- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

Syria: An Arab Rwanda?

President Obama is backing down somewhat: [1]

 President Obama stunned the world and paused his march to war on Saturday by asking Congress to give him authorization before he launches a limited military strike against the Syrian government in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack.

In an afternoon appearance in the Rose Garden, Mr. Obama said he had decided that the United States should use force but would wait for a vote from lawmakers, who are not due to return to town until Sept. 9. Mr. Obama said he believed he had the authority to act on his own, but he did not say whether he would if Congress rejects his plan.

“I’m prepared to give that order,” Mr. Obama said. “But having made my decision as commander in chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interest, I’m also mindful that I’m president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.”

The President’s entire statement is here. [2]

Excellent. This, I’m convinced, is because the British Parliament refused to endorse the PM’s plans. Thank you, Parliament. Will Congress stand behind Obama? The American people had better be burning up the phone lines in the next week giving their Congressman a piece of their mind on this act of war. I cannot see Obama going forward if Congress won’t back him. This is a face-saving act, and I say let’s allow him to save face. Vote down war on Syria, and give the president the room to do what David Cameron did: say the people have spoken, and he will honor their will.

By the way, I read last night Bill Kristol’s advice to Obama [3] that nothing will stop Assad short of regime change. To that, here’s the advice of Joshua Landis, [4] one of the top academic experts on Syria, and a man who is married to a Syrian, and who has family there. Landis believes that if it can be determined that the Assad government used chemical weapons against its people, there should be a “forceful” response from the US targeting Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities alone. How one might do that precisely I have no idea, but here’s why Landis believes broader US involvement in Syria, including regime change, would be a terrible idea:

1) Bombing is not a solution: Mere bombing will not provide a solution; in order to disarm militias and protect Syrians, the U.S. would have to put peace-keeping forces on the ground to end revenge killings and provide security, yet Washington has ruled out sending occupation troops into Syria.

2) The financial burden is too high: The U.S. lacks the resources or will to spend enough money to do the necessary nation-building in Syria. This is why having an international coalition willing to send troops into Syria is so important. Militias have to be disarmed and a new state has to be built. Suppressing competing militias and building new central governments in both Iraq and Afghanistan has cost in excess of one trillion dollars apiece.

3) The lack of desire on the part of Americans for another long-term Middle East entanglement without a foreseeable end.

4) The opposition is incapable of providing government services: Millions of Syrians still depend on the government for their livelihoods, basic services, and infrastructure. The government continues to supply hundreds of thousands of Syrians with salaries & retirement benefits. Destroying these state services with no capacity to replace them would plunge ever larger numbers of Syrians into even darker circumstances and increase the outflow of refugees beyond its already high level. Syria can get worse.

Most militias are drawn from the poorer, rural districts of Syria. Most wealth is concentrated in the city centers that remain integral (such as Damascus, Lattakia, Tartus, Baniyas, Hama, etc.), which have survived largely unscathed in this conflict, and have not opted to continue the struggle. If the militias take these cities, there will be widespread looting and lawlessness which will threaten many more civilians who have managed to escape the worst until now.

Many in these urban centers have managed to continue leading fairly stable lives up to the present; despite the tremendous level of destruction seen so far, many areas are still a long way from the bottom. It would be preferable to avoid a Somalia-like scenario in the remaining cities and provinces.

It’s not at all clear that U.S. intervention can improve the economic or security situation for Syrians.

5) Entering the conflict would mean America battling on multiple fronts, not only against the regime: The U.S. has declared itself at war with al-Qaida. If we were to intervene, we would have to enter a new front against the most powerful and effective Syrian opposition militias, in addition to the war against Assad. Our forces would be targeted by extremists and more radically-Islamist militias. We would be fighting a multi-front war.

6) The potential for ethnic cleansing and revenge killings is high: The different ethno-sectarian communities and socio-economic classes are renegotiating the dynamics of their relationship inside Syria. For the last 50 years, Alawites have monopolized the ramparts of power in Syria. They have allied themselves with other minorities and important segments of the Sunni majority, and the regime has preserved its power through a careful sectarian strategy. The rebellion, led primarily by Sunni Arabs of the countryside, aims to supplant the Alawite hold on power. The US cannot adjudicate the new balance of power that will emerge in Syria. It is not prudent to dramatically tip the balance of power in such a supercharged environment of sectarian hatred and class warfare.

Read the whole thing.  [4]

I think Kristol is basically right: nothing short of regime change will stop Assad from using chemical weapons. Assad is fighting for his life. Is he really more worried about American missiles than about the rebels who want to overthrow him? I can’t see that he is, or should be. I would love to believe that he would refuse to use chemical weapons out of fear of America or out of basic human decency, but that is not going to happen. So what happens if we throw missiles at Damascus for three days, and Assad’s army uses chemical weapons again (assuming that it used them this time)? What then? And what happens if our missile strikes help bring down the Assad regime, setting off mass killings of Alawites, Christians, and anyone associated with the Assad government? Do we really want to have had any part in turning that country, already approaching an abbatoire, into an Arab Rwanda?

UPDATE: John Podhoretz is right: [5]

On the face of it, this is literally nonsensical. If Obama has the authority, he does not need Congressional authorization, and since he is characterizing his need to act in moral terms, a useful punitive strike in the midst of a civil war in which thousands can be killed in a day must as a moral matter be undertaken as soon as possible in order to punish the regime and degrade its ability to kill its own people at will. Instead, he has declared his intention to wait until Congress comes back in session—in eight days—and then debate the matter for a couple of days and then vote. At which time he will act. Unless of course it votes against him. In which case…what? He has said he has the authority to strike; what does he do then?

Advertisement
44 Comments (Open | Close)

44 Comments To "Syria: An Arab Rwanda?"

#1 Comment By Opinion Pole On August 31, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

There is also a possibility that bombing chemical weapon sites will release those chemicals into the atmosphere, possibly killing and/or poisoning more people than the original attacks.

#2 Comment By James C. On August 31, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

From Obama’s statement:

“But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning.”

You mean out of the ashes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If the American attitude weren’t so incessantly self-righteous, perhaps the world wouldn’t be so cynical about America’s self-proclaimed role as global policeman.

#3 Comment By Jake Lukas On August 31, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

Great Britain is often called our closest ally, even our friend. Since the government’s proposal was rejected in parliament, many have spoken as though we’d been abandoned by a friend. And, indeed, when one friend is attacked it is the duty of the other to come to his aid. But it is just as much the duty of a friend to take away the keys when one has indulged in too much drink. In rejecting this folly, Great Britain has proven itself a true friend.

#4 Comment By Bernie On August 31, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

Obama failed to get congressional backing when he first issued his “red line” threat in July, 2012. He spoke for himself. This past incident is apparently not the first time chemical weapons have been used in Syria since his first unilateral “red line” threat.

The President does not have a reputation for consulting closely with Congress. This latest confused mess is one more consequence of his rather imperial style of governing. It came back to bite him, big time.

#5 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 31, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

[Obama to go to Congress for approval]

Meep meep?

#6 Comment By Ken Hoop On August 31, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

Putin disagrees with you, Rod, if you are inferring Assad has already used chemicals.

“Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international — and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict”.

Putin sharply steps up criticism of U.S. over Syria

[6]


Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international — and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict. The government of Bashar al-Assad, he said, would have had no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it had gained the upper hand in the fighting.

Doing so, he said, would have been “utter nonsense’’ – with the clear implication that that is how he would characterize the American allegations.

On top of that, he said, the Obama administration’s “claims that proof exists, but is classified and cannot be presented to anybody, are below criticism. This is plain disrespect for their partners.”

#7 Comment By T.S.Gay On August 31, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

Bill Kristol’s article was all about regime change, hence acting decisively to make that happen. He maintains that Assad will inevitably use chemical weapons to stay in power, because it promotes fear, and leads people toward what Kristol wants to happen. Bill Kristol is conjecturing, focusing whoever he can influence, to his ideas of liberation. Many people have a different word for his approach. Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke aptly characterized neo-conservatism’s belief that relationships between states are defined in terms of military power and the willingness to use it. We need a better philosophical approach than that.

#8 Comment By Johnny F. Ive On August 31, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

There is an argument going around that the chemical weapons were handed out by Saudi Arabia to the rebels.

The US would have to get those who fund the rebels to stop in exchange for political concessions from Syria in order to appease their Sunni population. I don’t think that is possible because the Sunnis want to smash the Shia Crescent which Syria is apart of. Kristol is also a firm believer in regime change. Is it possible for Russia to secure the chemical weapons?

#9 Comment By J On August 31, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

[7]

“Well, here we are. It’s been two years of fighting, over 100,000 people are dead, there are no signs of this war ending, and a week ago I used chemical weapons on my own people. If you don’t do anything about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. If you do something about it, thousands of Syrians are going to die. Morally speaking, you’re on the hook for those deaths no matter how you look at it.”

“Long story short, I’m going to keep doing my best to hold on to my country no matter what the cost. If that means bombing entire towns, murdering small children, or shooting at UN weapons inspectors, so be it. I’m in this for the long haul. And you will do…whatever it is you’re going to do, which is totally up to you. Your call.”

As for the remedy of Doing Nothing proposed in the OP, I point you to Bob Altemeyer’s ‘The Authoritarians’. In his gaming of world history the isolationist and surplus helplessness attitudes of conservative (‘high RWA’ but not ‘social dominator orientation’) students put in positions of power limited international wars but set remarkable records in misery and numbers of people who died from internal catastrophes and mismanagement. (pp. 182-183)

[8]
[9]

In general Altemeyer’s booklet is a very nice study of right wing characteristics and has strong predictive power. It describes a lot of what goes on and is claimed or lamented on this blog.

Yes, I think the U.S. should openly side with toppling Assad as it did with toppling Gaddafi in Libya. I think the hyperbole of e.g. ‘Arab Rwanda’ arises not from sober realistic assessment but from fear arising from a tacit belief that Syrian Christians do deserve punishment due to their moral failure as a collective.

#10 Comment By YIH On August 31, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

”I think Kristol is basically right: nothing short of regime change will stop Assad from using chemical weapons.”
So you still think it’s Assad right? Well maybe not:
[10]

[NFR: I don’t know that it was Assad this time, but I’m arguing from the worst-case scenario, i.e., if it were Assad. — RD]

#11 Comment By Lord Karth On August 31, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

Mr. Dreher writes: “So what happens if we throw missiles at Damascus for three days, and Assad’s army uses chemical weapons again (assuming that it used them this time)? What then? And what happens if our missile strikes help bring down the Assad regime, setting off mass killings of Alawites, Christians, and anyone associated with the Assad government?

We will see and learn (anew) that there is a difference between bad and worse—an important concept for ANY Emperor-Wannabe to learn, especially B.H. Obama.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#12 Comment By The Wet One On August 31, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

Can’t wait for chemical weapons to become the norm on the battlefield and elsewhere. Pretty soon, nukes will be the order of the day too.

That should turn out just swell.

Good job Bushie!

#13 Comment By Tyro On August 31, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

The president has done the right thing, here. If Congress doesn’t want the US to get involved in Syria, we don’t, and that’s on them. No one can say we didn’t consider our options.

Plus, when even Bill Kristol isn’t willing to advocate for involvement in a war in the middle east, it makes me think that this isn’t a good idea.

On the other hand, Bill Kristol is always wrong, so I feel like I’m dealing with a difficult conundrum.

#14 Comment By Chris 1 On August 31, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

You ask the wrong questions, Rod, and so you can only get the wrong answers.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On August 31, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

Joshua Landis makes a lot of sense. The dilemma for President Obama has been, there really SHOULD be a severe price for using chemical weapons, but, this is in the middle of a civil war. The first rule for intervening in a civil war is, don’t, and the second rule is, if you do, pick a side. There is no side we can pick with any integrity. Any leader of integrity would be indecisive in a situation like that. If congress won’t support action, then it would be wise not to act.

If we want to rebuild the middle east like we rebuilt (western) Europe, we need to be prepared to commit the volume of men and materiel we committed to the European Theater of WW II. The people aren’t willing, we don’t have the industrial capacity (its all been outsourced), and we can’t afford to take on the debt. So that’s out. Also, in no part of the middle east will we experience a reception inspiring movies like “What Did You Do In The War Daddy?”

#16 Comment By David J. White On August 31, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

“Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international — and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict”.

How ever did we get to the point where we come across as the wild-eyed, crazy ideologues, and the Russians sound like the calm, reasonable pragmatic ones?

[NFR: A friend of mine said to me today, “Did you ever think we’d get to the point where the Russians were the ones promoting a morally responsible policy, and we were the reckless ones?” — RD]

#17 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On August 31, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

A tantrum missile strike is worse than nothing, and no vital interest of the United States will be served by intervening.

We should stay out, period. Nothing we are likely to do will improve the situation. If Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya prove anything, it’s that we don’t know what we are doing when we screw around in the Muslim world.

#18 Comment By stef On August 31, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

The Wall Street Journal has had some pro-intervention (read: pro-war) editorials lately, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a good half of the GOP voted for bombing Syria.

#19 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On August 31, 2013 @ 7:47 pm

Re: As for the remedy of Doing Nothing proposed in the OP, I point you to Bob Altemeyer’s ‘The Authoritarians’. In his gaming of world history the isolationist and surplus helplessness attitudes of conservative

You do realise that authoritarianism isn’t necessarily a right-wing trait, right? The history of, uh, the twentieth century should be enough to show you that left-wing authoritarianism not only exists, but has historically been very influential.

Re; I think the hyperbole of e.g. ‘Arab Rwanda’ arises not from sober realistic assessment

It arises mostly from the fact that the savages who seem to be leading the ‘opposition’ are blowing up Shia holy sites, naming their batallions after Mu’awiya and his boys, commiting acts of cannibalism on Youtube, and saying things like “Christians to Lebanon, Alawites to hell”.

And, you know, from the historical experience that nattering fools like yourself are usually wrong in your justifications for U.S. imperialism, whether during the Cold War or during the modern war on terror.

Re: but from fear arising from a tacit belief that Syrian Christians do deserve punishment due to their moral failure as a collective.

The Syrian Christians haven’t committed any ‘moral failure’, unless you consider not siding with a bunch of barbarians to be a failure.

I actually do think we need to intervene here- chemical weapons is a line that must be crossed- but I find the idiotic cheerleading by people like you to be grotesque as well. We need to intervene, I think, but in the long run, if the rebels win, they will absolutely do their best to wipe out religious minorities, including the Christians.

#20 Comment By Jack On August 31, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

Assad is fighting for his life.

True. As such, he has the benefit of a clarity we cannot hope to possess. Either he puts down the rebellion by all means necessary, or he winds up having his body paraded through the streets of Damascus.

With regards to Mr. Kristol, it is worth noting that this is the dark side of the policies which he has spent most of the last two decades advocating, so I’d hesitate to give him much credit for being right.

“Regime change” in Iraq was supposed to lead to a flowering of democracy in the Middle East, and produce US-friendly states willing to finally reward all our meddling in their affairs.

Instead, we’ve got a weak and hopelessly corrupt government in Iraq barely holding the country together, an emboldened Iran, Egypt and Libya teetering on the brink of chaos, and Syria already well over that brink.

I think it is safe to say at this point that Mr. Kristol and the rest of the “Project for a New American Century” folks have been proven spectacularly wrong, and at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, millions of refugees, and trillions of dollars.

God help us if we ever listen to them again.

#21 Comment By FL Transplant On August 31, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

I’m in agreement that intervening in Syria is a particularly bad idea. Nonetheless, what should we do next year when Hezabollah lobs a couple of Scuds with chem warheads into Israel–shrug our shoulders and go “meh”, since we’ve concluded such weapons really aren’t morally reprehensible enough to demand action and we shouldn’t get involved in situations that we can’t bring to a quick and conclusive end at absolutely minimal cost to ourselves?

[NFR: Let Israel take care of itself. I have every confidence that the Israelis can handle such a problem. — RD]

#22 Comment By Church Lady On August 31, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

The President’s authority to use the military is, in practice, far from absolute. The primary constraint is political, however, and not legal. Yes, he of course can do what he wants whether or not congress or public opinion are against him, but in practice, this is a democracy, and both congress and public opinion matter. Obama recognizes this. He is going to make his case, and see if he can get the support he wants. Making congress vote on this is not entirely necessary, but it’s still the right thing to do, and he knows that. He’s not an autocrat like Assad, after all.

#23 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 31, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

J-Pod hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but it’s starting to dawn on him that maybe, just maybe, the neocons are being played like a cheap fiddle, and that he finds himself standing in mid-air, strapped to an anvil.

Meep-meep?

#24 Comment By Bill H On August 31, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

I don’t think that we should throw a limited and ineffectual missile strike at Syria, but if we are going to do it, I don’t see the point in spotting them a week (or two, given how long we’ve been talking openly about it) to hide everything that we could possibly want to bomb.

#25 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 31, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

I mean–if Obama were going to invade Syria anyway, why bother with Congress, unless a yea vote were in the bag? If Congress says nay, and the President goes ahead and attacks anyway, that might be a real political crisis. Podheretz may be starting to realize that a) the public is sick of war, b) the public doesn’t consider the gassing of Syrian rebels to be sufficent causus belli, and c) Congress just might listen to their constituents rather than their donors and vote no, and then d) Obama will be free, should he desire, to tell the warmongers in Washington to stuff it.

#26 Comment By Mr. Patrick On August 31, 2013 @ 9:16 pm

[NFR: A friend of mine said to me today, “Did you ever think we’d get to the point where the Russians were the ones promoting a morally responsible policy, and we were the reckless ones?” — RD]
Backing Assad is the morally responsible policy? Putin’s argument is that Assad isn’t gassing civilians, just machine-gunning them. Complete dementia.

#27 Comment By EngineerScotty On August 31, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

A little more grist for the mill: “Senior officials in the Obama Administration” (anonymous ones, naturally) have [11] that they expect Congress to approve a strike, but that the President “may still decide to strike” even if Congress says no.

Why would this be leaked? (A useful rule of thumb with the Obama Administration: 75% of the leaks are likely intentional). To goad–if not outright dare–Congress to vote no? We’ve already had one senior Congresscritter mention the I word (impeachment) with regards to Syria; I can see a whole lot Tea Party reps, who would otherwise be happy to march off to battle, voting against “Obama’s War”.

If Obama really wanted to attack Syria, he’d be calling for peace and sanctions and such and let the neocons go apesh*t–nothing would unite the GOP like pacifism from a Democratic President, particularly this one. The current course of action suggests something else.

#28 Comment By Fran Macadam On August 31, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

Almost every human being, whatever their real motives, feels the need to justify their actions by appealing to morality. This is true from your house, to the White House, and beyond. And verified by the excuses replete in history books, from vanquished and victor alike, despite any terrible means used.

The truth of the matter is, a certain clique of of the influential (for want of a more precise anatomy of influence, let’s call them donorists, by the mechanism of their political methodology) wants to recapture Iran, hearkening back to the heady divisions of the secret Sykes-Picot Treaty that secretly divvied up the Middle Eastern financial booty among the western allies of the first World War – despite promises of true self-rule promised by our mendacious leaders.

If it really were about the excuses of freedom, human rights and democracy, then the coup, innocent blood and dictatorship in Egypt would be the moral focus. But it is not, despite the flights of high rhetoric, that absent behavior consistent with morality, bestowed the Nobel Peace Prize pre-emptively and to negative effect – on the person who refuses to condemn the coup American money paid for.

Moral excuses are easy, but actual moral behavior “would piss off too many powerful people.”

#29 Comment By Turmarion On August 31, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

I just emailed both my senators and my representative urging them to vote against military action in Syria. I may call, too. We’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed and wait to see what happens.

#30 Comment By steve On August 31, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

” Is he really more worried about American missiles than about the rebels who want to overthrow him?”

He should be. They have no heavy weapons. No way to affect his command and control centers. He has lots of other ways to kill rebels. If he has to lose his military infrastructure as a cost of chemical warfare, he will give it up.

#31 Comment By cecelia On August 31, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

You cannot – at this time – hit the chem sites because they have been weaponized – and will – in a missle strike – disperse the chemical agents.

I do not understand the emphasis on regime change since it is clear that whatever military action they have planned is not for the purpose of regime change. So such discussion is irrelevant. The relevant question is how does a targeted brief single purpose strike advance our broader strategy for Syria and the ME in general. Obama has clearly sought to avoid any action that would empower the rebels or involve the use of American ground troops. He does not need a lecture on regime change – he has been clear that we are not working to promote the installation of new leaders in Syria who might be worse than Assad.

Kristol wants us to kill Islamicists in Iraq and Afghanistan – but put them in charge in Syria?

I don’t think the UK action has been the influencing factor here – Obama has always been one who reads the polls – he can see the data – the US people want Congressional approval.

As for Putin – geez – this incident has really demonstrated what a façade the idea of Russia as a great power is – statements by the Russsian foreign minister make it clear they are not going to interfere which is smart since they have no capability to interfere. And frankly – using Putin as a moral source – given his arming of Assad and blocking of diplomatic attempts to resolve this – is rather dubious.

I say again – the truly pressing issue here is how do we stop the deaths? How do we contain this?

#32 Comment By isaacplautus On August 31, 2013 @ 11:19 pm

This was a political move by the President. And a smart political move. (He is a politician after all) The GOP cannot have an effective foreign policy message with the division between the Rand Paul and John McCain wings. The Dems are actually pretty divided on Syria too. But Obama knows the press will be more likely to make Paul and McCain’s rift the big story. If he had done this without Congress, the story would have centered on Obama’s questionable use of executive power. Now the story becomes the GOP foreign policy divide.

#33 Comment By Chuckles On August 31, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

The Saudis were behind the chemical attack and it was facilitated by elements within the rebels.

Remember the Iraqi soldiers pulling babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals? One of the most powerful emotional tools to push the Americans and Europe to war in the Gulf. Turned out to be the work of a K Street lobbying firm. No joke.

Fool me again and again and again… and shame on you. Fool me again and again and again and shame… on… can’t get fooled again. Until next time.

#34 Comment By Church Lady On August 31, 2013 @ 11:47 pm

Either he puts down the rebellion by all means necessary, or he winds up having his body paraded through the streets of Damascus.

One thing I have a hard time understanding is why tyrants like Assad (or Saddam, or Mubarak) don’t just get out while they can, and retire with their immense wealth in some foreign sanctuary. According to one source Assad has accumulated a personal fortune of $122 billion, at least some of which must be in foreign bank accounts. He really could come to some sort of agreement to go into safe exile, and live a lavish life.

That people like this don’t do this, but would rather stay and fight to the death, tells you that their motivation is not really about wealth, but power. The money, even the good life, just isn’t enough for them.

Btw, Mubarak was said to have a personal fortune of about $70 billion.

#35 Comment By jon s On September 1, 2013 @ 12:14 am

Rob, if it were clear the victims of the gas attacks were targeted because they were Coptic Christian (eg Egypt), would you hold the same opinion?

[NFR: Yes. — RD]

#36 Comment By The Wet One On September 1, 2013 @ 1:59 am

Just a question that is relevant here, how many Syrians do you suppose will be gassed to death in the next use of such weapons?

I know that we don’t really care here (god knows I sure as heck don’t), but I figure just for some laughs, let’s place a bet on the number.

My bet is for 2,953. I think it has a nice ring to it.

What’s your call?

Let’s not forget that this is really what we’re calling for, so we may as well place a wager or two on the thing.

#37 Comment By Lord Karth On September 1, 2013 @ 4:14 am

Cecelia writes: “I say again – the truly pressing issue here is how do we stop the deaths? How do we contain this?”

We don’t. That’s the whole point.

The US has neither the manpower, the resources, nor the reason to do the massive intervention in Syria that would “contain” this. Containing the actions of both sides would likely require a saturation-occupation of the country that would take at least half a million men, more resources than we used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a willingness to accept a Vietnam-era level of combat deaths. Does anyone here realistically expect that any combination of “Western” powers has those resources ready to hand ? No ?

Then it’s about time we face the Reality of the situation; that this thing’s NOT going to get “contained”, and we need to deal with it. Shoot, we can’t “contain” the gang violence that is killing thousands of black and Hispanic kids in our own central cities every year—what makes us think that we can do the same where the culture is even more non-functional and more at variance from our own than that ?

Time to get real, troops—some problems can’t be “solved”, just lamented and dealt with.

Your servant,

Lord Karth

#38 Comment By Thinking Americanist On September 1, 2013 @ 8:49 am

As an Israel-Firster the *only* thing that trotskyite Kristol cares about is the protection of Israel. He is a classic Neoconservative who sees Christian America is useful idiots.

#39 Comment By Thinking Americanist On September 1, 2013 @ 9:55 am

Whoops! :shock I meant, “Sees Christian America AS useful idiots.”

More Coffee!

😉

#40 Comment By Bernie On September 1, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

@isaacplautus: Do you think the President would be letting Congress vote on this if the British Parliament had backed it?

#41 Comment By Tyro On September 1, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

he has declared his intention to wait until Congress comes back in session—in eight days—and then debate the matter for a couple of days and then vote.

In fairness, it is Boehner who has decided to wait until Congress’s recess ends rather than calling them back early. Reid is bringing the Senate back into session.

It is rather entertaining to see howls of outrage that the president has asked Congress to authorize him to act. Podhoretz isn’t upset that the president isn’t acting. He’s upset that Obama is ensuring that Congress is implicated and participates in any acts in Syria and shares the blame for any action or inaction. Which is, frankly, as it should be.

The Democratic Party’s foreign policy establishment is haunted by the spectre of Rwanda. And while Syria is not Rwanda, no one knew that Rwanda was Rwanda until it was. No president wants to be the one who did nothing while that happens. At the very least, he would prefer that, if he’s going to do nothing, that the legislative branch explicitly tells him to do nothing.

#42 Comment By Bernie On September 1, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

This whole thing is so messy. September 11 is coming. What if Congress takes a vote before that date? Regardless of how it votes, what if the President authorizes a strike before September 11? It’s hard to imagine what might happen on that anniversary world wide if he did.

It will be interesting to observe the President’s and Putin’s body language toward each other when they meet in Russia this week. Russia is a close ally of Syria and news reports say that Russia has given major arms to Syria. If we strike, and there is a hit(s) on American ships or American allies or American embassies in retaliation, then what do we do?

#43 Comment By mm On September 2, 2013 @ 7:27 am

tyro- try engaging Pods argument, heck you post enough so length isn’t an issue.

#44 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 4, 2013 @ 10:54 am

One thing I have a hard time understanding is why tyrants like Assad (or Saddam, or Mubarak) don’t just get out while they can, and retire with their immense wealth in some foreign sanctuary.

Hussein and Saddam, at least, were representative of a political ideology, and fully believed in their cause. Further, they were undisputed masters of their respective parties and governing machinery, but that machinery was not merely devoted to them personally. The whole nomenklatura couldn’t simply move to Switzerland, and then, there are millions of lower-level clients of the regime who have to be considered. From what I’ve read, if Bashar’s older brother who was originally groomed as successor hadn’t died, Bashar would have been perfectly happy to live out his life as an eye surgeon in London. He was reportedly quite competent and well liked.