Wednesday, August 28, 2013


A bag of nightcrawlers unearthed by BooMan: A letter by self-denominated "foreign policy experts from across the ideological spectrum" running in the Weekly Standard urging the president
not only to ensure that Assad’s chemical weapons no longer threaten America, our allies in the region or the Syrian people, but also to deter or destroy the Assad regime’s airpower and other conventional military means of committing atrocities against civilian non-combatants.  At the same [jump]
Royal Selangor Wormtongue wine flute.

time, the United States should accelerate efforts to vet, train, and arm moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition, with the goal of empowering them to prevail against both the Assad regime and the growing presence of Al Qaeda-affiliated and other extremist rebel factions in the country.
The "ideological spectrum" they're talking about is a little like the range of the actress of whom Dorothy Parker said that she ran the gamut from A to B, with former wunderkind Mickey O'Hanlon and ex-philosophe Bernard-Henri Lévi representing the Left (I guess Lévi is a kind of protohipster Gaullist, making him pretty far left by American standards, over there around Joe Lieberman, another signer). There's editor William Kristol, who seems of late to have taken to demonstrating his intellectual cred by calling himself "Dr. William Kristol" (Harvard 1979, in the rigorous field of "government"). What Boo noticed, putting a little knot of dread in my stomach, is that many of the same names appeared on the letter to President Clinton from the Project for a New American Century of January 1998 in which they launched their campaign to conquer Mesopotamia in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Market. This is a crowd of unrepentantly bloodthirsty scoundrels and frauds whose cumulative wrongness is comparable to that of the French establishment in 1870.

I'm not really worried yet. I think there are decent reasons for believing President Obama knows what he's up to here. He likes to say that the wars he's against are the "dumb wars" and the choice of Libya for his big response to the Arab Spring shows that he means it (it was the one place where intervention could have done more good than harm, and it seems to me that on balance it really did). Drone campaigns, in my view, are a mistake ("C'était pire qu'un crime, c'était une faute"), because no matter how many lives they save as opposed to ground troops, it doesn't seem that way to the population on whose heads the missiles are falling; they have a very bad effect on those famous "hearts and minds"—nevertheless the idea of it, the saving of lives, was a smart one. Vulcan-smart, so to speak, missing out on the emotional message.

He has also been smart, to date, in dealing with pressure, especially from Israel, to commit to very dumb adventures, especially in Iran—though as I've said before it seems pretty cold, the fearsome sanctions on Iran being more harmful to the population than a couple of bombing raids on remote areas could be. I think this is true for Syria as well.

The situation in Syria is far, far worse than the situation in Iraq 11 years ago. That was a terrible place above all for anyone suspected, rightly or wrongly, of opposing the regime, which in practice meant the educated, which meant the relatively well-to-do—those, in fact, who were able to escape to comfort in the West, as so many did (Saddam Hussein's genocidal terror against Kurds and Shiites had been calmed for years, largely thanks to Clinton's "no-fly zone"). Syria today is an unspeakably bad place for everybody. In that sense there is far more justification for attacking the Syrian regime than there was for the Iraqi one. But the question for the US has to be not whether we can "do something", but whether doing something can do any good.

The president seemed to have concluded that it couldn't, for reasons that ought to be much clearer to people like O'Hanlon and the Kagan clan than to me (if that "expert" tag meant anything) but somehow aren't: the monocultural character of the opposition in a densely multicultural country, the inability of opposition forces to unite, the deeply unsuitable terrain. The purpose of that Red Line, warning Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons, was to say something instead; to settle moral qualms by making a commitment that wouldn't in the end be tested. Of course the thing is that dictator thugs are stupid people, too stupid even to play a game of chicken properly. So here we are anyhow.

If Obama's war plans are strictly to "send a message"—they've figured out, apparently, that they'd better not bomb the actual chemical weapons and kill thousands in a poison emergency—what happens if, or when, Bashar doesn't listen? I hope it doesn't mean listening to what criminal Elliott Abrams and idiot Douglas Feith ("fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth") say in the Weekly Standard.
Grima by Lego.

It's a tad confusing, but reassuring at the same time... Chemical weapons are evidently a threat to world security that must be dealt with, even if deployed by a country that hasn't signed the treaty. Sounds like a plan to me, as a non-lawyer, but I bet countries with hundreds of nuclear weapons that refused to sign the NPT (hint: they have a disputed border with Syria!) will not be asked to obey.

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