Michael's Dispatches

Syria: Outrage is Not a Strategy


02 September 2013


Never Go to War without the Support of Your People

In 2006, the talking points from London and Washington insisted we had won the war in Afghanistan, and Iraq was not in civil war.  To say otherwise was apostasy.

In 2006, British Defense Secretary John Reid was famously quoted on Afghanistan:

"We are in the south to help and protect the Afghan people construct their own democracy.

"We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction."

Adversaries made Mr. Reid’s comment more infamous by misquoting him that British forces would leave "without a single shot being fired."

By 2008, the British alone had fired 4 million shots.  They were just getting warmed up.  Nor was this the first British intervention in Afghanistan. Coalition Casualties from 2009-2012 eclipsed those from the first eight years by more than two-fold.  Today the casualties continue.  For what?

Reading the 2006 archives from Afghanistan, remembering that I was there in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, and recalling how the war grew, unveils a vast web of lies, fantasy, magical thinking, and political sorcery that is crazier than the most imaginative fiction.

Were so many politicians and military advisors lying?  Or were they just ignorant?

They get their information from briefings.  The people briefing the politicians get their information from other briefings, and those briefers get their information from reports, often written by people who never leave any base.

Is it any wonder that commanders go ape when a PowerPoint slide is not perfect?  They may need to cannibalize those slides for another briefing. Bad news is often attenuated: a messenger that delivers too much bad news will inevitably suffer for it.  Take that from a war correspondent. If you want to be loved, write about popular wars that we win, not unpopular wars that we fumble.  Write only about heroes, never about disgraces or war criminals.  The truth will not save you when it is bad news.  Commanders know this.  And so the typical message is, “We were winning when I was there.”

img002-1000State of Confusion: PowerPoint Slide on Afghanistan, 2009.

Swooping into Afghanistan for a briefing enables the decision-maker to claim the credibility of “I was there, talking with our commanders,” yet those briefings might as well have been teleconferences between the Pentagon and the White House, or from Earth to Mars.

A small number go the distance to verify ground truth.  One of them is Adam Holloway, former British Army officer turned investigative journalist, who then was elected to Parliament.

Mr. Holloway, without consulting his government, slipped into Afghanistan using his own funds, and he searched for the seeds of truth using his own hands.  I met Adam there by chance one day on a gravel airstrip at Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2006.  Shortly before the war really began.

The giant British base of Camp Bastion was under construction deep in the desert of Helmand. I photographed the first aircraft to land on the runway, which was built by my friend, Steve Shaulis.  The RAF C-130 landed with no complications.  There was not even a fence around the runway.

This was still 2006, when there were practically no defenses around Bastion.

Six years later, during the moonless night of 14 September 2012, Taliban fighters infiltrated the now heavily fortified Camp Bastion and wiped out most of a squadron of US Marine Harrier jets.  Marine Sgt. Bradley Atwell was killed defending the squadron, as was the Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible.

img003-1000Sgt. Bradley Atwell and Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, Rest in Peace.

Despite thousands of Coalition casualties by 2012, commanders still so underestimated the enemy that they left guard towers unmanned. It was a costly mistake.

For more on that 2012 attack: Afghanistan: When the Moon sets, Watch out

In 2006, Mr. Holloway returned to the UK and asserted that it was a mistake to deploy troops.  War was on the winds.  Mr. Holloway and I were not magical meteorologists foretelling next year’s hurricane season; we were saying clearly that Hurricane Afghanistan was formed.  The only reason you do not see it, is because you are not here, nor are most of those folks making the PowerPoints.

While Mr. Holloway raised the alarm in London, I flew back to America and I wrote twelve major dispatches warning that we were losing the war in Afghanistan.  We became unpopular men for delivering bad news.

Adam stood his ground.  And over the last seven years, he earned my respect and we became friends. I sometimes ask Adam for his views.

With Syria reaching full pitch in 2013, allegations that President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on 21 August against his own people roiled the airwaves.

A year after the Benghazi attack that claimed our Ambassador and other Americans, we still have few answers.  Speculation and conspiracy theories run rampant, while our government dodges the matter.

Yet mere days after the alleged chemical attacks in Syria, President Obama claimed that he had proof that Assad committed this crime against humanity, despite the fact that conditions for investigation in Syria are far more challenging than they are in Benghazi.

In the Middle Eastern environment of perpetual exaggeration, the highest death estimate by the rebels was 1,300 men, women and children killed.  The US administration raised the rebel estimate to 1,429.  Can we get a blood sample?

The bodies were buried within 24 hours in accordance with Islamic custom.  Hardly enough time get an exact count of 1,429.  From where did this number derive?  Every serious combat trooper, cop, correspondent, anyone who sees action first hand and then sees reports, knows that first reports are always wrong, and often very wrong.

Nobody doubts that chemicals were used, but who did it?  A rogue general?  And where is the primary source for the count of 1,429?

Are these body reports cobbled together from second or third hand sources that might include double and triple counts, rumors, or complete fabrications?  Syria is, after all, the navel of the Middle East, a wellspring for rumors, exaggerations, conspiracy theories, and the most obvious lies created by man.

The casualty count of 1,429 is important.  If President Obama plays fast and furious with casualties, it is fair to wonder whether he is playing sloppy with alleged communications intercepts.

In our current nightmare, we find it easier to believe that the NSA is reading our emails than effectively eavesdropping on Syria. The White House should lay its casualty counts on the table, face-up. Its credibility is on the line.

Importantly, by saying we have “proof” of war crimes committed by Assad, we are saying we have proof that Assad is a war criminal.  Assad knows the likely scenarios from here:

1) Fight to stay in power and prevail.
2) Fight and lose, and be killed on the streets like Gaddafi, hanged like Saddam, or life in prison.

President Obama has ipso facto called President Assad a war criminal.  Assad does not need a powerful calculator to figure his odds if he fails to maintain power.

Last week, while UK and US leaders were rallying to smash Syria in the mouth, I contacted Member of Parliament Adam Holloway for his thoughts.  Adam responded within the hour:

“Outrage is not a strategy.  I thought military action always had to have a purpose behind it – so what is the endstate here?  Hit, and then hope?

“I am not sure in what way even limited strikes help the people living in my constituency: how does this further Britain’s or America’s national security?
“There cannot be a sane person in Britain who would not think it a good thing for us to get involved in the war in Syria if by doing so it would ease the horrors faced by the Syrian people – and dire risks to people in neighbouring countries.

“We must be guided not by our alliance to America, but by our duty to understand that military force should only be used in support of a clear purpose and with a clear objective in mind - in support of our national interest. I am yet to be convinced that there is a strong and clear-cut case that military action will deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons – nor am I convinced that in 20 years time some other tyrant thinking of using chemical weapons will turn around and say to his or herself “Whoops, better not do that:  remember what Obama, Cameron and Hollande did back in the summer of 2013”.

“The use of chemical weapons was indeed a crime against all of humanity.  But by firing one missile we are involving ourselves in a civil war on the side of a fractured opposition which includes people with proud links to Al Qaeda. By striking now, without clear cause and purpose, we risk consequences that we have not even thought of: this is a case of hit – and then hope.”

MP Adam Holloway’s erudite words are published with permission.

Adam then emailed that he was going to vote, and of course the rest is history.  Adam voted NO, and indeed the British Parliament voted against action in Syria, leaving President Obama absent our most steadfast ally.

Now, on the verge of a nearly unilateral attack, President Obama claims that he is war weary.  The French and the Turks still push us to launch, and of course the Saudis and other Gulf states would like to see our missiles fly, though no approval from the UN Security Council is possible with Russia and China blocking.

Realizing that most Americans and our most trusted allies reject Syrian intervention, President Obama now puts it to the Congress to decide.  This provides Obama a backdoor to save face, though it would have been more honest to ask Congress up front, had he truly cared about their opinions.

President Obama backed down and, oddly, is taking refuge behind Congress, when he could have said, “I do not have sufficient support from our allies or from other Americans, and as much as it is right to do this, the UN Security Council, many of our foreign allies, and the people who elected me, have spoken.  I am, ultimately, a servant to American citizens.  You have spoken.  I have listened.  There will be no attack at this time.”

Those words would reek of authenticity. Credibility would be bolstered. They are not words of weakness. They would be words of humility, spoken by a President who properly consulted Congress, and who listened to the will of the Republic. They would be the words of a leader.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Loyal Reider · 8 years ago
    I am waiting to hear President Obama describe what vital national interest for the U.S. or one of its allies is at stake in Syria and I am waiting to hear him articulate our political objectives in using military force in Syria. I don't need to hear our (probably classified) military objectives that support those political objectives, but I would love to know that CJCS & SECDEF have briefed the President on them.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Joseph Ogershok · 8 years ago
      What John Kerry would have stated regarding Syrian intervention were he not himself, the epitome of hypocrisy:

      In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in Syria, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Syria, Egypt, or Libya by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.


      In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Harte · 8 years ago
        Bingo sir. You hit the nail on the head regarding Kerry.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      retired military · 8 years ago
      Our country is led by President "the buck doesn't stop here"
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      Jim,MtnViewCA,USA · 8 years ago
      Headline: "Obama declares National Emergency, then goes golfing"

      Journalist Taranto:
      Andy Borowitz, resident satirist at The New Yorker, summed it up with the headline “Obama Promises Syria Strike Will Have No Objective.” Here’s his pretend Obama quote: “Let me be clear. Our goal will not be to effect régime change, or alter the balance of power in Syria, or bring the civil war there to an end. We will simply do something random there for one or two days and then leave.”

      I've seen all I need to see.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Toaster · 8 years ago
        And sticking around, flushing flushing hundreds of millions of US dollars into nations building has worked so well :-)
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Toaster · 8 years ago
      Lot of Brouhaha in this post. Here's a link to a video of Obama clearly laying out the rational for limited military action - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-2 9166 7. He basically states that the purpose of a strike against Syria is to send a message to countries such as Syria, Iran, North Korea that use of WMDs would not be tolerated. He makes a good case.
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        TheOldMan · 8 years ago
        If you want to send a message, use Western Union (yes they are still around). It will cost less than $100 and guaranteed delivery. You could probably even get Assad on the telephone.

        The military is not a message delivery service. People die when the military gets involved. Bad people, good people, indifferent people. Just as you don't flash a firearm without the intent to use it, you don't toss in a few missles and then stand back to see what happened.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        jack galt · 8 years ago
        Sorry, Toaster, but "sending a message" that something will "not be tolerated" is about as rational as a mother telling her son that she will tell his father of his misbehavior when he returns home from work. It is as if the President has forgotten that the Boston Bomber and his brother had prepared to kill hundreds if not thousands in Boston a year ago. As if he has forgotten than nearly ,000 Americans lost their lives from terrorists at the New York Twin Towers. Serin gas is odorless and lethal and can kills thousands within moments. For any President to respond with such arrogant puffery to protect his own ego rather than the lives and safety of his fellow Americans is a disgrace.It fails to take into account that for any action, there is a reaction-which will likely open the doors for yet another global war and most definitely for dire consequences for all of us who live stateside.

        Guns, missiles, and serin gas are all lifetime commitments with deadly impact and consequence. The US has no business interjecting itself in any civil war-especially when no fewer than 5 neighboring countries have far greater vested interest to protect their own interests in the matter.
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Toaster · 8 years ago
          OK, I am glad, at least, to see a reason behind the no-go argument. However, nonproliferation is a solid and self-interested reason for a limited strike.

          btw - Telling the kids that you tell father when he gets home actually works. :-)
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            D-Squared · 8 years ago
            Telling the kids about father only works if there is an actual father around.
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            raimius · 8 years ago
            The big problem with the limited response plan, is that it directly involves the US in a civil war while simultaneously promising to not actually affect the war in any real way. What is the point of "punishing" a war crime with a couple million dollars in damage to a government that has been fighting a civil war for two years? If you are going to seek retribution for war crimes, it should be targeted and severe.

            ***Entering a war without intending to defeat your announced enemy is stupid.***
            • This commment is unpublished.
              blacksaint · 8 years ago
              Question how do you help one enemy in Syria without helping another enemy just as bad or worse then the one you are helping?
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Toaster · 8 years ago
        As Michael argues in this dispatch, "pardon me for not jumping on the bandwagon and arguing in the affirmative." I would have loved to see even a fraction of this much resistance to boots on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan; and here we are only talking about cruise missiles.
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    Gismo Fly · 8 years ago
    Dear Michael,
    I hear what you say and you may be right. However, I felt profound humiliation at the vote in the House of Commons which abandoned the Americans in any action on Syria. Some of the 'leftie' Labour MP's, at the end of the vote, tried to make the government deny British assets to the Americans in any Syrian action. We know this means RAF Akrotiri in the BSB area in Cyprus. Mark these people so that you know who your friends are. You obviously have more moral fibre than these ratbags.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lynn West · 8 years ago
    What would be the estimated financial impact on "the war machine" if the US DID NOT get involved in Syria? Do we have to have a conflict to sustain our National Defense initiatives?
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    Houston · 8 years ago
    Here is my prediction.

    The weeks will go by and next week Congress will vote down taking action. Obama's cronies, then followed by the Great One himself, will declare that the partisan Republicans blocked action in Syria.

    He will try to paint the blood of Syrians killed in their civil war on the hands of the Republicans.

    Obama does nothing following the Constitution, it is all about politics. He saw there was no support, so he's working it to his advantage.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    irebukeu · 8 years ago
    Nice dispatch..........Insightful.

    I hate to ask a favor but here goes.....
    Could you add 'white house (dot) gov' to your mailing list ?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ted Thomas · 8 years ago
    1. Islam is not a religion of peace; it is a ruse to hide spiritual dictatorship. Allah, through his prophet, demands conversion, slavery or death at the point of a sword. Right now, the spiritual harvest of that wretched lie is being worked out in Syria & neighboring countries, and no amount of "Tomahawk punishment" will make any difference. With great sadness I & my friends pray for the innocent collateral victims of this spiritual war, but I cannot support missiles until our shores or people are attacked.

    2. Iraq & Afghanistan, flawed as they are, represent our best military/civil effort to give Islamic societies a chance. Our failure, in my mind, proves my point-- there must be spiritual revival and a rejection of religious lies before democracy can flourish. Until then, dictators notwithstanding, jihad will blossom in these places, and many more Americans will die (some here) until we as a nation finally call Islam what it really is, and fight it with truth, freedom and spiritual revival. Tomahawks may be used at times, but they are blunt instruments which cannot change hearts.

    . As the ancient kings of Israel discovered, the way to victory lies only through heart-felt repentance and true faith. Yet, as you cogently point out above, speaking the truth gains one rejection and spite. Most of your readers don't want to hear that their own rebellious hearts are the ultimate reason we face defeats abroad. Yet our feckless leaders and overweening government are but a foretaste of judgment to come unless we reject lies and embrace spiritual truth... yeah, embrace the One Who is the truth.
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      MichaelG · 8 years ago
      I will agree with you on all of the above, and ally myself with you on all except your prescription to return to faith. One can have morality and decency without faith. We must reject aggression, whether hiding behind religion or in the name of "democracy", which is two wolves and a sheep voting about what's for dinner. We are neither a democracy, nor designed to be one. Individual rights DO matter. There are no such things as group rights or collective rights.
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      Cris · 8 years ago
      you are right the real truth is WE NEED GOD... and Islam is evil and destroy much... including women... Just a point all the women on here... do you want to have no rights.... well ask for Islam and that is what you will get...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    pepper5741 · 8 years ago
    I read the book "Islamic Imperialism by Efraim Karsh". This is a very well documented (bibliography is about 1/8 inch thick) history book. One of the many items I took from it was '... yes, we want your help, but when we are in control, we no longer need or want your presence...'.
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    Dashui · 8 years ago
    As usual u have it all wrong.
    We r n Stan and Yemen and Pakistan and Iraq fighting the bad al Qaeda, who used to be good when fighting the Russians.
    In Libya we are supporting the good al Qaeda, same as Syria.
    At the same time we give money to Saudi and pakis who give money to both the good and bad al Qaeda.
    Easy enough.
    My friend specialist m, just came back back from the Stan. He said if it was military grade sarin can people really b walking around without a contamination suit, touching victims ?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      russkitop · 8 years ago
      ...that sarin is a non-persistent agent that dissipates over hours in perfect conditions, faster in bad conditions. a week later, yes, untutored noise-maker, people canwalk right up to and touch the dead without endangering themselves too horribly, especially in outdoor, constantly ventilated since the strike areas. maybe more reading and less taking dumb comments at face value?
      • This commment is unpublished.
        blert · 8 years ago
        But, but...

        The Islamic rites HAVE to be performed promptly, at the latest within 24 hours.

        To REPEATEDLY touch the Sarin afflicted is to build up a lethal dose. The Islamic rite demands intimate touching -- in the extreme.


        Where are those dosed by Sarin, but merely injured? There should be very many. They'd make for fantastic agitprop. Has ANYONE seen accounts of survivors from the margins? They should be front and center.

        The Russian Government has released a tome debunking all of Barry's allegations.

        As Tonkin and the battleship Maine showed, Congress can be snowed by emotion.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    drrne · 8 years ago
    Just look at the photograph of the president and his cabinet and consider, the content of their character.
    What good choices have they made? With Benghazi still unexplained they are now telling us another Middle eastern adventure is wise because people are bring killed? Please. Look for the self serving reason and the situation reveals itself, whatever it is. Perhaps this cabal wants to "look strong" for 2016, or "look humanitarian" to please a disgruntled base. Whatever. All of a sudden they are concerned about a foreign populace? Bad things are happening in Egypt too. What are we doing about that?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Zak · 8 years ago
    One of the primary reasons the US has remained a powerhouse in the world is the fact that we strive to respect and create democracy. Our leadership (flawed as it may be in many ways) tries to put logic and democracy before passion and dick measuring. Conversely, the reason so many other countries in the world fail is because pride, power, and machismo is so important to their leaders. Obama turned the other cheek, not out of weakness, but out of confidence. Strong men don't need to fight to prove anything. That is the way of the weak. By consulting Congress in the way that our forefathers meant war to be decided upon, Obama has shown great strength to the strong men of the world, and has confused the weak men who will question his power or resolve. Why? Because they are weak, and that is how weak men think.
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      raimius · 8 years ago
      Zak, I wish that were the case. The problem is that the President did not do this out of restraint, he did it because of constraints. He promised a "game change" and harsh response, but when we started to gear up for an attack, only France was left in support of our proposed plan. Seeing that we would basically be getting into a war by ourselves, without any UN, Nato, major-coalition, or even much US public support, the President backed down. Then, as political cover, he asked Congress...except they aren't in DC, so any response will be delayed. The delay gives him more time to let things settle in the media.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tom Burton · 8 years ago
      If it is RIGHT to consult Congress over Syria, why was it OK to attack LIBYA without Congress? Obama is a muslim brotherhood POS
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    Joseph Meissner, LTC · 8 years ago
    I have questions
    a. Why would Assad do this?
    b., Why would he risk such a direct confrontation with the US and others?
    c. What can we do militarily?
    d. What are our options?
    e. What is the strategy for these options?
    f. What would be the results of exercising our options on the rebels?
    g. Would our military actions actually help Al Qaida (deeply involved with elements of the rebels) which clearly is our country's enemy?
    h. Why is Putin so sure that Assad did not call for these chemical attacks?
    I. Most importantly, what is the best way to get everyone to call a truce, stop the killing, and get to a bargaining table?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      blert · 8 years ago
      Putin has MUCH better ground truth than America.

      He is certainly aware that Assad has been rocketing thermobaric warheads all over the land.

      These (Geneva legal) nasties are wildly toxic if they merely burst without detonation.

      The killing power of thermobaric (fue air explosives) is terrific -- actually on a par with Sarin!

      Unlike Sarin, the fuel, ethylene oxide, is dirt cheap. It can even be sourced locally, by Syria, itself.

      In contrast, Sarin is very expensive. You need trick chemical plants to survive its manufacture. No air or water can touch the brew. That's actually a tall order. Even totally anhydrous (hyper-dry) isopropyl alcohol is expensive.

      It also does not store well. (Even a tinge of water breaks it down.)

      It's an extreme hazard to the launch crews. So much so that modern militaries have abandoned Sarin tipped rockets -- going back 40 years.

      Everyone shifted over to BINARY Sarin rounds -- that are fired from artillery tubes. The imparted spin provides rupture of the separation diaphram and the mixing required to get the chemistry done while in flight. This is measured in seconds.

      In contrast, any binary mixing scheme mounted to a rocket has to get complicated -- fast -- for there is no spin available. But the flight time is still measured in seconds. I've never heard of a binary Sarin + rocket scheme.

      The MSM has had practically nothing to say about thermobaric weapons. Civilians hit by them have been misidentified as victims of napalm. (It's the burns.) (BBC)

      Thermobaric weapons produce:
      Flash burns
      Busted eardrums
      Devastated lungs
      Brain concussion

      They are SO nasty that their first USAF use, IIRC, was against AQ caved up in Tora Bora. Caves and bunkers don't save you from thermobaric detonations.

      Hence, Assad has been tossing these around Syria by the bunch. Should the timers (el cheapo Soviet mechanical jobs) be set wrong or freeze up, the warhead will plow into the ground releasing super toxic ethylene oxide. It kills about as fast as Sarin. It destroys your lungs in short order. Hence, it mimics the throws of Sarin.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Toaster · 8 years ago
      Briefly (with typos):
      a,b. There is no end in sight for Assad's war even with Hezbollah helping him. Using chemical attacks he gets to do massive damage to his opposition. Sarin isn't called the "poor man's atom bomb" for nothing. Should the war escalate this is also a way for him to bring about a mediated resolution via the UN without asking for one, saves face.
      c,d. The most we should do is strikes on chemical weaponry infrastructure. Though this may no longer be a simple matter as such infrastructure has surely been dispersed. As already mentioned in this forum, no one in their right mind wants to get directly involved in the civil war. There may be other options but none come immediately to mind.
      e. The whole point to strengthen the notion (well, to the extent possible) of nonproliferation. ie. Use of WMDs promotes dissemination.
      f,g. This depends on how far the USA goes. A wise man (or Congress) would only allow the military to conduct an extremely limited strike; as per Israel's recent attack Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure. If this were the case there is reason to believe there would be no material effect on the civil war or that we would see massive escalation - unless of course Assad actually wants to escalate to force rd resolution. Of course, this is the rational, limited option, in the middle east situations can quickly get out of hand... possibly a really good reason against a strike.
      h. I suspect Putin is just being a good ally.
      i. No good ideas other than as stated in f,g.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Tim · 8 years ago
        Problem with going after chemical weapon infrastructure is that most, if not all of the weapons being used, or likely to be used are already made and waiting. Some, if not most came on all those mystery convoy's from Iraq.

        In addition how is anyone from the outside going to tell the difference between a factory making "agricultural" pesticides and chemical munitions? In the same way we did during the Iraq war? Don't hold your breath - pun intended
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thomas Dikel · 8 years ago
    There are at least two issues here - 1) whether or not it makes sense to launch a pre-defined "limited" attack on a regime that knows no limits in an limitless war, and; 2) the credibility of a world leader who warns explicitly not to cross a red line (or else) and then when the red line is crossed, does nothing. As to the first, I think you have quite adequately addressed enough of the multitude of aspects and facets of that issue to make a good case. As to the second, anyone who has been a parent knows: Don't threaten or warn and then fail to produce threatened consequences. This failure creates two significant problems: a personal loss of credibility and a major decrease in the likelihood that your next warning will have any impact at all on the behavior of the child (or regime) being warned. Especially in that part of the world, to lose face to such an extent is potentially fatal.
    Michael, this is another well-done dispatch and I will be forwarding (sharing) it on, in spite of likely opposition of many who may then read it, those who would have liked to see the large hand of Western military might and intervention smack Asaad in the head. It is interesting, however, that neither those who wish Obama would attack and those who do not feel that he has handled this well.
    Finally, from your own intrepid reporter - the initial reaction of many Israelis was the hope that the rather ridiculous (No Americans want American boots on the ground in Syria) and extremely limited, almost apologetic, threat to Syria was a bluff in order to set up a strike on Iran - the true head of this particular (Shi'ite Jihadi) snake. Many had developed elaborate plans to both cut off the development of nuclear weapons in Iran and shut down a great deal of back-up and background for terrorism around the world - including Chechnian sleeper cells in Russia and in places like Boston. Of course, by now, there is no hope for a bold, decisive strike or move by the U.S. against the source of both much of international Jihad and the backing for Asaad. Instead Obama has given the Arabs and Moslem Jihadis yet another reason to declare victory over the infidels of the West. And that may ultimately be the most dangerous outcome of all.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Toaster · 8 years ago
      How is this bluff supposed to work? I don't see how it sets up a strike on Iran. (Not that I wouldn't love to see the US raze Iran's program.)
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    Ken · 8 years ago
    Let the United Nations take care of this character like they did Milosivich. Crimes against humanity, war crime tribunal, guilty. Saddam would of got the same thing. And if the UN gets it way, the US soldier will soon be subjected to war crimes. And they want our guns. Stay our! Let the UN handle this one.
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    Click · 8 years ago
    You might consider reformatting these very short paras into more readable blocks. it comes across as a bit of a jerky read.
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    Dean Hendrickson · 8 years ago
    Look at all the imbeciles at the table. A picture of what is wrong with OUR country!
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    Vicki · 8 years ago
    much appreciated post, thank you
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    CG · 8 years ago
    Thank you for posting this Michael.

    There's not much I can add to it, I think you've covered most of the questions and objections I've had and that I've seen brought up elsewhere.

    I do definitely agree with Holloway, you need an actual goal and strategy before you start a war. Outrage is not a strategy.
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    Deidre · 8 years ago
    Thanks, Michael, for your reasoned opinion. Saving face is not a reason to go to war, nor is it good strategy. The reason anyone, be he in government or business, performs strategic planning is so that this will NOT be the result. Arming jihadi rebels was/is Obama's idea of aiding the future. Neither side in Syria's civil war have the Syrian citizens' interest or well-being at heart. Neither side should be supported by the United States government. We should stay out completely.
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    Toaster · 8 years ago
    Micheal, I should mentioned earlier that the power point slide you posted, "State of Confusion: PowerPoint Slide on Afghanistan, 2009" is just fantastic.
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    Torpedo8 · 8 years ago
    Syrian forces supposedly unleashed Sarin on their own people, so the measured response is to blow up their stores of Sarin, which should not cause too much additional fuss.
    China, Russia, Iran have promised we'll have a bad time of it if we attack unilaterally. The British have already thought better of it. Sounds like a Green Light to me, let's go.
    We've promised we're not there for regime change, so what is the product of a limited attack against pre-announced targets? This attack is not even supposed to change the status quo. Sounds like all we'll do is tick off the current regime. I'm sure they won't retaliate once we've lost the urge to back up our 'red line' talk with indiscriminate action (blowing stuff up and killing lots of by-standers). Sounds like a winner.
    And now, on top of everything else, the Boy Wonder has lost his nerve and wants to know what a Congress he doesn't need to consult thinks about involving us once again in another ME dust-up with borrowed money. Obviously he's diving for political cover at the 11th Hour, so he'll have others to blame when things go horribly wrong.
    Remember, it's not whether military action will have any effect, it's whether we'll have scapegoats afterward. The Boy Wonder is never wrong, therefore others must be available for blame.
    We obviously know all about starting wars, yet we have no idea how to stop them. So let's start another one.
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    Steve Waterman · 8 years ago
    If I remember correctly, George Armstrong Custer was involved in a 'surgical strike' against some ill-equipped, poorly trained Native Americans. So much for surgical strikes.......
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    MADMAN · 8 years ago
    Didn't France get involed in our Civil War?I don't think we need to get our hand dirty when so many have bigger interest than us.Let those in the region handle it..
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      muzjik · 8 years ago
      No, they didn't.
      You're are thinking the Revolutionary War when they had a national interest in sticking it to their traditional enemies, the British.
      • This commment is unpublished.
        MADMAN · 8 years ago
        They sold the south weapons.But I was thinking of Revolutionary War.Good catch Muzjik
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    JackieRay · 8 years ago
    If the UN report shows that rebel forces released the gas would obama be willing to send the missles aganst rebel targets
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    blacksaint · 8 years ago
    More Hope and Change from the community organizer hoping to help Al Qaeda and supported in this effort by the old senile John McNut and his trusty mate Graham the super RINO..
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    Navy LCDR · 8 years ago
    CONGRESS: ABSTAIN!!! Let Obama make a decision and stand by it for once!!!
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    roger123 · 8 years ago
    Let Obama, McCain, Graham, Wasserman-Schultz shed their children's blood on Syrian soil. they are all a buch of political hacks and war profiteers. Pigs!
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    Josh Newhouse · 8 years ago
    "...and of course the Saudis and other Gulf states would like to see our missiles fly,"

    Why the hell don't they do it themselves then? Trillions of petrodollars + their *will* should be more than enough.
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    Mann D. Lifeboats · 8 years ago
    You mean "faux outrage," right?

    Regardless, The Man Who Thinks He's King, through his socipathic megalomaniacal arrogance remains the clearest and most present danger to our Republic and the world.

    As for saving face? How do you save face when you are as intellectually and morally bankrupt, dishonest and cowardly as Barack H. "Charlie Foxtrot" Obama.
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    barry1817 · 8 years ago
    so tell me why the US is supposed to be the policeman of the world and why the UN is not interested in this matter.

    And if we do use force in Syria, do we bill the UN for the cost of protecting others, because last I looked this country is broke, and we have people like Madelaine Albright telling us that we shouldn't be the lone superpower using force on others.
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    Sharon J · 8 years ago
    interesting take by Yossef Bodansky-evidence that rebels were behind use of chemical weapons. Are we (Obama) once again getting ready to support Muslim Brotherhood/ Al Queda?
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    CaptDMO · 8 years ago
    Outrage is not a strategy.
    It is for straw- propaganda.

    See: The Mouse That Roared
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    TJ Mason · 8 years ago
    Toaster, the proper analogy of this limited strike option is "I'll tell your father when he gets home" when you both know that what father will do to punish you is break two of your toys at random and say "this is the punishment for getting caught." Or that he will take one of your toys away and give it to the person you were fighting with on the playground. "Limited Strike" is worse than useless. Take Assad out while assuring the CW stays out of Al-Qaeda or MB hands and without killing any of the civilians the stuff is stockpiled among? Impossible. Nothing we can do without putting 200,000+ troops on the ground - literally overnight, not a gradual buildup, and with rules of engagement that will mean death to both Assad's forces and the jihadists, will help the true innocents in any material fashion.
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    Ian Bach · 8 years ago
    I for one do not wish for the US Air Force to become Al Qaeda's personal Air Force.

    What ticks me off is how the News about what is going on in Syria has been so twisted. Lets be clear the "rebels" are mostly Sunni Arabs. Those defending Assad and the right to worship as you wish in Syria are The Alawites, Christians, Shiite, Kurds. OK sure some Kurds are on the rebel side but those are the militant ones who pray for a revival of Kurdistan. Meanwhile Al Qaeda is control most road blocks/control from one area to the next in the rebel held areas.

    reports of Sharia law being imposed in rebel held areas seem to never make it on our Main Stream Media sources. or the Sunni Arab Media Al Jazerra.

    It would seem that Saudi Arabia, Qutar, and other Arab countries that claim to be our allies are more than willing to entice us into acting on their behalf to do their bidding.
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    scotch7 · 8 years ago
    I don't often find The Onion amusing or enlightening. This is an
    exception. Perhaps it takes a humor site to properly articulate the
    absurdities of any middle east adventure.
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/the-case-for-and-against-intervening-in-syria, 690/

    The Case For And Against Intervening In Syria

    While the Obama administration has been considering an armed
    intervention in Syria following the gassing deaths of hundreds of Syrian
    civilians, a vocal movement in Congress and among the general public has
    emerged in opposition of any U.S. military role. Here are the arguments
    for and against American involvement in the war-torn Middle Eastern
    nation's civil war:

    •It’s the right thing to do, maybe
    •Let American people finally sleep at night after years of being
    tormented by thoughts of innocent Syrians dying
    •Will put thousands of honest, diligent American Tomahawk cruise
    missiles back to work
    •We’re the good guys
    •Syrian people deserve to be free of a psychotic, oppressive dictator
    for a few weeks
    •Moral obligation to our defense industry
    •Footage of missiles being launched off decks of ships, green
    night-vision images, aerial shots of explosions—all that good stuff
    •We have plenty of money, a fresh, rested military—why not?
    •Be nice to throw Kathryn Bigelow* a bone
    •Chance for Obama to put an exclamation point on an already great year
    •It’s been a while since we did one of these things

    •Someone might be hurt, or even die
    •Could turn Russia and Iran against U.S.
    •Fear of setting a precedent of military action without U.N. approval
    •Slight, really almost infinitesimal chance that intervention might be a
    completely ineffectual act that even further destabilizes the region,
    touching off massive anti-American sentiment while allowing jihadist
    radicals to take power
    •Painful memories of intervening in Rwandan genocide (Hah!)
    •It’s hard
    •Bashar al-Assad just had a baby. A baby!
    •Bush invaded a foreign country. If Obama invades a foreign country, he
    will be like Bush. It is not good to be like Bush.
    •If we ever want to patch things up with Assad, this won’t exactly make
    that conversation a cake walk
    •Situation might work itself out

    * Director, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, etc.
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    Fred Thomas · 8 years ago
    Michael's reporting is balanced and informative of what our British Allies Parliament decided to vote "No" on intervention in Syria in the face of acts against humanity by the use of chemical weapons.

    Obama, as usual, overstates his intentions for political sensationalism without the true backbone nor intent on following through.

    To involve the United States in a Civil War in Syria with opposition fighters aligned with Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters who have flocked to Syria to fight Assad's Regime. To win is to lose! There are no true American interest at risk in the Syrian conflict.

    Lastly, Biblical Prophecy states that Damascus will be destroyed and become a city that cannot be inhabited. I find this interesting in light of the political and military balance within the Syrian conflict. Will it be Assad himself, a narcissistic dictator, who destroys the very country he is fighting to remain in control of?

    The Syrian people are paying a horrible price for this conflict. I see no end in sight, but only a worsening of the conflict and continued struggles between the opposition fighters. I only hope that those with strong anti American sentiment do not obtain control of the chemical stock pile. It would be disastrous to the region and to the true American interest and the United States itself.
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