Quotes of the day

posted at 10:41 pm on August 28, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

President Barack Obama said Wednesday he had not yet made a decision on taking action in Syria, but that taking a stand against that country’s use of chemical weapons on its own people can have a positive impact on the United States’ national security in the long run.

We have not yet made a decision but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place,” Obama said in an interview with PBS’ Newshour.

“I think it’s important that if in fact we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime .….will have received a pretty strong signal that in fact it better not do it again,” Obama added.

***

The former constitutional law professor, who came to office determined to end what critics called the cowboy foreign policy of George W. Bush, now is wrestling with some of the same moral and legal realities that led Bush to invade Iraq without clear U.N. consent in 2003. …

One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.

“They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said.

Obama and his top aides have shared intelligence with key members of Congress. But White House aides made it clear Tuesday that Obama would not wait for Congress to return from its monthlong recess on Sept. 9, and House and Senate leaders signaled no plans to call members back for an emergency session.

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Dear Mr. President:

I deeply respect your role as our country’s commander-in-chief, and I am mindful that Syria is one of the few places where the immediate national security interests of the United States so visibly converge with broader U.S. security interests and objectives. …

In addition, it is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.

Specifically:

-What standard did the Administration use to determine that this scope of chemical weapons use warrants potential military action?

-Does the Administration consider such a response to be precedent-setting, should further humanitarian atrocities occur?

-What result is the Administration seeking from its response?

-What is the intended effect of the potential military strikes? …

I urge you to fully address the questions raised above.

Sincerely

John Boehner

***

Key lawmakers will get a classified briefing from the Obama administration on Thursday regarding Syria’s alleged slaughter of civilians using chemical weapons last week, two U.S. officials said.

The briefing, to be held by conference call because Congress is still out on its August recess, is expected to include the chairmen and ranking members of key committees as well as the top leaders from each party in each chamber, the sources said. One of the officials specified that chairs of the House and Senate committees on armed services, foreign relations and intelligence would likely take part. …

“The President continues to review options with his national security team, and senior administration officials from the White House, State Department, Defense Department and Intelligence Community are continuing to reach out to bipartisan House and Senate Leadership, Leadership of the relevant Committees, and other Members of Congress,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

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If the United States was genuinely interested in preventing an escalation of violent conflict in Syria, we would impatiently pursue all preventive mechanisms available to us – from international law to international diplomacy to international weapons inspection – before adding more violence (e.g. Tomahawk Missiles) to an already combustible situation.

By all accounts this week, we’re not interested in prevention because we’re not pursuing it. Before we invade, as it sounds like the White House is itching to do by Thursday at the earliest, we must do due diligence in de-escalating, not escalating, violence in Syria. This is how to do it:

First, we should invite the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as stakeholders like Turkey, Iran and Hezbollah, for continued talks with Russia as part of the stalled Geneva II peace process. In recent months, we’ve primarily engaged Russia on the Geneva peace talks, a country that has some leverage over Syria, but an insufficient amount if we want to see Syrian President Bashar Assad act differently. That’s not enough. We have other potential allies at the ready. …

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There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to do just that on Monday, when he said of the use of chemical weapons, “This international norm cannot be violated without consequences.” His use of the word “norm,” instead of “law,” is telling.

Syria is a party to neither the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 nor the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, and even if it were, the treaties rely on the United Nations Security Council to enforce them — a major flaw. Syria is a party to the Geneva Protocol, a 1925 treaty that bans the use of toxic gases in wars. But this treaty was designed after World War I with international war in mind, not internal conflicts.

What about the claim that, treaties aside, chemical weapons are inherently prohibited? While some acts — genocide, slavery and piracy — are considered unlawful regardless of treaties, chemical weapons are not yet in this category. As many as 10 countries have stocks of chemical weapons today, with the largest held by Russia and by the United States. Both countries are slowly destroying their stockpiles, but missed what was supposed to be a final deadline last year for doing so.

***

A lot of commentators imagine that Operation Habitual Line-Stepper will look a lot like Operation Allied Force — the 78-day air war in which NATO supported the Kosovar Liberation Army in its efforts to stop the Serbian genocide — or the recent military operation against Libya. (That is, when they can keep straight our mid-1990s Balkan adventures.)

While a major air campaign remains a possibility, a more limited military action looks more plausible to me. In both Kosovo and Libya, there was an organized opposition capable of taking territory when supported by Western airpower. The situation in Syria is not nearly so promising. If the canonical test for using force is whether it contributes to a specific, desirable diplomatic settlement, Syria does not pass it. The opposition seems too fragmented to make use of the sort of air campaign of the sort we saw against Yugoslavia or Libya.

It seems far more likely that the Obama administration will settle for a one-off series of airstrikes, largely using cruise missiles, in order to reestablish deterrence against the further use of chemical weapons. (And, perhaps, make good on the president’s blustery talk.) There is a direct historical precedent to such an operation — Operation Desert Fox, which the Clinton administration launched against Iraq in 1998. Although Desert Fox was far from perfect, it offers a useful model of limited use of force over a period of days that might degrade Syria’s capability to use chemical weapons and discourage Assad’s commanders from repeating the carnage at Ghouta without committing the United States to long-term involvement in the country’s civil war.

***

In an operation some policy analysts have used as a template, the United States and NATO allies started a bombing campaign in 1999 in an effort to stop ethnic cleansing and drive Serbian forces from Kosovo. American diplomat Christopher R. Hill, who was dispatched as a special envoy to Kosovo, said there was an expectation that U.S. military intervention would be short and decisive. Some thought the bombing campaign would last a few days, Hill said, but it dragged on for 78.

“The problem is that people expect when U.S. military assets are deployed that we will do so until the regime goes away,” he said.

Hill said he understands and supports the White House’s desire to launch a strike, but with a major caveat.

“The problem with Syria is that it’s bombing in the absence of a political plan,” said Hill, who worries that the government of President Bashar al-Assad could respond with even more chemical attacks. “I think we’re opening a big door. Every time you drop bombs on something, you can’t entirely predict the results.”

***

Which makes us wonder why the Administration even bothers to pursue the likes of Edward Snowden when it is giving away its plan of attack to anyone in Damascus with an Internet connection. The answer, it seems, is that the attack in Syria isn’t really about damaging the Bashar Assad regime’s capacity to murder its own people, much less about ending the Assad regime for good.

“I want to make clear that the options that we are considering are not about regime change,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. Translation: We’re not coming for you, Bashar, so don’t worry. And by the way, you might want to fly those attack choppers off base, at least until next week.

So what is the purpose of a U.S. attack? Mr. Carney elaborated that it’s “about responding to [a] clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.” He added that the U.S. had a national security interest that Assad’s use of chemical weapons “not go unanswered.” This is another way of saying that the attacks are primarily about making a political statement, and vindicating President Obama’s ill-considered promise of “consequences,” rather than materially degrading Assad’s ability to continue to wage war against his own people.

***


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What’s the matter with you guys? What happed to having a strong foreign policy? Why all of a sudden don’t you guys want to go to war? Why not go to war in Syria and feed the military industrial complex? You guys need to stop acting like a bunch of crazy Ron Paul isolationists. This are America! We need to send a STRONG military message! If we do nothing; What message are we sending to our friends? We need to lead by example! We are the beacon of Freedom! No one messes with the US and gets away with it! We drew a line in the sand and that line was CROSSED! Assad used chemical weapons! Our government said so! What? You don’t believe your government? You must be a whacko “Conspiracy Theorist”! You’re not one of those cooky “Alex Jones” wacko’s are you? Let me guess…Our government runs Al-Qaeda too right? Oh’ shut up!…just because the rebels are made up of Al-Qaeda doesn’t mean anything. It’s okay if we arm Al-Qaeda in Syria, just don’t forget to walk through the body scanner next time you’re at the airport because Al-Qaeda could be inside your pants. Now let’s get back on track. If we do nothing we will look weak!…and we are NOT WEAK! We are America Dammit! We are the Freedom fighters of the world! The World’s Policeman! NOW SAY IT WITH ME…..USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

dom89031 on August 29, 2013 at 7:24 AM

Re: dom89031 on August 29, 2013 at 7:24 AM

The trolls are out early this morning. Who made too much noise crossing the bridge?

Happy Nomad on August 29, 2013 at 7:28 AM

Slightly OT but let’s not forget another problem for foreign relations and nuclear weapons. This is the guy Dennis Rodman thinks we just need to get on the basketball court with our dear leader. The whole story (posted on Drudge) is worth a read.

Hyon Song-wol, a singer, rumoured to be a former lover of the North Korean leader, is said to have been arrested on Aug 17 with 11 others for violating laws against pornography….

The reports in South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper indicate that Hyon, a singer with the Unhasu Orchestra, was among those arrested on August 17 for violating domestic laws on pornography.

All 12 were machine-gunned three days later, with other members of North Korea’s most famous pop groups and their immediate families forced to watch. The onlookers were then sent to prison camps, victims of the regime’s assumption of guilt by association, the reports stated.

Some of the musicians were also found to have bibles when they were detained and all were treated as political dissidents.

Happy Nomad on August 29, 2013 at 7:42 AM

dom89031 on August 29, 2013 at 7:24 AM

Wassamatta, Skippy? Mom not toast your Eggo yet, this morning? Just be patient, and go back to playing “Call of Duty”, like a good boy.

kingsjester on August 29, 2013 at 7:43 AM

My Take.

kingsjester on August 29, 2013 at 6:53 AM

…you are correct sir!
.
.
.

cmsinaz on August 29, 2013 at 6:31 AM

….oh gosh!…I’m starting to agree with it again!…twice so far this morning!…you think it has the correct meds?…and they’re working?

KOOLAID2 on August 29, 2013 at 7:48 AM

dom89031 on August 29, 2013 at 7:24 AM

…use the bathroom plunger on your head!….you’re a little backed up!

KOOLAID2 on August 29, 2013 at 7:50 AM

Happy Nomad on August 29, 2013 at 7:42 AM

Well, this is a bucket of water over the head for all those who thought (or wished) that Mini-Kim was somehow either “moderating” or “weakening”.

He’s already purged his officer corps of anyone suspected of anything less than total loyalty to him, personally, including close associates of his father. Now, he’s purging anybody that either (a) is straying in any way from the true path of juche, (b) is even conceivably more popular than he is with the masses, and/or (c) his wife just doesn’t like.

Now consider what sort of reaction there would be in the military if he wasn’t in total control.

The masses don’t count- the military is there to machine gun them if they say anything.

The only question now is which way will he go next.

Will he try to reunify Korea once and for all, thereby fulfilling his grandfather’s demand to be entombed in Seoul? (Traditional capital of the Korean nation, IYDK.)

Will he “remake” the nation in an effort to make himself seem greater than his forebears? (“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!“)

Or will he content himself with purging and massacring his own people for the usual sociopathic/psychopathic reasons? (“All throats exist only so that I may cut them! The voices in my head tell me so!!“)

In short, are we looking at a Julius Caesar, a Nero… or a Caligula?

clear ether

eon

eon on August 29, 2013 at 8:09 AM

In short, are we looking at a Julius Caesar, a Nero… or a Caligula?

eon on August 29, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Interesting that Lenin or Stalin wasn’t one of your options. But, my guess is that the official goal will always be reunification on NorK terms. Since the other kids in the sandbox isn’t going to let such a large economy get under control of the Kim family franchise, the reality is that he’ll seek to glorify himself as exceeding the glories of dad and grandad.

Happy Nomad on August 29, 2013 at 8:25 AM

What a bunch of wishy washy screw ups we have in charge. Assad has had enough time to relocate everything he has in his arsenal, either to a different sand box or to Iran. I feel sorry for the ordinary people in his country but that’s why it is said that war is hell. Dear leader has moved our foreign policy to the being seen as doing something but not having a clear end game expected mode. Just like a puppy, he’s going to leave messes wherever he goes.

Kissmygrits on August 29, 2013 at 9:12 AM

Interesting that Lenin or Stalin wasn’t one of your options. But, my guess is that the official goal will always be reunification on NorK terms. Since the other kids in the sandbox isn’t going to let such a large economy get under control of the Kim family franchise, the reality is that he’ll seek to glorify himself as exceeding the glories of dad and grandad.

Happy Nomad on August 29, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Lenin or Stalin would be a reflex reaction. Also, they at least had something like a plan. Mini-Kim’s planning skills seem to be about at the level of the Underpants Gnomes from South Park.

I agree that self-glorification is Mini-Kim’s goal. But you have to consider what he, personally, defines as “glory”.

Julius defined it as conquering Gaul, and ending the factional disputes in Rome by the proverbial Any Means Necessary. Which he did. (Vercingetorix could speak with some feeling on the subject of Gaul- if Caesar hadn’t had him executed, that is.)

Nero defined it as rebuilding Rome as a city of stone- after a massive fire that burned the place down. And oh yes, making everyone listen to his musical recitals, trying to murder his mother, and just having people killed more-or-less at random. His last words when committing (assisted) suicide were reportedly, “What a great artist the world loses with me!” As Colin Wilson observed (The History of Murder), Nero found himself endlessly fascinating, and would have been considered at best eccentric, at worst obviously unbalanced, but overall largely harmless as an average Roman citizen. As Caesar, it was a very different story.

As for Caligula (properly Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; “Caligula” was a childhood nickname meaning “little boot”), he had been raised in conditions of total luxury, over-indulgence, and decadence by his adoptive grandfather, Tiberius, who stated he was “nursing a viper for Rome’s breast”. And the lad certainly lived up to Grampa’s expectations.

As Caesar, young Gaius convinced himself he was a god. And defined “divine” behavior as doing whatever he wanted, to whomever he wanted, whenever he wanted. In his case, it generally involved sexual excess, torture, murder, and other behaviors consist with homicidal psychosis. In the modern world, as a commoner, he would very likely have been either a serial rapist, serial killer, or both.

Based on family history and social context, Mini-Kim is more like a Caesar than a Lenin, or Stalin, or even a Trotsky. I consider a Nero, or a Caligula, to be the most likely “outcome” in his case, with a Julius a rather remote but possible third.

I think the world is just fortunate that the little bastard doesn’t rule a bigger country, with more resources.

Then we might be looking at an Alexander. Or worse yet, a Napoleon.

cheers

eon

eon on August 29, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Happy Nomad on August 29, 2013 at 7:28 AM

kingsjester on August 29, 2013 at 7:43 AM

KOOLAID2 on August 29, 2013 at 7:50 AM

You guys are all way too cool.

dom89031 on August 29, 2013 at 4:24 PM

While American were under siege and a hot attack was underway in Benghazi, Obama, Panetta, and the US armed forces stood down! Panetta testified that “We can’t be 911 to the world”!! When the muzzie president’s buddies need him, the big O will attack! He should be impeached or tried for treason! It is so obvious that he is undermining this great country! He acts as the de facto leader of the Muslim Brotherhood! I do not want our military might fighting for them like they did in Egypt and Libya!! Wake up patriots!!

Marco on August 29, 2013 at 5:59 PM

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