September 13, 2013

Obama still doesn't have a Syria exit plan

Update, Sept. 18: The UN investigation seems to tie the attacks to senior officers of President Bashar Assad. Whether they were following orders or not may still not be final, but the linked New York Times story indicates the answer is yes.

That said, per the oft-cited piece by William Polk at the Atlantic? His "cui bono" was, and still is, a good question. And, if part of why he wrote that piece was pushback, given America's generally poor history of regime change in the Middle East, the neocons leading the charge again on this one and Obama not having a Syria exit plan, which is the theme of this particular blog post, the shoot-first warmongers can still look themselves in the mirror.

Now, back to the original blog post.

For the sake of argument, I'm going to assume President Barack Obama (and the neoconservative fellow travelers, whichever way you cut who's in the lead on the fellow traveling) is right about the sarin attacks in Syria.

I'm going to assume they were all done by President Bashar Assad.


Are a few cruise missiles going to stop this? Probably not, not even if they kill him.

The rogue generals who I suspect as the most likely sarin users will simply take over.

Then what? If they didn't use sarin before, they surely will now, if they feel threatened by us.

So, do we use enough cruise missiles, plus bombs, to obliterate Assad's army, or the great majority of it?

Gee, at that point, the Syria we're allegedly trying to protect for democracy will hardly exist.

Let's give Obama and the neocons further benefit of the doubt, though. Let's say they can take out Assad AND his generals relatively "cleanly."

What then?

The Free Syrian Army? Thugs that are Assad rogue generals who went even more rogue and deserted? Thugs that make the post-Morsi army in Egypt look civilized?

And, our small modicum of CIA-trained freedom fighters aside, how do we guarantee the Free Syrian Army takes over?

Beyond that, as William Polk noted in his excellent Atlantic article, getting Assad out of the picture by no means guarantees the end of the civil war.

Don't doubt for a moment that Iran directly, and indirectly via Hezbollah, will exploit this just as much as in Iraq. They'll send whatever arms they can to the Shi'ite rebels.

What about the Kurds? Would the Kurdish Workers' Party from Turkey try to stir up Syrian Kurds just to cause more trouble for Ankara?

And we haven't mentioned al-Qaeda aligned Sunni groups.

The only way the US can guarantee the Free Syrian Army takes over is with ...

Wait for it ...

Boots on the ground.

Dear Leader has conveniently failed to mention that.

The neocons, along with Don Rumsfeld, claimed that massive boots on the ground wouldn't be needed in Iraq. And we saw how well that went.

In short, right now, this kind of sounds like one of those "dumb wars" that soon-to-be senatorial candidate Barack Obama spoke about in 2002.

So, why is Syria not a dumb war, unlike Iraq? Just substitute "Bashar Assad" for "Saddam Hussein" in this speech that ... er ... "some guy" made in Chicago in 2002, per that link above:
That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. 

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
Hear the petard winching up?

Are there certain principles worth fighting for? Definitely. But, again, you don't fight for them with "dumb wars." 

I'm not sure how much of the problem with "let's attack Assad" folks is idealism untempered by Realpolitik and how much of it is Obamiacs writing blank checks.

My anecdotal guesstimate says, even being generous to Dear Leader's faithful, is that it's 60 percent "running Obama up the flagpole" and 40 percent untempered, misguided idealism. A less generous estimate says that its 80-85 percent blind cheerleading. (And that's yet another reason I'm not a registered Democrat. Politics is neither a Beltway-covered horse race nor a fandom football game.)

That then said, going by my less generous estimate? If attacking Syria is not a dumb war, its one of those duplicitous wars that the neocons and Bush led us to in Iraq, or ....

It's a simply unorganized clusterfuck waiting to happen. In other words, a more confused Iraq, or a smaller Afghanistan.

Speaking of ... yes, we did, with the Iraqis, start the process of rounding up their chemical weapons years ago. But, that was after the original Gulf War. Maybe most our boots were no longer on the ground, but they had just been there, we had a no-fly zone in place, and other controls. It's not the same as today's Syria.

It's one thing for Obama to try to justify this "police action." It's a whole nother thing for him to explain how it will work.

And, replacing Assad with somebody better will only happen with boots on the ground, and not the boots of 50 or 100 Syrian "freedom fighters."

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