September 2, 2013

Are we Americans supposed to be having a national conversation about Syria?

Could we go back to the national conversation about race? Because there we're at least talking about something we've been observing, sometimes even first hand, for decades. Yes, we say a lot of foolish things, and we can annoy each other, but that's within the realm of recognizable human conversation.

How are we supposed to talk about Syria? Here, read this WaPo piece: "9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask." That's the most basic primer, but it's loaded with complexities and will not — I predict — make you feel that you can participate in a debate about what we ought to do. It will only make you feel hopeless, not only about what the U.S. could do to help, but even about what you could contribute to the thinking on the subject.

This is what causes Americans to decide to trust the President, and in this case the man we're pressured to trust has asked for a consultation from Congress. (He hasn't asked for authorization. That I can see.) As this process of congressional decision-checking gets under way in the next week or so, what are you going to do?

What are you going to do about Syria?
  
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74 comments:

james conrad said...

This entire episode has been bungled past the point of no return, someone should remind Obama to PUT THE SHOVEL DOWN!

C R Krieger said...

The Wash Post article missed the point that Russia is very concerned about (Sunni) Muslim Jihadists causing trouble along its southern border.  Thus support for the Shia side makes some sense.

They also missed the point that there have been rules of war for longer than 100 years.  Some efforts have succeeded and some haven't.  Remember, there was an effort to ban the cross bow.  Didn't the Second Lateran Council, under Pope Innocent II, in 1139, ban the use of crossbow?  Didn't work, however.  The ban.

Regards  —  Cliff

hoyden said...

Here is a bit of education, directly from Dear Leader.

Matthew Sablan said...

I trust that John Kerry is wishing he hadn't taken that promotion, and everyone who is hoping for Hillary Clinton 2016 is happy as a song bird she's not the one having to flip off the vocal anti-war left.

But, on Syria, we -should- be having a national conversation on it. but, oddly enough, most people I ask seem unaware of what's going on. Heck, even I'm not always sure. For example: I thought we had reliable reports a month or so ago of chemical weapon usage. Why did we not start really going into it the day before a three door weekend?

I want to care, but I can't help but feel cynical.

traditionalguy said...

The magician's lies are running up against the ugly truth.

How will his worshipers handle that?

Jane said...

I voted "Althouse should tell me" because you pretty much hit the nail on the head that the issues are too complex for the ordinary citizen to figure out, yet "trust Congress/the President" or "don't trust them" aren't really suitable categories since I neither actively trust nor distrust them. Though I do think that Obama's Red Line and some of the rationalizations of "we said we'd act, so we can't embarrass the president by not acting" are not credible, as is what seems to be the idea of bombing as a kind of punishment, not dissimilar to how I'd take away my son's iPod temporarily if he misbehaves. Is the idea: you can conduct your civil war however you want, and we won't take sides, but if you use chemical weapons, we'll bomb you to that precise degree that you'll lose any advantage in your war that you may have otherwise gained?

In my mind, the biggest question is: is it actually possible to support the moderate rebels, or will our involvement inevitably be in support of Al Qaida? Is this one of those cases where there is no "good guy" and we should have learned our lesson already?

Besides which, one thing I don't trust Congress on is to listen to their constituents on this issue. Which means that, even if I were to educate myself, form a opinion, blog about it, hold community meetings in the library, etc., what good would it do?

http://janetheactuary.blogspot.com/2013/08/i-am-not-going-to-write-about-syria.html

damikesc said...

Syria, in the end, is a non-issue. They are no threat to us. There is nobody preferable to Assad (those groups disappeared months ago). Getting involved would be the dumbest possible decision and would only benefit terrorist groups...so, yeah, Obama is dying to do it.

St. George said...

Number 5: "Can we take a music break?"

This is at the sub-adult level. Fifth grade. And in the Washington Post. How demeaning to readers. How insulting to Syrians.

The article doesn't make me feel "helpless." The United States is not supposed to help everyone everywhere. This is the fundamental problem—Millions of Americans think our government can do anything anytime anywhere. This is entirely a consequence of our victory in WWII and our resulting economic domination of the world, as we produced about 60 percent of all industrial goods after WWII. That's now down to about 20 percent. We're trying to maintain a national lifestyle that is unsustainable. A war will hasten the end of that. And in a brutal way.

Considering the appalling consequences of Obamacare, it is impossible to see how anyone can "trust" the President. (The most charitable view is Obamacare only hastens the end of an unsustainable health insurance system.) He is asking for an open-ended approval to wage war, one we can't afford. You call it "decision-checking"? Are those James Madison's words?

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

“The U.S. military has performed valiantly and brilliantly in Iraq. Our troops have done all that we have asked them to do and more. But no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else’s civil war, nor settle the grievances in the hearts of the combatants.” Obama, 2007

Anyone who's raised successful kids understands that you do not make threats you are unwilling or unable to carry out. Obama has made that fundamental mistake repeatedly in foreign policy and is now squirming to "save face".

Now that he's belatedly attempting to stick Congress with responsibility any way things work out (except well, for which he would take full credit) most Americans do not see the Constitutional crisis hurtling towards us.

Obama would have been better off to ignore Congress, but that's not how he calculates things. At least that way he could have squidged around it all without bending the War Powers Act too terribly out of shape.

What if, however, as is most certainly possible, Congress votes 'No', yet Obama decides to go ahead, regardless? His willingness to flout the law in the case of things like Obamacare delays, whilst annoying and arrogant, is not the stuff of a full-blown Constitutional crisis.

“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J.Res.23, which states in part that “any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress. ... The notion that as a consequence of that [2002 Congressional regarding Iraq] authorization, the president can continue down a failed path without any constraints from Congress whatsoever is wrong and is not warranted by our Constitution.” Obama, also 2007

An officer's oath at commission is that of fealty not to the President, but to the Constitution. The Universal Code of Military Justice requires disobedience of illegal orders (and if you do not understand this, please reference the post-Nazi Nuremburg trials -- "I was only following orders.").

If Congress votes 'No' and Obama nevertheless decides to proceed with attacks against Syria he places flag-level officers (that's generals and admirals) in a terrible position. Obama will in essence be forcing them to choose: are you loyal to *me* or to the Constitution?

That is fundamentally the same question which led a goodly number of my ancestors to sign the Declaration of Independence and fight for the liberation of our land from monarchial tyranny. If that isn't a Constitutional crisis of the first order, I don't know what is.

What I *do* know is that if we end up with a monarchial President and a broadly compliant military, then the rules will have changed and America will have lurched into a very dark paroxysm which will take at least a decade to resolve.

We are now Rome in the mid-1st Century BC. "A Republic, gentlemen, if you can keep it."

West Texas Intermediate Crude said...

War is hell.
You don't volunteer to go to hell without a very good reason.
Syrians bombing Syrians is not a good reason, as the lady said.

PETER V. BELLA said...

There is no reason to care about Syria. It poses no threat to our national security. All this hand wringing, moralizing, and weeping is just useless chatter.

Who cares if Syrians are killing Syrians? As long as they are not killing Americans or threatening our allies, it is none of our business.

Deirdre Mundy said...

This just strikes me as more of a Somalia/Egypt/Libya situation than an Iraq situation.

It's a civil war where NEITHER side would support our interests in the region and both sides are killing thousands of children. There are no good guys here.

If we do a 'Libya-style' intervention, does that mean we get more dead ambassadors? Woopee! And how does lobbing a few bombs send any message other than "We'll make a token effort to express disapproval, but we won't really interfere."

No one has yet given me a good reason for a Syrian intervention. "Children are dying!" Do we send in US troops anytime children are in danger? No. We don't. So why Syria? Why now? Has Obama been watching "Wag the Dog" again?

traditionalguy said...

Latest evidence the Assyrians used sarin also exposes that obama knew it was coming 3 days before the children were murderd, but Warned no one of thebRenels he is using.

Lies, lies and more lies by Obama are exposed to every side but the US people still living in an Obma Twilight Zone.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

Not on topic, but I'd like to know more about that desk Obama has his foot on in the pic Drudge featured yesterday and today.

Which President brought the desk into the White House furniture inventory? How much did it cost? Was it a gift?

Did his mother not teach him to keep his shoes off the furniture?

What does grinding the sole of his shoe into the White House furniture convey to the Arab populace?

Old Dad said...

The Post article is condescending drivel. The strategic issue is Iran. Syria is a side-show. Assad will continue to murder his people by the thousands until Tehran and Moscow make him stop.

The regime to topple is in Iran.

tim maguire said...

Americans are very good at having "national discussions" as we go about our lives, at home, in the office, at the bar. We cannot have a discussion in the media as the forum is too dumbed down and dominated by activists who find it preferrable to demonize their opponents than reason with them.

As for Syria, it can be as simple or as complicated as we want it to be. The right thing to do is nothing because we have no specific objective or desired outcome. Add all the complication you want, that basic fact doesn't change.

And since nothing is the right thig to do, it is fortunate that nothing is what we will do. Because 90% of Americans, having had their national discussion as they went about their lives, have correctly identified nothing as the right thing to do.

Asking congress, as the professor recently pointed out, is a face-saving way for Obama to back down. Fortuately he had the sense to take that "out."

elkh1 said...

What difference, at this point, does it make?

From now on, he should stick to his teleprompter and his golfs.

St. George said...

The only strong argument the president has is to compare the present situation to Europe between 1938 and December 1941.

Lots of folks said it was Europe's problem. None of our business.

The heart of the snake is in Teheran, the world's largest funder of global terrorism and apparently near completion of nuclear weapons it could quietly disseminate.

If the goal of going to war is to overthrow that regime, the president has to say that, but that will really roil the waters, and he can't make that case, so he's stuck with using Syria as a means for going after Iran.

A pickle.

Robert Cook said...

To assert that the issues are too complex for Americans to understand is either an insult or an indictment of Americans, to the degree it is or is not true. It might more aptly be said that the internal politics of Syria are not of sufficient moment to Americans for us to take the time and effort to educate ourselves as to the various opposing factions and their respective positions and why any of it should be our business.

We have incredibly more urgent issues of our own to worry about: a miserable economy, with no prospects of change; a miserable employment outlook, with no prospects of change; a miserable housing market, with countless thousands of homes emptied by eviction, sitting unsold and falling apart, while thousands of Americans are displaced by homelessness, (much of it a result of evictions), with no prospects of change; a criminal class installed in the boardrooms of Wall Street and the big banks, a criminal class working assiduously at their already years-in-progress endeavor to separate Americans from their money through whatever means they can devise, including fraud and outright theft, with no prospects of change; a criminal and increasingly monarchial government deaf to the wishes and needs of the people, while ever at the beck and call of the wealthy elites, a government that lets our schools and physical infrastructure crumble while shitting American treasure down the toilet in criminal wars of torture and murder abroad, with no prospects of change; and so on.

Frankly, why should we embroil ourselves in yet another war abroad while we're living through the death of our republic here at home?

Hagar said...

Syria is just one Middle East boil that broke open and some particularly nasty pus is spilling out.
We do need to have a conversation about "the Muslim World" - or rather the "Arab" part of it; southeast Asia is not much involved in this so far - and come to some agreement about what we are going to stand for. A major problem at the present time is that neither we nor our friends around the world - or for that matter, our enemies - have any idea what our government is likely to do next.

And yes, it is important. If the "Arab world" is, say, half of the "Muslim world," that is about 3/4 billion people with a very high birth rate, and they not only sit atop a large part of the world's known oil reserves, but also athwart very major sea lanes. Unrest in "the Arab world" is not something you can put a fence around and ignore.

CWJ said...

I second St George's criticism of the "9 questions" article. While nothing written is particularly incorrect, the writing is cringe worthy. Its written in the mock serious style of an old National Lampoon piece.

"What's happening in Syria is really serious..."
"Syria and it history are really complicated..."

For me the signature condescension was Max Fisher explaining the word "norm" it's like a rule.

I can't make up my mind whether Fisher intended to be snide by design, or whether he is snide by nature.

Jeff said...

I can't vote in this. I was an Arabic linguist working the Iraq mission, which was considerably less complicated than Syria (in that there were only 3 real factions, and one wasn't participating in the civil brawl). If we intervene on the side of the Sunni insurgency in Syria, and they win, we will have aided a genocide when it's all done. The Sunnis will kill all of the Alawites (Assad's crew), but also all of the Christians, and possibly the Druze.

Paco Wové said...

The Machiavellian parts of my brain wonder if Obama and the Republicans come to some sort of horse-trading deal that ends up with Congress approving of the U.S. lobbing some cruise missles at Syria, in exchange for some domestic policy concessions to the R.'s. That's a win for the Establishment (saving face!), a win for the Republicans (who probably wouldn't much mind lobbing some missles at Syria, though it doesn't top the agenda), even a win for Assad (since it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that any strikes the U.S. will carry out won't be punishing enough to be any kind of deterrent). In fact, the only losers are the populations of Syria and, to a much lesser extent, the U.S.

The Godfather said...

"None of the above." I'm not going to do anything. Because I can't. I've posted here before what I think Congress should do about Syria, but Congress will no more be influenced by my opinion on Syria than by my opinion on Obamacare, the IRS scandals, NSA data mining, or any number of subjects on which I am wise beyond my years.

By the way, I think the Papal ban on cross bows only applied to their use against Christians. Shooting Muslims with those diabolical weapons was just fine.

MrCharlie2 said...

Now that we have real experience in the Middle East, there is no way we should let ourselves get sucked into this.

In principle, we should support Turkey in whatever they think is appropriate, i.e. logistical support. The Turks live in the neighborhood, have plenty of muscle, and I don't think will actually do anything.

We should also try to protect Israel and Jordan; try to help Lebanon to more independence (that we can do from the Med and it is in our interest); and try to protect refugees.

Oh, and we should try to pin all the dead children on Putin.

Illuninati said...

I believe we are all better off with a secular Syria under the Alawites than with a Syria run by Sunni fanatics aka Al Qaeda. The Alawites are rational people who just want to survive in a dangerous neighborhood. Russia knows how dangerous Sunni fundamentalism is and has chosen sides carefully and wisely. We would be wise to listen to their advise.

Original Mike said...

Here's John McWhorter's take on the "conversation" on race.

Cedarford said...

Bart Hall -

"An officer's oath at commission is that of fealty not to the President, but to the Constitution. The Universal Code of Military Justice requires disobedience of illegal orders (and if you do not understand this, please reference the post-Nazi Nuremburg trials -- "I was only following orders.").

If Congress votes 'No' and Obama nevertheless decides to proceed with attacks against Syria he places flag-level officers (that's generals and admirals) in a terrible position. Obama will in essence be forcing them to choose: are you loyal to *me* or to the Constitution?"

================
The problem with your worshipful belief that The Sacred Parchment is the old piece of paper that all action must flow from, as directed by the Judges in Chief - is that it is not tenable.

The "oath" is best understood as a euphemism for loyalty to America, obedience to a Chain of Command...(Which BTW, does not flow from the platoon's legal scholar privates and sargeants understanding of how each element of duty, each action comports with the Sacred Parchment from their weeks in Constitutional Law boot camp. From orders of senior NCOs with advanced law education, through the CO that was commissioned after passing the Bar as a constitutional law expert. Then through the military hierarchy of lawyers, to the final 9 Lawyers of SCOTUS who are the Commanders in Chief.

As for "illegal orders", when I was in, the overriding truth was that our military deterrence rested on killing 10s, 100s of millions of "innocent civilians" with nuclear bombs. Still does.

But in a smaller sphere, where lawyers in and out of the military have a more "manageable" situation..along with twerps like Manning and various leftist activists groups that wish to hobble America in any conflict...
In that world, "the lessons of Nuremburg" falsely applied, by victors that incinerated cities and thought nothing of sinking passenger ships and putting 3,000 Soviet artillery pieces to work levelling a Polish town - have led to a hobbled military. And made each war we have been in since WWII, into unwinnable morasses, save the Gulf War and perhaps a small island we could cut off weapons and explosives being shipped in to the "innocent civilians".

And put our soldiers into ridiculous ROE that guarantee thousands of additional casualties. And each action is under the eye of a Bradley Manning or similar cheese-eating snitch, with a command cowed and usually quite happy to throw troops to the wolves for anything un-PC or less than perfect "care" of enemy not proven to be holding weapons at the time.







Bruce Hayden said...

I voted for Althouse here. I figure that anyone with as much cheek as she showed there deserves my vote.

If the subject is too complex for most of us, we are in really big trouble. Our Secretary of State is known to have an IQ only slightly, if that above the mean - meaning that almost half the country is likely smarter than he. And despite a lot of affirmative action, our President has given scant indication that he is much smarter. Which means, at a minimum, that Ann, at least, is most likely quite a bit brighter than both of them.

Joe said...

I read all I could over the weekend about the sarin gas incident. The Obama administration has inflated numbers by 4x and is lying about the evidence. In fact, there is zero evidence of sarin gas exposure. None. This was a claim by Doctors Without Borders and hasn't been verified by anyone else.

There is evidence that the last claimed attack was actually by the rebels, not by the Syrian government. I think it just as likely that we are seeing as much fighting between rebel factions as we are between rebels and the Syrian government.

In other news, some rebel factions slaughtered a village of Kurds, killing more people in a more brutal faction. So, killing Kurds conventionally is okay.

It is time for Congress to stand up to Obama and say NO. Congress needs to reclaim its power and responsibilities. Won't happen since they want the former without the latter; the same as Obama.

Balfegor said...

From the article:

They would be meant to punish Assad for (allegedly) using chemical weapons and to deter him, or any future military leader in any future war, from using them again.

I don't think this quite gets at the problem Obama faces. If he just wants to deter future military leaders in future wars, then it's a bit late for that, since the total lack of any unified international response on retaliation against the Syrian government has basically eviscerated any prospective deterrence.

What's more, if he wants to deter use of chemical weapons in Syria, he has to face the problem that Assad could be deterred, but only if he actually remains in power. If American intervention led to Assad being forced from power and having his still beating heart eaten by the bestial rebel horde, well, the chemical weapons will still be there. They'll just be in the hands of innumerable rebel factions, mostly savage and cruel, against whom it will be basically impossible for the US to establish a credible deterrent. A stronger intervention that actually shifted the balance of power in favour of the rebels would be self-defeating, if chemical weapons are our concern.

That's why, at most, we'll be left with a missile attack carefully calibrated to be meaningless. Which is a waste of time.

GrapeApe said...

Our enemies are killing one another. Just get out of the way.

Kirk Parker said...

Hagar,

Pakistan is not Arab, but very much included in the conversation we need to have.

Big Mike said...

You are smarter than you looked in 1970, Althouse. As a nation we were getting into the long-overdue "national discussion on race" thanks to the Zimmerman case and Chris Lane murder, and it wasn't going the way the left-wing wanted, so ... Look! Syria! Squirrel!

Just another way to do Wag the Dog.

From Inwood said...

One of your poll choices is

“Althouse should tell me what to do, and I'll do that.”

You voted for POTUS a crafty politician & campaigner who was obviously inept, unaware, inadequate when it came to substance & was surrounded by clueless advisers. Now we should listen to you as he shows how inept, unaware, inadequate, clueless he & his chosen advisers are?

It is to laugh.

And now the most important thing to these perpetual campaigners is the GOP dilemma brought about by the clever POTUS. What, Our Dear Leader is suggesting that we go ahead with a response using inadequate weapons, with targets telegraphed so that the weapons can be moved? Nevermind!

If the House approves, then the GOP members get sucked into this farandole.

If it doesn’t approve, then the Dems get one more thing to add to their robotic mantra: “we’re running against an obstructionist congress!”

How many low-info voters will be fooled? What, this situation is more important than fooling voters? Oh, I see.

But, again IMHO, you’re missing the Big Picture.

The greatest threats facing all 57 states today are

Suppression of Black votes through voter ID

Whitey Profiling Trayvons & using “stop & frisk” disproportionally against Blacks

Charter Schools

Nothing has changed re race since 1963.

GOP War on Women

GOP War on Kittens

GOP obstructionism re the Unaffordable AffordableCare Act

AGW & the rising sea levels somewhere & Science Deniers who attack the EPA & deny all those Home Runs being hit in the hot air

People criticizing The Anointed One for mixing up words like “affect”& "effect".

In the end, the intellectualoids running the country are

• uncomfortable with American power,
• uncomprehending of the need to confront the growing power of those who wish us harm,
• unwilling to recognize the Manichean nature of mankind,
• unsure of the precedential value of historical events,
• unaware of evidence that contradicts their ideology

BobJustBob said...

The new Liberal talking point is why I chose despair.

Obama's history-defying decision to seek Congressional approval on Syria.

Turns out George Bush's two trips to Congress for authorization to use military force never happened(or they weren't historic enough).

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

C R Krieger said...

Cedarford misses the point that the oath issue isn't about Nuremberg, but about 14 July 1944.  The oath to Hitler cause a conscience problem for a lot of German officers.

And, yes, I have sat alert on the big egg.  The B-61 was my favorite.
__________

Agree that if the rebels win in Syria the minorities will suffer and it could well be a bloodbath.  On the other hand, if Assad crushes his opponents and wins the Civil War it will be a bloodbath.  I don't want to sit on Syria for the next fifty years to prevent that bloodbath, because as in many domestic disputes, the husband and wife will turn on the person intervening.

Regards  —  Cliff

n.n said...

Obama was fashionably late to inform Congress that he had launched a strike on Libya. Why does he now hesitate to attack Syria?

jr565 said...

Old dad wrote:
The Post article is condescending drivel. The strategic issue is Iran. Syria is a side-show. Assad will continue to murder his people by the thousands until Tehran and Moscow make him stop.

The regime to topple is in Iran.


Agreed, but Syria is a proxy of Iran. How is it going to look to Iran when we are trying to get them to stop with their nuclear program and we issue an ultimatum about stopping or else? And they look at us issuing an ultimatum to Syria for gassing it's people and we back down.
Iran and Syria and terrorists are all emboldened when America is shown to be weak and not able to back our words with actions.
Osama said we are paper tigers. Obama's actions help add to this perception. But so would republicans impeding Obama's ability to hold a country accountable for gassing its people. A country, I might add that is a proxy for one of our greatest foes right now. A foe, I might add that we are trying to keep in line so they don't get nukes.
We don't hold Syria to account, Iran thinks we wont hold them to account. Even if they go so far as to gas their population.

To quote Tracy Chapman "If not now then when? If not today, then why make your promises"
(sorry for quoting Tracy Chapman by the way)
If we don't hold Syria of all countries to account when it gases it's people, when would we hold Syria to account? Why would we hold Iran to account with it's nuclear program?
We have to stop being such pussies when it comes to our military.

Martinkh said...

The real reason that Obama wants a resolution on Syria is so that it will contain language that protects him from being found in violation of the authorization for the WOT (which he tried to have cancelled). Obama is aiding & abetting Al Queda and the Muslim Brotherhood in Lybia, Egypt and Syria- all can be considered treason under current law, so rather than stop helping terrorists, he wants to get a law supporting him in it.

Martinkh said...

The real reason that Obama wants a resolution on Syria is so that it will contain language that protects him from being found in violation of the authorization for the WOT (which he tried to have cancelled). Obama is aiding & abetting Al Queda and the Muslim Brotherhood in Lybia, Egypt and Syria- all can be considered treason under current law, so rather than stop helping terrorists, he wants to get a law supporting him in it.

Rusty said...

Our enemies are murdering each other. Now is not the time to intervene.
Let the silt settle and then see what is left shining on the bottom.

jr565 said...

Illuminati wrote:
believe we are all better off with a secular Syria under the Alawites than with a Syria run by Sunni fanatics aka Al Qaeda. The Alawites are rational people who just want to survive in a dangerous neighborhood. Russia knows how dangerous Sunni fundamentalism is and has chosen sides carefully and wisely. We would be wise to listen to their advise."


The al qaeda element are largely segregated from the other rebels, in the north. So there is no guarantee that were Assad's regime to topple that there wouldn't be an even more secular regime to replace it or that Al Qaeda would end up running the country.
But if it did, what would stop us from bombing Al Qaeda there?
Why does this bombing, which is extremely limited in nature so will not actually do that much anyway, dictate how we must respond if, god forbid Al Qaeda takes over after Assad is ousted.

Libs would often say there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq until Bush brought them there. But that's a ridiculous argument. THey were there because they felt that was the best way for them to fight us, and so they expended vast resources trying to take the battle to us.
So, if AL Qaeda were to succeed in taking over Syria after Assad fell, that then would be the front where we weaken Al Qaeda even further becuase they then become a target for our full military and not just the occasional drone strike.
The biggest problem right now is that Obama is such a wuss and the republicans so spooked because of Iraq that they are taking quarter measures instead of dealing with threats head on. We should never have given up Iraq.

IMagine if we still had all our troops there and Syria pulled this crap. They'd have to deal with us right on their border being able to do a lot more than debate lobbing a few bombs.

jr565 said...

Bart Hall wrote:
If Congress votes 'No' and Obama nevertheless decides to proceed with attacks against Syria he places flag-level officers (that's generals and admirals) in a terrible position. Obama will in essence be forcing them to choose: are you loyal to *me* or to the Constitution?"

Congress hasn't declared war since WWII. Yet we've had plenty of conflicts involving our military. Explain that.

gk1 said...

I live in California and just emailed by representatives asking them to vote 'no' on any resolution authorizing the President to use force against Syria. I know it is pointless because they are all democrats and will back up their president. Without exception Feinstein, Boxer and Jared Huffman, my local rep, will vote YES without batting an eye because party comes before the people with these birds. At least its good to know they are only pacifists when there is an (R) behind the presidents name.

jr565 said...

Illuminati wrote:
I believe we are all better off with a secular Syria under the Alawites than with a Syria run by Sunni fanatics aka Al Qaeda

THat suggests that Al Qaeda might have a tougher time taking over Syria were Assad's regime to topple.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Has anybody seen any conclusive (or even semi-conclusive) evidence that Assad was behind this poison gas attack?

Kerry has paraded all sorts of evidence before us to show that a poison gas attack took place, but not so much on who did it.

If Assad is winning the war against the rebels (and credible reports say that he is), what would he have to gain with a poison gas attack on civilians?

On the other hand, if the rebels were losing, wouldn't they have a strong motive to adopt a "false flag" strategy?

And let's not forget that a fair number of these rebel groups have strong links to Al Qaeda.

Robert Cook said...

"As for 'illegal orders', when I was in, the overriding truth was that our military deterrence rested on killing 10s, 100s of millions of 'innocent civilians' with nuclear bombs. Still does."

This is, of course, monstrous and insane. And yet you seem to think those who would hobble American power are in the wrong.

jr565 said...

"The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and I want it on the record and I want to make it clear: if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach him." - then senator Joe Biden, now vice president.
Considering we all lived through Libya being bombed and congress not consulted when it happened, and no impeachment proceedings brought it makes you wonder.

Was Joe just talking about Iran there? Maybe there are some special rules that apply only when attacking Iran and not another ME country that I'm not aware of.

If Bush were to bomb Iran and didn't consult congress about it, my opinion is he'd have the authority. But it would be bad politics. Only Bush, would have consulted congress, because unlike Obama/Biden he wasn't a complete phony.
Someone needs to hold Obama and Biden accountable for their words.

Hyphenated American said...

The best thing that congress can do is to re-assert obama's right as an American president to wage a limited war.

St. George said...

One good thing I'll say about Mr. Obama is that he may well be far more ruthless in the old-fashioned American way than "W" was with his surgical war in Iraq and campaign for girls' education in Kabul. Or his father stopping at the Iraq border. Or Nixon waiting years before bombing Hanoi. Or LBJ ruling out a naval invasion of North Vietnam.

We haven't had a president willing to fight a total war since FDR. So, go for it, Barack. Flatten Damascus and Teheran. Make the case that this is about wiping out the mullahs. Forever. Bring back the days of Dresden. Call up Curtis LeMay and Sherman.

C R Krieger said...

What he meant to say was 20 July 1944...

Regards  —  Cliff

Hagar said...

Very few of these people are Arab, which is why I used "Arab" in quotation marks. It was the best I could think of to distinguish the peoples involved in this discussion from the Muslims of Indonesia, southeast Asia, the Philippines, etc., which all seem to have decided they have enough with their own problems and don't need to get involved in any world-wide "holy wars."

Hagar said...

Just to be clear; I am against any bombing campaign in Syria at this point. I believe it will not only be useless, but positively harmful both to the US and "our side" in general.

If I had my way - not that I think there is any danger of getting it - I think I would like to see the Gov't reverse course on the military and work hard to rebuild our forces ASAP. I would not make threats, but I would quietly send forces back into Iraq and Afghanistan to re-occupy the bases and build permanent-looking structures. I would try to make friends with at least one faction in Pakistan; preferably one that looked like it might do us some good to be friends with. I would quietly encourage some of the people who have left the region to return and help them find ways to make a living in their native countries. And in all the countries I would try to look as friendly to women as I could without provoking unnecessary backlash movements.

Cedarford said...

Cliff, there is a middle ground between fealty to lawyer-priests that seek to run the military just like they run so much of the rest of America (into the ground).

And oaths to Hitler or Bush or Obama....

The "oath to the Constitution" well predates the reducio ad Hilterum. It started very early on in the Republic. With gov't official's oaths, then diplomats, military officers, though the militias didn't bother too much. But few military trained as "constitutional lawyers" outside the military legal system...which was also kept separate by design from true Line Officers with command duties.

So lawyers couldn't fuck it all up.

Better if we took a new direction away from Lawfare, given we really can't win wars anymore so hobbled...
Part of that would be a new oath not to an old scrap of paper, but an oath to the People that officials would not put them in harms way without a vital interest of the US at stake, would not bankrupt them in the USA civilian lives each American should have.

Have laws...but to not place lawyers as the Final Word over the military, Congress, theStates, and the President.

Lydia said...

CWJ said:
I can't make up my mind whether [the author of the Wash. Post piece] intended to be snide by design, or whether he is snide by nature.

Both probably.

Like Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times in a tweet on August 31: "Now members of Congress will have to consult maps and figure out where Syria is."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Could we go back to the national conversation about race?

Nooooooo! The one saving grace of the national conversation about Syria (such as it is) is that for once we're not having a national conversation about race.

I watched Harry Brown the other night, and mused that one advantage British filmmakers have over us in the way of elderly-victim-becomes-vigilante films is that they can plausibly make all their bad guys white. You have to choose your setting very carefully in the US to do the same.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Joe,

I read all I could over the weekend about the sarin gas incident. The Obama administration has inflated numbers by 4x and is lying about the evidence. In fact, there is zero evidence of sarin gas exposure. None. This was a claim by Doctors Without Borders and hasn't been verified by anyone else.

There is evidence that the last claimed attack was actually by the rebels, not by the Syrian government. I think it just as likely that we are seeing as much fighting between rebel factions as we are between rebels and the Syrian government.


I see. So there's zero evidence of sarin; and, anyway, it was the rebels that used it? Or used whatever was used (because I suppose you will not go so far as to dispute the existence of maimed and dead people)? I notice that you don't cite the source for the evidence that "the last claimed attack" was by rebel forces, though you say you have seen some. Source?

Kirk Parker said...

Hagar,

Apparently you haven't heard of all the troubles in the far south of Thailand, or the pogroms against Christians in Sulawesi, or Abu Sayyaf, etc etc. Certainly, the Islamists are a far smaller percentage of the overall Muslim population in SE Asia than they are in AfPak and the Middle East, but they are there.

Illuninati said...

JR565 wrote:

"The al qaeda element are largely segregated from the other rebels, in the north. So there is no guarantee that were Assad's regime to topple that there wouldn't be an even more secular regime to replace it or that Al Qaeda would end up running the country.
But if it did, what would stop us from bombing Al Qaeda there?"

I believe Obama has let Turkey take the lead in supporting the rebels. At one time, after Ataturk's reforms,, Turkey was a secular country, but now it has been taken over Islamists. Erdogan may not agree with the tactics Al Qaeda uses but he and Al Qaeda do agree on the outcome. It appears that Obama, Hilary Clinton, and Erdogan all agree that the Muslim Brotherhood is an excellent compromise between Al Qaeda and secularism. They will do all in their power to ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood prevails throughout the Middle East.

Leit Bart said...

You say he hasn't asked for authorization, but "authorization" is the word Obama used. He didn't say he needs it, but he certainly said he wants it. Did I miss another dizzying walk-back on one of the Sunday shows?

http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/31/politics/obama-syria-transcript-saturday

In your "nicely played" analysis, you now have company. It's all about 2014.

http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/sep/1/curl-obamas-2014-calculation-lets-have-war/

Hagar said...

Kirk,
No, you don't hear much about them, and I have not heard that any are trying to hook up with the Islamicists elsewhere since the bit from the Philippines 10-20 years ago. Would think that most are local tribal warfare as much or more than religious.
And anyway, none are threatening to start an area-wide war between nation states equipped with modern weaponry and possibly bringing in the really big states.

jr565 said...

Qouting someone sure to make liberals blood boil, who is actually defending the presidents ability to wage war (or engage in war like operations) without gtting congressional approval first.

We have used force abroad more than 100 times but declared war in only five cases: the War of 1812, the Mexican-American and Spanish-American Wars, and World Wars I and II.

Without any congressional approval, presidents have sent forces to battle Indians, Barbary pirates and Russian revolutionaries, to fight North Korean and Chinese communists in Korea, to engineer regime changes in South and Central America, and to prevent human rights disasters in the Balkans.

Other conflicts, such as the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 Iraq War, received legislative “authorization” but not declarations of war.

Constitution allow Obama to strike Syria without congressional approval

100 military conflicts. Only 5 declarations of war in our history. And Congress hasn't declare war since WWII, but we've had many conflicts that have occured since then.
The president doens't need to get approval to wage war. A president won't do so at his peril though. (unless you're Obama and then you can sweep it under the rug with nary a comment)

Congress has the power of the purse, the president has the power of the sword.

Kirk Parker said...

jr565,

And you think an AUMF is not a declaration of war???

Robert Cook said...

"Congress has the power of the purse, the president has the power of the sword. "

No, only the Congress has constitutional power of the sword. Your litany of the many many conflicts we've engaged in without declarations of war by Congress is not an affirmation of the president's authority to make war but an indictment of the lawlessness of the executive going back to the beginning of our republic--a ratification of the founders' fear of the dangers of ambitious executives with unchecked power--and of the spinelessness of supine Congresses who refused to challenge each usurpation of their power.

Strelnikov said...

Where is the choice that says, "I don't give a shit about muslims shooting each other in a civil war and hope they do a lot more of it"?

Robert Cook said...

"We haven't had a president willing to fight a total war since FDR."

There hasn't been a war we've fought since WWII that has been necessary or desirable at all.

Given the much greater tonnage of ordnance we shat on North Vietnam than during WWII, I'd say your assertion is dubious, at best. Unless, by "total war," you mean someone willing to completely obliterate the enemy, even the civilian populations. In which case, I suggest you're thinking of Truman and not FDR.

Robert Cook said...

"The best thing that congress can do is to re-assert obama's right as an American president to wage a limited war."

The president, of course, has no such right, at least not constitutionally. Anything else claimed after the fact is simply ad hoc rewriting of the constitution.

(Or, in a word, unconstitutional.)

Joe said...

Michelle, since when the hell are we supposed to add footnotes to comments here, especially when a simple Google search would have revealed what I was talking about.

But, right back at you: show me an actual bonafide source that there was a sarin gas attack in Syria in August 2013. IF (note the conditional) there is such evidence, show the further evidence that it was perpetuated under the direction of Assad.

Nevertheless, Kerry did inflate the number of alleged casualties by a factor of four. And he made claims with absolutely no evidence to back up those claims.

I gather you support Obama and Kerry, so please explain these last points.

Naut Right said...

It is so simple. Both sides are bad. Pick either one and bomb them. That's a win. For a win-win situation, bomb both sides. To earn the Trifecta bomb both sides and blame the Iranians for executing the perfect subtrefuge.

Cedarford said...

Cook - Unless, by "total war," you mean someone willing to completely obliterate the enemy, even the civilian populations. In which case, I suggest you're thinking of Truman and not FDR."

Hate to disabuse you Cookie, but the US, Britain, and USSR all committed to total war long before Truman found the Presidency landed on his lap in the waning months of WWII.
Also hate to disabuse you on that Leftist construct "innocent civilians", which is actually just enemy noncombatants - by definition of extant treaties on war.
You fetishize "innocent civilians"...but no war can end with one side prevailing over the other without the enemy, all the enemy, suffering until they can't suffer more.

sunsong said...

Don't the republicans always rescue Obama when it comes to war, NSA spying and military actions? It's like they can't help themselves - they ALWAYS support a war.

jr565 said...

Kirk wrote:
And you think an AUMF is not a declaration of war???

its a use of force, not an all out total war.
Would a president have to consult with congress before carrying out an attack on Osama bin Laden, or a drone strike for example? Technical uses of force.

Roger J. said...

I love national conversations, but only the government is providing free beer.