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The U.S. Congress And Syria

Congress and Syria.  What’s it going to do?  We look at the complicated battle lines—political, strategic, and moral—on Capitol Hill.

President Barack Obama, flanked by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks to media in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, before a meeting with members of Congress to discuss the situation in Syria. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama, flanked by House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks to media in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, before a meeting with members of Congress to discuss the situation in Syria. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The White House says it wants to unleash the US military on Syria after chemical attacks pinned on the Assad regime but it does not, said Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday, want to “go to war.”  Now Congress has to decide.

The President has asked for authorization.  The shadows of Iraq and Afghanistan loom very large.  A decade of death and frustration have scrambled hawk and dove lines on Capitol Hill.  Congress has learned that votes are quick but military involvement, whatever the opening expectation, can be very long.

This hour, On Point:  Congress, and the vote on Syrian intervention.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Ross Baker, congressional historian and political science professor at Rutgers University.

Thomas Mann, senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. Author of “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.”

Jonathan Martin, national political correspondent for the New York Times. (@jmartnyt)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Obama steps up campaign for Congress’ support for Syria strikes – ”The White House appealed Monday to two of Congress’ most powerful interests — protecting Israel and challenging Iran — as President Obama and his aides scrambled to win lawmakers’ support for a resolution authorizing punitive missile strikes in Syria.”

CNN: How will they vote? Congress considers Syria resolution – ”Although Congress doesn’t officially reconvene for another week, members are publicly and privately considering how they will vote on President Obama’s call for military action in Syria. Many members remained undecided on Monday as they returned to Washington for briefings. CNN is tracking their stated views as the breakdown of a vote emerges.”

CBS News: Putin plans Russian delegation to sway Congress on Syria strike – ”President Vladimir Putin hopes to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the United States to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress, the Interfax news agency reported Monday. Russian legislators Valentina Matvienko and Sergei Naryshkin proposed that to Putin, saying polls have shown little support among Americans for armed intervention in Syria to punish President Bashar Assad’s regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack.”

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  • 2Gary2

    Didn’t obummer win a Nobel peace prize? what a joke. I voted for what I thought was a progressive and not the moderate republican obummer turned out to be.

    • JobExperience

      It’s a prize, not a license.

    • alsordi

      “Obama, Obomber, Obummer…etc.” Didn’t you ever see a puppet show? Its about directing the anger of the masses to a front man in a suit. Stop being distracted away from the real killers…the bankers, the lobbyists, and the defense contractors, and stay away from three-card Monte.

      • 2Gary2

        thanks–your correct

  • Ed75

    It feels like the 13 days of October in 1962, probably just as dangerous. Are we willing to go to war with Russia over this? By threatening to retaliate I think we have made our point. Many bishops, Catholic and Orthodox, who are the primary ones being persecuted in the Middle East, are asking that the U.S. not strike the area.

    • alsordi

      Christians have lived in relative peace in the Middle East for two thousand years. They only get “persecuted” when the WEST hires thugs like “al CIAda” to attack churches, along with other false flags to give a reason to perpetuate Western dollar/oil hegemony, war industry, and zionist expansion.

      • JobExperience

        Partially true,, but hardly the entire story.

      • Ed75

        The Christians were thrown out of the Middle East by the Muslims starting in the 7th century, and fought to retain access to the Holy Land during the Crusades, and eventually lost it.
        I guess your idea would be a conspiracy theory. No doubt there are some groups who could see that they would benefit from these bad things, but I doubt people were organized enough to put something like that together, or would be bad enough to do it.

    • JobExperience

      Nah, Ed, ain’t nearly that big a deal. Both Russia and the USA are now run by Oligarch banking thugs. Neither party is Christian in any sense of the word. And as for nuclear danger Fukushima is hairtrigger with no failsafe. Think outside the Bible sometimes.

      • Ed75

        I hope you’re right. For me, I think the U.N. is the appropriate place to suggest this, if it gets voted down, we tried.

        • JobExperience

          Will they cover up the Declaration of Human Rights again? The UN is a Christian minority place.So is Earth. So is any workplace anywhere. I’m extremely confident that this is not 1963 deja vu.
          Israel is the Joker in the deck, not Russia.
          Shoulda never let them have nukes and chems.

  • AC

    can you discuss the 1998 treaty with Isreal that the US guarantees them oil and the effect this war is having on their supply? i know i’m a bit young, but who signed this stupid sounding treaty & why??
    & is there proof positive that it is the govt gassing the people? i feel the info has been unclear on that, if it is, what do people want, proof of concentration camps before we swoop in and pretend to be heroes? funny how one month drones stink but now everyone’s for it….
    i’m kind of sick of people’s opinions and i’d like to find a report source i can trust before i commit myself…..

    • JobExperience

      I wish it were you deciding when to bomb.

      You’re not thinking like a disinterested engineer anymore.

      Caring people are all sick of spin and opinions without honest conclusive evidence. But It’s hard to distill the facts.

      Drones are as evil as suicide bombing.

      At times like this we wonder why the Oligarchal Elite care about public opinion anymore. They’re gonna do what they’re gonna do.

      You seem upset: So I suggest you not read “Another 19″ by engineer Kevin Ryan, and certainly do not listen to him discussing the book on “Guns and Butter” (KPFA archives- 4 parts) with host Bonnie Faulkner.

      Don’t be tempted. Remember Prometheus.

      • Coastghost

        A weak-to-lousy Ridley Scott flick?

        • JobExperience

          Nope, the actual guy, brother of Antimetheus.

      • AC

        there’s a diff between an engineer and a professional engineer. thank god.

    • SteveTheTeacher

      Through my efforts to promote service learning, I have found that many engineering programs, while excellent in presenting the latest innovations in advanced mathematics, computation, manufacturing, and production, often lack in providing students skills for the nuance involved in human to human relations and the societal impacts of engineering.

      I’m glad to see that your experience have left you with the ability to think independently and critically and to understand that claims of government officials should not be accepted unsceptically.

      • AC

        i was in honors group and we had to do a service learning project to graduate. i couldnt do the engineer without borders water projects in S America at the time, so 2 years in a row i did free structural analysis for community groups and their facilities…

  • alsordi

    Its about control of oil on which the fiat US dollar is ostensibly based. Its about a defense and intelligence industry which is a huge part of the US economy. Its about zionist expansion, which is directed by AIPAC, the most powerful lobby in the USA.

    The USA just placed another sunglass wearing general as leader of Egypt. The last thing the US cares about is democracy and human life. Don’t believe me? Read up on US involvement in Central America and the VIETNAM WAR.

    • JobExperience

      Strange how “moderation” keeps censoring my observations about President Obama’s Charlie Rose promo on PBS. I can’t find an acceptable wording to get over. 3 tries: struck out. It’s about domination of media too.

      • JobExperience

        Prez compares new self to VP Cheney.
        That’s the one.

        • JobExperience

          Six tries.

      • alsordi

        Educated Americans used to feel superior by avoiding banal commercial media outlets for non-profit networks like NPR and the BBC. Truth is, that they may be avoiding nausiating Chevy truck commercials, but the these networks are just as dominated by the war criminals.

  • JobExperience

    Obama Admin. and Joint Chiefs can’t tell Congress or anyone what they have in mind (secret security). Do you like surprises?
    Pinata anyone? Millions of Syrians might rain out.

    Does Special Ops or Blackwater count as “boots on the ground?”
    What about Israeli special ops? Turks?

    • Coastghost

      An actual surprise, though, that we don’t have representatives from both the NYT and WaPo (maybe Mr Bezos is already juggling staff there: what could this portend for Friday ATC?). Still: three representatives of the Vaunted Northeast Corridor, whose opinion must ever be consulted.

  • Jon

    nobody does it better than Jon Stewart weighing on America’s penis morality

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/tue-september-3-2013-andrew-harper

    • hypocracy1

      Operation: Just the Tip!!

      LOL

      • Ray in VT

        The joke late last year was that that was also the original title for Paula Broadwell’s book on Patraeus.

        • Jon

          the sad thing is it’s not a joke.

  • Markus6

    I think I’m missing something here. After Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and others (I’ve lost track of them all), it seems obvious that it’s probable we’ll get dragged into another mess that costs us additional hundreds of billions, people’s lives and makes us the most hated country in the arab world. Oh and by they way, in case we’ve forgotten, we’re 17 Trillion in debt and that debt is growing.

    Our politicians are not stupid people. They must know this. I also don’t think they’re evil people who are only interested in military spending, cheap oil or protecting Israel at all costs. They want to stay in office at all costs, but I don’t share the notion that they’re completely bad or dopes. And they hardly seem like idealists who are about to roam the world looking to save oppressed people from their tyrannical governments.

    I really think I’m missing something here. It seems such an obviously bad idea to attack Syria.

    Oh, and please don’t turn the entire show into another horse race. Inotherwords a show that focuses just on the mechanics of getting enough votes for the attack, whether the dems or repubs win by this, that sort of thing. There hasn’t yet been enough talk on why we’re doing this.

    • JobExperience

      17 trillion is the amount of the Bailout too!
      Pure coincidence?

      Politicians are as subjugated as sharecroppers.
      In the Senate of Cynical Greed corporate masters vote secretly and securely. Congress blows like a foxtail on a Buick antenna.

      Where is this accounting done?

      Who can see the books?

  • Coastghost

    What is the specific genealogy of Secretary Kerry’s offended morality? I suppose he’s a Roman Catholic in good standing, but his exaggerated blue-blooded appeals to moral outrage just don’t emerge from his mouth with any conviction and don’t inspire credibility to my ears. Just whose “shoulds, musts, and oughts” will Americans give ear to as Ulysses and his crew sing to the fickle Sirens on shore?

  • toc1234

    brookings, nyt and a professor… today’s show appears to be shaping up as another Obama Apologists Hour…

  • Ellen Dibble

    Somewhere I heard/saw that the tab for whatever the administration has in mind is to be paid by a couple of the Gulf States. It might have been the arming of the non-militant rebels, to the extent that is part of the Congressional authorization, that is to be funded by the Gulf States, but if the small-government Republicans are amazingly on-board, that would seem to explain it. Maybe the Gulf States can help them to balance our budget without undercutting education, too?
    Otherwise, isn’t it ironic that we hit a debt limit, largely at this point with a hang-over bill from the war in Iraq (right?) in the same month that defense authorizations are being viewed positively in Congress?

  • J__o__h__n

    I love how the Republicans started to oppose the Heritage Foundation’s health care plan when Obama offered it. They finally found a tax cut to oppose when Obama wanted to extend the Social Security tax cut another year. Now they finally found an armed intervention to oppose.

    • Ray in VT

      It is kind of funny reading comments from a few of the commentators who complained about Obama not going to Congress regarding Libya who are now complaining about Obama for going to Congress regarding Syria.

  • alsordi

    Congress?? Most people have seen the low confidence ratings on congressmen.

    The US congress has become nothing more than a diversionary charade for big interests.

    If the bankers want a bailout, regardless that 90% of their constituents oppose it, the bankers win.

    If the defense contractors want a war.. in the face of major public opposition… they will get their war.

    And when it comes to Israeli interests…well… the congress obediently dances like penguins.
    And this is the democracy with which the US so hypocritically wants to destroy other countries in order to liberate them.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Senator Levin last evening was explaining that the tanks guarding the chemical weapons launchers can be taken out, and it wasn’t clear to me if he meant that we supply weapons to the nonmilitant rebels that can take out tanks, and the plan goes step-wise like that. I think that was it, actually. The idea is that the launchers of the chemical weapons can be spirited away from where they can be launched. You know what? That sounds like the nightmare scenario we have been trying to avoid all along. In any case, if the Bashar Al Asad regime finally caves, who takes over command and control?
    And finally if the alliance with Syria is sacrosanct to Iran, as is our alliance with Israel, and maybe for Russia too, aren’t the positions of those two crucial to have on board? Would a temporary administration administered by representatives of a Sunni state like Jordan, a Shiite state like Iran, and maybe Russia or France, for instance, be able to transition Syria to democracy? Far more likely than certain other scenarios. Would we trust Iran with those chemical weapons? Who has more interest in a stable Syria?

  • SteveTheTeacher

    With the wealth of resources and intellectual capacity of the US, it is disturbing to see that politicians primary response to serious human rights crisis is the military.

    While I have heard evidence that Assad ordered the recent use of never gas, I have also seen ample evidence that the Assad regime did not direct the recent use of never gas. To me this is a moot point. The real crime against humanity is war itself. An estimated 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war. This is intolerable.

    Earlier in Spring, Russia got the Assad regime to agree to a peace conference. It was scheduled for July, then postponed until August, now the latest reports indicate that it may happen in October, at best.

    Why hasn’t the US government done more to push for this conference?

    Instead of pushing for war, why isn’t Secretary of State Kerry pursuing diplomatic means of negotiating for change with the Assad regime?

    Large segments of the Syrian community do not support the rebels and see the Assad government as their best option. Why isn’t Secretary of State Kerry working to collaborate with influential members of these communities to come up with a plan to bring about a peaceful solution?

    What will bombing solve?

    Rather than sending a warning to Assad, the US will accomplish the opposite:

    - Assad will dig in his heals further and be more determined to fight to the end rather than negotiating.

    - As a result of the innocent civilians, and soldiers defending their homeland, that we kill, more of the Syrian population will be more deeply committed to Assad.

    - Iran and Hezbollah are likely to interpret the US attack as grounds for getting more deeply involved and, perhaps, considering themselves to be in a active war with the US.

  • toc1234

    Obama makes a foolish comment about redlines (which I am sure his handlers were not too happy to hear) and now he feels compelled to bomb Syria just enough not to me mocked. another profile in amateurism. Its clear Obama and his staff are out of their depths…

  • Ellen Dibble

    I see weakening the al-Asad Alawite regime as basically handing the chemical weapons over to the most organized rebel group. The example of Egypt comes to mind. The Muslim Brotherhood has deep social roots and had proven its staying power and ability to keep people afloat in difficult times, In Syria, the equivalent might be El Nusra. The alternative would be either giving Iran an even more free hand in coordinating the change in power, something like that, or trying to do our own railroading, which is not the stated aim. In short, we have our eye on Pandora’s box (chemical weapons) and have an eye to disabling the regime’s use of them. Can we disable them entirely?
    I suppose we’re not supposed to know that. Last night on the Charlie Rose Show, I heard David Sanger say that the idea is that chemical weapons cannot be used by Any rebels, that it requires laboratory technicians and all that. Yeah, right. Words that come to mind, APJ Dr. Abdul Kamal in India, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in Pakistan. I think I have those names right — names that for me stand for nuclear proliferation, but also for scientifically sophisticated proliferation in general.

  • Coastghost

    Notice how invisible Samantha Power has become: her talents wasted at the UN (since the US surely intends to bypass the UNSC), we have to assume she’s either in DC or in continuous contact with the White House, since it’s been her agitation to get the US involved in the Syria conflict at least since she helped inspire Obama to go after Gaddafi.

  • Citizen James

    For me usage of chemical weapons in Syria -the gassing of some 1,000 adults and some 400 children- have elements of both the Jewish Holocaust and the Newtown school shooting. I support intervention which I believe needs to have no effort greater than the 2011 intervention in Libya. It’s the right thing to do. Everything else is the sound a fury of cable television.

    • Renee Engine-Bangger

      So the bullets and bombs are ok then. Got it.

      • Citizen James

        I don’t like your tone. Maybe the only responsible opinion is yours. Or maybe, Renee Engine-Bangger you are an internet troll. Got it.

      • Citizen James

        Your tone is rude. Either you think you have the only responsible answer or you Renee Engine-Bangger are an internet troll. Ok then. Got it.

        • Renee Engine-Bangger

          No, my tone was appropriate. Your conflation of the holocaust and Newtown as a justification for an intervention in Syria is utterly sophomoric.

          • Citizen James

            Your tone is appropriate for trolling. You like to be hurtful and uncivil. Pat yourself on the back.

          • Renee Engine-Bangger

            Haha. My sensitive little flower. So instead of justifying or redeeming your sophomoric comment about the holocaust and Newtown, you complain about your hurt feelings. Please explain why bullets and bombs are ok (e.g. “unholocaust”)

          • Citizen James

            Renee Engine-Banger you are a hurtful troll. That doesn’t mean that I’m hurt by your comments. It means that your conduct is hurtful and not helpful. This is a reflection on you and only on you. You are hurting the quality of the OnPoint dialogue as well as yourself.

          • Renee Engine-Bangger

            Ha ha. You made a sophomoric comment which you are apparently unable to defend. You should just move on but instead you keep coming back to whine.

          • Citizen James

            Once again Renee Engine-Bangger you are trolling by making rude and inappropriate comments. Once again I am bringing this to your attention.

          • Renee Engine-Bangger

            Ha ha. And yet you still have defense or clarification of your sophomoric comment, only more whining. I guess you regret your silly hyperbole now.

          • Citizen James

            I don’t have any need to defend my comments to someone with the maturity of a 7th grader… One thing that I like about you a lot is that you’re smokin’ hot. A self-indulgent woman like you should be awesome after-hours. Hats off to you.

          • Citizen James

            I don’t have any need to defend my comments to someone with the maturity of a 7th grader… As you say, ha ha. One thing that I like about you a lot is that you’re smokin’ hot. A self-indulgent woman like you should be awesome after-hours. Hats off to you.

          • Renee Engine-Bangger

            Ha ha. A guilty pleasure perhaps but I am enjoying seeing you self-destruct here and descend into sputtering and name calling.

            That aside, explain to us again how a plan for mass extermination based on religion, ethnicity and sexual preference, and the actions of a sole mass murderer, are in any way like the situation in Syria where a civil war is occurring.

          • Citizen James

            Ha ha. the name calling and ill-will has been going on for many iterations, all coming from you. Is pleasure the only thing you’re guilty of? What’s your email address/IM? Let’s take this off-line.

          • Renee Engine-Bangger

            Ha ha. No, love. Scroll back and you will see that I have made no ad hominem remarks but have only insulted your silly statement, which you are apparently unable to defend.

          • Citizen James

            Sure, all right… we really got off topic. So what were you asking me… nicely??? Scroll back yourself. The answer is nothing. You were asking nothing nicely. You were trolling the whole time as you are now.

    • Citizen James

      Renee Engine-Bangger, your tone is rude. Either you think you have the only responsible answer or you are an internet troll. Ok then. Got it.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I hate to say it, but I don’t think Congress looks beyond their donors (probably lots of deep pockets in the Israel lobby), and their next primary election. I think we the people have to try to look around corners. Actually, I thought that about the financial crisis too. Congress can’t be trusted that much.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    Let Facts Be Submitted To a Candid World

    The most powerful act any individual can perform is to bear accurate witness.

    On Friday, John Kerry stood up to bear accurate witness as to what transpired in Syria, based on US Intelligence.

    So far so good.

    Now what?

    Now the US — having clearly observed Assad engaging in crimes against humanity — is obliged to act by taking the evidence to the International Court, there to indict and try Mr. Assad and his participating lieutenants on war crimes, under the aegis of International Law.

    This is how the US, being a leader among civilized nations and a leader in the practice of the Rule of Law, demonstrates how a civilized nation operates in accordance with the Rule of Law, as it applies to international law governing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    This is how a Nobel Peace Prize Winner demonstrates how state-sponsored violence is answered with non-violence, under the Rule of International Law.

    In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

  • J__o__h__n

    I think it is outrageous that the liberals won’t let US citizens buy poison gas. Poison gas doesn’t kill people, criminals do.

  • Yar

    President Obama is playing poker, this is high stakes poker. It is part of wait till father (congress) gets home and passive-aggressiveness with congress. Mitch Mcconnell is in a no-win box. He has a Tea Party primary opponent on the right and a young democratic opponent on the left. Either action he takes makes him more vulnerable. As minority leader he must pick sides even as both sides lose back home. This is a better discussion for the Obama administration than the expected one of shutting down Government over the debt ceiling and defunding Obamacare.

    • skelly74

      I think the only politician actually playing poker is the honorable John McCain…Obama is playing 52 pick-up…he is now in a literal quagmire…If the U.S does attack, they have lost the elements of surprise and vulnerability.

      Now what?

      • TFRX

        Obama is now in a “literal quagmire”?

        And this is not Seal Team Six we’re talking about. There is no “surprise” to be had here, unless we’re talking about Rumstud-level “we’ll tell the public if we feel like it” crap.

        Have you spent the last decade in media blackout?

        • skelly74

          Do you know the definition of a quagmire? Regardless of some “Bush” response, is Obama not in a quagmire?

          • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

            State-sponsored violence under the aegis of law is a quagmire.

          • skelly74

            We should just appropriate some cash and food so that the Syrians and the world will love us for our generosity…they will then understand the essence of civility and follow our lead…

            Or they will escalate their use of legally banned weaponry because the world does not want to take action.

            we can ignore the situation…debate the need for the world to see the benefits of hugs and kisses…its way over there anyways.

          • TFRX

            You really have to have no sense of history to pretend this is a quagmire now.

            And your use of “literal” is hilarious.

          • skelly74

            Yes, to you it would because you obviously think I’m referring to the “Family Guy” character…giggidi…giggidi.

        • skelly74

          Yes, we can be sure that they are only going over the minute details pertaining to public perception in the “classified” meetings…the rest of the time is filled with hatha yoga asanas while they recite the “Om” dutifully for direction.

  • toc1234

    so let’s see… Obama did not go to congress when he bombed Libya… but since he’s only going to bomb Syria (w/o international support) b/c he shot his mouth off about redlines his handlers realized late Friday night that he needed some political cover asap…

  • DeJay79

    Just stay out of it. If it is a civil war then we should watch it and make sure that any refugees are help and that the conflict does not spread but other than that we should let them sort it out.

    War is ugly, people will die, we can’t think that it is our job to stop all death, hate, and crime. we can’t even keep our own citizens from killing each other what makes us think we can/should keep other countries citizens from doing the same?

  • Coastghost

    Does Speaker Boehner already see that the Democrats will not be flocking to Obama’s defense in the House? What do we take from Rep Pelosi’s reluctance/refusal to whip her colleagues into line?

    • J__o__h__n

      Boehner has never had control over his members.

  • TFRX

    The Dems are “traditionally a much more dovish party”, per Baker (? the first guest at 10mins).

    Please don’t cite “leading against invading Iraq”. If opposing that sham makes Democrats into doves…

  • Ray in VT

    I think that there is likely some politics at play here with some members of Congress, but I think that there is also some real concern among some members regarding not wanting to get into another Iraqi quagmire.

    • Bluejay2fly

      The military industrial congressional complex will prevail over any doubt. If we only intercede by firing 50 cruise missiles they have to be replaced. How many congressmen have districts that assemble parts for that weapons system? How many more owe favors to those with interests (campaign contributions). Eisenhower warned us.

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        The Military-Industrial Complex would dearly love to sponsor a big fireworks show, so as to provide job security for the next year, as arms factories swing into action to replace all the missiles fired off so as to rotate the stock.

        Best estimates are that the MIC wants to shoot off about 200 cruise missiles, mainly to expend the older models which have to be manually programmed in advance (and cannot be dynamically retargeted in flight).

        We’re talking about roughly a half-billion dollars worth of cruise missiles that would then have to be replaced.

        • Bluejay2fly

          I added “congressional” to the mix to reflect the revolving door and lobbying. PS I would rather see the money spent on refurbishing the ocean liner SS United States so much for getting money spent on anything cultural.

  • Ellen Dibble

    What I make of the non-whipping situation is that neither leader wants to make this particular issue a tug-of-war. One side would have to line up against the other in order to do that. Someone said that lots and lots of legislators are likely to take a pass, not vote.

  • William

    Assad saw what happened to the formers leaders of Iraq and Libya (hanged and shot) so he won’t go easily. The first bomb we drop will kill children and that will be the image that is flashed around the world.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Obama told someone, as I recall, that there is a better regional balance in view if he proceeds I think diplomatically with this action in mind. This morning, speaking in Sweden, in a joint press conference, he outlined the reason for changing his mind Friday night, and in this case he said it related to there being value in waiting for Russia to get on board — for the USA, for Russia, and for the region. That is what I understood. It was the last question. So stopping to do a whole lot of talking seems an advantage in many ways.

  • Coastghost

    How is it that the moral imperative plainly visible to Obama as recently as a week ago, is not demonstrably evident to: the British (second Parliamentary vote pending?); the French (they’re not going in without us); the Europeans generally (NATO’s not on board, the UN’s not on board); the American people?
    If the moral imperative is so plainly visible to Obama, it would be positively enlightening to learn just what stayed his hand, to learn just what caused him to blink last week.

    • AC

      some say the british always back away to the corner where they can comfortably criticize, but more importantly, not foot the bill…..this is anonther persons comment i read in the economist ….

    • sickofthechit

      On the BBC yesterday they interviewed one of the Labor party Members and he said the reason the vote didn’t pass was because the Prime Minister “cocked up” the presentation to parliament. charles a. bowsher

  • toc1234

    wow – its always about Obama for Obama.

    • Coastghost

      The authors of DSM-V could supply a fresh appendix on a previously unknown psychic complaint: Sub-Messianic narcissism, an unfortunate affliction not subject to treatment under terms of the Affordable Care Tax Act.

  • Coastghost

    EVERYone’s credibility is on the line, per Obama, except for his: HOW CONVENIENT IS THAT? and what does THAT tell us about Obama?

  • Art Toegemann

    Was this “revolution” something wound up by the CIA for the Saudis oil, a popular suspicion?
    Is it moot, is there too much regional support for removing Assad regardless of US intervention?
    While we are deeply moved by the deaths of those gassed, and the reports of same, this does not justify US intervention by deaths by cruise missiles.
    Kudos to the Russians for their attempts at diplomacy.

  • AC

    some are saying this is the typical over-reaction of the Shia when the Sunni’s rebel (or continue expanding their power base), since the Shia are minority, when a member like Assad is in power, they feel threatened enough to be extreme.
    personally, i’m not fond of ANY political group that thinks they are directly CHOSEN BY GOD!

  • hennorama

    President Obama is damned if he asks for Congressional authorization and damned if he doesn’t

    President Obama is damned if he strikes Syria militarily and damned if he doesn’t.

    There are NO good choices in Syria. Period.

    No wonder the President’s hair seems to get more gray by the day.

    • AC

      this about sums it up

      • hennorama

        AC – TY for your kind words. Arithmetic has always been a strength.

    • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

      The US is the most powerful nation on the planet.

      Therefore the US has no good options in Syria.

    • brettearle

      Ultimately, he’s going to do it, I think, regardless.

      There’s more bluster behind this–than even the President realizes.

      I believe that underneath all this, Henn, is that he is unconsciously switching his Pride for Moral Rectitude.

      I am literally defining Pride, here, as an intransigent insistence on backing up his “drawing a line in the sand” public statement, many months ago.

      This US credibility claim by McCain is infuriatingly wrong-headed.

      Why can’t he retire to a nursing home for washed up Hawks?

      • hennorama

        brettearle – TY for your reply.

        I agree, despite the knowledge that without Congressional approval, 30 seconds later an inquiry of impeachment would be referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

        If it took that long.

        You may be correct as to Presidential Pride.

        I prefer to believe that American ideals matter, and that President Obama, the reluctant warrior, sees this as an expression of American ideals, that this shall not stand; this far and no further.

        As President Obama said on August 31st,

        “… we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning. And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations. We aren’t perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities. …

        “Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it’s about who we are as a country. I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments. We do what we say. And we lead with the belief that right makes might — not the other way around.

        “We all know there are no easy options. But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate. I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons. And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together.

        “I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.”

        I take the President at his word, and believe he is trying to return the phrase “we are the United States of America” to the point where it requires no explanation, as it once did.

        I remain at once cautiously optimistic, realistic, and idealistic.

        See:
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/transcript-president-obamas-aug-31-statement-on-syria/2013/08/31/3019213c-125d-11e3-b4cb-fd7ce041d814_story_2.html

        • brettearle

          Henn–

          At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, there is about a 10%-15% chance that this could be one of the last times we ever write to each other.

          So, as usual, why don’t we make the most of it, shall we?

          Some random notes and items–which should add up to something….and then I’d be eager for your reply:

          –The UN will not back this

          –It is unlikely because of Great Britain and perhaps Germany that NATO will not back this–even, if perhaps, Syria attacks Turkey.

          –If the US seeks the signatories to the International Treaty on the ban of gas in war fare–and the majority of those countries complied–then I would be in favor of the initiative.

          [Recall that "The New York Times" and "The New Yorker" sanctioned Iraq only if there were a reasonably full International effort.]

          –If the US had the backing of a reasonable number of these countries, then the chances of destructive repercussions would be reduced.

          –There is no forensic, conclusive proof, that has been disseminated to the public, that Assad is behind this.

          [Indeed, it could one of those Iran-Contra wink-wink, nod-nod deals where plausible deniability is in play.]

          Please, of course, recall the U2 photos displayed at the UN by Stevenson.

          The SAME THING should be done here.

          –Anthony Cordesmann–I’m guessing you know how highly regarded this political scientist has been–has put together, today, an extensive monograph on the Institute for International and Strategic Studies web site, on this matter.

          Don’t quote me exactly. But he has claimed that the US is getting their convincing information from Syrian Human Rights and Data Analyses groups.

          Dr. Cordesmann puts heavy emphasis on all casualties, throughout the war.

          He cites numbers, ethnic distribution of casualties….

          By implication, and I think also directly–I read his work, quickly, once–he doesn’t think we can separate out the Civil War casualties from the gas atrocities.

          –And in a direct way, I’m sure you can understand this connection.

          In a Realpolitik way–especially with the Global Media focussing on this incident like Pasteur looking through a microscope at Microbes–it is difficult to separate out the Moral Outrage from the aftermath of the Civil War, after a US strike, much less before the US strike.

          –On PBS’s “News Hour” tonight, Senator Deb Fischer from The Armed Services Committee, reported that Cameron has announced that Assad has used gas 16 OTHER TIMES.

          So then the question arises, why now?

          And if that is so, why can’t Syria be confronted, in an Adalai Stevenson moment, at the UN, by Ambassador Power?

          –Henn, take into consideration the following:

          That Obama’s comments that you quote for me are well-spoken, high-minded ideals. And I salute them.

          However, I can’t imagine why, at this time, you would realisitcally want to hitch your wagon to this star?

          Why?

          Because of the following:

          [And don't get me wrong, I PERSONALLY LIKE Obama more than any other President, since I've been alive...this business about Obama being a cool cucumber (except for now, in this crisis) is BS.]

          Drone strike collateral damage

          Rendition, which I believe was likely, somehow, still going on, after Bush II left

          NSA surveillance that makes Big Brother seem like Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich.

          Implementing the NSA initiatives, without some sort of obligatory transparency….as contradictory as it sounds. [The Media, the Oversight Committee for the FISA Court, and the Executive Branch had some sort of obligation to informing the Public]

          False or Cherry-Picked Iraq Intelligence

          Backing Right-Wing Dictatorships, at certain times, throughout the World

          The VietNam War.

          The False Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

          General Westermoreland lying about the success of the War.

          The number of North Vietnamese casualties–which may be close to a million. [not of all those deaths are our fault, of course.]

          Carpet bombing, Agent Orange, use of Herbecides when waging war in North Vietnam

          Backing Right-Wing Dictatorships, at certain times, throughout the World

          Widening the war into Laos and Cambodia–which may have encouraged the Khmer Rouge to come to power. Why wasn’t that predictable.

          The covert war in Latin America–including the fabled casualties in El Salvador

          In the eyes of some of the world, we still lose political capital over Hiroshima/Nagasaki–even if it might hav saved 100,00 lives in an invasion

          There’s more; of course; that’s just off the top of my head.

          And please let’s not forget that our own country was founded on Genocide and that we, as a country, treated a large population, for many decades as fourth class citizens–when slavery was still the Law of the Land.

          My terribly embellished point, is of course,

          In the eyes of the world, we STILL lose political capital as the result of Hiroshima/Nagasaki

          • brettearle

            Henn–

            I have more to say.

            And I may need to edit this.

            Thanks.

          • hennorama

            brettearle – Thank you very much for your thoughtful and anguished response.

            I share all of your concerns and considerations, and more. I am conflicted about my support of the President’s decision “that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets.” I also agree that the evidence should be laid out before the public. Secretary Kerry has already made a very strong argument, and the evidence should be made public, even if some of it is classified.

            As I wrote in a comment to another poster:

            My view is that given President Obama’s stance against the invasion of Iraq, and the fact that the Iraq invasion was based in part on cherry-picked intelligence and on far too little verifiable information, the evidence about chemical weapons use in Syria that President Obama has access to must be very strong, or he would not have made this decision.

            He is in effect risking his Presidency on this. Given the stakes, there is no way this President is going to make a similar evidentiary mistake, especially given the clear war-weariness and war-wariness of the American public.

            The U.N. Is not going to do anything, given the stated views of Security Council members Russia and China. There is international support, albeit limited, but even absent such support, someone must take a stand.

            That someone is the U.S.

            The price of standing idly by is far too high.

            I fully expect President Obama to address the American people directly, to further lay out the case for action. The delay involved in asking for Congressional approval allows for more time to build the case, as well as avoiding striking so close to the upcoming anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

            Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.

  • TFRX

    “Of course we almost had impeachment proceedings in the US House” against Obama, our host says while chuckling.

    Tom, this is not chuckling stuff. There’s just a “realism” at work among many “savvy” observers which says that if Republicans feel they can get the votes, the “crime” will be found for impeaching the President.

    • Renee Engine-Bangger

      The “pundits” are loving this.

  • Coastghost

    When we dropped off to sleep just last night, the provisional text called for only 60 (sixty) days’ worth of leeway. Turned into 90 (ninety) days overnight, amazing what velocity DC is capable of.

  • TFRX

    Regarding there not being a “middle” in the US House*:

    The Great Sort is one thing. Forgetting how far right the right wing has become since Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 is another, which shouldn’t be ignored.

    (*Was that Mann? I didn’t catch speaker’s name.)

  • HLB

    The TOP SECRET plan to get in and out of Syria. Obama will share it with every member of Congress and every foreign government leader. But he won’t share it with us: We the People.

    Did George W. Bush {Scooter, Addison, Cheney, Wolfowitz, the Kagans, Armitage, Rice, Bolton, the rest of the ratpack} sneak back into power? I thought we tossed those malefactors out.

    Thanks much. Old School Liberal/Vietnam-era Veteran

    • sickofthechit

      Actually, we didn’t “toss” them out, their terms expired.

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    Modern day humans devised the Protocols of the Scientific Method as our most reliable method for sorting out accurate hypotheses from incorrect ones. Politicians, alas, are notorious for declining to rely on the Scientific Method for drawing conclusions.

    Will this episode prove to be yet another failure of our government to arrive at the ground truth by a trustworthy method?

    Or will this episode mark an historic turning point in our methods and practices for making wise and sensible decisions?

    I reckon the political operatives scripting this drama will go out of their way to depart from the protocols of the scientific method.

    The first duty of a scientist is to array all conceivable hypotheses and then try like the dickens to falsify each and every one of them.

    I have not yet seen any attempt to array the alternate hypotheses or to falsify the one that the Obama administration (and the Military-Industrial Complex) favors.

    And so the meta-question stands before us. We have the Null Hypothesis and the Working Hypothesis, and the challenge to falsify either of them.

    H₀ (Null Hypothesis) – The US rigorously adheres to the protocols of the scientific method and the concepts of the Rule of Law.

    H₁ (Working Hypothesis) – The US routinely departs from the protocols of the scientific method and the concepts of the Rule of Law.

    This episode now in play will help determine which of the two hypotheses best characterizes the practices of our national governance model and methodology.

  • perihelion22

    Lies, lies, lies, lies, and more insidious lies. So WHY should any US citizen believe their government? Oh sure, “we’re going to set things right” by killing a bunch more Syrians. I fell off a turnip truck, but it wasn’t yesterday.

  • J P Fitzsimmons

    We put over 100000 boots on the ground in Iraq, next door to Syria. We completely destroyed the government of the dictator Sadam Hussein, we hung Saddam, why wasn’t this enough deterrence to prevent Assad from doing what he’s doing. Does anyone really believe a cruise missile attack will prevent other dictators from doing what they do.

  • J__o__h__n

    It is “sinister” to follow the Constitution?

    • Bluejay2fly

      If they did WW2 would have been our last war.

  • Renee Engine-Bangger

    Our “pundits” sure do love their wars.

    Their chuckling and gushing over this is disgusting.

  • Coastghost

    “I propose to act.”
    “I propose to defer to Congress.”
    “I propose to act regardless of Congressional support or disapproval.”
    What President will we have next week?

    • HLB

      Sounds like Mortimer Snerd is up next. HLB

  • AC

    my attention has been wavering but did they touch upon that treaty? i’m very curious what the heck that was all about…i’m not into the idea of breaking a treaty, but it seems like a stupid one….

  • HLB

    The president is only asking you, the Congress, to bankroll whatever crazy ideas we come up with re: the impossible mess in Syria.
    –John F. Kerry, placeholder

    Thanks for explaining that, John. HLB

    • nj_v2

      Have you been watching Kerry with the media? His body language and verbal stumbling belies that even he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

  • JasonB

    I must say, I was hoping the House and Senate would reject the administration’s proposal to take action in Syria. I know the condition is bad there, but situations are bad in a lot of the world and I’m sick of the USA being the world’s answer to everything. I would rather we stop spending so much money on military and war and start spending it on stuff that helps the American people. If I sound cold, remember that more than 5 million people have died of atrocities in some of the worst parts of Africa in the past 12 years and we’ve done nothing about it. Humanitarian mission my *ss!

  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    The compromise would be to take the evidence against Mr. Assad to the International Criminal Court, there to indict and try him and his lieutenants for war crimes and crimes against humanity under the aegis of International Law.

    This is how the US, being a leader among civilized nations and a leader in the practice of the Rule of Law, demonstrates how a civilized nation operates in accordance with the Rule of Law, as it applies to international law governing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    Let us use our geopolitical power to upgrade and empower the International Criminal Court to fulfill its designated function in dealing with violations of International Law.

    This is how a Nobel Peace Prize Winner demonstrates how state-sponsored violence is answered with non-violence, under the Rule of International Law.

    In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

    • hennorama

      Barry Kort – thank you for your well-reasoned comments.

      One question – what if the U.S. did both – strike militarily in Syria, and go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague?

      Time is of the essence, which argues against the ICJ as a sole solution.

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        If a primary objective, as recited by President Obama, is to deter other authoritarian regimes from transgressing International Law, then the optimal policy is to systematically enforce International Law regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity.

        As far as I know, any nation can take its case to the International Criminal Court, there to present evidence and seek an indictment and trial. It doesn’t require a nation to be a superpower. It only requires a nation to demonstrate integrity in ensuring that all the nations of this planet adhere to International Law on the limits of state-sponsored violence to achieve its political ends.

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        If the US concludes an independent judgment on Mr. Assad, and unilaterally carries out a military punishment mission without the participation and blessing of the United Nations, then the US sends the message to the International Community that the US does not believe in, embrace, support, or rely on the concept and practice of the International Rule of Law among the civilized nations of the planet.

        If that is our government’s true position, then I think it’s important for both US citizens and the citizens and nations of the world to understand that the US, with its unequaled military might, formally and unmistakeably repudiates the concept of the International Rule of Law among nations.

    • AC

      i like where you’re headed. i’m very fond of facts myself

      • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

        As a (now retired) scientist and science educator, I believe it’s absolutely essential in this case to demonstrate to the world community that our intelligence has been rigorously processed in accordance with the protocols of the scientific method to ensure that the hypothesis fronted by Mr. Kerry is the only surviving explanation, after every effort has been made to falsify each and every alternative hypothesis on the table.

        Modern day humans devised the Protocols of the Scientific Method as our most reliable method for sorting out accurate hypotheses from incorrect ones. Politicians, alas, are notorious for declining to rely on the Scientific Method for drawing conclusions.

        Will this episode prove to be yet another failure of our government to arrive at the ground truth by a trustworthy method?

        Or will this episode mark an historic turning point in our methods and practices for making wise and sensible decisions?

        I reckon the political operatives scripting this drama will yet again go out of their way to depart from the protocols of the scientific method.

        The first duty of a scientist is to array all conceivable hypotheses and then try like the dickens to falsify each and every one of them.

        I have not yet seen any attempt to array the alternate hypotheses or to falsify the one that the Obama administration (and the Military-Industrial Complex) favors.

        And so the meta-question stands before us. We have the Null Hypothesis and the Working Hypothesis, and the challenge to falsify either of them.

        H₀ (Null Hypothesis) – The US rigorously adheres to the protocols of the scientific method and the concepts of the Rule of Law.

        H₁ (Working Hypothesis) – The US routinely departs from the protocols of the scientific method and the concepts of the Rule of Law.

        This episode now in play will help determine which of the two hypotheses best characterizes the practices of our national governance model and methodology.

    • nj_v2

      Can’t preserve access or control of other countries’ resources that way, though.

  • Potter

    If we act precipitously we take the responsibility away from the rest of the world acting in concert as they should. If we don’t want to go it alone this will make a dent.

  • toc1234

    Why even bother now w a strike since Assad will have had almost two wks to hide his stuff? oh, I know why – Cowboy “Don’t cross my redline” Obama needs to save face… amateur hour continues..

    • Renee Engine-Bangger

      Spare us your Obama Hate™

      • hennorama

        Renee Engine-Bangger – that gets a [Vote up] for the ™ alone.

      • nj_v2

        Yet the fact remains that Obama made an implied threat, the effectiveness or consequences of which haven’t been thought out, are not clear, and are as likely as not to have no real, positive effect, and to have negative effects we cannot predict or control.

    • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

      “Red Line” is a metaphor for the Rule of Law (also known as the Crime and Punishment Regulatory Model).

      That regulatory model has been around for some 4000 years, nominally dating back to Hammurabi of Mesopotamia.

      This episode reveals that Hammurabic Method of Social Regulation has a subtle inherent flaw in it.

      The best model I know of that reveals the flaw is the one put forth a few decades ago by Rene Girard of Stanford University. His model goes by the name of Contagion.

      • toc1234

        in this case the redline is a metaphor for incompetence… i.e. I think we can all agree that if Obama could take back that offhand comment last summer, he would. so the redline is not about rule of law in this case, its about a political eff-up.

        • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

          It would also make it a hell of lot easier for Mr. Kerry to take his evidence to the UN and/or the ICC and let them review the facts to determine how best to enforce the Rule of International Law regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    • brettearle

      There are some installations that they can’t hide.

  • Wahoo_wa

    What affect will involvement with Syria have on mortgage rates?

    • StilllHere

      In Syria?

      • Wahoo_wa

        No…in the United States

  • hennorama

    Repeating from a few days ago:

    I urge everyone to express their views on this very important topic to the President, and to their Senators and Representative. The President and members of Congress do take contact from the public into account when acting on controversial issues, at least to some extent.

    It’s very easy to voice one’s opinions. Here’s how:

    Corresponding with the White House:

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

    Here’s an easy way to find out who your Representative is, and who your Senators are, and how to contact them:

    http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

    Just enter your Zip Code or your full address.

    Alternatively, you can go to:

    http://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

    There’s a [Find Your Senators] dropdown menu in the upper righthand corner.

    http://www.house.gov/

    There’s a [Find Your Representative] search box (by Zip Code) in the upper righthand corner.

  • Coastghost

    IF US action is forthcoming, and IF Syria retaliates in part by lobbing munitions into Turkey, how would NATO be able to keep out of the conflict, esp. if it widens further with Iranian participation? Is police action in Syria ONLY a pretext for taking on Iran?

    • brettearle

      Appreciate your forward thinking.

      Iran, I think, will spend time not leaving finger prints–if it becomes actively (but covertly) engaged.

      What I think is also possible is that Syria might take cues (or false cues) from Russia and its possible support–by striking within Israel.

      However, as you say, a more moderate reaction might be, quite possibly, Turkey.

      I, basically, believe that the US does not want to widen the conflict–at least now–and that Britain and the US would broker a stand-down restraint for NATO.

  • nhStrobaffa

    Hey Tom, no one is speaking about peaceful options at all… seriously? Does anyone have any new ideas?

    • AC

      the base internal conflict began in 680ad.
      it seems daunting, no?

    • brettearle

      Like what?

      Do you actually believe that Assad is going to sue for Peace?

      Doesn’t mean we should go through with this strike, however.

      • nhStrobaffa

        Well, Russia is the biggest obstacle to a UN resolution. As impossible as it is to work with Putin, there must be some carrot we can use to get them to work with us. For example, I’m sure they don’t want to lose access to the Mediterranean via their port in Syria. There must be a way we can work with the international community to preserve their use and access to the port even after a peaceful transition from Assad. Strikes will not accomplish a transition of power and will only serve to belittle the sacrifices of the Syrian people, whose deaths would be better served by finding a way to remove Assad from power peacfully and prove to the world that we can actually govern without using force.

        • brettearle

          Thoughtful comments–but I do not totally agree.

          First, I am going to assume that in my brief comment, above, you can note that I am against the strike–without significant cooperative effort.

          Additionally:

          I would not underestimate how much of a short fuse Russia might have.

          Don’t forget the political capital the US has lost over Serbia and Iraq.

          Russia’s recalcitrance in the Security Council will remain, I think–unless there is conclusive proof.

          And even then, they may balk and deny the evidence–because they don’t want the US to score a….

          Victory
          A Moral Victory
          A Prestige Victory

          Finally, it is possible for a superpower–even if that superpower is a major hypocrite and even if it is ill advised–to police the world against a moral outrage…..and, by doing so, to therefore separate out the strike from the Wider War.

  • Norman Prather

    I recall any of us with experience in Somalia attempting to convince the US leadership not to go after Somali clan leadership. We did not believe, and were proven correct, that the US leadership understood the cultural/political realities there.

    I do not have confidence in the US leadership, specifically Congress, choosing the best action in a place few of them understand.

  • toc1234

    this brookings guy’s analysis can be summed up by: ‘hooray for my side’

  • Potter

    …cut back on social services to get involved minimally?…..fool me once. The threat of isolationism is bogus.

  • Tony Sanders

    The U.S. does not have the obligation or the right to enforce international law. That is what the UN and NATO are for. On top of that, America does not have the moral high ground on the issue of chemical warfare is concerned. Does anyone remember the vast amounts of chemical weapons used BY AMERICA during the Vietnam conflict. And, that wasn’t a “war” either. This war, whether one calls it that or not, will only serve to further bankrupt the average American while lining the pockets of an elite few.

  • Ed

    Keep us out of Syria, it is a sectarian war that we have no fight in.
    The act of gassing his own people is heinous, we need to let the world decide his fate not just us.
    I feel we are being baited into this conflict.
    The entire thing makes no sense, are we sure that our military industrial complex had nothing to do with this? There is an old saying follow the money.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      ALWAYS follow the money, be it war or tax cuts or “entitlement reform” or “education reform”, the $ always flow to the romney types.

  • J__o__h__n

    Not rushing into every global conflict, doesn’t make you isolationist.

  • toc1234

    speaking of the Sequester… wasn’t that another fumble by Obama? “oh, I wouldn’t have proposed the sequester if I thought it would actually come to pass”… likewise, “Oh, I wouldn’t have drawn that redline if I actually thought it would actually come to pass..”

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Sure, it was a fumble in handling the relentless class warfare from the far right.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    As with iraq and Judith Miller et al, the corporate media quickly get in line and serve as the war cheerleaders.

    Anyone saying let it alone? Hello?

    As I said before, Ron Paul nailed it. I couldn’t put it any better:

    http://rt.com/usa/ron-paul-qaeda-side-syria-216/

    • hennorama

      TomK_in_Boston – applause for your willingness to stretch out and use rt.com as a source. Few will consider using them, in the same way that as few will consider using america.aljazeera.com/ .

      About RT:

      ‘RT news covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more and delivers stories often missed by the mainstream media to create news with an edge. RT provides an alternative perspective on major global events, and acquaints international audience with the Russian viewpoint.“

      Reading that last sentence cracked me up, as it omitted either (pick your favorite) “the” in front of “international audience,” or “s” at the end of “international audience.”

      Try reading it aloud with a Russian accent.

      See:

      http://rt.com/about-us/

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Putin thanks you for the call out.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Thanks hennorama, I do like RT, but I have to point out that RT is just linking to Faux News in this case.

        • hennorama

          TomK_in_Boston – TY for your response, and your kind words.

          I considered writing “a Boris Badenov accent” but decided the reference would be a bit too obscure for some.

          And there’s nothing wrong with citing RT as long as one remembers they present “the Russian viewpoint.”

      • HonestDebate1

        A week or two ago I posted footage of a gay guy reading RT the riot act and exposing them. That was good TV.

        • hennorama

          Debates Not, He – Fascinating. Thanks eversomuch for adding to the collective’s knowledge.

          • HonestDebate1

            Thank you for the exceptionally kind words. Here it is:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiDadX2P-pQ

            TYAFYR

          • hennorama

            Debates Not, He – no offense, but as one often says after watching a movie preview, that’s a Must Miss.

  • MsAbila

    No more wars!!
    Let the International Criminal Court bring justice to Syria.

    Why does the US want more blood? The people in Syria have already been suffering enough.
    And who is paying for all this? You and I as taxpayers silently forced to subsidize military action… That’s not what I want, I don’t endorse it at all. I want my tax $s to serve the US on domestic issues such as a single-payer healthcare system.

    I am tired of our taxfunds financing military actions in the world.

    • brettearle

      You are forgetting that you are screaming at Men who follow the patterns of History.

      And, you are screaming at Men, too, who reflect the ubiquity of aggression, as a far-reaching impulse in human nature, since time immemorial.

  • homebuilding

    I. Often, pouring cold water (with the best of intentions) onto scalding oil, does little more than splatter the hot oil on anyone close by.

    II. Can anyone name an invasion or intervention (by anyone) in the affairs of a religious state (particularly a muslim one) has turned out ‘as advertised?’

    Military volunteers, beware ! (the old men, with no skin in the game, beyond yours, are getting restless, again) It’s time to deny them.

    • brettearle

      I don’t support the strike without International cooperation.

      However, even though there would, likely, be repercussions, is it your thinking that Assad’s regime, if it is responsible for the gas attacks, would use gas again–if a strike is initiated by the West?

      [That doesn't mean that the repercussions wouldn't be worse than the gas attacks.]

    • TomK_in_Boston

      “II. Can anyone name an invasion or intervention (by anyone) in the affairs of a religious state (particularly a muslim one) has turned out ‘as advertised?”

      Doesn’t anyone have any memory? This s**it does not work! How many disasters before we learn a lesson?

      • nj_v2

        It’s stunning, isn’t it?

  • pete18

    I’m wondering which version of the Constitution should be followed, Senator Obama’s version: “The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” he told The Boston Globe in 2007 in his presidential campaign. http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2011/03/28/fact_check_how_obamas_libya_claims_fit_the_facts/?page=2

    Or President Obama’s version: “As commander in chief, I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America’s national security. I do not believe that I was required to take this to Congress,” Obama said during a visit to Stockholm, Sweden.
    http://news.yahoo.com/obama-reserves-right-to-buck-congress-on-syria-strike-140227751.html

    • Ray in VT

      I think that the latter statement is far more in line with historical precedent.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Is saving face for the President considered “on behalf of America’s national security”? I suppose with some twisted logic you could make that case.

        • Ray in VT

          Well, we could always stand aside and let people get massacred with chemical weapons… again. At least this time we wouldn’t be actually helping anyone gas people.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            When did we help gas people?

            If there is a strong evidence of gassing by Assad then Obama should be able to do the hard work of building the coalition of the willing. Right?

            This has been botched on many levels.

          • Ray in VT

            When we provided information to Saddam in the 1980s regarding Iranian troop concentrations and locations:

            http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/08/25/secret_cia_files_prove_america_helped_saddam_as_he_gassed_iran

            Maybe or maybe not on the issue of evidence. Even if there is strong evidence, then some might just want to sit this one out, especially considering the shadow that Iraq has cast over the current debate. But who knows, maybe Palau will kick in some crates of bananas or something.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            Wasn’t just the info, we quietly approved that our euro allies provided him with the chem weapons or raw materials.

          • Ray in VT

            Isn’t it a bit ironic that we thought that Iran was so bad that we would help another country gas its troops, but yet we would also sell arms to them.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            LOL, the MIC has to get paid.

          • Ray in VT

            Plus one had to find a way to fund some death squads in Central America after Congress forbade it.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            We helped Reagan’s buddy Saddam gas the Iranians.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Like you would say starting the iraq war was “on behalf of America’s national security”?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Pay attention.

            Obama claims the right to act WITHOUT congressional approval. Iraq was WITH congressional approval.

          • Ray in VT

            There is also a great difference between limited actions and strikes, like is being proposed as regards Syria or as happened with Libya, and invading and occupying an entire country, although I do not think that Congress ever took a vote on Korea.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I agree that there is a difference. TomK was the one who brought up Iraq.

          • Ray in VT

            Perhaps he was referring to the justification for Iraq rather than comparing directly the differences in situations between Iraq and Syria, and if invading Iraq was “on behalf of America’s national security”, then could Bush have invaded without Congressional approval. If a President does need an action to be in America’s national security interests, then did such interests exist with Grenada and Panama, among other actions?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Other actions? Like the invasion of Haiti in 1994? More of the Monroe Doctrine?

            Let’s not forget Kosovo and Somalia – both without congressional approval.

          • Ray in VT

            Yup. There’s another (or several). George H.W. Bush said something along the lines that he didn’t need Congressional approval in 1991 but that he would take it. There’s a pretty long history of the President being able to undertake actions of a more limited nature without Congressional approval, and even a couple of large ones (Korea). Still, the question that I posed would Bush have been able to invade Iraq without Congressional approval? If one looks at the Korea precedent, then maybe, with the argument there was that the spread of communism being a national security threat. The question of that, or any other action, ultimately would seem to be whether or not the Congress is willing to fund such adventures, as well as the issue of what is the limit of executive power in this area. Clearly small actions have a significant track record, but larger ones are on much shakier ground due to a limited number of examples.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            I brought it up as an example of a bogus argument that a massive screwup is in the interest of our national security. Can’t you see the pattern? They have NEVER sold us a war without claiming it’s for national security.

      • pete18

        You’d think a guy who taught the Constitution at Harvard would have figured that out by the time he was Senator.

        • Ray in VT

          Some lessons may only come with experience, and I’m not sure if Obama focused on particular aspects of Constitutional law that led him away from issues such as historical precedent when it came to the powers of the commander in chief and the limits of executive power. Also, I don’t think that he taught at Harvard, but I may be wrong on that one.

          • pete18

            You’re right, he taught at University of Chicago Law School, he was President of the Harvard Law review. Doesn’t change the observation . You are applying some awfully big wiggle room to someone who was a former Constitutional Scholar, no matter what his area of expertise was.

          • Ray in VT

            Yes, I am, and historical precedent gives the President some pretty wide wiggle room, as Commander in Chief, to conduct some types of military actions without authorization from Congress.

            I am not sure what the President’s particular area of focus was, and I have met enough academics who have highly detailed, specific knowledge in one area of a subject and relatively less in another aspect to know that this may be the case here. It may also be the case that the President has changed his thinking on this matter in light the responsibilities that he has now that he has had to deal with these issues as an executive rather than a legislator or professor.

          • pete18

            “I am not sure what the President’s particular area of focus was, and I
            have met enough academics who have highly detailed, specific knowledge
            in one area of a subject and relatively less in another aspect to know
            that this may be the case here.”

            Still mighty wide butt shaking latitude, given that you and I, casual internet posters, are well aware of this reality.

            “It may also be the case that the President has changed his thinking on
            this matter in light the responsibilities that he has now that he has
            had to deal with these issues as an executive rather than a legislator
            or professor.”

            That is certainly a possibility, or maybe he’s just using a selective application of his Constitutional expertise to fit the political needs of the moment.

            If it’s the former, I hope to hear his public apology to President Bush sometime soon given all the vile grief Senator and Presidential candidate Obama gave him about his controversial decisions, which were no doubt driven by the same weighty real-world responsibilities of the executive office.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t know which real world responsibilities can excuse torture, the denial of habeus corpus rights to a citizen detained on American soil or the intentional targeting of domestic communications without any sort of judicial oversight.

          • pete18

            As opposed to killing American Citizens without a trial with drones and the intentional targeting of domestic communications without any sort of judicial oversight?

          • Ray in VT

            Oh, I think that there are plenty of issues regarding both drones and al-Awlaki, which I assume is what you are referring to. I think that it creates problems when someone taking up arms against the United States in a war zone. The question then becomes what can or should we do in such a situation. I really don’t know.

            As for “intentional targeting of domestic communications without any sort of judicial oversight”, as far as I am presently aware, the NSA’s activities at least have gone through the FISA Court (for whatever that is worth), which was not the case with the Terrorist Surveillance Court.

          • pete18

            “The question then becomes what can or should we do in such a situation.”

            Yes, a tough question. Equally tough is what do we do when we have one of the top Al Quaeda operatives in our custody and we know he has information that might prevent another massive terrorist attack? One would think given those difficult moral and national security questions, particularly in the wake of 9/11, one might decide that making an Al Queda terrorist, with the blood of 3,000 Americans on his hands, scared and extremely uncomfortable, using a technique that we regularly put our own troops through during SERE trainging (http://www.humanevents.com/2007/11/05/waterboarding-a-sereing-experience-for-tens-of-thousands-of-us-military-personnel/) might be at least as acceptable as KILLING enemy combatants from afar without a trial and without any intelligence gained.

            I know, I know, moral equations change when there is a “D” following a President’s name.

          • Ray in VT

            My feelings regarding the acceptability of killing combatants on the battlefield and the unacceptability of mistreating captured individuals, in defiance of a good 100 years of our practice and various international agreements, remains pretty consistent without regard to the party of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

            It is also pretty questionable whether accurate or valuable information is often or ever garnered from torturing people. Take this statement for example:

            “The public record strongly suggests there was no useful
            information gained from going to the dark side” and engaging in
            torture, said David Irvine, a former Republican Utah state
            legislator and retired Army brigadier general who served on the
            task force. “We have been badly misled by false confessions
            derived from brutal interrogations.”

            http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-04-16/u-s-tortured-detainees-getting-little-information-report-says.html

            so kindly spare me the Jack Bauer please.

          • pete18

            I love Jack Bauer, but he has nothing to do with my argument. The point about the lack of effectiveness regarding waterboarding, which is the basic tactic that we are talking about, is actually quite debatable. By all accounts we got critical information from Khaid Sheikh Mohammed using it and that information allowed us to kill Bin laden. However, even if we were to determine that it wasn’t an effective method, the idea that KILLING an American citizen, who may have been working with terrorists, is somehow LESS of a moral outrage than making a known murderer of 3,000 American citizens frightened and uncomfortable in an attempt to gain important knowledge to prevent another attack, is a bizarre bit of ethical logic.

    • jimino

      Creation of an “imperial presidency” acting unfettered in a war paradigm by the checks and balances written into our Constitution has long been the intellectual and policy goal of movement conservatives, led by Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Gonzales (complying with the Geneva Convention is “quaint”), etc. They have gotten what they asked for.

      • Ray in VT

        But it is funny how some of those guys became sudden opponents of executive power about 5.5 years ago.

      • pete18

        All I’m asking is which version of Obama are we supposed to be following here? Do you have an answer? Because they are diametrically opposed to each other.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Where is the ‘coalition of the willing’?

    • Coastghost

      There’s not one: but Obama is out in front of it.

    • Ray in VT

      Still smarting from “dodgy dossier disorder”?

  • truegangsteroflove

    So it’s all about politics, as usual. The “issue” itself, bombing “Syria” because its government gassed people, is silly. “We” will spread death as a response to spreading death. More death is the best “we” can do. “We” are the world’s only “superpower,” and superpowers spread death when it suits them.

    Given the phoniness of a past purveyor of chemical warfare (napalm, agent orange, help to Saddam in his gassing, white phosphorous, depleted uranium, nuclear fission) enforcing rules on others, the great minds working in fancy offices at the White House have other purposes up their proverbial sleeves. It’s chess playing, domestically and internationally.

    Not the least of the other purposes is the shiny keys effect – a distraction that focuses attention away from such things as the NSA, our skewed-to-the-rich economy, inaction on climate change, the prison industrial complex, the ridiculous “sequester,” the fact that our political system is controlled by bribes, the hapless approaches to education “reform,” etc., etc.

    Regardless of whether Obama gets his attack, postponing real work on solving real problems will make them worse. Duh. This will be adding a new one.

  • Coastghost

    Says sub-Messiah Obama: “My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. The credibility of the US Congress is on the line.” –is it pompous, or is it pathological?

    • AC

      i think it’s a fair statement, given the possible historical parallels and the criticism, then praise we recieved once we participated…

      • Coastghost

        Obama sounds terribly scrambled. One week ago he was ready to act: didn’t need Congressional authorization, et cetera. Only after Cameron’s rebuff by Parliament did Obama change his tune. Now he’s consulting Congress, WHILE claiming (either himself or through his spokespersons) he will act resolutely regardless of Congressional action. –so why did he do all this pirouetting in public? It was Joe Biden who rebuked Sen Obama in Aug 2007 ff. his Wilson Center address: “you don’t telegraph your intentions publicly”. But Obama seems still not to’ve gotten the memo.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Too bad we don’t have a decisive leader like Bush to take control of the situation and find the best outcome for the USA – you know, like >$1 trillion pissed away, >5000 US casualties and hundreds of thousands of iraqi casualties. Then things would be much better.

          • HonestDebate1

            It’s always about Bush.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            With you, it’s all about forgetting that Bush ever happened. Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

          • jimino

            I have read all the comments and don’t see one containing what you think should be done. Do you have any ideas other than “Obama bad”?

          • HonestDebate1

            I have no idea how to cure cancer but I oppose it.

            I find your comment odd in two ways. First, why should I be required to offer a solution before I can criticize the policies that got us here? Or why should I consider any solutions proposed on a stupid blog to be valid? Or why should I consider a demand for inaction to be a solution?

            Secondly, why would I or anyone take the view of “Obama bad”? I get this charge a lot. I just don’t like anything Obama does because… well just because. Because what? It makes no sense.

          • jimino

            OK, I’ll accept that you have no point to anything you say. Of course that is the antithesis of debate so you might consider changing your moniker. At least it makes your comments more understandable.

          • HonestDebate1

            Your still not making sense.

          • Ray in VT

            4500 dead and over 32000 wounded is a high price to pay prevent weapons that weren’t there being passed to terrorists that weren’t working with Saddam.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            W was strong and decisive, tho. He strongly screwed the USA. So much better than the indecisive Obama.

          • Ray in VT

            Decisive is great when you’re right, but if or when you’re wrong, I think that there’s little benefit in being either determined or decisive, at least if it leads one to doggedly pursue a poor course in direct contradiction to available evidence or facts.

          • Coastghost

            Alternatively, Tom: if the past week has been a public display of Obama’s conviction, resolution, and decisiveness: what kind of conviction, resolution, and decisiveness can we legitimately expect of him once hostilities begin? What if the conflict DOES inexplicably expand well beyond Obama’s stated preference for “limited, contained” strikes?
            Frankly, instead of meaningful or meaningless Congressional votes, I myself vastly prefer that President Obama be explicitly forthcoming about how and why he has participated in this on, off, on-again, off-again debate with himself.

        • brettearle

          Basically, he did this pirouetting–because he couldn’t help himself.

          I have to agree with you.

          He couldn’t help himself–because he put his foot in his mouth when he first started talking about a “Red Line” and “Game Changer”–with regard to the Gas Attacks.

          He should have been much more muted:

          “If any country were to use what is considered to be WMD, as recognized, by the International Community, then we would have to make, at the time, a very serious assessment, as to what has happened.”

          And leave it at that.

      • HonestDebate1

        I don’t know, when you look at what’s happening in Egypt, Iran, Libya and elsewhere with the Taliban re-emerging in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda on the rise, what’s a despot got to loose? No one fears Obama’s empty rhetoric, France is showing more leadership. The world needs a rudder and when America doesn’t provide it the void is filled by bad bad men.

        • brettearle

          Why don’t you tell us what your Elixir is?

          So long as all of us note that your ideas wouldn’t likely send us into an unanticipated thermonuclear war.

          Not that they would.

          It’s just that we wouldn’t you to get too jingoistic on us.

          C’mon….tell us how you could do a better job….

          Assuming that your own Intelligence (as in classified information) is the same as the CIA’s, the DIA’s, and the NSA’s.

          C’mon….

          • HonestDebate1

            The last thing anyone needs is to put me in charge but if you are asking me to clarify my point, I will.

            I think the administration needs to have a strategery for peace in the Middle East. I don’t see one. The world doesn’t see one. When we check out it doesn’t mean we get to live free and pretend everything is peachy. It doesn’t lesson the chance for an unanticipated thermonucular war. It just means things fester and enemies are emboldened by our ambivalence. This is the second time in recent memory when France has taken the lead, tho other being Libya. Thousands died while we dallied.

            Every bit of this is being controlled by events dictated by the enemy. I think there should be an articulated, principled and clear vision addressing the entire scope of the Middle East and we should be years into it by now. We should have more of a hand in controlling events as opposed to reacting to them. The world should know our word means something and our values are noble. We should be working with Russia, not against them. We should be making the case to allies as to what’s at stake and what’s in the worlds best interest.

            No one has a clue.

          • brettearle

            HD–

            I simply do not agree with you.

            You speak in platitudes.

            If we followed your advice, we’d be interfering in countries’ lives, no matter what.

            It doesn’t WORK that way.

            Especially in 2013, after 9/11.

            Your ideas for solutions are that you expect us to come up with some Antidotes–which we can apply in some harmonious, efficient way.

            I do NOT know where your Reality-Denial comes from.

            And I mean Reality-Denial.

            There can be no clarity, at all, in the Middle East. There’s too much History. Too much Conflict.

            The Middle East is such a discombobulated pastiche of hodge-podge resentments and myriad ethnicities that these Peoples usually scapegoat the US and Israel, to avoid killing more of each other.

            And they also continue to scapegoat each other and themselves.

            And you KNOW it.

            C’mon….

            Are you trying to tell me that any country or any consortium KNOWS WHAT TO DO?

            If they did, the West woulda been outta’ there, for good, in ’56–during the Suez Crisis.

          • HonestDebate1

            First of all what do you think my advise is?

            There can be clarity of purpose, that is lacking.

        • AC

          some say France will show up and stay a bit, then pull out early just as they’ve done every other time…

          • HonestDebate1

            It could be. Don’t get me wrong, God Bless France.

        • jimino

          What should we, or any country, do?

          What would your idea of a “leader” demand be done?

          • brettearle

            Maybe he’ll answer you instead of me.

          • HonestDebate1

            I have no idea.

            I think a leader leads. If there’s a red line then there’s a red line. If it requires Congress then that case should have been made before the red line. If it requires the UN then let America charge into the Security Counsel and lead the way. The people of Egypt are accusing Obama of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood! How does that happen? Leadership requires clarity.

          • jimino

            “I have no idea.” Thank you for being honest.

            As far as your claim that “The people of Egypt are accusing Obama of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood! How does that happen?”,
            I suppose the same way the “people of the USA” think he’s a Kenyan; or a liberal; or a Muslim. That is, there are a lot of stupid, ignorant people with opinions. And more to the point, so what?

          • HonestDebate1

            I think when the people of Egypt think our President supports terrorism then our President is not taking a principled stand.

          • Ray in VT

            People in Iran think that America is aligned with the Devil. Why has the United States not taken a principled stand against Lucifer?

          • brettearle

            The Iranians would argue, then, that a country can’t take a stand against itself.

          • HonestDebate1

            Good point.

          • jimino

            The Egyptian people also believe that the US should cut off all aid to Israel and totally withdraw from the Arabian Peninsula. So if we don’t do those things how does that affect your view of our President?

          • Ray in VT

            Given that one of yesterday’s callers seems to regard the President as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood and that a sizable number of Americans believe that the President is either a Muslim or was born in another country, one would wonder why Obama hasn’t taken a stand on these issues.

          • normanprather

            I suspect you are fundamentally misunderstanding how information is controlled and disseminated in many countries.

          • HonestDebate1

            No, I’m not. It is unclear whose side our President is on.

          • TELew

            Apparently Michele Bachmann and other conservative wack-jobs made it up, and the story of Obama being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood reached bloggers in Egypt. Not realizing that our media is not controlled by the government, the Egyptians assumed that the charges were true, so . . .

          • HonestDebate1

            I kind of doubt the Bachmann thing but it made it to the Egyptian newspapers. Why would they assume it’s true? That’s my point.

          • TELew

            Two things account for this. First, in a country in which the government does control the press (such as Egypt–at least at the time), it is hard for people to conceive of a “free press,” in which different opinions are expressed. Hence, if the press says it, then it must be the position of the government.

            Second, it is my understanding that this story about Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood came out during the uprising against Hosni Mubarek. Hence, it was originally government (Mubarek) -sponsored anti-U.S. propaganda when the U.S. had “turned it’s back” on Mubarek.

            As for whether “Egyptians” believe the allegations about Obama–I am sure that Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservative Islamist groups did not.

            My source of this information is Rachel Maddow, which you can believe or not. Per Maddow, I don’t think that there is a connection between Bachmann and the Egyptians. Rather, with her gift for making up things, Bachmann and others said things, which at a minimum were seen as useful by pro-Mubarek propagandists and at the worst actually believed by some Egyptians. It was only natural for the Mubarek faction to take this information and use it as evidence of a connection between the Obama administration, which had refused to support Mubarek in this time of crisis, and the opposition to Mubarek.

    • brettearle

      Your right on this one.

      He’s backed himself into some what of a corner.

      • brettearle

        written above

    • brettearle

      It is not necessarily “pathological”.

      Those rhetorical flourishes detract from your point.

      “Especially Expedient” would be more accurate, I think.

      • Coastghost

        Equally: it could be a matter of “both-and” rather than “either-or”. But “moral megalomania” could constitute one appraisal of his fatuous “everyone’s credibility’s at stake but mine” notion.

        • brettearle

          Again, I don’t exactly think that you and I are parsing words, here.

          I don’t agree with your assessment of “moral megalomania’–although as a wordsmith, I appreciate your creative term.

          What Obama has tried to do–and it should be argued, he has done it unsuccessfully–is that he has tried to separate out the Moral Retribution from the implications of the wider Civil War.

          Without significant international cooperation, he can’t do that, successfully.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    “Probes from Khan al-Assal show chemicals used in the March 19 attack did not belong to standard Syrian army ammunition, and that the shell carrying the substance was similar to those made by a rebel fighter group, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.

    A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday particularly drew attention to the “massive stove-piping of various information aimed at placing the responsibility for the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on Damascus, even though the results of the UN investigation have not yet been revealed.”

    second para resembles “the intel is being fixed around the policy”

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      “Remember the Maine”

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Remember those NVA motorboats that threatened our Destroyers? “In the interests of national security” congress voted the “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” which took the USA into a very deep pit. We’ve forgotten about Iraq, and Tonkin is so long ago it has been written out of history by the Ministry of Truth.

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          You’ve got it. Remember though, Putin has his own Ministry of Truth. So think twice before you quote it.

          • Ray in VT

            Yeah, I wouldn’t be too eager to believe much coming out of any outlets too closely tied to the Kremlin either.

  • SteveTheTeacher

    I applaud President Obama for bringing the question of military action for a vote before congress. However, the manner in which President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and other government officials are framing the debate is disingenuous.

    The options are not to either bomb Syria or retreat into isolation and do nothing. What about pursuing other non-military actions?

    The energy, resources, and money the US government has put into the military so far outweighs that which goes into diplomacy, that government officials view the military as the panacea solution.

    The reality are that the are numerous non-military options that the US can undertake.

    Review his background. Bashir Assad came to power proclaiming the aspirations of being a reformer who would modernize Syria. Skillful diplomats should be able to figure out how to entice Assad into some peaceful resolution in which he is encouraged to participate because he feels that he will come out looking more positively.

    Why can’t US government officials seek to work with Russian, Iranian, or Lebanese government officials?

    How about pursuing war crimes charges against Assad through the International Criminal Court?

    For some inane reason (political opportunism) the US maintains an international embargo against Cuba. How about implementing a similar embargo against Syria?

    • brettearle

      Embargoes could hurt the Syrian civilian population.

      To me, your suggestions, theoretically, are, however, thoughtful.

      But it simply doesn’t FEEL as if a variety of governments would be motivated to sit down and come up with a political and diplomatic solution.

      There are too many grievances; too much face to save; and probably too many things, going on, behind the scenes.

      The Hague is a good venue idea–but only ceremonially.

      They don’t usually prosecute everyone, who is globally prominent–whom they declare as guilty, do they? The Balkan fiasco and Taylor, perhaps. But who else, who was prominent?

      Also, I believe that the US has opted out in recognizing the Court as officially viable.

      Assad does not strike me as someone who will do anything other than dig his heels in. His political pride and his personal ego are too high, I think.

      His country is much more entrenched and organized than Khaddafi (sp)’s Libya, for example, who was just as recalcitrant but whose regime was easier to topple.

    • andic_epipedon

      Have you studied the history of Assad. The man has no heart. He rules with an iron fist and doesn’t care who he kills to stay in power. The only country that really has any power over Syria is Russia as a trading partner and Russia has refused to do anything.

      • SteveTheTeacher

        If Assad were pure evil, it would be easier to deal with him. The reality is that he does have support of a significant segment of the Syrian population.

        People are complex and filled with contradictions.

        The lack of a viable means of bringing about a peace process is a poor reflection on our skills and creativity.

        Why can the US undertake diplomacy with the vigor with which it supports and deploys its military?

        • andic_epipedon

          My understanding is that he has the the support of 10 percent of the population based on ethnicity and religion. The rest support him out of fear. He has been brutal for many years in suppressing dissidence. It is the way he has kept power for so many years. I don’t see it changing anytime soon.

          As for whether or not Assad is pure evil, I will leave that between him and his deity.

          As for US diplomacy, we didn’t have any problems with Assad’s methods during Iraq War 1 when the Assad regime supported our move to kick Hussein out of Kuwait. I was still in high school at the time, but that is what I remember. Our diplomacy is limited by our past actions.

          • SteveTheTeacher

            10% of the population is about 2.2 million people. Not insignificant.

            How barbaric is humanity?

            Is the only way to respond to one act of depraved massacre of innocent civilians to kill more innocent civilians?

            Diplomacy must go beyond a quick rush to wage war. If the US, for whatever reason, cannot directly talk with the Assad regime (I doubt this) then they should be able to do so through some proxies. What ever happened to our economic “hit men.”

            How many people must be killed before we realize that the only solution is a political negotiation?

          • andic_epipedon

            As a scientist, 10% is not significant enough.

            Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

            We can attack military targets as a warning to Assad with minimal civilian losses.

            Our nation is bankrupt. It is the Plutocrats that have all the wealth.

            I’m glad to see that we are making diplomatic overtures with Russia.

          • SteveTheTeacher

            I am sure you are a talented scientist, but no science asserts that certain human beings or certain numbers of human beings are “not significant enough” to humanity.

            As a man of science, I am sure you can appreciate that war/violence is a less than optimal use of our intellect.

            On the contrary, those of us in the sciences can do a great service to humanity by showing how, even the most intractable problems, can be solved without digressing into violence.

    • andic_epipedon

      We could try to bury the hatchet when it comes to Iran.

      • SteveTheTeacher

        Do you mean asking the the Iranians to bury the hatchet about the fact that the CIA helped plan and execute the overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian President, Mossadegh, after he sought to nationalize Iranian oil?

        And, asking the Iranians to bury the hatchet about the fact that CIA director, Allen Dulles, provided that Shah’s forces information on large numbers of Iranian leftest/progressives enabling the Shah’s forces to imprison, torture, and kill them and their family members?

        And, asking the Iranians to bury the hatchet about the fact that the US military shot down the Iranian flight 655 killing several hundred civilian passengers including 66 children.

        And, asking the Iranians to bury the hatchet about the fact that the US military provided Saddam Hussein with information regarding Iran forces enabling Saddam to effectively gas the Iranians – a fact for which the US raised no concern?

        Good point andic.

        • andic_epipedon

          Yes, if we want peace.

  • Coastghost

    Because the US already has a history of by-passing UNSC votes and vetoes when it comes to waging humanitarian war: Clinton, if he did not establish the precedent, certainly contributed to it with his and Albright’s campaign against Milosevic. (To your second point: does deploying chemical weapons against domestic adversaries constitute a “war crime”? I doesn’t know.)

  • Shag_Wevera

    I’m just glad congress gets to vote. I hope they represent the view of the American people with that vote.

    • brettearle

      Congress won’t.

      Congressional vote is supposed to be close.

      Public support isn’t close to that.

      But it is an intriguing discrepancy, isn’t it?

  • andic_epipedon

    I am disappointed in the whole situation. I am disappointed that Obama drew the red line in the first place. I am disappointed that Obama didn’t have the konas to lob a few cruise missiles at Syrian military objectives and then either ask Congress to authorize further action or consider the mission accomplished. I don’t want American boots on the ground because we can’t afford it.

  • andic_epipedon

    Russia and China get oil from Syria. A change in government could mean less oil for China and Russia.

  • hennorama

    Tony Sanders – TY for your response.

    You wrote, referring to America, “Having used chemical weapons in direct violation of the Geneva Protocols of 1929, …” What “[use of] chemical weapons” are you referring to, exactly? Please be specific, and present some evidence of your claim.

    As to your “fiscally responsible” remark – puhlease. Spare me.

    One recalls all the “Freedom Isn’t Free” and Fox News cynically appropriating the sentiment of that phrase to name its Saturday morning business show as “THE COST OF FREEDOM.”

    At some point, American ideals and international laws have to matter, and costs be damned.

    President Obama said this was his “… question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community”:

    “What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”

    Put fiscal concerns and politics aside, look to your conscience, and answer that question.

  • Coastghost

    Reading late afternoon reports and opinion pieces, one thing I find striking is: not much seems to be made of the fact that elements of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are on the ground in Syria (one or two prominent members of which have been killed just this year by whomever, “good” Syrian rebels or “bad” jihadi extremists).
    So a US cruise missile, on target or going astray, hits an IRG barracks or compound, let’s say, killing dozens or scores of Iranians.
    Ready, Mr. Obama?
    (We might also care to recall, just as an academic exercise while we await US action, that Iran borders Afghanistan itself: what are the prospects that Iranian agents would or could respond to our actions in Syria by throwing lit matches into Afghan powder kegs [figuratively speaking]? Arguably, if the Iranians feel riled enough, we could see vast complications attending the approaching US withdrawal from Afghanistan.)
    I just hope all the clever people in DC are thinking all this through: maybe with Obama out of town, they can.

  • normanprather

    The various voices sniping at Obama for forcing Congress to vote on this are equal parts amusing and annoying. I see forcing Congress to take a stand, each of the weasel mouthed members, as brilliant. It might be cynical as I suspect the real target is domestic not Syria.

    • Tony Sanders

      Obama should bring the issue to Congress. But, from what I see here and speaking to those I interact with in real life, the majority of Americans do not support military intervention in Syria for one reason or another. The most appalling thing about this whole ordeal is that our public officials seem to ignore the will of the American people with more and more frequency.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      Too bad Ed Markey, freshman Senator from MA, voted present. Who could he be taking after?

  • Coastghost

    Oh, and Sgt. Hagel assures us that US intervention in Syria would only cost the US Treasury a scant few “tens of millions of dollars”. (So he’s reported to’ve testified today: no word on what eruptions of laughter this testimony provoked.)
    –and that ringing endorsement from new Massachusetts Sen. Ed Malarkey?

  • hennorama

    Tony Sanders – Thank you for your response. I respect your views.

    Agent Orange is a defoliant herbicide and was used to remove vegetative cover and to destroy food crops used by U.S. opponents during the war in Southeast Asia. It was not designed as or used as a weapon to kill humans, unlike Sarin, which is what is alleged to have been used in Syria.

    Agent Orange is not a “chemical weapon” as traditionally understood. The horrific aftereffects of its widespread use, on humans and on the ecosystem, are indeed terrible but were not intentional.

    Your skepticism is healthy and warranted. I share it. Your not answering the President’s question is noted.

    My view is that given President Obama’s stance against the invasion of Iraq, and the fact that the Iraq invasion was based in part on cherry-picked intelligence and on far too little verifiable information, the evidence about chemical weapons use in Syria that President Obama has access to must be very strong, or he would not have made this decision.

    He is in effect risking his Presidency on this. Given the stakes, there is no way this President is going to make a similar evidentiary mistake, especially given the clear war-weariness and war-wariness of the American public.

    The U.N. Is not going to do anything, given the stated views of Security Council members Russia and China. There is international support, albeit limited, but even absent such support, someone must take a stand.

    That someone is the U.S.

  • Lusitan75

    Funny how it’s “political” if a Republican who might otherwise be inclined to support military action votes against attacking Syria because a Democratic president is in office, but it’s not called “political” if a Democrat who would otherwise be inclined against military action votes in favor of attacking Syria because a Democratic president is in office.

    Disappointing to see such pervasive subtle bias increasing on On Point.

    • HonestDebate1

      Why on earth would anyone base a decision to go to war on which party is in power?

      • Lusitan75

        That’s an excellent question. I suppose it comes down to matters of (a) politics, especially when the war is the kind of optional “little war” that we can’t seem to resist getting involved in every few years and (b) trust, perhaps politicians trust presidents from their own party more than presidents from the other party.

        I’m not saying it’s right, or that it makes sense. I’m just saying that both Democrats and Republicans engage in this type of behavior, yet listening to On Point one would think that it’s only the Republicans who do so.

        Clearly there are both Democrats and Republicans who will base their war vote, at least in part, on the fact that the president is/isn’t a member of their own party.

        (But it’s only cynical politics when Republicans do it, according to Tom Ashbrook and his guests.)

  • fun bobby

    how does BUR have a half dozen Syria stories above the fold and still has not had time to publish one story that I can find about how the NSA is feeding information to the DEA?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/05/the-nsa-is-giving-your-phone-records-to-the-dea-and-the-dea-is-covering-it-up/

    then there is this:

    http://www.nbcnews.com/travel/tsa-says-you-can-keep-your-shoes-more-airports-8C11073594?ocid=msnhp&pos=6

    some pigs are more equal than others I guess.

  • GenXer

    Is it really dividing along political lines or generational lines? The Silent generation and the Boomers are much more eager to go to war, but the GenXers (between 50-30 years old) finally outnumber them. GenXers were taught in no uncertain terms by our history professors that America should never have interfered in Vietnam’s civil war. Why is it surprising that this generation doesn’t want to interfere in any other civil war?

  • Pingback: For Guidance In Syria, Obama Could Look To Ike | Cognoscenti

  • HonestDebate1
    • Ray in VT

      I wonder how Mr. Rumsfeld feels about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad? He didn’t seem to be too highly opposed to dealing with a guy who was using them back in the 1980s.

      • HonestDebate1

        Clockwork.

        • Ray in VT

          Oh, that’s right. I forget that nothing ever done by the Republicans is wrong or bad, so one shouldn’t bring it up. Maybe we also shouldn’t question Rumsfeld’s ability to speak regarding intelligence issues because the fact that he presided over a major cock up that cost thousands of lives in Iraq is also irrelevant now.

    • hennorama

      Debates Not, He – the appropriate response to Rummy rhymes with “Cut the cluck, pup,” and is the lyric to a Jon Stewart song, which can be viewed here (start watching @ ~ 4:15 in; the song begins @ ~ 4:50):

      http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-september-3-2013/uncle-jonny-stew-s-good-time-syria-jamboree

  • Ray in VT

    An incomplete, and perhaps not totally accurate (depending), list of where members of Congress stand on taking military action against Syria:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/where-lawmakers-stand-on-syria/

  • Outside_of_the_Box

    Nobody is doubting the brutality
    of chemical warfare, or the seriousness of the Syrian conflict. But
    people are asking some important questions, and I hope Obama, and the
    world, take time to really think them through before going ahead with
    this strike.

    These are just some of the questions worth asking:

    1) Will limited strikes really do anything to limit or deter the Assad regime (or the rebels) from using chemical weapons again?
    2) Will limited strikes turn the tide in the rebels favor?
    3) Who are the rebels exactly, and are we even sure we prefer them in power?
    4) With so many brutal conflicts (past and present) in the world, why has the US chosen this one to get involved in?
    5)
    What happens if these strikes trigger far worse strikes/actions by
    Syria and it’s allies (even Russia?) And what is the US prepared to do
    if this warrants further “responses”? And if the answer is further
    engagement, are we ok with that?
    6) Does a limited strike really send
    a message to Assad (or the rebels)? Will it cause him to change course,
    soften his strategy, or think twice before launching another chemical
    attack?

    On the evidence:
    We know there was a chemical attack.
    But do we really know it was Assad and not the rebels?
    The rebels had the most to gain from this attack.
    They
    are struggling and they know that only a significant chemical attack
    could potentially force the US and allies to intervene on their behalf.
    There
    are outside players, like the Saudis for example, who could have helped
    them orchestrate this attack in order to turn the tide in this
    conflict.

    But even if Assad (or his regime) did it, the above questions are still valid and should be carefully contemplated.

    • hennorama

      Outside_of_the_Box – one must consider Assad’s “reasoning” for using chemical weapons.

      A recent segment on ‘The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell’ titled “Why would Assad use chemical weapons?” laid out the case, from a researcher for the book “The Dictator’s Handbook.” Alastair Smith, co-author “The Dictator’s Handbook” was interviewed for a recent article on slate.com.

      From the slate.com article:

      “First of all, using chemical weapons has absolutely cemented that for Assad there can be no soft landing. That has two effects: Domestically, it has signaled to his coalition that they should stick with him. He’s there for the long run and there’s no easy way out for him, so they know he won’t desert them. These crimes against humanity have also made it very clear that it’s going to be very bad for the Alawites if there’s any political transition, which makes them even more loyal to him. They have nowhere else to go.

      “It’s also been a brilliant play internationally. The extent of the chemical weapons has not been so much that Obama’s willing to put ground forces in. The airstrikes they are discussing are unlikely to be a decisive military factor. And Russia and Iran would love to snub the nose of the U.S. and this is a perfect way to do it. The U.S. is going to have to go it alone if they do it, and this is a great way for Russia and Iran to make the U.S. look impotent and pathetic. Russia’s going to continue supplying [Assad] with weapons and Iran’s going to keep supplying him with money. So this was actually a brilliant play from him.”

      See:
      http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-last-word/52917504

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/09/03/why_did_assad_use_chemical_weapons_the_author_of_the_dictator_s_handbook.html

      • Outside_of_the_Box

        If Assad’s regime was responsible, some of these arguments could be feasible.
        But I’m not convinced this is the case.
        The rebels clearly had more to gain from it.
        But even if he was responsible, the above questions remain.

  • Pingback: Rep. Michael Capuano On Syria: ‘Not Convinced Military Action Is The Answer’ | Cognoscenti

  • PithHelmut

    Tom Ashbrook is a national treasure. Thank you Tom for bringing the news in its proper perspective. I can’t say the same for NPR in general. The journalists are wimps, they don’t hold the war mongers to task on how they can possibly be ready to go into Syria with guns drawn when they don’t even know who set off the chemical weapons. Oh sure Kerry has proof but of course they can’t tell us because of National Obscurity. These men who beat the drums of war should be held as symbols of foolishness and be publicly humiliated as a penalty, something which they never pay even when they are infamously wrong. Oh and Nancy Pelosi should be included.

  • Christine Sherer

    I implore President Obama not to rush to war against Syria. It will be a losing situation for all concerned. Please wait until a thorough investigation of the chemical weapons attack has been completed. Having a consensus with the other nations and the UN is imperative.

    • brettearle

      It does not appear that the US will present concrete evidence–before the UN, as it should be doing.

      Russia has said that it would be receptive to examining credible evidence–though Russia doubts there is any.

      If Obama and Kerry claim the exact opposite–that there IS credible evidence–and Russia claims that a possible action, by the US, should go before the UN, then we have a MAJOR disconnect.

      If the US cannot provide concrete evidence–as Adlai Stevenson did, at the UN, in 1963, during the Cuban Missile Crisis–then US credibility plummets significantly….ESPECIALLY in the aftermath of the poor, or false, Intelligence that was the impetus for the Iraq initiative.

      I don’t see how anyone can respect the Obama Administration–if it CANNOT at least explain why it cannot be forthcoming, in Public, about the evidence.

      The Obama Administration owes an explanation to the American people and to the world.

  • ExcellentNews

    Whether you root for the United States of America or for Bashir Assad, do not forget the REAL reason for the uprisings that have shaken the Middle East, including Syria. It is NOT Islam. It is a vast population of unemployed and underemployed, existing in total misery and hopelessness, and watching the local oligarchy and their cronies living it rich and large in their secretive estates.

    The same forces are at work here at home, where our own oligarchs and their banker pals have gutted the great social democracy that America was in the past, and brought it halfway to the state of Syria, Egypt, or any other third-world banana republic.

    So yeah, America has enemies who fly airplanes into buildings and wear turbans. And then, there are the REAL ENEMIES…

  • . .

    i keep hearing about how we’ll “lose credibility” globally if we don’t carry out military strikes on syria? what about the credibility of the AMERICAN PEOPLE? or maybe it’s too late…

  • Luke Mitcheson

    Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.

    Do we really want to throw our military behind an opposition that includes Islamic extremists?

    • dust truck

      well that’s the point, we’re just “punishing” those who used “weapons of terror” (as if gas is any more terrible than wiping out entire civilian neighborhoods with conventional weapons.)

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