In today’s Washington Post, two conservative congressmen, Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton, attempt to make the case for supporting Obama’s Syrian adventure. After laying out a very strong case of why we should not go along they make the following points:
First, U.S. credibility is at stake: Obama drew this “red line” a year ago. Some have criticized him for a reckless remark, but the criticism is misplaced.
Second, our country has a strong interest in preserving the international taboo against the use of chemical weapons.
Third, our allies are being weakened and our enemies emboldened.
Like many well meaning ideas they sound plausible until examined .
Actually our credibility is not at stake. We have none. The serial blundering of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, or as Maetenloch of Ace of Spades describes the Obama foreign policy team:
this particular collection of clowns, blowhards, naïve radicals, preening narcissists, high-functioning retards, and generally clueless-but-arrogant space-wasters.
has stripped the United States of the decades of progress made since Jimmy Carter was given his walking papers. Our credibility was burned with our consulate in Benghazi. It was shredded when we turned on a long term ally, Hosni Mubarrak, and rather than negotiate a way out of power for him we gave him to the Muslim Brotherhood. It was further knocked about when a US citizen was imprisoned by the rogue regime in North Korea. The idea of us taking action in Syria, at the scale proposed by the administration, will deter anyone, even Assad, simply strains credulity.
Yes, we do have an interest in preserving what the authors charmingly call the taboo on the use of chemical weapons. What they fail to state is how the actions proposed by the administration further the return to the status quo ante. We know the administration is not going to strike at Assad himself. We know the Syrians have dispersed their chemical munitions and more likely than not their non-tube artillery delivery systems into populated areas. We further know the administration, itself, does not take this seriously. They have said they want a strike “just muscular enough not to get mocked.” This means Assad is in no danger, the chemical weapons are in no danger, the delivery systems are in no danger, and the administration is only interested in a symbolic act.
Indeed, our allies are weakened and our enemies are emboldened. One might add, this is pretty much the national security platform that Obama ran on in 2008, so why one is suddenly surprised and the logically foreseeable outcome of the policies Obama deliberately put in place leaves me shaking my head in wonder at the naivete of it all. Representatives Pompeo and Cotton say:
Israel, our closest ally in the region, faces an existential threat from Iran and uncertainty in Egypt. The last thing Israel needs is Iran, Syria and Hezbollah on the march. Jordan, a close Arab ally and Israel’s partner in peace, is being destabilized by a massive influx of Syrian refugees. Turkey, our NATO ally, faces a similar refugee crisis.
The are correct. What they omit is the refugee problem was brought on by a civil war in Syria. A war that was aided and abetted in a most feckless manner by the Obama administration. A war that resulted in the annihilation of anyone we might want to be allied with in opposition to Assad and turned the revolt over to al Qaeda. The refugee problem has nothing to do with chemical weapons and is as much the fault of the Syrian opposition as it is the government.
As if Syria does not have enough war already, fighting recently broke out in the northeast of the country between Kurdish forces and radical Islamists — both of whom are no friends of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. In Ras al-Ayn, all the country’s problems come together: The town not only sits on the front lines of fighting between Kurds and Arabs, it is also located right on the edge of the Syrian-Turkish border. The Kurdish fighters in Syria are separated from Turkey’s border troops — traditionally the implacable enemies of any form of Kurdish separatism — by only a 5-centimeter-thick iron gate.
The result is a civil war within a civil war. As the United States prepares for a military intervention in response to what it says was an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime on the eastern Damascus suburbs, it is just these sort of divides that could give American policymakers headaches for months and years to come. While U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has signaled that any strike will not aim to topple Assad, deeper U.S. involvement in the country’s two-and-a-half-year civil war will mean more than a few Tomahawk missiles lobbed at military installations in Damascus – it will require grappling with the sectarian and ethnic divides that promise to define Syria’s future.
For the Kurdish fighters in Ras al-Ayn, there is no doubt which side the United States should support.
“We are fighting America’s war on terror right here on the ground,” says Kurdish fighter Dijwar Osman. “Our enemies are those al Qaeda fighters who want to destroy our 4,000-year-old Kurdish culture. These jihadists come from Belgium, Holland, Morocco, Libya, and other countries. Unfortunately, the U.S. and Turkey are on the side of al Qaeda, just like the U.S. was on al Qaeda’s side in Afghanistan during the ’80’s.”
Pompeo and Cotton don’t bother to mention that the Syrian rebels seem to be engaged in ethnic cleansing in Syrian Kurdistan which will inevitably further destabilize Iraq. Tossing a few TLAMs at Assad will do nothing to change the refugee situation. In fact, hitting Assad probably makes it worse.
Despite these core interests, many Republicans understandably don’t trust the president to take decisive action. We share the concern that Obama won’t execute a proper strategic response. We worry that his action will more resemble President Bill Clinton’s ineffective response to the 1998 African embassy bombings rather than the 1999 Kosovo campaign. But Congress shouldn’t guarantee a bad outcome for our country because of fears that the president will execute an imperfect military campaign.
This is a religious statement not a political one as it requires faith — the total belief in absence of proof — that Obama will do what they think should be done and NOT what he has announced he will do.
In fact, Pompeo and Cotton seem a lot more clear on what we are doing than anyone in the administration. From yesterday’s trainwreck of a hearing featuring Kerry, Hagel, and Dempsey as quoted in the Washington Free Beacon:
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey couldn’t answer what exactly the U.S. was seeking in Syria Tuesday during questioning from Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) about a resolution authorizing military action there:
DEMPSEY: The answer to whether I support additional support for the moderate opposition is yes.
CORKER: And this authorization will support those activities in addition to responding to the weapons of mass destruction.
DEMPSEY: I don’t know how the resolution will evolve, but I support –
CORKER: What you’re seeking. What is it you’re seeking?
DEMPSEY: I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.
In a letter to Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) Dempsey further elaborated:
The Obama administration is opposed to even limited U.S. military intervention in Syria because it believes rebels fighting the Assad regime wouldn’t support American interests if they were to seize power right now, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Effectively ruling out U.S. cruise missile attacks and other options that wouldn’t require U.S. troops on the ground, Gen. Martin Dempsey said in a letter to a congressman that the military is clearly capable of taking out Syrian President Bashar Assad’s air force and shifting the balance of the Arab country’s 2½-year war back toward the armed opposition.
But he said such an approach would plunge the United States deep into another war in the Arab world and offer no strategy for peace in a nation plagued by ethnic rivalries.
Representatives Pompeo and Cotton do not explain why they think beclowning the United States furthers the goal of deterring the use of chemical weapons. At its best, they are advocating sending a message of some sorts to Assad in the hope that he respects us enough to care. Hope is not a strategy. As the Air Force was fond of saying during the Vietnam era: if you want to send a message use Western Union.