Montana Politics

Criticism of Obama’s Syria Policy Reveals Longing for Autocracy

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I’ll be honest – I didn’t watch Obama’s speech. I might read a transcript when I get the chance, but it’s pretty clear that the speech isn’t going to set the course for our Syria policy – that course has been set, and will now be steered again to the UN Security Council. But I did find the reactions to his recent policy highly interesting – most telling is that we have the chairman of the RNC saying, ““The administration’s handling of the U.S. response to Syria has been so haphazard it’s disappointed even the president’s most ardent supporters.””, we have Peggy Noonan again questioning Obama’s competence, and a general complaint that the president looks ‘weak’. I pointed out a long time ago that Obama’s critics have chosen this as the theme – they mock him for ‘leading from behind’ and skewer his administration for being too weak on foreign policy. Essentially, they are saying ‘man up!’, occasionally in as many words. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that they honestly wish Obama would just set out a military policy and stick to it, regardless of the diplomatic situation.

But is the apparent ‘inconsistency’ of US foreign policy in fact weakness? I would argue no – that the conservative pundits and politicians in the country are in fact expressing a desire for a unilateral, authoritarian administration like they had with Bush II. Their definition of strength is in fact a mere denial of inconvenient facts. While the Obama administration lacks the self-assuredness of the Bush regime, it has been far more successful.

For an example of how what the GOP calls haphazard is in fact responding to facts: Obama took both Libya and Syria to the UN Security Council. On Libya, he got approval and acted. On Syria, he did not, and then watched as the UK also dropped out of the venture. Instead of pushing ahead, as Bush did (and the other Bush, and Reagan would have), Obama sent the question to the congress, delaying any action and thus, in the eyes of the National Standard and Wall Street Journal, appearing weak. But then something remarkable happened – Putin and Assad proposed putting Syria’s chemical weapons essentially out of reach of the Syrian government. And when diplomacy opened up, the administration again delayed the attack and it appears will allow diplomacy to run its course. The parallel with Iraq could not be more striking – even with UN inspectors in the country, the Bush administration insisted on going ahead with an attack.

Obama will again come under harsh criticism from the right for this ‘haphazard’ policy, but the fact is American policy is, for the first time in years, reacting to events on the ground, rather than deciding on a narrative and pretending the facts support it. And time and time again, this more flexible (if less satisfying in a ‘Pass the popcorn! U!S!A! sort of way) approach has yielded results that improve our geopolitical position without costing US lives or outrageous sums of money, in Iraq, Libya, and hopefully now in Syria.

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The Polish Wolf

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  • Actually, it’s all moot. You can discuss, speculate, and argue all you want. In the end, the CIA is gonna do what they’re gonna do. The system is broke. The comedians make the most sense of all. But as evidenced by the recent polls, the public isn’t even part of the process. Hasn’t been for some fifty years or so, ever since St. Ronnie gassed the kids at Berkley. I think it’s healthy to acknowledge that and move on.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/10/stephen-colbert-bill-oreilly-reagan_n_3900078.html

  • Why, if you do not watch American news sources, are you such a perfect reflection of American news?*

    It’s not a partisan issue. If you cannot look at American history since 1963 and see that wars are bipartisan, then you are not paying attention. The indoctrinary system in our country requires token opposition on matters such as this, but only for perception management purposes. The Democrats offered token opposition to the Iraq attgack.

    There’s no controversy on the objectives. There are roadblocks to that objective put in place by the Russians. That requires a change of strategy. Not objective.

    (You’re still harping on Libya – you apparently distinguish one attack from another based on the party in charge. That’s a decided lack of critical thinking skill. You’re also unaware of information that is common fare in other media regarding the situation in that formerly peaceful country.)
    _____
    *Why do you begin with t he words “I’ll be honest”? Seems a given. Have you not been honest before now? That’s a ‘tell.’

    • “There’s no controversy on the objectives. ”

      The objective of removing those regimes strongly opposed to the US is hard to argue with. The question is how – by winning them over, or by removing them. I think there was certainly a time Assad could have been won over, as Gadaffi nearly was. That time passed as soon as the shooting started – the US couldn’t stand by even its allies like Saleh or Mubarak (or, earlier, Karimov) when protesters started getting shot; it certainly couldn’t side with Assad, even though he was a more promising leader than most in the Arab world. That doesn’t mean we can remove him and expect something better in his place, but we certainly can’t take his side.

      “You’re still harping on Libya – you apparently distinguish one attack from another based on the party in charge.”

      Nope, I distinguish them based on outcome. I harp on it because it shows how negligible the predictive power of your world ‘model’ is. I predicted a positive outcome for US objectives and at worst a neutral one for the Libyan people. You predicted an invasion, a quagmire, and worse violence than Syria (and, I might add, you made that prediction quoting a ‘expert’ on Africa who believes that Africans are inherently racially inferior to European, and defended the decision by pointing out that he was quoted in a Russian publication and is anti-US foreign policy). The outcome of the intervention in Libya was an almost complete end to a civil war, the establishment of a friendly, if not overly stable, government, and the deaths of zero American soldiers. I opposed Iraq because the outcome was predictably awful – hundreds of thousands dead, including many US soldiers, and trillions down the drain. I oppose Syrian intervention, even though the Democratic president supports it, because I think the outcome will either be negligible (thus pointless) or negative.

      ” There are roadblocks to that objective put in place by the Russians. ”

      The roadblocks to not alter the strategic situation. They alter the foreign perception and popular opinion environment. That Russia’s (John Kerry’s? Some unnamed civil servant’s?) proposal was able to derail the plan for a military strike suggests that either international justification or public opinion is more important than you are willing to admit.

      • Your attitude, that the US has a right to remove regimes it does not like, is paternalistic and imperialist. I’ve been looking for a word to describe the hubris, condescension, racism and insularity you manifest, but that’s all it is. You’re simply an imperialist.

        You will never see the tragedy in Libya because it was done by your party. I’m glad you were willing to fight to the last Arab life. That’s noble. I’m glad you bought the line that Qadaffi was going to engage in a slaughter. Bush pulled off Iraq with the WMD ploy. Same dance, different tune. I suggest you know nothing of Libyan history or politics, or of Qadaffi because you view it through the lens of the American imperialist, successor in interest to the Brits, who to this day insist that theirs was nothing short of humanitarian.

        Bertrand Rusell said that “while the British upper class had a monopoly on political power, it was just as bad as Stalin.” Having kept a keen eye on the American oligarchy in my life, and from age 38 forward having studied American history in that light, it is easy to see that corruption brought by power is invisible to those who have it. While you are not a powerful person, you are insular and blind. That’s a feature of imperial hubris, and it’s interesting how it works it ways down into those who are in charge of the indoctrination off youth. How did that come about?

        You said in the thread below that we have to prove that the Assad government DID NOT launch the gas attack in order to oppose the latest aggressive war. That was checkmate, as you ceded the entire matter to the judgment of the executive and relieved yourself of the moral obligation to think critically by setting up a standard that cannot be met, proving a negative. It, like the expression “I’ll be honest,” is a reveal, or a “tell” as they say in poker. You have your mind right.

        I’ve only met a few people who exhibit this hubris … I should get out more. It’s common in DC I imagine, and n American news media, which I avoid, and in professional Democrats, who are always condescending towards progressives and dissidents. I find it off-putting to the extent that I avoid dealing with those who exhibit it. Because you suffer from hubris, you cannot fathom that you are that way, and will never see it, because that is the definition of hubris.

        So attack another country, murder another group of recalcitrant Arabs, kill far more innocent people than Assad ever dreamt of, and do it because of your righteous beliefs. Meanwhile, I have to go puke.

        • “You will never see the tragedy in Libya because it was done by your party. ”

          Far more Libyans died before American intervention than after, unless you believe Americans were behind the entire uprising. Given that a huge part of the Libyan army defected, and the level of support shown in much of Libya for the rebellion, it seems unlikely that the entire event was exogenic . Now, I don’t think it can be proven or even reasonably assumed that we prevented a ‘genocide’ or what have you – it’s unprovable whether Gaddafi capturing Benghazi would have been more or less violent than the rebels capturing Sirte, for example. I personally believe this to be true, given his history and the composition of his armed forces.

          “You said in the thread below that we have to prove that the Assad government DID NOT launch the gas attack in order to oppose the latest aggressive war. ”

          You are literally the worst reader I’ve ever met. Go back. Read the post. I in fact say it is IRRELEVANT whether the gas attack occurred or not, we should OPPOSE the war REGARDLESS. If people oppose the war because they don’t believe Syria used chemical weapons, and evidence comes out or is fabricated that convinces most people that the attack happened, your argument is exploded, but mine stands. There is a checkmate there, all right, but its this – chemical weapons are not a proper justification for war.

          “So attack another country, murder another group of recalcitrant Arabs, kill far more innocent people than Assad ever dreamt of”

          Again, I am OPPOSED (I see why Larry has to capitalize, some people can’t figure comprehend written language in lower case) to war in Syria for anything short of a true genocide or attack on a foreign country, neither of which will happen. However, in the unfortunate event the US does intervene, I guarantee you we will kill fewer Syrians than either side in the conflict right now, and fewer than died at Hama under Assad’s father. (If Assad falls, however, all bets are off). So if you’re puking, maybe you’re drinking too much (which would also explain why you are the only one here who can’t understand where I stand on the war in Syria after three posts).

          • Here’s what you said:

            “We both agree that Syria likely did not use chemical weapons, or at least the regular army did not. The difference is, if Syria did use chemical weapons, or if we can’t’ prove that they didn’t, your argument runs dry, while mine remains quite as relevant as ever. ”

            OK? I seem to have read your comments better than you did.

            In Libya, and I’m going to say this for the umpteenth time, YOU DO NOT KNOW what happened there. Further, you apparently know nothing of the very popular Qadaffi or his efforts at development of northern Africa. You only know what you are supposed to know., typical of the imperialist mindset.

            Whether or not you are “opposed” to the attack on Syria is of no consequence, as you’ve now gone off the deep end as follows:

            “…in the unfortunate event the US does intervene, I guarantee you we will kill fewer Syrians than either side in the conflict right now, and fewer than died at Hama under Assad’s father. ”

            Not knowing the toll in Libya, and frankly, not knowing much of post-war US history, your pronoucenmetn there is that of the mindless patriot, and academic at that, since you are opposed in a surface manner to an attack that you apparently think will be benign.

            The American public did not know of Iraq’s gas attack on Halabja until 1990, at a time when the US wanted to attack the country. When it happened in 1988, there was media silence. I find it interesting that you now know not only how bad Assad is, BUT HIS FATHER TOO!!!

            Caps for emPHAsis only.

            • Mark –

              ?

              My point is that your argument rests on unknowns, and is weak. That’s dangerous, as you can’t prove them. So it’s your word against Human Rights Watch and Medicines san Frontiers. To accept your argument, one has to believe in an unproven conspiracy. Now, I happen to believe that’s possible. But good luck getting a majority (or a plurality, keep that word in mind) to go along with it. But more importantly, you’re wasting your time making claims you can’t prove that have no policy impact.

              On Libya- Gaddafi was certainly popular in many circles and had already gotten himself elected king of Africa. But popularity and effectiveness do not preclude massacres, which were undoubtedly happening. Neither of us knows what happened in Libya, but I’ve yet to see credible evidence that nearly as many people died before over US intervention as after.

              There’s a long way between benign and killing ten thousand people. I imagine an aerial strike will fall into that zone somewhere. As to Hama, I’m pretty sure I first learned about it at the same time I started reading about Black September in Jordan, when I was looking into one of your asinine claims about the sheer nobility of Nasser, Assad, and Hussein’s principled opposition to Israel. Anyway a Google search of Hama still only brings up the Wiki page about the massacre – nothing new has entered the media in a forceful way about it since the conflict in Syria began.

              • Hamas has its origins in the MB, which is a product of British Intelligence going back to the 1920’s, used as agents provocateur, and old, old strategy. It grew in strength in response to the Palestinian Authority going all Democratic Party on the Palestinians.

                Here’s what I’ve written recently regarding the meme “conspiracy theory, citing original evidence:

                “This cultural phenomenon goes back to 1967. At that time, in response to questions about the Warren Commission Report, … the CIA issued a memorandum calling for mainstream media sources to begin countering “conspiracy theorists.”[CIA Document #1035-960] In the 45 years before the CIA memo came out, the phrase “conspiracy theory” appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times only 50 times, or about once per year. In the 45 years after the CIA memo, the phrase appeared 2,630 times, or about once per week. …Of course, in these uses the phrase is always delivered in a context in which “conspiracy theorists” were made to seem less intelligent and less rationale than people who uncritically accept official explanations for major events. “

                Your recitation of the word “conspiracy” as if it reflects a defective thought process is merely a product of suggestion. In our culture, suspecting conspiracies, which are common in all walks of life, invites ridicule. I don’t like ridicule, but I do not fear it nor do I let it control my thought processes.

                “My point is that your argument rests on unknowns … and is weak. That’s dangerous, as you can’t prove them….”

                There’s that word again – “prove.” Please pay attention to what I write, how life is complicated, information is subject to manipulation, propaganda is everywhere and people are dishonest. Based on what I know of postwar history, I fear that an attack on Syria, like Iraq 1991/2003 and Libya 2011, would be devastating to the country. Further, Gaddafi was reacting to outside agitation from terrorists acting at the behest of NATO, and was thereby accused of committing “massacres,” and old, old strategy being applied in Syria. Read history sometime. Start with Gladio.

                Here’s some basic logic, repeated: Syria would be crazy to use chemical weapons, as the Pentagon had already announced that it would be casus belli. How can you not see this? Has your faith in Obama created blinders?

                “Britamgate” exposed hacked emails indicating that Qatar wanted to stage such an event and that there was big money involved, and DC approved. Morsi announced that the Egyptian Army would enter the conflict, and he lost his job that very day. Assad was in mop-up mode. Something had to be done, and soon. Ergo, the false flag event. There are apparently real casualties, by the way, though most that appear on camera appear fake, especially the dead children.

                Qadaffi … have you ever heard of the “Man Made River?” It is now 12:59 as I click this. If your answer comes in more than ten minutes from that time, I will assume you Googled it. Anyway, the Man Made River is history now, as Western intervention in Syria has ended all economic development there. It’s tribes and war lords again. Thank you, NATO.

                “There’s a long way between benign and killing ten thousand people. I imagine an aerial strike will fall into that zone somewhere.”

                Ask the Iraqis about that.

                … the sheer nobility of Nasser, Assad, and Hussein’s principled opposition to Israel….”

                WTF? In my non-black/white world, all leaders can be dangerous, and some more inclined to work for the good of their own people than others. The most dangerous leaders are those who have the largest arsenals at their disposal. Postwar history says that the most dangerous force on the face of the earth, killing millions upon millions, using chemical weapons, atomic bombs, terrorism, assassination, false flag events, genocide, mass slaughter, subversion and economic warfare … is the United Sates of America. That’s not rhetoric. I’ve been at it 25 years. I’ve learned a lot.
                If you ever see a little of it, you’ll see it all, but most of you and yern don’t ever reach that uncomfortable point. How nice for you.

                • “WTF? In my non-black/white world”

                  Get off your high horse, Mark. In your world, whatever conspiracy you read most recently is true. You literally said that Iran is a shining example for the Middle East. Your praise of Nasser and of pan-Arabism knows no limits. You fail utterly to account for the fact that your favorite conspiracy theorists (using ‘hacked’ emails – its hard to imagine more easily falsifiable evidence’) argue that the entire attack was faked- there was no gas. But MSF and HRW indicate that gas was used, though the can’t speculate by whom. The UN will issue an opinion soon. If all these international organizations agree that as was used, you lose your credibility, and your argument loses force. This despite the fact that there are a myriad of scenarios in which gas was used, but not by anyone acting directly under Assad’s orders. But you put all your eggs into conspiracy baskets, and if any of them are disproven you’ve wasted your time. That’s why I choose to focus on the big picture – it is unlikely our military intervention can help Syria, thus we should stay out regardless of the chemical weapons situation. Are you still failing to see how that is a more robust argument then “anonymous sources using hacked emails say the whole thing is a fake’?

                • Also, the Man-Made River was in a National Geographic article on Gaddafi some time ago, I believe. Honestly he had a lot of good ideas, and was working pretty closely with the West. Which is why your hypothesis that the unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain was spontaneous but that in Syria and Libya must have been caused by outside forces is hard to believe. In each country unrest began non-violently, and violence escalated gradually. US backed leaders, however, quickly lost American support when the death toll started climbing. Those whose support did not come from the US had more leeway to put down rebellions with force.

                • “In your world, whatever conspiracy you read most recently is true.”

                  In case you do not know it, we both speak of conspiracy, but I include the possibility that Americans are involved. That, to you, appears taboo.

                  “You literally said that Iran is a shining example for the Middle East. Your praise of Nasser and of pan-Arabism knows no limits.”

                  That’s your black/white streak at work. If I am not against something, I am for it. Can it be any other way? I can think of no good reason to slaughter Arabs as we have. Or Persians.

                  “using ‘hacked’ emails – its hard to imagine more easily falsifiable evidence”

                  You automatically disbelieve. Did not see that coming. It’s really hard to know what is true in the world, but there are some things you can bank on. One, the US is usually up to its ears in lies. Two, when the Pentagon said that CWs were a “red line,” there was going to be a CW attack. The Britamgate email adds some credibility to that bankable idea. It fits into the larger picture.

                  “ MSF and HRW indicate that gas was used, though the can’t speculate by whom.”

                  I’m aware of all of that. HRW has no basis for accusing Syria. There’s no indication of 1400+ victims, and we have other hacked emails claiming that the kids were acting for the cameras. (Did you eve run those down? Did not think so.) It is apparent that there was a CW incident. As to how many people died, I have no clue, but it could be anything from a couple of dozen to a couple of hundred. As to its origins, I see two possibilities based on what I’ve read: Deliberate provocation by the terrorists, or a stupid accident by the terrorists.

                  “If all these international organizations agree that as was used, you lose your credibility,”

                  It was used, it appears. I’ve not said it wasn’t, but do maintain that much of what was shown on American TV, especially the dead kids, was just 21st century version of Kuwaiti incubator babies. They know what works. In your b/w mind, can you embrace the idea that it was part real, part fake?

                  “you put all your eggs into conspiracy baskets,…”

                  Another tell! You say I have conspiracy theories, and infer that you do not. But you do – however, they involve Assad and his forces, and not Americans, and therefore are not conspiracy theories. Gotcha once more. Americans beleive in conspiracies, but only if they do not involve Americans. 19 Arabs, for instance, or Castro murdering JFK.

                  “it is unlikely our military intervention can help Syria, thus we should stay out regardless of the chemical weapons situation. “

                  The US has already intervened, starting two years ago, right after they knocked Libya off. That reminds me of something else, back/white again: You think that because Assad has internal opposition, that there cannot be outside agitation as well.

                  “Also, the Man-Made River was in a National Geographic article on Gaddafi some time ago … ”

                  Honestly, pretending to know something after Googling … its hard to imagine more easily falsifiable evidence.

                  “Which is why your hypothesis that the unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Bahrain was spontaneous but that in Syria and Libya must have been caused by outside forces is hard to believe.”

                  Black/white. The basis for Tunisia was specious, and when there is internal discontent, it is easy to use agitators to foment unrest. It’s complicated. You never did listen to the Rose interview of Assad, did you. All of these re evolutions can be spontaneous or fed by outsiders. What matters is who benefits.

                  “US backed leaders, however, quickly lost American support when the death toll started climbing Those whose support did not come from the US had more leeway to put down rebellions with force.”

                  Now that’s the kind of conspiracy theory you can deal with! Americans are the good guys. Then you buy in uncritically.

                • This is nigh-intolerable. Let me put it simply, since I have a good book to read:

                  Today, despite having undergoing no change in military capability, the US agreed to give Syria until 2014 to eliminate its chemical weapons. Before we invaded Iraq, weapons inspectors were already there and we didn’t let that derail our WMD excuse. If you don’t see the difference between administrations, your powers of either reasoning or observation are so dim there is little point continuing on any other thread of conversation.

                • Oh, I feel your frustration. I can’t help you understand that nothing has changed but perceptions (under new management since 2008) and that Russia was not there to stop them in 2003 (or 1991). Good to have them back. Makes the world safer.

                  Glad that you read stuff – do you absorb the current intellectual culture, or challenge boundaries?

            • Actually we did know about gas attacks at the time in Iraq in 88 or 87, I was rather young at the time but quite clearly remember reading about it. Of course the outcry was nothing like it is now about Syria or in 1990 when saddam became our enemy.

              • There is coverage, and then there is coverage. Most Americans are barely tuned in so that media has to use saturation techniques to get their attention, as they did with Watergate. With Halabja, not so much.

                How many Americans know that Americans assisted in that attack?

  • Obama’s Syria stumble has put the Russians in control. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/09/10/krauthammer_obama_has_completely_walked_into_putins_trap_and_has_nowhere_to_go.html

    CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER: If [Pelosi] imagines that this is a victory, she is delusional. The policy now is in total disarray. What happened yesterday was clear: the Russians were throwing Obama a lifeline because Kerry had made a gaffe. They gave an opening for Russia to look like the peacemaker, but as we talked about last night, their single objective is to make sure that Assad wins the civil war. That’s their interest. They have no interest in chemical weapons one way or the other. They have a base there. This is the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria axis, it dominates the Middle East. The Russians are behind it. They supplant America as the dominant actor in the region, first time since 1970.

    So what was offered yesterday? We’ll deal with the chemicals, but you’re going to have to deal with Assad. If there’s going to be inspection, you have to deal with Assad, to recognize Assad. You have to go under the protection of his military, you’re going to obviously have to tell the rebels to stand down, and now Putin isn’t even stealthy about it. He said openly today that if there’s going to be anything about chemical weapons, the United States has to openly say it will not use military force.

      • Turner, instead of attacking the person, just where is he wrong about Putin, Russia, and Obama having fallen into a trap? Even the Iranian FM is saying the same thing about Obama being trapped.

        • Ah, craig. Egg SACKLY what I’ve been saying all along. And here comes craig to parrot the rightwing talking points. Boy is this sad. That’s ALL you dudes have. Attack the president and obstruct. HAVE YOU NO SHAME?! Nor thought of your own? Sad, so sad.

          • Larry, I don’t care about politics or party affiliation regarding these matters. Back before we went into Afghanistan, I told a Dem congressman to his face, don’t do it. Don’t let Bush take us to war there. Sometimes to lead we have to stand and bleed, or we sacrifice whatever moral authority we have. We did just that, sacrificed our moral authority after 9-11. We attacked and the world felt we had our vengeance and went about business as usual. Now Obama wants to leave without victory, whatever the hell that is at this point.

            The world sees us as a paper tiger without the will to follow through. We are no longer respected by enemy and ally alike.

        • That’s certainly one way to see it, Craig, but I don’t think it’s the most accurate. Yes, Putin wants Assad, and we want no Assad, but we don’t currently have any alternative to Assad. The army did not defect en masse as in Libya, the opposition cannot form a meaningful government, and Assad has extensive material support from Russia and Iran and an actual army from Lebanon helping him out. If Assad falls, the result will likely be Lebanon in the 80’s but on an even larger scale.

          The current situation, its true, cedes some situational control to Russia. But, its put Syria’s weapons on the table, prevented an entangling US war, and left open the possibility to a negotiated peace. Between letting the Russians retain some influence in Syria and entering into a proxy war with them, I think the administration has made a reasonable choice.

          And of course, the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis is far from the dominating force in the Middle East. The Egypt-Turkey Sunni-populist axis, now aligned also with Libya, Qatar, and Tunisia, dominates them in terms of economics, population, and military force. Syria is a proxy war for them, but it’s unclear what winning means – ousting Assad would be a Geo-political success on its face but at the cost of a truly terrifying security situation for Turkey and an unacceptable strengthening of Islamic militarism for Egypt. A negotiated situation where Assad someday faces elections or submits to a reduction of his army without dropping the country into total chaos would seem ideal.

              • Oh boy Craig – three points.

                One, Russia will always act like they just scored major diplomatic coup, regardless of the realities.

                Two, while Americans are wise to oppose war in Syria, I’m not sure a poll is the best way to determine the wisdom of a foreign policy action. I bet if you surveyed Germans in 1940 they would agree that Hitler had a better foreign policy than Hindenberg. That doesn’t make them right.

                Third, learn to read polls. 64 percent say Obama is doing the same or worse than Bush. If we assume that 64 split evenly between ‘worse’ and ‘the same’, a plurality thinks Obama is doing better, even with the huge boost 9-11 gave to Bush’s ratings.

                • PW, even CNN is reporting Putin’s diplomatic victory over Obama. http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/12/politics/syria-putin-analysis/

                  Analysis: Putin scores diplomatic win on Syria
                  By Jill Dougherty, CNN
                  updated 2:00 PM EDT, Thu September 12, 2013

                  But after Putin’s bombshell opinion piece in the New York Times in which, among other things, he takes America to task for an “alarming” pattern of intervening in the internal conflicts of foreign countries, it’s obvious something has shifted.

                  “It absolutely is a diplomatic win by Putin right now,” said Fiona Hill, expert on Putin and director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution.

                  “If we think about this as judo, which is of course Mr. Putin’s favorite sport, this is just one set of moves,” she said. “And right now, he’s managed to get Obama off the mat, at least, and get the terms set down that play to his advantage.”

                • The media does not have the absolute best track record on Middle East politics, Craig. But you’re proving my point – essentially these opinions are that we are losing ‘control’, we’re not looking ‘authoritative’ enough. It’s perception-obsessed. The fact that we’ve managed to stay out of Syria and neutralize any chemical weapons and insert more international inspectors and bring Putin and Assad back to the bargaining is largely ignored because we didn’t look tough doing it.

  • WTFaaaaaaaa?!! The Ziofascists are wagging the little Unca Sam dog REAL good this time! Is it really anti-Semitic to point this out and ask just WHY IN THE HELL we’re bankrupting our country for these little zionazis? I don’t get it. Someone help me out here. The “chosen” done chose to steal my freakin’ HEALTH care to murder Mooselims! Sorry, but I don’t think that that’s a fair trade, especially since the zionazis have primo health care while they’re sending their sewage straight into the occupied territories! Is it REALLY any wonder why the Islamic world hates us? Not to me! Time to hold the zionazis accountable for their crimes against humanity! They have used UP any holocaust capital they have left since they’ve done the same thing themselves! Zionazis, German Nazis, what’s the difference?

    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/09/11-3

    • It is not anti-semitic to point out Israel’s role in US Mid East policy, or their consistent contravention of international law. It is, however, inappropriate to throw out words like ‘ziofascists’ and ‘zionazis’, particularly in a haphazard and undefined way. I understand you have a penchant for colorful language, but that kind of language is too close to stigmatizing a national group for me to be comfortable. In the future it will be deleted. As you have noted, many Zionists (as in, those who believe in the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine) within Israel are also uncomfortable with their country’s foreign policy. More linguistic precision is warranted, I think, to prevent the impression that you are leveling accusations against the Jewish people as a whole. (And if you’re curious, the same rule applies to the ‘word’ Islamofascist).

      • Um, young dude, do what you must. But you see, that is why I cannot take you seriously. You really, truly haven’t a clue. Kind of unbelievable that Don would give you deleting privileges. That’s sad. Maybe, some day, you’ll actually get a clue. What the – have done to the Palestinians is genocide, as surely as the genocide that they suffered, only slower.

        Remember the Liberty!…..a ship that I’m sure you’ve never heard of.

        • Larry, til now I’ve objected not to your content, but because you use undefined, meaningless words that can thus be interpreted anti-semitically, despite proclaiming your innocence from any such thoughts. Your neologisms are now blanks, which detracts nothing from their meaning and adds substantially to their aesthetics.

          But since you are so much older and wiser Larry, where were you between ’47 and ’67 – were you out fighting for the rights of the Palestinians, when Jordan and Egypt could have easily created a separate Palestinian State? Or in 1970, when the Jordanian army killed more Palestinians than the Israeli army has to date? I agree with you about a lot of things, especially regarding the current Israeli-American relationship, but these are huge facts which you are ignoring.

      • Just a point of interest here, as I agree that dealing with matters of politics and international relations based on race is repugnant, but from what I’ve read, the Ashkenazi Jews, of Eastern European origins, are descendents of the Khazars, a group of Mongols who adopted the Jewish faith for political purposes. That’s neither here nor there, but a curiosity, as while there is interbreeding with, they are not of Semitic origin. Palestinians, on the other hand, are true Semites, so that the true antisemites of the region are the Israelies of Ashkenazi roots.

        • Ashkenazi Jews are not exclusively of Eastern European origins – many (most? I’m not sure) lived in Germany until religious intolerance pushed them into Poland, which at the time (prior to their wars against Sweden and Russia) was far more tolerant than most of Europe. Some Turkic tribes converted to Judaism and joined the Jewish community in Poland/Lithuania, that’s true, but at least a large portion came from Germany, and before that, probably the Byzantine Empire (Poland has always exaggerated the extent to which both Jewish and Catholic Poles were influenced by Eastern, non-European influenced). And many who came from the East probably descended from Hellenized Jews living in the Greek Black Sea colonies & Asia Minor (interestingly, there were Jewish communities as far east as the South China Sea, dating back probably to the Hellenic period).

          Finally, more importantly, Ashkenazi Jews are not a majority in Israel.

          • The Jews in Israel are decent people of benign nature, having lived aside their Semitic cousins for centuries. I say this of them because it is true of most people everywhere. The injection of European Jewry into Palestine after World War II (the majority wanted to come to the US but were not welcome) created the tensions, as those Jews aggressively sought to conquer and annex everything around them. Their current policy is that remaining Jews on the West Bank should move to Jordan. Since they cannot openly engage in ethnic cleansing, they are killing them by a thousand knife wounds, stealing their land and water, making life so miserable that Jordan is the only option, not that Jordan wants them.

            Those in Gaza are virtual prisoners of Israel. The Ashkenazi are the singe largest ethnic group in Israel, about 3 million, seconded by Sephardic. Don’t be making stuff up.

            • “Finally, more importantly, Ashkenazi Jews are not a majority in Israel.”

              :Ashkenazi are the singe largest ethnic group in Israel, about 3 million, seconded by Sephardic. Don’t be making stuff up.:

              Single largest is a plurality, not a majority, Mark. Reading comprehension. And since Mizrahi Jews also follow the Sephardic rite, that tradition is a majority in Israel. (Until the 70’s change in Soviet Jewish policy Ashkenazi were distinctly in the minority)

              • Oh, I know how to do math and percentages. They are about 37% of the population, meaning that without them (half of Jewry the country), nothing goes.

                Ay Tester supporters knows, less than a majority can rule.

          • By the way, I usually throw in a comment on the odd solution to the problem of right wingers massacring Jews n Europe: hat of giving them Palestine. I forgot. My bad. But Itis equivalent to nor American natives being compensated for the massacre by European immigrants by giving them a portion of Iberia, from which the once eons ago claimed some heritage.

            • I often try to imagine what would have happened if the other alternative had been selected – sending the Jews to Madagascar. Madagascar would, at any rate, be one of the most ethnically interesting places in the world, more than it already is!

  • Thank you, PW. Right wing pundits may be chagrined, but taking the issue to Congress is what the president of this country should do if he cares deeply about preserving democracy. Old thinking: only a strong, decisive man can save us! New thinking: we should think about this together.

  • Mr. Downhour: it is offensive that you would censor someone with differing opinions. Doubting Israel’s right to exist is not Antisemitism and nobody has disproved that Mossad or IDF didn’t gas Syria to precipitate the disarming of a regime defending itself against rebel forces.

    Israel should be held to account for its war on Islam.

  • I’m far from being a competent student of world history, but the fact that the United States presides over and provides the military might to sustain a worldwide empire seems undeniable. This empire is made up of corporate interests, client states, the military establishment, and our comfortable acceptance of it.

    We Americans, especially if we’re white and fairly well educated, are benefiting from the high standard of living our empire provides. We resemble some of the more comfortable characters found in Jane Austen’s novels, characters who enjoy endless rounds of tea parties and dances paid for by an oppressive and conscienceless British Empire. Only in Mansfield Park does Austen offer a peek at the ugliness of empire that underlies privilege.

    We’ve come to accept our high standard of living as though it were our natural lot and complain when it erodes even slightly. Four-dollar-per-gallon gas? A five dollar increase in our cable bill? Outrageous!

    We’re living in the belly of the beast. While much of the world suffers from the ravages of the beast we enjoy its protection and the mindless amusements it offers us.

  • Obama, ignoring surface phenomena, is just another Neocon. As a Democrat, he is effectively cloaked. He has allowed the NeoCon faction to move forward with their Post-9/11 agenda of aggressive war in the Middle East. He’s useful.

    In today’s New York Times, there is an op-ed piece by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is highly significant. The Times is but a frontispiece behind which there is obviously a squabble going on. Otherwise, Putin would not have access to the pages of the venerable state organ. There is obviously not unanimity within the ruling class that the US should attack Syria.

    Imagine that Leonid Brezhnev had been allowed op-ed space there to criticize the Johnson or Nixon Administration prosecution of the Vietnam War. It’s just not done! That’s how significant this is.

    The piece is worth reading, especially since it echos a warning that has gone around the world but has not been mentioned in US mainstream news, that the Syrian terrorists are planning a false-flag attack on Israel to give them and the US further cause for aggressive war.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

  • This is quite bizarre. The more things change, the more they stay evil! Obummer the progressive dusts off the Evil One. I’m surprised that he doesn’t have the Dick, cheney as his closest advisor! Time to follow the JFK plan of breaking the CIA into a thousand pieces. US foreign policy must be wrenched from the hands of the war criminals and their nazi teachers.

    p.s. I use the term nazi to indicate all the nazi influence after WWII. Read The Beast Reawakens by Martin Lee

    http://www.commondreams.org/further/2013/09/12-5

  • Whatever positives may have come out of Obama’s (and Cameron’s in the UK) handling of the Syria issue have in my view been a happy accident rather than a thought through strategy.

    Many believe that had the vote on the UK government’s proposal gone Cameron’s way then the US and UK would have taken military action the following weekend. It was only when the UK vote failed that Obama decided he needed some political cover in the US. He and David Cameron have badly misjudged the mood on the Syrian civil war.

    For some reason Putin has decided to rescue Obama’s credibility by offering him a way out of the vote in Congress that he would surely have lost. For me the chemical weapons debate is a sideshow unless it can lead on to a political settlement in Syria. With a hundred thousand dead in the conflict and millions displaced we need a credible road map to peace.

    • I agree there was probably no one orchestrating this entire situation (though who knows, we may have some anonymous Metternichs and Bismarks in our State Department), but it seems unlikely it was all accidental. For that to be the case, we have to assume that Cameron and Obama both sent proposals to their legislatures without obtaining a reasonable guarantee of success, which is rare indeed. Frankly, I think part of the administration wanted the whole action to die in congress, so the president could back off without taking risky action, but blame congress for not giving him permission to act if the situation got worse. Putin’s proposal just sweetened the deal – in exchange for essentially a perceptual victory for Putin, Obama gets to accomplish his public goal all along, WITHOUT congress, and sets the stage for future talks by bringing Syria and Russia to the bargaining table on one issue that could lead to more.

      • I am more a believer in the “cock-up” rather than the “conspiracy” theory of history but I can’t disprove your view . If Obama has been playing a clever subtle game then it is so subtle and clever that he has presented himself as directionless to much of the world. Not such a smart move politically.

        Obama clearly did not include David Cameron in his cunning plan. Cameron seriously damaged his credibility amongst his own party as a result of his poorly handled vote in the UK. Better news on the UK economy and the dire state of the opposition has probably saved him from a leadership challenge before the 2015 elections. However, people will remember that he rushed to recall parliament and then failed to achieve what he was looking for.

        This will run and run. I am just pleased to see some dialogue between the US and Russia and hope that they achieve something that benefits the Syrian people.

        • Cameron losing his vote was really pivotal, I agree. If he really expected to win that vote, then he made an enormous mistake. A UK-US-French strike might have been multilateral enough for Obama to feel comfortable going in without congressional approval, as was the case in Libya. Once Britain was out, I think the administration felt trapped – they said this was a red line, but situation was not favorable for military action, so he gives it to congress, knowing there would be a delay.

          At that point Putin decides not to take the risk and steps in. Either way, referring the thing to congress was not required, but the fact that it delayed the process long enough avoid a strike makes it in hindsight seem like a very good call.

          • PW, not engaging militarily within Syria at this time is absolutely the right outcome. Obama’s urgency to appear tough with a symbolic strike was idiotic.

            How we got to the “right call” matters. Putin didn’t fear the US, he seized the opportunity to reassert Russia’s power within the middle east, protect his allies, and completely embarrass Obama and defang the US projection of authority and power. Perceptions matter on the world stage. Look at how Obama has alienated our allies over a variety of policy positions while our enemies plot growing devilment. . No matter whether Obama is right or wrong in approach, if the rest of the world sees his policies, positions, and efforts as a cock-up, we lose.

            • “Our enemies plot growing devilment..”? That was kind of funny. Can you be more specific on what particular ‘devilment’ you are referring to ?

              • Jack, if you want funny there’s always Leno who quipped, “Hey, can you tell I’ve lost some weight? I’m on that new Obama diet. Every day I let Vladimir Putin eat my lunch. That’s how it works.”

                • Curious link Mr. Moore. So it upsets you that Obama alienated our al queda allies in Syria and now they plot devilment?

                • Craig, are you suggesting, as is the author of this thread does, that American elections are the impetus behind American foreign policy? Just as a thought experiment, I suggest you go back to 1945, or any other post-war date, and remove elections from the picture. Then chart American interventions, wars, attacks and regime changes. After that, reinsert the office holders randomly, and see if they actually had any apparent input.

                  Report back. I’d genuinely be interested in the result. My own personal take is that office holders merely cloak policies they do not control as their own idea, and act as salesmen. Like good sales people everywhere, they can put a brand new coat do wax and power-wash the engine of any foreign policy lemon.

                • Mark, I find your question and comment extremely odd. The answer to your question is “NO.”

                  I was commenting how Putin has played Obama to the hilt. Even The Guardian sees it: http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2013/sep/15/observer-profile-vladimir-putin

                  For while Russia may not be the military power it once was at the height of the cold war – the once sharp-toothed grey wolf – it still harbours a lingering nostalgia for that time. The black dog still hankers to be lupine. All of which has underpinned Putin’s slick manoeuvres over the last week that have left Barack Obama’s foreign policy looking leaden and wrong-footed.

                  Also, perhaps the White House and State Department in their clumsy and literal interpretation of Putin’s motives have fallen for the conjuror’s old trick of misdirection. They have taken the Kremlin’s interest in Damascus at face value, rather than understanding it for what it is – an expression of Putin’s notion of Russia’s place in the world.

                  And so, over the last six months and more, Putin, the former KGB officer, has been a step ahead of Obama, the former constitutional lawyer with his penchant for thinking out loud. First, Putin tweaked Obama’s nose with the granting of “temporary asylum” to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Now, with the offer to deliver the disarmament of Syria’s chemical weapons in response to an apparently off-the-cuff suggestion by secretary of state, John Kerry, he appears to have wrongfooted the White House again.

                  The fact that Putin appears to enjoy a more astute understanding than Obama of what the US public wants to hear right now is a reminder of the credo of another of Pelevin’s cynical creations, the Russian adman from the novel Homo Zapiens. He declares: “First you try to understand what people will like and then you hand it to them in the form of a lie.”

                  And that, by and large, is what Putin pulled off last week in his op-ed for the New York Times, brokered by his US PR firm Ketchum, with an appeal made directly to the American people’s desire to avoid another Middle East military entanglement.

                • Fair enough, but only insofar as you are using “Obama” and “Putin” as shorthand for the American and Russian military establishments.

                  Elections do not soften our policies, but public attitudes do ebb and flow and are always under management via symbols, lies and manipulation.

                  The chemical weapon event in Syria, seen is this light, is not ‘possibly’ a western manipulation, but almost certainly so. The alternative, that the Syrians, knowing that Washington intended to use CW’s as a springboard to war, used them anyway, is ludicrous. They are not stupid.

                  The Russians know all of this, of course, but do not speak publicly other than for effect. They did indeed out-game the Pentagon. But the critical factor in this gaming is that they again have the military power to back up their public behavior. The Cold War is reignited! We can take some solace in that.

            • I’m curious, I guess, what you would have had Obama do, where you think he went wrong. I think the mistake was setting out a red line – that made either entanglement or humiliation inevitable. But since then, I don’t see what Obama could have done differently in your eyes. Ignoring the headlines on chemical weapons wasn’t possible, attacking without allies and without congress certainly wasn’t advisable. If it turned out that there is strong evidence that anti-Assad forces used chemical weapons, Obama’s delay and eventual evasion of military action will have spared us an even greater humiliation.

              • 1. The “Red Line” was to be the current version of WMD’s or “there’s gonna be a massacre!!!,” or pretext for war. Those things do not come from the president, but rather national war planners at JCOS, NSC, Pentagon, CIA, and of course, military contractors. The president has scant power over any of them.

                2. Russia is presenting information now to the UNSC that evidences the origin of the chemical weapons within the terrorist forces.

                3. There was never any attempt by anyone in the US government to learn the source of the weapons, as they likely knew. They immediately blamed the Syrians and wanted a war quick before the matter could be investigated. That was Kerry’s job, but he’s quite a bungler.

                4. I don’t think they imagined that the Russians could not be scared or bought off.

                5. If it could be shown that the US has been behind the terrorist forces since the beginning, would you even listen?

                6. You said at one point that it was a good thing that the Russians were working to control the Syrian CW arsenal. Do you also think it wise that the US should work to control Israel’s CW supply? (A phone call woudl do it.) And, are you aware that neither country is party to the treaty?

                What’s that you say? Question was for Craig? Oh. Never mind.

                • 1. Regardless of which version of reality you live in, Obama shouldn’t have said it. Shouldn’t have given the speech. But hey, I’ll play your game. Whoever set the red line, oughtn’t have done it – it was clear from the beginning that intervention was not in US or regional interests, so we shouldn’t have set the stage for intervention.

                  2. Again, you implicitly trust Russia and Syria. But this isn’t black and white thinking ,right?

                  3. On this, you are absolutely right. Some people high up certainly wanted a war. But the actions taken by the Obama administration have not been consistent with that goal.

                  4. Russia has not altered the strategic situation whatsoever; they merely altered the perception of the diplomatic action. A naval confrontation in the Eastern Mediterranean with the US and France (with Turkey against them) is essentially a nightmare scenario for them.

                  5. I have no doubt the US has supported the insurgency for some time. Explain to me how it is inherently different than sending weapons and money to a minority government with a history of massacres? Oh yeah, sovereignty. Keep praying to that idol, Mark.

                  6. Absolutely. Though I’m curious who would make that phone call. But the Russians working with Syria is far more significant in the short term, as it re-starts negotiations with Assad and makes a negotiated peace, along lines he himself proposed, possible.

                • PW, Obama has been shooting from the lip, red lines and all. He doesn’t seem to have thought 5 moves ahead like Putin is able to do. He shouldn’t say anything until he measures what it means when his rhetoric rings hollow. What does he do next then? In a painted corner without a window to exit with any dignity. Putin plays chess while Obama announces Bingo! with his checker pieces. http://m5.paperblog.com/i/64/648883/putin-obama-cartoons-fill-the-internet-L-Uik3H0.jpeg.

                • 1. Nor should Bush have talked about WMD’s given the cost to the US that followed in Iraq. The “impending massacre” ploy worked in Libya, though the fallout is ongoing and kept out of sight.

                  But they do this. It’s simple to see: Set objective, set timetable (always changing), devise agitprop campaign to coincide with timetable. The “Red Line” was the agitprop tagline. It was meant to be a tripwire set at time when the US had lined up all its forces for the military attack. Syria did not do that attack. They are not stupid.

                  2. Trust no one. If there is a military power that can thwart US ambitions, we are safer. If it were Russia, and only Russia as a superpower, she’d run roughshod too. The force is the same, no matter the players – power corrupts.

                  3. Obama is a mouthpiece, and no disrespect, as every president has been that since 1963 (even before if you read the fear in Ike’s farewell address, which he gave as he left the building). They have no choice, and O would surely want to see his kids grow up. You’d have no trouble seeing power behidn the throne in otehr places. We are no exception.

                  4. ” A naval confrontation in the Eastern Mediterranean with the US and France (with Turkey against them) is essentially a nightmare scenario for them. ”

                  … you’re missing the point in total … “A naval confrontation” is all you needed say to understand why the US backed down. They plan these events and do not want costly interference. Russia introduced cost to the US. Who would win such a battle? I do not know, as you seem to. I only know that it was not in the overall plan. The US only attacks weak enemies – this was even true in World War II. Overlord only came about because of Stalingrad.

                  5. Please learn to distinguish between “internal resistance” and “external agitation.” The former is a problem for most US client states, so I just don’t understand why you are only focused on one. Oh, wait a minute: This is a dictator facing internal resistance that the US wants to overthrow. That’s the only difference! Otherwise, dictators, massacres, no problemo. You’re a trained attack dog focused only on the enemy du jour.

                  6. Who would make the phone call? No clue. However, if you’d follow the money, you’d know that a phone call is all that it would take.

                  I am glad you now know that Israel has a CW stock, as does Syria, and that both are dangerous if you think CW’s are worse than nukes or carpet bombing. But the forces the US wanted to unleash on Syria were far worse. Iraq had 1.2 million casualties and 4 million refugees, 2 million of whom never went back. Syria has witnessed devastation far worse than any Assad massacres brought about by the US-backed terrorists and death squads. The word that comes to mind here is hypocrisy, but that’s not precise enough. “Willful blindness” is more like it.

                  You might now take notice of something else: The US used mustard gas at Fallujah, according to Iraqi medical sources. Never did get a reaction from you, as it is outside your mindset of possibilities.

                  6.

                • Mark – see bottom. I actually think this speculation is to some extent productive, I’d like to do it properly (and with a more than three words per line).

              • Obama has gone wrong foreign policy wise be alienating, offending, insulting, and angering every important ally we have since taking office. The NSA spying scandal is only one of many such offenses. He needed to mend those fences before thinking he had their support for adventurers like Syria. Second, he should sheath rhetoric in favor of quiet and meaningful diplomacy.

                • Important allies. You mean Izreel?

                  bwqhahaahlahalhahaha!

                  Damn. That’s a funny one.

                • Larry, at various times Obama has insulted France, Great Britain, Turkey, Poland, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan, Georgia….

                  Just what important ally hasn’t been alienated?

                • “Obama has gone wrong foreign policy wise be alienating, offending, insulting, and angering every important ally we have since taking office.”

                  Of course, Obama managed to get SC approval for one intervention and agreement from France and Turkey on another, which is more than Bush accomplished for his invasion of Iraq (which may have gone very differently with Turkish approval) As to the NSA – you’re absolutely right, it does us more harm diplomatically than can be justified on intelligence grounds, and that’s without civil liberties in the equation at all!

                  “Second, he should sheath rhetoric in favor of quiet and meaningful diplomacy.”

                  This from the man who yesterday was saying perception is more important in diplomacy than result. But hey, again I agree, and I think his quiet diplomacy has accomplished a lot. I’ll get to that in the next couple days.

  • So, the question that no one can answer is, why would the US set a trip wire and (according to Assad, Putin and Tokarski) trip that wire, only to back away? Good question. Let’s consider Mark’s theory that Russia used a strategic deterrent to make us back down.

    This is possible, but it seems unlikely. Why? Because I don’t see how the strategic situation changed from setting the trip wire to backing off. Russia didn’t move is navy to my knowledge, didn’t send any firm messages publicly. They may have privately informed the US that they would resist with force any attempt to attack Syria. But here it’s quite certain that they lack the capacity. First, they would have to initiate conflict, actively sending planes into a combat zone. Second, they would not win. This is assured – whatever naval force Russia has in the eastern Mediterranean is unsupported by land-based aircraft or missiles, reinforcement and supply is impossible without Turkish permission. Even France, with their experienced and advanced naval aviation, would be a match for the Russians in the Mediterranean. The US obviously is in a league of its own in naval terms, to say nothing of land based support from Israel. Risking a confrontation in these circumstances is scarcely rational on Putin’s part – the fact that the US knows this makes the threat non-credible.

    As far as the theory that Obama was ‘shooting from the hip’ and set a tripwire for himself without wanting to. This is possible, but also seems unlikely – isn’t someone proofreading his speeches before he said stupid stuff like that? It was certainly a mistake to say it, but I think the key fact is that something big changed between setting the red line and crossing it.

    Actually, two big things. First, Assad gained the upper hand in the war just as the more presentable elements of his opposition started losing ground to the more obviously terrifying groups. Second, political maneuvering in Iran put in power a president who both has the Ayatollah’s support and something of a mandate to improve relations with the US. This is a big change – when rapprochement with Iran seemed impossible, maybe an anarchic collapse of Assad would be worth removing an Iranian ally. Now, Iran is a bargaining chip on our side – we keep Assad on the ropes, but as long as Iran cooperates, we don’t attack. If nuclear negotiations make no progress, all of the sudden Assad ‘violates’ the terms of the UN resolution and something terrible happens to Syria.

    This leaves the question of who is behind the attack. It could be the US government, but again, the lack of enthusiasm in the follow up suggests that the US government, or substantial forces therein, didn’t want to see intervention in Syria. There may certainly be US forces may launch such an attack hoping to trigger a response, but that’s hardly the whole list of possibilities. Cui Bono? Probably not Assad, as he has enough on his plate (though a ‘pin prick’ US strike might be enough to solidify his domestic support without really harming his regime), but certainly some of the rebels not controlled by the US or Qatar; Hezbollah (which has made a career out of provoking massive retaliations that end up creating exploitable chaos and galvanized public support); elements in Iran uninterested in conciliation with the US; certainly forces in the Israeli government; and of course the entity that publicly benefited the most, Russia. All have the capacity and motivation, but Mark chooses to believe one story based solely on the fact that it’s not the story the US is telling.

    • I need to set aside some of your basic perceptual framework:

      1. Democracy is an impediment to war. Because of the illusions it enhances, countries have to construct elaborate justifications to conceal their motives, but not for the benefit of the enemy. It is to fool the domestic population. That is why the WMD’s, impending massacre in Libya, and CW’s in Syria. Just ignore those things. They are grist for the mill.

      2. Countries don’t plan on heavy, costly engagements with uncertain outcome unless they are called to defend their home territory. . The US only attacks when it is certain that resistance is weakened to the point that victory is certain. In Iraq in 2003, there had been ten years of brutal sanctions and disarmament. In Syria, the “civil war,” as you called it, was really designed to weaken Assad to prepare his country for the usual – bombing without letup, destruction if infrastructure, chaos, massive civilian suffering, and a new tyrant to take his place.

      3. The world is never in a more dangerous situation as during the collapse of empires, as there is a rush to fill vacuums. The Plan for a New American Century, the NeoCon document that was a presage to 9/11, had an urgent tone to it – the US had to move, and move quickly, and some great mobilizing impulse, a New Pearl Harbor, had to happen. 9/11 was a springboard into the ‘stans, the final conquest of Iraq, and the other dominoes set to fall – Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, and two now left, Syria and Iran. Syria has to be removed to cover Israel’s north flank for the final move on Iran. The urgency of PNAC had to do with opportunity – Russia was in paralysis, so that there would never be a better time.

      4. Nothing in war goes according to plan. Ever. Iraq was far more costly than anyone imagined, to us, even as the country itself was devastated, no concern to anyone. Libya fell quickly, and there was a loud clinking to campaign glasses. Immediately after Libya there as a movement of terrorist forces, including US-sponsored “Al Qaeda” terrorists, into Syria, next in line. Because of the nuisance of the illusion of democracy, they had to put lipstick on the pig, and that was that Assad was a brutal dictator fighting a domestic uprising. How you can fall for that is beyond me. Can you not see brutal dictators everywhere, most in our employ?

      5. The “Red Line” was a tactical maneuver, setting the domestic agitprop stage for the final attack. Nothing more.

      6. Urgency again raised its head, as Syria was well-armed and had ongoing support from Russia, and was defeating the terrorists at every turn, even mopping up. The Pentagon, unable to marshal its own forces due to the high cost of an encounter with the Russians, ordered Morsi to move Egyptian troops into Syria. Morsi was removed that very day, as there are historic ties between Syria and Egypt. The US itself had to move, and quickly, to rescue the terrorists, and for that had to invoke the red line. Due to high morale costs, the US usually uses shock and awe and heavily ordnance to story and demoralize a place before the troops arrive. A chemical weapons attack, a real one (Britamgate exposed plans to do a fake one, filmed in Turkey) was launched. Troops had been put on ready on the Turkish border three days in advance, war ships were on the ready, and cruise missiles and sorties set to go from the countless US bases in the region. Contrary to what you say, the Russians have a heavy presence in eh Mediterranean and were mobilizing in eh weeks before the false flag CW attack.

      7. Time had run its course, and the Russians had been feverishly refurbishing their military and were now in a position to fight back. Among the real underlying objectives are control of gas for Western Europe – the US very badly wants the Russians taken out of that picture, but a pipeline from the South Pars field through Iran and Syria, allied with Russia, is a major problem. That field straddles Iranian and Qatari territory, which is why Qatar has been so active in arming the terrorist forces. (South Pars is the largest gas field in the world.) In addition, the Russians also have a naval base on the Mediterranean in Syria, and are set to defend it.

      8. Warfare, as Iraq and Vietnam showed, must be quick and decisive. Prolonged battles naturally favor weaker forces, as support on the home front always wavers. The US did not even have this support to begin with, as the 9/11 magic had worn off, and there was no public support for an attack on Syria. Even the CW attack and dead children did not mobilize opinion. The propaganda front dissolved, and the US was exposed as the aggressor on the world stage. Fake democracy, for a brief while, became real, and there was apparent a split in the ruling forces here. This was apparent in the New York Times allowing Putin an op-ed. The content did not matter – it was the fact of the op-ed, a signal within our ruling forces that the military would be wise to back down at this point, that a costly war was not in the cards.

      9. Never underestimate the Russians. They have enormous resources a their disposal, and the best scientists on the planet. That is why they were so demonized in the US propaganda system in the 20th Century – the were an impediment to US expansion. Still are.

      10. What did you say above? Oh yeah – you said there was “lack of enthusiasm” that caused the US to back down. Not hardly. There was a failure of propaganda, a failure of the terrorists attack, an uprising in Egypt, and a potentially costly battle ahead. Never forget the Vietnam Syndrome – it is real. It is the reason why the US only attacks weak enemies. The cards did not fall right. That’s all.

      But it ain’t over. Not hardly.

      • 1. ‘The Cards’ didn’t really fall at all. A standard interpretation of foreign policy is more than sufficient to have predicted interventionist regime change in Syria is not feasible or desirable, any more than it was a year ago when I first told you this. Your model has no predictive power – according to you, a year ago, we should have been occupying Libya, invading Syria, and nuking Iran. You don’t understand foreign policy. If you did, you would be able to predict outcomes at least half as well as I have.

        2. Russia did not stop in the attack, the Senate did (and ultimately, thus, Obama did). Obama could have easily launched a quick strike while the Senate was in recess, said that the situation was too urgent to wait, and then dared congress to stop him, much as he did in Libya. There is not indication Russia went out of their way to do more than veto the proposal in the SC. Nothing about Russia – their priorities, their actions, their capabilities – has changed since the red line was set. Indeed, their ability to act as a deterrent outside of their immediate borders has not changed since the end of the USSR – their army and air force are far stronger, of course, but their navy still does not represent a credible deterrent against France, much less the US.

        3. Thus, we look for what changed between setting the red line (and thus, the policy) and now. As you note, the rebels starting to lose is not the problem; indeed, in some ways its better to help a losing army than a winning one, as they are more beholden to you. But they never presented the potential to actually lead the country like the rebels in Libya did – no military organization or command structure, not even a veneer of democratic desires.

        But the bigger change was elections in Iran that make the replacement of Syria unnecessary. It’s time to negotiate again; with the fate of Iran’s only Arab ally still largely at our discretion, we have a better bargaining position and a more promising bargaining partner. Setting the precedent for international disarmament of a Middle Eastern nation with Russian support and acquiescence is the icing on the cake.

        • Predictive power: We just came as close as possible to attacking Syria, and now you want to tell me that only democratic government stopped it. Sounds like wisdom after the fact to me. That the US wants to attack Syria is a given. It’s a matter of when. And again, the chemical attack was the rebels, as the Russians have given strong evidence for. Has that been covered on the BBC?

          Iranian elections mean as much as our own, that is, damned little. They have Mullahs, we ahve an MIC, power behind the puppets.

          Libya is dissolving into fragments and warlords, violence. You seem to want to wish things to be your way. You need to get out of censored news. Here’s a prediction from Chomsky that I’ve seen indications may come to pass – that the objective in Libya was to break the country up into fragments, with one large province controlling the oil, which we would control, the rest going to hell for all anyone cares.

          Did the BBC cover this? Don told me once that to stay informed I have to use reliable sources, but as far as I can see, that’s merely a way of shielding and self-affirming.

          http://rt.com/news/russia-navy-mediterranean-yamal-936/

          • Glad you did the research I was too lazy to do. Yeah, ten Russian vessels in the Eastern Med compared to what France and the US already have there? Not a credible deterrent. And note where the ship in question is departing from – Sevastopol. Look at a map real quick, and you’ll realize why Russia is desperate to avoid a confrontation on the Syrian coast where it is on the wrong side of Turkey. The ‘Turkish straits’ have been Russia’s big naval problem for centuries, and continue to be. Putin gets to look like a big man because the Senate and House of Commons don’t want a war and the US isn’t sure it will benefit from one, not because he actually has any cards to play here.

            And no, Mark, I told you a year before the fact that we wouldn’t attack Syria. I was *almost* wrong, kinda. But the fact is there was every opportunity to do it, but no advantage to be gained by action. Russia has no more of a deterrent in Syria than they had in Libya. The deterrent is the will of the Senate and, I believe, the lack of desire in the administration to actually overthrow Assad.

          • (btw, the majority of those ten are landing vessels or small ships – Admiral Kuznetsov [sp?] not among them. Not a deterrent compared to two Nimitz carriers and the Charles de Gaulle, esp. now that France has experienced pilots from Mali & Libyan interventions and confirmed the efficacy of the Rafale aircraft).

            • Now you’re a military analyst. One of the ships is designed to take out aircraft carriers. We only know the surface matters, and there is no mention of submarines, surely in the area.

              My point, which I repeat, is that the US does not attack strong enemies, and Russia raised the ante. That stopped them. The senate is as useless a body as every existed, each of them dependent on the oligarchy for their jobs.

              And again, you’ve not mentioned it, but Putin having access to the NY Times, virtually a state organ, is indicative of something below the surface that you’ve yet to address. Can you imagine Obama or any other US president having access to Pravda?

              • Mark –

                Some manner of military knowledge is needed to understand foreign policy. Russia has no carrier in the area. What that essentially means is that if the US & France were to bomb Syria right now, Russia would have to fire missiles or torpedoes either at US planes or ships in order to make any difference. For that to be a credible threat, the US Navy has to believe that Russia would willingly start a conflict they are certain to lose. That is unlikely.

                As to Putin and the NYT – it says either a) the Times is not in fact a government organ but a corporation catering to the biases of its readership and advertisers or b) “the government” on some level doesn’t want to take action in Syria. Perhaps both are true.

                • The Russians have a history of publishing all of their military activities. They want to be sure that everyone knows what’s up. If there are reports of ten vessels, you can be sure you got it all.

                  The Times, if you read history, does not report news, but rather engineer consent. The Putin op-Ed was a message, not from Putin, but from the deep state. There will be another day. This one was lost.

                  The essential debate here is reality versus youthful certainty. Time will relieve you of idealism.

                • PW – anyone viewing US media from a reasonable distance can see that it is state controlled. Frank Church learned, even in 1979, that CIA had placed 500 moles in media at critical junctures. this is not done without knowledge of management of these organs. All one has to do is to see how any discussion of the events of 9/11 other than the official story are verboten to understand that there is central control there, psychological with the more clueless ground level reporters and TelePrompTer readers, but with intention as one moves higher up. It’s obvious.

                  I’ll name seven moles for you as these are well-known: William F. Buckley Jr., Henry Luce, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Tom Braden, Bob Woodward, Judith Miller.

                  I don’t want to participate in the military discussion. We are given even less information in those matters than in regular news, so speculation is pointless. We know nothing of the real situation there. Do you really think the Russians publicize their activities for general readership any more than the pentagon?

                • So just to be clear Mark, what you’re saying is that if the House of Commons had approved action, and the Senate had approved action, we still would have backed down because of Russia’s relatively diminutive fleet in the area, and it was pure coincidence that when Democratic structures rejected war the ‘deep state’ did was well?

                • Yes. It’s very important, in a fake democracy, for you to really believe everything is as it appears and that you’re always given the straight dope. Otherwise, you might become a tad incredulous.

                • We should end this, but unsolicited advice for you: steer your thinking to the harder side of life – the nature of power. You are a thinker, and a smart guy, but you’re kind of messed up in the naive side of existence. We grow out of that as we age, or should, anyway,

                  Power does not fall in your lap. It only goes to those who want it. It is taken, not given. Receiving wisdom via mass media and then voting are two of the lowest manifestations of power, virtually meaningless. They are, a distraction, nothing more.

                  Power operates in three ways: brute force, bribery, and persuasion. Of those three, the last is least used, as by that time, the first two have already done their magic.

  • The Russian navy is not a conventional deterrent but there won’t be any conflict between us openly because no one is crazy enough to start a nuclear world war 3…which is what each side convinces the other will happen in the event they are routed conventionally. The real redlines are the ones the us and Russia have with each other which each must mutually understand to maintain order.

    If obama can take this opportunity reach a rapprochement with Iran, which has long been the logical thing to do, he can reestablish his hopey changey cred before he leaves office. That would be great..I hope it happens.

  • PW, a new poll reveals that the American people believe Obama is eating Putin’s dust. http://today.yougov.com/news/2013/09/25/americans-doubt-obamas-effectiveness-syria/

    Many Americans think that Vladimir Putin was the most effective leader during the Syrian chemical weapons crisis, while approval for how Obama handled the crisis is still low.

    Although Syria appears to have met the first deadline in its agreement with the United States and Russia, beginning the process of turning over its chemical weapons, few Americans trust it will fulfill its promises. That leaves President Obama in a difficult position: he continues to have little support for action against Syria, and Americans continue to disapprove of how he is handling this crisis. Worse for him, perhaps, the latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds twice as many Americans giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the nod over President Obama as the most effective leader in this crisis.

    As might be expected with any issue involving the President in these polarized times, hardly any Republicans think the Democratic President was the most effective leader: overwhelmingly they say Putin was most effective (63% of Republicans say this, while only 4% pick Obama). But there is even concern from Democrats. Fewer than half of Democrats say the President was most effective, while 37% choose Putin.

    To Americans, President Obama was the “least effective” world leader, with more choosing him than British Prime Minister David Cameron, who lost a vote in his Parliament on the issue, and Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has said he will submit to international pressure and give up his chemical weapons.

    Democrats rank the President alongside Assad as the least effective leader, with one in four choosing each of them.

    • Don’t you think it is interesting Craig that if Obama’s objective was a an illegal aggressive war against Syria, the ultimate crime against humanity according to Nuremberg, and he was not “effective” in bringing it about, that we are well-served by his ineptitude? The whole idea that there needed to be military aggression against Syria was a planted meme, an agitprop campaign. I am relieved that circumstances brought about its failure, as are tens of thousands of Syrians who Obama and company wanted to kill. They get to live until he gins up another faux-crisis.

      In the meantime, the “Civil War” in Syria, a military campaign funded and supplied by outsiders including the US, is winding down. The US, which cares not a whit about chemical weapons, terrorism, autocrats, dictators, strong men, drugs or corruption, might quit pretending to be concerned about Syria for a while as our state-run media focuses our attention elsewhere.

      Take a break guys, sip a brew, watch some football! Ginned-up “crisis” is over, false-flag chemical weapon attack was pinned on terrorists (you did not know that?), Russia wins hands-down and even allows Obama to save face. I am pleasantly surprised by this turn of events. The good guys came out on top for once!

    • PS: As I understand it via reports in the non-American news: The chemical weapons attack was approved by the White House, with plausible deniability, no doubt. It was funded by the Saudis, and carried out by Ukrainians. The shells and sarin came from Libya, since that country possessed old Russian shells from the 70’s. They were were transported to Syria via Turkey, it appears, as terrorists were arrested in that country in possession a while back. The Brits were in charge of overall management. The children used in the photos were kidnapped from remote regions of Syria. At least one was a fake death, as the same child was later seen pretending to be sick. As to how many really died, as real gas was used, I do not know, but the number Kerrry cited as a naked lie.

      Kerry’s job was to strike as quickly as possible before any of this could be learned. He failed miserably. He’s accountable, I imagine.

  • Craig – that’s really just a restatement of my thesis – US Obama critics feel autocratic governments more ‘effective’ than Obama’. As to his efficacy compared ti David Cameron, that should tell you all you need to know about that poll’s validity in terms of judging foreign policy success.

    • PW, the poll does nothing of the kind. Recognizing a skillful world leader such as Putin, is no such validation that people long for autocratic govt. People long for a true, effective leader in the US. BTW, did you see Putin’s “Win” at the UN? No enforcement provision whatsoever in the resolution outlawing Syria’s chemical weapons.

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