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What will be done to Syria?

What will be done to Syria?

Mideast Media Sampler – 08/25/2013 – When is a red line not a red line? When there’s no precedent.

“It was quiet in Washington—it had been a summer busy with dispatches on the golf game of President Obama, and on the new first puppy, Sunny, the Portuguese water dog, the newest addition to the White House. Bashar al-Assad had taken the full measure of powers beyond.” The Shame of Syria by Fouad Ajami

According to the latest reports (via memeorandum) David Cameron of Britian is following up on France’s determination to consider military action against Syria.

Mr Cameron is said to have been left sickened by images of children killed by the chemical weapons.

One charity yesterday said at least 355 people had died and 10 times that number were treated for poisoning.

Britain and France have blamed the Assad regime for the chemical attack.

(The charity in question is Doctors without Borders. While the number of dead is significantly less than the 1300 or more claimed by the Syrian opposition, this number only represents what Doctors without Borders could confirm.)

If Bashar Assad has crossed a red line for Britain and France, did he cross one for the United States too?

Mark Landler and Michael Gordon of the New York Times report Air War in Kosovo Seen as Precedent in Possible Response to Syria Chemical Attack:

A senior administration official said the Kosovo precedent was one of many subjects discussed in continuing White House meetings on the crisis in Syria. Officials are also debating whether a military strike would have unintended consequences, destabilize neighbors like Lebanon, or lead to even greater flows of refugees into Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

“It’s a step too far to say we’re drawing up legal justifications for an action, given that the president hasn’t made a decision,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. “But Kosovo, of course, is a precedent of something that is perhaps similar.”

In the Mediterranean, the Navy’s regional commander postponed a scheduled port call in Naples, Italy, for a destroyer so that the ship would remain with a second destroyer in striking distance of Syria during the crisis. Pentagon officials said the decision did not reflect any specific orders from Washington, but both destroyers had on board Tomahawk cruise missiles, long-range weapons that probably would be among the first launched against targets in Syria should the president decide to take military action.

(Jack Goldsmith argues that the Kosovo intervention was not meant as a precedent.)

The question is whether President Obama is looking for a reason to back up his “red line” comment of a year ago, or is he simply trying to look deliberative?

Fred Kaplan of Slate argues for the former.

If he decides to use force, it’s the only position he could reasonably take. Given the threat, the humanitarian crisis, America’s standing in the region, and the importance of preserving international norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction, the best option might be to destroy huge chunks of the Syrian military, throw Assad’s regime off balance, and let those on the ground settle the aftermath.

On the other hand, former naval intelligence officer, J. E. Dyer sees the administration as posturing.

One, the deepest point of Syria is about 380 statute miles (600km) from the coast, but almost everything we might want to attack, to affect the Assad regime’s prosecution of the war, is less than 100 miles (160km) from the coast. The Tomahawk cruise missile, in the variant likely to be used (TLAM-C Block III), has a range of 1000 statute miles (1,600km). The less-likely TLAM-D has a range of 800 statute miles (1,250km). So U.S. Navy warships don’t have to get closer to Syria than the open waters of the central or east-central Mediterranean Sea.

This, in turn, means that no public explanations would ever be necessary – our warships are often in the central Mediterranean – and that the explanations are therefore being given, as verbosely as possible, for a reason. Presumably, it is to highlight, with fanfare, the fact that Obama is contemplating using cruise missiles against Assad. And that, presumably, is meant to warn and/or deter Assad.

Lately the administration sounds like it’s taking a harder stance.

With good reason.

Even now, however, the idea of military intervention is politically unpopular.

Though usually an interventionist, Obama booster, Thomas Friedman, isn’t bothered by the President’s inaction. In Foreign Policy by Whisper and Nudge, Friedman concludes:

Obama knows all of this. He just can’t say it. But it does explain why his foreign policy is mostly “nudging” and whispering. It is not very satisfying, not very much fun and won’t make much history, but it’s probably the best we can do or afford right now. And it’s certainly all that most Americans want.

I have no idea how well-connected into the administration he is, but this sounds like an apology in advance for inaction. Though some legislators see military action as likely, (qualified by Sen. Bob Corker’s “in a surgical way” i.e. more symbolic than substantive) I’m still unconvinced that the administration is inclined to act.

While I won’t deny that there are no good choices here, still, last year the President set out red lines. If he’s not adhering to them, he is undercutting America’s ability to project its power.


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whatever Ear Leader chooses to do will be stupid, ineffective and damaging to the US and its interests.

that’s his default setting.

What do I (Barry) have to lose?

The economy is bursting at the seams, upwards.

Untolds millions of jobs, are at the ready (and that does NOT count, the 50 or so on the Keystone Pipeline) with more coming.

Speaking of Keystone, it’s nearly completed.

I have rejected ALL waivers on the ACA plan and swear to All..umm, God, it will cost no more then ONE U.S. Dollar for EVERYONE. All companies regardless of size, are hereby granted reprieve from ANY TAX.

NSA AND the IRS have given me in writing, the Boy Scout Oath, that spying on American citizens, is OVER.

Benghazi, pffflltt, that is a balm for aching muscles and joints.

Diversion? You ask me if this IS A Diversion!? With everything going my way, as stated, how could this possibly be a DIVERSION,James Rosen!

The Kosovo intervention was wrong, and misrepresented the parties involved. The Syrian intervention will undoubtedly be wrong, and be justified through a misrepresentation of the parties involved.

That said, the rebels, domestic, foreign, and terrorist, have more to gain by exploiting WMD. Has there been independent determination of the source and consumer of those weapons? After our government’s actions in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Mexico, and America, I don’t trust them to act with integrity.

    Musson in reply to n.n. | August 26, 2013 at 8:57 am

    An attack on Nerve Gas stores with conventional weapons will most likely cause the Gas to be released. If Syria stores these weapons in populated areas – the attacker will be responsible for deaths among the civilian population.

With these guys everything is situational and ripe for rationalization. They dithered for a day on Benghazi, telling themselves that help would not get there for hoirs and by then it would be too late, and when the stubborn defenders held on, they repeated thee same mistake several times.

Whatever they do, it will be half-measured and pointless, like bombing aspirin factories. Reagan’s reaction to Libyan terror attacks was disproportionate and effective. Obama and Kerry will be far more nuanced. And next time, when Assad uses less gas, they’ll consider it a victory.

Anyone want to bet Obama will ask Congress for permission?

What is amazing is that both parties are using this crisis as a diversion. Obama clearly needs our attention diverted elsewhere so will sacrifice American lives to further his agenda. Then we have McCain and Graham saber rattling so that they can appear to be the leaders of the party, or at least divert our attention from the fact that the Republican party is divided and they are at the losing end with the rest of the RINO’s (at least I hope-heaven forbid that they don’t listen to the younger group). But, actually nothing will happen unless Russia agrees. Putin would clean the big O’s clock.

I’m sure that Tehran is paying very close attention to Obama’s [in]action.

So how does this work logistically? The United States does have an Air Force base in Turkey, but I am not sure Turkey wants to get into a war with its neighbor. We may still have some bases in Iraq. Is this something the Iraqi’s want to get involved in? Does Obama really want to reemphasize Iraq?

Of course they could use Israeli facilities. Is that something Obama really wants to do?

    Turkey is already involved. Maybe you did not read about those very serious incidents involving some Turkish aircraft caught in Syrian airspace.

“When is a red line not a red line? When there’s no president.”


“humanitarian” crisis is in my view an overkill in regard to how many were affected. The numbers are in fact very small.

There were more killed when Saddam Hussein released poison gas on the Kurds… and no one did anything about that crime!!

He will only do things that he can later blame Bush for.

Britain has been looking for any reason to be important in the Middle East since the 1956 Suez campaign, when they needed Israel to fight England’s battles against Egypt.

France, well, hasn’t been important since EVER!

Now they both expect Syria to tremble because they got their adult nappies in a bunch? Remember the weepy Royal marines picked up by Iran years ago? Not a peep from Great Britain. Color me frightened. Brit action should scare the crap out of any Brit soldier wounded in action that needs Britain’s National Healthcare for medial help.

Britain has been poisoning its own people in their unsanitary national hospitals, the French killing off their old people during summer heat waves.

And they are concerned there won’t be enough Muslims left to wage jihad against English and French targets if they are gassed by Assad?

Subotai Bahadur | August 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm

We now have a total of 4 destroyers and one unarmed command ship in the Mediterranean not counting supply ships. No carriers, no amphibious warfare ships. The Russians [ who support Assad] have 1 destroyer, 2 amphibious warfare ships [with 2000 troops], and a supply squadron. En-route, they have one destroyer, one frigate, and another amphibious warfare ship. There may or may not be either nuclear or conventional subs deployed.

We have a bunch of cruise missiles there, but no ballistic missiles despite what Associated Press says. The betting is that we will launch cruise missiles, real soon. Targets unknown. Various Congress-critters who are trying to show how important they are are saying so. Obama is making the assumption that no one will take exception to his launching missiles. Good thing he is infallible, isn’t it?

Subotai Bahadur

    There’s always a Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Med. ALWAYS. Wherever you got your information it’s wrong.

      Subotai Bahadur in reply to jdkchem. | August 26, 2013 at 12:04 am

      Which MEU? Which LHD’s/LHA’s? I can’t find it. We have been shorting the Med for the last few years. Instead of having CV’s assigned for tours in the Med, they are CHOPped while in transit. But they are just in transit. Same for MEU’s/ARG’s. During the Arab Spring/Benghazi killings we sure didn’t have them there. I would love to be proved wrong, but right now especially with the sequester we don’t have the forces there that I can see.

      Subotai Bahadur

Richard Aubrey | August 25, 2013 at 10:14 pm

During the Libya thing, I believe there were reports that we had to spot some munitions to our allies who were following from in front.
Which will show you how many munitions stuff like this takes.

BannedbytheGuardian | August 25, 2013 at 10:21 pm

This where you need voter I’d.

Only those identified as citizens can be part of the struggle.

Everybody else. – out.

At the time of Clinton’s illegal war against Serbia, I feared that it was deliberately designed to set a precedent for a potential attack on Israel. Having established the precedent, all a US president or SecState would have to do, when an Israeli PM started showing some spine, would be to unsubtly mention Kosovo, apropos of nothing in particular, and the PM would get the message and fold as expected.

America looks feckless and weak to our allies and adversaries alike, and it has little to do with the “red line” in Syria, we look feckless and weak because Obama IS feckless and weak. He’s botched every foreign policy challenge so far, badly, like the rank amateur he is.

In the long run, being dragged into launching a few cruise missiles and perhaps a few bombing sorties by embarrassment and the cajoling of France and the UK isn’t going to regain us any respect.

At this point, the best thing we can do for our own interests is to damage Assad’s forces as a punishment, preferably the chemical weapons depots if we can find them, his air power if we can’t, but not so much as to leave the regime crippled and losing the war.

With no good guys in the fight, our interests are best served by an ongoing war of attrition between bad guys. Civilian casualties are too bad, but there isn’t much to be done to prevent them in any case.

Henry Hawkins | August 26, 2013 at 11:13 am

If they do anything beyond saber rattling, I’d expect a gestural cruise missile or two at a symbolic target followed by a press briefing wherein things are said to assuage hawks, code language is spoken to assuage doves, and the media cockroaches will report that everything’s hunky-dory and gosh what a fine president we have.

Just because a cruise missile has a long range doesn’t mean you want to depend on it. The longer it has to function, the longer its one shot jet turbine has to run, the more likely that or another thing will malfunction. The more fuel that’s left at the end, the bigger the boom it’ll make, although against land targets that’s probably not significant.

Henry Hawkins | August 26, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Iran, intently eyeballing Obama eyeballing Assad:

“You used the words red line. I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”

Since an American ‘red line’ is now meaningless, what color line will be deployed against the ever nuke-nearing Iranians?

Whatever is done you can be sure our glorious leader will make sure that it is done in a way to be least effective and make us look like weak fools.

Case in point, the fact that nothing has been done yet. This seems to be a problem with the last couple of Presidents. Either cook or get out of the kitchen. If you are gonna take military action it should be decisive and swift. Especially when you are talking about not directly involving troops.

We could have launched cruise missiles and have already been denying it by now. Just use the same ploy that has been used over and over. “Yes, we realize that there were some explosions, but it wasn’t from our missiles.”