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Outline of Syria Chemical Weapons Deal Reached

kerry-and-lavrovThe United States and Russia have agreed to the framework of a deal to turn over Syrian chemical weapons.

WaPo (“U.S., Russia reach agreement on seizure of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal“):

The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on an outline for the identification and seizure of Syrian chemical weapons and said Syria must turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week.

The agreement will be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions or other consequences if Syria fails to comply, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said.

Kerry said that the first international inspection of Syrian chemical weapons will take place by November, with destruction to begin next year.

Senior administration officials had said Friday the Obama administration would not press for U.N. authorization to use force against Syria if it reneges on any agreement to give up its chemical weapons.

The Russians had made clear in talks here between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John F. Kerry that the negotiations could not proceed under the threat of a U.N. resolution authorizing a military strike. Russia also wanted assurances that a resolution would not refer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court for possible war-crimes prosecution.

President Obama has said that the unilateral U.S. use of force against Syria for a chemical attack last month remains on the table. But consideration of that action, already under challenge by a skeptical Congress, has been put on hold pending the outcome of the Geneva talks.

Details remain to be worked out and all of the expert analysis I’ve read indicates that, even if there are no political snags, the 2014 timeline for removal of the weapons is all but impossible logistically under the best of circumstances and absurd with a civil war underway.

Regardless, this is a win for all the parties who get a vote: President Obama gets a face-saving way out of the box he’s put himself in with his “red line” and then going to Congress; Congress doesn’t have to vote on the war authorization; President Putin gets to ride in and save the day; and Assad doesn’t get bombed, incredibly gently or otherwise.

On the outside of the discussion are the Syrian people. If all goes will, no more will die horrible deaths from chemical weapons. They’ll instead die horrible deaths from conventional weapons.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    We’re already hearing the howls of disappointment from those who thought that the understandable outrage over the use of chemical weapons would be a handy wedge for intervening more directly in Syria’s civil war. At this point it’s hard for me to see how the U. S. would justify any direct intervention absent the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.

    Basically, Assad is now trading his chemical weapons for job security. Sounds like a pretty good deal for him.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  2. ChrisNBama says:

    “On the outside of the discussion are the Syrian people. If all goes will, no more will die horrible deaths from chemical weapons. They’ll instead die horrible deaths from conventional weapons.”

    I hear this argument often, even from people who previously argued that we shouldn’t intervene in another country’s civil war. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    I think we can all agree that the U.S. has a vested interest in prohibiting the use and proliferation of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. On that basis alone, this is a huge win for America’s interests. The additional benefit is that the Syrian people will not have to worry that these indiscriminate, horrific weapons will used against them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  3. Tyrell says:

    When it comes to any deal with the Russians, somebody better read the fine print.
    Most of these weapons will wind up in Russian storage facilities.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    President Putin gets to ride in and save the day;

    On NPR the other day, I heard someone say that US foreign policy should be to get Putin a Nobel Peace Prize for fulfilling US foreign policy objectives. Made me laugh.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  5. john personna says:

    It’s spelled “President Obama gets a face-saving way out of the box he’s put himself in” but it’s pronounced “I was wrong.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 3

  6. walt moffett says:

    Now lets see what the rebels in Syria do. Though I think the Iranians will be happy with the delivery of the Russian’s super duper air defense system and additional reactor, the other sides seem left in the cold.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. john personna says:

    @this:

    Come on down-voter, think about it. First we were told that the red-line was a terrible box which would preclude good outcomes. Then we get a good outcome.

    What satisfies Occam’s Razor at that point?

    That Obama escaped “the box” or that there was no box at all?

    Certainly anyone invested in the box has to believe the escape, but that kind of investment blinds observers to new analysis.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Here’s what we said we wanted:

    No use of chemical weapons.

    Here’s what we got:

    Acknowledgment that Syria has such weapons.
    Syria signs the chemical ban.
    There’s a UN resolution enforcing it.
    Russia acts as guarantor.

    Here’s what we said we were willing to pay:

    A bombing.

    Here’s what we actually paid:

    Nothing.

    We just got far more than we had hoped for, for free. And from Joyner and Dave Schuler we get, “Meh.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 50 Thumb down 0

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    The Russians are treaty signatories. Both they and we are behind on the destruction of our stockpiles, supposedly because it’s a very complicated business, especially with old warheads. But if Syrian weapons end up in Russian hands: great! Score!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  10. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    That might also be a self-perpetuating belief.

    That is, if you start with some suspicion of ulterior motive, and that Obama wanted some big war in Syria and not just to hold the line on chemical weapons …

    When he stops at chemical weapons, what does Occam tell you?

    That maybe the suspicion was wrong, or that the great conspiracy for Gulf War III was averted?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  11. Stan says:

    The first part of this post is pure Rand Paul and the last paragraph reads like a John McCain press release. As far as I can tell, James Joyner feels that Obama should have minded his own business regarding the Syrian civil war, and besides Assad still has conventional weapons. As I read it I recalled the old joke – Mr. Katz, your pastrami is awful, and the portions are too small.

    This is not OTB’s finest hour.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  12. @michael reynolds:

    It basically is a “meh” and, oh yea, the idea that Obama’s moves got the Syrians to acknowledge that they have chemical weapons for the first time simply isn’t true.

    They acknowledged that more than a year ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 11

  13. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    No, that was an analysis rather than a reaction from me. I’ll be gratified if Syria gives up its chemical weapons and we don’t attack it. If you think that the Obama Administration deserves credit for that, fine. I don’t have a problem with that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  14. michael reynolds says:

    Remember when the Russians supposedly knew that Assad wasn’t involved and it was all a false flag attack?

    Remember when maybe it wasn’t Sarin at all, but just too much tear gas?

    Remember when Obama secretly wanted a war and this was just a pretext?

    Remember when Obama was flailing and was going to get nothing accomplished?

    Good times, weren’t they? Whatever happened to all that? I know: let’s just pretend all that never happened.

    Time now to start pretending that we were outwitted by Putin giving us everything we wanted at no cost and taking the responsibility on himself, that sly fox.

    Apparently nobody reads Uncle Remus anymore. “‘Bred en bawn in a brier-patch, Brer Fox–bred en bawn in a brier-patch!’

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 0

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    It depends whether you believe one gets credit for amazingly good luck and a bit of fast-pivoting. I do.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So we get 110% of our ask at 0% of the originally quoted price and that’s a “Meh?” Remind me not to have you handle any negotiations for me. I just did a TV deal where we got maybe 80% of our ask and we’re dancing in the streets. I didn’t even know it was possible to get more than your ask.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  16. bill says:

    wow, is that all it takes to cool off a world super-power? just so you know, none of this will be easy to confirm and russia basically just gave us the shaft. and obama can say that he didn’t go into a war that he said he would….and that will sound like a positive thing to some people.

    Syria must turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 17

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:

    Did you think they were going to load all their Sarin up in boxes and FedEx it to the UN?

    If this is Russia giving us the shaft, I can only hope they’re willing to shaft us in Iran as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  18. john personna says:

    Bill seems conflicted, that Obama should not have threatened force, but as a “superpower” we should demand more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  19. @michael reynolds:

    Obama bungles himself into a confrontation that we had no business being involved into begin with and Putin saves his bacon?

    Yea, I’m not impressed. But, hey, if you want to say this is Obama “win”, you go with that.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 24

  20. michael reynolds says:

    Doug:

    That is genuinely pathetic.

    Eyes on the ball, dude. What we want, what we get. That’s all that matters.

    For point of reference, imagine that Mr. Bush had managed with Russian help to similarly “bungle” Iraq a decade ago. We’d be up 4000 plus American lives and a trillion dollars.

    You and Joyner and Schuler are all just cranky that your gloom n’ doom scenarios went poof. And now, rather than wiping your brows with relief and cracking open a celebratory beer, you’re grousing how you would have won the game in some other way. You’re Monday morning quarterbacking despite the fact your team just won.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 3

  21. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think it’s a bit early for victory celebrations. We’ll see.

    I also think that believing that the Obama Administration’s sole objective in Syria was getting Assad to stop using chemical weapons is highly selective in its view of the facts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  22. @michael reynolds:

    You get me wrong. I’m quite glad that Putin was able to provide Obama with an excuse to avoid a military attack he had no justification for threatening to being with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 11

  23. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Wait a second. You are the guy who thinks “isolationist” is a slur.

    And you say we have “no business” in international conventions on chemical weapons, even “as applied” to civilian populations.

    Have I got that right?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  24. James Pearce says:

    President Obama gets a face-saving way out of the box he’s put himself in with his “red line”

    That’s one way to characterize it. Another way to put it is that the threat of airstrikes compelled this more desirable solution.

    As Liam Neeson once said: “Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don’t.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  25. john personna says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    I’m sure Obama has a constellation of concerns in the middle east. If gasoline was breaking $6/gal this summer the public would be responding very differently. “Isolationism” would be breaking very differently. And yes, Carter Doctrine, etc., the President has a responsibility to look further down the road.

    Nonetheless, even with a constellation of concerns, I’m sure he can focus on a specific problem, like the use of chemical weapons on civilian populations.

    That focus might even work into wider and longer term issues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Do the Russians have some history of reneging on treaties? Because I tend to think Putin will deliver. Something I believe I said over at your site a while back. He’s going for “statesman.”

    Do you think Assad has the balls or stupidity to embarrass Putin right now? I doubt it. Those are Russian weapons he’s using, and he must know damned well that the Russians have his security penetrated six ways from Sunday, and he’ll know that his own personal life is really not vital to Russian goals. I’ll bet there’s an ambitious general hanging around who would be ever so loyal to the Russians.

    The link you posted just went to something about arming the rebels. Do you think we actually want to rebels armed? Do you believe we’re still on the “Assad must go,” position? Because I think we gave that up once we saw AQ showing up in numbers in Syria. I think our public policy and actual policy haven’t been the same thing for some time, which is why we are having such “trouble” getting weapons to the rebels.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  27. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m quite glad that Putin was able to provide Obama with an excuse to avoid a military attack he had no justification for threatening to being with.

    So you think this agreement would have been forged without the threatened military strikes?

    PS. Read Putin’s NY Times op-ed the other day and thought….where have I heard this before?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  28. John,

    I have made quite clear for two years now that Syria is not our fight and that we should not get involved in any respect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  29. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Well Doug, if you duck international conventions on human rights, and only look for “our fight,” then you sir … are an isolationist.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  30. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So, no points for getting Sarin out of the most dangerous neighborhood on earth. Because on some ridiculous libertarian principle it’s not our business that a monster has Sarin within a few feet of our NATO ally Turkey, or our friend Jordan, or our very close friend Israel, or for that matter, our potential foe, Hezbollah.

    None of that is our business. And it’s the 18th century.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  31. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I think we briefly considered arming Syrian rebels, but upon inspection found that no, there were not actually any we wanted to supply.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  32. John,

    Nonsense. As James said in the post above, among other places, the idea that Assad using one kind of weapon to kill 1400 people is somehow worse than using conventional weapons to kill 100,000 is simply absurd and doesn’t justify us engaging in military action.

    Also, I’d note the “international conventions” you refer to give no legal authority to the United States to enforce them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13

  33. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The United States has signed a number of international agreements on chemical weapons.

    To my knowledge none of those agreements say “It’s OK to kill more people some other way.”

    In fact, there is a logical perversion here. You don’t want to respond to those 100,000 deaths yourself. And yet you use the 100,000 to justify the 1,400.

    More humane observers might actually be open to preventing 100,000 deaths, were it possible, were there low risk, and were there a path through international law.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  34. john personna says:

    (It is actually false that “no one cares about the 100,000.” It is true that no one has found a way to prevent the 100,000 but … perhaps that’s because there wasn’t a Red Line that stood out, eh?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  35. Stan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: If this isn’t isolationism, what is?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  36. It’s non-interventionism.

    It is not in our national interest to get involved in Syria’s civil war, in my opinion, and it is not our job to involve ourselves in fights that are not our concern.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  37. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The link you posted just went to something about arming the rebels. Do you think we actually want to rebels armed? Do you believe we’re still on the “Assad must go,” position?

    What I believe is unimportant. What’s important is evidence and that’s what I linked to.

    However, if you’re interested in what I think, I’m happy to comment. I think that there are people in the administration, e.g. Samantha Powers, and outside it, e.g. John McCain, who want to remove Assad. I see no evidence they’re assuaged by the incipient deal on chemical weapons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  38. john personna says:

    Dwelling a little more on the 100,000/1,400 issue …

    To actually prevent war in Syria the UN would need to ban revolution. That would be a little bit inconsistent, because most members of the UN are actually the product of one revolution or another. The 3 superpowers are all products of revolution. And certainly we hold out some belief that revolution is the last circuit-breaker for self-determination. Should a country oppress its people we (worldwide) think revolution is in order.

    What you can do though is try to see that revolutions, like other wars, have their own standards of behavior. Like say the Geneva Conventions …

    Which brings us back to the Geneva Protocol of 1925 for chemical weapons …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  39. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    A non-interventionist argument which is mute on human rights is not just non-interventionist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  40. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Oh, come on, Dave. Since when don’t you look beyond the surface of things? Don’t you think if we badly wanted to get shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles into Syria we could do it? The Jordanians are right next door. Big, wide open desert. And then there’s the Turkish border, even longer. Two guys and a truck could do it. If they aren’t getting there it’s because we don’t want them to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  41. James Joyner says:

    @ChrisNBama: No, I’m making a narrow argument that I’ve been making all along: that killing 1000 people with chemical weapons shouldn’t trigger intervention into a civil war that has already killed 99000 people with other weapons.

    @john personna: No, this has been my position since Russia seized on Kerry’s announcement, which was initially portrayed as a gaffe and is now retroactively been portrayed as “Yeah, this was our plan all along.”

    @john personna @michael reynolds: : I find it improbable, indeed, that this was “our plan all along.” Obama boxed himself into having to undertake military action he desperately wanted to avoid. An offhand comment by Kerry opens the door for Russia to swoop in and save the day.

    And I’ve never been “gloom and doom” about this. I always took the president at his word that the intervention would be modest. My complaint about that was that it was astrategic and that the administration was contradicting itself, not that it was a slippery slope another Vietnam.

    I’ve always believed the regional threat posed by Assad’s chemical weapons was almost non-existent. Crossing borders was the surefire way to galvanize Western support for action. But, yes, I think removing his cache, presuming it comes to pass, is a modest benefit.

    Is the outcome modestly good? Yes. I say that in the post. But absent Putin’s gambit, we would have intervened in a civil war that, I believe, all three of us and the president agreed we shouldn’t have intervened in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5

  42. michael reynolds says:

    @john personna:

    I think we briefly considered arming Syrian rebels, but upon inspection found that no, there were not actually any we wanted to supply.

    Exactly.

    I think the policy of the US as of now is essentially, let ‘em fight. I mean, would we prefer a negotiated outcome? Of course. Would we prefer peace? Of course. But if that’s not on the menu at this point, the logical American position is to let AQ and Hezbollah keep shooting each other while we do what we can on the humanitarian end, and try to avoid mass slaughter of civilians by, say, poison gas.

    I think it’s ludicrous to imagine that we are still hell-bent on arming the rebels. Are they well-armed? No? Then it’s because we don’t want them to be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  43. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    Just so we’re clear, I’m not of the “this was our plan all along!” school. I’m of the “we got lucky and adapted!” school. But as a matter of personal policy, I credit presidents and generals with their luck. All I care about is the outcome. If we won the game, who the hell cares if it was luck?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  44. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    Up until sometime in August, we all thought Obama was a pretty smart guy. We might even have thought that he adjusted his plans as conditions changed. We might have considered that a pattern. We might have considered his flexibility to be a known factor.

    Until … he was in an inflexible box, because he’s dumb guy, who gave himself no options.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  45. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m of the “of course there were many end-games” school.

    It boggles the mind to think that any national security crew would face this as anything other than a series of bets and gambits, one at a time.

    Forget national security crew … that’s the way Obama played the election, one move at a time.

    Remember … was Jack his name? His worldview worked because Obama was a “libtard” and a “manchild.” Beliefs like that shore up the belief that everything was bet on one bad strategy, without options down the road.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  46. john personna says:

    (Perhaps that’s an error on the reader’s part, when they fail to see “the Red Line” as a gambit in a longer game.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  47. Stan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The problem is that your version of non-interventionism is so categorical. It makes perfect sense from a realist point of view when applied to border disputes in South America or massacres in Africa, but not when it concerns the Mideast. Getting biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons out of the region is in our vital interest. You’re not making any distinctions between what’s important to us and what isn’t, and that’s one of the reasons I keep sniping at your posts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  48. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m happy we won the game. I care about the winning because we got lucky thing because the much more likely outcome of the gambit was not winning–being forced to live up to the bluff. At the end of the day, a relatively minor setback, to be sure, but still a loss in that nobody concerned, including POTUS himself, wanted it.

    @john personna: I don’t think Obama’s dumb. Indeed, I think he’s been pretty shrewd throughout the Syria crisis, saying what he had to to appease the Samantha Powers wing on his base while using Russia’s Security Council veto to claim his hands were tied. I think the “red line” business was more of that—he assumed Assad would never cross the line and he would get modest credit for having drawn the line. When the line got crossed the first few times, he essentially pretended that it hadn’t and ultimately pretended that he was going to arm the rebels. But when the big use came, he got boxed in. That Putin helped him out of the box doesn’t make it not a box.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  49. john personna says:

    @Stan:

    FWIW, non-intervention seems tautologically equal to isolation.

    Without qualifier they are the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  50. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    Do you play poker?

    Is every “raise” a box?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  51. john personna says:

    (I’ve got to run, but my core response is even if I could not predict this exact outcome, I find it totally unsurprising, for reasons outlined above. The Red Line was a gambit in a longer game. The game continues, even after chemical weapons are (or are not) removed from the field. This is bigger than Syria. Any President has a responsibility to quell middle east tension. Voters may not care when gas prices are down, but they’ll care again when they are up. And yes, every candidate will be asked about what they did for Israel. I’d actually prefer a little more isolationism on that last factor, but the political reality seems stable.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  52. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: I don’t think Obama left himself a “fold” option. And, even if the “go to Congress” gambit was his “fold” option, there’s still a cost to raising multiple times when you have no hand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  53. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:

    I guess if Obama had “no hand” it makes him an even better player, because all the chips seem to be in front of him.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  54. superdestroyer says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If the Russians end up propping up the Assad Regine, is it still a win for Obama. As I wrote several weeks ago, Obama had put himself in a position where he could not lose and now the usual suspects are already repeating the talking points that this deal is a huge win for the Obama Administration.

    However, maybe it is a win for Congress by forcing the Obama Administration to do something other than throw missiles.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  55. anjin-san says:

    @ James

    I care about the winning because we got lucky thing

    Luck counts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  56. C. Clavin says:

    It appears that Nobel Prize wasn’t wasted.
    And diplomacy with a big stick works.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  57. Davebo says:

    @James Joyner:

    Well Jim I spent more than 4 years in the military and the most important lesson I learned was that results count, everything else is bullshit.

    Must be an Army/Navy difference. Could explain Iraq I suppose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  58. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll tell you why James, Doug and Dave all have such difficulty with this. They’re all great believers in smarts. Savvy. They prefer logical progressions, policies, strategies. And this whole thing seems to be somewhere outside of policy and position papers. There is about this whole thing the undeniable aroma of luck and opportunism.

    Now me? I’m a big believer in luck and opportunism. I’ll take fast on your feet and lucky over wise chin-stroking and strategery any day of the week. The world is not a chess game. The world is a game of Risk. You lay out your plans, but then you roll the dice. Sometimes it only takes two armies to conquer the ten armies in Irkutsk.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  59. C. Clavin says:

    @ Superdooper…
    Huge win??? It’s a win. Maybe Obama should fly onto a carrier and put up a Missio Accomplished banner??
    Also – The Republican Congressional Caucus is too busy voting to repeal the PPACA to force Obama to do anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  60. steve s says:

    mistermix over at Balloon Juice:

    This is a great outcome, and the reason we have it is because Obama has the good sense to be flexible in a crisis. A lesser President, like GWB, would have stubbornly stuck to a plan of military action once it had been announced. Obama didn’t, Kerry and the State Department followed up with solid diplomacy, and now Assad’s chemical arsenal will be in far better control than it would have been after a limited military strike.

    Thank god GWB is no longer president.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  61. Davebo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’ll tell you why James, Doug and Dave all have such difficulty with this.

    Way over thinking it all.

    With the exception of Dave, all were heavily invested in the situation being a failure. We come here and comment on what is often times idiocy. Jim and Doug are cashing checks producing it.

    Call it “glibertarian welfare” if you like. But you won’t see Doug deny it. Hell at least James admits it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  62. C. Clavin says:

    Luck? It could have been President McCain and VP Palin running this show. So yeah…I guess we are lucky. Damn lucky.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  63. Stan says:

    @john personna: Not sure I agree. I think of FDR as a non-interventionist before Pearl Harbor and Charles Lindbergh as an isolationist. Our Doug seems more in the Lindbergh camp.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  64. TastyBits says:

    @michael reynolds:

    To the US, the US won, but to the rest of the world, Putin won.

    Putin is not trying to be a statesman. He is trying to make Mother Russia into a superpower. He is a cunning and shrewd thug, but he is still a thug. As such, he thinks and acts like a thug, and when people cannot rely on the police, they turn to the thugs to protect them.

    Putin has shown that Russia can protect its client states, and this includes against the US. Syria and Iran will proceed as permitted by Russia. Iraq is a puppet state of Iran, and indirectly, it is influenced by Russia. Hezbollah, Hamas, and the other terrorist groups Iran support are now indirectly protected by Russia. Lebanon and Palestine are controlled by Hezbollah and Hamas respectively. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait are too weak to protect themselves alone.

    Russia is rebuilding, expanding, and upgrading the military. The Russian navy has begun patrolling the Southern Hemisphere with submarines. At the moment, this is for prestige, but they will soon be patrolling many areas that have been neglected.

    In three months, the US has lost most of their influence in the Middle East, and it will take many years to regain. It should be noted that this influence was severely diminished by events over the previous 10 years. President Obama inherited a bad situation, and there was little he could do to improve it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 12

  65. Davebo says:

    @TastyBits:

    It might come as a surprise to you but Russia is, and has long been, a superpower.

    Yes, they have client states. So do we. So does China. Hell under that criteria Israel is the ultimate superpower having it’s own superpower as a client state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  66. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: What, does it hurt you physically that your president won this? That our country won this round? Would you be happier if we were in a war with Syria? Or if Obama had never said and done anything and Assad kept using chemical weapons?

    Tell me, what scenario would make you happy — I mean, aside from exactly the same result achieved by a Republican president?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  67. stonetools says:

    If Obama raised a dead man, walked on water and fed five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, the review by Doug, Dave and James would be : “Weak, disappointing performance by Obama. Why didn’t he also cure cancer?”.
    In particular, Doug is determined never to give Obama credit for anything good that happens, ever.That’s just the way the OTB team is.

    Now, if a Republican or Rand Paul had pulled off Syria agreeing to give up its chemical stockpiles, we’d be hearing about how wonderful, adroit, and farsighted a foreign policy master President Republican or President Rand Paul was….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  68. @wr:

    The scenario that would make me happy is if we stayed out of Syria completely, including ending the ongoing CIA program of supplying arms and training to the rebels.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  69. wr says:

    @Dave Schuler: “I think that there are people in the administration, e.g. Samantha Powers, and outside it, e.g. John McCain, who want to remove Assad. I see no evidence they’re assuaged by the incipient deal on chemical weapons. ”

    Fortunately, the likelihood of Samantha Powers ever becoming president is only slightly more than that of McCain getting the office..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  70. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “I’m of the “we got lucky and adapted!” school. But as a matter of personal policy, I credit presidents and generals with their luck.”

    And of course a good leader is one who can identify a lucky break and capitalize on it… can adjust to changing situations to achieve his goal. Because a smart leader knows that it’s the goal that’s important, not the path.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  71. TastyBits says:

    @Davebo:

    Russia has not been a superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For the previous twenty years, their world influence has been zero. Their military was hollowed, and they had no ability to project any power outside of Russia. Inside Russia, they had diminished influence. During the 1990′s, they were kicked around by the US.

    Having nuclear weapons and/or client states does not make a country a superpower.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  72. wr says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “The scenario that would make me happy is if we stayed out of Syria completely, including ending the ongoing CIA program of supplying arms and training to the rebels. ”

    So in other words, there is nothing that Obama could have done in this situation that you wouldn’t consider a failure unless he had a time machine and could change the events of the last year.

    That’s some keen analytical thinking, Doug — “I give no one credit for any success unless they’ve carried out my will at every moment in time.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  73. Davebo says:

    @TastyBits:

    It seems you are arguing against yourself here.

    Does Russia influence Syria? Iran? Azerbaijan? Hell, let’s toss in Kazakhstan. That’s just scratching the surface and one doesn’t have to be a genius to realize that if you toss in Iraq (which we handed to Iran, and therefore Russia) there’s a lot of combustible fuel there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  74. TastyBits says:

    @Davebo:

    Again, Russia is only beginning to rebuild its military. If you cannot project your military power, you are powerless. tentative. If a country cannot protect its clients, its influence is tentative, and until recently, Russia’s ability to protect Syria and Iran was limited.

    Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are part of a larger strategy, but they are never going to give a country superpower status.

    Just what is your definition of a superpower?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  75. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Congress had started holding hearings on authorizing the use of military force in Syria and it was apparent that the President would lose any vote in Congress. Rather than take a loss in Congress (and be set up to blame the Republicans for everything wrong in Syria) the Obama Administration opted for a totally unworkable international plan that can be used to blame Putin and the Russian for everything that is wrong in Syria.

    Maybe you noticed that the number one goal of the Obama Administraiton is to never be held responsible for anything.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  76. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Dave Schuler: Basically, Assad is now trading his chemical weapons for job security. Sounds like a pretty good deal for him.

    Change “chemical weapons” to “nuclear research,” and that’s the same deal Muammar Qaddafi struck with the Bush administration. And didn’t that work out just fine for him?

    Forget watching the Russians to dump the deal… it’ll be a race between Putin and Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

  77. superdestroyer says:

    @wr:

    Maybe the real lesson for all future politicians is to say a lot less and to keep their months shut more often. President Obama unwisely spoke about red lines and when Syria crossed it, President Obama was stuck. Now Russia has a chance of aid the Assad Regine while the U.S. supports rebels.

    Maybe someone in the Obama Administration should have remember to never get involved in civil wars.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  78. mattbernius says:

    @michael reynolds:
    While I think you make a strong point, I suspect that, beyond his general disposition, James’ first hand military experience makes him uncomfortable with relying on luck in matters of war.

    That said, I don’t see anything contradictory in both crediting Obama for making the best of a lucky break AND, at the same time, being critical of him for boxing himself into a situation where a lucky break was necessary.

    In matters of war and international intervention, I think we would be best served by working really hard to avoid situations that rely first and foremost on luck. Especially since you can only go to that well so many times before it runs out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  79. MattT says:

    @James Joyner:

    No, I’m making a narrow argument that I’ve been making all along: that killing 1000 people with chemical weapons shouldn’t trigger intervention into a civil war that has already killed 99000 people with other weapons.

    As has been pointed out, there’s no convention or international norm banning civil wars. And the US has an interest in deterring and reducing stockpiles of chemical weapons and WMD globally, that it does not have vs. civil wars in general.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  80. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: Man, it just kills you to admit that the black guy won. Sorry, SuperLoser, you’re so wrapped up in your race hatred now you’re rooting against your own country. Pretty sad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  81. MattT says:

    @superdestroyer:

    If the Russians end up propping up the Assad Regine, is it still a win for Obama.

    Yes.

    If Assad holds on, he’ll be weakened, and even if he secretly retains some chemical weapons he’ll be strongly deterred from their use. And as odious as he is, Syria under Assad is better for us (and for Israel) than Syria as a heavily armed, Islamist failed state, which looks like the likely outcome if the rebels prevail.

    Meanwhile, the “prize” for Russia would be heavy investment in a weakened and universally despised despot, who rules one of the only countries in the ME that has no oil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  82. anjin-san says:

    the number one goal of the Obama Administraiton is to never be held responsible for anything.

    And the number one goal of Republicans is to never hold the Obama Administration responsible when things go right, only when they go wrong.

    Party before country, baby.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  83. James Pearce says:

    @mattbernius:

    That said, I don’t see anything contradictory in both crediting Obama for making the best of a lucky break AND, at the same time, being critical of him for boxing himself into a situation where a lucky break was necessary.

    Wait…what was the “lucky break” again?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  84. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    It is actually a feature, and not a bug, of democracies that leaders “fold” when they get ahead of their constuencies.

    Had Obama folded, the world would have yawned, as American Republicans pulled their hair in self-created agony.

    As it happens though, his poker game worked fine with a “pass” to Congress.

    That is something that should not have been possible, given the ironclad box you’ve claimed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  85. john personna says:

    @mattbernius:

    Sorry, “escaping the box” is not “evidence that a box existed.”

    In fact, escaping the box is pretty good evidence that a box, in any “escape-proof” sense, never existed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  86. john personna says:

    Seriously folks, months of “Obama will fail” gives way to “Obama succeeded, but only because he was lucky, and not because I was wrong.”

    Well, maybe the guy wasn’t as dumb, or as limited in his options, as you thought.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  87. bill says:

    i see the obamaphiles are in damage control mode!

    @michael reynolds: kerry/obama got reamed and look like idiots. putin looks like a genius and assad is laughing his ass off. like he’s going to be held accountable?

    @john personna: either talk the talk or walk the walk- and we’re walking now. backing down from threats is frowned upon in this part of the world, it’s a sign of weakness and was expected from our leadership.

    @C. Clavin: it was never “earned” to begin with, and he should hand it over to putin for doing his job for him. glad you brought up the old nobel prize, that was embarrassing from the get go- “oh, they got a black leader now- give him a prize…..” lame.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  88. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    All I care about is the outcome. If we won the game, who the hell cares if it was luck?

    Luck of this kind isn’t dependable. It’s great that we had it this time, but we can’t rely on it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite pleased things are going the way they are. This agreement, assuming it goes as planned, is dramatically superior to what we’d have gotten out of a military strike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  89. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    If you read Taleb on Black Swans, he says the military are one of the few groups who get it. You do recognize the difference between “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.”

    Damn right that you take “unknown unknowns” that break in your favor.

    That too is a feature and not a bug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  90. john personna says:

    @bill:

    The world understands that the US is a constitutional democracy which, like all constitutional democracies, changes leaders, legislatures, plans, goals, and strategies over time.

    Only US Republicans light their hair on fire when Obama makes a “misstep.”

    Because … I guess it’s fun for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  91. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Damn right that you take “unknown unknowns” that break in your favor.

    I certainly wouldn’t say otherwise.

    But I’d much rather have a solid plan and execute it well than have to depend on luck. A solid plan helps when the luck shows up, but luck in the absence of a solid plan is like relying on the lottery to fund your retirement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  92. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Good luck beats getting up early any morning.

    I really don’t understand all the grousing about Obama’s handling of this. As Mistermix said this morn:

    “This is a great outcome, and the reason we have it is because Obama has the good sense to be flexible in a crisis. A lesser President, like GWB, would have stubbornly stuck to a plan of military action once it had been announced.”

    Every single one of us knows this to be true. In 2003 Bush’s threats to invade Iraq reopened the door for the UN arms inspectors. But soon after they arrived, and long before they could accomplish what they had gone there for, they had to leave because the invasion was happening no matter what.

    Call it pure dumb luck all you want, I will take Obama’s luck over Bush’s steely-eyed determination any day.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  93. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:

    Actually, Bill, the middle east is the home office of threats that end up going nowhere. Don’t just repeat things you hear on talk radio: they’re never right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  94. dazedandconfused says:

    If Israel had been sucked into this war we would have payed the bill. The CW may have been judged to be the primary threat of that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  95. Steve V says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m just wading through this thread now, but I just wanted to remind people that *the* big fact that was thrown out as a justification of Iraq was “Saddam gassed his own people.” We had to go in there because Saddam was a monster capable of any evil act — just look, he gassed his own people! The argument-ender that was thrown out against opponents of the war: “So you’d prefer that Saddam Hussein, who *gassed his own people,* was still in power?!” In 2002, using chemical weapons was considered by a huge swath of Republicans as an exceptionally compelling reason to deploy military forces. Now, it’s just, “sarin, bullets, bombs, what’s the difference? Blah.” I assume that the Republican change of heart is dictated purely by aversion to anything Obama does, but I’m open to another explanation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  96. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Oh, I think we know exactly why people are upset: they were wrong. They were wrong and they can’t stand that they were put wrong by luck and flexibility. Often (not always) these are people addicted to steely-eyed glares and jutted chins and tough talk. They think life is a movie and all you need is steroid muscles and a good catch phrase.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  97. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh, and as Pastuer once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  98. john personna says:

    @Steve V:

    I thought it was “a smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

    (All the spruced-up intelligence was about nuclear capabilities, and the supposed likelihood that Saddam would use those bombs to arm terrorists.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  99. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Ssshhhhhhh…… I think they might be listening….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  100. Davebo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Oh, I think we know exactly why people are upset: they were wrong.

    They were wrong.. again. James himself, though incredibly reasonable, has a long history of the same.

    Of course you’ve got a bit of that history as well Mike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  101. James Pearce says:

    @john personna:

    Seriously folks, months of “Obama will fail” gives way to “Obama succeeded, but only because he was lucky, and not because I was wrong.”

    Ha! So true.

    Hilarious watching the do nothings chalk this up to luck. Luck? Try power.

    Soft power to boot. Not one Tomahawk flew and yet Syria is on the path to getting rid of their chemical weapons.

    Beat that with a bunch of “doing nothing.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  102. @Steve V:

    I opposed the Iraq War, even with the justifications being tossed around by the Bush Administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  103. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    Maybe you and Dana Rohrabacher can hook up and spend a few hours swooning over Putin’s muscles…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  104. john personna says:

    @Stan:

    I’m not sure I follow. A “lend-lease” program for Syrian rebels would be “non-interventionist?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  105. anjin-san says:

    these are people addicted to steely-eyed glares and jutted chins and tough talk.

    Thinking back to the photos of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld strutting around in Crawford looking hard and determined as they planned one of the worst debacles in our history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  106. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    I find it improbable, indeed, that this was “our plan all along.”

    And I agree with you. But you say it as though it’s a bad thing. Got some excellent advice from a boss years ago. If you can’t come up with a good plan, at least start moving in the right direction and see what develops. Obama found himself in a situation with no good options. So yes, he dithered, and he waffled, and he stumbled, and he reacted to developments rather than shaping them. And apparently it’s going to work.

    If you paid attention, in Obama’s first term he pragmatically governed for three years without being controlled by political calculation, then he campaigned like hell for most of a year. We’re back to pragmatism. It’ll be interesting to see if in the end we get a year of campaigning like hell for Hillary. I suspect that’s part of a deal, but we’ll see.

    People understand ideology. They understand posturing. Pragmatism is confusing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  107. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    I think OzarkHillbilly has covered this. Flexible plans are more open to good luck, and better at responding to bad luck, than rigid plans.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  108. john personna says:

    @gVOR08:

    The absurdity of this argument is that it claims a foolish rigidity, and then cries in anguish when the rigidity disappears.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  109. Mikey says:

    @john personna: Hence a saying we had during my time in the military:

    “Semper Gumby.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  110. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    President Gumby Escapes!

    ;-)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  111. michael reynolds says:

    @Davebo:

    Of course you’ve got a bit of that history as well Mike.

    As do we all. I never hold it against a person that they’re wrong. It’s when they’re wrong again and again with no evidence of learning that bothers me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  112. wr says:

    @bill: “either talk the talk or walk the walk- and we’re walking now. backing down from threats is frowned upon in this part of the world, it’s a sign of weakness and was expected from our leadership. ”

    Unless, you know, the guy you were threatening gives you what you wanted.

    I mean, unless you just like violence for the sake of violence, what you’re saying here is collossally stupid. Because if you use force even after your opponent has given in to your demands, no one will ever give in to you without force again — because they’ll know there’s no point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  113. dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Oh, I think we know exactly why people are upset: they were wrong. They were wrong and they can’t stand that they were put wrong by luck and flexibility. Often (not always) these are people addicted to steely-eyed glares and jutted chins and tough talk. They think life is a movie and all you need is steroid muscles and a good catch phrase.

    You have to admit, though, that behaving in that way makes things so very much neater. “Coherent”, even. A lot of complexity is stripped away when everybody is either for us or against us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  114. Stan says:

    @john personna: I was unclear in what I said. FDR appears to have decided on active aid to Great Britain and France late in 1938 after a significant conversation with William Bullitt, his ambassador to France. See Chapter 8 in “How War Came”, by David Watt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  115. john personna says:

    @Stan:

    I guess I’m not following, my fault.

    I think though, that if Doug really is a isolationist, he should just wear it. I mean, why not? If his argument really is that we should stick to our knitting, and let other people deal with theirs, then he can say “I’m an isolationist, darn tootin’”

    Calling isolation a “smear” looks like a subterfuge, that you want to leave people to their own devices, but don’t want to be called out for it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  116. bill says:

    @michael reynolds: i know, i gotta stop listening to NPR! but really, this debacle was lame from the start. lines in the sand, weak threats, show me yours…..just a bad thing for our country all around. and syria basally gets off the hook, not that i even care about them or their need to kill each other forever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  117. john personna says:

    @bill:

    not that i even care about them or their need to kill each other forever

    There you go. That’s the way to wear isolationism straight up!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  118. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:

    You’re right. It’s a debacle. In which we get everything we wanted at no cost.

    Too bad Mr. Bush didn’t have more debacles like that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  119. C. Clavin says:

    @ superpooper…
    So congress was going to vote to not take
    Military action…military action which Obama never took.
    I see what you’re saying. Congress totally rocks.
    Fool.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  120. Spartacus says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Just so we’re clear, I’m not of the “this was our plan all along!” school. I’m of the “we got lucky and adapted!” school. But as a matter of personal policy, I credit presidents and generals with their luck. All I care about is the outcome. If we won the game, who the hell cares if it was luck?

    I think this is the best description of what’s happened and how we should think about it.

    The only thing I would quibble with in all of this discussion is the notion that none of this would have been an issue if Obama had never made his “red line” comments a year ago. It strains credulity to argue that all of the folks who favored intervention were doing so only because of Obama’s statement. And, of course, Obama’s statement was the least militaristic statement that could have been made in opposition to the use of chemical weapons. The calls for action against Assad were inevitable in the face of increased use of CW, yet a compelling argument for a military intervention never materialized.

    Luck made an escape out of this predicament possible, and Obama was smart enough to capitalize on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  121. bill says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I like Ann Coulter’s quote of this years mid-east status!

    “The Iraq War turned every Middle Eastern despot into President Bush’s bitch. But now Obama is their bitch.”

    Hard to argue after we bailed on irag, egypt, libya and soon afghanistan. as i said before, he’s not respected over there- this isn’t going to end despite the rhetoric. putin is taking the helm and will be the major player over there if kerry can’t get his foot out of his massive mouth and assert himself as something other than a wealthy pussy who should retire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  122. bill says:

    @john personna: well, what are we gonna do about it? 100k dead already and we’re pissed about how some of them died?! we aren’t the world leader over there anymore, and it’s not Bush’s fault this time. this is an obama problem now, and his “leadership” is dreadful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  123. michael reynolds says:

    @bill:

    Here’s a suggestion. Rather than quote Ann Coulter, go to your nearest tattoo parlor and have the word, “Idiot” inked on your forehead. Accomplishes exactly the same thing, and the great thing is it’s permanent, so you don’t have to keep making the point over and over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  124. C. Clavin says:

    After Iraq, Gitmo, Abu-Gahrib, torture…we’re supposed to believe Syria was a game-changer in the Middle-East? Oh…wait…Ann Coulter sez so???
    Seriously???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  125. wr says:

    @bill: And while we were busy turning every Middle Eastern dictator into Bush’s bitch, somehow we also turned Iraq into a client state of Iran.

    You know, Ann Coulter gets paid a lot of money for saying stupid and deliberately offensive things, so at least she has an excuse. You are doing it for free, which means that unlike her, you actually believe her garbage.

    Is it painful to be such a dope?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  126. James Pearce says:

    @bill:

    his “leadership” is dreadful.

    His leadership brought both Assad and Putin to heel. (Amongst other villains…up to and including Bin Laden and Gaddafi.)

    Hard to argue after we bailed on irag, egypt, libya and soon afghanistan.

    We bailed on Iraq and Afghanistan? Some would say we stayed too long and tried to do too much….but okay.

    Can’t really argue with ODS, can we?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  127. Pharoah Narim says:

    @john personna: Your logic about isolationism is a bit puzzling. For one, I don’t believe anyone holds claim to the official list of reasons this country should get involved in other conflicts. Human rights might not score high on someone’s list of reasons to employ force in other countries. Economics reasons however, might be more than enough reason for them to support intervention. To characterize someone as isolationist or non-interventionalist (unless they’ve stated the US should NEVER get involved) from a position that your own list of reasons carries some sort of primacy is an extremely narrow view. I’m slightly surprise as normally your posts are fairly broad minded. Perhaps I misunderstood.

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  128. Pharoah Narim says:

    Lots of posts upstream about “flexibility”. I find them quite adorable. The Administration floated a trial balloon that didn’t go over well. It happens. They did however secure a backdoor to re-engage in 5-6 years should they need to if Western business interest don’t get the piece of Syria’s natural gas interests they feel they are entitled to. As I’ve stated before, geo-political timelines are far longer than the American attention span. The time and opportunity for action in Syria will present itself in time and public sentiment will be more receptive. Saddam destroyed his weapons years before 2003, but because the West had a rope they could pull with chemical weapons “enforcement”….they did…. after his nose-thumbing at the Petro Dollar and side deals with the Russians. The American public supported that action…despite what we might feel about the marketing campaign that preceded it. Assad will face the same if he doesn’t play close heed to history.

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  129. Pharoah Narim says:

    @bill: If your political team would stop with the clown games so we could develop and commercialize electric or hydrogen vehicles (or both) here. Putin could have the middle east and their soon to be antiquated energy resources. That won’t happen till a Republican president occupies the Whitehouse though will it?

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  130. C. Clavin says:

    It’s funny that those commenting about the danger of Putin…are the same ones encouraging our reliance on fossil fuels. Reagan didn’t win the Cold War…the cost of oil dropped (because Carter deregulated the price of oil) You want to keep Putin on a chain…slow down the consumption of oil…reduce demand and thus price.
    It wouldn’t hurt to have a real-world policy towards Israel, either.
    But pinning Russia’s resurgence on Syria is just stupid.

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  131. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    I have no doubt that hearing Ann Coulter talk about “bitches” makes you all tingly.

    “The Iraq War turned every Middle Eastern despot into President Bush’s bitch.”

    In reality, Bush spent 4000K US lives, and at least a trillion dollars to turn Iraq into a pro Iran state, altering the balance of power in the middle east in a manner that is unfavorable to US interests. He also caused the deaths of countless innocents in Iraq, but then we know you don’t give a shit about that.

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  132. anjin-san says:

    we could develop and commercialize electric

    The visceral hate that some conservatives hold for Tesla is something to behold. A brilliant entrepreneur is building a revolutionary product right here in the USA – supposedly it’s everything they admire. But no. Tesla took federal funds (since paid back with interest), and they are challenging the supremacy of the oil companies and the conservative worship of 19th century technology. Time for some good ol’ foaming at the mouth rants.

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  133. Raider says:

    Beware of the scripted act between Putin and Obama concerning Syria. Nothing is the way it seems, especially concerning what we are being told by the main stream media. The media will never tell you the truth that Putin and Obama are in bed together for now plotting America’s destruction. No, they won’t tell you what really needs to be heard.

    God loves you all.

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  134. Pharoah Narim says:

    @anjin-san: Exactly, I see the race to be the first to market with alternative energy powered transportation as the number one nation security interest. We could buy another 100+ years of “SuperPowership” like what the automobile and airplane provided during the 20th century. And yet, we’re engaged in Theater instead of action.

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  135. wr says:

    @Raider: “The media will never tell you the truth that Putin and Obama are in bed together for now plotting America’s destruction. No, they won’t tell you what really needs to be heard.”

    And how do you come by this knowledge? Is it beamed into your brain from flying saucers, or do you just listen to a lot of Glenn Beck? Either way, a tinfoil hat should protect you.

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  136. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Raider:

    God loves you all.

    Yeah, but he really hates you.

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  137. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And yes, he did tell me that personally, burning bush and all, so, you’re fwcked.

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  138. Grewgills says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It’s non-interventionism.

    How exactly is that different from isolationist?

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  139. bill says:

    @Pharoah Narim: wtf are you on? you think the gov’t. should just take over the whole country’s energy needs? do you realize where electricity comes from?(i.e- buying a prious will not solve anything aside from your own fuel costs…)
    and last i checked, America is on the cusp of sustaining ourselves with oil- despite the antics of the left. that’s what happens when your admins “strategy” backfires and we can afford to drill/process our own.

    @James Pearce: obama dumped iraq after all the time/money we spent on it. weird when you consider that we still have military forces in all sorts of “stable” countries- yet we needed to bail on them and let our investment spoil? democrats don’t make good military decisions, i could go on but you should know some history by now. want to throw in afghanistan while your at it?

    @anjin-san: at least congress got to vote in favor of it, and obama got to abandon it for votes- i’m sure the iraqi people are just tingled with that- they are the only democracy in the sand kingdom- but probably not for long.

    anyhow, this is still about obama being pimp slapped by putin- deal with it.

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  140. anjin-san says:

    @ bill

    since the stability of Iraq is so important to you, I have no doubt that you enlisted and did a tour or two over there.

    Right?

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  141. Grewgills says:

    @bill:

    obama dumped iraq after all the time/money we spent on it.

    You do realize it was Bush that agreed to the timetable we left on before he left office, right?
    How is it you see us keeping more military in Iraq paying off anyway?
    Sand kingdom? Really?
    Putin pimp slapped no one with his move in Syria and it requires some seriously delusional thinking to turn what happened in the real world into that.

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  142. Lounsbury says:

    @Tyrell: CW ends up in Russian hands. Et alors? Russians have plenty of their own, doubtless of nastier and higher quality nature. In any case, as issues proliferation go, CW horse left the barn a century ago. Anyone who wants to make the stuff pretty much can. Russians now have their own ego on the line, they’ll work due to that.

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  143. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: Non-interventionism still favors trade and travel, and some kinds of treaty agreements, with other countries. Isolationism does not (see, for example, Japan from the mid-17th to mid-19th centuries).

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  144. john personna says:

    @Pharoah Narim:

    It seems straight forward to me. The people complaining about the “isolationist slur” will brook no argument for humanitarian action. The best of them play mute, and the worst say “let them kill each other.”

    (Note that anyone who has stated an interest in international human rights is not an isolationist, but if you review Doug above, you will find no such endorsement. If he has it, he must keep mum, because it conflicts with the whole “we have no business” thing.)

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  145. rudderpedals says:

    conflicts with the whole “we have no business” thing
    Laissez-faire meets reality?

    Here or there
    laissez-faire
    means I don’t care

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  146. James Pearce says:

    @bill:

    yet we needed to bail on them and let our investment spoil?

    You’re using the wrong “I” word. We didn’t “invest” in Iraq. We invaded. There’s a significant difference.

    democrats don’t make good military decisions,

    You could say that about Carter. About Clinton, even. But you can’t say that about Obama. From sniping Somali pirates to droning terrorists in Yemen to sending the SEALs into Pakistan to providing air support in Libya to threats in Syria, Obama’s use of military force has been small scale and deadly effective.

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  147. john personna says:

    democrats don’t make good military decisions,

    You could say that about Carter. About Clinton, even. Before GWB set a new standard for low.

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  148. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Wikpedia defines the modern usage thus:

    Isolationism (pronounced eye suh LAY shun nihz uhm) is a broad foreign affairs doctrine held by people who believe that their own nation is best served by holding the affairs of other nations at a distance. Most Isolationists believe that limiting international involvement keeps their country from being drawn into dangerous and otherwise undesirable conflicts. Some strict Isolationists believe that their country is best served by even avoiding international trade agreements or other mutual assistance pacts.

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  149. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    That does not seem to be what it has meant in US political history, see the 1930s.

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  150. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: US in 1930s had a lot of isolationist sentiment, certainly. I’d say it walked a blurry line between non-interventionism and isolationism.

    Doug calls himself a libertarian, and libertarians are almost all non-interventionist rather than truly isolationist. They quite strongly support trade, their saying being “where goods cross borders, armies don’t.” But they almost universally oppose any war not undertaken for direct self-defense. Pretty much the definition of non-interventionism.

    I think economic globalization has made isolationism as it was practiced in the 19th and early 20th centuries all but impossible now, with the notable and tragic exception of North Korea.

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  151. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    So if “we any war not undertaken for direct self-defense [is] pretty much the definition of non-interventionism” where does that leave you?

    You HAVE to go back to 16th century Japan for your example of isolationism? Or maybe modern North Korea.

    Common usage (Wikipedia) says otherwise. What this is, is a concerted effort to label a punt on human rights as merely “non-interventionist.” Or perhaps to label oneself “non-interventionist” in t he hopes that will take human rights discussions off the table.

    Human rights? Sorry, I’m a non-interventionist, even if that means “not that I even care about them or their need to kill each other forever”

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  152. john personna says:

    (IOW you’ve reduced to a different kind of tautology. Rather than accepting that isolationism is the current meme, you promote “non-intervention” to mean all the bad things “isolationism” used to mean.)

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  153. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    Rather than accepting that isolationism is the current meme, you promote “non-intervention” to mean all the bad things “isolationism” used to mean.

    So since a lot of people are misusing the term, I’m wrong?

    Hahahaha.

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  154. Mikey says:

    @john personna:

    So if “we any war not undertaken for direct self-defense [is] pretty much the definition of non-interventionism” where does that leave you?

    Well, I’m certainly not a non-interventionist. I think we should have done far more–even militarily, if necessary–to stop the Rwanda genocide, for example. And I favor–and have participated in–humanitarian actions performed by the US military.

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  155. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Until Wikipedia (or the major dictionaries) change, I think we can take their definition as common usage.

    And words are defined by common usage, as opposed to political tilts.

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  156. Mikey says:

    @john personna: That’s kind of a facile crutch. Just because “common usage” screws up definitions, we’re supposed to accept it unquestioningly? I disagree.

    I’d say all isolationists are non-interventionists, but not all non-interventionists are isolationists.

    You can’t simply discard everything about non-interventionism that’s inconvenient to your view.

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  157. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:
    Words do have meanings, but English is a living language and those meanings change over time. When in a political debate, using the current, commonly accepted definitions is generally the best way to be understood. Certainly accurately using the term in the way it is currently understood is not a smear, as Doug argues. You can try and fight to keep the original definitions, but that is generally a losing fight. I have given up on ‘begs the question’* and a few others that have completely changed meaning over time.

    *Apparently now it simply means to make the question evident, rather than referring to a circular argument.

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  158. john personna says:

    @Mikey:

    Seriously, no.

    The Story of English in 100 Words, by David Crystal

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  159. Mikey says:

    @Grewgills: The problem with that is it forces people to forgo using terms that have clearly different meanings. You’ve basically defined a valid term right out of existence and left the non-interventionist no word to accurately describe his position.

    Even the Wiki points out “isolationism” and “non-interventionism” have different meanings.

    Non-interventionism – is the belief that political rulers should avoid entangling alliances with other nations and avoid all wars not related to direct territorial differences (self-defense). However, most non-interventionists are supporters of free trade, travel, and support certain international agreements, and therefore differ from isolationists.

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  160. Mikey says:

    @john personna: That’s an interesting book, but it talks about the evolution of English over time, not the instant and arbitrary re-definition of a previously clearly-understood term.

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  161. Grewgills says:

    @Mikey:

    The problem with that is it forces people to forgo using terms that have clearly different meanings.

    Which is why it is generally preferable to agree on definitions prior to engaging in debate. I don’t recall the first article clearly enough to remember if Doug spelled out the definitions of Isolationist and non-interventionist and why the term isolationist as applied to 1930s America, for example, should not apply, but I have to run to work so can’t dig.
    My point stands regarding isolationist being a smear. Since it is being used with a commonly accepted usage and that usage more or less accurately describes the people it refers to, it is not a smear.
    On word meanings, we are viscerally mostly on the same side. It still pains me to hear ‘begs the question’, ‘keystone species’, and a variety of other words have their definitions expanded to the point that the words lose meaning, but I cope.

    Non-interventionism – is the belief that political rulers should avoid entangling alliances with other nations

    Then are you or Doug actually non-interventionist? NATO is a rather entangling alliance and we have a few others as entangling, certainly our alliance with Israel entangles us.

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  162. rudderpedals says:

    The smear of Isolationist is the smear of non-Interventionist with the villain simply switching roles. It’s semantics.

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