No Time For Silence – What If Syrian War Not Limited?

(1) yeats second comingThe drums go bang as the war liking secretary of state hyperbolic statement informs us: “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.” 

the symbols clang when the defense secretary brags to us“assets [are] in place” and the Pentagon is prepared “to fulfill and comply with whatever option” ;

the horns they blaze away as Senator Graham notes: “We need to come up with a plan to secure these weapons sites, either in conjunction with our partners [or] if nothing else by ourselves.” Asked about sending in U.S. troops toward that goal, he said, “absolutely.”

McCain pumps the old bassoon advisingthat this is now a regional conflict;

while Obama the pipes do play like the Pied Piper of Hamelin the peace prize winner is piping: “If we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, ‘Stop doing this,’ this can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term” (my emphasis)

And Joey Biden tootles the flute about Those who use chemical weapons against defenseless men, women and children should and must be held accountable,

And the music is somethin’ grand, yes the music of war always warms the hearts of those who have never worn the uniform.

Discredit to old America is another War at hand.

Anyone who has studied just a little history and knows something about the Boer War of 1899 will recognize the same beat repeating itself over and over again in the media that becomes the cheerleader for the government. At least back in 1899 almost the whole British nation courtesy of the jingoistic press was for the war. That the media can make the case for endless wars we only have to look back at the Iraq war. Even though the majority in America now opposes attacking Syria, the folk will change their minds seeing the rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air.

Today, even though the Americans are tired of twelve years of war the media and war profiteers aren’t. It doesn’t take a genius to see that war has been good to Washington, DC. A confused president is being pushed to attack another Middle Eastern Country. It is noted that the voices against war have been silenced: Yet the Western mainstream media, which has obviously learned nothing from their past cheerleading on behalf of Team USA prior to the Iraq debacle, is now – as if war in an age of nuclear weapons no longer warrants sober-minded reflection – sounding the bugle charge against a sovereign state before the United Nations provides the world with its official report.

This headlong rush to war against President Assad – underwritten as it is by terrorists, statesmen and journalists alike – is all the more incredible when even a child may comprehend that the rebels had much more to gain from a chemical weapons being used in Syria than did the forces loyal to Assad.”

Ominously, Colin Powell, the general who did the masterful job spelling out fictitious facts to the UN and to the American people when he said on February 5, 2003: “We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more,” is not on board the president’s train.

It was played up in the media that in a recent interview he called Assad a “pathological liar.” Not highly noted was that in the same interview he rightly states: “We shouldn’t go around thinking that we can really make things happen. We can influence things, and we can be ready to help people when problems have been resolved or one side has prevailed over the other. These are internal struggles and parties insides those countries will have to sort it out amongst themselves.”

The president tells us:we don’t have good options, great options, for the region.” He also states: “then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal, that in fact, it better not do it [use chemical weapons] again. And that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and, you know, it doesn’t, obviously end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria.” 

It certainly won’t end the death of innocent civilians because we’ll be adding to their killing.  Here’s my problem with sending signals. Sometimes the wrong message is received. So I’m really truly bothered by the law of unintended consequences.

I read in the Guardian that “Britain and the US are finalising plans to launch limited punitive military strikes at the end of the week . . . .”  I read in the Washington Post, “President Obama is weighing a military strike against Syria that would be of limited scope and duration, designed to serve as punishment for Syria’s use of chemical weapons . . . .”  The president said: “And if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about –  . . . ” (my emphasis)

I have yet to read that Syria has agreed with the president that it will have a limited response to these attacks. Assad has said: “No doubt they can wage wars, but they cannot predict where they will spread or how they will end.” His full interview is worth reading. I take from it is his lack of braggadocio and his keeping his cards close to the vest a talk softly approach. It almost seems as if he is indifferent to whether we attack or not. It’s like he knows that the folly of our thinking may bring about some unpleasant results to us like plunging us into a massive conflagration.

Iran, as expected, issues dire threats against Israel. Israel will not sit back. It will go hard after anyone who is an aggressor against it. It lusts for any good excuse to hit at Iran and drag us along. Russia lurks in the background as a wild card. Much is up in the air. Perhaps the peace of the world.

I have to agree with Andrew Bacevich. He urges we stop and think what we are doing. “Yes. I think that’s indicative of how unserious this military action is. The real issue we ought to be discussing is not Syria but U.S. policy toward the Middle East more broadly. To think that anything we do vis-à-vis Syria is going to redeem the failures of U.S. policy that have occurred over the last 10, 20, 30 years is an illusion. So it’s time to step back. It’s time to evaluate how a long series of U.S. military actions in the Middle East have failed to provide stability, have failed to promote democracy, have cost us an enormous amount. It’s time for us to step back, rethink, try something different instead of this continuous reliance on military power as the preferred instrument of U.S. policy.”

I’d add, has also gained us many more enemies than friends. This is not the time for foolish actions or shots across the bow. We have to recognize that there was a limited action on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo. That limited action spawned a war that brought about 16 million deaths and 20 million more casualties as well as the mishmash of nations where we squander our nation’s wealth.

I hope and pray this is not the time. But some day after the USA makes one of its limited responses we will see: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, . . .”  

 

24 thoughts on “No Time For Silence – What If Syrian War Not Limited?

  1. Matt –
    I’M GLAD TO SEE THAT THE END OF WHITEY HAS NOT ENDED YOUR THOUGHTFUL BLOG. I WOULD ADD TO YOUR LATEST – ON LOOMING WAR IN SYRIA – THAT THERE IS HISTORY AND THERE IS “HISTORY”. I WAS TAUGHT IN HIGH SCHOOL, BY A FULLY CERTIFIED TEACHER OF “HISTORY”, THAT THE CRUSADES WERE A POSITIVE THING, AND THAT THE U. S. OF A. HAS ALWAYS, ALWAYS, BEEN THE GOOD GUY.
    WE HAD A RIGHT-THINKING (BOTH SENSES) FELLOW HERE IN CAROLINA WRITE TO THE LOCAL PAPER, THREATENING TO PULL HIS KIDS OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOL BECAUSE HISTORY TEACHERS WERE SUGGESTING TO THEIR STUDENTS THAT THE CHEROKEES HERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN BADLY TREATED. THAT NOTION WAS NOT IN ACCORD WITH “HISTORY” AS HE HAD LEARNED IT.
    YOUR READERS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN READING SOME HISTORY (NO QUOTE MARKS – THE REAL DEAL), SHOULD STUDY HOWARD ZINN’S A PEOPLES’ HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. SORRY, FANS, BUT ZINN DEMONSTRATES PERSUASIVELY, WITH AMPLE CITATIONS TO THE HISTORICAL RECORD, THAT WE HAVE RARELY BEEN THE GOOD GUYS, AND THAT ALL, ALL ALL, OF OUR WARS, WHETHER DENOMINATED AS SUCH OR AS
    “PEACEKEEPING ACTIONS” OR WITH OTHER FOCUS-GROUP-APPROVED LABELS, HAVE BEEN ABOUT FURTHER ENRICHING THE RICH, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE NOT-RICH. WHEN THE SABERS START TO RATTLE, ASK YOURSELF: WHO PROFITS FROM THIS? AND WHO DIES?

    1. Tom:

      Thanks for the comment. I’m sure you feel very comfortable that you buddy John Kerry is in the forefront of this war movement. The smartest thing the people who like war did was to do away with the draft and starting up a volunteer army from the good kids who couldn’t survive economically other than going into the service. Then when you have this less than 1% of the population adversely affected by the war, you can go on and have war whenever you wish. The rest of us remain unaffected by it, unlike during the Vietnam era, so the great majority no longer cares since for all most of us know these wars are fought on television and our routines are not affected. Some day we might bite off a little more than we can chew. This may be the time.

  2. Matt, I agree wholeheartedly with your informative real-world historical perspective. A brilliant analysis. (2) B.U. Professor Zinn is good, but far from being the only historian who has criticized the USA’s excesses while recognizing all the good it has done in the world. Necessary, justifiable wars: The Revolution; The War of 1812; the Civil War; World War II; the Korean War 1950-53. Unnecessary military actions with Needless loss of human life and American lives: World War I, Vietnam, Beirut (1983-October is Anniversary of Beirut Memorial at North End’s waterfront Columbus park; Eleven Massachusetts Marines killed and several hundred other Marines killed because some FED ordered no bullets be given to Marines guarding a base); and Iraq. Throw in questionable actions: Mexican-American War, Spanish-Am War, Philippine Insurrection, and our involvements in Libya, Uganda (100 special forces)et al. Also deplorable and condemnable international actions include our putting ” loafers on the ground (CIA-NSA-DIA-types”) and military advisers throughout the world. We’ve become British Imperialists intermeddling in everyone’s affairs. We should sever our ties with Imperialists in Britain, France and here at home.
    (2) Treason is defined as “giving aid and comfort to the enemy in a time of war’. (A) Al Queda and its affiliates are our enemies in this War on Terror, i.e. America’s war with Muslim Terrorist Jihadists who want to kill us (viz: Boston Terrorist Attack.) B. The rebels in Syria are substantially comprised of Al Queda and its affiliates. C. The FEDs have been giving aid to Syrian rebels for months and been militarily training rebels in Turkey for months, and now we plan to hit the “Syrian Regime” with 200 missiles, which mostly benefits the rebels. C. By inescapable logic, the FEDS are in a continuous state of giving aid and comfort to our enemy the Al Queda jihadists, and therefore it seems incontrovertible that our FEDs are actively in a State of Treason against the American people.

    1. William:

      1. The Fed who ordered Marines not to have live ammunition was Ronald Reagan. As your list point out we’re going to have to change the words to the song “It’s a Grand Old Flag” to “forever in war has it waved.” Do you know America has been in more major wars than all other nations combined since the end of WWII.

      2. We don’t really care who wins in Syria as long as the people keep fighting. If Assad falls down there will be nothing good that replaces him – most likely a Sunni Muslim group that will take revenge on the Christians who have supported Assad.

  3. Matt, you also know my view that we are in a state of war against Narco-Terrorists: thousands of Americans die every year from narcotics transported from Afghanistan, via Turkey, via Kosovo (remember our friends the KLA) via Mafia-type groups into New Jersey, New York and then throughout America. Our FEDs have allowed the international Narcotics trade to flourish inside this country for over forty years. On this count, too, I believe the FEDS are acting negligently, grossly negligently at least, in not protecting we the people from this inundation of narcotics, which is largely controlled by Muslims, who by the way, are deeply involved in distribution, but who refrain generally from using drugs themselves. Muslim Jihadists have boasted about their role in killing American young people and adults via drug-trafficking.

    1. William:

      The war against Norco-Terrorist ended years ago with a big surrender.

      I don’t blame the Muslims for the narcotic problem.

      1. Matt I don’t blame Muslims, Christians or Jews for Narco-trafficking. I blame Muslim drug traffickers—the pipeline goes from Afghanistan through Turkey, Armenia, Kosovo, to European and eventually American drug traffickers. Muslims, including Chechnya Muslims, “Russian” Muslims, Middle Eastern Muslims, Balkan Peninsular Muslims and our own home grown USA Muslims play a major role in heroin trafficking, along with MAFIA-types and Old-IRA-UDF-BRIT-English-French Gangster types. Who I do blame for hard drugs inundating America are the FEDs for failing to keep foreign grown/processed hard drugs out of our American cities and towns, and out of the hands of American teenagers and young adults.

        1. William:

          Ain’t no Muslims in the Oxycontin business or in Colombia and South America. The Burmese and Laotians are big heroin producers. Why don’t you blame the people who demand the product? Armenia is a Christian nation as are the European nations.

          I think you are very wrong in labeling one religious group as being responsible for the problem.

  4. Ron Paul asked the question what happens if we accidently kill a group of Russians? He also pointed out that this is a civil war in an area where the various factions have been fighting for thousands of years. It has nothing to do with America or her vital interests. If this escalates should we have a nuclear war with Russia over who controls an insignificant place like Syria. BHO can’t be that naïve can he ? He went to Columbia and Harvard. Because he rode the red line while a student he felt he had to draw a red line for Syria. His foreign policy is an offshoot of the public transportation system in Boston. Ben Franklin said commerce with all and war with none. BHO should follow that sage advice. When Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt in 1956 Ike stopped that war by threatening sanctions against the aggressors. He also stopped the Korean war. Our best president Reagan pulled out of Lebanon and the Middle East. Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Coolidge, Ike and Reagan all avoided foreign wars. The incompetent presidents plunged us into conflict. ( FDR, Wilson, LBJ. Truman, Bush 1, Bush 2, Clinton and BHO ) 2. Are we going to war in the Middle East because of WMD? Haven’t we seen that movie before? Col. Scales was asked what would be the military impact of this planned surgical strike. He said minimal. Why engage in tokenism? Middle East oil may be important to Europe and China but has little consequence to the U.S. Why support AL Quaeda?

    1. N:

      1. The best answer to Ron’s question is no one knows. It is a civil war and we are being led by people who have no idea of the ultimate consequences.

      2. The Red Line of the MBTA did play a big role in Barak’s life – he got on at Ashmont, went on through Columbia and got off at Harvard. He never forgot that and he followed up by naming things after the help it gave him. He didn’t say he was drawing a red line at the use of chemical weapons, he said he was riding the red line when he went to buy his chemistry textbooks.

      3. Reagan pulled out of Lebanon. Who put our forces into Lebanon? Reagan attacked Grenada. I see you suggest we never should have gotten into that war that FDR got us into. Was it your friend Pat B who said we got in on the wrong side? Jefferson sent us to the shores of Tripoli. I somehow think Washington fought the French and Indians. You forget the song; “In 1812 we took a little trip along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.” Then there was Abraham apparently not up to the standard of Ronnie.

      4. We’re going to war in the Middle East because war keeps the home fires burning.

      1. War eats the homes’ fires, kills innocents and makes all of us poorer via increased taxes and mega-dispiriting of the American People. But you’re right the Neo-Cons, Obama-philes, Military-Industrial Complex (Raytheon sells missiles for about $2 million each), the go-along corrupt media, the scaredy-cat Congress and the International Corporations (Big Oil; Big Pipelines; Big Metals) all think War is fine, dandy and fun. When will we end American Imperialism? If a liberal Democratic President won’t refrain from Imperialism World-Cop-ism and Officious International Intermeddling, what hope is there? Even Krauthamer is demanding the President get approval from Congress. But the Prez apparently doesn’t care about Constitutional Constraints.

  5. Dien Cai Dau (crazy in the head)

    Tongues of fire stab the sky;
    fiery discharge from the mouths of serried bells

    Thunder rumbles through still air;
    death’s express trained on someone’s nowhere.

    Dark clouds roil in the distance;
    destruction’s twisted smoke.

    A shrill bird sings.
    The pockmarked face of mother earth
    recoils at the touch of invading ghosts.

    Foot follows foot through mud and tall grass;
    torment is a green maze.

    Turn, twist, walk in paranoid silence;
    nightmare topiary.
    No exit,
    only a door to Hell

    Lives rush past terror-filled eyes;
    spirits leak into the earth.
    There is no requiem—
    only keening women to pipe us on.

  6. The Syria mess shows how weak, feckless, and indecisive Obama is as a foreign policy president. Just like the green revolution in Iran in 2009, he failed to take a stance early on. Meanwhile, he insisted Al Qaeda is near defeat. Now, we have a civil war with Al Qaeda in control of the opposition. Obama has boxed himself into a corner with his “red line” statement, and now simply must carry through with a missile attack so as not to undermine American credibility. If he does not attack, rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran, and Syria will be emboldened. This harms the national interests of the U.S. It harms the national interests of allies like Israel and South Korea and Turkey. And yet it makes things worse because Obama has no real long-term strategy for dealing with the regional flare up. We fire a few missiles, and then what? Iraq became a mess because the Bush administration had no plan for post-war reconstruction and no appreciation of the sectarian divisions in Iraq, and did not foresee Al Qaeda’s ability to exploit the power vacuum. It wasn’t that Bush wanted to control Iraq for oil or some such nonsense. It was that Bush thought he could surgically remove a dictator and start anew, and all would be well. Surely Obama does not believe that we can launch a few missile strikes in Syria and all will be well?

    1. Jon;

      Obama is not a miracle man. He didn’t cause the Syrian civil war. The domino argument does not impress me. The people on television today saying other people are laughing at America even less so.

      Do you have a solution for what could be done? I listened intently today to all the naysayers and heard nothing but after the fact condemnations with now suggestions as to how something could have been done differently.

      You must understand no one has a plan for this area of the world. At one time we did, put in dictators and support the dictators military so they they will support the dictators and suppress the people. It worked well for a long period of time. We saw the mess of the Arab Spring and the Egyptian scare where we’ve managed to get rid of the elected representative and put the military back in to get back to the old formula.

      Red line or no red line the question now is can we a leader of a country unleash a gas attack on his people and do nothing. If the answer is no, then we should decide what we should do.

      1. Early on Obama could have been more directly involved in supporting and arming the opposition. He stayed on the sidelines while paying lip service support to peaceful demonstrations. Thus the Free Syria Army welcomed in the jihadists, who proved highly capable of waging an insurgency that we have now witnessed for over a year.

        Like it or not, America must assert leadership if we want a world in which liberal democracy, and not hostile autocratic regimes, is the norm. This does not mean boots on the ground or entrenched military involvement. But it does mean having a strategy and a willingness to engage in the world. Obama has nothing. And neither apparently does Congress. The Repugs are just scoring political points.

        I think foreign policy is more complicated than “putting in dictators” or not. America has far too many interests at stake in the world to step back and sit on the sidelines – securing trade routes, collaborating with other governments in the fight against terrorism, opening markets, enforcing intellectual property rights, ensuring the flow of oil, etc. This requires ongoing collaboration with other countries and ensuring peace and stability.

        1. Jon:

          We can’t go back to “early on” and believe that had we done something then things may have been different. That is the argument I am hearing now but back then few were really making it because early on things did not look like they look now. It was suggested back before WWII that early on Anthony Eden could have done other than he did to stop Hitler. One can’t be sure of what prior acts not taken, like Robert Frost’s road, would have accomplish So I suggest it is best we deal with what we have now.

          America does need to lead but as I once learned when I confronted a group of toughs thinking I had backing from my friends only to turn around and see they were no longer standing behind me it can be pretty lonely standing there by yourself. We need other nations speaking our forcefully which we are not seeing. Why is it only in America the utilization of poisonous gas causes such outrage? If it is such a great world horror where are the rest of the voices?

          I agree with you that there is no grand strategy in America for dealing with the world outside of the use of armed force nor has there been one perhaps since 1989 when the Soviets fell. The idea that we support Israel which we should is not a grand plan for how we should act as a nation. Yes, America has grand interests and we have brilliant people but it seems we lurch from crisis to crisis dependent upon our military to enforce our will when facing difficulty.

          We do engage in ongoing collaboration but one thing we have not accomplished is to ensure peace and stability. Everything we have done seem to cause the opposite. The world doesn’t see us as a peaceful nation. How could it, we’ve been in wars almost continually since 1941. There’s something that is dreadfully missing. It is shown by the present difficulty we find ourselves in where we need the blessing of Israel to get a vote through in Congress. The best that can be said for Obama is his instincts are not to go to war. That is good, too many others want to strike first.

          1. Matt, this is really off topic but I didn’t find a better place to ask you this. I was reading about Annie Dookhan and the 40,000 cases involved with her and I was wondering if this is public information that anyone could obtain?

            If someone wanted to retrieve all of the cases currently being dismissed which Annie handled out of Norfolk County in the last several years could this be done? And would these cases which are being thrown out show the arresting officers or police departments?

          2. Question:

            I assume it is public information. I would suggest the best place to file a request is at the office that was set up under David Meier who seems to be the one responsible for collecting the information.
            http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2013/08/20/annie-dookhan-alleged-rogue-state-chemist-may-have-affected-more-than-people-cases-review-finds/asc53OgqHcQFEik4MLRpgI/story.html

            You may only be able to get from him a list of the cases.

            You may also write under the state’s public records law to the Norfolk District Attorney and ask him for all information that he can provide you about the matter. If he doesn’t comply you can go to the public records division that enforces the law.

            It is unlikely there would be a list of arresting officers but you could figure out the police department because it most likely would show the place the person was arrested. I’m not sure what type of records are being kept but Meier may be able to assist you.

          3. Matt,

            There’s a lot of moving parts in foreign policy. Given the scope of America’s role and interests in the world, it is inevitable that America will be blamed for many things by many parties. Whether the blame is warranted or not is endlessly discussed and debated by policy leaders, scholars, pundits, citizens, and the like. That is the burden of leadership. But if America does not lead, who will?

            Only France is supporting strikes. The UK is out. Germany has elections. Europe in general though is, as the great Margaret Thatcher said, “a weak lot”. So who do we turn to? Russia? China? Fat chance the world moves toward democracy, liberty, and open markets if those nations were at the helm.

          4. Jon:

            We don’t rule the world. Other nations are entitled to run their affairs as they see fit. We pretty much went it alone (with Britain and a few others) into Iraq and Afghanistan. No one elected America to lead. The idea when you live in a world made up of many nations is to achieve consensus if possible. We’ve become too emboldened by our military power and our ability to kill people from far off distances. You’ve got America on a pedestal even after our ventures in Vietnam and Iraq and think that those were examples of leadership.

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