad does not stop greasing the treads of his tanks with children, they will be very very angry with him and will write him a letter telling him how angry they are.

Syrian Assault


Several loyalists of President Bashar al-Assad broke into the U.S. embassy in Damascus on Monday and security guards used live ammunition to prevent hundreds from storming the French embassy, diplomats said.

They said the attackers tore down U.S. embassy plaques and tried to break security glass in protests fueled by the government against a visit by U.S. and French ambassadors to the city of Hama, focus of demonstrations against Assad’s rule.

“Four buses full of shabbiha (Alawite militia loyal to Assad) came from Tartous. They used a battering ram to try to break into the main door,” a resident of Afif, the old district where the U.S. embassy is located told Reuters by telephone.

The US is “condemning” the Syrian government, which strikes me as ridiculously weak tea. This could have ended up in a hostage situation. Pull the entire embassy staff out and tell the Syrians we will not return until they, at minimum, stop massacring thousands of their own people.