Friday, September 6, 2013

Syria: Debunking the Myths

The muddled, confused message out of the Obama administration on punishing Bashar al-Assad for his use of chemical weapons is the primary cause of its flailing prospects in Congress. When you announce what you are not willing/planning to do instead of keeping all options on the table, you have already lost: a) the element of surprise, b) the uncertainty of the consequences for the enemy and, c) the people in Congress who would have normally supported the military action on humanitarian or strategic reasons. But since the strike will not address either of those two problems, it leaves the President seeking support from a very narrow segment of Congress and thereby diminishing the likelihood of passage. President Obama has to be more forceful and determined in his approach to sway public opinion on the war. The sales pitch can begin with the debunking of a few myths purported by the White House and the Secretary of State.

Myth 1: This is not a war.

Secretary of State John Kerry has refused to call the proposed military action a war in multiple hearings, interviews, and press releases. The nonsensical nature of the statement that ‘this is not war in the classical sense’ should be clear to everyone but since it has continued to be used as a selling point by Mr. Kerry, it deserves debunking. Shockingly, nary a reporter or a Congressman has asked Mr. Kerry if he would consider a two-day missile strike on Washington, DC by Syria or Iran as war. One can stipulate that ‘not war in the classical sense’ is technically true, because for most of human history, war was fought on horses and through hand-to-hand combat, with no hostilities at night. So unless that’s what Mr. Kerry is getting at, attacking a sovereign nation is most certainly war by any stretch of the imagination. The administration should definitely make the case that this is not an invasion but to dismiss an act of a preemptive missile attack as simply a targeted, limited, and restricted strike (which sounds more like labor union activity than a military action) is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. You cannot get a little bit pregnant.

Myth 2: Said strikes will deter and degrade Assad’s chemical weapons capability.

Although true in the short term, this is a myth simply because ‘deter and degrade’ by definition is not prevent or eliminate. Besides, the administration has made clear (through mind boggling leaks) what it does not intend to do. Those leaks have resulted in a ‘yes’ answer to all of the following questions:
a) Will Bashar al-Assad remain in power?
b) Will Assad have access to the chemical weapons after the strike?
c) Will the majority of Assad's forces still be operational (i.e. alive)?
d) Will the Syrian regime's supply routes through the Russian naval base and land routes from Iran (through Iraq) remain operational and viable?
e) Will Assad be allowed to continue to cluster bomb, torture, and destroy entire neighborhoods with artillery shells and napalm?

Yes, yes, and yes. Evidently, all Mr. Assad has to do is hunker down for a week or two in his glorified spider hole and ignore the loud bangs around him. Besides, whatever the military strike by the United States degrades, can potentially be replaced by the Syrian regime through Iran and Russia. As for deterring Mr. Assad, deterrence only works if there is a will to follow through on violation of the underlying activity. The administration has made clear that the Syrian leadership is not a target and that an invasion or sustained bombing campaign is out of the question. It begs the question, what exactly is the deterrence for Mr. Assad to not use chemical weapons after the 90-day window expires?

Myth 3: Mr. Assad will be deterred by a few cruise missiles and is unlikely to use WMDs again.

This is the most presumptuous aspect of the administration’s case. Mr. Kerry has asserted that if Assad is foolish or irrational enough to continue using these weapons, there are ways to make him pay that do not involve war. It escapes the author what those ‘ways’ are, but if they exist, why aren't they being used now? Clearly the killing, torturing, and gassing of thousands of innocent people are not the actions of a rational, logical, and moral person. Therefore to assume that an evil, irrational, and immoral person will act irrationally and immorally by doing it again is not a far-fetched proposition. The Obama administration has to answer for that possibility and the steps it would take to counter it.

The Congress can be convinced to support the punitive strikes on Syria if the President lays out an honest, strategic, and convincing case in his address on Tuesday. However, if he continues on this path of arguing on semantics, declaring a one-sided end date to an uncertain conflict, and refusing to even discuss the possibility of a retaliation by Syria then the Congress will be right in rejecting this authorization of going to war.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


It is no secret that the Republicans took over the House by huge margins, diminished the Democratic majority in the Senate, and achieved historic advances in Gubernatorial and state legislature races. However the Democrat bloodbath that painted the electoral map red also had some interesting bylines:
Losers seek compromise: It is a time honored tradition that the losing side always interprets election results as a message to work together and compromise. Keeping with that trend, the Obama White House and the Democrats in Congress have suddenly realized the value of compromise and ‘working together for the benefit of the American people’. Never mind that for the past two years they have been doing the exact opposite. However, now that they can't ram unwanted legislation down people's throats, the Democrats want to compromise with the enemy seated in the back seat of President Obama's imaginary car.
Nancy Pelosi, Propaganda Minister: Nancy Pelosi continued her best impression of Al-Sahhaf, the delusional Iraqi propaganda minister under Saddam. Al-Sahhaf is best known for his statements describing how American troops were committing suicide by the hundreds, while American tanks were outside the gates of his ministry.
Ms. Pelosi consistently proclaimed that the Democrats would hold the house (even on Tuesday). She also claimed pride about the 'achievements' of her majority while the same majority was being rewarded i.e. massacred for their achievements.
Angry, rational electorate: The voters severely rebuked the Democratic agenda in every corner of the country and yet they were rational enough to not send just any Republican to DC. Intellectually stunted weaklings in Nevada and Delaware lost big and all signs point to a Murkowski victory in Alaska. Joe Miller, although intelligent and accomplished, came across as brutish and unlikeable. Voters rejected all three even in the GOP tsunami that was Tuesday. In addition, Tom Tancredo, the bordering-on-xenophobic ex congressman, also lost the Colorado governor's race in spite of being a Tea Partier. Looks likefacts and arguments did win the day; except in California.
America's Greece: California once again proved why it is in dire straits and may become the first failed state of the Union. Despite past records of non achievement, voters chose to reelect a sneering ideologue (Barbara Boxer) and an ancient relic as governor (Jerry Brown). In fact, the real surprise in California was the defeat of Prop 19. Maybe the collective 'glaucoma' of the supporters was acting up and they decided to peace out on the couch.
Holding on to the Harry tree: The victory by Reid in Nevada was the only ‘good news’ for the Democrats on Tuesday. Expect them to cling to that notion like people caught in a tornado would grab the only tree that hasn't been uprooted. Look for Democrats to tie in the Nevada race into any answer about Tuesday's disaster. It will be conveniently ignored that Reid, in spite of doing the 'people's work', needed millions of dollars and practically every Washington insider, union group, former President, the current President, the Vice President, and even the First Lady to save his seat from a terrible GOP candidate.
On another note, Chuck Schumer was probably as disappointed as the GOP when Harry Reid was declared the winner.
GOP the progressive party: You won't hear it from the NAACP, Hispanic groups, or NOW, but Republicans now have a female Indian American governor (first ever) and a black congressman from South Carolina (first since reconstruction), a female Hispanic Governor (again first ever) in New Mexico, and a Cuban American Senator from Florida. Those ignorant, angry hicks sure like to elect women and minorities.
Thrill no more: MSNBC's coverage of the results consisted of a roundtable of ultra liberal 'pundits' openly smirking at every GOP win and at Republicans who were foolish enough to appear on that network. The 'analysis' included condescending comments, outright insults and bizarre questions to Rep. Eric Cantor about whether Rand Paul would filibuster the debt ceiling increase. Apparently if a GOP Representative from Virginia doesn't know what an eye surgeon from Kentucky is thinking, who does?
Even when you discount the fact that it was a terrible night to be a left wing nut, this was still a pathetic display of 'journalism'. Although it is doubtful that any of the fifteen people who watch MSNBC took offense.
W encore: Next week former President George W. Bush will appear on various TV shows to promote his autobiography. I wonder how many people will suffer pangs of nostalgia when they see the Decider again and wish that the roles could somehow be reversed - George Bush back in the Oval office, and President Obama is left to do the only thing he does best; write about Barack Obama.

"Article first published as 'Massacre' on"