American Elephants

A Level of Intensity Just Muscular Enough Not to Get Mocked by The Elephant's Child


Syria.  The U.S. goal is “not to get mocked?” We are going to attack sooner or later, but time is not of the essence, we can do it any time. We’re not going to attack Assad, nor his chemical weapons supplies, and we don’t want to hurt anyone.

A U.S. official said that the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets. Perhaps two to three missiles would be aimed at each site.

What the hell is this? Don Rumsfeld remarked that “De-mystifying what you’re going to do to the enemy is — mindless. …There hasn’t been any indication from the administration in respect to what our national interest is.”

Mark Steyn thoughtfully added:

So what do we want in Syria? Obama can’t say, other than for him to look muscular without being mocked, like a camp bodybuilder admiring himself in the gym mirror. …

Meanwhile, the hyperpower is going to war because Obama wandered off prompter and accidentally made a threat. So he has to make good on it, or America will lose its credibility. But he only wants to make good on it in a perfunctory and ineffectual way. So America will lose its credibility, anyway.

Everybody is commenting. Vladimir Putin said he is sure that the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international— and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict. The government of Bashar al Assad, he said, would have no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it had gained the upper hand in the fighting.

U.S. Intelligence agencies had indications three days beforehand that the Syrian regime was poised to launch a lethal chemical attack that killed more than a thousand people.

This kind of thing promotes endless speculation, which is of course useless, since you can’t get into another person’s mind, but you speculate anyway. Obama has been quoted some time back saying he didn’t believe anyone should be able to have a gun. I wonder if he has ever been to a war movie, or read any military history? He came of age when it was fashionable among lefties to protest all wars, in mindless ignorance of what they were actually about.

I spent a good part of last Sunday at Seattle’s Museum of Flight touring a B-17, admiring what was at the time, the brand new Navy Corsair, and the astonishingly huge X-15 Blackbird. I have always read military books. I cannot imagine being so unfamiliar with things military that I would confuse corps and corpse. But if you identify something as bad or evil, you’re not apt to pursue information about that subject, and you turn for information to the writers and historians who agree with you.  Trouble is, your ignorance usually catches up with you, especially when you’re trying to sound in charge.

No rush. Obama will consult with Congress, though he says, he is perfectly entitled to act on his own. Here’s the actual quote from the Los Angeles Times:

One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.

Red Lines and Nerve Gas by The Elephant's Child


The White House admitted yesterday what has been known for some time. The Syrian regime has used chemical weapons to attack its own people. In 2010, Barack Obama stated that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” for the United States, a “game changer” that would theoretically move the White House in an undefined way from its position of studied indifference.

The opposition has accused the Assad regime for some time of using chemical agents, but the White House has dismissed the claims. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has announced that the United States now believes “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against its people. Whatever “varying degrees of confidence” means. Hagel said the intelligence community has been assessing the problem. Other countries have reached the same conclusion with a high degree of confidence. Except they aren’t usually expected to do anything about it.

Theoretically, when you announce a “red line”, a “game changer,” you have set in motion something like the entire Pentagon deciding what you should do about it. Threats that are just repeated with “varying degrees of confidence” elicit little confidence from either the people or any of the players. 70,000 dead is a lot of people.

If American aid can help to cause Assad’s downfall and lead to his replacement by a non-radical replacement, we should help. If getting rid of Assad simply means installing another radical regime, then we shouldn’t be talking about “red lines.”

Ideally, a leader of a regime who uses nerve gas on his people should have a giant fist descend like a hammer directly on his head, so its like will never be repeated. But ideal circumstances seldom happen. Dithering, needing ever more information, consulting with the UN and going all wishy-washy only makes the U.S, weak and our enemies bold, and that is the worst of all worlds.

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