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Syria, Chemical Weapons, And The Intervention Question

With Jane Clayson in for Tom Ashbrook.

The question over Syria.  Chemical weapons use has been charged.  The “red line,” but uncertain.  Should the US intervene?

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks with reporters after reading a statement on chemical weapon use in Syria during a press conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks with reporters after reading a statement on chemical weapon use in Syria during a press conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP)

Hard questions for the US on Syria. The U.S. said evidence suggests the Assad regime has used chemical weapons. President Obama faces mounting pressure, from both sides of the aisle, to act.

Last summer he said he would do just that if the “red line” is crossed. A game changer.  Now, he wants more time. What would intervention look like? No fly zones? Arming the rebels?  Help with refugees? U.S. credibility is one the line, say some. A decade after faulty intelligence contributed to decision to invade Iraq, others urge caution.

This hour, On Point: the U.S. and the red line.


Anne Barnard, Middle East reporter for the New York Times. (@abarnardnyt)

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Blogs at “Syria Comment.” (@joshua_landis)

Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. (@shadihamid)

From The Reading List

The Atlantic (Shadi Hamid): Why Is There a ‘Red Line’ on Chemical Weapons but Not on 70,000 Deaths? — “These concerns are of course justified, but the focus on security implications — rather than focusing on the 70,000 already killed by good old-fashioned artillery and aircraft — suggests an outdated (and morally problematic) calculus for action. In saying that chemical weapons are a red line, the Obama administration is also saying that the killing of 70,000 Syrians is not a red line, which, when you think about it, is a remarkable thing to say.”

Reuters: Syria’s neighbors cautious about U.S.-led intervention — “Syria’s neighbors, wary of stirring a conflict that could spill back over their borders, would be reluctant partners in a U.S.-led intervention but are ultimately likely to support limited military action if widespread use of chemical weapons is proven.”

BBC News: Syria chemical weapons claims: UK and US tread cautiously — “The US, UK, Israel and others have been collecting evidence to try to determine whether chemical weapons have been used. The signs so far are that they have been, but politicians are being cautious of over-selling their level of certainty. This is partly because of the lesson of Iraq when too much was based on too little hard information and all the caveats and cautions surrounding intelligence were lost. And also partly because this time the political context is different.”

From the Hour

Listen here to a segment of the show where Landis and Hamid discuss the stakes of intervention:


LANDIS: Well it’s true that our red line has now moved. That of course makes you look weak. If we go in and invade Syria and destroy their military, we’re not going to make any friends in the Middle East. we’ve done this several times before and our ratings are at an all-time low. We’re not going to be loved in the Middle East for what we do in Syria. The Syrians ultimately have to figure this out. In America during our civil war 750,000 people were killed. We were only 34 million people in 1860. Syria is 23 million people. 100,000 have been killed. As America looking back on it today, I think very few Americans would have wanted an outside power to intervene in the United States and to keep Americans from killing each other in such massive numbers.

It’s not to say – it just raises the question, can we, can an outside power solve a civil war in a country. Every country has gone through a terribly bloody civil war. And I don’t know how we can stop Syria from going through this. This is where Shadi and I disagree profoundly. He things that a no fly zone would have stopped Al-Qaeda from getting into Syria, I don’t think so, Al-Qaeda is going to get in there. There is not a clear Syrian leadership. The Syrian Opposition that America supports has had three presidents in the last two weeks – they keep on changing.

JANE: Shadi, jump in here.

HAMID: Yeah, the bigger issue here is American credibility not just amongst Syrians but Arabs across the region. We’ve essentially sent them the message that there’s been an Arab Spring, but it’s business as usual. The U.S. only cares about a very narrow set of security interests we care about. Maybe chemical weapons or Iran, but when it comes to 100,000 Arabs being killed we will not act.

The Arab spring was supposed to force us as Americans to fundamentally reassess the way we look at the region – we have been supporting dictatorships for decades. And being part, playing a role in the destruction of the region. Now we have a change to get it right. So I think a lot of Syrians and Arabs are looking and saying: what’s going on here? And I would just disagree with Josh’s point on one thing. In Libya. Libya is the only country in the Arab world where the US has a high favorability ratings. Why?  It’s because we were on their side when they were suffering and we supported their struggle against Kaddafi in 2011. So things like this do make a difference and Syrians too will remember who was by their side. What I am hearing from Syrians now is anti-Americanism, that the U.S. is actually trying to hurt Syria and prevent them from moving forward, because they say if the U.S. had wanted to act they could have, but they haven’t.




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  • http://www.facebook.com/phil.norman.39 Phil Norman

    Tom,  I lived in Aleppo for 2 years, leaving in June of 2011, 3 months after the start of the conflict. I still have many friends, contacts and sources of information in Syria and initially was in favour of the rebels and was definitely not an Assad supporter. As things have developed and changed so has my opinion. The only hope for a secular Syria is to restore Assad’s power and with it restore the stability necessary for change. The opposition is far worse than Assad and will impose a very strict Islamic rule with no room for dissent. It is also very likely they will export terrorism to neighboring countries. The US and the west is on the wrong side of history at the moment. Time to change course.  Phil Norman, Hong Kong.

    • brettearle

      Let’s assume that you are accurate.

      Are you suggesting that when former Secretary State Clinton called for regime change, she, the President, the US intelligence agencies, as well as many Middle East diplomats from the West:

      Are in denial?

      Would literally allow the US to support unstable political situations that could fall prey to Islamic Fundamentalist takeover?

      Would allow the US to take positions, advocate policies, and nurture conditions that would put their own interests and allies at risk–by possibly permitting yet another radicalized Islamic takeover of a country or territory?

      After the Boston atrocity, I can’t imagine the United States making such a blunder–by abetting yet another major Al Qaeda Center.

      If that were to happen, then the US would be back in the  Middle East, big time–in, maybe, less than 4 years, becoming involved with military force, yet again.

      Do you really think that after Terror has come to our shores, yet, again, in recent days, that the US would be stupid enough to let such a political scourge happen?


      What’s more, the Russians, and possibly the Chinese, do NOT wish to see a country like Syria radicalized–for their own self-interests.

      Cooperation from Russia would be quite possible–should the US need to thwart such an extreme Transformation.

      • alsordi

        They are not in denial.  They are in collaboration with the straussian neocon lying murdering war-criminals and their PNAC (Plan for New American Century) to distablize the entire middle east to facilitate Israel’s safety and land theft.

        They don’t give a hoot about extremism and the blow back it caused (i.e. Boston Marathon, Patriot Act) cause these scumbags will live behind large concrete barriers and surveillance cameras for as long as they live.

        • brettearle

          You literally don’t know what you are talking about.

          Your malignant conspiracies feed right into the destructive angst of the extreme minority–who help to put everyone into a prolonged and desperate panic.

          It is witless propaganda, like yours, that set us all back centuries.

          • alsordi

            YOURS is the PROPAGANDA meant to panic the world. 

            I know quite well the discord the neocons and zionists have brought to this world to feed the post Soviet arms industry and to create the new contrived bogeyman called “terrorism”  that has US stormtroopers on armed vehicles running the suburban streets.

            Literally???  Your above response was hypocritical nonsensical blabbing.

          • brettearle

            Oh, no question….

            Obama is a NeoCon. 

            Do humanity a favor….

            Let us know when the medication wears off.

          • alsordi

            Brett, You can only offer insults in response??

            BTW  No..Obama is not a neocon.  He is merely an articulate guy in a suit…a political hand puppet…for neocons.

          • brettearle

            When ignorance becomes destructively extreme, such as in your case, the only option is to reveal the personal truth.

          • alsordi

             Wah ???
            You must have a mirror in front of you.

          • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

            OK guys… It looks to me like the neocons now have you both wound up attacking each other unsure of who’s an ally and who’s an enemy. I see Neocons… They’re everywhere, they don’t even know that they are neocons…

            Before you guys bite back, just let me acknowledge that this will teach me to get involved in a dog fight.

            That said, I agree that economically speaking, Obama fell under the spell of Wall Street. They should have lined Wall Street and K Street with heads on pikes in ’09 or ’10 but no one has gone to jail for the greatest heist in all of history.

          • http://twitter.com/sanyarey Gole

            I agree– humanity has no clue or favor since the international community is getting more more irresponsible when it comes to human suffering  and human rights.  Such mindset is dangerous because today it is Syria tomorrow it will be  some-where else– it will be the order and the norm not evil to resist whoever is causing it .

          • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

            Has the middle east ever been stable ?
            Especially since boundaries were drawn at the end of WW I and then again after WW II? Now that was nation building! BP, American Big Oil were the first neoCONS and they were quite successful… for a few decades.

            The intense social bifurcation and poverty in this desert region has bread millions of ignorant poor ready to be exploited by ultra-right power mongers wearing the trappings of holiness.

            We also invoke the name of God in our ‘diplomacy’ and military actions.

            Our home grown neoCONs have slowly employed similar tactics here to erode our civil rights and protect the financial interests of the wealthy further stratifying our own society and polarizing our politics.

            We look as evil and crazy to folks in the middle east as extremists in the middle east look to us.

            One difference is that we have killed many more millions of people in our declared and undeclared wars dating back to 1900.

            One other major difference is that we have a military industrial complex on K Street which bless us with smart bombs, stealth fighters and drones… lots of drones.

            After WWII, Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld would have been hanged as war criminals if they had been Nazis.

            I don’t know if you can call any of this conspiracy, after all, most of it was all done in broad daylight to the cheers of flag waving party members.

            Who stood up and cried foul? Not many in our corporate-owned press. Abu-Graib felt like it was treated more like an embarrassment than a shameful war crime… and no politician or higher up has be brought up on charges for the systematic torture.

            I could go on and on but… Nuff Sed

          • brettearle

            I was NOT supporting Middle East policies, advocated by Bush and Cheney.

            You, too, are partially missing the point.

            If you think Obama’s policies support US hegemony–in the same way that Bush II did–then there is no point in debating the issues, with you.

            If you wish to `rope’ Obama in with Bush II/Cheney–vis a vis a vis Middle East policy, then you’re also a lost cause.

            You are trying to suggest that Obama would have invaded Iraq; and you are also trying to suggest that Al Qaeda is NOT a threat to US security and, therefore, every US President would fight Al Qaeda, simply as a charade? 

            I do not completely support Obama’s foreign policy.

            But I believe that, despite upholding certain parts of the expanded Patriot Act, Obama is more temperate and restrained….by comparison to Bush II.

            For you to only see Foreign Policy as all-or-nothing or black-and-white–regardless of who is in office–does nothing but to show up your political bias.

          • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

            No I am not suggesting that Obama would have invaded Iraq and I do not completely support Obama’s foreign policies. NOr did I say that foreign policy is not dictated by our political leaders.

            The military industrial complex has enabled the good and bad decisions of whoever has been in power.

            There are no black and white answers in foreign policy but when it comes to the Geneva convention and definition of torture it becomes a little more clear.

            Furthermore the effectiveness of torture is near zero although torture advocates continue to keep the debate alive in right wing discourse. Zero Dark Thirty for example was fiction which made it look like torture works and did us no service in overseas PR. Propaganda like that only galvanizes, inspires and mobilizes our enemies.

            Please be careful not to put words in mouth.

          • alsordi

            Advocated by Bush And Cheney ???  Aren’t you the expert in omission.  How about a couple dozen neoconservatives, the PNAC and the most powerful of all…AIPAC.
            …Bush and Cheney???  you are a funny guy Brett !!!

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Even if Syria is using chemical weapons, I do not believe that we should get involved in this quagmire.  Most Arab countries hate us now and certainly would not trust our motive for getting involved.  Radicals will end up coming into power who will use it as a launching pad for terrorism, so it will be used against us in the end anyway. We get criticized for trying to be the policeman of the world.  I would not want to lose my son or daughter fighting this losing battle.  We already have enough debt as a country.

    Let’s let our back stabbing allies like the French take the lead on this one for a change.  Let them spend their blood and treasure trying to fix the world instead of it always having to be us.

    • brettearle

      Obama will be criticized for “leading from behind” by many, in the Washington GOP–should he allow other countries to be the prominent allies, if there were to be an intervention.

      That is an issue–but, ultimately, this would likely not affect Obama’s Syrian policy.

      Obama has a very thin line to walk–because of his public proclamation that the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons would be a game-changer.

      The only way, perhaps, that an effective strategy might be accomplished would be to surgically target Al Qaeda leaders in certain parts of Syria–should the country become more and more radicalized by Islamic Fundamentalism.

      Hard to do.

      But it seems to me that if Chemical Weapons have actually been used by Assad, then Obama–partially, because of his public announcement of “drawing the line” with chemical weapons–does not have a wide range of options.

      • BHA_in_Vermont

         It does not matter what Obama does, the GOP will claim it was the WRONG thing and they would have done much better.

      • sickofthechit

         I believe Obama’s words were something like “If we see major movement of chemical weapons or major use of chemical weapons”.  Does this rise to the level of “major”?

    • sickofthechit

       Please don’t call the French back-stabbers.  Were it not for the French we would all still be talking with British accents!  They were right on Iraq and they kind of lead the way on Libya I believe.

  • Shag_Wevera

    What could happen to make me want to intervene in Syria?  I suppose attacks on Turkey or other friendlies would convince me to offer assistance. 

    Direct involvement?  Pretty much under no circumstances.  We have shown over the years that we can completely ignore humanitarian catastrophes.  I think this is one to ignore.

    Besides…  Who are the “good guys” in this conflict?  Who exactly would we help?

    • Gregg Smith

      Because of our inaction there are no good choices. Bold leadership 2 years ago would have saved an awful lot of bloodshed.

      • northeaster17

        Who should we have sided with?

        • Gregg Smith

          That’s a tough one. It’s above my pay grade. I guess my point is that kicking the can down the road only serves to make things worse. To be honest, and this may be the case I don’t know, we should have already been identifying and supporting factions for positive change years ago. Hopefully, through propaganda, covert operations, international cooperation and whatever other means necessary we anticipated and can guide the process. It doesn’t seem to be the case though. In the mean time 75K have been killed. Rwanda should have taught is a lesson.

          • alsordi

            The USA is already responsible for many of the 75K dead, by exactly the means you describe.

        • DrewInGeorgia

          We don’t side, we Capitalize.

          • Gregg Smith

            I think I see what you mean and you may be on to something.

      • jimino

         Precisely what should a bold leader have done?

        • Gregg Smith

          Led boldly.

          • jimino

            So you have no actual ideas, but are capable of stringing words together. 

          • Gregg Smith

            See my reply to Shag. 

            I also support finding a cure for cancer but don’t know how to go about it.

  • Gregg Smith
  • OnpointListener

    “I’m a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel,”
    Quoting Haim Saban, the founder of the Saban Center.


  • philrho

    I think the discussion doesn’t look outside the borders of the region as well as it might. Russia is a big dog in this battle and if the US goes in supporting the rebels, might Russia go all in supporting Assad? Would this make Syria yet another proxy war between the US and Russia? Russia really has much more to lose if the rebels take over Syria and their chemical weapons.

    I’d like to see the US and Russia work out a way to let Syrians determine their own future but together corral the chemical weapons.

    If the rebels do win over Syria, the larger issue is the much bigger battle for the whole region. Shiite versus Sunni throughout the Middle East. (we’re already seeing this play out in Labanon) Where the common enemy before was always Isreal, now the combatants are Muslim vs Muslim. The US on the side of the Sunnis and Russia on the side of Shiites. This is a terrible equation for the US policy makers.

    I would like to know, from the guests/experts coming up on the show what is the likelihood of this devolving into a regional war between much larger powers?

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    There is no single trusted “opposition” in Syria. Supporting the “opposition” could likely as not repeat the gaff in Afghanistan when we supported what became the Taliban.

    The suggestion that if we don’t help the “opposition” Syria will become a failed state. Face the facts, Syria is already a failed state.

  • MarkVII88

    Obama will get hammered no matter what decision he makes about intervention in Syria.  In my own opinion, I’d rather Obama get hammered for choosing to stay out of Syria.  It’s a simple matter of dollars and cents.  We cannot afford to spend more tens of billions of dollars getting involved in another conflict.  At some point, you have to take care of your own house first and I think that time is now.  It’s not like the US has never stayed out of a conflict before either.  Remember Rwanda and all the bloodshed, genocide, and human suffering. What did the US really do about that?

  • Scott B

    It wasn’t strictly “faulty intelligence” that the Bush admin had, like it was all saying the same thing, “Iraq has WMD’s and looking to make nukes.”  “Faulty” also implies that there were parts that were unknown and sketchy, but that info they had was known to be false, and that’s a huge difference.  They had more than plenty of evidence that Iraq didn’t have any of that. The Bush admin knowingly chose to  use information they knew wasn’t just faulty but false, and that’s criminal.

  • spiral007

    Stay out, we have already done more harm than good by encouraging our proxies (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan) to stir trouble. We should start with telling in no uncertain terms our client states to butt out and let Syria solve its own problems.

  • donniethebrasco

     Obama has blinked.

  • J__o__h__n

    I hope On Point goes back to rotating guest hosts.

  • donniethebrasco

    Sit back for 60 minutes of why Obama isn’t wrong and why it is George Bush’s fault.

  • J__o__h__n

    All of these limited engagements remain that way, and if not, we will be greeted as liberators. 

  • sickofthechit

    On the BBC’s reporting this morning on the bombing attempt on the Syrian official it was brought out that the close call may have actually been orchestrated by Assad’s regime itself to quell the call for intervention based on their own use of chemical weapons.  Kind of an attempt at sleight of hand so to speak. charles a. bowsher

  • TomK_in_Boston

    When I hear “Red line” it makes me wanna puke. All it makes me think of is “Saddam’s WMD”. Just like with the WMD lies and the attack on the US destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, our inept media can’t wait to cheerlead for the next war. Geez! I don’t hear any skepticism. Any faction that wants us in has a motivation to plant chemicals or spin stories. By contrast, why would Assad risk it?

    If Assad goes, we’ll get an islamic state. The syrian christians, who have been there for 2000 years, will be driven out. Assad is no saddam. Why does he have to go?

    • William

       Good points.

    • creaker

      We didn’t have much to say about Saddam’s use of chemical weapons until he invaded Kuwait years later.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        We and our allies gave/approved Saddam’s chem weapons when Reagan was using him as a pawn to attack iran. Tens of thousands of Iranians died horrible deaths and there was no “Red line”, to say the least.

  • creaker

    One of the primary reasons for the Soviet Union’s downfall was overextending themselves militarily – we’re already a long way down that road.

    When we can’t handle a $85 billion sequester, the only way we could extend ourselves into Syria is to haul out the national credit card and get ready to charge up another trillion or so.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Patrick-Dwyer-Jr/100002088204784 James Patrick Dwyer Jr.

       Rome, Spain and the Dutch had the same problem of overextending themselves.

  • creaker

    This needs to be discussed in front of a backdrop of an Iraq that is falling apart due to violence – and a new story that CIA bribes to Karzai for years have been funnelled to warlords and the factions we’ve been fighting in Afghanistan.

    • jimino

      Exactly right.

      We can achieve (sic) chaos and violence in such countries without spending a lot of money and our own citizens’ lives. 

      Before we jump into another conflict, those who advocate for doing so MUST clearly and publicly define what we intend to do and how they will define and hope to achieve victory.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Bags of $millions to Karzai and warlords. Can anyone think of a project in the USA that could benefit from a garbage bag with $1 million in it?

      • Ray in VT

        Yes, it’s called Get Me Some Schwag, and it is a project designed to get me nicer stuff.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Patrick-Dwyer-Jr/100002088204784 James Patrick Dwyer Jr.

    Before we get involved in any military action anywhere, congress needs to approve and pay for it, and the draft board needs to be brought back to life, then lets see how anxious  politicians are to get things started.

  • DeJay79

    Not interested in going in no matter the case made…sry

  • sickofthechit

    This was typed in response to James Patrick Dwyer Jr.s call for a rational path to any future wars.
    I think the only people who should get to decide whether we go to war are the people drafted and their families.  charles a. bowsher

  • MarkVII88

    I think your guest is drastically overestimating how much support intervening in Syria would have if Obama made the case for it to the population.  Most Americans wouldn’t give two poops about the situation in Syria given the domestic issues we’re facing now and have been facing as the result of the last 10 years of conflicts and horrible policies.

    • Markus6

      Agreed. And personally, I think we are out of our minds for getting involved there. Have we learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan? Have we forgotten that we’re 16 trillion or so in debt? Do we not know that if we break something, we’re on the hook to fix it. So, we’re going to help rebuild parts of Syria with money borrowed from the Chinese while we’re drowning in debt. 

      We really are idiots. 

    • http://twitter.com/mjhall Matthew J Hall

       No more blank-check wars, plz

  • William

    Obama will be much better off to toss this issue to the UN and give a great speech how the world court will hold the government of Syria accountable etc..etc..etc…

  • Kyle

    We use our military for humanitarian reasons, and help other countries with it.  That is the usual justification for war from this side.  The problem is we don’t get paid for it.  We wasted tons of resources in the first gulf war, but Kuwait prospered.  We saved people in the Balkans, but no one paid us.  We have a debt problem and can no longer afford it.  It is unfortunate, but unless the UN or someone else is going to put together a fund to  hire the US military, we can’t afford to go in

  • MarkVII88

    The US doesn’t have to be forced to do anything about Syria, any more than other members of the UN or NATO.  There are more nations than just the US on the UN Security Council.  Perhaps the US is just the only nation dumb enough for the rest of the world to think we’ll just wade on into Syria in the name of righteous freedom and justice?  If we do that, we’re a nation of saps.

  • creaker

    The age of the superpowers is over – regardless of what people want we just can’t afford to be the world’s police. There are no superpowers anymore, just countries.

  • Designerwoman2

    Why is the concern so great for the Syrian conflict now,
    when hundred of thousands were killed in Rwanda and
    we did NOTHING.

  • Jim

    the cost of breeding terrorism in Syria is just too too high. there is no living way for the US to enter another war. WE ARE POOR and we have HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT. Please ask Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran to be involved. I’m sure they have an interest to be involved. we cannot be suckered into another foreign conflict.

  • Dee

    Who cares what the Republicans thinks anymore…in the 
    coming years the GOP will be on the endangered species 
    list and people like myself will say Good Riddance to it…
    The GOP has come to represent Wall Street over Main 
    Street and the Zionist land thieves in Israel and their 
    settlements (Right Wing Think Tank) in Washington…

    Now the GOP has become a despicable party and the 
    sooner it is joins the Endanger Species List the better.Regime was NEVER part of the Syrian People non-violent call for government reform and indeed all this ganging upon Syria is a direct assault on the democratic process and if Obama joins this war mongering group he might as well turn in his President seal now as he will be abandoned by his grassroot supporters across the country…..War on the Syrian People , Chris Marsden http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/05/pers-m31.htmlFriends of Syria, Not friends of the Syrian People. http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_64501.shtml

  • Jim

    Shadi, you mention terrorism might bite us in the future. you are absolutely right. that is why the US should NOT be involved. let Assad’s regime clear out the terrorists.

    • Human898

      We’ve already been and are bitten by terrorism.  Syria has not fomented peace and love for the U.S. and neither has al Qaeda, who would we be supporting, who would we be fighting and how would that diminish anger toward us?

  • myop9

    There is almost no way for the U.S. to be loved in the Middle East at this point. For example: We backed the Egyptian revolution (rightly so) and backed the voter’s choice of Morsi (reluctantly) because it was will of the people. We are now deeply resented there by half the populace who see us as backing the hated Muslim Brotherhood. We are in a no win situation and its too late to rectify things. We destroyed our credibility in Iraq and have to take the consequences.

    • hennorama

      myop9 – your statement “We destroyed our credibility in Iraq and have to take the consequences” can be seen as clear justification for proceeding cautiously regarding determining whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria, in what quantities, and by whom.

      The invasion of Iraq was based in part on cherry-picked intelligence and on far too little verifiable information. There is no way this President is going to make a similar mistake, especially given the clear war-weariness (and war-wariness) of the American public.

  • John Drinane

    I hear these callers complaining about our financial situation and using it as an excuse not to act. Look, our country spends more money on the military the next 10 countries combined (correct me if I’m wrong on that stat) and we have put ourselves in a “world police” position. We are obligated to act based on our self appointed roll as the world security force. If we don’t want to be looked at as the go to country to act in these situations and “get our house in order”, drop military spending drastically by scaling it down over the next decade or two and reinvest in our own infrastructure and education.

    • Human898

      Whose “self-appointed role”?

      • John Drinane

        Maybe “self appoint” wasn’t the best choice of words. What i mean by this is we set a standard with Iraq and Libya among others I’m sure. We stepped in and deposed dictators, supported democracies, controlled weapons of mass destruction etc… on many occasions.  Even the whole war on terror basically says if you can’t police your state well enough to prevent terrorist groups from organizing and finding safe havons we will step in with or without your consent. 

        • Gregg Smith

          I agree regarding Iraq but in Libya, France took the lead as we dithered and Gadaffi regained his foothold. 

    • Kyle

      I disagree, I think that we should cut our military spending and relinquish the title of world police.  We spend 4 1/2% of our GDP on the military.  No EU country spends more than 2 1/2%.  If the UN or EU wants to fund our military, fine.  Otherwise we need to cut spending and sit on the sidelines like the other Western Nations.  We paid our blood price for freedom just over 200 years ago, and have built a mostly peaceful domestic society because of it.  So have all of the European countries.  They can do the same in the middle east.

      • John Drinane

        I actually agree with what you are saying personally. We need to cut back and create a more democratic evenly spread world force to handle these types of situations so the american people are baring the brunt of the monitory costs  (I wont get into the human cost here). In my comment I was just pointing out that today we are the big gun and as such if the world calls for military action they look to us to act as they should. We as a country have to really think about weather our huge military is worth having for many reasons but also if it means we always feel pressured to step in to conflicts like this.

        • Tyranipocrit

          we dont feel pressured–its all a stage and we are the puppet masters.  All of it is manufactured–even our so-called consent.  

      • Tyranipocrit

        and thus–”terorist” attacks would end because we are no longer in thier region terrorizing them and bullying people.  Problem solved.  only–th eproblem is–we want terorrism and instability to feed the WMD complex.

    • Gregg Smith

      That’s a great point. I’d add if we are not the go to country the void will be filled. 

    • Trond33

      I agree, there is a big difference between self defense and having a offensive military that sees its mission as global.  The US could cut military spending by 50% and still have the worlds strongest offensive military force.  

  • daravl

    Now is the time for a new U.S. approach to helping bring peace to the world, and as such I support Pres. Obama’s reluctance to get involved militarily. If the primary driver of this struggle is between Suni and Shia peoples and is centuries old, we should not take sides! What we can do is to urge resolution that speaks to the deepest roots of the conflicts between these peoples.

  • Dee

    The absurdity of Jane comparing the events in Syria to 
    Rwandan…If this isn’t adding to the fear mongering 
    Zionist apologists I am not sure what is anymore…..

    Here is the voice of JFK we should be listening today
    not the war mongers who talk about more death and 
    destruction and “surgical strike”…They are gross and 
    shouldn’t be allowed on our airwaves. They are Ameri-
    ca’s Al Quaeda today….

    • jefe68

      “ fear mongering Zionist apologists ” 
      Why does this rhetoric remind me of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

      • Tyranipocrit

         absurd comment–get off your high horse–nobody was thinking that accept you

  • creaker

    If we overthrow the current government in Syria – and the killing continues under a new regime, what will we have accomplished?

  • Human898

    One problem we seem to have is that if we go into “save the day” and “save lives” we’re hated, if we don’t we’re hated.   So can someone tell us what we do that will not have people disliking us, no matter what we do? If we are to be hated no matter what, wouldn’t it be better to remove ourselves completely from the Middle East, including Israel, and let them all choose their own destinies? How do people attack the U.S. for interferring, then propose to attack it for not interferring? I know reality has turned upside down in the world, but “logic” also seems to have become extinct.

  • Dee

    Dianne Finstein would do well to look in the mirror and 
    recall how the US government used Agent Orange against 
    the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War and sent 
    65,000.00 GIs to their early graves and many more are 
    the walking wounded on our city streets and hospitals &
    community centes today.

    In addition, it was the US government that authorized the 
    dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Thus I would like to ask Diane Feinstein who gave her 
    the moral authority to sit in judgement of the Assad 
    Regime today? 

    Or the indeed the Israelis who poisoned the Palestinian 
    Peoples water and their animals during the events of 
    1948 (see URL) and dropped US cluster bombs on that 
    civilian population during the bombing campaign of Gaza 
    in 2008-2009…….Dee 

    P.S. Or Turkey who massacred the Kurds and Armenians.
    Now, we can begin to see the hypocrisy of those pointing
    the finger at the Syrian Leadership. They are full of ab-
    solute bullsh*t in my book……Dee 


    • JobExperience

       Round-up is still killing millions.

    • William

       But JFK led the charge into Vietnam so should we not curse him too?

      • Tyranipocrit

        irrelevent comment.

    • jefe68

      You’re all over the map here. It’s interesting and very telling how the Holocaust is not on your list.

      • Tyranipocrit

         you’re absurd.  Dont insinuate.  If criticizes Israel he must be what…Israel can do no wrong.  jews can do no wrong because of the holocuast nearly a century ago.  Absurd.

  • hennorama

    are those who consider Syria to be a trap for al Qaeda, set by the
    West to encourage al Qaeda members and supporters to self-identify,
    then voluntarily come into a conflict where they can be killed more
    easily. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said this in December,
    according to The Australian newspaper:

    Americans, Europeans and some governments in the Arab and Muslim
    world have set a trap for you in Syria,” the head of Lebanon’s
    most powerful military force said.

    have opened the entire country for you to congregate there from all
    corners of the world and kill one another,” he said, in a speech
    broadcast during an annual university graduation ceremony in the
    southern suburbs of Beirut on Sunday [Dec. 16, 2012].”


    course, Hezbollah is a long-time supporter of Assad’s regime.
    Hezbollah is a Shiite organization and views extremist Sunni groups
    like al Qaeda as enemies. Remember that most of the opposition
    groups in Syria are Sunni, and that Assad and many in his regime are
    Alawites (a Shiite sect). Most of the Syrian populace are Sunni
    Muslims (about three quarters, per the CIA Factbook), yet the regime
    is predominantly Alawite.

    minority Alawite rule has its origins in the post-WWI French
    mandate/colonial period. The French recruited Alawites to join
    their local military forces, partly to counter the anti-French Sunni
    majority. Alawites eventually dominated the post-independence Syrian
    military, and eventually took political control via military coup.

    has been drawn into fighting along the Syria-Lebanon border, although
    it publicly says it is merely protecting Shiites on the Lebanese side
    of the border. Some of their fighters have been killed, but the dead
    have been brought back slowly and in small groups, in order to keep
    Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria as quiet as possible.

    “quiet” involvement of Hezbollah may change soon, as the
    following articles indicate:

    Prepares for Attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra in Lebanon”


    Syrian Conflict Pits Hezbollah Against Jabhat al-Nusra”


    role in Syrian civil war drives sectarian tension in Lebanon”





  • acomfort

    The killing can be stopped very quickly if the US and their allies would start supporting Assad and stop supporting the foreign fighters in Syria.
    If correct, this begs the question . . . does the US want to save lives or does it have another agenda, like installing a democracy?
    Why are you laughing?

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Is any reporter looking into the possibility that a Syrian “Curveball” is spinning stories about chem weapons designed to  manipulate our actions, or are they all going to be Judith Millers running around yelling “Red line crossed!” Red line crossed!”…

    It doesn’t make sense to me. The world’s superpower, with a history of meddling in the ME, says chem weapons use is a “Red line”, and Assad would use a “small amount” of sarin? Surely I’m not the only one who can see that’s a pretty terrible risk/reward situation?

    • hennorama

      TomK_in_Boston – some have speculated that if “Assad … use[d] a ‘small amount’ of sarin” that this use would be designed as a test of U.S. policy, to see if there really is a “red line”.

      Others have pointed out that opposition entities also have motivation to “use a ‘small amount’ of sarin”, and to then subsequently blame the Assad regime, for the same reason – to test the U.S. “red line” and to effectively force greater U.S. involvement.

      The history of the Middle East and the various complex motivations of the parties there allows one to give credence to virtually any possible scenario, including the two above.

      For that reason any a host of others, caution is required.

      • Gregg Smith

        The Prime Minister of Qatar was at least one person positing the theory of testing the “red line”  with a small amount. Asaad got his answer. 

        And remember, the “red line” as recently as August didn’t even require the use of chemical weapons, just moving them around. 

        • hennorama

          Gregg Smith – your statement “Asaad [sic] got his answer” is a conclusion that requires one to first conclude

          a. Assad used chemical weapons in Syria
          b. if Assad did use chemical weapons in Syria, their use was intended as a question, such as to whether a “red line” actually existed, and/or if a “red line” actually existed, would a very limited use of chemical weapons constitute “crossing the red line”.

          Further, while I personally feel the use of the term “red line” is almost always inadvisable, Pres. Obama’s various statements left considerable wiggle room as to the definition of such a “red line”.

          Regarding your statement “the “red line” as recently as August didn’t even require the use of chemical weapons, just moving them around” – Pres. Obama was quoted as saying this last August:

          “A red line for us is (if) we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus”.

          The phrase “a whole bunch of” leaves considerable room, and was undefined.


          • Gregg Smith

            Fair enough but I have concluded “a” and I think it’s clear. Several blood test have come back positive and various intelligence sources around the globe agree. The PM of Qatar explained it well, I linked it the other day. But anything is possible and I suppose we need to be sure. I just don’t think there is a way to be 100% sure short of a massacre and to be accurate there has already been a massacre. It just did not include (as far as we know) chemical weapons but 75 thousand are just as dead. 

            “Whole bunch of” does indeed leave wiggle room but as I said the red line at that point did not require their use.

            My opinion is a red line with wiggle room is not a red line at all. A red line by definition has zero wiggle room.

          • hennorama

            Gregg Smith – TY for your response.

            Indeed, without inspectors getting access to the suspect area and being able to gather forensic and anecdotal information, conclusions become dicey propositions, and certainty is impossible. International treaties on chemical weapons established strict standards of proof, and such proof is not obtainable without access. Sarin itself presents a particular problem due to its volatility and rapid evaporation.

            It seems clear that the administration wishes they could take back the “red line” term, as the term has been and continues to be problematic for the reasons you and others have articulated.

            There have been and are no clear and easy solutions for the variety of current and potential problems in Syria. There’s no apparent political solution, and even if Assad were to simply leave, how the power vacuum created by his abdication would be filled remains unclear. Military intervention poses additional difficulties.

            As I wrote earlier, when it comes to Syria, there are only choices between various lesser and greater evils. It’s no wonder President Obama’s hair continues to go grey.

            [EDIT/ADD]: One must note that Pres. Obama indicated in his news conference today that in regard to chemical weapons in Syria, “how they were used, when they were used, who used them” remain uncertain.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        hennorama, I suppose Assad cd be testing the waters, but it seems unlikely to me. The world will not let him use enough to make a difference, and he risks losing everything. I don’t see the reward/risk for him toying with sarin. Who knows, maybe he really is stupid. The main thing is that the media don’t jump on the war wagon and consider all the possibilities, including that someone is pitching us another “Curveball”.

        • hennorama

          TomK_in_Boston – Thank you for your response. I appreciate and respect your views.

          Indeed, the “high risk/low reward” aspect of chemical weapons use by Assad argues against Assad having used them. This lends credence to the idea of opposition entities using them to create a false case against Assad and his regime.

          Assuming that chemical weapons have actually been used, of course. The evidence indeed seems to be both substantial and mounting, but significant questions remain.

          As I said to another poster, there is clear justification for proceeding cautiously regarding determining whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria, in what quantities, and by whom.

          The invasion of Iraq was based in part on cherry-picked intelligence and far on too little verifiable information. There is no way this President is going to make a similar mistake, especially given the clear war-weariness (and war-wariness) of the American public.

          Imagine if US and other forces were committed based on what evidence is currently available, and it later turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by anti-Assad entities hoping to force greater US and other Western involvement. There are already sufficient nightmare possibilities in ANY US military involvement in Syria, even if there was clear proof that Assad himself fired weapons containing chemical agents into crowds of women and children.

          On this topic, much more proof is needed. Let’s allow the investigations to continue before we, as you wrote “jump on the war wagon”.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            Thanks hennorama, I agree and I enjoy your contributions also.

  • mdouglas40324

    Agreed, USA is not police of the world, other superpowers can take some action. HOWEVER, USA needs to acknowledge and examine its foreign policy and global corporate actions that have led to instability in the Middle East, Africa, etc. Hello?? Iraq, Afghanistan? We are culpable.

    • brettearle

      You are forgetting the Arab Spring that began with a rebellious vendor on the streets of Tunis.

      This one event spread into an ever-expanding political transformation that is still going on.

      The US can well accept their share of blame for Middle East instability.

      But the Arab Spring was a major contributor–regardless of whether that kind of `instability’, or change, was good, or bad, for the Arab peoples.

  • Trond33

    Syria is a major conundrum, it is very dangerous to take sides in a civil war.  Even in humanitarian role, you never know how you will change the balance of power.  Civil strife takes one or two (or more) generations to overcome.  Look at Northern Ireland.  

    However, it is time the community of nations overcome their geopolitical squabbling and self interests to for a coordinated response to situations that have regional or global repercussions.  Under the auspices of the United Nations, there should be structure under which to quickly assemble a military response.  It should incorporate a 50/50 military mix of the big three (United States, Russian and China), with the rest from regional nations.  Essentially ongoing military cooperation of the big three for rapid deployment of necessary forces. 

    In Syria such a scenario would play out with a limited role to neutralize chemical weapons stores and maybe establish safe havens.  It would take a multi-national force, under UN control, for a limited engagement and a longer deployment of a rapid reaction team if conditions calls for them.  

    This would send a strong message to any one nation that even in a civil war, there are limits to what the global community will tolerate.  Furthermore, it forces the big three and regional powers to act rationally for the greater good.  Something like this might even stop the United States, Russia and China from continuing to flood the worlds trouble spots with the weapons of war.  

    • hennorama

      Good luck getting the nations you describe as “the big three (United States, Russian [sic] and China)” to work together.

      • Trond33

        I know – but if they would work together, we would be far down the road of de-militarizing the world.  

      • brettearle

        The Islamic Fundamentalist angle for the Russians might, ultimately, make them more cooperative, if the US were to directly intervene, with their own boots on the ground.

        • hennorama

          brettearle – good point. However, this “breaking” report from rt.com might change their mind, or might instead “add fuel to the fire”:

          ‘Missiles fired at’ Russian plane with 159 passengers onboard flying over Syria


          “Two missiles were reportedly fired at a Russian plane with at least 159 passengers on board that was flying over Syrian territory. Russian officials admit the jet faced danger, but are not talking of a targeted attack.

          “The news broke in on Monday as Interfax, citing “an informed source in Moscow,” reported that a Russian passenger plane was attacked.

          “Syrian [officials] informed us that on Monday morning, unidentified forces launched two ground-to-air missiles which exploded in the air very close to a civilian aircraft belonging to a Russian airline,” the source told the Russian agency.”


          • brettearle


            Strange coincidence?

            Maybe the Syrian air defense–supposedly (ironically) supplied by the Russians–isn’t as good as we….think??

            So what about this news web site?
            [I went to your link.]

            How reliable has rt.com been for you in the past?

            Why haven’t we heard this report on the major wire services or large news outlets?

          • hennorama

            brettearle – rt.com has a decent record for accuracy. They have the same “get it on the air ASAP and we’ll fix it later if it’s wrong” imperative as other media that we saw during the early Boston Bombing reporting.

            In this case, they have updated their reporting by retracting their “confirmed report” of missiles being fired, changing it to instead indicate that the plane maneuvered to evade “signs of war” from the ground below.

            Perhaps it was a case of the flight crew being “gunshy”.


            The earlier article is also updated, although they kept the same headline for some reason. Perhaps they feel the use of the single quotation marks surrounding ‘Missiles fired at’ indicates either quoting a source, or doubt about accuracy.


            See also: http://www.businessinsider.com/russian-airbus-pilot-dodges-syrian-missiles-2013-4#ixzz2RuK2xucQ

          • brettearle

            Thanks for your information and reply.

            I’ll look at the link, if I have the time.

            Still haven’t heard anything about the near-skirmish in other places.

            Hope you’re careful with sources.

            We don’t want the opposition to impugn your credibility (legitimately or otherwise).

            You should start your own information Blogsite…..

          • hennorama

            brettearle – TY for your response. In this case, I was careful to include both my word “breaking” (which to me indicates “preliminary”) as well as the portion of the report that used the caveats (quoting the article exactly here with only ellipses added):

            reportedly fired …

            news broke in on Monday as Interfax, citing “an informed source in Moscow,” reported that …

            … the source told the Russian agency.

            all of which indicate “unconfirmed” to me.

            RT (Russia Today) definitely has a pro-Russia and generally anti-America slant, but one can find alternative reporting there, such as info on the hunger strikers at Guantanamo. They’ve been all over that topic.

            I also peruse other non-US media sites and stations for similar reasons. US media is less likely to go in depth on topics where Americans are not the primary actors. I find these sources can be helpful for background and perspective.

  • hennorama

    There are no clear or easy answers in the Syrian conflict, only choices between various lesser and greater evils.

    Ambassador Dennis Ross has proposed various things, including “a no-fly zone on the cheap”, which he defined as using NATO Patriot missile batteries on the Turkey-Syria border, which could engage Syrian aircraft at least 50 miles into Syria, and which would allow protection of the city of Aleppo. He also proposed using a “standoff” aerial strategy which would not require US/UN/NATO aircraft to cross into Syrian airspace, and instead could fire weapons from outside Syrian borders to engage aircraft inside Syria.

    Amb. Ross proposes this overall concept:

    “First, we need to focus on what can be done to change the balance of forces on the ground — not only between the opposition and the regime, but more importantly within the opposition itself. Second, we need to do more to protect the Syrian population. And, third, we need to focus on containing the conflict so it does not spread outside Syria and destabilize the surrounding states.”

    Ambassador Ross appeared today on the Andrea Mitchell Reports show, where he discussed his ideas, and previously wrote an article in Foreign Policy (which is essentially an edited version of his testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations “U.S. Policy Toward Syria” on April 11, 2013).

    The article in Foreign Policy fleshes out his ideas.

    The Foreign Policy article:


    The Senate testimony:


    The video from today’s Andrea Mitchell Reports show is not yet available on the show’s website.

    Readers should not consider this post to be support for Amb. Ross’
    ideas on Syria. The intent is only to bring up an interesting topic
    for discussion.

  • kivenaberham

    the billionaire of middle east the kings the princes they can afford to buy the best private army the money can get. the triple canopy the black water of this world are wet in the mouth with contracts to get into this war. why not let them fight it out using private warlords! god knows we spend too much money in them as is.

  • http://twitter.com/MBumbel marcelo bumbel

    No interference of the US please! This will only again accelerate power takeover of fundamentalist Muslims in there! 

    • Payhole Everdouche

      Please change your last name to Bumbello. Marcello Bumbello, is rolls off the tongue in a much sweeter way.

  • tmajor

    The U.S. Federal Govt Lies So Much If They Ever Admitted They Were Lying, I Wouldn’t Believe Them!!!!!

  • Tiredofwars

    We need to STAY OUT OF SYRIA!!!!! 

  • Regular_Listener

    I agree strongly with the gentleman who called in (talking about the view of the USA as the “World’s Policeman”) & the other people writing in here.  I understand that there are well-intentioned people (like Mr. Hamid, the Israelis, and Senators McCain and Graham) who would like to see increased US involvement in Syria.  I say A BIG FAT NO to U.S. involvement in this civil war!  Syria is a big, complicated country, with a large number of people who do not view the USA positively.  The Assad regime is supported by Russia.  Do you all seriously think that we could just fly in their and drop a few bombs and be on our merry way? 

    Syria is not a major oil producer and is thus not a major strategic concern – that may sound cold-hearted, but it is factual.  Why should the American military have to charge into every conflict?  What about the United Nations, and the Arab League?  Are they now so toothless that they simply wait for Uncle Sam to do everything for them?

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Ukrainian forces guard a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the nation's security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday, declaring that "Russian forces have entered Ukraine," as concerns grew about the opening of a new front in the conflict.  (AP)

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