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Gelding the Lily

August 21st, 2013 - 6:13 pm

Foreign Policy describes “How Russia Neutered Obama’s Chemical Weapons Response”. Moscow apparently foiled his plan to refer the recent Syrian chemical weapons incident to the UN.

An effort by the Obama administration to reinforce the powers of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors in Syria this evening foundered in the face of Russian and Chinese opposition in the U.N. Security Council, according to council diplomats.

Seizing on rebel claims that Syrian authorities massacred hundreds of civilians by firing chemically-laced rockets onto a Damascus suburb, the United States joined Britain and France in calling for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council to rally international support for an investigation into the incident. The three western powers also wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki moon, signed by 32 other governments, calling for an urgent investigation. But the efforts failed to result in anything other than a tepid statement from the Security Council thanks to some final edits by the Russians and Chinese.

The Obama administration’s goal was to have a U.N. chemical weapons team, which was already in Syria to investigate other chemical weapons allegations, launch a probe into the new allegations. That team, headed by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom, arrived in Damascus on Sunday.

But if Russia’s goal was to neuter Obama perhaps they should let him continue undisturbed down  UN lane. The United Nations is the Hotel California of World Problems. You can check things in anytime you please. But nothing ever leaves.

Still many are outraged at the images emerging from Syria. The Daily Mail’s commenters are wringing their hands over the massacre of hundreds, possibly thousands of people, many of whom are children. One commenter writes: “THIS HAS TO STOP NOW……THOSE POOR CHILDREN DID NOT DESERVE THEIR LITTLE LIVES TO END LIKE THIS.”

And who’s going to stop Assad? Not the British Army which grows smaller every year.  ”As part of the plans, the British Army will be reduced by 23 regular units, and by 2018 will number 82,000 regulars and 30,000 reservists.[3] In addition, the number of Challenger 2 tanks will be cut by 40% to an estimated number of just over 200, and the number of AS-90 self-propelled guns will be cut 35% to an estimated 87.” Soon you’ll have to look for it with a magnifying glass.

Not the Royal Navy, which is building two new aircraft carriers, one of which goes direct to storage, called “extended readiness”, because there isn’t enough money to operate the two as yet unbuilt ships together.

No, what really seems meant by the demand that “THIS HAS TO STOP NOW” is: America, stop it for us please. Send in the SEALs and the drones. Send in waves of Marines over the beach and show them the what for!  But. But. But if you put one foot wrong then we’ll march in front the US embassy to condemn it. We’ll give aid and comfort to those who leak military secrets and call them heroes. We’ll give asylum to anyone who actually refuses to pull the trigger. Because when you come to it, nobody ever realized that the demand ”THIS HAS TO STOP NOW” means going to exotic foreign places and killing people.

Unfortunately it does mean that.

Well nobody said a hegemon’s life was easy. If the hegemon doesn’t stop the massacre it’s complicit in a war crime. If it does stop a massacre it’s killed people in an illegal war. So maybe Obama, despite everything, really was right. The only thing left to do is let the UN look into it.

Unfortunately the US may have as little choice in the matter as a fire brigade in the middle of a five alarm conflagration. If things get bad enough in the Middle East … well the great lesson of World War 2 is that you may not be interested in war, but war may be interested in you. America tried isolationism and neutrality as things went south in the late 1930s. We all know how that worked out.

The fundamental dilemma is always act now or act later. Enough bad people out there means you have to act sometime. The whole point of statesmanship is not whether ever to act, but when to act; how to keep the fires from growing, surely. But putting out fires have been an unfortunate part of life ever since Cain killed Abel.

Thus the President’s job is not to wish for war not to happen — everyone must wish to avoid it — but to be ready in the event it can’t be avoided. But he’s done almost exactly the reverse:  talked big about Red Lines while sending the troops as far away as is logistically possible to Afghanistan, where the Armed Forces literally has to pay an exit fee to Pakistan to withdraw; cut the Armed Forces down to the bone and declared the war on terror over, thus causing the fires that were banked to flare up again. Maybe he forgot that drawing Red Lines means you have to do something about them if they’re crossed.

But it is not inconceivable the President will soon be on TV demanding “THIS HAS TO STOP NOW” without quite realizing that he is really talking to himself. Harry Truman used to have a sign in the Oval Office saying, “the buck stops here”. Unfortunately, as Clark Judge at US News noted, as far as the President is concerned, “the buck stops somewhere else.”

Where does the buck stop this time? Well if the UN is out it means that we all click the dislike button of Assad’s Facebook page. The sophisticated publics of the world have long clamored for an end to American power. They have demanded an end to US dominance. Well now they are about to get exactly what they want at the hands of the US President they so devoutly wished for.

So this is it…
This is what I wished for
Just isn’t how I envisioned it…

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Top Rated Comments   
"You remove Assad and you get Mo Bros in charge."

That is a "False choice." You are allowing the enemy to define the terms and playing by their rules. I am calling for not accepting that. We must on occasion make common cause with unsavory characters. If your aspiration is to virginity then The Great Game is not for you. In WW-II we allied with Stalin, and it was the right choice at the time. Churchill as always was eloquent on this.

If supporting Assad worked as part of a long term strategy to achieving our goals then I could be albeit reluctantly convinced. Assad not only has betrayed us and attacked our interests our allies and our troops but his presence strengthens the Iranians and the Russians to our future detriment. Without the presence of the MoBros we would want to get rid of him.

To give you fair credit we do need to have a plan for the future that includes crushing al-Qaeda and the MoBros, as well as the Iranians and their proxies. Under Bush 43 we were making progress on that project. Many of us disagreed with particulars but the overall trajectory was hopeful. Now things are far worse. That does not mean that we have to throw in the towel. It does not mean that we can walk away and hope that the danger will not come to our shores. It is already here. Be reassured in no way shape or form am I, unlike the Obama crew, calling for making common cause with the MoBros or al-Nusra jihadis. My expectation is that they do not even make useful proxies or allies of convenience. We need to do this job right. No more money for windmills will be a side benefit.

Calls for genocide or a holocaust among others, men women and children must be challenged. They are not only wrong in so far as we are not and cannot survive in isolation. They are not only wrong in so far as the rest of the world is not populated by inferior beings who deserve the long dark night. They are wrong because it is bad for us to harbor such views. We cannot solve the world's problems but we must care for our own sakes. If we cannot look at average people in Syria or Iran or China or Mexico, not withstanding the cold calculus of political and strategic interest, with at least the empathy of seeing them as potential customers then how can we treat each other here with any level of trust?

Does Islam create a structure that over time degrades the moral and intellectual qualities in a society? The evidence over 1,500 years tends to support that view. Better people then me have explored the problem, refuting hate filled extremes and considering possible structural flaws that distinguish Islamic society. Still even under those limits many and probably most people in those communities get by without overtly expressing hate. Most of us have had civil relations with Muslims. Their children can be courteous and charming. They can be gracious in conversation or business and perceptive about the threats among their neighbors. They can also be deceitful and manipulative. Is that to a greater extent than among others?

The long term influence of Islam, like that of Socialism, in our society may be something we need to address. Withdrawing from the world and letting it burn is unlikely to reduce and is more likely to increase any future damage to our domestic institutions and values.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The great, unbelievable irony of all this is that Obama, in his total incompetence, may be doing the best thing he could possibly do - nothing. This is muslims killing muslims - why should we risk the life of even one American soldier to stop that happening, when it's in our best interest for as many of them to die as possible, and for that dying to go on as long as possible?

Let them kill each other. Let them burn all their cities, let them destroy their societies, let every square acre of land they occupy become a desolation and a horror for 50 generations to come. Let them be the example our children's children point to as to how an entire culture can burn itself to the ground and leave nothing behind.

Let it burn. Let it all burn, and let it burn for 1000 years to come.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

It’s tough to be the hegemon
He’s always getting spit upon
By those he keeps from harm and disarray
He’s hated by the very ones
Who scorn the good guys with the guns
But then demand he stop it right away
Stop what you ask and well you might
Well stop what’s wrong and make it right
And if you don’t we’ll stomp our feet and cry
They’ll cry it’s urgent so don’t wait
But they of course won’t pay the freight
And so alone the hegemon must try
It’s been like this for many years
The US drying the world’s tears
And standing guard o’er every scurvy hole
But recently he’s given up
And rattles now a big tin cup
The strong horse now is just a weakkneed foal

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (104)
All Comments   (104)
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We may agree to disagree but I am concerned that you may not see where we agree. My prose is to prolix and for that I apologize. Many of your criticisms were of my qualifiers. I do not trust either side there. I do feel that on occasion we have to deal with thugs in place, hence my Stalin reference and my accepting that Kissinger was probably correct in the short run about the Iran-Iraq war. My presumption is that you agree with him on that. In the military and law enforcement and diplomacy and many other professions we sometimes do have do business with the despicable. I do not believe in intervening in every problem. I would not have got involved in Libya based on what I know. While Qaddafi was a dirtbag not only were the likely alternatives as bad but he did not threaten our vital interests. Our military and diplomats under Bush did the dirty job of managing him. Sanitation may pay better and do the world more good but doesn't get the snappy uniforms. So I want to see Assad gone. He should have been ushered off stage long ago. Who would regret his departure? You are 100% correct to worry about what would come next. Clearly trusting the current rabble in charge to manage such an operation would be foolish. My argument is, and here we clearly do disagree, that we cannot trust to luck or tolerate either a world where Assad and the Russians and Iranians win or a world where al-Qaeda wins. Therefore I believe that we will have to go in and if we do we will have to go in big and ensure that the results are what we want. If staying out could get us results we want, make the world safer for those we care for, then I would be for it. Since I believe that staying out is likely to make us less safe then we need to go in. If we go in then doing it half-assed, pulling out to fast as we did in Iraq, will only make things worse. Perhaps we could give the place back to France to administer but under no circumstance would I trust any process likely to leave any of the totalitarians in charge.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
BC Alexis

Why? Because even Maliki in Iraq is having second thoughts about the status of forces. Push Russia out of the Med, stiffen Maliki's backbone, have the KSA feel its oats, keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan and have the USN in the Arabian sea and Iran is getting surrounded by hostile populations. It's called preparing the battle space.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“ the Game of Whack a Mullah, you smack the then current biggest pain in the ass first. Right now Syria is Number One. Iran is down the list.”

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
People act like Syria using chemical weapons against its own citizens is something unusual. That is just baffling. Slaughtering civilians is a core tenant of Islam. Terrorism is just the modern export version of that tenant.

My brother in law made me watch a video that theorized that 9-11 was an inside job and a controlled detonation. He had no idea that Islam has been attacking other people's symbolic buildings for thousands of years (making that hands down the simplest explanation of the attack on the Twin Towers). Thousands of Mosques, Synagogues, Churches, Temples and other symbolic buildings have either been destroyed or converted into Mosques for thousands of years. Why was the World Trade Center and the Pentagon so incredibly newsworthy, and such an object of paranoid theorizing? There is absolutely NOTHING about 9-11 that is particularly shocking or newsworthy if you have spent even five minutes Googling the history of Islam.

It isn't that what Syria is doing now is so out of character or in any way unusual. It would be a total yawn-inducing incident, but for frenetic 24/7 news coverage. If the truth were known, using chemical weapons against civilians in the Islamic world most likely is not limited to Iraq or Syria. I would be shocked if Iran and Ghadafi-led Libya and Sudan have never used chemical weapons against its civilians in a spazm of mass slaughter.

Obama is doing exactly the right thing: Nothing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
BC Alexis

Why Tartus and not Bandar Abbas? Because in the Game of Whack a Mullah, you smack the then current biggest pain in the ass first. Right now Syria is Number One. Iran is down the list. Those positions are likely to change, so the target mullah will change too.

Praising Obama for doing nothing is not my style. But there are times when having him do nothing is advantageous. Take for example the "well integrity test" during the BP oil spill. The well had been sealed with the capping stack and the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico had been permanently halted on July 15, 2010, but days later Obama emerged to hold a press conference and mumble some nonsense about rupture discs. Meanwhile, every hour, the shut in pressure in the well rose.

So while the official program was to allow the test to proceed for another 24 hours before (Horrors!) making the decision to re-open the well to the sea, so as to allow the placement of even more collection piping, the public started to take heart that the worst was over. So putting into writing that it would be possible to kill the well with a "static kill' that would involve a smaller pressure increase than simply sitting on their hands for another day, provoked a media reaction among the producers who read the website The Oil Drum. They saw a small crack of daylight, enough for the "Audacity of Hope" to emerge.

Damned if it did not work exactly the way I had written it.

Now Obama and Thad Allen never acknowledged that the well was killed by the static kill in early August, they kept insisting that it could not be killed until the relief well was completed, but even the LIVs knew the truth when they saw the BOP lifted off the well and taken ashore with no resultant oil slick.

The LIVs just went into denial that The Great and Wonderful Wizard of Obama was a "humbug". They had what they wanted, open beaches in time for their Labor Day parties.

Which is more important, the truth of a permanent stop to the flow of oil or letting Obama lead from behind to save some "face"? As Reagan put it, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't mind who gets the credit".

As to outsourcing, a key factor in doing the hero thing, is to let the heroine get tied to the railroad track first. Have you seen how the Muslim Brotherhood has "stepped on their d*cks" in Egypt? The Egyptians have seen the future and they do NOT like it. So the Army has re-asserted itself, Mubarak has been freed, the NY times says so!!

and the Egyptian men in the street are gong to have to get off their dead asses and onto their dying feet and take charge for themselves. It's like getting the lazy kids to go out, get a job, and leave the nest. They often need a good swift kick in the ass to start the process. Dong it for them will only lead to a lifetime of dependency.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I should have added, that closing Tartus to the Russians goes a long way toward make the Med an American Lake. Chase the Russian Navy back into the Black Sea.

Without the implied backing of Putin, the threat to America decreases dramatically. Make sure China knows the supply of fuel oil to their teapot refineries depends on our tacit approval

and two permanent members of the UN Security Council may choose to be less recalcitrant.

One needs to learn to distinguish the words of a Down Easter from the typical politician. Think George H. W. Bush. In 19 characters, not even a decent size tweet, he got his message across to Saddam....

"This will not stand."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

“Mining Bandar Abbas would be an act of war against Iran.”

So? Mining Tartus would be an act of war against Syria. Moreover, even though Russian troops have evacuated its naval base in Tartus, an attack upon Tartus's harbor would be perceived to be aimed at Russia, not merely Syria.

“Why fight when you can undermine them?”

That logic applies to Syria at least as much as Iran. Obama has been undermining the Syrian regime while doing as little fighting as possible. Shouldn't you be praising Obama for this?

“ would be a very clear statement that the rules that apply to other countries do NOT apply to the World's Only Superpower.”

Why would mining Bandar Abbas not send precisely the same statement? If Karachi's harbor were mined, it would be an act of war against Pakistan. If Doha's harbor were mined, it would be an act of war against Qatar. Mining another nation's harbor is an act of war. Common sense will tell you that; you don't need a court ruling to figure that one out. And merely because the United States got away with an act of war against Nicaragua doesn't mean it wasn't an act of war.

“Outsource the creation of forces for democracy against Muslim terrorist regimes.”

And that is exactly what President Obama is doing. Unfortunately, the fighting has been outsourced to al-Qaeda.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Police slaughter thousands of demonstrators in Egypt.
Syria slaughters thousands with poison gas
Car bombs slaughter thousands in Iraq
Sectarian violence slaughters thousands in Pakistan
Thousands slaughtered in stampede in Mecca

Is any of this truly newsworthy? Or is it just the nature of Islam?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Let's get very simple here, so basic even an Indonesian schoolboy could understand it. The USN should stand up and announce, after all the feminine tactics of the Three Valkyries have resulted in utter chaos,

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Today's musical selection is by a Black Republican in 1981, during the Reagan Revolution
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
BP Alexis

Mining Bandar Abbas would be an act of war against Iran. Why fight when you can undermine them? The key to mining Tartus is that it would be a very clear statement that the rules that apply to other countries do NOT apply to the World's Only Superpower. By mining Tartus, you scare away the shipping non-lethally. No captain would risk his ship against the USN. Think back to the Tanker War. Those tanker captains would not transit the straits of Hormuz without protection. so we implemented Operation Earnest Will in 1987.

Meanwhile Saddam and the Mullahs were draining each other dry. Kuwait was okay, despite sharing a border with Saddam. Not too long after that the Tanker War fizzled out (a useful goal in Syria circa 2013). In 1991, Saddam invaded Kuwait and got his forces clobbered when we counterattacked. See the Wretchard's recent post on The Highway of Death.

Meanwhile, the USN has been busy working on plans. It now deploys an Afloat Forward Staging Base AFSB-1 USS Ponce (another ship my father helped design) Domestic oil exploration has lessened the American dependence on ME oil. China and India are the parties trying to lessen the effects of the trade embargo. Tighten the screws on them and the embargo gets tougher, putting the mullahs at risk of a Persian Spring revolt in Tehran.

If the Persians and Zoroastrians and Bahá'í get pissed off enough, the mullahs will have their hands filled at home. It's those idle hands of theirs that have been the devil's playground. Throw them a hot potato and watch their ability for mischief elsewhere rapidly decline. And there would be zero American feet on the ground in Iran.

Outsource the creation of forces for democracy against Muslim terrorist regimes.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The recent military adventures of the Left – Clinton in Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo – Obama in Afghanistan and Libya – all have one thing in common, a test that has to be passed.

None of them involve the vital interests of the United States.

Syria clearly fails to pass this test. Blowing up things and killing people can only be done for the most altruistic of reasons – R2P was what Bosnia and Kosovo were all about, or at least what it was claimed to be about.

Looking after your own interests is just so gauche to the chattering classes.

Syria is one of Bush’s Axis of Evil. Taking out Assad would harm Iran, help Israel. It would be good for us, good for our actual allies, and thus does not pass the test of unfettered altruism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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