White House spokesman: A major gas attack in Syria would threaten U.S. national security; Update: Pentagon preparing cruise missile attack?

posted at 5:11 pm on August 23, 2013 by Allahpundit

Sounds … intervention-y.

“In this situation, when there are weapons of mass destruction involved — or when there is evidence that weapons of mass destruction may be involved — that would have an impact on the calculus about the impact that this has on our national security,” Earnest said. “Ultimately, that is the criteria that the president will use as he evaluates the best course of action in this situation, that is the best interests of national security.”

“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and in this case there’s some evidence for that, it’s certainly something that the president is very concerned about. And it does have significant implications for our national security,” Earnest said.

Does it? As atrocious as it was, what new information does the Damascus gas attack add to our Syria “calculus,” to borrow a word Earnest used today? We knew Assad had chemical weapons; we knew that he’s willing to kill as many people as he needs or wants to retain power and protect the Alawites; and we knew (or kinda knew) from previous suspicious incidents — as many as 35 by one count — that he’s willing to use gas. The Damascus attack shows that he’s willing to use it on a larger scale than before, but his motive for the escalation is unclear. Does it follow logically that because he feels he can attack Syrians with impunity that he’d also now feel he can attack Americans with impunity? I’m thinking … no. There are phony rhetorical “red lines” of the sort O bumbled into last year in a lame attempt to deter Assad, and then there are real Red Lines that come with, say, flying planes into American skyscraper. A man as dogged as Assad about hanging on in Syria has a very strong incentive to keep his gas stockpile far out of range of U.S. citizens. The jihadis he’s fighting have much less incentive, which brings us back around to the cosmic irony that a U.S. attack on Assad would probably raise the risk of chemical terrorism against Americans by weakening regime control over the arsenal.

The significance of the Damascus attack isn’t that it poses a special threat to U.S. security, it’s that it weakens the international taboo against using WMD. And since the U.S. is, as O said in his CNN interview this morning, “the indispensable nation,” that means we’ve got to lead the charge (whatever the charge in this case looks like) against Assad. When a major crime is committed, the global policeman springs into action. Provided, of course, that the United Nations says he can:

OBAMA: …There’s a reason why, when you listen to what’s happened around Egypt and Syria, that everybody asks what the U.S. is doing. It’s because the United States continues to be the one country that people expect can do more than just simply protect their borders.

But that does not mean that we have to get involved with everything immediately. We have to think through strategically what’s going to be in our long-term national interests, even as we work cooperatively internationally to do everything we can to put pressure on those who would kill innocent civilians…

And, you know, if the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work, and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account.

The fact that he’s emphasizing UN approval as an obstacle shows you how reluctant he is even now to intervene. The UN’s not going to do anything about Syria; Russia will veto any nascent international coalition into oblivion. In fact, not only is the Security Council paralyzed, but the UN has ordered its chemical weapons team in Syria not to go to the Damascus suburb where the new attack occurred because it’s simply too dangerous for them. O’s stuck in a moronic cycle of his own making where he clearly doesn’t want to get involve in Syria but is compelled to respond to each new Assad provocation with ever finer gradations of heightened “concern.” That’s what Josh Earnest’s blather about a threat to U.S. national security is about. We used to be taking this WMD stuff very seriously, but now we’re taking it very, very seriously, even as the president’s telling CNN that we need to think hard about not violating international law in trying to stop gas massacres. Oh well. Expect a small but symbolic upgrade in the quality of weapons that Syria’s rebels will be getting sometime soon.

Update: Does this sound like an administration that thinks it’s facing a national security threat?

Mystery solved. America’s ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power was in Ireland on a personal trip when she missed an emergency meeting on the alleged chemical gas attack in Syria, U.N. sources tell Fox News.

A day earlier, State Department officials were mum when asked for information on Power’s whereabouts. She had come under fire for missing Wednesday’s urgent U.N. Security Council meeting, where delegations weighed how to respond to charges that the Assad regime had just committed the deadliest chemical weapons attack in the country’s two-year civil war.

Update: I guess O decided he’d finally bled too much credibility. Friday surprise!

As that news was breaking at CBS, Reuters was reporting that western intelligence has in fact determined that the Damascus attack was likely chemical in nature. A belated exit question for you: Why on earth is this being leaked to CBS? Is O trying to gauge public reaction to a strike before it happens? (WMD use is the only thing that softens the poll numbers against U.S. action in Syria.) Preparing a strike on Assad and then telling him it’s coming is the perfect ending to the Obama intervention saga. The “red line” chatter was a symbolic gesture, and now the “red line” attack is going to be mostly symbolic too.


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essential government employees are on call 24/7, I guess powers is just not essential!

losarkos on August 24, 2013 at 5:03 AM

considering obama’s disappearance during Benghazi I guess he aint that essential too.

losarkos on August 24, 2013 at 5:04 AM

Wonder where jarretwas?

losarkos on August 24, 2013 at 5:04 AM

Guess we have a new President. Valerie Jarrett has apparently got a co-President.

President Samantha “Intervene everywhere” Power

PappyD61 on August 24, 2013 at 7:55 AM

That “Red line” is the blood of AMERICAN soldiers that will die.

Caliphate Ho!

PappyD61 on August 24, 2013 at 7:59 AM

So, just what is this ‘National Security threat’?

If its the mere use of WMDs that he is worried about, then why not just nuke all of the Syrian facilities involved with the production, deployment and use of such weapons? Won’t take that many to get all the essential sites and it makes a firm point that when you utilize WMDs the US is against that: we are trying to make the world safe for CONVENTIONAL WARFARE.

Because, really, that only killed tens of millions last century when a couple of nukes couldn’t even top the half-million mark. We did more damage in Tokyo on a single raid than in both nuclear attacks combined… Tokyo was pretty combustible, back in the day…

So Assad going after aQ isn’t that much a cause for concern and the ‘innocent civilians’ always get caught during wars no matter how far back you go into history. And since the ‘red line’ stuff has been shown to be bluster, keeping your trap shut about how feeble you are is a much safer route than to demonstrate how feeble you are on an ongoing basis. If you want Assad’s bio/chem/nuclear capacities gone, then you aren’t going to be able to get them without some truly serious damage: he has at least two if not three underground facilities where a single bunker buster won’t even take out a small portion of any of them. All we know is that they are large, and there are lesser ones that are well distributed to the point of making it difficult to get a cruise missile into them.

So, President Obama, are you talking troops or nukes?

Either way it is a quest to make the world safe for CONVENTIONAL WARFARE and you are a dipstick for trying to do that.

ajacksonian on August 24, 2013 at 8:10 AM

Are we the only country that announces all of our military plans in advance?

JellyToast on August 24, 2013 at 8:26 AM

Does anyone have hard info that the chem strikes are from Assad and not the terrosists on the other side?
Rumors/stories are Assad military found remnant chem weapons in tunnels controlled by the terrorists.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3058260/posts

To me this smells like another regime diversion from CIA, NSA,Benghazi scandals among many other from Hastings,Brietbart to 22 dead Seals.

rodguy911 on August 24, 2013 at 8:26 AM

Our choice here is to support Al Qaida linked Jihadists, support Assad, or to do nothing.

In my view supporting Jihadists is out of the question. So it comes down to do we support Assad or do nothing. Assad may very well be using chemical weapons on civilians, he has also supported terrorism in Lebanon so in my view supporting Assad is also out of the question.

Doing nothing looks better all the time as both sides commit atrocity after atrocity. Let this war be a testament to Arab/Muslim culture. Report and document all of it, but, don’t lift a finger in support of either side.

jpmn on August 24, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Obama’s “calculus”? Pffft. What a pretentious, pompous little poseur is he.

His new calculus is about as ignorant as his old calculus: “…what you’re now seeing is profit and earning ratios are starting to get to the point where buying stocks is a potentially good deal if you’ve got a long-term perspective on it.”

As oft noted here at HA, you can take a certain amount of incompetence. And you can take a certain amount of arrogance. But arrogance on top of incompetence is insufferable.

petefrt on August 24, 2013 at 8:39 AM

Our choice here is to support Al Qaida linked Jihadists, support Assad, or to do nothing.

In my view supporting Jihadists is out of the question. So it comes down to do we support Assad or do nothing. Assad may very well be using chemical weapons on civilians, he has also supported terrorism in Lebanon so in my view supporting Assad is also out of the question.

Doing nothing looks better all the time as both sides commit atrocity after atrocity. Let this war be a testament to Arab/Muslim culture. Report and document all of it, but, don’t lift a finger in support of either side.

jpmn on August 24, 2013 at 8:31 AM

There is only one reason to pay attention to Syria.They have millions of gallons of poisionous gas if everyone has not figured that out by now.
Those wmd’s have to be secured.Other that we should stay out.

rodguy911 on August 24, 2013 at 8:43 AM

Assad used chemicals because foreign-trained “rebels” began infiltrating Syria from Jordan and he knows that is the beginning of the end for him. If the US and its allies had chosen not to get involved in the war, Assad would not have used the gas. I suspect the US will attack in a way that will be most advantageous to the “rebels”, not just an attack to destroy WMD stockpiles.

Aplombed on August 24, 2013 at 9:02 AM

If there is a reliable conclusion this was a chemical attack, how about we determine who the perpetrators were? What was their motive? Where did they acquire the weapons? Whose stock did they come from? How were they launched and from where?

There are very fundamental questions to be answered in a very fluid and uncertain situation. With the ebb and flow of battle, the situation in Libya and the general chaos in the Middle East, I doubt anyone knows where these weapons came from and who launched them- or perhaps they know and don’t want to say (I’ll bring up Libya again).

Launching cruise missiles in the absence of answers to these questions is a weak, desperate, half-measure. It a sign of acting on dangerous political impulses without reliable factual substantiation. It’s not only a distraction, but a provocative escalation.

There has been no consistent leadership or strategy on Syria that will materially help the people in need. Only another lazy, politically meandering collection of platitudes and diplomatic incompetence- both hallmarks of this administration.

In the end, this posture not only destroys our credibility as a country, but people suffer needlessly as they are used as pawns in one more round of useless political gamesmanship. It’s a despicable, destructive policy and a historical level of ineptitude which makes us a lesser force for good in this world.

Marcus Traianus on August 24, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Assad used chemicals because foreign-trained “rebels” began infiltrating Syria from Jordan and he knows that is the beginning of the end for him……

Got any proof that is was Assad using the chem weapons and not the other side? With Russia on his side I don’t see him trembling in his boots.

rodguy911 on August 24, 2013 at 9:18 AM

And even if this was a chemical assault, how do we know that Assad did it? Jihadi groups have been over-running Syrian military compounds for months, and would likely have access to at least a few of these weapons. Al Qaeda would have much more reason to use chemical weapons than Assad would – i.e. it would draw the Western nations into the conflict against Assad’s forces. My take on this incident is that it is more than likely a false-flag operation by AQ.

There are no “good” options here. But the least horrific option is just to remain on the sidelines and let Assad win. Assad may be a murderous, terrorist supporting, anti-American slimebag, but he is a lot less likely to launch a WMD strike against the US than his adversaries would be. (Any hope that a post-Assad government would be a secular Western democracy is, at this point, hopelessly naiive.)

The other reason for opposing attacks against Syrian military forces is the fact that Hezbollah is aligned with them. Some analysts have speculated (open-source intel) that Hezbollah may have terrorist sleeper cells in the US. All it would take is one phone call to have such teams brought into action (if they exist, which I think is likely). A cruise missile strike against Syrian forces would not be a risk-free endeavor, if such sleeper cells exist.

SubmarineDoc on August 24, 2013 at 9:30 AM

First, it is our new allies – Muslim Brotherhood & al-Qaeda – who are using these chemical weapons (at the urging of the Obama administration) in an attempt to blame it on Assad.

Second, Russia will kick our arses, and Obama knows it…one slap from Putin, and Obama will be on his knees begging. No way Obama does any more than talk.

Third, America is in need of a serious pruning, so something akin to a WW3 would be the best thing that could happen. Obama doesn’t want to destroy America that way…

Karmi on August 24, 2013 at 9:48 AM

Are these WMDs being used in Syria the ones that were brought over from Iraq? This is so Bushhhhh like, getting into another war over wmds. Think the lsm will notice.

Kissmygrits on August 24, 2013 at 9:53 AM

Obama and Dems trying to distract. Yeah, people in this country want another war. Won’t work Dems. You push inflation higher for another war and your Obamacare, you’re really going to put you butts in a noose!

rickv404 on August 24, 2013 at 9:56 AM

And even if this was a chemical assault, how do we know that Assad did it? Jihadi groups have been over-running Syrian military compounds for months, and would likely have access to at least a few of these weapons. Al Qaeda would have much more reason to use chemical weapons than Assad would – i.e. it would draw the Western nations into the conflict against Assad’s forces. My take on this incident is that it is more than likely a false-flag operation by AQ.

Great post and most likey what is going on.How much participation our side,the Chicago thugocracy, is doing is unknown.
IMHO, everything the regime does is politcal.Right now their biggest jeopardy, politically speaking, is the dozen or so scandals going on now being ignored by the DBM. They can’t ignore them forever.
This could be nothing more than an attempt to distract and mislead 2014 voters in order to limit damage in the House and Senate. And, zero needs high personal popularity and job approval numbers if his main job– fund raising– is to be successful.

rodguy911 on August 24, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Are these WMDs being used in Syria the ones that were brought over from Iraq?

Yes.
They were added to the ones that Syria already had.
Gen Georges Sada Sadam’s Air Force General had them shipped over by 707 and 747 with the seats removed.Other wmds were trucked into syria by tractor trailer,cia took sattelite photos.
Also Russia was in on the supervision as well.

rodguy911 on August 24, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Got any proof that is was Assad using the chem weapons and not the other side? With Russia on his side I don’t see him trembling in his boots.

In the time of Obama, “truth” has become a very relative term. However, before or shortly after the US attacks, I’m sure evidence will be presented. And Russia is no guarantor of anything for Assad, except rhetoric.

Aplombed on August 24, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Calculus. Allah and Ed keep using that word. I don’t think it means what they think it means.

Are these WMDs being used in Syria the ones that were brought over from Iraq?

Or those brought from Libya?

oldroy on August 24, 2013 at 10:34 AM

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Obama attacked Assad and then we find out later that AQ was responsible for this and other gas attacks?

oldroy on August 24, 2013 at 10:35 AM

And wouldn’t it be ironic if we find evidence of Iraqi and Libyan WMDs and other weapons?

Yep. That would be ironic.

oldroy on August 24, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Somehow this all brings to mind the Gulf of Tonkin.

claudius on August 24, 2013 at 10:38 AM

There is only one reason to pay attention to Syria.They have millions of gallons of poisionous gas if everyone has not figured that out by now.
Those wmd’s have to be secured.Other that we should stay out.

rodguy911 on August 24, 2013 at 8:43 AM

I am all for paying attention to Syria. I want Syria to be exhibit A next time someone says Islam means Peace. I want Syria to be a magnet for Euro Jihadis. I want this to bankrupt Hezbollah, Hamas, the MB, Al Qaida, Iran, Syria, Saudi and anyone else who wishes to join either side.

When both sides are your enemy, hope that they fight each other for a good long time.

jpmn on August 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM

There is only one reason to pay attention to Syria.They have millions of gallons of poisionous gas if everyone has not figured that out by now.
Those wmd’s have to be secured.Other that we should stay out.

rodguy911 on August 24, 2013 at 8:43 AM

That is where all of Saddam’s WMDs (previously accounted for and monitored by the UN) ended up. But they are not secured. The rebels have captured some and Assad has some.

There is no threat to us there and no friends there. Stay out of it.

dogsoldier on August 24, 2013 at 11:23 AM

that it weakens the international taboo against using WMD

You need to understand that statement is incredibly naive. What we have is an international pretense.

dogsoldier on August 24, 2013 at 11:25 AM

U.S. ‘backed plan to launch chemical weapon attack on Syria and blame it on Assad’s regime’

- Leaked emails from defense contractor refers to chemical weapons saying ‘the idea is approved by Washington’

- Obama issued warning to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad last month that use of chemical warfare was ‘totally unacceptable’

Akzed on August 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM

‘Phil… We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington.

‘We’ll have to deliver a CW to Homs, a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have.

‘They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record.

‘Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion?

‘Kind regards, David.’

Akzed on August 24, 2013 at 11:40 AM

I’m no expert in chemical attacks but most of the pictures shown seem to indicate somewhat peaceful deaths. Maybe that’s how they are (but I doubt it).

If they are real, all of the reservations stated by others here still apply. Was it Assad? What’s the national interest? Why is this more important than the carnage at the Boston Marathon?

Will the regime get out their drones to assassinate Assad? That’s how we operate now, isn’t it?

What are we going to do with a cruise missile attack on Damascus? Either prove that we are paper tigers by not following up, or by doing it, killing thousands of people, and demonstrating that you can’t take territory with missile attacks.

virgo on August 24, 2013 at 12:26 PM

He’s not going to attach anyone.

Cindy Munford on August 24, 2013 at 12:50 PM

And Russia is no guarantor of anything for Assad, except rhetoric.

Aplombed on August 24, 2013 at 10:32 AM

And a reliable UN Security Council veto. And upgraded air defenses, and…and…

Christien on August 24, 2013 at 1:54 PM

And a reliable UN Security Council veto. And upgraded air defenses, and…and…

Those air defense systems are a nuisance, but not even a considerations as to whether or not to attack. As far as the UN is concerned, I think we’re about to attack in spite of Russian efforts there.

Aplombed on August 24, 2013 at 3:25 PM

If your poll numbers are down, bomb an aspirin factory.

This little poser has made world wide laughing stock of this country.

petefrt on August 24, 2013 at 3:47 PM

I am one of many who believe the chemical gas attack on the Syrian people was perpetrated by one of the many rebel factions fighting the al-Assad regime. And it was a calculated risk that seems to have worked. Now the U.S. is getting involved and will enter the fray with cruise missiles and probable drone attacks.

It has been established that many of the chemical warheads known to exist in Libya are missing and many suspect the warheads made their way into the hands of the Syrian rebels. It has also been established that al Qaeda operatives are interspersed within many of the rebel groups in Syria. What a clever way to help bring down the al-Assad regime than with the help of U.S. intervention. It very well could be that the U.S. will be abettors to aiding the al Qaeda terrorists…maybe something Obama wanted all along anyway.

The U.S. stood by while Mubarak was removed and imprisoned in Egypt. How did that work out for Egypt and the U.S./Egypt relations? Mubarak was a despot and particularly cruel and inhumane to many of his fellow Egyptians, but at least he maintained some sense of order among the many savages living in Egypt. Perhaps the same is true of al-Assad. Time will tell once the al-Assad government is overthrown by the rebels with the help of the U.S.

metroryder on August 24, 2013 at 5:02 PM

Our national interests would best be served by staying the hell out of this conflict and let the American hating Muslims wipe each other off the face of the earth.

redware on August 23, 2013 at 8:54 PM
Nice fantasy, but the reality is that the more they kill each other, the more of them there are that hate the US. Eventually, this is going to spread to Turkey and Jordan, and probably Iraq and Iran.

Count to 10 on August 23, 2013 at 9:12 PM

So if we stop putting blacks in prison for killing each other, they will begin to stop hating white people? Gee, that idea might spread to Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, etc.

metroryder on August 24, 2013 at 5:15 PM

And why do we care?

Redford on August 24, 2013 at 5:36 PM

And why do we care?

Redford on August 24, 2013 at 5:36 PM

We shouldn’t. It’s that simple.

David Blue on August 24, 2013 at 5:59 PM

Somehow this all brings to mind the Gulf of Tonkin.

claudius on August 24, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Along with the sinking of the Maine.

VorDaj on August 24, 2013 at 7:56 PM

Cruise missiles? Wow, that ought to scare them into submission. Reminds me of Clinton’s cruise missile strikes after our embassies were bombed back in 1993. Clinton’s useless bombings did about as much good then as Obama’s saber rattling will do now, which is nothing. If you don’t know where you are going, any foreign policy will get you there.

Oh by the way, it would be really handy to have a base in Iraq right now, if only the Obama administration hadn’t completely botched their one and only responsibility, which was to negotiate the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq.

STL_Vet on August 24, 2013 at 8:06 PM

Hide your camels.

CW on August 24, 2013 at 10:16 PM

I’m no expert in chemical attacks but most of the pictures shown seem to indicate somewhat peaceful deaths. Maybe that’s how they are (but I doubt it).

virgo on August 24, 2013 at 12:26 PM

I was wondering the same thing. Vomit, blood, foaming at the mouth etc. ?? Probably depends on what the gas was. And if we don’t know what the gas was, how do we know who did it, if indeed these are real?

I didn’t look yesterday much at the news, but it seemed yesterday morning that there was exactly zero evidence of what had happened, how many were killed, and who did it.

oldroy on August 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM

I wonder if this is just a way to find the missing shoulder fired and shells from benghazi?

Will any boots on the ground be forced to sign non-disclosure agreements for what they saw and did in Syria?

oldroy on August 25, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Uh-oh. Syria to allow UN inspectors. Better go with the cruise missiles before we find out it was Al Qaeda, with shoulder fired missiles and shells from Libya, used on their own “rebel” allies.

oldroy on August 25, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Where are the survivors of the attack? Did they sign non-disclosure agreements?

oldroy on August 25, 2013 at 10:22 AM

So now there was certainly a terrible chemical attack, and we must act without UN confirmation or approval?

claudius on August 25, 2013 at 12:22 PM

I don’t believe for one second that the Assad regime launched a chemical weapon attack.

What I do believe is that this showdown is over natural gas pipeline overland routes. Period.

Do the powers that be think we are so stupid that we will fall for this WMD charade again? Promulgating this nonsense is the main reason that I have not consumed MSM product in years.

What kind of a monster kills children to assure profit? Not sure I wish to continue sharing the planet with them.

shaken on August 25, 2013 at 1:36 PM

If they are real, all of the reservations stated by others here still apply. Was it Assad? What’s the national interest? Why is this more important than the carnage at the Boston Marathon? virgo on August 24, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Akzed on August 25, 2013 at 2:18 PM

If they are real, all of the reservations stated by others here still apply. Was it Assad? What’s the national interest? Why is this more important than the carnage at the Boston Marathon? virgo on August 24, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Akzed on August 25, 2013 at 2:19 PM

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