Montana Politics

Syria. *Sigh*. Oh, Syria.

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Obama has gotten himself into a mighty pickle – he foolishly issued an ultimatum, and now there’s some pressure to go through with it. In my estimation, bombing Syria at this point would be by far the greatest international relations blunder of his presidency thus far. There are three basic reasons to do it, and all three fall far short of justifying action.

The first is some kind of ideological impulse – the stated desire to ‘send a message’ about chemical weapons, or to somehow help the Syrian people. Even if Assad used chemical weapons (an unproven charge), chemical weapons have been used with surprising frequency, especially in the Middle East, and this ‘message’ serves basically no purpose. With the advancements in high explosives, ‘chemical weapons’ are simply not a game changer, and to treat them as a hair-trigger for war is unjustified. Further, there is no evidence that any kind of US action in Syria will bring this conflict to an earlier end.

There’s the argument that we should do it because our three closest allies in the region, Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, all want to see action. None of their interests, however, are threatened – Israel merely wants to see a rival weakened, and the Sunni populism that seems to be driving Turkey and that they would like to see extended into Syria is no necessarily in our best interests. The Saudis want to eliminate an Iranian ally and increase Sunni power, but again its unclear that this is really in the US interest.

Finally, there’s the straight up Geo-Political argument – Assad is an ally of Russia, China, and Iran, and thus to weaken those nations, we need to eliminate Assad. This seems to be the game many within the US foreign policy apparatus are playing, but I think they are playing it poorly. A few Tomahawk missiles are not going to depose Assad; indeed, it seems his position is largely unassailable without large-scale intervention. As we have no allies in Syria who can be relied upon to take over and maintain something like control of the country, the best-case scenario is chaos, and it’s certainly not worth spending money and credibility, and inevitably killing Syrian civilians, on an attack that AT BEST creates chaos in Syria.

Tester, Daines, and Baucus ought to emphatically oppose this action. It’s not as huge of a blunder as Bush’s invasion of Iraq or as ethically unjustified Clinton’s ‘Desert Fox’ action, but it’s not going to accomplish anything of value and will be risking quite a bit. A firmly opposed congress is perhaps the only way the administration can back out of this ill-considered action while saving face.

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The Polish Wolf

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  • That’s fairly reasonable. I don’t think you really understand the essential figurehead nature of the American presidency. JFK was a coup d’état, and American presidents since that time are either puppets of our deep state with full knowledge (Obama seems to fit) or without (Carter). If you are merely using shorthand, saying “Obama” because it’s easier than “the executive” or the “national security apparati,” it would help to be clear.

    The Syrian affair needs to be analyzed in its full dimensions. the “Red Line” was apparently set in place to be the closing act after Assad had been weaked by the terrorists and death squads, including “Al Qaeda,” American and Saudi agents. From an advertising standpoint, there is always some hook, some great evil that justifies American aggression – WMD’s in Iraq, impending slaughter in Libya, and chemical weapons in Syria. But that is just agitprop. The Red Line was never intended as anything more than a talking point for the American media to fill all that air time as the attack went down. The American public is in deep slumber, but must be given a dime store novel version of events nonetheless.

    Syria has not gone well. The country is far more developed and able to defend itself than Iraq or Libya. That was the “blunder.” The timing of the chemical gambit was desperation, as Assad was mopping up in Damascus. Morsi was to bring Egyptian troops to rescue the terrorists, but on the day he announced that move, June 15, his own military took him out. Egyptian/Syrian ties run deep. That was a real setback for the US.

    If there is anything clever about this, it could be this: The American military wants to assess the Iranian/Russian response to a full frontal attack, and so played chicken. That’s a possibility.

    Another is this: Syria has proven too strong to bring down by traditional terrorist tactics. This is scary, as the next step would be a full-scale attack with the American arsenal, including nukes, directed energy, shock and awe kinetics, and a land invasion. What holds them back? Certainly not decency, as they have none. It is the balance of power – Russia is every bit the player that the US is now, and having that power to offset American power, even though neither has humanitarian impulses, that spares humanity this time. That is my hope.

    • Mark- we mostly agree, minus a few points. For one, it seems clear that there’s a deep dispute raging within the halls of power. It seems like Obama is personally opposed to action, as are some other important people. But there is certainly pressure for war. What is being played by the media as Obama’s indecision or leading from behind seems to be instead a behind-the-scenes disagreement.

      Secondly, your denial that Syrians could possibly be involved in their own war against Assad is telling – Assad opposes the US, why would his own people want him out? But while there is undoubtedly help coming from outside for those who would depose Assad, there are also a great many Syrians fighting him. This should not be a surprise – many of these are the same religiously motivated forces that rebelled against, and were slaughtered by, the elder Assad. Furthermore, Assad represents secularism in a part of the world where secularism is weakening dramatically (that happens when you violently depose and hang the strongest secular leader in the area). As you said, the links between Syria and Egypt are strong (though Assad has abandoned pan-Arabism quite completely) – why would you imagine that the Muslim brotherhood can win a majority in an Egyptian election, that Hamas can continue to win elections in Palestine, and yet assume that these fundamentally Sunni religious parties open to the use of violence to achieve government change have no parallel in Syria? That Assad is beset with rebels, many of them religiously inspired, should come as no surprise. That they are armed from abroad, and include foreigners among their ranks, is undeniable. However, the same is also true of Assad’s forces.

      The deal with Egypt is interesting – it’s really unclear who the US supports there. One would imagine that bankrolling the army gives the US some influence there, but on this issue the Egyptian Army is certainly acting in a way that constrains US action.

      • Unfortunately, the ONLY repository of real TRVTH in this country lies with our comedians who are allowed creative license and some impunity to speak the truth. How prescient is this?! Amazing, truly amazing. I mean, who would have actually believed that in our lifetime, we would have a black president? The only reason ANY righties oppose the Syrian invasion is to hurt O’Bama. That’s all. If it were jonny McSenile and Sister Sarah, we’d be boots and butts on the ground by now!

        http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=e12_1353810114

      • There exists within any country a dissenting elements, and not always motivated by positive change. The US, due to protection of two oceans and a civil war, has been able to seal it’s borders and indoctrinate its population with “Americanism,” so that we tend to view other countries as having the same cohesiveness. But places like Iraq, Afganistan, Syria, have elements within that want to separate or take power over all, and a strong central government holds them (at least Syria and Iraq) together.

        But that situation leaves them ripe for external exploitation. You are correct that there are dissenting elements in Syria, but incorrect in assuming that they presented a meaningful threat to the existing order, or that they want positive change. They were merely the lever for conquest by the US. (Check out Rumsfeld after the US attack on Iraq, when it appeared successful, promenading and threatening Syria, saying virtually “You’re next.” it’s been removed from history, but can still be found with the Google.)

        Two years ago the US and its allies, most notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar (more a US military base than a country) and Turkey, began a campaign to arm existing.rebel forces and bring in new ones, most prevalent among them our friend and invention, “Al Qaeda,” a mostly fictional name for various terrorist forces that the US arms and uses to stir unrest. (They were fresh out of the Libya bloodbath.) Without that unrest there can be no need for response. We are both the sponsor of terrorism and the self-proclaimed remedy, a convenient MO.

        Tens of thousands of people have died, and Syrian society, mostly content with the current arrangement, has been disrupted and terrorized. Having created the situation, the US now wants to remedy it … with more violence and imposition of a new regime, one more to its liking and surely not democratic in any meaningful sense. You need to study history through some other lens than our own. Americentric world views produce the confusion you exhibit regarding the origins of conflicts.

        There are indeed factions in our state regarding the best way to destroy Syria. One faction controls the executive right now, but that control is not absolute, and coup d’état in its many forms is always a possibility. We are a banana republic in that regard, which shifts of power in 1945, 1963, 1974, 1980 and 1999 (almost), 2000 and on 9/11/2001 a powerful shift.

        The Muslim Brotherhood was an invention of British intelligence, used in the same manner, to stir up trouble by terrorism, as the US now uses Al Qaeda. They have morphed over the years, of course. (Hamas was an Israeli invention, possibly having morphed as well, but it is hard to know in deep state operations who is who.) Morsi took office in an election boycotted by most of the population, gaining only 12% of the popular vote. His removal was greeted with wide public support, and 95% now oppose his or the MB retaking power. el Sissi is an unknown quantity, but given the US media’s harping that Egypt is in turmoil, he might be a Nasserite nationalist.

        Saudi Arabia is giving Egypt more military aid by a factor of six or seven than the US, so the DC control is not there the the extent it is in Israel. Egypt could be our next Syria in that the US is threatened there with a majority wanting self rule.

  • “Tester, Daines, and Baucus ought to emphatically oppose this action.”

    You seriously said this not in jest? Too funny. Baucus is a corporate noodle who wimped out on Iraq. Daines is bought and paid for. And big jonny, the great anti-war candidate, will prove once again to be all talk. (guess he really did need a break from farming for something more lucatrive) There is no reality in that line that you’ve written above.

    • “Ought to” doesn’t mean they will. It means they should. Daines might vote no to spite Obama. I’m holding out some hope for Tester, but I’m aware he and Baucus will probably both vote to approve.

  • I’m not unaffected by the arguments Obama and Kerry have been making. There are some atrocities that shouldn’t go unresponded to. Maybe a day or two spent destroying his air force might encourage Assad to murder his people more conventionally.

    Our country shouldn’t be too outraged at the use of chemical warfare, though. We used napalm and white phosphorus in Vietnam. We were chummy with Saddam Hussein when we knew he was going to use gas against his own people. We may even have provided the gas, whatever it was, for him to use against Iran.

    • if you have a heart, it’s impossible to not be affected by the arguments to stop atrocities, which is why it’s important to understand the geopolitical counter-narrative, which casts the desire to go to war in Syria as just one more step along the insane road of going after Iran and anyone else who stands in the way.

      • Good way to put it Liz. While humanitarianism is rarely the true or only motive behind actions, the result can be a net positive for the people involved even if the motivation is geopolitical. Often it is not. In this case I think it’s hard to say -probably limiting the Syrian army’s capacity to deploy its weapons will reduce their lethality (because whatever is targeted will be launchers, mortars, and C&C that is not exclusively for chemical weapons deployment), but it’s hard to say what the net impact of the conflict will be. In case of unrest, especially civil unrest, heavy weapons are not needed to inflict substantial civilian casualties. Attacking Assad’s army may only add our bombs to the plethora of dangers facing Syrians at this point.

    • We didn’t stand in the way, of the jewish holocaust, why hitler used all manner of killing….. sure we sent supplies to Britain but it wasn’t tell the japanese attacked us that we decided to act… and that S.O.B. will sell that saran to Hamas, and those nutcases will use it against Qatar, Jordan and Israel …..Yet you want to treat Assad with kid gloves just like we did Hitler in the beginning …. not to mention allowing Jordan, or Israel to be in harms way??

      I don’t think this is anything like the mistakes BUSH made in Iraq! it smacks more of WW2.

      I realize we are weary of war, but not doing anything hoping all those stockpiles of gas just go away, not to mention the millions of uprooted people is fucking crazy.

      We all signed treaties to stop poison gas like this after world war 2, we were supposed to be smarter about this.

      If not now it is a matter of when…. when Jordan is attacked, or Israel??

      Sigh!

      • Syria will not attack Israel or Jordan. They will not give Sarin to Hamas, as Hamas is opposed to them in this fight (which has put Mark in an interesting situation, claiming that Hamas, the only government Palestinians have elected, is illegitimate).

        What is somewhat troubling is that the line between Syria and Hezbollah has disappeared – Hezbollah members are fighting extensively in Syria, and when they return home I imagine they’ll expect to be rewarded for their trouble. That’ll mean money and weapons as always. There is a chance that whatever chemical weapons Syria has (and they certainly have them) will be made available to the Hezbollah. I frankly doubt it – Hezbollah probably has no capacity to deploy them effectively, and I doubt even they want to consider the consequences of using them. More importantly, there is little chance of destroying them with the sort of strikes being proposed right now – indeed, if Syria is really afraid of a strike their chemical weapons are probably already in Lebanon.

        • It is difficult to tell with an outfit like Hamas how much of it is real and how much controlled by the Israelies. I mentioned that it is hard to know the actors in deep state affairs. There is smoke and mirrors, but you seem to want to believe that everything is as it appears. That’s a problem for you, I’ve gathered over the years. You’re very trusting of american sources of information, a big mistake.

          “Hezbollah” formed to drive the Israelis out of Lebanon, and if the Iranians arm and assist them, good on them, as the Israelis are the major source of terrorism in the region, aided and abetted by the US, of course. Hezbollah is a military force, a political party, and like Hamas, runs hospitals, schools and food outlets. But if you are an American and read the newspaper, you assume they are “terrorists.”

          But it’s not black and white. There are black ops, informants, agents provocateur, double agents, paid assassins, spying – and the US and Israel are up to their necks, PW! I hate to be the be to tell you this, but it’s complicated. Your own cou try might be lying to you!

          As to chemical weapons, they all have them, and Syria and Israel have not signed the treaties outlawing them. Did you know that? Did you think that when the White House declared a “red line” that it was anything more than a pretext for a attack, so that the most likely source of the chemical attack is the White House or its henchmen?

          Sorry to be so terse, but it bugs me that you are both naive and preachy and gullible at once. You need to read some books, lots of them.

          • Mark, you’re doing it again – responding to what you think I said, not what I said. First of all, I did not refer to Hezbollah as terrorists; the word lacks meaning (though you continue to use it). Hezbollah is an armed political party – and as such, it has goals. It’s hard to see how chemical weapons further those goals. However, you have a very Manichean view of things – Hezbollah must be good, since Israel is bad. As if the intervention of Shi’ia states into Lebanese affairs is categorically different than Israel intervening on the side of the Phalangists. Hezbollah, like the Phalange, is not a force conducive to stability precisely because they are a confessionally-defined armed group in a country composed entirely of minority religions. The more they dominate Lebanon all out of proportion to the size of the population they represent, the more destabilizing they become (like the Assad family).

            Your trick, Mark, and you have but a few, is to use the exact language of American propaganda and uncritically reverse it, so that freedom fighters become terrorists, presidents become dictators, and vice versa, and then try to pass off the same good and evil narrative as profound even though you simply reversed the roles. The way you describe the insurgency in Syria sounds like an American describing Guatemala in the 80’s – you’ve already determined which side is right simply by which side is opposed to the US, and you refuse to acknowledge that they could do any wrong. Assad is not inherently evil – however, he has no reason not to kill whoever he has to in order to take power. I know you’ll say the same is true about Israel, but that doesn’t make it less true of Assad. And there is no reason to believe that even before the disruption a majority of Syrians were happy with the government, there’s simply no way of knowing. But we know that Palestine, Egypt, and Turkey are seeing an upsurge in the power of electoral Sunni rule. Assad stands in the way of that, and thus it seems quite likely that a great many Syrians want him out. To argue that the discontent and violence we’re seeing now is entirely the result of foreign intervention strains credibility.

            • A great many Syrians want him out, you say and this, I believe, is your shady logic behind which you justify the so-called rebel activities. You’ve taken no steps to understand who the rebels are, where they get their weapons and trainng. You take everything at face. In Syria they are rebels. In Lebanon, terrorists.

              What’s in a name. I turn the tables on you and deliberately use the words “terrorists” and “death squads,” in the same manner that I use the term “militants” to describe American soldiers. I do this to point out that the use of pejorative in mainstream American media is nothing more than perception management. By calling them rebels, you n term assign evil to the Assad regime. Perception management 101.

              My world view is hardly Manichean. Quite the opposite. It appears that way to you because Obama is in office, so that you are uncritically assigning good intentions to American activities in the region while he “holds power.” Anti-Americanism = Manichean in the mind of the intellectual servant of power.

              Hezbollah, Assad, Hamas, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britian … Bad guys all, some good. Odd that you want to see Assad go but have no visible opinion about Qatar or Saudi Arabia, fascist totalitarian states. They could use some rebels of their own, excuse me, terrorists.

              Tool.

            • PS: Hezbollah has never invaded and occupied Israel or bombed its cities, as Israel has Lebanon. Hezbollah drove Israel out of Lebanon. That’s a good thing for Lebanon – conquest of an invading force.

      • Norma, though it is difficult to disagree with your passion, I strongly disagree with your history. The plan for the Final Solution wasn’t even drawn up until after the US had declared war in December of 1941. That is of course after the Nazis bombed Pearl Bailey in Las Vegas, Hawaii. (bad joke) Even when the plan went into motion, it’s locational focus was to the east of Germany. WE didn’t stand in the way of the Jewish Holocaust because there was no Jewish holocaust to stand in the way of, until too late to stand there.

        What we did know about was the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 and the horrors that inflicted. Americans couldn’t have cared less about the deaths of a hundred thousand Chinese. And still, we waited until Japan attacked the US before acting, and were caught unprepared in more ways than one. We didn’t fight WWII to protect the innocent or our allies. We fought it to protect our power in the Pacific.

        The ‘situation’ in Syria is nothing like WWII. Assad is not Hitler. The Jews do not need help that won’t come until the end of a Holocaust.

        • The horrors of that war cannot be reduced to those committed by the defeated parties – 26 million Russians died defeating the Germans. The US did not decide to invade until after Barbarossa, and were prepared to live with Fortress Europe. There’s a letter, I am told but cannot confirm, in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial from a high American official (Stimson, I want to say) asking the military to spare a couple of Japanese cities so they could demonstrate their new weapons to the Russians. There were no good guys. Only those left standing.

  • “if you have a heart, it’s impossible to not be affected by the arguments to stop atrocities”

    Wow. It’s good to be young and terminally naïve. Um, you REALLY wanna stop atrocities in the middle east? Too funny. Hey, why not start with Izreel?!

    • yes Larry, people with hearts tend to be emotionally impacted by pictures of dead children, but your selective quote didn’t include the rest of my statement about geopolitics, and yes, Israel is one of the main factors in our crazy calculus to save Syria by bombing the shit out of it.

  • I’m hoping that after the rejection of military action by the British Parliament and the involvement of Congress there might be some common sense applied to the situation in Syria.

    Token military action is nonsensical. What is needed is a clear plan for peace talks between the various factions.

  • It’s fun to read all these opinions and posts. I think Assad decided to test the will of our President and the American people by gassing a few hundred people. This President has made a habit of shooting his mouth off and then back peddling. And how the heck do you threaten to bomb a country but insist it’s not intended to topple the current regime? In this case, he can’t fix it with a beer in the rose garden. Hope and Change has turned to Dope in Charge. Either we jump in with both feet or let it be handled by the region. The chorus of Arab States that are calling for international intervention need to start taking care of their own.

    • So Obama was just “shooting his mouth off” when he invoked a longstanding international agreement on chemical weapons? Since WW1 using gases like saran has been recognized as unacceptable.

      But you think gassing innocent people is just fine, right?

      Obama’s position is ethically defensible. Yours is just cheap partisan sniping.

      • You’re a perfect reflection of Norma who is a perfect reflection of American propaganda. Where were you when the US provided satellite coordinates in the 1980’s so Saddam Hussein could gas Kurds? Oops. Forgot. You’re an American. You don’t know that because you’re not suppose to know that. Good work!

        • So because of American complicity in atrocities committed thirty years ago our country can’t respond to an atrocity that just happened? Does this really seem logical to you?

          When Obama mentions ethical lapses involving our country, as in his Baghdad speech, he’s accused of “apologizing for America.”

          You’re a perfect reflection of the views of Rand Paul.

          • “So because of American complicity in atrocities committed thirty years ago our country can’t respond to an atrocity that just happened”

            It ain’t just thirty years of atrocities, kid. You’re doomed to repeat it, history that is.

          • American atrocities are going on as we speak, and not 30 years ago. The hypocrisy is amazing. That it sells, that people think the US has some kind of right to speak for moral behavior, is in itself a moral atrocity. It was only in the last decade that th US brought about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, caused two million more refugees, used mustard gas and white phosphorus (and possibly nukes) in Fallujah.

            Good god the disconnect between reality and American perceptions!

            • Like I said, I think we should cut off the aid, pull out and let the “band of Arab brothers” take care of their own. We gain nothing and lose a lot. Not one more American soldier’s life is worth it….And if you think it is, send your kid. There is no concept of peace or civility in the middle east. And when we try in or own ignorant way to help we mess it up even worse and get called hypocrites. Cut off the aid and let them handle their own problems. The only threat to the U.S. is the terrorist camps and the drones seem to be handling that quite nicely.

              • It can, it does, and it IS happening here! And that’s real sad. Sinclair Lewis saw it all before hand.

              • Ok, Tokarsk, help me understand. What does the U.S. gain from helping out? And how should we help out? Please clear it up for me.

                • As I understand at this time, the primary focus is a pipeline from the Pars field to Europe. This situation too is aboit oil. The Pars gas field lies half under Iran, half Qatar. That is the heart of the matter. Qatar is a US client state, Iran not.

                  I can give you information. I can urge that you look beyond American sources for news. I cannot help you understand.

        • Tokarski, I’m pretty sure every Democrat with any interest in foreign policy is well aware that Saddam gassed the Kurds (and the Iranians, and some other people, too) with American gas. It’s one of the things that made the Iraq war so ludicrous.

  • DAMN! Banned again at cowgirl. Here for your enjoyment is what apparently got me banned again.

    September 7, 2013 – 6:23 pmNate Buggerhoff
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    GOD SAVE THE REBELS! Oilybama’s friends need help…NOW! And Bibinetanfuckyou needs our help too! So, I ask in all serious, just WTF are you unpatriotic Murcans WAITING for! The time to invade is now! Do your part! Contact Prez Oilybama and Sen Jonny McSenile and tell them we’re ready! Ready to invade and murder the terrorists! OOPS! I mean the folks who hate ASSad. No wait, I mean the good guys in the video that follows. DAMN it’s all so confusing. I say just kill them all and let the Allah and the OIL companies sort it out! THANK you, Bush and your dick, cheney! You done well! Enjoy. THESE are the folks that you are fighting for! Kinda like George Washington, right patriots????? GOD SAVE THE FASCIST ZIONIST IN IZREEL!

    http://weaselzippers.us/2013/09/04/video-moderate-al-qaeda-syrian-rebels-behead-two-men-for-supporting-assad-regime/

    (bet that SOME one gets their ass re-banned after this post!) The TRVTH is not for the faint of heart.

  • As I have said at other sites, I just don’t get what the US can accomplish by a limited military action in Syria. It is grossly unlikely that we can hit a significant target and we certainly won’t destroy Assad’s ability to use his gas weapons. So what is the point? To “punish” Assad for using them? Not bloody likely. I do understand the President’s point about making a stand on WMD, but is a useless action really making a stand? Wouldn’t it be better to wait for the International Community to complete their investigation and then attempt a diplomatic solution?

    Nothing about this situation is easy or uncomplicated. EVERY options we have is a BAD option – even doing nothing. At this point, we really need to assess which BAD option is the least damaging and that can only happen with time and rational discussion with the other countries involved.

    • No, it’s really simple. Stay the hell outta that damn region! Izreel is calling the shots. An illegal, racist, fascist group of little religeeo nazis is wagging the tail of the U.S. dog. Why? Why are they allowed to do this? You see, MY country, the good ol’ USA, existed LONG before this little pissant nazi zionist country was formed where it shouldn’t have been formed in the first place. Why are we aiding this little religeeo fascist illegal country? Why are we doing their bidding? I don’t get it. Fascist states based upon religion and race should not be tolerated. The Izreeli treatment of the Arabs is FAR worse than gassing folks. Bush’s neocon fascist architects of these wars with dual US and Izreeli citizenship are some real traitors! Perle, Wolfowitz, and co.

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