Coalition of the Willing Forming for Syria Strikes

The United States will go to war without UN or NATO approval.

syria-chemical-weapons

Back in June, I wrote a piece for The National Interest explaining why NATO wouldn’t intervene militarily in Syria. While the United States seems to be marching towards war, my prediction seems to be holding.

Kevin Baron,  Defense One (U.S. No Longer Seeking U.N., NATO Permission to Strike Syria“):

With its military ready to attack Syria on President Obama’s command, the United States is no longer pursuing a United Nations or NATO stamp of approval to respond with force to the purported deployment of chemical weapons.

Instead, the U.S. has focused on building a rapid coalition consisting of the United Kingdom, France and several Arab states, by sharing intelligence evidence that U.S. officials say proves Bashir al Assad’s regime was responsible for last week’s chemical weapons attack.

[…]

Now there is little talk anymore within the administration of seeking a U.N. or NATO imprimatur for a retaliatory military strike against Syria.

“If action is taken, it probably won’t be pursued through the U.N. or NATO,” a senior U.S. official told Defense One. “These aren’t the only ways to undertake such action, and any response would be conducted pursuant to the law.”

The UN Security Council, whose approval is legally required before launching military action unless directly attacked, is of course not going to approve action in Syria given Russia’s veto power. NATO is going to back the war because few of its member states can justify intervention after a decade of war in Afghanistan and amid major fiscal challenges.

So, we’re left with a coalition of the willing. It’s a pretty good one: the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. (It’s worth noting that only the governments are willing; the populations are decidedly against intervention.)

Hagel spoke by phone on Tuesday with U.K. Secretary of State for Defense Phillip Hammond and French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian. France has been pushing to respond with “force” against the Assad regime, saying “there must be a reaction” to the reports that Assad used chemical weapons in an attack outside Damascus last week.

“It is a problem that will be difficult. International law is defined by the United Nations, but at same time there are countries (on the council) that are blocking (military action), China and Russia have blocked and would probably block again, so it would be a problem,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Monday. “In certain circumstances we can bypass it, but international law does exist,” he said. “The only one that is not on the table is to not do anything.”

Thus far, all the signs point to the “something” that we’re about to do being a rather token effort that’s likely to be ineffectual.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    While the United States seems to be marching towards war,

    By what measure is doing what Obama seems about to, constitute a “war”?

    That said, I wish more people would take the Hippocratic oath to “first do no harm.” Seeing as we are highly unlikely to do any good with the bombs and missiles, and are most assuredly going to do at least some harm (collateral damage to civilians), wouldn’t the more prudent action be to do nothing?

    Yes, which is why that is not an option.

  2. Mikey says:

    Thus far, all the signs point to the “something” that we’re about to do being a rather token effort that’s likely to be ineffectual.

    Unless you consider the intended effect may be simply to prolong the conflict.

    We had a very similar conversation back when the President was discussing providing some aid to the rebels, but not very much aid. Why just send them a few guns and grenades, rather than going all-in to help them topple Assad?

    Because all the administration really wants to do is just enough to ensure neither side prevails and the Russians and Iranians have to keep propping up the regime. And the same is true this time, they’re just using the chemical weapons attack as a pretext.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    I am decidedly against this action…
    But WAR?
    Hyperbole much?

  4. JKB says:

    Ah, this takes me back. To the last time, Obama, Britain, France and the Arab States decided to march off to war. That Libya, now there is a place that really turned out well, didn’t it. We only lost one ambassador due to that little foreign expeditionary force.

    But it is nice that Britain, France and the Arab States are willing to let American military members, who aren’t really in Obama’s demographic, go to war, because we know they couldn’t form up a good Boy Scout Jamboree, nor keep it going for more than a long weekend.

    Let’s see, they are just going to undermine the much touted international law, undermine the Progs beloved UN and what about the “America Out” campaign so loved by Europeans?

  5. Rob in CT says:

    First: Cliffy, seriously, bombing a country is warfare. That we don’t want to call it warfare is one of the idiocies of our age.

    Second, while I’m not a huge fan of his in genera (he’s often glib and sloppy)l, I think Iglesias has a really solid point here:

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/08/27/syria_intervention_cost_military_strikes_are_a_highly_cost_ineffective_way.html

  6. PJ says:

    @JKB:

    That Libya, now there is a place that really turned out well, didn’t it. We only lost one ambassador due to that little foreign expeditionary force.

    Compared to Iraq, Libya is a rose garden.

    4488 Deaths.

  7. Todd says:

    In criticizing the President’s handling of the Syria situation (especially those who are opposed to any action), I think it’s important to remember that each of the men President Obama defeated in the last two elections would almost certainly be Much More Likely to get us much more intimately involved in the conflict.

    JKBs comment above about Libya reminds me of how odd it was at the time to hear Republicans complaining about the limited action we were taking, while John McCain (their last Presidential candidate) was on tv advocating sending in ground forces.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Who are you calling a hypocrite?

    I do find this interesting in the above piece that there is both a concern for international law by the usual suspects and a presumed intention to ignore it. It seems to communicate the gravity of the situation in the minds of the actors, while at the same time implying that military action will be small and quick.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    The harping on Libya by conservatives is pretty pathetic. Now, given time, it’s possible Libya will bear more poisonous fruit. I’ll reserve judgment on that. But for now, 4 <<<< 4488 (is the 4488 figure US only or coalition dead? I'd say dead Brits matter. Hell, I know I'm crazy, but I'd say a pile of dead Iraqis matter too).

    It would be nice if our conservative bretheren managed to get a sense of scale. I was anti-intervention in Libya and I still don't like that we did it. But it's way the hell down my list of complaints (for example, something that's higher up: the false vaccination campaign the CIA carried out in Pakistan in an attempt to get Bin Laden. Now Pakistanis are refusing vaccines and dying of preventable diseases. That ranks above the Libyan adventure, for me. YMMV.).

  10. Mikey says:

    @Rob in CT: According to icasualties.org, between 2003 and 2012 in Iraq the following numbers of coalition troops were killed:

    US: 4486
    UK: 179
    Other: 139
    Total: 4804

    The number of Iraqis killed is a matter of considerable debate, but likely 100,000 or more.

  11. Barry says:

    C. Clavin, one state shooting at people in another state is generally considered war.

    James: “So, we’re left with a coalition of the willing. It’s a pretty good one: the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. (It’s worth noting that only the governments are willing; the populations are decidedly against intervention.)”

    Not really; note that no government in the area is in that coalition.

  12. PD Shaw says:

    @Rob in CT: When Obama didn’t ask for Congressional approval over Libya, he pretty much guaranteed that he would get none of the credit for what happened next (that would go to the military) and all of the blame for what goes wrong. I’m not sure why the President then (and perhaps now) doesn’t make Congress take some of the ownership.

  13. Rob in CT says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Agreed.

  14. stonetools says:

    @PD Shaw: @Rob in CT:

    I’m not sure why the President then (and perhaps now) doesn’t make Congress take some of the ownership.

    Because Congress doesn’t want to?

    Congress always seems to be quite willing to let the President take responsibility for any FP ventures-certainly since WW2. I expect that to continue

  15. michael reynolds says:

    There are other words more apt than “war” for something like this. “Punitive raid” is probably right.

    @JKB:
    As for you, it takes some balls to whine about Libya. We won that one with zero combat casualties. How did your Mr. Bush do? Two lost wars and our credibility in tatters? You lack even a shred of honesty.

  16. stonetools says:

    Thus far, all the signs point to the “something” that we’re about to do being a rather token effort that’s likely to be ineffectual.

    Depends on what you want “effectual” to be. Your definition of “effectual” seems to be regime change or at least an end to the Syrian civil war.
    The Administration’s objective is that Syria carry out no further large scale chemical attacks against civilians. I think that’s doable. Its even possible that Syria may pledge to carry out no further chemical attacks BEFORE the bombing begins, and I’m sure there are ongoing secret negotiations to secure just such a pledge. Syria, of course, won’t agree to anything until it looks certain that the US and allies actually will strike.
    Maybe we should wait to see what the Administration’s plan and goal is, before we decide how it will work out.

  17. Jeremy R says:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/obama-administration-lays-groundwork-for-probable-military-strike-against-syria/2013/08/27/538d072e-0f3c-11e3-bdf6-e4fc677d94a1_story.html

    The Obama administration believes that U.S. intelligence has established how Syrian government forces stored, assembled and launched the chemical weapons allegedly used in last week’s attack outside Damascus, according to U.S. officials.

    The administration is planning to release evidence, possibly as soon as Thursday, that it will say proves that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bears responsibility for what U.S. officials have called an “undeniable” chemical attack that killed hundreds on the outskirts of the Syrian capital.

    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/27/exclusive_us_spies_say_intercepted_calls_prove_syrias_army_used_nerve_gas

    Last Wednesday, in the hours after a horrific chemical attack east of Damascus, an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defense exchanged panicked phone calls with a leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike that killed more than 1,000 people. Those conversations were overheard by U.S. intelligence services, The Cable has learned.

    “We don’t know exactly why it happened,” the intelligence official added. “We just know it was pretty fucking stupid.”

    http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-syria-israel-intelligence-chemical-attack-20130827,0,1940412.story

    An elite Israeli intelligence unit intercepted conversations among high ranking Syrian government officials discussing last week’s apparent chemical attack outside Damascus as it unfolded, a German news magazine has reported.

    Citing an anonymous Israeli ex-intelligence official, Germany’s Focus magazine said Saturday that Israel’s secretive signals intelligence agency, Unit 8200, eavesdropped on a conversation between senior Syrian officials about use of chemical agents.

    On Friday, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that rockets containing chemical agents were fired by the 155th Brigade of the 4th Armored Division, a division under the command of the Syrian president’s brother, Maher Assad.

    The shells were reportedly fired from a military base in a mountain range west of Damascus, the news channel said, without disclosing its sources.

  18. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Ah, this takes me back. To the last time, Obama, Britain, France and the Arab States decided to march off to war. That Libya, now there is a place that really turned out well, didn’t it. We only lost one ambassador due to that little foreign expeditionary force.

    Let’s see:
    War in Iraq: Over 4,000 American lives lost, over 100,000 civilian deaths, nearly $1 Trillion of deficit-financing, and power in the region ceded to Iran.

    Versus:

    War in Libya: No American troop deaths, 4 American diplomatic staff killed, and about 25,000 civilians killed in the 9 month struggle between rebels and government forces. Less than $1 Trillion expended. Qaddafi deposed, power shift in the region – TBD.

    By the way, Obama is rightfully being cautious, in direct contrast to the usual Republican whimpering that the President is dithering and not taking action.

  19. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Wrong thread. You are looking for the coalition of the stupid.

  20. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds: We won that one with zero combat casualties. How did your Mr. Bush do? Two lost wars and our credibility in tatters? You lack even a shred of honesty.

    Won? Libya? Really? Who now controls Libya? Not forces friendly to the U.S.? Certainly no peaceful? Or are you willfully ignoring the murder of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya (and others) with nary a thing done to help by the host “government”. Of course, nary a thing done by the President or the U.S. State Department either but that’s another story.

    Bush didn’t lost two wars. Obama quit them. With support of many voters, to be sure and at the desire of the “governments” created there. Of course, now Iraq wants the U.S. back.

    The problem was trying to put democracy in those countries before institutionalizing liberty. Such is a failure of the foreign policy brain trust tumor in the U.S.

  21. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    Thanks for providing proof of concept so quickly.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    “…military members, who aren’t really in Obama’s demographic…”

    Really? Prove that with a link.
    Otherwise..just STFU.

  23. C. Clavin says:
  24. C. Clavin says:

    If you need any other proof that this Syria thing is a bad idea…here is Bill Kristol, he with 4000 soldiers blood on his hands, encouraging Obama to go for it.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/experts-obama-here-what-do-syria_751267.html?page=1

  25. C. Clavin says:

    Seriously? I get a downvote because I ask for proof of a nonsensical statement?
    Makes sense I guess…facts are anethma to Republicans.

  26. Steve Hynd says:

    Boehner doesn’t intend to recall the House for a war authorization vote.

    http://notthesingularity.com/6683/obama-dont-need-steenking-authorization-boehner-ok/

  27. Gavrilo says:

    The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

    Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

    Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.

    For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama’s appeal that “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.”

    Oslo, October 9, 2009

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    The Iraq War was lost from the moment Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld invaded with too few troops and no plan for occupation. Blaming Obama is utterly dishonest and perfectly typical of your “analysis.”

    As for Libya, we removed a murderous government bent on slaughtering its people. Is that government gone? Yes. Did they manage to commit the atrocity they had planned? No. Cost to us? Four people.

    Four.

    The fact that you and your ilk obsess over four while ignoring four thousand says everything we need to know about what passes for a thought process with you.

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Bush didn’t lost two wars. Obama quit them. With support of many voters, to be sure and at the desire of the “governments” created there. Of course, now Iraq wants the U.S. back.

    So, ceding power in the region to Iran had nothing to do with Bush’s decision to use a false pretext to go to wear in Iraq in the first place?

    Also, 4 American deaths in Libya compared with 4,000 American deaths in Iraq does beg a comparative question, doesn’t it?

  30. Barry says:

    @JKB: “Ah, this takes me back. To the last time, Obama, Britain, France and the Arab States decided to march off to war. That Libya, now there is a place that really turned out well, didn’t it. We only lost one ambassador due to that little foreign expeditionary force. ”

    Shoveling a few thousand US KIA under the rug, aren’t you? If a few dead Americans in Libya are worth your time, why aren’t you protesting 1,000 times as much about Iraq?

  31. anjin-san says:

    Shoveling a few thousand US KIA under the rug, aren’t you? If a few dead Americans in Libya are worth your time, why aren’t you protesting 1,000 times as much about Iraq?

    Simple answer is that JKB and his ilk don’t really care about American casualties. They care about trying to damage Obama, by any means possible.

  32. walt moffett says:

    Guess its time to break out the Team America World Police DVD, join the Beltway sing a long and watch the propaganda war unfold.

  33. William Wilgus says:

    @michael reynolds: “There are other words more apt than “war” for something like this. “Punitive raid” is probably right.”

    “A rose is a rose by any other name.”

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @William Wilgus:
    It’s true that the label we apply will mean very little to the innocents we will almost certainly kill.

  35. William Wilgus says:

    @Jeremy R: Where are the *INDEPENDENTLY INTERCEPTED* communications? I could believe *THOSE*. I believe there aren’t any and never will be because the U.S. and Israeli ‘intercepts’ are forgeries.

  36. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    There are other words more apt than “war” for something like this. “Punitive raid” is probably right.

    Sorry, but if you use military might to kill people in another country, its a war. Playing around with words (like collateral damage or the Vietnam “police action”) are just ways of trying to avoid taking moral responsibility. You can argue that it might be a necessary war (and some wars are necessary), but its still a war. If your government policy is that it is necessary to attack and kill people in another country, than make that argument, don’t sugar coat it with nice language.

    Now if they can pull it off without killing anyone, then it could be called a punative raid.

    I still hope that Obama will prove to be much smarter than Bush was, and not give in to the tempation of overseas adventure. Nothing good can come of this for almost anyone concerned – and going in without UN support would be even worse.

  37. William Wilgus says:

    @michael reynolds: “The Iraq War was lost from the moment Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld invaded with too few troops and no plan for occupation.”

    No, it was lost from the moment they decide to invade. Too few troops and no plan for occupation only deepened the actual cost—in lives as well as money and equipment.

  38. Rob in CT says:

    Look, JKB is being ridiculous and we all know it. Let it go.

    Back to the present.

    1. Obama apparently will not seek congressional authorization, nor will congress make any particular effort to force him to seek it. Ala Libya – something I and others worried about at the time.

    2. The policy being pondered is apparently a bombing campaign not aimed at toppling Assad, in order to “send a message” that using chemical weapons is not ok (let us for a moment set aside the question of proof that Assad’s forces were responsible for the chemical weapon attack. I think they were, but it should be noted occasionally that this is not certain).

    This is, at best, foolish.

    Taking the 2nd part first, there is no particular reason to believe that a bombing/cruise missle campaign will accomplish the stated objective. There are reasons to worry about unintended consequences (collateral damage, etc). But there is something bigger here, that goes back decades:

    The whole thing is hubristic. This idea that the USA should be the enforcer of international norms, especially in the face of UN refusal.

    We have, in our history, fallen into love with various crusades. The biggest one was “manifest destiny.” That one was especially self-serving, and worked out very well for the nation (and very poorly for plains Indians). The new one, apparently, is being the enforcer of some vague, ever-shifting group of nations that people tend to call “the international community.” Sometimes people make reference to the group of nations that are democracies or at least quasi-democracies, if that seems advantageous. That we are totally inconsistent in our actions and that we often blunder badly never seems to stop the crusaders.

    I say to hell with that. No. The best thing we can do for the world is to stop getting involved in wars, and do our damndest to further perfect our Union. Provide an example to others by quietly being the best we can be. And oh by the way, if we’re so concerned about helping the victims of atrocities, we could always take them in or fund NGOs that help them get away and build better lives. I see that as more likely to succeed than a bombing campaign, if less exciting.

    Back to not bothering to ask Congress. Barack Obama, like so many before him, has embraced the Imperial Presidency. Whether it was Bush the Lesser campaigning against foreign interventions & nation building or Obama campaigning against “stupid wars” and fighting w/o congressional approval, the results are the same: they get into office and they have all this power at their disposal and no shortage of people advising/begging/demanding that they use it. It seems clear at this point that the only solution is Congressional pushback, which means electing more congresscritters who will push back… which isn’t often on offer (I know, I know, Paul the Younger and a handful of others, which is nice but not enough).

    Finally, this does not need to be as bad as Iraq to be bad. Lots of things are less bad than Iraq and are still worth avoiding. We should not touch Syria with a ten foot electrified cattle prod. This includes arming the rebels, which we’ve apparently been doing for some time now, so we can play some sort of game with the Russians and Iranians. Shades of Afghanistan in the 70s and 80s there. To what point and purpose? At least back then you could say the Cold War.

    Would it kill us to occasionally choose to not play the game?

  39. anjin-san says:

    Would it kill us to occasionally choose to not play the game?

    No, but the real name of the game is keep the “defense” dollars flowing. So we will continue to play, regardless of the questionable benefits to our country or the consequences.

  40. Rob in CT says:

    @anjin-san:

    Ah yes, the “Department of Defense” and the “Secretary of Defense.”

    It was more honest when they were the War Department and the Secretary of War.

    I understand the MIC part of this. My supposedly liberal democrat House rep will occasionally crow about how well Electric Boat is doing because he brought home some bacon. Woohoo, another submarine. For others, it’s aerospace (including Pratt & Whitney, in East Hartford). And so on.

    I don’t know about you, but I’d be up for buying them off. Instead of spending so much on bombs and then having to use them, maybe we should fire up a big space exploration effort again and have them make rockets and space capsules and whatnot. There would still be lots of money wasted, but I think less would be pure waste and there wouldn’t be such demand for more war. Heck, we could push it as National Security, given the threat of asteroid or comet impact.

  41. Dave Schuler says:

    The official Russian position appears to be that the UN inspectors should be allowed to determine whether banned chemical weapons were used and by whom and that the use of force requires a Security Council resolution.

    Why is the first of those points so unreasonable?

  42. Rob in CT says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Why is either of them unreasonable?

    Granted, I don’t think the Russians are a neutral party here – Assad is a client. But neither are we.

  43. anjin-san says:

    @ Rob in CT

    we should fire up a big space exploration effort again and have them make rockets and space capsules and whatnot.

    This will happen in about seven years (or less) when we wake up one morning and realize that China is the world’s leading power in space exploration. Those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

    the threat of asteroid or comet impact.

    House Republicans are hard at work trying to defund the asteroid initiative as we speak. Why? Because it’s an Obama program, so it must be evil. Meanwhile, the world’s smartest, richest, and most successful entrepreneurs are committing substantial resources to exploring/exploiting asteroids. We are also shutting the space fence down, and the next generation space fence is getting kicked down the road.

    Are we really this stupid as a nation?

  44. PD Shaw says:

    @Dave Schuler: When you say it, seems reasonable enough; its the Russians saying it that I object to most strenuously.

  45. al-Ameda says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    The official Russian position appears to be that the UN inspectors should be allowed to determine whether banned chemical weapons were used and by whom and that the use of force requires a Security Council resolution.

    Why is the first of those points so unreasonable?

    I can’t disagree with you on this.

    America does have credibility issues when it comes to going with the chemical weapons inspections flow. The last time we had UN weapons inspections going on, in Iraq, well you know the what happened there – we didn’t like the result and we went ahead and waged an unnecessary war anyway.

  46. Rob in CT says:

    @al-Ameda:

    That, coupled with the now-undeniable truth of us handing Saddam intel he could use to gas people in the 80s, while pretending he wasn’t gassing anyone. And then we later decided he was a monster we had to take down. Which worked out oh so terribly well.

    “Credibility issues” is the kindest possible way of putting it. “Lacking any credibility whatsoever” would be more accurate.

  47. C. Clavin says:

    “…This will happen in about seven years (or less) when we wake up one morning and realize that China is the world’s leading power in space exploration…”
    I’m kinda OK with the current model…private enterprise performing Government contracts…I think thata’s called Public/Private partnerships.

  48. Rob in CT says:

    A small hurrah for representative Scott Rigell (R-VA).

    http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/08/rigell-obama-consult-congress-syria

    My congresscritter is not on there. I will contact him and ask him to cosign. Edit: done.

  49. michael reynolds says:

    I think people are being far too quick to dismiss the possibility that this represents the ruthless approach.

    Gas weapons could be a game changer by sowing panic and by allowing Assad’s people to flush out urban resistance. We don’t want a game changer. We want Assad/Hezbollah/Russia to continue bleeding in an endless war waged in part against Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers.

    The Left dismisses that because it will make Obama seem ruthless. The Right dismisses that because it runs counter to their idiot narrative about Obama. But when I whip out my Occam brand safety razor, that’s the answer that best fits the facts as we know them.

  50. Rob in CT says:

    We want Assad/Hezbollah/Russia to continue bleeding in an endless war waged in part against Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers.

    We do? Why, exactly? Please recall that doing this involves giving aid and comfort to Al Qaida affiliates (and, therefore, even if one cares not a whit about the morality of it all, one might have the nagging feeling that this might not be half as smart as its proponents think it is).

    Ruthless & smart might be acceptable even if it’s morally… compromised, let’s say. But what if it’s ruthless and dumb?

  51. Davebo says:

    Seriously James,
    I don’t recall the griping about “going to war” with Libya without congressional or UN approval the time before last?

    Operation El Dorado Canyon

    IOIYAR has a new meaning. It’s OK if you are Reagan….

  52. anjin-san says:

    @ C Calvin

    I’m kinda OK with the current model

    Public/private for space exploration is very promising. That being said, we need better funding for the commercial crew program to make this happen. NASA’s vision (as I understand it) is to fund the commercial crew program until the private sector is far enough to take over LEO missions, which NASA will contract out to them. This will allow the government to focus on manned/unmanned deep space exploration.

    The current model is broken due to partisan politics creeping into NASA’s funding and operations, and general underfunding. If you ask an expert when we will have a manned landing on Mars in the current funding environment, the answer is “never.”

    Meanwhile, China is building a very impressive space program.

    http://www.space.com/22474-china-space-program-empire.html

    http://www.spacenews.com/article/dia%E2%80%82threat-assessment-flags-chinas-advances-space

  53. Davebo says:

    @Rob in CT:

    If it weren’t for tactical aircraft the only Pratt & Whitney engines sold would be for their portable power generation products! I can remember when they were the go to for Boeing commercial aircraft before being drowned out by GE and Rolls Royce.

  54. Rob in CT says:

    The whole idea of our various enemies bleeding themselves dry doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me. This seems to be the same logic that says if we just kill enough terrorists (perhaps AQ 2nd in commands?) we’ll win. If we just kill enough insurgents, we’ll win. If we just kill enough Vietcong and NVA troops, we’ll win.

    Doesn’t AQ recruit in part by promising eternal glory for fighting/dying in jihad? Wouldn’t an ongoing civil war in Syria be a recruiting tool? Does there really seem to be a shortage of frustrated middle eastern and/or Muslim men to recruit?

    I can see the argument about nation-states suffering due to pouring too many resources into such things (Iran, Russia). But doesn’t that apply equally to us? What, we’re going to do it cheaper than them (or cheaper as compared to our economy)? What’s the basis for that? We don’t do things cheaply.

  55. Raider says:

    Obama is an undocumented, illegal alien usurper. He is an enemy combatant who has taken over the office of the POTUS.

    The destruction of America was always his intent. First by looting America of its wealth, then by setting America up for destruction by the Chinese and the Russians. Have no doubt about it, when America begins to use military force against Syria, it will then become a matter of a short time afterward that America’s destruction will occur.

    Prepare yourselves physically and spiritually. Turn away from all sin and repent to God through Jesus Christ his son. Your heavenly Father loves you all very, very much. Many of us will be facing eternity soon.

  56. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Here’s the menu of outcomes:

    1) We stay out and Assad/Iran/Hezbollah wins. Bad.

    2) We stay out and the rebels/Sunni/Qaeda wins. Bad.

    3) We intervene so that Assad/Iran/Hezbollah wins. Bad.

    4) We intervene so that rebels,Sunni/Qaeda wins. Bad.

    And Option 5:

    5) We do what we can to keep it going so the bad guys wear each other out. Not as bad.

  57. michael reynolds says:

    @Raider:

    I need something more specific. Will the world end before my October tax filing extension runs out?

  58. al-Ameda says:

    @Raider:

    Obama is an undocumented, illegal alien usurper. He is an enemy combatant who has taken over the office of the POTUS.

    I’ve passed this along to Orly Taitz, and copied the Kenyan Embassy on it too. I’ll let you know if anything comes up.

  59. Raider says:

    @michael reynolds,

    The world is not ending yet. There are certain events which still have to take place such as the mark of the beast being implemented worldwide.

    However, life in America is about to change dramatically. The economic collapse of America is most likely the 1st major blow to hit the U.S. I believe this will happen before the year is finished. Your tax filing extension won’t matter then.

  60. anjin-san says:

    I believe this will happen before the year is finished.

    Cool, get back to us in January.

  61. al-Ameda says:

    @Raider:

    The economic collapse of America is most likely the 1st major blow to hit the U.S. I believe this will happen before the year is finished.

    Excellent. Republicans have already engineered our political collapse and they’re working hard on the economic collapse too. So, you think they can accomplish the economic collapse in about 90 days?

  62. Franklin says:

    @Raider: I’m going to call you out as a troll. You know how I know? Because people who really believe that stuff typically can’t spell and form grammatical sentences.

  63. Raider says:

    @al-Ameda,

    The better question is, can the privately owned Federal Reserve accomplish the economic collapse of America within 90 days. After all, it is the Federal Reserve that is printing up 85 billion dollars per month out of thin air. How long do you think the economy can last while the FED continues to print huge amounts of so called money that is not backed by anything?

    Prepare yourself.

  64. michael reynolds says:

    @Raider:

    Thanks for the heads up! I think you should let others know. Start by contacting these guys: link.

  65. michael reynolds says:

    @Franklin:

    Yeah, but he’s a welcome change from our usual trolls.

  66. Franklin says:

    By the way, I don’t think I’ve cast my votes:

    I’m against intervention.
    I believe war is an apt name.
    But if we’re going to go ahead and do it, it should be done legally and morally (in fact, just copy Dave Schuler’s rules here).

  67. Franklin says:

    @michael reynolds: Good point! And I was indeed chuckling when I first read that post.

  68. al-Ameda says:

    @Raider:

    The better question is, can the privately owned Federal Reserve accomplish the economic collapse of America within 90 days. After all, it is the Federal Reserve that is printing up 85 billion dollars per month out of thin air. How long do you think the economy can last while the FED continues to print huge amounts of so called money that is not backed by anything?

    Evidently you’re greatly affected by the current hyperinflation rate of 2%? I personally have not recently had to use a wheel barrow to cart my cash to the store to purchase groceries and hardware.

  69. anjin-san says:
  70. C. Clavin says:

    “…How long do you think the economy can last while the FED continues to print huge amounts of so called money that is not backed by anything?…”

    Actually I think it is backed by the full faith and credit of the US. And that debt…in the form of US Treasuries…are the safest place on earth to put your money.
    Clearly you are some sort of chicken little…the economy is crashing, the economy is crashing. But it’s OK…thanks to Obama the economy is on the mend. As long as we keep Republicans and their wild economic theories at bay, we’ll be fine.

  71. C. Clavin says:

    anjin-san wins.

  72. Caj says:

    President Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t as regards Syria. So many armchair critics out there who have all the answers as to what he should do. They don’t have to walk in his shoes when things arise. Whatever he does he has my support as I trust his judgement.

  73. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Who are you calling a hypocrite?

    Where, in what reading of my post, did I call someone. ANYONE, a hypocrite? PD, you are a generally intelligent person, but if you can not tell the difference between the Hippocratic Oath, and calling someone a hypocrite…

    And for the record, if I called anyone a hypocrite, I called EVERYONE a hypocrite.

    Really, I have no idea what you are talking about.

  74. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Barry:

    C. Clavin, one state shooting at people in another state is generally considered war.

    So, Bosnia was a war? WWI was a war. WWII was a war. Korea was a war. Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, were wars. Gulf war I was a military action. What is happening in Yemen and the NW territories of Pakistan are military actions.

    Never mind what Israel is doing in the West Bank and Gaza.

  75. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    Won? Libya? Really? Who now controls Libya?

    Won? Iraq? Really? Who now controls Iraq? We don’t have clue. But we poured BILLIONS into that country.

    Fvck U.

  76. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rob in CT:

    2. The policy being pondered is apparently a bombing campaign not aimed at toppling Assad, in order to “send a message” that using chemical weapons is not ok (let us for a moment set aside the question of proof that Assad’s forces were responsible for the chemical weapon attack. I think they were, but it should be noted occasionally that this is not certain).

    I hate to point this out but a bomb that explodes, any bomb that explodes, does so as the result of a chemical reaction. In other words, warfare, ALL warfare (at this point) is chemical warfare. (Breaking Bad reference here)

    ORRRRR , in other words, what has Assad done that we don’t do regularly?

    If the shoe fits, ignore it.

  77. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: A thumbs up for a reality check.

  78. PD Shaw says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: It was a joke. Possibly funnier at 8 in the morning, perhaps not.

  79. PD Shaw says:

    And looking back, I got no likes or dislikes, so perhaps nobody understood what I wrote.

    Hippocratic oath, hypocrisy ? Is this mike on?

  80. Davebo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Incredibly depressing. Mostly for it’s likely accuracy.

  81. Barry says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yes,Yes, Yes and Yes.

    You point being?

  82. Tyrell says:

    The price of gas has already jumped 10 cents in the last few days. Maybe it is because of the Labor Day weekend, I don’t know. Whenever some prince over there sneezes, gas goes up. The president ought to do something – freeze prices or set a stiff penalty for gouging people; and that is what it is pure and simple – gouging. The president needs to look out for the middle class working people instead of running around making all these speeches. How about it Mr. President?
    Where is our break? What are you going to do to help us? My taxes went up in January. Food is going up daily. Yet the leaders in Washington ignore it.
    “have you had your break today?”

  83. Mikey says:

    @Tyrell: It’s not gouging. The price of a barrel of oil is the highest it’s been in over two years. The connection between a rise in the price of oil and a rise in the price of gasoline should be pretty easy to figure out.

  84. Tyrell says:

    @Mikey: Then why has the barrel price jumped up? We went through this same junk a few years ago when a hurricane threatened the gulf. Gas jumped almost a dollar in one day and there were lines – before the hurricane even hit!! Even the governor promised an investigation and big consequences for those responsible but it never happened. Its all just a big scam.

  85. Rob in CT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Ok, let’s say #1 happens. I’m advocating that we stay out. You believe this will result in an victory for one side or the other, and assert this is worse than a bloody stalemate.

    There is such a thing as a pyrric victory. Assad’s forces may win, but they’ve *already* been badly hurt. They’ve resorted to poison gas, fer f*cks sake (apparently). In the course of winning, they will bleed some more. Meanwhile, if they do finally win, they crush… a bunch of Islamist militants. It’s hard to imagine the rebels winning if we stay out of it, but if they do they will have almost certainly bled even more than Assad’s forces would if they win.

    5) We do what we can to keep it going so the bad guys wear each other out. Not as bad.

    Coupla things here. First off, it’s not necessarily “not so bad,” as I tried to point out before. We don’t really know what the consequences of a bloody stalemate would be. Also, this presumes we can actually calibrate things to acheive this supposedly desireable outcome. Why do we think that? Where in our track record do you see justification for such confidence?

    Option 1 – stay out – requires that we do nothing. It requires we spend little or nothing (little if we feel like being humanitarian, which I would support). It produces a short-term loss of face for failing to made good on the “red line” foolishness, but it avoids a possible medium-to-long-term loss of face that can result from further intervention.

    Therefore, Option 1 is the best course.

    I know this is hard for some to accept, but we cannot control world events. We can try to shape them, but History reveals a litany of unintended consequences resulting in later harm (was the coup that put the Shah in power a win? I’m sure it looked like one for 25 years). This is what I mean about hubris. We imagine that we can acheive things we cannot (e.g., turning Afghanistan into a functioning nation-state), we imagine moral authority we do not have, and consequently do harm to ourselves and others.

  86. Mikey says:

    @Tyrell: The reason the price of oil jumped in advance of the hurricane is because the refineries along the coast have to do an orderly shut-down. If they don’t, and they get knocked out by the storm, it takes a lot longer to restart and the impact on prices would actually be much worse.

    There’s also some economics at work, with people anticipating a shortage and therefore increasing demand.

  87. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I think I have not made myself clear. I meant just to lay out the choices Obama has before him. I don’t favor a “Let ’em bleed” policy because I think it’s at odds with basic American morality. I was trying to explain what I think may be happening at the White House.

    As for my personal feelings, I can’t exactly work up much enthusiasm for any of the options, they’re all pretty awful. I favor staying out, but I don’t find the arguments for that compelling, either. This is a no-win. If you have power and free will your refusal to act is an act, so “do nothing” is more or less meaningless. There’s no right move, there’s only less bad.

  88. Rob in CT says:

    I understand, Michael. You’ve repeatedly said you’re against intervention.

    You laid out your best case for what looks likely to happen. I argued against that, not you.

  89. Rob in CT says:

    On the issue of consulting Congress, btw, there is no reason not to slow down and do that.

    For one, it gives Obama an out if he wants it (as far as I can tell, he doesn’t).

    For another, what we’re talking about here is a punitive strike. Punishment. To the extent it works, it will work whether it happens immediately or 2 months later. There is no reason to rush it, except fear that you might get blocked from doing it. When the decision was made to intervene in Libya, the central reason given was there was a massacre about to happen. The argument was that we had to intervene – and intervene NOW – to prevent it. One cannot plausibly make that claim wrt Syria. Massive numbers of people have died in Syria before the gas attack and more will die after it, whether we bomb or not.

  90. rudderpedals says:

    Regarding congressional involvement, Congress is on semi-official vacation. Until and unless Reid and Boehner are troubled enough to call their chambers back into session for debate congress is AWOL for all intents and purposes and their whinging is pointless because events outrace any attempt to meaningfully resolve pressing questions.

  91. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds: “I don’t favor a “Let ‘em bleed” policy because I think it’s at odds with basic American morality. I was trying to explain what I think may be happening at the White House.”

    Note that the same people who are advocating for war quite clearly have a policy ranging from “Let ‘em bleed” to ‘give the murderers guns and ammunition, and turn a blind eye’.

    The idea that a violation of ‘basic American morality’ anywhere in the world requires war is ridiculous.

  92. michael reynolds says:

    @Barry:

    Note that the same people who are advocating for war quite clearly have a policy ranging from “Let ‘em bleed”

    Of course non-interventionists have that same policy, just with no fingerprints. Inaction is action. None of us are getting out of this with our hands clean.

  93. Rob in CT says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Well, one could contact their representative and ask that they sign on to Rep. Rigell’s letter? If enough do, that would put pressure on John of Orange and Obama.

  94. Rob in CT says:

    So far, Boehner has not gone to far as to demand that Obama seek Congressional approval. He’s taken this half-measure:

    Speaker John A. Boehner weighed in as well, sending Mr. Obama a letter that stopped short of demanding a Congressional vote while calling on the president to provide a legal justification for force. Mr. Boehner’s letter also asked Mr. Obama to answer more than a dozen questions about potential military plans in Syria.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/world/middleeast/legislators-push-for-vote-before-strike.html?_r=0

    Give him a little push, and maybe we get more?

  95. Rob in CT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Not equivalent, really. The “let ’em bleed” policy some have advocated is not just “let ’em bleed.” It’s “engineer a longer conflict to make sure they bleed more.”

  96. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    The president ought to do something – freeze prices or set a stiff penalty for gouging people; and that is what it is pure and simple – gouging. The president needs to look out for the middle class working people instead of running around making all these speeches. How about it Mr. President?
    Where is our break? What are you going to do to help us? My taxes went up in January. Food is going up daily. Yet the leaders in Washington ignore it.
    “have you had your break today?”

    A few points:

    1. You do realize that the price of oil is determined in the commodity markets, and not by the president of the United States, right? Are you saying that the President should implement price controls?
    2. Your taxes went up? Yes, the medicare payroll tax was restored to the proper rate after that so-called ‘tax holiday’ was implemented following the 2008 financial crash – that increase was 2% of income, okay?
    3. Do you know that the overall inflation rate is less than 3%, hardly the hyperinflation rate that gold bugs and Republican Chicken Little’s warn us of.

  97. Rob in CT says:

    People read Tyrell’s posts?

    [btw, with regard to #2: the payroll tax cut expired in part b/c the GOP wanted it to. The Dems, given their druthers, would have liked to extend the cut some more, as stimulus]

  98. rudderpedals says:

    @Rob in CT: I suppose it can’t hurt. I’m jaded at this point and have low expectations that a strongly worded letter will lead to serious debate given the zero sum nature of politicking. At best the big 8 get consulted, and we saw how little good that did in the runup to Iraq. I’m optimistic about the long term however.

  99. Rob in CT says:

    I agree, in all likelyhood it will accomplish little. But I’m talking about sending your rep an email. It’s almost literally the easiest thing in the world.

  100. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    True, I should have said there’s “Let ’em bleed,” and “Let’s help them to bleed.”

    Either way we’re the bystander at the gang rape. Not participating, but doing nothing to stop it, either. I suppose to carry the analogy forward, the “Let ’em bleeders,” are just watchers, while the “Help ’em bleeders” would be serving beer. Neither is a position anyone should revel in.

  101. Rob in CT says:

    We are often “bystanders to gang rape” as you put it.

    Also, as I’ve pointed out, there are options besides just watching. There are things that could be done to help victims without involving ourselves in a civil war.

    We’re not going to take in a bunch of Syrian refugees. We could, if we’re so concerned about them, but we both know that enough folks will worry that we’re importing jihadis (and not entirely w/o cause) that it’s probably a dead letter. I think we’re actually already funding (at a very low level) some refugee aid, so countries nearby can better care for the refugees.

    Also, if they really wanted to, Americans could go do what that one crazy guy did and go join up and fight over there. You know, Spanish Civil War type stuff. No? If not, why is a bombing run better?