Obama powerfully makes case for action in Syria — then passes the buck

POTUS delivered an impressive speech in the Rose Garden today, strongly and ably making the case for why we need to act in Syria, then noting that he is fully empowered to act without anyone’s permission… and then saying he won’t decide, but will leave it to Congress.

You know, the body that can’t pass a budget. The gang that can’t raise the debt limit to keep the government functioning without a major, credit-rating-damaging meltdown. That’s who he’s asking to decide.

First, let’s quote some of the stronger passages in which the president makes the case for action:

This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.

In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets…

I’m prepared to give that order…

I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable….

What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?

Make no mistake — this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?

We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us….

I will also deliver this message to the world. While the U.N. investigation has some time to report on its findings, we will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted….

I don’t expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made. Privately we’ve heard many expressions of support from our friends. But I will ask those who care about the writ of the international community to stand publicly behind our action….

But 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…. 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….

I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage….

That’s the speech, without all the “buts” and “howevers” removed. Wow. Pretty powerful, huh? What a call to arms. Note the repeated use of the word, “must:” this menace must be confronted… it must be confronted…

Except, in the end, it isn’t. The president said, “I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions,” even as he was avoiding this hard decision. Actually, it’s weirder than that. He’s made up his mind, and one of the things he’s made up his mind about is that we really don’t have a choice. We must act. And yet, he won’t.

If the world were a debating society, this wouldn’t matter. Act today, next month, next year, it would all be the same. The important thing would be to let everyone fully have their say, and make sure everybody feels great about the ultimate decision (which ain’t gonna happen, but that seems to be the idea here).

But in the real world, it may already be too late to act with any effectiveness, in terms of degrading Assad’s air assets, or ability to launch future chemical attacks on his people — or having any other effect that would actually be helpful.

As the president says, “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose.” So, if we’re going to do so, the time to do it is now. Or rather, yesterday. Or several months ago, when the president’s red line had already been crossed, and those 1,429 people were still alive, when those 400 children still had futures.

In short, I am most disappointed in the president’s abdication of responsibility — especially after he so ably made the case for immediate action.

rose garden

65 thoughts on “Obama powerfully makes case for action in Syria — then passes the buck

  1. David Carlton

    Er, doesn’t the US Constitution give the power to declare war to Congress, not the President? Yes, I know that it has largely abdicated that power since World War II, but it’s still there, and for damn good reason: the Founders explicitly considered it dangerous to entrust that power to the Executive. Of course, I know why you consider it an abdication of the President’s responsibility–but in fact it’s placing the responsibility where it belongs. Yes, this Congress is utterly feckless–but a major reason it’s so utterly feckless is because so many of its members haven’t the slightest idea what it means to govern; they think their sole purpose is to pass meaningless resolutions to show their purity of heart and their utter contempt for the elected leadership of the country. It’s about time they actually found out what it means to deal with a real, complicated issue with real, life-and-death consequences. It’s also kind of important for the American people to be comfortable with this. A lot of us voted for Obama because we thought he wouldn’t take up a half-cocked, Warthen-style foreign policy; we’re still hoping he won’t.

  2. bud

    POTUS couldn’t win on this. If he goes it alone congress bitches that he should have consulted with them. If he consults with them he’s accused of being weak. Given the high stakes nature of war I think he did the right thing. The much bigger question is whether it’s the right thing to go to war at this time.

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    And Bud, it’s a legitimate question to ask whether we should take military action at this time. A lot of people question the wisdom of acting now, including some senior military officers.

    But what gets me about this speech is that the president is so CERTAIN that we should act, and makes the case so strongly, but then backs away. He doesn’t present any arguments AGAINST taking action. He says it’s definitely what we should do. Then, he won’t act.

    And David, the president has the authority to act. And, as eager as he is to pass the responsibility to someone else, he acknowledges that.

    It’s strange. It’s as though two men were making the speech at the same time — one filled with resolve to act, the other just as determined not to.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    One of the most striking passages is when he says, “I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable…”

    And yet, we are now in holding mode, “paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable,” unless a miracle occurs and Congress acts decisively.

  5. bud

    The constitution is clear that only congress can declare war. That part of the constitution has been disregarded frequently by presidents of both parties so now it has become conventional wisdom that POTUS can act on his own. Conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong and I believe on this issue it is wrong.

  6. Bart

    Question: Would sending a few cruise missles into Syria be a declaration of war? Would it be contrary to the Constitutional requirement that Congress vote to enter into a war with Syria if war is not actually declared but a punitive action taken against a dictator who used chemical weapons against his own people?

    GWB built a case to go to war against Iraq or if you prefer, Saddam Hussein, and was given the authority by Congress to do so. The build-up began well before GWB was elected and the leaders of the efforts to remove Hussein were Democrats who looked for an open microphone to urge for his removal and to declare they knew for certain he possessed WMDs. Even Bill Clinton made a declarative statement in 2003 that he knew for certain, I repeat, “knew for certain” that Hussein had WMDs before he left office. Whether you believe GWB lied or like others, relied on faulty intelligence for justification, that is of no import in the discussion, it only deflects from the issue facing Obama of what he can and cannot do.

    Obama does have the authority to direct the military to send cruise missles into Syria and hit suspected chemical weapon targets. He has made the bold statement over and over again about red lines and so far, every red line crossed has only resulted in Obama drawing another one further down the line or in another country. Just exactly when does crossing a red line in Obama’s world actually have meaning and consequences except for a “high school level debate”?

    Bill Clinton sent a few missles into Bosnia and when he put troops on the ground in Somalia only to be humiliated and when some American lives were lost, he withdrew immediately. After Somalia, Clinton made use of missles and bombs, no boots on the ground. This is not a judgment but just a reiteration of the way Clinton handled things.

    Obama finally gave the go ahead to capture or kill bin Laden but after the truth came out, his “little boy in the corner” photo proved to be nothing more than a “photo-op”. He was away from the action most of the time playing spades with his buddies because he couldn’t stand the boredom of watching while the troops he is supposed to lead were doing their job.

    Obama is not going to make the hard decisions without sufficient means to cover his ass in case something goes wrong. He has the authority to send cruise missles and has made the bold statements that he is willing to do so but in the end, he runs for cover and will not take responsibility for his decisions or actions. He is using this as a 100% political move, humanitarian motives be damned.

    By now, if for one minute anyone thinks Assad hasn’t moved or hidden his chemical weapon facilities, think again. He may not be the brightest dictator but he is not stupid. Any missle strike now will hit targets containing women and children, innocents in the conflict. And if a chemical weapon facility is hit and there are large quantities present, the fact that the building is hit and destroyed will almost insure a wide spread disbursement of the chemical weapons we are trying to destroy. In short, America will do the job Assad is doing and in the end, we will be blamed for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of lives by our actions.

    No Obama. This time, tell Syria, Saudi Arabia, and all of the other ME countries it is time to take care of your own affairs but if any hostile military or terrorist action is taken directly against America or our allies who are not involved, then we will respond with everything in our arsenal. Then and only then would a military response or action of any kind be justified.

    1. bud

      Obama finally gave the go ahead to capture or kill bin Laden but after the truth came out, his “little boy in the corner” photo proved to be nothing more than a “photo-op”.

      Bart, you can denigrate the president til the cows come home but the bottom line for all you conservatives out there is this: Obama got Bin-Laden while Bush failed utterly and I do mean utterly (there’s a good cow pun in there somewhere) to do so. So rather than throwing away what tiny bit of dignity you folks on the right have left on this whole 9-11/Iraq/Bin-Laden disaster just shut up and move on.

      As for the current situation

      1. bud

        The president believes our nation is stronger and world a better place when we act with one voice in a united way to create a policy that is both effective and acceptable to the civilized people of the world. And good for him. It sets a good example for future presidents that we should not go it alone like Reagan did in Granada or Nicarauga, Bush Sr. did in Panama or Clinton did in Kosovo. I believe all 3 of those actions damaged our long term credibility as a nation. Yes, Bush Jr. did get congressional authorization (under false pretenses); but in the end that action too had grave consequences for our national credibility. So it is vitally important that we carefully consider our actions. It’s about time a president considered the long term credibility of our nation rather than run around like a cowboy on moonshine acting all smug and self-righteous. In the end our nation will be a stronger and better nation and the world as a whole will be the big winner.

        1. Mark Stewart

          Granada, Panama and Kosovo were total strategic successes; we never attacked Nicaragua (directly).

          Sometimes I wonder…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Absolutely they did, especially Kosovo. I just can’t see any way, shape or form in which anyone sees that as anything but a success — in spite of Clinton’s deep reluctance to act, with my man Tony Blair pushing and pulling at him every step of the way.

            Oh, and by the way — we still have troops in the Balkans, still keeping the peace. They’re doing such a great job that you don’t hear about them. Just the way we should have maintained a presence in Iraq. There would have been nothing extraordinary about it. And it would have prevented the chaos there now.

      2. Bart

        “…just shut up and move on.”…bud

        I’ll agree to do the same if you will “just shut up and move on” as well. Otherwise….take a wild guess at what you can do.

        1. bud

          I’ll re-phrase my comment. I don’t think conservatives have a very good hand when it comes to the issues surrounding Iraq. My own take away from that whole debacle is that it is critically important that we learn some valuable lessons about trust when it comes to our national leaders and not make excuses for the decisions made at that time. While I regard George W. as the gold standard for a president that was untrustworthy we shouldn’t take any president’s claims at face value. And yes that includes the current president

          1. Bart

            “While I regard George W. as the gold standard for a president that was untrustworthy we shouldn’t take any president’s claims at face value.”…bud

            ….Obama also meets the same “gold standard” for being untrustworthy.

  7. Mark Stewart

    That speach had better been followed by executive approval of significant covert operations within Syria. Maybe one aimed at Russian military shipments…

    If not, what was that bumble?

    Red lines are red lines. We don’t need to see the action, but Syria, Russia and Iran must.

    That is the crux of international affairs; to follow Teddy R’s maxim.

  8. Bart

    No one except Obama shot their mouth off about “red lines” and going it alone if necessary. No one. If he is not going to back it up, then as bud so eloquently told me, “Obama, just shut up and move on.” No more empty threats or political rhetoric to appeal to the base, and stop playing in the sand, drawing red lines. Every time you do, it just demonstrates how incompetent you really are. If you can’t play in the sandbox with the big players, take your marbles and go home. Quit covering your ass at every opportunity. The bus lines are starting to complain about replacing tires after running over all of the people you threw under them.

    1. bud

      The “red line” comment was one of his worst moments as president. It put him on the spot unnecessarily.

      Syria is really a humanitarian issue not a national security issue so there is no hurry except the dire situation of the civilians involved. The worst thing we could do is make this an even bigger humanitarian crisis. (Which is arguably the very worst aspect of the Iraq incursion). We all want to waive a magic wand and end the suffering. Not sure we really can.

      1. Bart

        “We all want to waive a magic wand and end the suffering. Not sure we really can.”…bud

        Don’t disagree with your comment will only add to it. “Not sure we really can” should be changed to, “as long as the region is dominated by a radical theocratic political mindset, we cannot end the suffering and never will.” The history of violence and destruction of one’s own people in the ME is not supposition, it is historical fact. When dictators massacre their own people with chemical and biological weapons, why do we continue to delude ourselves into thinking somehow we can change them using bombs, reason, logic, or anything that works with people who don’t live and breathe a particular religion? When two countries wage war for years and years at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, Iraq and Iran, and chemical and biological weapons are used, what else can we expect even today?

        Stay out of the fray in Syria Obama. Defer and let them seek their own solution.

        1. bud

          The history of violence and destruction of one’s own people in the ME is not supposition, it is historical fact.

          So was Europe for centuries but with the truce between the Catholics and Protestants, (the radical elements of both just as radical as any religious zealots anywhere) in N. Ireland Europe has been surprisingly peaceful for about 25 years now. Hope springs eternal and perhaps one day the ME will be at peace also.

          1. Bart

            Radical elements were/are in the Catholic and Protestant conflict but show me in the past century where either side has resorted to using chemical and biological agents against their own people. And on the FWIW side, the conflict between Catholics and Protestants has been around for centuries but nothing like the one between Muslims and their factions.

            Hope may spring eternal but so does a “Bouncing Betty” and other IEDs.

  9. Scout

    My impression after hearing John Kerry on the Sunday shows today is that Obama is not ruling out acting on his own if Congress doesn’t approve – I could be wrong – Kerry wouldn’t say that outright, but seemed to be purposefully keeping his statements noncommittal enough that that could be one interpretation. So could the strategy be, if Congress approves the more the better, but if not, we still go – meanwhile Syria may be thrown off guard on when/if to expect a strike. I don’t know. I’ve been too busy to pay real close attention. But that interpretation struck me.

      1. bud

        I thought Kerry did an excellent job explaining the president’s position. Future generations will look back on this as Obama’s finest hour. After decades of drifting away from the spirit of the constitution’s war responsibilities articles POTUS has put a halt to the go-in-alone approach. He’s taking considerable political heat for it and isn’t that the definition of leadership? He has acted in a way that will not bring him political gain but that he earnestly believes is the right and honorable course to take.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      On the military level, a “time-limited, scope-limited” strike that is “just muscular enough not to be mocked” is about a stupid as it gets. It also makes no tactical or strategic sense. Telling an enemy that you are going to “punish him” in a time-limited, scope limited manner, isn’t exactly much of a punishment. A few buildings blow up. OK. You don’t think Assad has made preparations for that?

      Our Commander-in-Chief would be wise to remember Rule #1 of War: The enemy gets a vote. Assad doesn’t necessarily have to sit there like a schoolboy who’s been called into the principal’s office for detention. He doesn’t have to “go along” with the punishment. Assad gets a vote. We’re not going to eliminate the chemical weapons. We’re not going to kill Assad. We’re going to blow up some concrete buildings in the desert, maybe a bridge or two, and that will be that. It’s a meaningless, empty gesture, and that will do nothing to alleviate any of the problems.

      Wars are won, not my killing the enemy and destroying his military, but by breaking the enemy’s will to fight. Killing the enemy is merely a means to the end. Caesar knew this. Sherman knew this. Truman knew this.

      Ask yourself: Are a few cruise missiles going to break Assad’s will to fight? Obviously not. Heck, that’s not even posited as a goal. It’s like Obama believes that Assad has committed a holding penalty in a football game, and Obama wants to penalize him 10 yards, but then allow the game to continue.

      Operation Ten Yard Penalty.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And in this instance, we have the usual problem that America has faced ever since 1945, probably in a greater degree than at any other time: Assad’s willingness to fight is a million times greater than America’s.

    1. Doug Ross

      And I am thoroughly confused by the liberal philosophy. It is wrong to kill a convicted murderer but bombing a foreign country which has not attacked us and likely inflicting civilian casualties is okay?

      1. bud

        Doug, what you described is most assuredly NOT the liberal philosophy. I assume you’re talking about Syria. Most liberals are opposed to using the cruise missiles. Liberals care passionately about the horrors in Syria and elsewhere and would be willing to use a bit of force in exchange for some relief in the suffering. But bombing is not the way to go.

  10. Bryan Caskey

    This isn’t a noble nod to the Constitution from Obama. He’s requested a vote because worldwide political pressure was too much to defy.

    The British said “no” to their Prime Minister’s request for war powers. (Which incidentally last happened in 1782.) The UN has nothing. Germany has backed out. Now, we’re not totally alone. Well almost. I believe France has volunteered to bring orange slices and juice-boxes for halftime, though. Love those orange slices, y’all.

    My favorite part of this whole debacle is the way Obama’s decision to fight a war unilaterally (maybe the French will serve as cheerleaders) will be portrayed by the media as tough and heroic — he’s a weary sentinel keeping a lonely vigil on the ramparts of liberty.

    Just a few years ago, remember how Barack Obama was going to unite the world and build coalitions and finally respect the authority of the UN? Remember how going it alone in matters of war used to be a bad thing, even when you went it alone in a coalition of 40 countries?

    Good times, good times.

    1. bud

      … will be portrayed by the media as tough and heroic — he’s a weary sentinel keeping a lonely vigil on the ramparts of liberty.

      Only problem is the media is portraying him that way. I don’t know what you’re watching Bryan but the media has pretty much aligned themselves with their defacto leader, Fox News.

      Let’s see how this all turns out. I believe in the end America will be seen as a beacon of common sense throughout the world. Assad will be overthrown and the human suffering will end. All with a minimal amount of US life and treasure. And the Fox News worshippers will, once again, look like a bunch of dunderheads on the wrong side of the issue.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m worried about Britain. I mean, they really left us hanging this time.

      That’s hard to take. That’s like Pancho leaving the Cisco Kid hanging. It’s like Robin voting not to help out Batman. It’s like Lindsey Graham not having John McCain’s back.

      If they don’t watch out, at this rate they’re gonna lose the empire. Oh, wait…

  11. bud

    … is NOT portraying him that way.

    Dang it Brad. My typing thumbs for a recall feature within a couple of minutes after submitting.

  12. Doug Ross

    Lindsey Graham was at a parade in Chapin today. According to The State:

    “Several parade spectators yelled “say ‘no’ to Syria” to Graham and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson as they rode in the parade Monday morning. Graham said he thinks people are “war weary and confused.” ”

    Gee, Lindsey, you’re both a warmonger AND a condescending idiot.

    Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2013/09/02/2956070/graham-meeting-with-obama-today.html#storylink=cpy

    1. Mark Stewart

      Yeah, Doug, he should listen to those few who yell out at a parade – they probably got their manners from Joe Wilson. What’s odd is that they were probably the same people yelling that we should invade Iraq and Afghanistan – and most likely Libya and Egypt, too. I am a hawk; you are a dove. Those are reasonable outlooks; It is the chickenhawks that are most dangerous to our nation’s global standing.

      I’m not saying that we should absolutely engage ourselves in Syria; but I will absolutely say that democracies are the worst geo-political players. Public sentiment is too fickle and irrational for it to be otherwise.

      If we think regime change is prudent for us geo-politically; we should see that through. If we don’t care, than we can cloak ourselves in isolationism. But this equivocating is harming our stature and power. That is not something we should, as a nation, ever take lightly.

      At this point we ought to be thinking only of the long-term geo-political strategy. Everything else is nonsensical noise.

      1. Doug Ross

        How about he listens to the majority of the American public who say we should not go? And until Obama lays out what the long term strategy is and how America is threatened SPECIFICALLY by Syria, we should stay on the sidelines.

        It’s funny how Kim Jung Un can order the machine gun execution of his ex-girlfriend and 11 others and there’s no concern in Washington. We pick easy targets to flex our military muscles.

  13. Doug Ross

    Here’s what Graham said today:

    “”(What) I can sell to the people of South Carolina (is) that if we don’t get Syria right, Iran is surely going to take the signals that we don’t care about the nuclear program.”

    So we aren’t going to attack Syria because they are a threat to the U.S. We should attack Syria so Iran gets the message.

    I think we should let Lindsey push the button that fires the missiles. He loves him some firepower.

  14. Doug Ross

    John Fund of the Wall Street Journal posted a photo of an anonymous U.S. soldier holding up a sign in front of his face which says:

    “I didn’t join the U.S. Navy to help Al Queda to fight a civil war in Syria”.

    I bet that is a common thought in the military in the Gulf.

    1. Mark Stewart

      The third option is to degrade Assad’s connections to Iran and Russia.

      That is likely a point worth making.

      Close the ports of Lattakia and Tartus as well as the Damascus airport and any other port of entry for weapons. Don’t equivocate; just do it, aggressively and without all of this public agonizing. There are no half measures when one draws a red line. Follow through is demanded. And appropriate.

      1. Juan Caruso

        “The third option is to degrade Assad’s connections to Iran and Russia. That is likely a point worth making.”

        Actually, Mark, that option and anything as militarily significant is off the table.

        Putin has both publicly warned Obama and advance positioned ASW ships in the zone in which our missile launchers would operate. He would leave egg on Russsia’s face if he failed to interfere with an attack of such kind.

        Putin does not suffer embarrassment any more lightly than Obama. For that fact alone, we may also conclude that the two leaders have already agreed on a limited strike on a token target that would count more toward usual mainstream propaganda in the U.S., and less for factual substance for Russian allies.

        Obama may accomplish his true objective (convincing symbolism) with a drone strike or two on a Syrian military officer with an impressive rank and little fame, and another strike on an empty Syrian military facility. Putin, having picked the unfortunate sacrifice with Assad’s blessing would allow the US to proceed as an indication of how weak and powerless we have become.

        “CBS News correspondent David Martin reports two submarines — one American, one British — are in the eastern Mediterranean along with four American destroyers and a fifth on the way — all armed with cruise missiles. That’s more than enough firepower for a strike Pentagon officials say would be limited to fewer than 50 targets.” Russia last week sent an anti-submarine ship and a cruiser has the zone.

        I expect a few drone’s will be the order of the day.

        1. Mark Stewart


          I would hope that when our country discusses military action that nothing be off the table when formulating strategy.

          “Putin has publically warned Obama”. That is a classic. We should all be quaking in our boots at that. Putin is the (thuggish) leader of a powerful country with strategic interests in the area. We, of course, must remember that. But we also need to deal with him as one does a bully.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well, some of us grew up expecting to go toe-to-toe with ’em sooner or later…

            Not that we were looking forward to it. The Rooskies demonstrated a certain… how shall I put it… tenacity from 1941 to 1945…

      2. Bryan Caskey

        WHAT? Closing two sea ports and closing an airport? What? How are you going to do that? Whom will you be sending ? Forget the civilian airport, that’s largely irrelevant.

        Do you realize that one of Russia’s biggest reasons for supporting Syria is the fact that Syria allows Russia to have a warm-water port in Tartus? The Russians aren’t going to sit idly by and let you close their port. Proposing to close that port will put you into a hot war with Russia, pronto. That’s where Russia keeps the bulk of their Mediterranean fleet, including carriers.

        If you know Russian history, they have a special place in their heart for a warm-water port. That’s really important to Russia. They aren’t going to allow US Ships (or any ships) to just sail in and blockade the port. Also, by the way, blockading a port is an official act of War.

        You may want to re-evaluate that plan, Mark. (Or are you planning on going to war with Russia?)

        1. MarkStewart

          The port at Tartus leased by Russia cannot accommodate ships over 100 meters I’ve read. So not even a frigate sized ship can dock there. It is also a large break-bulk commercial port; exactly the kind of place that handles large arms shipments.

          I would say level the other port up the coast and destroy the infrastructure surrounding the port at Tartus, like the rail yards. But seriously, I have a nice career doing something completely different. Geo-political strategy is not in my wheelhouse. That said, I have lots of experience dealing with bullies and petty despots. Hang wringing isn’t among the successful counter-actions.

          Look, we are in a pickle of a spot on this. With all respect to Phillip, the rest of the world will not look more favorably upon us if we cannot muster the leadership to alter the dynamics of the Syrian crisis.

  15. Phillip

    Mark, “closing the ports” and the Damascus airport is certainly going to take more than a surgical airstrike, more than a few missiles. And what will Russia’s response be? Going that route, we have to be ready to commit to something far more serious and deep than even our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is this really the place to make the stand to risk triggering a wider global conflict? If so, then gliding into that without Congressional approval is truly unthinkable.

    Democracies may indeed be the “worst geo-political players”; but America doesn’t stand as a symbol of freedom to millions worldwide because of its geo-political gamesmanship and skill, nor because we have more military power than the rest of the world put together. To the extent it is still admired and envied by those millions, it’s because of its freedom and the rule of law. The “equivocating” as you term it is not harming our stature and power. The Constitution that insists that only the voice of the people through their Congress can declare war, the restraint upon our executive branch, that IS the very heart of our stature and our real power.

    There are many persuasive arguments for and against intervention in Syria, but the “preserving our credibility” argument (especially vis-a-vis Iran) is one of the weaker arguments for intervention, as logically dissected pretty thoroughly here.

    1. Bart

      Good article Phillip but, a logical dissection of the situation is a great exercise in theoretical solutions but in real life, there is nothing logical in the Syrian internal conflict when one considers the fact that chemical weapons were used on the Syrian people as a means to stay in power. Considering the lack of human compassion necessary to make the decision, then applying logic is a great exercise in an intellectual debate but is not applicable when dealing with the likes of Assad or other dictators who will do whatever it takes to stay in power. Unfortunately the only thing the Assad’s of the world, past and present, understand is force applied in sufficient strength to effect necessary changes.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Phillip, I’ve seen good arguments against our taking action in Syria. And had the president wanted to get up and give a speech explaining why there are no good options, so we’re not going to act, that would be one thing. I mean, make THAT case to the nation, and the world, if that’s the result you want.

      But to make a speech saying that we MUST hit Syria, in no uncertain terms, and then hand off to Congress and head for the golf course is just an appalling failure of leadership. I’m very disappointed in the president on this one.

      To me, all this stuff about rule of law and constitutional sensitivities is pretty empty, given not only the legal realities, but the strategic ones. The president clearly has the power to act, especially to act in as limited a way as he has indicated. To make the compelling case for why we MUST act, then fail to do so, is shocking.

      Particularly so since we know it is highly, highly unlikely that the Congress would ever act decisively, and that in the very best scenario they couldn’t do so for more than another week. The president is simultaneously saying, it’s imperative that we act, and no, not really…

      1. bud

        The rule of law and constitutionality issues are the things that make us a great nation. We should have a little respect for a president that actually makes an attempt to follow the constitution.

        1. MarkStewart

          I am pretty sure that they all try to follow the Constitution. Even Nixon. He just wasn’t much for adhering to criminal law…

  16. Bart

    Any action taken will eventually require a commitment of troops if they are to be effective. Lobbing a few cruise missles or blocking a port will require a strong military presence, naval or air force, but eventually, it will turn into a “boots on the ground” operation. Russia will not sit idly by and do nothing. At this point, they have too much “skin in the game” to turn aside and let Obama win the day. That is simply not in Putin’s nature. His “cowboy” persona makes GWB’s so-called “cowboy swagger” look downright feminine.

    The world is supposedly condemning the actions of Assad so let them take the lead this time and effect a regime change in Syria. Let France lead the charge of a coalition to rid Syria of Assad.

    The corner Obama has painted himself into is getting tighter and tighter and he will have to do something or is this Obama’s “red phone ringing at 3:00 in the morning” moment Hillary was referring to in the 2008 primaries? Will he simply ignore the ringing or cut the connection? So far, it doesn’t appear as if he is willing to answer it. Maybe he is hoping it will just stop ringing so he can go back to sleep.

  17. Doug Ross

    There is also the actual COST of initiating any military action which could easily run into the billions. Any authorization to go forward should include specifically how this operation will be paid for. We don’t need more deficit funded wars…

    Let’s see what they are willing to cut (or tax) to pay for this exercise in futility.

  18. Bart

    This is from the Turkish Weekly of June 2, 2013.

    “Russia asks Turkey for info on sarin terrorists
    6 June 2013

    Russia has called on Turkey to share its findings in the case of Syrian rebels who were seized on the Turkish-Syrian border with a 2kg cylinder full of nerve gas sarin.”

    What if this is a true story and Syrian rebels did have sarin gas? Now, wouldn’t it be worthwhile for someone in Washington to actually investigate the story and ask the Turkish government if it is factual? If it is true, then how can anyone say with absolute certainty that the chemical weapons used were used by Syrian forces and not the rebels? There have been other uncomfirmed reports in MintPress News from Syria that the rebels have been given sarin gas by Saudi Arabia and an explosion caused one incident where over 300 died from the gas. FWIW, MintPress News is not a right wing news organization.

    If either story is true, beating the war drums to attack Syria need to be silenced and quickly. My doubts are starting to form a very strong sense that even if Assad is willing to do almost anything to stay in power, it is becoming more and more doubtful he would result to using sarin gas because of the intense international pressure it would bring down on his rule of Syria and a high potential of an armed response by the UN or a single nation, i.e., America.

    As someone has already commented; “is this Obama’s yellowcake” moment?


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