Syria and Montana’s Vote

I’m tempted to have a violent, allergic reaction to the President’s advocacy of using force in Syria, given our hangover from the Iraq War, given that the Assad family has been killing Syrians wrongfully, tens or even hundreds of thousands of them, with conventional weapons for decades with no apparent concern on the part of the free world, and given that the White House has not provided much of a vision for a post Assad Syrian regime.

But of all the people on earth to be advocating for a new military engagement in the middle east, Barack Obama is probably the least likely.   For this reason alone, I believe, we should avoid a rush to judgment and think critically about what’s going on.  Barack Obama does not strike me as a person who shares George W. Bush’s love of military invasion.

Also, John Boehner and Eric Cantor, two giant right-wing jerks who have never before supported anything the President has put forward on any topic or issue, immediately announced their support for the President.  This, despite the major political peril of doing so–a strike in Syria, and a bad result, could mean the ouster of both of them, from leadership, or even from office by Tea Party primary challengers in their own districts (conservative voters are anti-war as of late, now that a black man is President).

I assume, therefore, that whatever intelligence Obama showed them was not of the George Bush Dick Cheney Don Rumsfeld junk-bond variety, but of the blue-chip variety, the kind with 99% certainty, the kind that we should have demanded before giving support to Bush to invade Iraq.  I find it impossible to believe that Cantor and Boehner would go out on this potentially suicidal limb based on speculative intelligence.

Obama may also have planned a two-step all along: get authorization and prepare to bomb, and look resolute, knowing (or hoping) that Assad will be forced to make a deal. Then tell Russia’s Putin that if he’s going to carry on a bromance with Assad, he needs to step up and broker a deal.  This is the outcome that might actually now be in the offing.

But it could not occur without Assad’s belief in a credible military threat from America.

Seen this way, if things work out for Obama and America with regard to Assad’s chemical weapons, people like Steve Daines–who announced yesterday that he opposes granting the President the option of using force–might end up finding themselves on the wrong side of history.  Obama may end up masterfully solving the problem by bluffing Assad into folding his hand.  Daines and his faction will be found to have tried to obstruct it all, worrying instead about opinion polls.  So, for that matter, might Tester and Baucus if they vote against authorizing force.  Presumably, Democrats are going to try to buy a little time here, and keep neutral while they carefully analyze what’s happening.  That would be smart.

Then again, it’s been only ten years since we were lied to by an administration that cooked up false intelligence to create a war.  We should recall the pathetic appearance of Colin Powell at the UN, where he played a scratchy audio tape of two Arabs mumbling something barely audible, and presented it to the world as evidence that Hussein was a nuclear threat.  It was laughably unpersuasive.  But, sheepish Democrats, fearing a vote against a war that might eventually prove successful in a narrative written by Republicans, buckled.  They did the wrong thing, and ended up on the wrong side of history.  It cost Hillary Clinton the presidency, most likely.

And so, ironically, could Republicans do the wrong thing in this case by opposing the President’s request.  It’s hard to tell.  I might ordinarily be inclined to say “Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on me”  (or as George Bush’s famously butchered it, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice….uhhhh….fool me I won’t get fooled again!!”)

But the fundamental difference between now and then: we had an imbecile for a president; now we have an intelligent leader.  And one thing I do know: Obama is not the type to falsify intelligence for the purposes of taking the country to war.

One more thing: as Dick Cheney and company went around on the eve of the Iraq war, trying to claim that Hussein was behind 9/11 and that he was on the verge of having a nuclear missile pointed at us (all complete nonsense), we can imagine that Steve Daines was out there cheerleading for him, acting like a young Republican in all of his asinine conservative glory, pumping his fist on behalf of Bush’s team, parroting the Bush team’s idiotic slogans, and accusing anybody who opposed the the President of not being a patriot, and of being “with the terrorists.”  Now he is suddenly a dove. He apparently thinks war is unjustified even though, from the sound of it, the presence of WMD in this current case is unquestionable, whereas the last time it was doubtful.  What is his standard, therefore, for when force is necessary?


34 Comments on "Syria and Montana’s Vote"

  1. The lack of comment reflects issue saturation in the media. Some are exhausted, some feel like no one’s listening, and some don’t gives rat’s ass. You are on point with your analysis.

  2. As the great military strategist Sun Tzu said, “the greatest military skills is to achieve victory without battle.” Good analysis and as a veteran myself, I’m very wary and we should move deliberately and with debate. Time for the the lower house (of ‘ill repute’) to DO it’s job concerning war powers, especially when our sovreign Nation is not under direct or iminent attack, and actually we could be attacked if our strikes went badly and killed hundreds of innocents, provoking more ill-will AND attacks against our interests at home and abroad. I HOPE more comments come and folks PAY attention and turn off American IDLE.

  3. Have your reaction, CG.
    Just because Obama is “your” guy and Kerry is your “unbelievably small” SOS, doesn’t mask the fact that a strike on Syria to send a “human rights” or “international norm” message is completely, um, imbecilic.
    The Obama administration is so far over its head in realpolitik, it’s shameful — to America, not just your party.

  4. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I do not think that a strike in Syria is the right course of action. I will grant you that there is probably intel that we (the public) have not been provided, but I have a really hard time buying your analysis. After reading many analysis’s from people that are a hell of lot more knowledgeable than any of the commenters here (like Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station), the odds of accomplishing either of President Obama’s stated goals (punishing Assad’s use of chemical weapons or removing his capability of doing it again) are rapidly approaching zero. Nor do I buy the idea that us flexing our military might has made any difference with either Assad or Putin. Putin is a cold war hardliner. He always was and he always will be. I find this new deal being brokered to more likely be because of political pressure being put on Putin by the UN rather than any threat of military action by the US. The bottom line (and everyone I have read that has even an ounce of military experience is saying this…) is that the only way we would have been able to effect a change in Syria is with boots on the ground. Congress has already said HELL NO, as has the President. The American voters have also made it clear that boots on the ground isn’t going to happen.

    I really don’t know why President Obama is pushing for military action (unless it is some kind of political ploy to reign in Congress but that is a stretch too). I do know that a military action is NOT the least bad of all the options we have open to us. In fact, the best of the bad options would have been to wait for the UN to finish their investigation and apply pressure to Putin to do something. It appears that has already happened.

    Until I see some kind of overriding evidence that a military strike could accomplish ANYTHING, I will oppose one. Cowgirl, I think you are reaching this time. Show me one shred of evidence that this has been the President’s plan and I might buy it, but there are way too many ifs in your post.

  5. The fact of the matter is the white house is been in diplomatic talks for over two years since this animal Assad has been killing a thousand people a week…. and the problem with Isolationists in either party here, is they are two dumb to realize, we are part of a global community now!

    Obama has sought peace for the syrian people for a long Patient period.

    I believe he is doing the right thing at forcing the hand of the Russians and their syrian puppet. I believe we have been nice for to long….. and the threat of military strikes will finish off a already weak dictatorship, who has now for the first time admitted to chemical weapons, and is willing to sign the no chemical weapons to stay alive.

    I want to let it play out as well, we have already been working behind the scenes without results diplomatically long enough. Besides us, syria is russia’s biggest trading partner. if they don’t want to take a big hit financially they will get behind this deal at the security council meeting and stop being an ass about humanitarian rights to save this regime.

    • Why is everyone against strikes in Syria an isolationist? That seems like a false equivalency to me. It is just your assumption that A) the US even has the ability to do any significant damage to the Assad regime with bombing strikes (something the experts don’t agree with you on) and B) that the President is pushing for strikes to force Russia’s hand. These are rather large assumptions. I would rather work from a standpoint of what we know, not what we assume. At this point, the only thing the President has said to the American People is that he is pushing for strikes to punish the Assad Regime for using Chemical Weapons and to take those weapons away from the Assad regime – neither of which has been shown to be even possible without boots on the ground – something he himself has said he WON’T do. Again, I am not convinced that we have all the information and until we do have enough information to justify a military strike, I am against the idea. It is my son and the men and women like him that will be put in harm’s way and I want to see some damn good reasons presented to do so.

      • Well stated.

      • What are you gonna add to two years of backbreaking, behind the scenes Diplomacy about Syria that the US government hasn’t already tried? What intelligence are you gonna put forward that hasn’t been already tried?

        Please Kenneth dont make me Laugh on a day of reflection where you republicans had all the information months ahead, of Bin Laden getting ready to attack Americans on American soil and did nothing.

        Let an intelligent guy do the job we hired him for and stop second guessing!

  6. Cowgirl, you summed up my take on this issue very well, including the “on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand ambivalence I have expressed. This is the type of thinking that often drives conservatives nuts, as they seek to oversimplify and draw black and white lines, which is what they did to drum up the hysteria and jingoism that led to the Iraq war. Even though those lines were false, they met the desire for simple good guy/bad guy logic, and didn’t wallow in that “liberal” well of complexity. I think it’s kind of refreshing that this particular issue has presented Republicans and Dems alike with the unavoidable fact that this type of decision is terribly complex, and every answer is wrong in some way, so choices have to be made. I am proud that our president is the smartest man in the room, and while I stand firmly against bombing Syria, I recognize that my gut instincts are not enough information to “know better” than what Obama knows about this situation. I do not blindly trust him, but his smarts and ethical compass buy enough credibility with me to cause me to sit back a little and watch before freaking out. I trust that Obama is a different man than Bush, and has honest intentions. Also, a lot of damn nerve , going to bat against world opinion, to push for what he has brought about here.

  7. As I stated at ID – even if the chemical weapons use occurred, it’s a dangerous precedent to set (and let’s be clear there is NO PRECEDENT of punitive military response to chemical weapons use) to launch an attack on that basis. I can understand giving the president authorization for force to give him supposedly more clout at the bargaining table, but I think it’s too risky a strategy. Better to withhold support to give Obama an excuse to back out of military action than vote for military action and force his hand. Best of all not to vote at all until a) we hear from the UN about the evidence of chemical use and b) we have exhausted negotiations with Russia and Syria.

  8. It was the threat of military action that got us this far….. Russia, doesn’t care what assad does to his people as long as he can keep exporting goods that syria pays for. We already saw this when daddy Assad kill over twenty thousand in just one town, Russia didn’t bat an Eyebrow.

    China doesn’t give a shit about Humanitarian thinking either, as their dance partner north Korea silently closed down all their prisons this last month and a 100,000 prisoners have just gone missing.

    And you’re gonna turn a blind eye to that as well/

    We were dragged into two world wars, because of the brutality of using gas, and if we just ignored it it will go away???? really??? has history taught you nothing????

    • Nip it in the Bud, before it becomes WW3

    • I am having a hard time using the number of people dead in Syria as a justification. Why not bomb a country that has over 28 million people going to sleep hungry every night (14 million of those are children). That same country has over 1 million malnutrition related deaths each year. Why not bomb that country until they start feeding their own people… Oh wait.. that is the US.

      I am also having a hard time swallowing that “the threat of military action” did any such thing. Putin is a cold war hardliner. I find it much more plausible that he acted in advance of a UN resolution that would have been counter to Russia’s interests. As much as I despise Skinflint, he has a point – this move by Russia is a political coup. Further, it completely undermines the President’s stated goals with a military strike.

  9. Um, what about now, with the Russians pretty much having stolen the game from Obama and Unbelievably Small? Now the Soviets move front and center, keep their guy in power, emasculate the US, keep oil prices up (really important to the USSR) — what’s not to like.
    Two years of diplomacy should have had a multilateral response signed sealed and delivered well before this point.


    How about that recall election in Colorado? Even in Pueblo! Wow!

    • The Soviets, Dave? Really?

      It honestly seems that the political class and the journalists, Republicants especially, have to have a Red Scare. The Soviets fell, so we had to have Saddam, and Milosovich, and Al Qaida, and Qadaffi, and Iran. Honestly, I think that’s why you hate this solution so much. You didn’t get the war you could blame the left for, so Syria is of no use for the Monster-under-the-bed PR. Here you are complaining that another country might shoulder some burden of World Policing and you gotta claim they’re the real enemy because our penis looks smaller than theirs. (Compare Florida to Kamchatka and we have the superior national dong.) You’re seriously going to offer the Ruskies as our enemy of the generation? Them Reds?

      The overwhelming majority of the American people really don’t want another ‘intervention’ while their 401ks go up in smoke. We shouldn’t be trying to keep our heads afloat while a million dollars worth of Tomahawks pound Damascus. That goes for Democrats, Republicants and all in between and bordering. But you gotta have your ‘bad guy’. Obama isn’t going to burn for his sins, Assad is not Hitler. So your bad guy has to be Soviet Russia? Dave, I know it’s difficult when you’ve been mainlining, but you really need to get off FAUX News.

      • I knew dropping that Soviet Muddler in the pond would get a rise from you, RK. Russia still seems to be pretty darn totalitarian, hammer and sickle or not.
        As for the boogeymen you list, we didn’t create a single one of those. Saddam attacked Kuwait, Milosevic slaughtered hundreds of thousands, Al Qaeda did crash planes and kill Americans, Khaddoofus did sponsor the Lockerbie bombing — and Asshatd did gas his own citizens. These are not fabricated ghosts under the bed. There is evil in the world, it’s just not worth it to fight them all alone. If the other nations aren’t willing, then why should Americans take it on alone? They shouldn’t.
        But if there’s a real alliance with real commitment to justice and freedom, then it’s America’s fight. And when there’s an attack on American lives and citizens, you bet it’s our fight.

  10. As CG did in her post and Obama did in his speech to constantly blame Bush, there is a poll showing that a majority of Americans believe Obama is as bad or worse than Bush.

    September 2013 Poll Results Overview

    Poll: 64 Percent of Americans Say President Obama’s Handling of Foreign Policy Is Worse or the Same as President George W. Bush’s

    74 percent of Americans say strikes on Syria would be “unwise” and half of Americans believe the D.C. establishment wants war more than the public

    As the country debates launching airstrikes on Syria, President Barack Obama’s standing on foreign policy has taken such a hit that the latest Reason-Rupe poll finds 64 percent of Americans, including 68 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats, believe President Obama’s handling of foreign policy is worse than, or the same as, former President George W. Bush’s handling of foreign policy.

    President Obama famously said he opposes “dumb wars.” Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 74 percent, say it would be “unwise” for the United States to launch airstrikes on Syria without the support of the United Nations or Great Britain. Just 17 percent say U.S. strikes on Syria would be wise.

  11. Hooooowwwwweeeeee~
    Anyone read Putin’s op ed in the New York Times?
    America is not exceptional, ya know.

  12. Heard from an acquaintance:
    Obama got us out of Iraq, is ending Afghanistan, caught bin Laden, toppled Gaddafi, and will eliminate Syria’s CBWs. What a failed leader…

    Attention Isolationists the 4 words was pure snark!

  13. Ronald Reagan used chemical weapons on Berkeley students:

    Ronald Reagan used chemical weapons on students at Berkeley:

    Nobody has disproved that Mossad or IDF gassed Syria.

  14. Your attempt to reduce this to a partisan matter, “Cowgirl,” is telling, as it shows lack of depth in US foreign policy, which has been bipartisan at least since 1963. The Democrats offered only token resistance to the Iraq war, and then fell in line. the parties did the switch in 2008, Democrats becoming the war party, Republicans offering token resistance. This is quite common in American politics.

    The Republicans will fall in line, just as the Democrats did in 2003. In case you do not notice, we live in a national security-surveillance state, so it is likely that every member of Congress is being watched,, and that most have skeletons in their closet. Their votes will be there when needed, and everything to that point is mere posturing. (Tester for sure did not receive his last second rescue of $500K-$1 million because he is some kind of progressive. He’s bought.)

    Your attitude about Syria, exclusive of the cretinous dictators and thugs we support all over the globe, is nothing but a reflection of American domestic propaganda. You’re clueless.

    The only thing that will stop this illegal attack is Putin. So far, he has outfoxed the Pentagon. His appearance in today’s NY Times is an indication that there is a split in the ruling hierarchy about the wisdom of attacking Syria at this time. (It might be too costly to the US.) The “rebel” forces there, no more than terrorists and death squads imported from Saudi Arabia and Libya (after doing their magic there), are supported by NATO, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the US. Most likely the chemical attack came from those power centers, and the weapons themselves from the US or Israel (but I repeat myself) via Saudi Arabia. In other words, the “insurgency” was an outside attack on Syria fulminated by western forces for the sole purpose of justifying aggressive war. It’s as old as imperialism itself. The British were expert at this game, having founded the Muslim Brotehrhood decades ago for this very purpose.

    Essentially, Obama is a cloaked NeoCon. I say this based on his actions with Libya, Afghanistan, NDAA and surveillance along with austerity, among other things. If you want to project your own party bias on these matters, you have to ignore those matters. If you want to imagine that US foreign policy is somehow a reflection of the personality of the person who happens to occupy the White House, I have a bridge to sell you.

    Norma, these comments are not directed at you and your response is neither solicited nor of any concern to me.

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