Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Obama, Syria, Iraq and Afganistan: Any End But Victory !

Only now -- more than two years into Syria's civil war -- have the United States and some allies decided to Do Something. Strangely, they didn't have to Do Something while 100,000 Syrians were blown up, shot, beheaded or raped to death. And where the hell are the Muslim states that live in the neighbourhood of this pitiful conflict?  They just seem content to accept the thousands of Syrian refugees that had the wherewithal to leave, that's all -- no getting tough with a fellow dictator or reigning in the Islamic scum trying to topple Bashar Assad. But apparently we in the West have a reason to act, now that 1500 more have been killed in a chemical weapons attack that can be blamed on the Syrian government. The U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama now wants to kill a few Syrians himself to send a message that killing people with is bad!

House Speaker John Boehner called on the president to deliver a specific rationale for using U.S. military force against Syria as a growing number of congressional Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns about war with a Mideast nation. More than 100 lawmakers -- 97 Republicans and 18 Democrats -- signed a letter spearheaded by Rep Scott Rigell that urged Obama to seek Congressional authorization before any strike. The speaker also pressed the president to provide a legal justification for any U.S. military action. He said, ''Simply lashing out with military force under the banner of 'doing something' will not secure\our interests in Syria.'' The Congress are fully aware that Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron went to hid Parliament to ask for permission to join Obama and was refused.

The plans being floated by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry for this growing unpopular military intervention in Syria are incoherent on any number of levels. Rather than identify an enemy and seek the enemy's defeat, the essential requirement for using military force, the Administration is unwilling to declare the toppling of the Assad regime as a goal -- despite Obama's own proclamation two years ago this month that ''for the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.'' Instead, according to one unnamed ''U.S. official'' quoted by the LA Times, the Administration wants a military strike ''just muscular enough not to get mocked.''  Churchillian, this is not.

Nor is it in line with what Obama, Biden and Kerry used to claim to believe. Once upon a time, Obama's expressed willingness to meet leaders like Assad made him popular in Syria. Then-Senator Obama argued in the 2008 campaign that ''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'' (Senator Biden agreed). That's when he was ''sticking it'' to President Bush. Now, as in Libya, Obama had no interest in asking for Congressional approval, but it looks like the Congress is not going to let him get away with it this time. Obama and Kerry once venerated the need to get UN and international approval for the use of force.

 There are many good reasons to wish to be rid of the brutal Assad regime, long an Iranian proxy, sponsor of Hezbollah, supporter of the insurgency against the U.S, in Iraq, shelterer (and maybe even backer) of the culprits in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines, oppressor of Lebanon and assassin of its prime minister, enemy of Israel and perpetrator of serial massacres against his own people. But it seems increasingly likely that the alternatives to Assad would be even worse, ranging from domination of Syria by Al Qaeda and its Sunni extremist allies to splintering into an anarchic failed state. As it stands, the Syrian civil war is a proxy battle between Assad's backers (Iran and Russia) and the backers of the rebel resistance (Saudi Arabia and Turkey).

What Syria and its people don't need is more combatants who intend to show up, lob in a bunch of missiles and leave without resolving anything, and for the U.S. to control the post-Assad situation to its advantage would require a huge and for many reasons infeasible commitment of ground troops. The West should leave the locals to resolve these things themselves. Recent experiences in Egypt and Libya show that the public in the region hungers for change and a greater voice in how their countries are governed, but hardly inspire confidence that the results will be less anti-American or more respectful of individual liberty.

The Way I See It.....the sole peg on which Obama's Administration and its apologists rest the defensibility of a halfway military strike is the idea Assad should be punished for using chemical weapons against his own people -- just as Saddam Hussein once did. In my view, this is misguided as a sole casus belli (Latin meaning the justification for acts of war): the problem of rogue regimes is the regimes, not their choice of weaponry. I repeat: Why aren't the surrounding states being asked to wear the mantle of ''punisher ''rather than the West?  I suspect they are afraid of it spreading over their borders, so let the West act as al Qaeda's air force and strike from ships out at sea.

This let-the-U.S.-do-it attitude was true in Iraq, and it's a ridiculous argument coming from the same people who told us that this was no justification for the Iraq War. It's consistent with idea that the problem of gun crime is guns, not criminals -- another of this Administration's pet delusions. In fact, it does not appear that Obama can assure us that his planned strikes would disarm Assad of the weapons in question. We apparently plan to shoot at the king but carefully avoid killing him! Senator Jim Inhofe doubts that Congress will approve the use of military force and charged Obama with retreating on the issue. ''If you're going to huff and puff about it, you've got to back it up, and this president clearly has retreated from the position he took a week ago when he talked about a red line has been crossed. He's thrown this hot potato to Congress to decide so he doesn't get burned if things go bad,'' Inhofe said.

UPDATE:  It seems some Republicans are now in favour of Obama's intentions and are forgetting President Reagan's iconic motto ''peace-through-strength.''  Peace through strength means making sure the world knows if they mess with the United States it can wipe them out because of its strength. This does not mean firing missiles into Syria while signalling (1) American has no intention of ousting Assad and (2) it's not calling it an act of war. Right now, all the world sees is an effete liberal President and a Congress trying to help him save himself from further embarrassment. As a senior GOP aide commented, ''If we have to bomb Syria to show the world we are strong, the world already knows we are weak. If we are bombing Syria, it needs to be in our national security interest -- a real interest, not just to show the world our President dresses up at Halloween as Barry-Bad-Ass!  He knows from a recent poll that 80+% of Americans don't want this kind of action.''

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