Tag: War/Conflict

Putin Saves Obama

You have to almost feel sorry for Barack Obama. Almost. He drew a red line at the use of chemical weapons in Syria (although he now insists he totally didn’t) only to see Syria stomp over it. He had — to his credit — done the right thing and gone to Congress. But it looked like Congress would reject his request to authorize the use of force. And just when things can’t get any worse, his Secretary of State becomes a late-night punchline by claiming the attacks will be “unbelievable small”.

There’s only one thing for it: Vladimir Putin to the resc- … wait, what?

Syria said Tuesday it has accepted Russia’s proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent dismantling.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday after meeting with Russian parliament speaker that his government quickly “agreed to the Russian initiative.”

Al-Moallem added that Syria did so to “uproot U.S. aggression.”

His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia is now working with Syria to prepare a detailed plan of action, which will be presented shortly.

Lavrov said that Russia will then be ready to finalize the plan together with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The Obamabots are contending that this was Obama’s secret intention all along (a statement belied by the Administration’s claims of last week). Maybe this was all a smoke screen by the Obama people. But they have never really crossed me as that clever or that subtle.

If I had to guess, I would say this is just Putin outsmarting Obama. This is a pretty good deal for the Russians. They sell chemical weapons to Syria, they store the chemical weapons for Syria and they look good on the diplomatic stage. Putin looks like the accomplished diplomat compared to the stumbling, bumbling Obama and his idiotic Igor of a Secretary of State.

Well played, guys. It’s a good think you weren’t at Yalta.

The Eight Questions

At the risk of going all-Syria, all-the-time here, I thought this article was worth a post. You remember the Powell Doctrine? These were eight questions that Colin Powell asked about foreign interventions before we engaged in them. They are not definitive and this isn’t a game where if you get answers to five of them, you can go ahead and bomb. But they do a very good job of clarifying the thinking about a war. Foreign Policy goes through all eight with Syria. I’ll add my comments but also contrast them against the motivations of the War in Iraq. Note that my answers to the latter will be based on what we knew at the time rather than what we know now. I think you could make the argument that the case for the war in Syria is weaker than the one we had for Iraq.

1. Vital national interests at stake? Hardly. The United States hasn’t cared who governed Syria since 1970, and it did business with Bashar al-Assad’s regime whenever doing so suited it. … Nor is defending the norm against chemical weapons a “vital” interest, given that other states have used them in the past and they are not true weapons of mass destruction anyway.

I agree with this. By contrast, Iraq had a supposed vital national interest of Saddam’s WMDs and the concern that they would be turned against us or Israel. That concern turned out to be bogus (as might this one). But at least it was a legitimate one. Saddam was also a sponsor of terrorism, paying out bounties to the families of Palestinians who blew themselves up in suicide bombs.

2. Clear obtainable objective? Nope. If you can figure out what the Obama administration’s actual objective is — defend the chemical weapons norm? reinforce U.S. credibility? weaken the regime a little but not a lot? send a warning to Iran?, etc. — you have a better microscope than I do.

Agreed. By contrast, our objective in Iraq was regime change and the destruction of the WMDs. Goal one happened, although it didn’t as well as we’d hoped. Goal two had already been achieved.

3. Costs and risks analyzed fully and frankly? Well, maybe. I’m sure people in the administration have talked about them, though it is hard to know how “fully” the risks and costs have been weighed. But let’s be generous and give the administration this one.

I won’t be generous. The supposed costs and risks are being hand waved. No one is really talking about the risk of a broader conflict or a terror response. Obama is talking about how this will be a “limited action” but the Syrians may not agree to limit it the way he wants to. This isn’t a game of Civilization.

In this case, this a flaw that the Syria debacle shares with Iraq, where I don’t think the risk of a full-on civil war was accounted for. In fact, if you read Cobra II, you’ll know that Rumsfeld made it a priority to fight the war on the cheap and over-ruled concerns from the State Department about the long term problems.

4. Other nonviolent policy options exhausted? Hardly. As I’ve noted before, there has been a dearth of imaginative diplomacy surrounding the Syrian conflict ever since it began. Oddly, the administration seems to have thought this whole issue wasn’t important enough to warrant energetic diplomacy, but it is important enough to go to war.

Agreed. By contrast, we spent a decade trying to find a peaceful solution to Iraq including pressure from within the Arab world.

5. Plausible exit strategy to avoid entanglement? Not that I can see. Barack Obama, John Kerry, et al. seem to recognize the danger of a quagmire here, so their “exit strategy” consists of limiting the U.S. attack to airstrikes and cruise missiles and maybe some increased aid to the rebels.

This is the one point where the Syrian issue scores over Iraq. It never was really clear what the endgame in Iraq was and we did become bogged down in a sectarian conflict. Our footprint in Syria is likely to be orders of magnitude smaller. Once we stop bombing, that appears to be it.

For now.

6. Have the consequences been fully considered? It’s hard to believe they have. Whacking Assad’s forces won’t do that much to restate any “red lines” against chemical weapons use, and as noted above, that’s a pretty modest objective in any case. But military action might also help bring down the regime, thereby turning Syria into a failed state, fueling a bitter struggle among competing ethnic, sectarian, and extremist groups, and creating an ideal breeding and training ground for jihadists. It may also undercut the moderate forces who are currently ascendant in Iran, derail any chance of a diplomatic deal with them (which is a far more important goal), and even reinforce Iran’s desire for a deterrent of its own. Is there any evidence that Obama, Kerry, Rice & Co. have thought all these things through?

Nope. By contrast, the theory behind the Iraq War was that we would frighten other nations into abandoning WMD programs (which worked with Libya) and turn Iraq into an ally against other gulf regimes. The latter did not work out and it turned out our post-war planning foundered on the rocks of incompetent management from Bremmer and Rumsfeld. But there was a lot of thought into what was going to happen after Iraq.

7. Support from the American people? No, no, and no.

By contrast, our intervention in Iraq had the initial support of 50-60% of the public. The public has apparently learned their lesson.

8. Genuine and broad international support? Not really. The British Parliament has already voted against military action, and Germany has made it clear that it’s not playing either. Russia and China are of course dead set against. America’s got the French (oh boy!), the Saudis, and (quietly) the Israelis, along with the usual coalition of the cowed, coerced, or co-opted.

The Left mocking Bush’s Coalition of the Willing but we had a lot more support for that than Obama does for Syria.

Now, I am comparing apples and oranges here. Iraq was a full-scaled invasion and a ten-year occupation. Syria is “just” a police-action bombing, similar to what Clinton did to Iraq in 1998. But run Clinton’s bombing through that list. Clinton’s bombing had goals (I mean, besides attracting attention away from the Lewinsky scandal). We attacked the WMDs and destroyed almost all of them. We’re not doing that here. We’re “sending a message” that we don’t like the use of chemical weapons. In that sense, the Syrian attack is basically Hans Brix’s strongly worded letter taped to a Tomahawk missile.

But the point is that this action has not been thought out, is not the result of a long involved policy decision and is attracting — at least within the beltway — very little debate.

I always harp on about process — following the Constitution, following the rules, following procedure. The reason I do is because I think that if you create a good process you will, more often than not, get a good result. The problems in our country are mainly a result of a “do something, anything” mentality and a tendency to defer to government power and action in any crisis. It’s very clear that the process within this Administration when it comes to war is haphazard, sloppy and politicized. This time, it may only cost us a few billion in treasure, a few hundred Syrian lives. It may cost us a lot more.

How much will it cost, though, if we ever a real foreign policy crisis?

War? What War?

Continuing a theme from Alex’s post, I wanted to highlight two stories highlight just how much things change when the man in the White House has a D after his name.

First, you remember all the anti-war protesters we had under Bush? You might have been wondering where they were. Well, CNN, MSNBC, NYT, etc. couldn’t be bothered so it’s up to … Buzzfeed to ask those questions:

Activists who turned out thousands of protesters during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq say they’ve been unable to effectively organize or raise money since the end of the Bush years, and that newer causes like drones have seized the space on the left once occupied by opposition to conventional warfare. And some acknowledge that the energy has leaked out of the movement because a Democrat is now in office. Though some groups have organized online petitions and some real-life protests, the antiwar crowd that was on fire before the war in Iraq has made hardly a dent in the conversation surrounding Syria.

“Well, the most incredibly depressing thing was that most of the groups that existed before don’t exist anymore,” said Medea Benjamin, the founder of Code Pink. “That’s the number one problem, is that the antiwar movement is a shadow of its former self under the Bush years.”
Benjamin pointed to groups like United for Peace and Justice, a Communist Party-connected group, as examples: “They’re down to a couple of volunteers,” she said.

Some people are trying to blame the economy or the attention on drone strikes. But the more honest war protesters — i.e., the ones who are just as fired up about Obama attacking Syria — admit that they simply can not drum up the support because it’s Obama. Now I will grant that bombing Syria is not the same thing as a full-on invasion of Iraq. But the protesters were also silent during the bloody Afghan surge. And if you really oppose war, really oppose intervention, the scale of the operation shouldn’t really make a difference.

Now you could accuse the Republicans of hypocrisy too for opposing this while they supported Iraq. It’s a fair point. However, it’s important to remember that the Iraq War started only a couple of years after 9/11 — we were still on edge about terrorists and WMDs. Moreover, as someone who supported the Iraq War and now opposes this one, my explanation is that I learned my lesson. At least in Iraq, we had some shadowy goal — removing a dictator, destroying his WMDs and setting up a democratic replacement. Goal one was accomplished, goal two had already been accomplished by Bush I and Clinton. Goal three is still shaky. But what are our goals in Syria? What’s the mission? If it’s destroying the WMDs from afar, I’m not completely opposed. But if it’s to “send a message” or “maintain or credibility”, I don’t put much stock in that. And if it’s too empower one side in this war, I think that’s a terrible idea.

The second story is that Obama is waffling on whether he needs Congressional approval for this war, police action, kinetic action, conversion of potential energy or whatever he’s calling it these days. Friersdorf reminds us that Joe Biden said attacking another country without Congressional approval was an impeachable offense. I will say what I said on Libya, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on everything: if there is any doubt, get Congressional approval. And that point is becoming increasingly obvious even to many on the left.

Of course, the reason Obama doesn’t want to go to Congress is because he’d have to justify an attack (indeed, Boehner has already sent a letter asking about this very point). Unfortunately for Obama, going to Congress and saying, “I’ll look weak if we don’t do something” probably won’t fly.

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.

Egypt Erupts … Again

Tell me you’re surprised:

Egypt’s military regime, aided by snipers and bulldozers, swept the streets of Islamist protesters Wednesday—setting off a day of violence that left at least 525 people dead, the government fractured and ties with its international partners in tatters.

Cairo’s streets were calm Thursday morning following a curfew overnight, though funerals for the dead and a march planned by the Muslim Brotherhood are likely to inflame tensions later in the day.

We are witnessing the beginnings of a civil war. A war not between democracy and tyranny but between Islamists and the military. Whoever wins, we lose. I think it’s time — and I know this is shocking — that we consider cutting off military aid.

The Ongoing Threat

Thought I’d throw this out there. As you know, we are under a terror alert:

What started as an unprecedented move to close almost two dozen diplomatic posts for a day has broadened to week-long closures for most of them as the United States mulls the threat of a possible attack.

A trio of factors prompted officials to extend most of its embassy and consulate closures until Saturday: an intercepted message among senior al Qaeda operatives, the end of Ramadan, and concerns over several major prison breaks in the region.

Originally, officials decided to close 22 embassies and consulates this past Sunday — a day when they would normally be open for business.

But Sunday afternoon, the State Department extended embassy and consulate closures in 15 of the locations through Saturday, and added four other posts — all in Africa — to the list. This brings the total to 19.

There are two interpretations here. First is that the threat is genuine, or least the perception of a threat is genuine. After the disaster of Benghazi and the recent prison breaks that have released hundred of potential AQ operatives, it would be wise to take real threats seriously.

The second is that this is politics — an attempt to deflect criticism of the NSA scandal and Obama’s War on Terror polices in general. This is the interpretation that most Obama critics are taking.

Me? I think it’s likely that there’s some real information here. The significance and danger of it may be exaggerated, but I am dubious that this would be conjured up out of nothing. That having been said, I don’t like the closing of embassies for more than a week. An enhanced military presence could accomplish the same improvement in security without giving into fear.

Let’s hold breath and hope that nothing happens.

And Now Syria

The White House has made it official: Syria has crossed the “red line” of using chemical weapons on the opposition. McCain, ever eager for another war, is saying we are going to start aiding the rebels. The WH has yet to confirm.

The Syrian opposition is kind of difficult to define. But we know at least one element includes radical Islamists. We should stay out. It’s a horrible thing — 100,000 dead according to the latest estimate. But I don’t see that our getting involved will solve anything.

Crossing the Line

There are some reports that the Syrian government is starting to use WMD’s — sarin in particular — in its ongoing civil war. This use was identified by the President in August as a potential “red line” for American involvement, an off-the-cuff remark he is now regretting:

Moving or using large quantities of chemical weapons would cross a “red line” and “change my calculus,” the president declared in response to a question at a news conference, to the surprise of some of the advisers who had attended the weekend meetings and wondered where the “red line” came from. With such an evocative phrase, the president had defined his policy in a way some advisers wish they could take back.

“The idea was to put a chill into the Assad regime without actually trapping the president into any predetermined action,” said one senior official, who, like others, discussed the internal debate on the condition of anonymity. But “what the president said in August was unscripted,” another official said. Mr. Obama was thinking of a chemical attack that would cause mass fatalities, not relatively small-scale episodes like those now being investigated, except the “nuance got completely dropped.”

As a result, the president seems to be moving closer to providing lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels, even though he rejected such a policy just months ago. American officials have even discussed with European allies the prospect of airstrikes to take out Syrian air defenses, airplanes and missile delivery systems, if government use of chemical weapons is confirmed.

This situation has only gotten tenser after Israeli air strikes, although these targeted weapons intended for Hezbollah.

The NYT article details the internal discussions within the White House last year. What this was about was trying to deter Assad from using his WMDs with a vague threat of force. But now the President is in a dilemma. Does he use force and get us entangled in a war that no one thinks we should get involved in? Or does he back down and lose credibility?

I expect him to stall for a while, demanding ironclad proof that WMDs have been used. If that proof emerges, then I’m not sure what to expect. Probably vague hints that we’re doing something even when we aren’t.

Our only real interest — and perhaps the President’s out here — is that we do not want those weapons getting lost in the chaos of civil war or falling into the hands of terrorists. We may be at a point where airstrikes will be needed to be sure of that, assuming airstrikes can ever be sure of that. But it’s clear that we need a plan for the future. This situation is about to get extremely ugly.

Shorter leftists scumbags: For the narrative and all that..

Please let it be the privilidged whitey fright-wingers that murdered innocents because of the narrative! You can not make this shit up:

As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing — the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity — the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are — and are not — collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.

This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.

Likewise, in the context of terrorist attacks, such privilege means white non-Islamic terrorists are typically portrayed not as representative of whole groups or ideologies, but as “lone wolf” threats to be dealt with as isolated law enforcement matters. Meanwhile, non-white or developing-world terrorism suspects are often reflexively portrayed as representative of larger conspiracies, ideologies and religions that must be dealt with as systemic threats — the kind potentially requiring everything from law enforcement action to military operations to civil liberties legislation to foreign policy shifts.

These fucking leftists are scum. Plain and simple. Innocents got murdered & maimed in a senseless attack, and the leftist’s main priority and focus is about their political agenda and how the movement to grow Leviathan and fuck over the people can profit from the tragedy. Like Newtown, no crisis should be wasted. Feign concern. Beat down any opposition with cries that it is “For the childruns!”. Accuse everyone else that dares to get in the way of having evil motives, to focus the sheeple away from your despicable agenda and evil motives. And ride the emotional train to the freedom robbing last stop.

These people could not be more evil in caricature. I am sure they mean well. Yeah, that’s what it is. Ghouls are less ghastly. No wonder they where caught with their pants down and unprepared for the attack. Maybe Obama needs to order drones strikes on some of Boston’s honkeys, just to soften up the bastards.