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Joe Lieberman: Hey, Let’s Go To War In Syria Too!

This morning on Fox News Channel, Joe Lieberman became the first U.S. politician to back military action in Syria in response to the government’s violent reaction to ongoing protests:

Senate Homeland Security chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said the U.S. should intervene to help Syrian protestors if officials there turn weapons on the public as took place in Libya on Fox News Sunday.

Lieberman told host Chris Wallace that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad begins to slaughter his own people he could face an international coalition willing to implement a no-fly zone as they have done in Libya.

Lieberman said he would support U.S. intervention “if Assad does what Qaddafi was doing, which is to threaten to go house to house and kill anyone who’s not on his side.”

Video:

The part of Lieberman’s comments that I think are most troublesome are these:

“There’s a precedent now that the world community has set in Libya and it’s the right one,” Lieberman said. “We’re not going to stand by and allow this Assad to slaughter his people like his father did years ago and in doing so we’re being consistent with our American values and we’re also on the side of the Arab people who want a better chance for a decent life,

That’s the real problem with the Libyan intervention. Aside from the unknown consequences are sure to follow the replacement of Muammar Gaddafi by a rebel coalition that includes elements allied with al Qaeda who were killing Americans in Iraq a few short years ago, it establishes a precedent for intervention in purely internal matters whenever the powers-that-be in the United Nations Security Council decide that civilians need to be “protected.” It strikes me as a policy that is just as likely to erode the credibility of the United Nations as enhance it, with smaller nations coming to realize that they will essentially be at the mercy of the morality policy in the Security Council, as long as Russia and China decide to sit on the sidelines and abstain rather than exercising their veto.

As for Lieberman’s suggestion itself, intervening in Syria would be even more insane than the Libya intervention. For one thing, it would be a far more difficult logistical matter given the fact that Syria has only limited access to the sea and that any effective no-fly zone would require violating the airspace of nations like Lebanon and Jordan, both of whom would be likely to want to stay out of this particular fight. For another, the Syrian military is far more effective than the Libyan military. It wouldn’t be such an easy cakewalk.

Additionally, as Ed Morrissey notes, Lieberman’s suggestion that we should engage in missions like this because the Arab’s are in favor of it makes no sense whatsoever:

So … what is the strategy here, exactly? We should attack nations at the behest of the Arab League rather than by considering our own national interests? We should conduct a war against all brutal Arab dictatorships?

Because of its location, its ties to terrorism and its influence over the political affairs of Lebanon, we arguably have more interest in the political future of Syria than we do Libya. That doesn’t mean, however, that we need to go in there with guns blazing without first considering if military action is really the proper way to advance our interests in this case. If it sets off a wider war, which is a distinct possibility in this particular, case, then I think it’s pretty clear the answer is no. In any case, though, the only relevant consideration in deciding how to proceed is what is in the national interest of the United States, not what the United Nations or the Arab League wants us to do for them. If they want to act, let them do it themselves.

 

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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 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Can’t remember the last time this crypto-Republican said something that was not stupid.

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  2. Eric Florack says:

    It seems to me, though, that while Lieberman’s argument can be rejected on its face, it does expose a little bit of the Oliphant in the room ; that there is no real strategy, here. We have dealt with Qaddafi four years now. Decades, in fact. Why go in now? More, if responding to claims of atrocities by the government against its own people, what of places like the Sudan, for example?

    Leftist candidates, Obama included, railed vigorously against “regime change” and so such places were not addressed, at least militarily, which, let’s face it, is likely the only response that’s going to accomplish its goal. Yet here we have Obama engaging in it, it not only here but in Egypt as well.

    Obama, like Cutter before him, likes to make noise about how this is all about what he views as Jefferson in democracy springing to life in Libya, and in Egypt. Yet, the specter of Carter’s Iranian escapades teaches that such an outcome is unlikely and that exactly the opposite is far more likely. Instead of merely one and ran, within the next five years we will now have at least three. Each of these, is far more likely to be friendly twenty the than are the former rulers in those nations. Hardly a situation to be aspired after.

    Thus, the stated purpose of our intervention in Libya, and the unstated purpose of our activities in Egypt, are both exposed as nonsense. Which, in turn, raises the question, what in the hell are we doing there in the first place? What is, at the end of the day, the strategy being followed by Obama? The only answer that one can come to it this point is that we don’t really have one. The result of that, is as easily reckoned as the other Obama disasters of policy have been.

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  3. george says:

    Wouldn’t it just be simpler to declare war on every country in the world – that way no one will feel left out.

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  4. ponce says:

    “More, if responding to claims of atrocities by the government against its own people…”

    Indeed, now that we’ve retaken the Libyan towns where the alleged atrocities took place, I’m sure we’ll be discovering those mass graves any minutes now, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. michael reynolds says:

    I literally cannot parse much of Eric’s comment above. Is it in English?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  6. Eric Florack says:

    That”s kinda funny since ponce didn’t seem to have much trouble with it.
    Hmmmm.

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  7. anjin-san says:

    Well, bit stood shoulder to shoulder with Mubarek even as the people in Egypt were risking their lives in the streets to depose that murdering bastard. Guess it is no surprise that he objects to seeing Kaddafi go.

    Say bit, you have been telling us for years how Muslims exist only to kill Americans and wage war on freedom, which they hate with a passion. Now Muslims are putting their lives on the line for freedom, as opposed to a blowhard like you who has never done anything but run his mouth. How about that?

    At any rate, keep rooting for a bad outcome. It’s not your ass that is on the line. Never has been, never will be.

    > We have dealt with Qaddafi four years now. Decades, in fact. Why go in now?

    Hmm. Funny, you did not see it that way when W attacked Iraq. Oh yea, they had pretend WMD.

    > Why go in now?

    Because if we had not gone in now, the rebellion would have been crushed, and the chance to have Kaddafi deposed in a rebellion started by Libyans would have been lost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. anjin-san says:

    > Thus, the stated purpose of our intervention in Libya, and the unstated purpose of our activities in Egypt, are both exposed as nonsense.

    Ummm. No, they are not. Can you run your above content through the Babble-to-English translator or something?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. john personna says:

    I think it must be some kind of performance art.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. Herb says:

    “it establishes a precedent for intervention in purely internal matters whenever the powers-that-be in the United Nations Security Council decide that civilians need to be “protected.””

    That precedent was established almost two decades ago. Ever hear of Srebrenica? The lesson learned from the Srebrenica massacre wasn’t “never declare a safe area when some murderous thug is going to start massacring people.”

    The lesson was that if you declare a safe area, you don’t just flex your muscles. You start throwing punches…

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  11. john personna says:

    (Referring to Lieberman.)

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  12. [...] as I said earlier, I think the idea of intervening in Syria is exceedingly stupid, but making distinctions like this demonstrates just how intellectually bankrupt the [...]

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  13. DMan says:

    “It strikes me as a policy that is just as likely to erode the credibility of the United Nations as enhance it, with smaller nations coming to realize that they will essentially be at the mercy of the morality policy in the Security Council”

    Huh? I’m sort of confused by this statement. It’s not like the Security Council is looking to intervene in countries because they disagree with their dress codes. Instead they would be looking to prevent the large scale slaughter of innocents in these countries. Last I remember protecting human rights and preventing genocide align with the goals of the United Nations. The more I think about it the more I feel you have it completely backwards. UN policy that chooses to intervene in some countries while ignoring others does more to erode its credibility than anything else. The UN as an institution is weak and incompetent in many ways, but I don’t see how acting consistently on human rights and genocide prevention would erode its credibility like you suggest.

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  14. DMan,

    Except that they won’t be acting consistently because, as always, they’ll wink at human rights violations in some countries and condemn them in others. Additionally, I am opposed to the idea of the United Nations having independent authority to authorize the use of American military assets.

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  15. michael reynolds says:

    The problem with these discussions is that too often we have to back up and sort of do a Modern History 101 class. Having to remind people of the balkan interventions, for example. Or remind people that Reagan sent Marines into Lebanon. Or point out the numerous interventions that didn’t involve oil. Or whatever. It’s frustrating.

    The cheap shots from the right are similar I must admit to cheap shots that have come in the past from the left — although usually the left manages some degree of consistency at least. Particularly, “Why don’t they state everything clearly and unambiguously and in language a 6th grader can understand?

    The answer is of course because we can’t publicly say certain things for diplomatic reasons. Like, “Libya is easier because we have bases just across the Med and it’s a big, empty desert country.” Or, “We don’t intervene in Bahrain because we can’t mess with the Saudis beyond a certain point or they’ll turn off the oil.” Or, “Because we made a deal that we wouldn’t do A to B if B helped us do C to D.”

    It’s complicated for citizens in a democracy, particularly because in some cases it’s not diplomacy at work, sometimes it’s just stupidity or ass-covering. In this case I think it’s diplomacy. I think there are a bunch of things unsaid here. Speculating I’d guess Egypt and Tunisia and the EU were all terrified of floods of Libyan refugees. I’d also guess we looked at the map, realized that if Libya ended up split down the middle that would work out fine with us — most of the oil would get shipped and Gaddafi would end up isolated and weak.

    But we don’t want to say things like that. It wouldn’t be helpful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. sam says:

    @Michael

    “I literally cannot parse much of Eric’s comment above. Is it in English?”

    It’s in Bitglish. Any thing written in Bitglish, no matter on what topic, can in general be translated as “Obama sucks, liberals suck, and if you don’t get it, you suck.” His stuff is really easy to understand once you get the dialect down. It’s a very, very simple dialect.

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  17. DMan says:

    Doug,

    I agree the UN as it stands is incapable of acting consistently, which is a major problem that affects its credibility. But it doesn’t follow that this should prevent it from ever taking action in cases where it is capable of working to achieve its stated human rights goals.

    “Additionally, I am opposed to the idea of the United Nations having independent authority to authorize the use of American military assets.”

    And this is happening where? I think our Commander in Chief would be surprised to know he had no say in this matter.

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  18. Hey Norm says:

    As a resident of CT I must say that Lieberman embarasses me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. ponce says:

    “I think there are a bunch of things unsaid here. ”

    Number 1 being Hillary and Obama thought it would be easy to add “We’re the people who removed Gaddafi from power!” to their resumes.

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  20. Ddam,

    The President and Secretary of State have both said that UNSCR 1973 obviated the need for Congressional approval of this military action against Libya. They have taken the position that the UN trumps the United States Congress, and the Constitution. That is an exceedingly dangerous and wrongheaded idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Eric Florack says:

    Say bit, you have been telling us for years how Muslims exist only to kill Americans and wage war on freedom, which they hate with a passion. Now Muslims are putting their lives on the line for freedom, as opposed to a blowhard like you who has never done anything but run his mouth. How about that?

    Uh, No, Anjin. Not true. THey do, however, have links to AlQuieda.

    Oh, you didn’t know? No shock, that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. anjin-san says:

    Sorry bit your little smoking gun has already been discussed on one of Doug posts. Try to keep up.

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  23. Wiley Stoner says:

    Anjin, Looks like there is no oil in Syria and plenty of it in Libya. Where is Obama’s authorization to use force? Did you ever hear what Obama said about such adventures in 2007? Anjin, you Reyolds, Ponce and the rest are such obvious hypocrites. Jelly backed cowards who have no intellectual honesty or moral integrity. Lieberman was a democrat before you were born. FOAD!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. michael reynolds says:

    I’m trying to keep track of the GOP attack here:

    1) We should rush in. Right now. No waiting.

    Then it was:

    2) We’re being led around by the Brits and French, how humiliating.

    Then it was:

    3) We never should have gone in.

    Then,

    4) Maybe we should maybe we shouldn’t, either sooner, or later, but definitely we should have asked Congress. Unless the answer was “sooner.” In which case, um. . .

    And the latest iterations:

    5) The rebels are Al Qaeda.

    and,

    6) The UN is a world government fluoridating our water!

    It doesn’t really matter what the arguments are because the conclusion is always: Obama=Bad.

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  25. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, I’d note that my specific prediction of yesterday that the rebels — remember them? They’re either just 1000 idiots with plastic guns, or fearsome Al qaeda — would have Gaddafi out of eastern Libya within three days seems to be two days ahead of schedule.

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  26. Davebo says:

    I’m trying to keep track of the GOP attack here:

    It’s not really that hard. Fox tweets it and Doug sweeps it.

    Ironically, he doesn’t even try to hide it anymore.

    To a person with only a remorse for cheering a war in Iraq everything looks like….. Iraq.

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  27. michael reynolds says:

    It seems Sirte has fallen.

    That makes it official: Gaddafi has lost eastern Libya. He just lost his home town. That puts a substantial portion of the oil and some major shipping facilities, in rebel hands. Gaddafi is blockaded, his planes are down, his money’s frozen, no one’s going to sell him arms or buy his oil, and he’s lost half his country.

    Now the question is whether anyone in his tribe or in the Libyan military has the means and the stones to get rid of this murderous buffoon and end this thing. He can still turn this into a bloody house-to-house fight, or possibly get to a stalemate. So one would hope someone in the Libyan hierarchy would see the wisdom in wrapping this thing up with a bullet or a one-way ticket to Venezuela.

    Then in come the Arab League peacekeepers and we go away and the GOP is left to sort out how this can all somehow prove that Obama is simultaneously reckless and dithering.

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  28. ponce says:

    “So one would hope someone in the Libyan hierarchy would see the wisdom in wrapping this thing up with a bullet or a one-way ticket to Venezuela.”

    Just like what happened to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden?

    The theory that we an bomb people into loving us has yet to be proven.

    Most people just get pissed off when foreigners start bombing their country…

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  29. anjin-san says:

    > Most people just get pissed off when foreigners start bombing their country…

    You are missing something here. The rebels want our help. Kinda different from Bush’s wars.

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  30. ponce says:

    “The rebels want our help. ”

    How many Americans joined al Qaeda after 9/11?

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  31. michael reynolds says:

    I think what we have here is that ponce was feeling ignored. Now he’s getting attention. He’s the left’s “Wiley Stoner.”

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  32. ponce says:

    “I think what we have here is that ponce was feeling ignored.”

    Says the guy who posts here more than the hosts.

    I’m probably to the right of most of the posters here.

    Still waiting for those mass graves we were promised, btw.

    They are starting to look like Saddam’s alleged WMD.

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  33. anjin-san says:

    Ponce – like I said, I share some of your concerns. That being said, some of the things you have been saying recently simply don’t make much sense. And I don’t mean I disagree, I mean they don’t make sense.

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  34. mannning says:

    Didn’t anyone tell you guys that Saddam’s Nuke stuff was spirited into Syria and hidden in a tunnel in the Bekaa Valley? Follow Leiberman, and we get a twofer: quieting down Syria and the Iraqi WMD stash! israel becomes safer, too. Everyone gets happy, and that awful lie of Bush’s gets reversed. Gee, I’m all for it, when do we go?

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  35. mannning says:

    /sar off

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  36. It’s complicated for citizens in a democracy, particularly because in some cases it’s not diplomacy at work, sometimes it’s just stupidity or ass-covering.

    It’s one of those irregular verbs: “I’m being diplomatic”, “You’re covering your ass”, “He/She is being stupid”.

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  37. ponce says:

    “I mean they don’t make sense.”

    I think that’s only natural when the government is trying so desperately to shape reality.

    Your belief in the abilities of the rebels, the morality of Gaddafi’s troops, the accuracy of our bombing campaign and the future of LIbya if we manage to win all depend on how much you trust our government.

    I feel like Obama has lied to me about Libya and seeing Hillary Clinton’s Dick Cheney act on Meet the Press this morning didn’t help either.

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  38. steve says:

    “the accuracy of our bombing campaign”

    Just on this point, this is much different than Iraq and Afghanistan. We are bombing an army, not insurgents. The targets are much easier to choose. We are less subject to being mislead by false information from plants on the ground.

    “Your belief in the abilities of the rebels, the morality of Gaddafi’s troops”

    It is striking that Gadaffi had to resort to hiring mercenaries. There are reports that Gadaffi has had troubles with his own military in the past and has relied mostly upon militias which often lack the discipline of a professional military.

    Steve

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  39. TG Chicago says:

    Just on this point, this is much different than Iraq and Afghanistan. We are bombing an army, not insurgents. The targets are much easier to choose. We are less subject to being mislead by false information from plants on the ground.

    Of course, that’s exactly how Iraq was in the beginning…

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  40. [...] · Outside the Beltway [...]

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  41. David says:

    and the GOP is left to sort out how this can all somehow prove that Obama is simultaneously reckless and dithering.

    Funny, the left seemed VERY good at “proving” this during the Bush years. Not sure why it’s so far-fetched to see people doing it now.

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  42. MarkedMan says:

    David Says “Funny, the left seemed VERY good at “proving” this during the Bush years.”

    Whoa. Are you seriously saying it was a MSM or left wing trope that Bush wasn’t decisive enough? Reckless? Absolutely. But dithering? I think you may be projecting here.

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  43. MarkedMan says:

    Re: my post above. I humbly apologize for misusing the word “trope”. Substitute “talking point”.

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  44. michael reynolds says:

    By the way, a correction on my part: the Sirte story has been walked back from last night, so Sirte is still being fought over.

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  45. [...] Joe Lieberman: Hey, Let’s Go To War In Syria Too! (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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