Barack Obama: Right About Iraq, Wrong About Syria

President Obama seems to have forgotten the words of a certain Illinois State Senator back in 2002.

syria-obama

Back in 2002, when Barack Obama was an unknown state legislator from Illinois who had barely just started what would turn out to be a successful Senate campaign, he had this to say about the ongoing debate over the Iraq War:

Now let me be clear—I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

(…)

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not — we will not — travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Like many critics of the Iraq War, State Senator Obama turned out to be prescient in his warnings against proceeding blindly into Iraq, far more prescient as a matter of fact that supposedly wiser and more experienced people on both sides of the political aisle as it turned out. And yet, here we are some eleven years later and this same Barack Obama is advocating that he be permitted by Congress to engage in an ill-defined mission against a someone whose name could easily be substituted for that of Saddam Hussein in the quote above. If it was possible to contain Saddam eleven years ago, then why is it not possible to contain Bashar Assad today, especially given the fact that there is far less agreement among the international community about the wisdom of pursuing action against Syria?

Of course, the situations in Iraq and Syria are not exactly the same. The Iraq of 2002-2003 was not in the middle of a brutal civil war in which rebels are as divided among themselves by ethnicity and religion as they are committed to fighting the Assad regime. By all estimates, the fall of the Assad government, if and when it comes, is likely to lead to the same kind of chaos and ethnic warfare that we saw in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. We made the mistake of taking actions in Iraq that put is in the middle of that conflict, with the result being the loss of thousands of American lives and and expenditure of billions of dollars. Now, after a few years of what seemed to be like relative calm after the last American troops left, Iraq seems to be slowly descending back into an era where various political rivals use car bombs and other terror methods to inflict pain on their enemies, and on innocent Iraqis. Why in the world would we want to put ourselves in the middle of a similar situation in another Middle Eastern nation?

Obviously, there are as many differences as there are similarities between Iraq and Syria, and it would be an error to fall into the logical fallacy of assuming that events in Syria will unfold exactly as they did in Iraq. These are two different nations operating under different circumstances, and the fact of the civil war certainly makes the situation in Syria far more complicated. That doesn’t mean, however, that we cannot learn from the mistakes of the past.

Perhaps State Senator Obama needs to pay a visit to President Obama and have a talk with him.

H/T: Dave Schuler

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    It doesn’t matter where you stand on Syria; for or against.
    Syria is not Iraq. Iraq is not Syria.
    The only connection between the two is that those who advocated for Iraq should have no voice in the discussion about Syria…because they have abdicated all credibility.




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  2. Rob in CT says:

    @C. Clavin:

    No, Cliffy. That’s bullshit.

    People who have no credibility are those who pushed for Iraq, The Sequel and never came to terms with the disaster. People who never went back and re-examined their thought process. People whose response was basically “clap louder!”

    And those people exist. But most of the folks against this Syrian intervention are not those people.




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  3. James Pearce says:

    Just saying. A lot of things have changed since 2002…..




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  4. C. Clavin says:

    People who never went back and re-examined their thought process. People whose response was basically “clap louder!”

    OK…I’ll buy that.
    Still, to my essential point…Syria is not Iraq…and the comparison is pointless.




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  5. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Do you suppose the resources of the oval office, as contrasted with that of a newly elected junior senator, might establish a different perspective?

    Or, as one Senator said yesterday, “Is the power of the executive branch so intoxicating…..”, such that the president is unable to help himself.

    I prefer to think that the President is acting in the best interests of the country based on the evidence that is before him and what he believes reflects the values of our country.




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  6. @C. Clavin:

    I believe I made the point that Iraq and Syria are not identical. If anything the differences are such that the arguments against getting involved in Syria are even stronger.




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  7. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If anything the differences are such that the arguments against getting involved in Syria are even stronger.

    If we were planning an invasion and occupation, yes, this would be true. But there was nothing about our Iraq adventure that indicates airstrikes have suddenly lost their effectiveness.




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  8. James,

    Not an unfair point, but there have been more than a few wars in our history that started out with “limited” objectives.

    Also, Secretary Kerry’s legerdemain notwithstanding, the United States bombing Syria would most assuredly be an act of war. How they respond to that, or what course of events such a campaign sets in motion is another question, but it’s not one I’m all that willing to find out about.




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  9. M1EK says:

    Those who at least try to view Syria through the lens of Iraq are doing better than those who don’t, but not quite so well as those who are also willing to view Syria through the lens of Kosovo.




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  10. dazedandconfused says:

    Iraq was about regime change from the get-go. This might still be about blustering Assad (and his allies) into stopping the use of CW next door to Israel, and “in the bud”.

    It might (have?) work(ed?) too. For all we know the Russians and Iranians are leaning on Assad heavily right now.




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  11. Dave Schuler says:

    Could those who believe that the experience in Iraq has no relevance to Syria whatever please explain those views a bit more? I mean other than that was then this is now. They don’t need to be completely identical for the two situations to be relevant to one another.

    The conflict between Sunni Muslims and Shi’a Muslims of which the Syrian civil war is just one front has been going on for a millennium. That Saddam Hussein was able to maintain a bloody stasis doesn’t mean the same war in Iraq was not, in fact, in progress. Saddam killed an order of magnitude more Kurds with chemical weapons than Bashar al-Assad has killed Syrians. The Bush Administration zealously advocated attacking Iraq, exaggerating the dangers that Saddam posed and the ease of the campaign. Some would say he lied. The Obama Administration is clearly zealously advocating attacking Syria and Sec. Kerry has already been called out for exaggeration (some are saying he has lied). Sec. Kerry also has suggested that a ground invasion would not be out of the question and the original authorization requested by the Obama Administration didn’t preclude it.

    It seems to me that the similarities, sadly, are strong.




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  12. Dave Schuler says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    Iraq was about regime change from the get-go.

    So is the campaign against Assad. The president has said as much. Why else look to degrade his military ability other than to put a thumb on the scales in favor of the rebels?




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  13. Gavrilo says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The only connection between the two is that those who advocated for Iraq should have no voice in the discussion about Syria…because they have abdicated all credibility.

    Those who advocated for Iraq? You mean people like John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and Joe Biden, all of whom voted in favor of the Iraq War resolution?




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  14. al-Ameda says:

    Now, after a few years of what seemed to be like relative calm after the last American troops left, Iraq seems to be slowly descending back into an era where various political rivals use car bombs and other terror methods to inflict pain on their enemies, and on innocent Iraqis. Why in the world would we want to put ourselves in the middle of a similar situation in another Middle Eastern nation?

    Indeed. Not that anything is easy in that region, however our action to overthrow Hussein ceded power in the region to Iran, which has a strong interest in the instability chaos that has enveloped Syria.

    I believe we’re better served to stay on the sidelines unless more compelling circumstances require our action.




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  15. rudderpedals says:

    Why else look to degrade his military ability other than to put a thumb on the scales in favor of the rebels?

    Because some people find the use of nerve gas inhumane and worth responding to.




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  16. Dave Schuler says:

    @rudderpedals:

    So, you’re saying that regime change is necessary to accomplish the goal? I agree.




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  17. PD Shaw says:

    @Dave Schuler:” Why else look to degrade his military ability other than to put a thumb on the scales in favor of the rebels?”

    I agree with rudderpedals, the policy makes sense based upon the justification given. Imagine if the Administration had never voiced its desire for Assad to go, what would be different?




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  18. Rob in CT says:

    Of course Syria is not Iraq. And yes, we’re starting out saying we’re not going in for regime change (we’ll see about that, given that IIRC, the original line on Libya was on we’re just doing a no-fly zone, it isn’t about regime change). However, here is what we have:

    A mutli-sided civil war that breaks down along sectarian (and other) lines, with many rebel groups being really unsavory characters themselves, including folks who have been engaging in ethnic cleansing. A Baathist dictator trying to hold on to power and who has used poison gas as part of that effort. Rebels who may or may not have been playing around with poison gas too (see foreign press reports for this, the US press apparently doesn’t consider it news fit to print).

    And oh by the way, can we please not forget we are also arming and training groups of Syrian rebels? And now we’re going to give them air support. Given that, I really don’t put much trust in promises that we’re not going for regime change (hell, even if we’re not, it could happen anyway, as a consequence of our actions). And if there is such regime change, you likely get anarchy or something close, in a country with a lot of chemical weapons. We should risk this why?

    Libya is a mess, though I continue to reserve judgment on the outcome for some time yet. But you know what? With Libya, there was no risk of chemical weapons getting out in the wild, as it were. Syrian intervention proponents have been arguing that Assad might give chemical weapons to Hezbollah. Yeah, well, what happens if Assad falls and his arsenal falls into the hands of some rebel group that’s full of radical sunni islamists? It’s really easy for me to see negative consequences there: at that point, we either have to commit to a full on invasion to secure the weapons (even then, I wouldn’t be all that confident of success) or accept the risk that some group of fanatics might use them (say on Israel?).

    There is at least as much of a chance of making this mess worse as there is of making it better.




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  19. dazedandconfused says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    So is the campaign against Assad. The president has said as much. Why else look to degrade his military ability other than to put a thumb on the scales in favor of the rebels?

    I’m not convinced just yet that is his thinking. He and Kerry might be BSing the Republicans like McCain at the same time they are BSing Assad. Note that several of the Republicans who voted against the Senate bill in the committee (like Rubio) also complained to Kerry about Obama not doing more to arm the rebels.

    If they are doing Nixon’s “madman” game, they have to do this.




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  20. PD Shaw says:

    @Dave Schuler: To follow-up . . . the paradoxes between the motivation and the proposed policy are as a result of a limitation — “no boots on the ground.” The Obama administration has greatly expanded military action in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and now presumably Syria, all with that limitation in mind. I don’t think the limitation was created for the convenience of this policy, but is an ongoing part of the cost/benefit analysis.




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  21. anjin-san says:

    I think it is safe to say that history shows that getting involved in the civil wars of countries who’s culture we do not understand has little chance of ending well.




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  22. Todd says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Could those who believe that the experience in Iraq has no relevance to Syria whatever please explain those views a bit more? I mean other than that was then this is now. They don’t need to be completely identical for the two situations to be relevant to one another.

    I think they are relevant in the sense that we’ve learned from Iraq. But I don’t think that the fact that Iraq turned out to be such a disaster should automatically preclude us from taking any actions in Syria.

    The primary difference between the run up to Iraq, and what’s happening now with Syria is the leadership of the United States. Even as they’re making the case for limited action, it’s obvious that neither President Obama or Secretaries Kerry or Hagel are very enthusiastic about committing America’s miltary to action in that region of the world. Contrast that with President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfield in the fall of 2002, who it almost seemed couldn’t wait for the bombs to start flying in Iraq.

    That may not make a difference to everybody, but to me it does (and did).




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  23. PD Shaw says:

    @Rob in CT: “can we please not forget we are also arming and training groups of Syrian rebels?”

    It doesn’t appear that we have armed any troops yet. Link.

    In June, the White House authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to help arm moderate fighters battling the Assad regime, a signal to Syrian rebels that the cavalry was coming. Three months later, they are still waiting.

    The delay, in part, reflects a broader U.S. approach rarely discussed publicly but that underpins its decision-making, according to former and current U.S. officials: The Obama administration doesn’t want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear the outcome may be even worse for U.S. interests than the current stalemate.

    U.S. officials attribute the delay in providing small arms and munitions from the CIA weapons program to the difficulty of establishing secure delivery “pipelines” to prevent weapons from falling into the wrong hands, in particular Jihadi militants also battling the Assad regime.




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  24. dazedandconfused says:

    The beauty of Obama playing Nixons madman is in the US being in fact half-nuts. The Senate bill was amended to include even more harsher language about Assad. CNN is running panels of “experts” who argue about whether Assad is a great evil maniac or the greatest evil maniac, ala Colbert.

    Not saying that’s what I know is happening, just that I haven’t seen anything yet that contradicts this theory.




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  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Could those who believe that the experience in Iraq has no relevance to Syria whatever please explain those views a bit more? I mean other than that was then this is now. They don’t need to be completely identical for the two situations to be relevant to one another.

    Because despite your dismissal of dazedandconfused, he’s right.

    In Iraq we explicitly set about invading and occupying the country. Do you see any evidence whatsoever that we’re doing that here? Do you see an American army massing on the borders?

    The apt analogy is Libya, not Iraq. Dragging Iraq into this is choosing the less apt example over the more apt example. And even that analogy assumes that the “Assad must go” formulation is the actual policy. As you know, I’m not convinced. And the reason I’m not convinced is because the administration’s actions more closely match a “Let ’em fight” policy. A policy that obviously we cannot speak of publicly.




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  26. Todd says:

    p.s. I’ll also restate my opinion that the credible threat of military action is one of the best means of non-violent diplomatic pressure. If we’ve gotten to the point where we’re willing to preemptively take the military option out of the hands of the Commander in Chief because we’re too worried about the “unintended consequences”, then the Iraq war was an even bigger disaster than was already obvious.

    It’s a paradox. The best use of military force is when it doesn’t have to be used … because of the credible threat of what may happen to the target if it is.




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  27. Rob in CT says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Hmm. I had seen elsewhere that things were further along.




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  28. rudderpedals says:

    @Dave Schuler: I don’t see anything good coming out of linking regime change with a punishment designed to exact tremendous pain for daring to use nerve gas once so no, I don’t think I (yet) agree.




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  29. michael reynolds says:

    Once again, let’s look at the menu of real world possible outcomes:

    1) Assad wins. Which means Iran wins, Hezbollah wins, and the regime massacres freely.

    2) The rebels win, which means Al Qaeda and the Salafists win, and the new regime massacres freely.

    3) The country is partitioned, whether that’s de jure or just de facto, in which case both sides do some ethnic/sectarian cleansing.

    4) The war drags on, Hezbollah/Iran keep pouring in resources, Al Qaeda and the Salafists keep pouring in resources.

    Now, set aside all consideration of morality because all outcomes lead to massacre and ethnic/sectarian cleansing and retaliation.

    So, in that environment, what is the best outcome for the US? I would argue that it is option 4.

    If Obama has reasoned the same way, what would we expect to see the US doing?

    A) Avoiding major interference sufficient to tip the balance.
    B) Interference only to keep either side from prevailing, for example, depriving one side of new and potentially war-winning weapons.
    C) A stated policy that denies that “let ’em fight” is our actual policy because it would be very, very hard to defend publicly.

    To me the facts seem to best fit scenario 4. The actions we are taking fit scenario 4. Have no idea if that’s what’s really going on, but if it quacks like a duck. . .




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  30. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Not an unfair point, but there have been more than a few wars in our history that started out with “limited” objectives.

    And several others where an “airstrikes only” approach accomplished our goals quite effectively.




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  31. Gavrilo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And the reason I’m not convinced is because the administration’s actions more closely match a “Let ‘em fight” policy. A policy that obviously we cannot speak of publicly.

    So, you think the Obama administration is leading the United States into war military action in Syria under false pretenses?




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  32. michael reynolds says:

    @Gavrilo:

    I don’t know, but I think it’s possible. I tentatively think it fits the facts. But I’m very open to being dissuaded by evidence or compelling argument.




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  33. Rob in CT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Actively working to make sure #4 happens is, in my opinion, evil. Also, too: it’s the sort of thing that sounds deviously brilliant at the time but ends up looking not only evil but stupid decades later.

    I think there are some folks who find the idea of morally disgusting but theoretically devious brilliance attractive. Underlying that is often an overinflated belief in the power/skill of our intelligence people and armed forces (this is not a shot at them, really: controlling events like this is ridiculously hard – or just plain impossible).




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  34. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I don’t expect the idea will be welcomed on the Left or the Right. The Left is invested in Saint Barack. The Right is invested in weak (and dark-skinned) Obama. But it fits the facts as we know them.

    And it’s not evil if you assume that the menu as I’ve outlined it is correct. If all outcomes are bad, it’s not evil to choose the lesser evil, the evil that benefits us best under the circumstances.




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  35. Rob in CT says:

    Of for chrissakes. I’m left of center, but I’m not “invested in Saint Barack.”

    I am, a little bit, invested in the “not totally evil United States of America” (without claiming sainthood there either). But it’s not just about evil and sainthood. It’s also about hubris and unintended consequences.

    And it’s not evil if you assume that the menu as I’ve outlined it is correct

    On this, I vehemently disagree.




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  36. Dave says:

    @michael reynolds: I think you, and many others are forgetting something – Iran. I suspect the administration thinks that to maintain credibility in negotiations over nuclear capabilities they have to act tough with Syria. They’re also worried about the fallout in domestic politics if the Iranian negotiations go badly and the conservatives can pin any of it to Obama’s handling of Syria. Simple failure of negotiations can be lived with, but not if the failure can be linked to a “wimp factor.” Think how that will feed into elections.




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  37. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Dude, that was not a shot at you. I respect you. That was a short-hand reference meant to convey that neither side would much love the idea of a Machiavellian Obama.




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  38. Rob in CT says:

    When I speak of hubris, I mean the idea that we can actually know and choose a course to “the lesser evil” outcome.

    If all outcomes are bad, it’s not evil to choose the lesser evil, the evil that benefits us best under the circumstances.

    All outcomes are potentially bad, though we really don’t have a good idea of how they will turn out in 10, 20, 30 years.

    And you keep ignoring the downsides of the “keep them fighting” approach, or at least underselling them. Deliberately escalating tensions with Iran and Russia is useful how, exactly? Unless of course you want a war with Iran (I know you don’t)? Providing air support for islamist terrorists, some of whom have been engaging in ethnic cleansing is the smart play how? This proxy war bullshit has gone wrong before.

    It is entirely unclear we will benefit in any way from involving ourselves in this mess, and it’s entirely reasonable to suspect that there could be blowback because of it.




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  39. William Wilgus says:

    A ‘Memory of Convenience’ is a politician’s greatest asset.




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  40. Pharoah Narim says:

    The bottom line is—attempting to sweep around someone else’s door when your own porch is cluttered and broken is the highest hypocrisy and immorality. Charity and Human Rights begin at home. Nation states have to solve their own problems without outside influences. Eventually, they will tire of fighting each other and figure out how to co-exist…if that means several new countries are born so be it. The American psyche has an unbalanced masculine slant that is programmed to believe that it must “do something” about every world event that surfaces….simply because it has the means to do so. Doing nothing is also doing something and can be effective when wisely applied. Yet, that same Americano psyche is appauled and “how dare they!!!!” when it has to face the consequences of its actions. Blowback is real. The only mission for the US is to maybe create a safe zone civilians that want to flee can go to escape the conflict…otherwise….leave “Syria” alone!




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  41. Rob in CT says:

    Regarding the “this is about sending a message to Iran re: Iran’s nuclear ambitions” line of thinking, well, I’m one of those people who thinks Iran will get nukes whether we want it or not, and am totally unwilling to see us fight any wars to prevent them. My reasoning has always been that MAD applies to Iran. They are not insane.

    Unfortunately, we might have to consider that our foreign policy is insane.




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  42. C. Clavin says:

    “…Could those who believe that the experience in Iraq has no relevance to Syria whatever please explain those views a bit more?…”

    Iraq and regime change was an obsession of the Neo-Cons going back to the Project for a New American Century in 1998. September 11, 2001 provided the perfect excuse for these nut cases to pursue their fanatical wet-dream.
    http://www.newamericancentury.org/iraqclintonletter.htm
    You will note that most of the signatories of that letter became the all-stars of Iraq2…Kristol, Perle, Wolfowitz, Rummy, Bolton, etc.
    If you can find a similar manifesto from Kerry or Obama advocating for the attack of Syria and overthrow of Assad before recent events…let me know…I’d be interested in reading it.
    (Honestly…For the analogy to hold we would have to invade Venezuela in response to Syria.)

    Look – I think this Syria thing is stupid.
    Frankly, I don’t think it’s going to actually happen.
    If it does I’ll be the first to say that I was wrong…and Obama is dumber than I thought.

    But I don’t buy Iraq as a lens to view it through.

    Bosnia/Kosovo…maybe…and even that’s a stretch.




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  43. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Blowback is baked into the pie, whatever we do or don’t do. This is what the “anti” side is missing. We are not Italy or Honduras, we are the only superpower. We’re held responsible regardless of what we do. If Assad is given a green light and begins large scale use of chemical weapons, you don’t think Salafist propaganda will pin the blame on us? Come on.

    When you have power to stop atrocities and you don’t do so, you are held responsible. It’s not a question of whether that’s rational, or even of whether indeed we hold that power. We are seen to hold that power. Bump off Assad and Shia will blame us. Leave Assad alone and the Sunni will blame us.

    The wishful thinking here is that doing “nothing” somehow protects us. We pushed Saddam out of Kuwait and defended Sunnis from other Sunnis and were blamed by Al Qaeda. We don’t restrain Israel and are blamed by Hamas and Hezbollah. We try to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority to talk and we’re hated by Hamas. We let Mubarak fall and are hated for having propped him up and for letting him fall. We step aside and do nothing at all about the Egyptian military coup and we’re blamed. We were blamed for doing nothing for Sarajevo. Remember that the Taliban was in power because we helped to “save” Afghanistan from the Soviets, and yet they hosted Al Qaeda.

    With great power comes great responsibility whether or not you use that power and whether or not it is rational.




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  44. John D'Geek says:

    @Rob in CT:

    My reasoning has always been that MAD applies to Iran. They are not insane.

    The Iranian people are sane; the govennment has yet to prove such.

    ******

    As far as Libya goes, I’m going to use the same rules I used in analyzing the Iraq war (OIF):
    1) What is the Classified Informatin that the decision is really being made on?
    2) How accurate is that information?

    If you do not have an answer to 1, any opinion you may have* is strictly guess work. Same for 2.

    * This doesn’t apply to True Pacifists, but I haven’t seen any of those on this board.




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  45. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Blowback is baked into the pie, whatever we do or don’t do.

    Yep, pretty much. Sure, we’ll make someone mad if we bomb Syria. Better that than greenlight any madman with stockpiles of WMD, which would be the blowback if we do nothing.




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  46. PD Shaw says:

    @michael reynolds: I think this is a very important part of what is going on among U.S. leaders:

    When you have power to stop atrocities and you don’t do so, you are held responsible. It’s not a question of whether that’s rational, or even of whether indeed we hold that power.

    Not necessarily about U.S. responsibility, but Rwanda Remorse Syndrome. Some of the veterans of the Clinton Administration appear genuinely traumatized by their failure to prevent those atrocities. I don’t think the “mere” thousand deaths from various chemical attacks are really the issue, its what’s next. Deterrence is always about what happens next and there is no reason not to wonder if the future might be worse.

    In particular, I’ve never seen Kerry so animated about anything. I can’t help but think that he doesn’t want the book about his tenure at Secretary of State to read, ” . . . but he was ineffective dealing with the emerging crisis in Syria, which some scholars describe as genocide.”




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  47. dazedandconfused says:

    Saw Kerry and Hagel said yesterday there has been an on-going correspondence with Syria, Russia, and Iran on the issue of Assad’s CW over the length of the civil war. Warnings were repeatedly given and assurances repeatedly made.

    This administration may feel it’s compelled to make a point.

    http://youtu.be/7hkcZilKChI




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  48. Pharoah Narim says:

    @James Pearce: Only Chemical weapons aren’t “WMD” in any real sense of the word.




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  49. James Pearce says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    Only Chemical weapons aren’t “WMD” in any real sense of the word.

    That’s a rhetorical argument that I’m afraid that you would lose.




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  50. rudderpedals says:

    @Pharoah Narim: Precision is good. Let’s call it nerve gas or insecticide.




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  51. Spartacus says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And it’s not evil if you assume that the menu as I’ve outlined it is correct. If all outcomes are bad, it’s not evil to choose the lesser evil, the evil that benefits us best under the circumstances.

    Option 4 does not appear to be the least evil outcome. Option 1 should be since it will/should result in a cessation of violence sooner than any of the other options (#4 will probably cause the largest number of deaths because it means hostilities would most likely last longer than any of the other options.) Assad’s primary objective is not ethnic cleansing, but staying in charge of a fully intact Syria. Basically, he wants a return to the pre-uprising days and he has no incentive to kill any more people than necessary to do so. Since he was closer to victory than the rebels, anything that delays that will almost certainly increase the total number of deaths.

    Secondly, I may be wrong about this, but my quick review of recent history (and your examples above) suggest that the U.S. gets much more blame when it takes action than when it doesn’t. And, U.S. blame for Israel’s conduct is somewhat justified. Israel is a client state and the U.S. does not deal even-handedly in the ME; it’s heavily favors Israel. Moreover, outside of the U.S. there just aren’t a lot of complaints about the U.S. refusal to intervene when Saddam gassed the Iranians or the Kurds, or when Assad’s father massacred over 10,000, in the Rwanda genocide or any of the other many massive atrocities around the world.




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  52. Rob in CT says:

    Blowback is baked into the pie, whatever we do or don’t do. This is what the “anti” side is missing. We are not Italy or Honduras, we are the only superpower. We’re held responsible regardless of what we do.

    No, we’re held far more responsible for what we do (even if we do it fairly well) than what we choose not to do. Nobody is going to hit us with a terrorist attack because we failed to intervene in Rwanda, Michael.




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  53. Rob in CT says:

    @PD Shaw:

    That makes perfect sense to me. I do think that a bunch of Clintonites are ashamed they didn’t “do something” to stop the Rwandan genocide (I sympathize, but it did happen pretty quickly. 100 days. Then again, there was already a UN team there. Boost that up with US forces and maybe they stop it cold. It’s hard to know).

    Fighting the last atrocity, so to speak?




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  54. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Rwanda is not the Middle East.




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  55. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: I can’t remember the last time I travelled abroad and someone became angry with me regarding the failure of the U.S. to intervene somewhere. I most assuredly do remember the last time someone got angry with me about our interventions over the last twelve years, because it happens repeatedly when people discover I’m American.

    Enemy propaganda is centered wholely on us being “there”, rather than on our not being there. That’s because the truth is people in other countries normally don’t think about the U.S. at all unless we’re giving them a reason to.




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