I’ve been reading about this and listening to this for a while, and as someone who’s had to fight in the Middle East before, I’m hearing a replay of 2002-2003, but a much worse one, with an imperial president who ignores the law as opposed to a neocon president who even his staunchest critics when confronted with the data can see at least jumped through the required hoops.
So far, it’s heavily suspected that Syria has used chemical weapons on its own rebels and population, though it’s also possible that the rebels themselves (who are affiliated with Al Qaeda) may have used them to garner international sympathy – mideast terrorist groups and their allies do use propaganda, after all. Reuters even has rebels saying it was rebels (but Reuters in the mideast isn’t exactly trustworthy, as is evidenced one link ago). The use of chemical weapons is pretty much accepted, but by whom isn’t wholly decided.
The Obama administration has attacked Bashar Assad’s credibility when asked for proof. If you’ve heard the audio (Charley Jones on 1080 KRLD played some of it last night), you know it starts off with a question asking about where the proof is that chemical weapons were used by the Assad regime, and sounds even less convincing when spoken than written.
Q: But based on the President’s own criticism of the previous administration, not being able to clearly establish the use of WMD — if you’re now acknowledging the U.N. doesn’t have the mandate to determine that anyway, what will the President use to decide whether or not to take U.S. military action –
MR. CARNEY: Again, we are continuing to assess the matter of culpability. We believe, and I think the evidence is overwhelming, that there is very little doubt that the Syrian regime is culpable. But we will continue to establish, or assess the incident, and we’ll have more information for you, as Secretary Kerry mentioned, in the coming days about that matter.
But, in the meantime, we should make clear from here and from the State Department and elsewhere, and in capitals around the world, that the Syrian regime has very little credibility on this matter. If the Syrian regime had any interest, as Secretary Kerry said earlier, in proving that they were not culpable, they had the opportunity to allow that U.N. inspection team to visit the site immediately. Instead, they blocked access for five days while they shelled the neighborhood, killing more innocent civilians, in an attempt to destroy evidence.
And even today, when the inspection team began its trip to the region where the attack occurred, its convoy was attacked. They had to turn back. And then they were able to make it later into the region. After they left, the Syrian regime started shelling again. The credibility here does not exist.
Except saying Assad is an uncooperative liar doesn’t mean Obama has definitive proof. Saying “we have evidence from sources on the ground and from surveillance” would be a point. Saying “we are assessing culpability” isn’t the same. Considering the numerous resolutions against Saddam Hussein’s WMDs and ultimately action taken because of them, Obama is setting us up for the very same thing he railed against and ran on as a presidential candidate and president. But Democrats are always against terrorist regimes before they’re for giving up and abandoning the efforts against terrorist regimes:
The Syrians have allies in Iran and Russia and Hezbollah, and the rebels are allied with and often part of Al Qaeda. There are arguments by interventionists that some rebels are regionally different, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. All sides involved are villainous. There’s no reason for the US to get involved. Neither side winning is good for the US.
If Syria wins, America’s adversaries in Russia, Iran, and China as well get strengthened in the region. If the rebels win, Al Qaeda and other extremist forces will take over… just like happened in Egypt and much of Libya. Either way, non-combatants in Syria suffer.
But speaking of Libya, the reason Ambassador Chris Stevens is dead is most likely because he was out in the middle of nowhere in Benghazi trying to secure weapons for the Syrian rebels.
Lawmakers also want to know about the weapons in Libya, and what happened to them.
Speculation on Capitol Hill has included the possibility the U.S. agencies operating in Benghazi were secretly helping to move surface-to-air missiles out of Libya, through Turkey, and into the hands of Syrian rebels.
That’s from a while ago. Realistically, we’ve probably been supporting Syrian rebels since then.
The problem is that as we’re supporing the Free Syrian Army, we’re supporting the same allies of Al Qaeda that we’ve been fighting since at least the 1993 WTC bombing, and for no particular reason.
One question that hasn’t been answered adequately is that if we intervene, who will end up with those 1000 tons of chemical weapons that Syria has? If the rebels win, are we handing Al Qaeda 1000 tons of sarin or VX?
If we act against Syria, will they use chemical weapons on their neighbors in Israel and Jordan and Turkey? Is that part of why Turkey, who got involved in Syria a bit, stopped getting involved?
So far the hypothesis has been that in a few days of air attacks, we could seriously degrade the Syrian air force and reduce Assad’s capability to fight significantly. If we were to do that, basically providing Al Qaeda the use of our air force, and ultimately leading to an AQ/rebel victory and our actions were to protect the world from chemical weapons… then what do we do once they have those chemical weapons? The answer ends up being boots on the ground.
There are only a few options in Syria:
- We don’t get involved.
- We support Syria’s government and push for stability against AQ.
- We support Syria’s rebels and push for regime change and a new stable state that magically doesn’t turn into an AQ-state or Egypt redux.
- We get involved and crush both sides, secure WMDs, and leave with them secured or destroyed.
- We get involved and crush both sides, secure WMDs, and stay and nation build.
Carl Von Clausewitz stated as his elegant definition of war:
War therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.
So what is our will in Syria? To stop the use of WMDs?
There have been tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands killed in Syria’s civil war by conventional violence. Why were those deaths less important than the ones killed by a nerve agent?
To control WMD proliferation and keep WMDs out of the hands of groups that would threaten the US and our allies? Supporting Syria would lead to stabilization and keep weapons out of terrorist hands – because a regime like Syria is a nation-state with something to lose if it uses WMDs against us. A stateless organization like Al Qaeda doesn’t care.
Or is our will just so Obama can say his “red line” means something and not look like a complete weakling in front of Putin and China? Too late, they know our president is weak on US interests and more concerned with instituting self-destructive policies within the US. Any angry, self-righteous response against Syria is just going to look like Obama going “oh yeah, I’ll show you guys!” and they’ll still think him weak, because he is. Obama doesn’t care about US interests. He does care about himself, but that’s not strength, that’s vanity.
The progressive left is interventionist, though. They have been since the days when Woodrow Wilson dragged us into WWI, and before then the progressives under Teddy Roosevelt on the right dragged us all into other wars.
Consider this NYT editorial, titled “Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal”:
The latest atrocities in the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people, demand an urgent response to deter further massacres and to punish President Bashar al-Assad.
They don’t want to be the world’s policeman enforcing the law, they want to be the world’s angry disciplinarian out castigating people for things they don’t like.
But there is widespread confusion over the legal basis for the use of force in these terrible circumstances. As a legal matter, the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons does not automatically justify armed intervention by the United States.
There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to do just that on Monday, when he said of the use of chemical weapons, “This international norm cannot be violated without consequences.” His use of the word “norm,” instead of “law,” is telling.
There’s currently a big push by the administration to say that Syria is violating international norms and must be punished. You’ll hear the word in news reports a lot as a new narrative is made. Sort of like hearing about the hun.
Syria is a party to neither the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 nor the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, and even if it were, the treaties rely on the United Nations Security Council to enforce them — a major flaw. Syria is a party to the Geneva Protocol, a 1925 treaty that bans the use of toxic gases in wars. But this treaty was designed after World War I with international war in mind, not internal conflicts.
Not only will Russia and China block any UN resolutions, it doesn’t matter, because there is no authority to something Syria isn’t a signatory to. This is the very unilateralism the left railed against.
What about the claim that, treaties aside, chemical weapons are inherently prohibited? While some acts — genocide, slavery and piracy — are considered unlawful regardless of treaties, chemical weapons are not yet in this category.
Some acts are unlawful regardless of treaties? What a joke. Sudan is on the UN Human Rights Commission even though they were and are engaged in genocide.
If there is no law, they are by definition not unlawful.
…if the White House takes international law seriously — as the State Department does — it cannot try to have it both ways. It must either argue that an “illegal but legitimate” intervention is better than doing nothing, or assert that international law has changed — strategies that I call “constructive noncompliance.” In the case of Syria, I vote for the latter.
Since Russia and China won’t help, Mr. Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don’t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria.
This would be popular in many quarters, and I believe it’s the right thing to do. But if the American government accepts that the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society, it must be clear that this represents a new legal path.
This can be summed up simply:
There is no law in this administration, there is only what people in power feel like doing, and whatever complex mental and linguistic gymnastics they can do to justify acting out how they feel.
Under Bush, the administration went through the processes that were necessary, getting approval along the way before acting on a perceived threat, regardless of the haste or individual opinions on the wisdom of those actions. Under Obama, we have leftists actively advocating for ignoring laws they agree to with their wonderful UN-consensus ideals because it’s now magically moral to break the law, to do what feels good even though it’s illegal.
The rule of law is the foundation of a civilized society, but we have the rule of men, and of a man who feels what he’s doing is right means more than the law. I’m sure Assad would agree with the decisions to ignore legality and do what you want as a ruler.
As a final note, I heard or read this story not too long ago: A bartender saw a boyfriend and girlfriend fighting across the bar and saw the boyfriend slapping the girlfriend. The bartender decided this was wrong, and he had to get involved and separate the two. He stepped around the bar and got them apart, and the girlfriend then broke a beer bottle over the bartenders head.
As of right now, with no real evidence of a threat to the US or US interests, there’s no reason to get involved.
This is a cluster of our enemies fighting each other. It’s tragic what’s happening to the non-combatants, but unless we want to wage a massive, all out campaign to suppress the rest of the world and pacify them, we can’t change that.
Away from wartime, we can change things through trade and commerce, but in wartime, there’s little we can do unless we go all-out. And there’s while there may be some broader humanitarian desire to act, there’s really little reason to get involved, as both potential victors in the only likely outcomes are villains.