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Syria: Cluster bombs won’t solve this cluster—- (Update – British parliament vote delayed for lack of support)

Syria: Cluster bombs won’t solve this cluster—- (Update – British parliament vote delayed for lack of support)

If you’ve noticed, I haven’t weighed in on what to do in Syria.

We’re pretty much stuck to straight reporting.

We’re in a real mess. As pointed out before, it’s a matter of bad or worse in the Syrian civil war. It’s just hard to know who is just bad and who is worse. Assad’s unapologetic and large scale use of chemical weapons is a game changer, worse than eating a heart (what a comparison!).

There was a time for action, when non-al-Qaeda rebels were ascendant, but that was then, and that time passed with inaction. Now it’s murderous Iranian and Hezbollah-backed Assad versus al-Qaeda.

But Obama has boxed himself — and us — into a corner.

Having demagogued issues of presidential prerogative and the need for U.N. approval in the past along with other Democrats, but having set a red line, he (we) are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

This interview with John Bolton at The Washington Free Beacon pretty well sums up the cluster—- we’re now in, Bolton on Syria: ‘We’re In a Box Almost Entirely Of The President’s Own Making’

Update: Looks like David Cameron has delayed a vote in the British parliament in favor of military action because he would have lost the vote:

David Cameron backed down from asking lawmakers for immediate support for possible U.K. military strikes on Syria after the Labour opposition demanded a delay until United Nations inspectors report on the alleged use of chemical weapons.

Further Update August 29:  British Parliament debate on Syria LIVE (Update – Cameron loses vote)


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“Assad’s unapologetic and large scale use of chemical weapons is a game changer”

Wait.. Assad has admitted to using chemical weapons? That’s the first time I’ve heard about that. Up until now it’s been a point of debate as to who used them and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the rebels are the culprits. This kind of thing happens in war.

    Browndog in reply to Vince. | August 28, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    Indeed. I don’t pretend to know who did what. What I do know is that I’d be more apt to believe the Assad regime used chemical weapons if the Obama regime hadn’t told me for a fact they did.

    Remember, a mere 2 years ago, when war first broke out it Syria, the Obama regime told us that Assad was a “reformer”.

      ThomasD in reply to Browndog. | August 29, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      I cannot claim to know that Assad did it, or even his faction (who is to say exactly how much control Assad personally has at this point.)

      But I strongly doubt it is the opposition. Even if they had the devices, it would be exceptionally difficult for them to orchestrate the specifics of the most recent attack without leaving a big SIGINT footprint.

      They simply do not have the organizational structure or the secured forms of communication that would allow them to hide their tracks. Between the Israelis, the Turks and the US there is simply no wireless transmissions that go unnoticed. Sure, you can speak in code, but codes have to be developed and disseminated before they can be used, and those also leave a trail.

    I R A Darth Aggie in reply to Vince. | August 28, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    And we know that certain rebel factions have been hunting for those weapons. It is entirely possible that they did find some, and attempted to use them.

    And now they know why most people don’t like using chemical weapons: they don’t distinguish between friend and foe and will kill you stone dead if you screw up. And don’t have any atropine handy…

I actually wrote my Senators (Feinstein and Boxer) and Congressman (Ami Bera).

From California.

Call me optimistic.

I e-mailed each,

“Stop the US military intervention in Syria.

Prevent standoff bombing and missile launch against any combatant within Syria without debate in the US Congress and Senate.

Syria acts as a proxy for Iran. Shia Muslims consistently damaged the United States since the hostage crisis after the Islamic revolution in Iran.

Syrian “rebels” are in fact Sunni Muslims that make up al-Quaeda, the stateless terrorists that took 3000 lives in the US on September 11, 2001.

Bombing assists enemies of the United States no matter which of these two terrorist factions are harmed.”

I am sure their boilerplate responses will follow.

This administration is, as many have written before, beyond parody.

Thanks for the post, Professor.

Bitterlyclinging | August 28, 2013 at 2:18 pm

You don’t suppose he’ll simply target a baby food factory and call it done, or decide to cancel US participation in the upcoming Olympics? Yesterday’s comments coming out of Moscow referring to the US as like a “Monkey playing with a hand grenade in the Middle East” was a direct racist slap at Obama that the NYT, the WaPo, ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC don’t want to touch, even with a ten foot pole. Its far too late, the rest of the world has already taken Obama’s measure and they are mocking him.

Like all supreme narcissists, history began for Obama on the date of his birth, all other lessons learned the hard way by others before that date simply don’t exist or aren’t to be considered. Gone are the hard lessons from WWII, where even with 8 million of its people homeless, roughly ten per cent of the population, 166 of its cities firebombed out of existence, with casualties in its military reaching toward nearly a million men, before the events of July 16th, 1945 most American war planners had come to the conclusion every square inch of Japan would have to occupied at an equally large loss of American blood and treasure. We have a fool currently in the White House, because the American people, like the Haitian people of so long ago, made their comparable deal with the Devil and we too shall likewise pay dearly for that.

If Obama hadn’t shot off his mouth about a red line, I would advocate doing nothing, WMDs notwithstanding. There are two main parties battling each other in Syria and neither are friendly to our interests, so just let them kill as many of each other however they want.

Does Obama’s demagogic statement about red lines make much of a difference? I’m not sure. I kind of like Krauthammer’s take on it. Obama is not going to do anything significant and that will make matters worse.

So, I guess I would advocate doing nothing. If we’re proposing to do something big, maybe we can talk.

Also, excellent title!

Reports that prior to gulf war II, the iraqis shipped the chemical weapons to syria. There was no question sadam had the chemical weapons, the only question was how much did he have at the start of gulf war II.

There are three parties to this conflict, the Iranian backed syrian govt, Al qaeda, and the syrian people that want no part of either of the first two. As demonstrated in egypt, libyia, iraq, afganistan, the current WH occupant isnt smart enough to know who to help.

Let me hit this at a slightly different angle..

Obama, as President of the United States, hasn’t been taken seriously on the World stage since day 1.

Nearly every word he utters is either false, or meaningless.

So, we have to bomb Syria to save the credibility of a President that never had any, and never seemed to care that he doesn’t?

Well, there’s nowhere left to retreat from, or to, in the Middle East. Next up: China, North Korea, and the western rim of the Pacific. More than two years of this crowd remains and a lot of lives are going to change forever. OJT’s over, school’s out, rubber’s on the road, emperor’s clothes coming off.

Hope ‘n change, indeed.

    Rick in reply to Owego. | August 28, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    More than 3 years left, which, as you say, is more than 2 years left. I write this only because I, like you, have thought about how much additional damage Obama will be able to inflict on our once-great county in the astonishing amount of time remaining in his second term.

Bolton’s analysis was excellent.

A tepid response to the use of WMD (gas), as BO is planning, sends the signal to the world that while use if WMD is bad, the penalty is small. So this planned limited strike by BO actually will encourge more bad (low cost)actions like this.

In other words, “too little” is worse than doing nothing.

This whole effort also has the feel of the Samantha Power “moral outrage of the moment” approach to foreign policy. A stupid basis for US foreign policy, but something the likes of BO can grab onto to fulfill his “ain’t-I-something-special” complex.

PersonFromPorlock | August 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm

A suggestion: bomb everyone, take over the country and install an occupation government until the Syrians have learned how to handle democracy by themselves. The logical leader for the occupation government, by virtue of his Nobel Peace Prize, international reputation as an enlightened human being and the fact that he got us into this mess, would be The Lightbringer himself, who would resign the presidency in order to become available.

This would solve a number of problems most satisfactorily.

I don’t get it. I thought all failed community organizers and part-time grievance law lecturers were brilliant strategists. This must just be a fake-out by Obama. One of those 3-D chess moves that the left is always telling us about. We’re just not smart enough to appreciate Obama’s genius, as always!

Why is everyone falling for the BS that Assad did it? I love Israel, but they make mistakes too and also have their own agenda. In either case, I DON’T CARE IF KORANIMALS ARE KILLING KORANIMALS!

Henry Hawkins | August 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Whether one side, the other, or both fighting sides in Syria deployed nerve gas misses the horrifying point in all this. It is irrelevant to Obama whether Assad used nerve gas – Obama’s crisis is that he is getting hammered politically, both domestically and from overseas, on the calling out of his red line challenge bluff and the way it reveals that he is a toothless puppy, all yap and wiggles and no bite (and he’s not even that – a puppy has a spine).

The Syrian strikes being threatened are about rehabilitating Obama’s lost ‘Butch’ image from killing Osama, with a secondary value as a distraction from all his other problems. The Benghazi cluster and this Syrian red line cluster have killed Obama’s butch mojo, and a Syrian strike’s only purpose is to get it back.

It is a political crisis Obama seeks to turn to his advantage, and to those who might respond that it’s idiocy, there is no ‘win’ in any of this, the reply is exactly – Obama is about to make yet another monumental mistake. When has Obama ever placed America’s needs above his own?

If he goes big with a Syrian attack, Obama could start a massive regional conflict, who knows, maybe even start WWIII. If he goes small, Assad (or whomever) will simply use nerve gas again, show Obama up again, call Obama’s bluff yet again, and invite further escalation.

Every foreign country he engages with plays Obama like a violin, and this newest episode is incompetence on a virtually unprecedented scale for a US president.

    JayDick in reply to Henry Hawkins. | August 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I like your analysis, but I don’t think going big would lead anywhere significant as long as ground troops are not involved.

    Obama’s not going to do that however, and the pinprick he is likely to inflict will make his credibility worse, not better, even in the U.S. He seems too stupid to see that, so he’ll probably lob in a few cruise missiles and declare victory. In view of that likelihood, I advocate doing nothing.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to JayDick. | August 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      The problem is that there is no predicting what other actors in the area might do. A reasonable country/leader might be thought not to do this or that, but half the countries/leaders over there are not reasonable or predictable.

    At this point I doubt Obama has the stones to back himself off the ledge.

    And that’s not good for the US.

    If I were in the Pentagon and asked for a suitable target at this point the only option I’d suggest is that we sink the entire Syrian Navy, which consists of a couple attack subs, a couple frigates, some mine sweepers and a slew of coastal patrol vessels.

    It’s a big enough hit to make other tinpots think twice, it limits Syria’s ability to make mayhem in the Eastern Med (whoever wins the ground war), strengthens Israels position relative to Syria, and does not directly alter the course of the current ground war.

    Plus the Russians might actually relish the opportunity to unload some of their own surplus Navy kit on Syria at some future date and time.

why is it our problem?

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.

“They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said.

So there’s that.

The Powers Doctrine “Duty to Protect” has been activated.

Has the chemical agent, its source, and its consumers been identified, traced, and confirmed?

There are some that subscribe to the school of thought that Obama is simply using this as an excuse to provoke an attack on Israel.

proxy wars…

UPDATE: Cindy Sheehan, and a number of women dressed in pink spotted setting camp along a desolate road in Crawford,TX.

ABC, NBC, CBS en route…live coverage @6:30 EST.

If Obama wants to be involved, give him a M4 and send his useless butt to Syria.

Henry Hawkins | August 28, 2013 at 4:18 pm

In the sphere of commentary online/on-air I’m hearing concerns that Obama is releasing too much info about what he’ll do, what will/won’t be targeted, timelines, etc., that this is really stupid….

That’s why I read this as a purely political action designed to rehab Obama’s (self) image as an international leader. He doesn’t care if Assad knows in advance the details of an attack. What the Obama admin is doing is releasing enough info for all the political biggies at home and abroad to declare whether they approve or not and show the vehemance with which they approve/disapprove. IOW, the attack detail leaks are nothing but trial balloons, to factor in while deciding whether to attack and how strongly.


If enough opposition arises, Obama will announce they are postponing the attack, based on whatever made up reasons his team thinks up. This announcement will come… you guessed it, this Friday afternoon or evening on a holiday weekend.

If enough support for the attacks arises after these trial balloons (or a sufficient lack of opposition), they’ll launch the attack in time for it to dominate the news cycle over the holidays.

More than any other, this administration is all politics all the time, no other considerations. Ignore military or diplomatic strategies – got nuthin’ to do with it. It is always about Obama’s political and personal needs.

    An easy out for Obama is for his excellent analytical team to discover that despite clear evidence that Assad did this, there also is evidence that it was a false flag event. All the evidence, however, must be kept secret.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to Rick. | August 28, 2013 at 7:41 pm

      That’ll work. My prediction for the reason if no attack will be that our UK allies have requested we hold off until the UN inspectors complete their investigation. When they leave and still no attack occurs, they’ll say they need to wait on the UN team’s official report. They’ll slow roll it until interest dies or the next Big Story puts it all back in the shadows.

Maybe I am missing the point. Aren’t the rebels aligned with the muslim brotherhood? Seems to me that Obama is doing everything he can to push the muslim brotherhood to power.

My guess is that Obama is stalling so this train falls off its tracks.

No, Obama is NOT happy with David Cameron! He blames him for stupidly opening the NSA can of worms, with the arrest of David Miranda. Where the British kept useless electronics. And, thought they could keep a journalist’s love interest for nine hours. Because you just can’t equate journalism with terrorism.

And, now Obama’s asked to step up to the plate and fire a massive show of force at Syria. Well, how’s libya working in in that department?

Just an observation. It has been commented that Obama only looks at domestic politics. The debt-limit is up in September/October (depending on how much money the military spends in Syria on “Operation Cluster”).

And Presidents routinely have more moral authority (for a short while) when they’re in the middle of military action. In this case, he can claim that if the debt limit isn’t raised, US soldiers will go without boots and cruise-missiles (they can borrow ammunition from DHS stockpiles).

As far as which side to back: which side is (1) more likely to attack the US domestically? Assad or Muslim fanatics opposing him? And (2) which side is more likely to respond to threats of being attacked, so that they are deterred?

That would be the side to back, from a purely strategic sense.

The answer to both appears to be Assad.


Shock & Awe Shucks & Awl

No CNN crew in Syria, so they release footage of cruise missiles being fired from a destroyer (stock footage from Soviet Black Sea war games, circa 1884)…

…followed by footage of a bombed out chemical weapons depot ( actual footage from Marine barracks, Beirut Lebanon, circa 1983)

I didn’t vote for this cluster-____ of a president.

So whatever box he built for himself is his alone.

I stand with Israel and whatever is good for her.

BannedbytheGuardian | August 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm

The Egyptian military killed more than 1000 in a few days. What makes one tut tut & another cruise missile worthy?

I think it might be for Cameron & Obama Elaine’s -Is he sponge worthy?

From the comments in newspapers – the answer is no.

BannedbytheGuardian | August 28, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Now Cameron has sent out Euro-Creep Daniel Hannan to say he is wise not weak

For me, this looks a lot like the situation in Europe, early August, 1939, just before the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed. The immediate aftermath was not then war but the awful runup to WWII, the only question then was the exact date when war start.

Obama’s line in the sand hasn’t meant much in the past but now his actions seem to announce the beginnings of something evil. We attack Syria (To achieve what end, what national USA interest is being endangered?), Syria attacks Israel or Iran attacks Israel (Same difference!), Israel defends itself by striking back at those who attack her, other Arabs states decide to join in that fun game in their combined effort to achieve what in fact?

No, Obama is taking us and the world back to those long ago days of August, 1939. Let’s hope I’m terribly wrong about this and the man with the Nobel Peace Prize wins out now; yet I do really doubt that he will gain anything but his entry into history!

Well, obviously, Professor, the thing to do here is to support the ‘rebels’, that way Al Qaeda will have their very own country once we push Assad out. Conveniently located right next to Israel.

Plus, those pesky Alawites that have supported Assad and his dad all these years won’t be around anymore to bother anyone. There won’t be any religious strife in Syria either, after they kill off any remaining Christians that failed to flee the country in time.

There won’t be any homosexuals left either, once the Islamists take control, with their annoying agitations for tolerance.

Think how much money they’ll save on eduction too, after they throw all the girls out of school. Well, except the ones they have to kill instead.

[…] “Cluster bombs won’t solve this clusterf***.” “Obama has boxed himself — and us — into a corner. Having demagogued issues of […]

it is pretty simple, just nuke syria on a day that the wind is blowing toward iraq…. there, no more use of chemical weapons.

I think you should think about what Bolton said on Greta Van Susteren this evening. Lets be clear. This is about Barack Obama and his credibility. The US has lost some as a result of his presidency but this is his doing, apart from America.

Reminds me of Little Big Man half-heartedly warning Custer not to go into the Little Big Horn.