American Elephants

Obama Dithers While Syria Burns by The Elephant's Child

I am accustomed to a world in which the Defense Department, and the intelligence agencies keep track of what is going on and have an array of response plans for potential events. We have known for a long time that Bashar Assad, the Syrian dictator, has a supply of chemical weapons (WMD) which he acquired from Saddam Hussein. But we don’t know what to do?

A Civil War has been going on in Syria for some time, and it has been escalating steadily, with millions of refugees, In 2009,, Kerry said “I believe very deeply that this is an important moment of change, a moment of potential transformation, not just in the relationship between the United States and Syria but in the relationship of the region.” that “Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.”

In 2010, the Kerrys were  great pals of the Assads, and Bashar’s stylish wife Asma was featured on the cover of Vogue. So much for understanding the region.

On Monday, it was a bit different. Kerry said:

The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict in Syria itself, and that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale, indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all – a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else. There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.

So all officialdom talks about what they will do. The leaks tell Assad that he can relax, we have no intention of destroying the regime, an American military attack could begin as early as Thursday, and will involve three days of missile strikes. Perhaps they should let him know the exact schedule so he can prepare to avoid any damage. The object of the strike seems to be to let the world know that Obama does too mean it when he draws a red line. The whole thing is not about actually doing anything, bur simply about making a political statement.

Political statements can be delivered in political ways. American military personnel should not be put in harm’s way to make a “political statement.”

There are a number of sources who note that it is quite possible that it is the rebels who are using chemical weapons rather than Assad, because he seems to be winning without drastic steps. Lebanese-American scholar Fouad Ajami has pointed out that:

Syria’s main asset, in contrast to Egypt’s preeminence and Saudi wealth, is its capacity for mischief.

Ideally, the regime should be removed, but there is no one to replace it. The rebels are infiltrated with al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. American foreign policy is once again an exhibition of indecision and incompetence. Broadcasting everything you might do not only appears weak, but puts our military at risk. Can we assume that they have no other weapons than chemical ones? No stinger missiles or the equivalent?

Public dithering inspires no confidence from the people, from the nations of the world, or from the enemy. No confidence at all.


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“I am accustomed to a world in which the Defense Department, and the intelligence agencies keep track of what is going on and have an array of response plans for potential events.”

So am I (that’s exactly the sort of thing I did in the Marine Corps, and what I do now as a contractor for the military intelligence community). And just because nothing is being done doesn’t mean the plans don’t exist (I can assure you that they do… usually with 4-5 different options for dealing with any specific scenario you can come up with, very carefully cataloged and updated regularly to keep pace with current events). It’s just that, I would imagine, under the current administration, none of those options were palatable (read: the political “optics” didn’t seem good to him).

This president seems intent on doing all of the things that he accused (frequently wrongly) the previous administration of doing. Military action without congressional approval? Check. Without authorization from the U.N.? Check. Promises of unilateral action if necessary? Check. And putting aside the rightness or wrongness of whatever plan of action Obama decides on, one thing is certain… world leaders will once again see that the words of this president mean nothing, and his inconsistency in action makes him an unreliable ally.


Comment by Lon Mead

Are we sure that it is Assad using nerve gas, and not the rebels? There are some informed people who aren’t sure. Do we really know anything about the composition of rebel groups (before we start giving them weapons)? Are we arming al Qaeda, or the Muslim Brotherhood? Even the talking points from the White House sound weak and indecisive. Desert Storm is equivalent, where the world got to watch as we slowly assembled a big mailed fist that said we’re serious and you don’t want to mess with us. There’s a lot to be said for just sounding and appearing serious. The hapless Jay Carney is not an impressive voice of command, and assuring us that the president is dithering and will eventually make up his mind does not build confidence. I would wager that the president is unfamiliar with all things military, except for a conviction that war is bad, and his superior persuasive ability will sway nations. Of course there are no good options. That’s why we got along with Gaddafi and Mubarak.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

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