The horrors Obama warned would happen if he didn’t intervene in Syria are happening

posted at 1:21 pm on September 15, 2014 by Noah Rothman

History will come to regard President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on September 10, 2013 as a pivotal speech. In that address, Obama warned Americans about the dangers posed by a failure to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and of what an unwillingness to intervene in that rapidly worsening conflict could mean for the geopolitical order. He then went on to state why he would probably ignore his own advice.

While the president chose not to intervene in that conflict, Obama’s warnings regarding the threat the Syrian civil war posed to the world were not unfounded. It seems that the president’s failure to follow up on his own “red line” for action has yielded many of the consequences Obama warned would follow Western inaction.

“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” Obama warned in 2013. “As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them.”

“Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield,” he continued. “And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.”

Well, American troops have not yet encountered Syrian chlorine gas – an “undeclared” chemical weapon which Assad’s forces have retained and used on multiple occasions with total impunity for over a year – but local populations in Iraq reportedly have. According to The Wall Street Journal’s correspondent in Baghdad, Iraqi security forces came under chemical attack by ISIS militants.

The report is unconfirmed, and it is worth considering it with skepticism in mind. It is, however, not inconceivable that the Islamic State, which has telegraphed its intention to secure nonconventional weapons in a variety of ways, has secured some weaponized chlorine from Assad’s forces.

The over 1,000 American “boots on the ground” in Iraq, and the thousands more who will be introduced into Iraq and Syria (whether Washington acknowledges them or not) may soon be imperiled by the regional chemical war Obama’s inaction unleashed.

“If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel,” Obama warned. None of these countries have been directly attacked with a chemical weapon yet, but it seems to only be a matter of time. Turkey is taking preventative action by calling on the United Nations to take action over Assad’s “systematic and repeated” use of chlorine gas.

“The use of chlorine gas by the Syrian regime once again reveals the threat it poses to regional and international peace and stability,” Turkey’s foreign minister warned on Sunday. His words virtually echo those Obama spoke just one year ago, repudiating the so-called success associated with Syria’s surrender of its declared nerve agents.

Obama also warned that, with the international norm prohibiting the use of WMDs having been violated, other dictatorial leaders may appeal to their use when facing internal or regional instability. At the very least, it will be harder to deter foreign leaders from violating the WMD taboo after it has been clearly demonstrated that the international will to impose consequences on the violators does not exist.

“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong,” Obama closed one year ago. “But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.”

But he did not act. One year later, Obama was again addressing the nation about the need to combat the threat to international security in the Middle East. By then, the threat had evolved from a Syrian civil war into a regional conflict. Assad remains a problem, but the Islamic State born out of that war is now a bigger threat to international security and human dignity.

Obama warned us, but he did not take his own advice. The consequences of inaction have never been clearer.


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Comments

Golfmeiser went golfing this weekend.

Schadenfreude on September 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

Maybe Uncle Putie can bail him out again.

Ward Cleaver on September 15, 2014 at 1:23 PM

I say we take off and nuke the ME from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

Vanceone on September 15, 2014 at 1:23 PM

Yes Noah horrible things happen in war. To save lives of their troops, some governments have been known to have dropped nuclear bombs on cities. Is a nuclear bomb better? should Assad start working on that nuke to end the war once and for all?

Inquiring mind wants to know.

coolrepublica on September 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

But who is it that is committing the atrocities the most – the people Obama wanted to bomb, or the people Assad is now fighting?

If he had bombed Assad, that would have made ISIS that much stronger.

HugoDrax on September 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

The horrors Obama warned would happen if he didn’t intervene in Syria are happening

Are you friggin’ kidding me…

You mean the civil war that Obama started because he wanted Assad out…so he could assist his Saudi friends in building their pipeline thru Syria…

The same guy that wanted Qadaffi out…and look how that turned out…

The same guy that wanted Mubarak out…look how that turned out…

Give me a break Noah…get you head out of your ass…

PatriotRider on September 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM

It’s almost like this Obama fellow had zero executive experience and got affirmative actioned throughout his life.

jukin3 on September 15, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Golfmeiser Golfmeister went golfing this weekend.

Schadenfreude on September 15, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Chemical weapons?

I thought there weren’t any in Iraq or Syria?

BUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHH.

PappyD61 on September 15, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Obama warned us, but he did not take his own advice. The consequences of inaction have never been clearer.

The consequences of action would be even worse. What Obama and the likes of you were willing to do was to take action against Assad – putting America shoulders to shoulders with these jihadist barbarians.

Ousting Assad was a huge mistake as those of us who can actually use our brain and not just our emotions – those of us who aren’t either rabid chicken-hawks or raging non-interventionists- realized and cautioned about back then.

There are times to take action. There are times to stay inactive. This was clearly one of later.

joana on September 15, 2014 at 1:35 PM

Yes, Noah, if only we had bombed Assad last year and turned Syria into a Jihadist cul-de-sac like Libya so the JV Team Youtuber-Stars of ISIS could develop into a cross-border regional threat that much faster.

U.S. people were right to oppose Obama then. Those who oppose Obama now in his plan to turn the U.S. air force into a Shia Mercenary Front are right too.

Hey, does anyone remember when this was a serious blog?

casuist on September 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Bombing Assad would have done little – just like bombing ISIS is like applying a band-aid to a shooting artery. As long as he is president – the flood gates are open.

djl130 on September 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

How can you possibly write this article without even mentioning that congress wouldn’t even put Syrian intervention to a vote?

dear sweet jesus have you no shame?

everdiso on September 15, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Hey, does anyone remember when this was a serious blog?

casuist on September 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Hmmm, what day did Mr. Rothman come onboard to share his nuanced views on foreign policy, views honed by years of statecraft and deployment to the troubled regions of the world, with us?

dreadnought62 on September 15, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.
 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/31/statement-president-syria

 
And all because he didn’t want to take the heat if/when it went sideways.
 
Shame he only has convictions to do what’s “right” against Americans he disagrees with politically.

rogerb on September 15, 2014 at 1:45 PM

According to The Wall Street Journal’s correspondent in Baghdad, Iraqi security forces came under chemical attack by ISIS militants.

Hey, you think it “just might” have been them, or their and John McCain’s friends that used them in Syria too?

VorDaj on September 15, 2014 at 1:45 PM

How can you possibly write this article without even mentioning that congress wouldn’t even put Syrian intervention to a vote?
 
dear sweet jesus have you no shame?
 
everdiso on September 15, 2014 at 1:42 PM

 
Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.
 
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/31/statement-president-syria

 
Ha. Thanks for your help, everdiso.

rogerb on September 15, 2014 at 1:48 PM

The horrors Obama warned would happen if he didn’t intervene in Syria are happening

Are you friggin’ kidding me…

Give me a break Noah…get you head out of your ass…

PatriotRider on September 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Indeed. Actually, the horrors that GWB, and even RMoney warned would happen if Obama’s policies were enacted – ARE HAPPENING. Seriously, Noah.

Harbingeing on September 15, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Damn racist cops, they should… wait;

Damn Bush, he…

Oh hell, what’s the f*ckwitted troll line of the day? I can’t keep these straight in order to make fun of them appropriately.

Midas on September 15, 2014 at 1:50 PM

How can you possibly write this article without even mentioning that congress wouldn’t even put Syrian intervention to a vote?

dear sweet jesus have you no shame?

everdiso on September 15, 2014 at 1:42 PM

Oh, the irony.

Midas on September 15, 2014 at 1:51 PM

Noah,
Al Nusra and ISIS have long been in the business of making their own chemical weapons. This was not “stolen” from the Syrian Government. Sy Hersh wrote two outstanding pieces last year detailing the activities of the muslim extremists in Syria and their efforts to build and use chemical weapons.

NQJohnson on September 15, 2014 at 1:52 PM

… failure to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons …

Sorry but, there is still no EVIDENCE that Assad has used chemical weapons.

Pork-Chop on September 15, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Please Noah …

Ease up on the coffee. Your one man “jihad” to get us all into a Holy War is getting old bro. We get the picture.

You want us to war with ISIS … keep the Russians out of Ukraine … eject the Russians from Georgia … keep the Russians from taking back any of the other states of the FSU … keep the Iranians at bay … keep the NORKS at bay … stop Chinese aggression in the China sea … fight the Taliban … and handle anything else that comes up on the side.

Just be responsible and start advocating a draft will ya?

Because – that’s what it will take.

HondaV65 on September 15, 2014 at 1:53 PM

Everditzo, wake up already, you derelict fool.

Awakening

Schadenfreude on September 15, 2014 at 1:53 PM

You have to wonder is some of the Sunni Ba’athists in Iraq knew of where Saddam put some WMD or if they hauled some off to a secret stash.

We don’t know the source of these gas weapons yet. Assad seemed to have very good control of them.

As for whether this is weaponized chlorine gas, that seems highly speculative but there have been a few reports.

Yahoo: Syria’s chemical weapons wild card: chlorine gas, 4/22/14

… In the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita in the central province of Hama, 125 miles north of Damascus, opposition activists uploaded video of people choking and being fed oxygen following what they said were bombs dropped from helicopters on April 11 and 12.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the videos, and activists regularly make similar claims, but further footage of canisters provided an indication of what had happened.

One of the canisters had only partially exploded, and the marking CL2 was written along its side. CL2 is the symbol for chlorine gas. Also visible was “Norinco” – China’s biggest arms maker.

Repeated calls to China North Industries Group Corporation, or Norinco, went unanswered.

Canisters pictured in three separate areas were all painted yellow – complying with international standards on industrial gas color codes indicating chlorine. …

Toocon on September 15, 2014 at 1:57 PM

More drivel from Noah “Pea-Brain” Rothman.

Ted the Average on September 15, 2014 at 1:57 PM

But wait, Assad’s a reformer or something.

Midas on September 15, 2014 at 1:58 PM

Hey everdiso, did you ever figure out how long (R)s were elected to create and oversee the policies of the racist and sexist police departments in Los Angeles?
 
http://hotair.com/archives/2014/09/14/actress-daniele-watts-handcuffed-for-failing-to-show-id-to-police/comment-page-7/#comment-8523842

rogerb on September 15, 2014 at 1:58 PM

History will come to regard President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on September 10, 2013 as a pivotal speech. In that address, Obama warned Americans about the dangers posed by a failure to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and of what an unwillingness to intervene in that rapidly worsening conflict could mean for the geopolitical order. He then went on to state why he would probably ignore his own advice.

Noah, you’re such an imbecile it’s a wonder you even remember to breath. ISIS exists because the Obama Administration “COVERTLY” provided money, weapons and ammo to the “Syrian Rebels”, who by the way… ARE ISIS. What the HELL do you think Benghazi was all about?

oscarwilde on September 15, 2014 at 1:59 PM

This thread is a JV moment.

butch on September 15, 2014 at 2:05 PM

I just don’t know why this didn’t work? She covered her fugly head and everything.

rhombus on September 15, 2014 at 2:05 PM

So, Noah Rothman, who writes continuously about the horror of ISIS, thinks Obama should have gone after Assad last year….which would have hastened the rise of ISIS.

Good logic, Noah.

Bitter Clinger on September 15, 2014 at 2:05 PM

True, but then as now Obama couldn’t find consensus either domestically or internationally. And the reason he turned to a Congressional authorization then was that, imo, he didn’t really want to go. Congress voted against him because his “monumentally small” intervention had the same problem his Iraq intervention does – an unrealistic strategy.

Which is why he’s not bothered asking their blessing regarding Iraq. He’s avoiding that debate. Or at least trying to.

Recon5 on September 15, 2014 at 2:07 PM

History will come to regard President Barack Obama’s address to the nation on September 10, 2013 as a pivotal speech. In that address, Obama warned Americans about the dangers posed by a failure to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons and of what an unwillingness to intervene in that rapidly worsening conflict could mean for the geopolitical order. He then went on to state why he would probably ignore his own advice.

What nonsense. There was a red line drawn for Assad and Obama didn’t respond. Apparenly chlorine gas is excellent for getting the red out.

In the last year, Obama has done his typical habit of dithering and ignoring the reality. ISO would have been far easier to contain had a certain lazy stupid rat-eard bastard not been asleep during his watch.

Happy Nomad on September 15, 2014 at 2:07 PM

This is so wrong. I despise Obama, but Noah has this upside down.

The one thing Obama does right is when he dithers on big foreign policy issues. Don’t do anything, Barack. Just stand there! Stay out of trouble.

It would have been good if Obama had spent a few more years dithering about Libya instead of going to war against the AUMF the way he did (we were supposed to be going after the terrorists, not Ghadafi, who was stomping the terrorists at the time).

If we had done what Obama thought we should do back then in Syria, ISIS would be far more powerful and dangerous than it is now, having overrun Assad and annihilated a significant portion of the Syrian population.

A little bump here helping the Kurds. A bit here and there helping others threatened by the Islamic State. A quick dash in to save the captured American … oops.

Obama needs to speed up on the little things, but drop to dead stop on big policy issues.

fadetogray on September 15, 2014 at 2:10 PM

This is so wrong. I despise Obama, but Noah has this upside down.

The one thing Obama does right is when he dithers on big foreign policy issues. Don’t do anything, Barack. Just stand there! Stay out of trouble.

It would have been good if Obama had spent a few more years dithering about Libya instead of going to war against the AUMF the way he did (we were supposed to be going after the terrorists, not Ghadafi, who was stomping the terrorists at the time).

If we had done what Obama thought we should do back then in Syria, ISIS would be far more powerful and dangerous than it is now, having overrun Assad and annihilated a significant portion of the Syrian population.

A little bump here helping the Kurds. A bit here and there helping others threatened by the Islamic State. A quick dash in to save the captured American … oops.

Obama needs to speed up on the little things, but drop to dead stop on big policy issues.

fadetogray on September 15, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Because the positive fruits of such behavior – the proof of your hypothesis – is clearly visible anywhere we’d care to look or something.

Midas on September 15, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Yes Noah horrible things happen in war. To save lives of their troops, some governments have been known to have dropped nuclear bombs on cities. Is a nuclear bomb better? should Assad start working on that nuke to end the war once and for all?

Inquiring mind wants to know.

coolrepublica on September 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Someone is pulling a Libfree and not reading the posts.

RickB on September 15, 2014 at 2:18 PM

Yes Noah horrible things happen in war. To save lives of their troops, some governments have been known to have dropped nuclear bombs on cities. Is a nuclear bomb better? should Assad start working on that nuke to end the war once and for all?

Inquiring mind wants to know.

coolrepublica on September 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Left on left debate, here on yooooooooooooour Hot Gas.

FrankT on September 15, 2014 at 2:25 PM

I still love the Blog.

But the quality, thoughtfulness, and intellect of the commenters has sunk to abysmal levels.

The comments sections are unrecognizable now. I can’t be the only one who remembers the early days when the blog opened as a vlog with Ms. Malkin’s weekly videos and a handful of commenters who were actually remarkably intelligent and articulate.

Now? Not so much.

On the plus side, its quite a bit easier to get things done at work. Back in the good old days, the comments were actually pretty addictively readable. So there’s that, I guess.

Professor Blather on September 15, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Professor Blather on September 15, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Your concern is duly noted.

Bitter Clinger on September 15, 2014 at 2:35 PM

Yes Noah horrible things happen in war. To save lives of their troops, some governments have been known to have dropped nuclear bombs on cities. Is a nuclear bomb better? should Assad start working on that nuke to end the war once and for all?

Inquiring mind wants to know.

coolrepublica on September 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

Strategic nukes are fine for hitting big, fat, stationery targets like cities and such; and tactical nuke are dandy for going after concentrations of armor and men and denial operations on the battlefield…but neither are very good or effective if the target one seeks spreads out among the local population. Unless, of course, one is prepared to discount collateral damage and adhere to a policy of Kill’em all and let God sort’em out.

Solaratov on September 15, 2014 at 2:36 PM

Professor Blather on September 15, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Damn, dude! I can’t begin to tell you how sorry I feel for you…all alone in that intellectual wasteland.

.
Ah, well. Fight the good fight.

Solaratov on September 15, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Sometimes it becomes clear that the real problem around here and similar forums is that you guys really aren’t very smart.

everdiso on April 29, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Schadenfreude on September 15, 2014 at 2:50 PM

Sometimes it becomes crysral clear that the real problem around here and similar forums is that you guys really aren’t very smart.

everdiso on April 29, 2014 at 4:27 PM

This is the actual comment.

Schadenfreude on September 15, 2014 at 2:51 PM

WTF??? You do realize that taking out the Assad regime would have made ISIS’ job more simple? Obama supported the ouster of dictators in Egypt and Libya. How’d that turn out?

ReaganWasRight on September 15, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Golfmeiser went golfing this weekend.

Schadenfreude on September 15, 2014 at 1:22 PM

Sing it!

I’m Mr. Golf Miser I’m Mr. Tee
I’m Mr. In-action, I’m Mr. In-ability.

They call me Golf Miser, whatever I touch.
Turns to $hi! it my clutch,

I’m Too Much!

BKennedy on September 15, 2014 at 3:06 PM

PatriotRider on September 15, 2014 at 1:30 PM

BINGO.

kozanne on September 15, 2014 at 3:15 PM

All of his own plans have been follies.

His continuations of Bush’s plans stabilized the rest of the mess.

But his own foolish Utopian dreams about the world now lead to Chaos.

The flower of weakness.

profitsbeard on September 15, 2014 at 3:18 PM

ISIS exists because the Obama Administration “COVERTLY” provided money, weapons and ammo to the “Syrian Rebels”, who by the way… ARE ISIS. What the HELL do you think Benghazi was all about?

oscarwilde on September 15, 2014 at 1:59 PM

I’ve believed that since day one.

kozanne on September 15, 2014 at 3:19 PM

Hey let’s go after ISIS with a shitty commander in chief leading us!

Hey … it could work?

LMAO

HondaV65 on September 15, 2014 at 3:53 PM

And yet the Russians intervened to make sure this wouldn’t happen, Noah.

Obama accepted that, too.

I warned that this would not make anyone safer and that Assad would give up some of his primitive unitary weapons for show, keep others in reserve and keep the good stuff, the spin mix in flight shells, in reserve. So far he has shown the use of unitary systems. There was no word of the spin mix in flight shells having been given up, nor of how you could ever figure out if a regime with so many underground facilities had actually gotten rid of them.

So what Obama warned about is one thing, and he agreed on a process to stop it. That process failed. He did not heed his OWN WARNINGS and instead accepted the magical panacea of diplomatic solutions. You would have had a real article of Obama just gave his middle finger to the Russians and told everyone that without regime removal and certification by treaty signatories by boots on the ground that the situation could NEVER BE RESOLVED. He didn’t do that and accepted diplomacy, instead. So if you want to make him all insightful and far seeing and everything, could you also mention that he didn’t follow through on his OWN WORDS and doubled down on stupid by accepting a RUSSIAN SOLUTION that solved nothing? Because if he had great insight in the one instance, he stepped on a rake in the front lawn in the second and should have seen it coming, too, yet he didn’t.

ajacksonian on September 15, 2014 at 4:00 PM

We shoulda took Assad out when we had the chance. Then ISIS could have access to ALL of Syria’s chemical weapons, lol.

xblade on September 15, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Disingenuous to say the least, Noah.
In other news, what’s Vlad Putin been up to these days?

leftamark on September 15, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Noah is just…the worst.

iwasbornwithit on September 15, 2014 at 6:31 PM

Hey, does anyone remember when this was a serious blog?

casuist on September 15, 2014 at 1:38 PM

Prepperidge Farms remembers.

RobertInAustin on September 16, 2014 at 4:58 AM