Posts Tagged ‘Chemical weapons’

Assad and Obama Wriggle Off the Hook

September 11, 2013

UnknownPutin and Assad are lying snakes, so any deal with them must engender supreme skepticism. Obama and Kerry almost say so (diplomatically), but in fact Obama will swallow whatever dish of worms Putin and Assad feed him, to wriggle off the hook on which he so needlessly impaled himself.

That hook was his foolish call for a Congressional vote – which he didn’t need and was bound to lose – a presidency-wrecker. To avoid that, Putin and Assad well know, Obama will lie down for anything.

While postponing a strike pending negotiations might be logical, postponing the vote actually is not. Congressional backing would have strengthened Obama’s negotiating position. A “no” vote, on the other hand, would have relieved Assad of the need to negotiate at all. Thus postponing the vote (forever, presumably) is Obama’s declaration of weakness; it belies his speaking last night of “the credible threat of U.S. military action.” Putting it up to Congress gutted that credibility.

images-1Many, including Obama and Kerry, have stressed how hard it will be to get a deal that will truly take care of Syria’s entire huge stock of chemical weapons. They’re right. So we’ll get a fig leaf deal. At least, you might think, it would preclude Assad from using chemical weapons again. But remember, no one thought he’d do so after Obama’s “red line” statement. And after this new agreement-to-be, if Assad re-offends, what will Obama do? Will he be up for going through this whole ghastly wringer again? I doubt it, and Assad will too. Using chemical weapons again afterward would show up Obama as a chump.

And anyway, the deal would still leave Assad’s conventional military capabilities wholly intact, capabilities he’s already used to kill 100,000, and which might have been degraded by U.S. missile strikes. Avoiding that blow, and in effect getting a free hand to continue his killing spree, in exchange for what is likely to be a meaningless restriction on chemical weapons, seems like a pretty sweet deal for Assad.

Yet I’m for it, if the alternative is Congress voting no. A fig leaf is better than naked impotence.

So, the winners: Putin and Assad, of course, and bad guys everywhere, now knowing they have little to fear from America. And Obama, who avoids doing what he never wanted to do, and the humiliation of Congress telling him he can’t.

The losers: The Syrian people, of course, and the world as a whole, which has just been made better for thugs and worse for human values, than it might have been, but for Obama’s feckless miscalculations. (Should his Nobel Peace Prize be revoked?) Unknown-1America’s credibility, and its role as the world’s policeman, take a big hit.

Yes, I said policeman, as in, “We shouldn’t be the world’s policeman.” Do you want to live in a society with no cop on the beat, and psychopaths can rampage with impunity? The fundamental social contract entails government – and policemen – protecting us from harm by others. There is no world government, but America’s role is the next best thing. Somebody has to take responsibility, step up to the plate, and act as the world’s policeman, or else we’ll live in a much more disorderly and violent world. America is the only country capable of doing it.images-4

Or would you prefer China?

Syria’s Red Line – Or Is It Merely Pinkish?

April 27, 2013
Reuters, March 23, near Aleppo. (Humans died too)

Reuters, March 23, near Aleppo. (Humans died too)

There is good evidence (soil samples, victim images) that Syria’s regime has used chemical weapons (Sarin, and possibly Chlorine gas), according to Britain, France, and Israel.

The Brits call this a war crime. Really? As if aerial bombing of residential neighborhoods, torturing young children, killing over 70,000 people, mostly civilians, and driving out millions as refugees, are not war crimes enough? (I ask again: where is the International Criminal Court? Why not one indictment?)images

When President Obama declared that Assad’s using chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” requiring U.S. action, I thought it an empty gesture because once made, using such weapons would be crazy. But maybe Assad knew his man better, and is “crazy like a fox” – using a swodge of chemicals just to show up America as a paper tiger that won’t stop him, thus bolstering his backers’ resolve and demoralizing opponents.

Obama insists on more proof. But as The Economist put it, this “look[s] less like healthy skepticism than an unwillingness to take action” – “unfortunately, all of a piece with Mr. Obama’s lawyerly approach to the whole issue.”

As The Economist further observes, America’s squeamishness “is worsening a dreadful situation,” with the rebels becoming increasingly radicalized as it drags on. Meantime, with the killing unabated in a stalemated war, millions of refugees in dire straits, destabilizing neighbor countries, and sectarian bloodshed spreading, Obama’s “arguing about soil samples hardly seems like an adequate response.”

Experience shows that there is a kind of situation where reluctance to face a need for active involvement merely guarantees worse consequences down the road. We should have learned this from Rwanda, and from Bosnia. Now, alas, we’re being taught it again in Syria. “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

images-1Furthermore, as The Economist concludes, to let Assad cross a red line with impunity sends the wrong message when we’re telling the world that Iran’s building nuclear weapons will cross a red line.