Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama's War On Syria: Not just Illegal, But Reckless

It is interesting how Obama, as a Senator and later as President, criticized Bush for his illegal war in Iraq, but now Mr. Nobel Peace Price himself is about to take the same action. The term 'hypocrite' would be an understatement. Just a week ago in his first comments on the alleged use of chemical weapons, Obama stated that he would only choose military action if, 1). He had broad international support for such action. Suggesting no unilateral action or "coalitions of the willing" for him. 2). There was UN backing for military action, making it legal under international law. 3). If it was in the best interests of the U.S. and wouldn't lead to a deeper commitment. And 4). It would come only after a thorough UN investigation established what happened.

Now I will briefly break down how Obama is 0 for 4.

1). First, let me be clear on what the Obama Administration (and all U.S. administrations) mean when they say "broad international support". When the U.S. makes this statement... it literally means (for them) NATO, and other (mostly Western) allies of the U.S. They don't actually mean "broad international support" in real terms. It is referring to two dozen of its closest allies. The U.S. does not recognize the rest of the world when making that calculus... it doesn't even acknowledge that the rest of the world exists. There are 196 officially recognized countries in the world, with 193 being UN members. But the U.S. only considers 24 or so when it is talking about "broad international support". This in itself is unbelievable... but it shows you how the U.S. foreign policy establishment thinks.

But even within this warped context... the U.S. doesn't have what it calls "broad support" for military action against Syria. The British Parliament (thanks to brave MP's... I'm not Gay, but I could kiss all who voted no) just voted against military action. The Germans don't want a war either. The Italians have said they want no parts of military action without a UN Security Council resolution authorizing force. Other countries have made comments along the same lines. In fact, the NATO Secretary General, Anders Rasmussen, who represents the entire body of more than two dozen countries... says NATO will not take part in any attack.

Other nations, even closest U.S. allies, are against military action because they understand that it doesn't make sense. Their military leaders have told their political leadership the same thing that top U.S. Generals have told the White House and the Congress... that military intervention was not a good idea. That such action should be avoided (in so many words), and that there was no military solution to the problems in Syria. Most importantly, leaders in other countries understand that the civil war in Syria is not their fight...and they are looking out for the best interests of their respective nations. In fact, a military strike (according to Gen. Dempsey) would only make matters worse. Military intervention would not be in America's best interests.. (this is the top General of the United States of America). Dempsey's advice is to continue supporting the opposition covertly...perhaps increasing that support, sending humanitarian aid, putting pressure on Assad for a political solution...showing him he can't win outright, while at the same time... pushing for a political/diplomatic settlement. Most sane analysts agree that this is the only viable option. Yet in an unprecedented show of ignorance, Obama is going to go against the advice of the Generals. Why? Because he is concerned about saving face after he made that stupid "red line" comment. He is willing to risk international stability, the lives of Americans, and the economy (all of that is on the line) because he is concerned about losing face.

2). Will it be legal? No, absolutely not. There will be no UN mandate for military action on Syria. There is no other precedent acceptable under international law that would make such an attack legal. NPR provided great analysis on this. There will be no legal basis for an attack. But it doesn't look like Mr. Nobel Peace Prize will be held up by matters of international law. Since when does the U.S. recognize international law anyway?

3). Will an attack be in the best interests of the U.S.? Absolutely not. With Iraq still fresh in the nations conscience, and the war in Afghanistan still raging, the U.S. (and Europe for that matter) is not in the mood for another stupid, unnecessary war (something that Mr. Nobel Peace prize himself railed against when he was a Senator). Gen. Dempsey has made it clear that military action (even a limited attack) would not be in the national interests of the United States and would commit the U.S. to deeper involvement down the road (that could require U.S. soldiers on the ground).

We are coming out of the worst recession (not counting the Depressions) in American history...a near Depression. The economy is on the verge of a substantial rebound. This is not the time to put all of that at risk, especially for a situation that could be handled another way. Covert action..and supplying the opposition with real weaponry that could turn the tide...would be a far more sensible response. Such a response would actually be worse for Assad. Tank buster weapons, heavy guns, long range sniper rifles, guided/smart artillery.... would be devastating to Assad. In fact, he would not be able to survive that kind of weaponry. Such weapons could take out (over time) his tanks, artillery pieces, fuel storage, supply lines and would demoralize his troops and sap their will to fight. Assad's government would collapse.

An attack would also risk a wider conflict or at the very least, destabilize the Middle East even further. Definitely not what we need.

4). Obama promised that he would wait for the UN to finish its work in Syria, as they investigate what happened. However, just a couple of days later, the Obama Administration changed course and stated that it wouldn't wait for the UN. It has been interfering with UN efforts ever since, trying to discredit the work of the inspectors before they even have a chance to present findings on the matter. Instead, Obama wants to rely on U.S. intelligence. If you have been paying attention over the past 20 years, you know that the U.S. intelligence community doesn't exactly have a good reputation for making the right call. In fact, they have been wrong more often than right on major issues (Missing 9/11, allowed itself to be politicized on Iraq...and making the wrong assessment...and not just a bit wrong... but gigantically wrong; wrong about Pakistan and its nuclear ambitions; wrong about Pakistan and its relationship with the U.S.; wrong for so long about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden/missing opportunities to kill or capture him for a decade; missing the first WTC bombing; and missing the bombings in Africa just to name a few). Relying on an intelligence assessment to make a decision for war in a case like this (not to mention going against the advice of the nation's top Generals) is beyond risky, it's downright reckless. Based on its record I don't trust any report that the U.S. intelligence community comes up with. Furthermore, the assessments they make are not usually strong facts.... leading to any solid conclusion. Instead, they are guesses. The WMD in Iraq was a guess based on group-think and bad information from opposition groups who had a motive to drag the U.S. into Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. The same thing is taking place with Syria right now.

The fact is, it is not clear who may be using chemical weapons. There are indications that both sides may have used them. What many don't understand is that there are many chemical weapons technicians in Syria, mostly in the military....due to the large amount of these dangerous weapons in the Country. So there is a lot of know how. The FSA and other militia's are an offshoot from the Syrian Army. These men have the same training. There are many in the opposition who know how to build these weapons, mix the chemicals and use them. There are also radical Islamist groups fighting the FSA, with motive to use such weapons if they got their hands on them. Many of those groups are also fighting Assad. There are many different sides in this war. There are militia (extremist) groups in Syria who may not be under Assad's direct control who may have access to these weapons. The chemical weapons storage facilities are all over Syria, but Assad's forces don't control all parts of the Country. But it is clear that the FSA or other groups fighting Assad (including terrorist groups that are part of Al Qaeda) would have the most to gain from using such weapons.

Lastly, the UN report, even when it comes out, will only be able to establish conclusively whether a chemical agent was used. The investigation will not likely be able to determine who actually used the weapons. So again... even if Obama waited for the UN report, he would be deciding to go to war on partial, flimsy information... which he indicated he would not do.

Now Obama has switched gears again and added that his goal will be to prevent another use of chemical weapons. But that has been quickly panned. Every military expert and analyst that I have read and heard agrees that (IF Assad was responsible... and that's a big if) an attack would not do anything to prevent another use of such weapons. But on the contrary, if the rebels or some other loose group was responsible, a U.S. attack would actually encourage more attacks, not discourage them. Because the rebels would see that it got what it wanted.... U.S. military intervention. In that scenario a U.S. attack would essentially hand over control of the U.S. military (and eventually NATO) to the rebels. They would see that the U.S. reacted (positively in their minds) to the use of such weapons... so they would actually be incentivized to use them as much as possible... having the opposite affect of what Obama claims that he wants...and it would eventually drag the U.S. full force into a bloody civil war.

So Obama is really 0 for 5 here. He has basically not kept his word about anything he stated that he wanted to do as part of a western "response". (He has basically lied to our faces). Or at least it appears that way. If he decides at the last minute to make a more logical choice... then he would make himself look a little better. However, all indications are he is leaning towards some sort of conflict. But even if he changes his mind... he has really dug himself too deep into a hole. For me he can never again be the man who he presented himself to be back in 2004, 05, 06, 07, 08. That Barack Obama is gone for good. His antics over the last 5 years, and especially over the last week (rushing to judgement and rushing towards another stupid, ill advised war) was enough for me. He is now in the same group as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton... post impeachment. Not the gifted, brilliant, visionary bringing a new approach to the White House, supporting Progressive values, and looking out for the interests of everyday Americans. Sadly, that guy may have never existed.


rikyrah said...

I'm not for intervention in Syria, but I don't get the hysteria from folks about it. Makes no sense to me.

And the talk of impeachment from you has been disappointing.

no, I didn't get your email. resend it to

Brian E. said...

It's not hysteria... there is a reason why analysts...and military chiefs don't like this. I gave a well thought out, well reasoned, and solid argument in this post.

See my reply here on the issue of impeachment and why Obama's Syria response is troublesome.