September 4, 2013

"Obama Promises Syria Strike Will Have No Objective"

From The New Yorker:
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Attempting to quell criticism of his proposal for a limited military mission in Syria, President Obama floated a more modest strategy today, saying that any U.S. action in Syria would have “no objective whatsoever.” 
“Let me be clear,” he said in an interview on CNN. “Our goal will not be to effect régime change, or alter the balance of power in Syria, or bring the civil war there to an end. We will simply do something random there for one or two days and then leave.”

Actually, this parody proposal doesn't strike me as a totally bad idea, so it's worth thinking through why it would be bad. Assuming that there was use of poison gas in Syria and assuming the regime was behind it and that it's important to deter future use of poison gas, why not punish the leaders with some cruise missiles blowing up the leadership's prized possessions (does Assad have a G6?) and nicest offices, and then, point made, stop?

Well, one reason is because this kind of Olympian thunderbolt flinging is likely to lead onward. Things get personalized quickly. For example, Obama's unexpected declaration of a no fly zone over Libya in 2011 inevitably meant that the U.S. was going to overthrow Colonel Q/K/G. Obama couldn't go into the 2012 election as the President who started a war with G/Q/K and didn't win.


Anonymous said...

Why can't America just mind its own business?

Dave Pinsen said...

Since we're spitballing here, for the sake of argument, why not use a tactical nuke and go for a Childhood's End scenario in Syria? Nuke Assad's ancestral neighborhood, and say we'll bomb Syria with a nuke a week until both sides come to an agreement and end their civil war.

On the one hand, that sounds totally outrageous, but on the other hand, it's consistent with the arguments made for nuking Japan (hastening the end of the war, obviating the need for another US invasion, and ultimately reducing both US and enemy civilian casualties). And unlike a few cruise missile strikes, there's no question nukes would get the belligerents' attention.

The usual objections against us using nukes aren't moral ones but legal and practical: it violates international laws we are a party to, and it invites an enemy to reciprocate with nukes. But I don't see how either argument applies here. Whatever military action we take against Syria, absent UN authorization, would be a violation of international law, and Syria doesn't have any nukes to reciprocate with.

Go big or go home.

Anonymous said...

(does Assad have a G6?)

G6? The Pontiac G6?

Why would Assad have a Pontiac G6, and if he did, would he really care if it was blown up? I'd imagine he has better cars.

countenance said...

Shorter Obama:

"Let me be perfectly clear. Our mission in Syria is anything but."

peterike said...

The Anonymous at 8:54 p.m. in the "How TV models discussions of what to notice" thread said everything you need to say on this topic.

peterike said...

This Andy Borowitz guy is the putative "humor" columnist at the New Yorker, yet everything he writes falls with a witless thud. Yet his pieces are invariably in the top of the "most emailed" list.

Usually, they are just dead stupid put downs of Republicans, and all the old Commie Jews that read the New Yorker just find that stuff hilarious and they have to share it.

This piece was unusual in that it made fun of Obama. But generally speaking, if you want to be a New Yorker "humor" writer, just do this:

"Boehner! Guns! Can you imagine! And he's orange!"

You may submit your resumes.

jody said...

libya is in chaos. last week i said oil production was down from 1.6 million barrels per day to 0.8 million barrels per day. well, that was the situation a few months ago. today, oil production has almost halted. it is below 0.2 million barrels per day and civil war seems to the be situation currently.

no coverage of this in the US, as per normal. nothing obama wrecks is his fault. he's working AGAINST the system, you see. he's a totally impartial OUTSIDER here, working to FIX the mistakes and screw ups of the US government. obama is not PART of that government. oh no. heavens no. he remains a determined outsider working hard for YOU, the potential democrat voter. vote for me, please. i'll straighten out this government thing yet. i didn't draw a red line on this syria thing, somebody else did. i'm just the guy who's gonna fix it.

so, vote for me. and now, i'll see you next week, on my latest campaign stop, er, bus tour to minor american colleges. say, is that a golf course? i can't pass up a round of golf. unless it's to meet with homosexual leaders in russia. playing golf, chatting with homosexuals, anything but doing work while my country slowly implodes and a potential world war 3 situatoin escalates in the middle east (that i created).

jody said...

speaking of libyan escapades. iraq was, believe it or not, in kind of decent shape when bush left it. now it's in civil war again.

when bush was president, egypt was stable. now egypt is in a civil war.

any idea what afghanistan will be like after obama is done with it?

the entire region will be destabilized after this obama guy is out of office.

it's unclear what iran will be like in 3 years, but the partial oil embargo has kind of helped in it some ways, forcing it to be more self sufficient and self reliant. and of course, strengthening it's ties with china and russia. and india too. gotta export that liquid gold, and there are buyers who aren't interested in anything obama says about an oil embargo.

JoetheHun said...

the Choom Gang at work....

Whitehall said...

What gets me is the claim that a strike will not require a declaration of war.

If a sovereign nation launched a bunch of missile against the US homeland, would we not consider that an act of war? How is us hitting Syria different from Pearl Harbor?

I loved how General Dempsey refused to comment or support Kerry's testimony to Rand Paul. Obama has been purging the military from top to bottom and Kerry has made a career on defaming our military's honor.

I would not recommend accepting any invitations to ride with Obama in Air Force One anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Never was a fan of Bush, but despite all the hysteria about Iraq and Afghanistan, there was never a threat of a world war breaking out. With the current Nobel peace prize winner, I am seriously beginning to wonder if we are witnessing the end of civilization as we know it.

Anonymous said...

Kerry: Arab countries offered to pay for invasion

Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab counties have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.

“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”

Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.

“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done.

America is becoming the hit-men mercanaries of the world?

Anonymous said...

"Why can't America just mind its own business?"

90% of Americans are perfectly happy minding their own business.

It's various lobbies demanding war for their own benefit.

Anonymous said...

"when bush was president, egypt was stable. now egypt is in a civil war. any idea what afghanistan will be like after obama is done with it?"

I can't believe people are still looking at this in left vs right terms when it's so plainly top vs bottom.



There's obviously a conflict within the administration between Jewish lobby hawks led by Kerry who want regime change and 100,000 dead and the doves led by Obama who want as limited a strike as they can get away with.

Anonymous said...

"America is becoming the hit-men mercanaries of the world?"

In the long-run it's good that the Jewish lobby has shown the world that congress can be bought as in the future it will become more of a competitive auction and less of a yard sale.

It might even turn into a popular game show.

Whiskey said...

Anon you didn't read. Saudi and likely Qatar are behind Obamas save AQ bombing campaign. Israel would rather have Assad as they wanted Saddam. Weaker and divided vs what would succeed them.

Anonymous said...

What is this "G6" automobile you are referring to?

Anonymous said...

Oliver Stone's WORLD TRADE CENTER is a very instructive film. A rather sly and even subversive work.
Some conservatives praised it as patriotic & gungho and some leftists derided it as Stone-gone-soft.
But it is a very cautionary allegory about the limits of American power and the myth of the invincible American Male as global superhero.
It is a companion piece of BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY where a Marine who thinks he can whup all them commies is paralyzed in an instant by a single bullet. He tries to cling to the myth of his heroism, but he discovers his limits, his fallibility. There is no colonel Kilgore bullshit, a man who stands around bare-chested on a beach but is untouched by shrapnel bursting all around him.

The myth of American machismo comes in two flavors.

(1)There is nothing that Americans can't do. Americans can win any war, defeat any enemy, overcome any obstacle, accomplish any feat.
If Americans put their mind to it, they can do anything. Win WWII, win the Cold War, send man to the moon, etc.
If Americans can do all that, surely it can kick ass in the Middle East and turn the whole region into a happy democracy.

(2) Even if American soldiers were to fall in battle, death will be glorious, and their 'band of brothers' will finish the job, and the sacrifice will have been glorious and worth it.

But the firemen in WORLD TRADE CENTER, who are supposed to be gungho heroes aving people,
save no one and are rendered helpless under all that rubble and have to be saved by others.
They are admirable for putting their lives on the line and for their resolve and patience under duress. But they are utterly 'inert' and ineffective 'heroes' when shit hits the fan.

US was supposed to be triumphant in the Middle East. Hero soldiers were supposed to put out the fires of terrorism and Jihad and bring the light of freedom and progress to all those Muslims. But in the end, the whole edifice collapsed, and Americans were left to just hunker down and wait to be be withdrawn with no real victory in sight, which may well turn into disaster in yrs to come.

So, in that sense, Obama, though a creep, is savvy enough to turn on the hose from afar but careful not to send Americans in harm's way. Not because he cares for US troops but because he doesn't want another Iraq or even Libya on his hands.

Kibernetika said...

Anyone wonder why we drink so much? ;)

Suki bliad'

Anonymous said...

'“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”'

You know, it'd probably save us a heck of a lot of trouble if we just bombed Riyadh and Abu Dhabi instead.

Without their influence, no Iraq, Libya, Egypt, or Syrian troubles for the US.

Anonymous said...

What is this "G6" automobile you are referring to?

It's a Pontiac sedan:

Evil Sandmich said...

jody said...
libya is in chaos

I'm sure it wasn't part of Big Zero's plan, but there's worse things in the world than setting arabs/muslims upon each other.

Anonymous said...

Good point Jody. I always looked at the vestigal garrison Bush negotiated as part of the UFA as akin (but certainly not as valuable as) the Panama Canal. Purchased at great price in lives and money but still something of value and something worth holding onto. It always seemed kind of peevish to me that the paleos were taken by the symbolism of withdrawing all the troops rather than the realism view which would have said wait a sec we can be the only super power with a large garrison in the land mass with the largest concentration of oil on earth that might come in handy.

I agree with paleos that foreign bases do draw us into conflicts which we shouldn't be involved in, but we already got dragged into Iraq it made no sense to leave at that point. The added bonus is that we could have walked out of Afghanistan without the surge because with a garrison in Baghdad there was always at least the fig leaf of look one out of two ain't bad.

One last thing I think paleos would have ended up kind of liking an admittedly impossible Bush third term. He had kicked the neo-cons to the curb by 2005 and was morphing back into the "cruise missile to kill a camel" quipping governor he was in 2000. Certainly, Gates seemed far more committed to realism than palecon wunderkid Hagel, who I hope even paleos are begining to see is a pure courtesan to power.

Anonymous said...

Anon you didn't read. Saudi and likely Qatar are behind Obamas save AQ bombing campaign. Israel would rather have Assad as they wanted Saddam. Weaker and divided vs what would succeed them.

Whiskey, you don't read your own polls: a Gal Hadash poll published in Israel Hayom found that 66.6 percent of respondents would be in favor of American and European military intervention in Syria.

Anonymous said...

"... say we'll bomb Syria with a nuke a week until both sides..."

Are nukes, even tactical nukes, usable anywhere that matters in Syria? Syria abuts northern Israel. Not to mention, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq... The bulk of Israel is about, say, 350 miles by 50 miles wide. Damascus looks about 80 miles from Israel.

What looks like an old Civil Defense chart gives an average fallout plume of a 200 KT weapon in 15 mph wind as some 130 miles. It gives a 1 MT bomb a fallout plume of about 200 miles.

The low-end of the tactical nuke range is probably the US Cold War 20 KT Davy Crockett [2]. (Launched by a man-portable recoilless rifle, in theory at a vast wave of Soviet tanks, one version had a one mile range the other a 2.5 mile range. Arnold would have liked this weapon.)

("... protection of Europe between 1961 and 1971, and during those ten years 2,100 ...were deployed. ... the weapon's tendency to spew radiation over the battlefield made up for its shortcomings as an explosive. ... ... the radioactivity from the hail of fission bombs would render a large swath of earth uninhabitable for about 48 hours...")

This looks non-linear but a back-of-the-envelop SWAG might give us a worst-case fallout plume for a very small tactical 20 KT bomb of 50 miles. This is all clearly really rough.

But whatever the case, a nuke a week in Syria seems out of the question.

"Whoops, the wind shifted and we have to evacuate Israel." Or Jordan, etc..

In a lot of situations, nukes seem almost unusable as real weapons. Nukes in complex tactical situations seem mostly good for generating a large amount of collateral damage. "We wouldn't have had to kill them if they weren't there."

Cail Corishev said...

I'm just going to quote myself from about a week ago on another blog:

"Democrats can kill people, sure; but they seem to have no idea whom they're killing or why. In fact, they seem to consider that a virtue: military action can only be justified if it can't be shown to have any benefit to the attacking country."

Anonymous said...

Anon you didn't read. Saudi and likely Qatar are behind Obamas save AQ bombing campaign. Israel would rather have Assad as they wanted Saddam. Weaker and divided vs what would succeed them.

"Jewish Groups Back Syria Strike"

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a 5 or 10 KT nuke might work then, particularly if it detonates under ground rather than in the air. The putative unusability of nukes had probably been played up to discourage their use, and to discourage major power wars.

Dave Pinsen

Anonymous said...

"Saudi and likely Qatar are behind Obamas save AQ bombing campaign. Israel would rather have Assad as they wanted Saddam."

Israel and the Jewish lobby wanted Saddam deposed.

Israel and the Jewish lobby want Assad deposed.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey *also* want Assad deposed for their own reasons.

Anonymous said...

Dan Drezner :

"To your humble blogger, this is simply the next iteration of the unspoken, brutally realpolitik policy towards Syria that's been going on for the past two years. To recap, the goal of that policy is to ensnare Iran and Hezbollah into a protracted, resource-draining civil war, with as minimal costs as possible. This is exactly what the last two years have accomplished... at an appalling toll in lives lost.

This policy doesn't require any course correction... so long as rebels are holding their own or winning. A faltering Assad simply forces Iran et al into doubling down and committing even more resources. A faltering rebel movement, on the other hand, does require some external support, lest the Iranians actually win the conflict. In a related matter, arming the rebels also prevents relations with U.S. allies in the region from fraying any further."

Maxwell Power said...

Operation El Dorado Canyon, 1986, Ghadaffi piped down for at least a year after that

Titus Didius Tacitus said...

America is big on killing the children of Middle Eastern rulers it targets. (For examples: Saif al-Arab Gaddafi, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein.)

Assad has a beautiful wife (Asma) and three children (Hafez, Zein and Karim). The logical continuation of America's habits would be to drone strike them.

Then, like Sweden, grant blanket amnesty to all Syrian refugees.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

""What is this "G6" automobile you are referring to?""

It's a Pontiac sedan:"

I guess you never saw "Tropic Thunder". This is what is meant by a "G6":

Gulfstream G650

Anonymous said...

You dorks, a G6 isn't a Pontiac G6 but a Gulfstream 6 - a private jet, in otherwords.

Bill said...

What is this "G6" automobile you are referring to?

It's a boring, middle-class sedan.

Steve is making a reference to the kind of guy he thinks Assad is---it's a Steve sub-theme which you can google if you are interested.

Back when Assad could have any kind of life he wanted, he studied to be an ophthalmologist. Think about what kind of a guy that makes him. Just, what, exactly, does that choice say about him?

Sadly, for Assad, he got dragged into being dictator of Syria. Which he does and does competently, presumably out of a sense of familial obligation or obligation to his fellow Alawites or whatever. Then, the U.S. randomly attacks his country via proxies and starts talking about randomly attacking his country directly. If he loses this war, he gets to be the first victim of the Alawite Holocaust. He has reacted to all this, apparently, by grimly doing his best to muddle through.

Doesn't this scream bourgeois at the top of its lungs? You can almost visualize the guy slipping into khakis and a white polo shirt at the end of the day and looking at himself sadly in the mirror.

As an interesting aside, the fact that Assad chose to be an ophthalmologist has been a running source of levity over at NRO. (put this in google without the quotes: "ophthalmologist assad")

But, you know, NRO and the conservative movement like us middle class white folk. Or something.

Steve Sailer said...

Steve Sailer said...

The Ms. Pacman game had better music.

David Obameron said...

What does the gay girl in Damascus have to say about all this I wonder?

Svigor said...

It's various lobbies demanding war for their own benefit.

Politico says House won't vote for bammy's war, but stay tuned, cuz AIPAC's in his corner and haven't weighed in yet.

Now, back to the local hasbara boys who say an attack on Syria is against Israeli interests.

Svigor said...

Israel would rather have Assad as they wanted Saddam. Weaker and divided vs what would succeed them.

Like I said. AIPAC: "bomb Syria!"

Hasbara agents at iSteve: "Israel: 'no, don't bomb Syria!'"

It's all about the audience. Not hard to see how these people make it in show biz; "who-whom" is the key there, too.

Anonymous said...

Israel most definitely did not want either Sadaam or Assad deposed. What they wanted and want, was a weakened Sadaam who would just be strong enough to deter Iran and to cause Iran trouble and Syria in civil war forever. That is what Israel wants. Every Israeli general and politician warned Bush NOT to invade Iraq - they are not neo-cons, they look out for their interests, not some bizarre fantasy of democracy in Iraq. And now, the Israeli army wants, for obvious reasons, Syria in a constant state of civil war - and of course that makes perfect sense. This is their most severe enemy on their border. They most definitely do not want Assad to lose or win. Obama - dishonestly - has invoked Israel. But it is not Israel who is pushing this at all. Why would they want a muslim brotherhood state on their border more than a weakened Alawi dictator in civil war? They don't.

NOTA said...

I think nuking the Syrians might muddy up the whole " don't use WMDs" message we are supposed to be sending.

Anonymous said...

"Sounds like a 5 or 10 KT nuke might work then, particularly if it detonates under ground rather than in the air."

Well, could be and I'm no expert, and there's been all sorts of work on neutron bombs, EMP bombs, dirty bombs, etc., and if it's under 10 kt the cloud might not reach the stratosphere and thus wouldn't go worldwide...

Fallout doesn't come directly from the bomb. It comes from dirt, dust, and other stuff (sea salt, anything) that's been irradiated by the bomb. The dirt/dust is drawn upward by the heated air I guess, it's what you visibly see as the mushroom cloud. As you'd imagine, the particles that make up that radioactive cloud slowly drift down at various rates, forming the radiation plume on the ground.

So a subsurface (or subsea) burst forms more fallout than an airburst:

"...detonated in the air, called an air burst, produces less fallout than a comparable explosion near the ground. ... For subsurface bursts, there is an additional phenomenon present called "base surge"..."

Most everything I know about a-bombs I learned under a desk in the early Cold War when people actually did that drill, so it could be pretty wrong but the basics seem fairly well established...

Anonymous said...

This is the first war since Clinton's adventures in the Balkans that the Republicans opposed. Granted, MCain and Flake support it. Maybe, the three stools of conservatism are coming apart and we will finally leave the Reagan and Bush years behind.

Sean said...

You can bet the editor of the Israeli 'NYT' (Haaretz) has access to opinion at the very highest level in Israel. Here he is articulating it.

NYT, September 5, 2013 Israel Backs Limited Strike Against Syria"“If it’s Iran-first policy, then any diversion to Syria is not fruitful,” said Aluf Benn, editor of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “From the Israeli point of view, the worst scenario is mission-creep in Syria and America gets entangled in a third war in the Middle East, which paralyzes its ability to strike Iran ".

Exactly what I have been saying for several days in the Fog of War post comments.