Hegel fait remarquer quelque part que, dans l’histoire universelle, les grands faits et les grands personnages se produisent, pour ainsi dire, deux fois. Il a oublié d’ajouter : la première fois comme tragédie, la seconde comme farce. Marx
Pendant trop longtemps, les gens ont cru que la cause profonde de l’instabilité au Moyen-Orient était le problème israélo-palestinien. Ce n’est pas la cause première, c’est l’un des résultats de la crise régionale. Si nous avons la paix avec les Palestiniens, les centrifuges ne vont pas s’arrêter de tourner en Iran, la crise ne s’arrêtera pas en Syrie, l’instabilité en Afrique du Nord ne cessera pas, les attaques contre l’Occident ne cesseront pas. (…) La situation en Syrie expose aussi une autre vérité, c’est qu’il y a quelque chose de très profond et de très large dans la tourmente du Moyen-Orient. Nous voyons la région toute entière allant du Maroc à l’Afghanistan dans la tourmente, en convulsion, dans l’instabilité. Une instabilité endémique qui n’est pas enracinée dans tel ou tel conflit, mais dans le rejet de la modernité, dans le rejet de la modération, le rejet du progrès, dans le rejet des solutions politiques. C’est en fait le cœur du problème au Moyen-Orient. C’est quelque chose qui menace tout le monde, menace les régimes modérés, menace Israël, menace l’Occident et menace tous ceux qui ne croient pas dans les dogmes doctrinaires qui guident les extrémistes. Benyamin Netanyahou
They (Syria) have a very serious chemical weapons capability. We’ve been saying that for some time-goes back to the speech I made at the BWC review conference, or on CWC that I talked about that and talked about their chemical weapons capability. So these are real programs; there’s no doubt about it. We’ve also been concerned about what might be happening in the nuclear area as well, in addition to missile and cruise missile capabilities. (…) they’re getting outside assistance in the civil nuclear area. There are a variety of things that they’ve got that we’re concerned about from a weapons point of view. I’m not saying they’re doing anything specific; I’m just saying it’s a worrisome pattern that we’ve seen, and I think that has been our view, well, before the onset of the second gulf war. John Bolton (May 2003)
Syria has « one of the most advanced Arab state chemical weapons capabilities » and is continuing to develop an offensive biological weapons capability. In addition, Syria has « a combined total of several hundred Scud and SS-21 SRBMs [short-range ballistic missiles], and is believed to have chemical warheads available for a portion of its Scud missile force. John Bolton (Sep. 2003)
Comprenez-moi bien: je ne me fais aucune illusion sur Saddam Hussein. C’est un homme brutal, un homme impitoyable, un homme qui massacre son propre peuple pour asseoir son pouvoir personnel. Il a à plusieurs reprises défié les résolutions de l’ONU, contrecarré les équipes d’inspection de l’ONU, mis au point des armes chimiques et biologiques et cherché à obtenir la capacité nucléaire. Il est une personne mal intentionnée. Le monde et le peuple irakien, serait mieux sans lui. Mais je sais aussi que Saddam ne pose aucune menace imminente et directe pour les États-Unis ou ses voisins, que l’économie irakienne est en ruine, que l’armée irakienne n’est plus que l’ombre d’elle-même et que de concert avec la communauté internationale, il peut être contenu jusqu’à ce que, comme tous les petits dictateurs, il tombe dans les oubliettes de l’histoire. Obama (Chicago, 02.10.02)
Mais si ce sont les critères sur lesquels nous nous appuyons pour décider du déploiement des forces américaines, alors, en suivant ce raisonnement, vous auriez 300 000 soldats au Congo dès maintenant – où des millions ont été massacrés en raison de conflits ethniques – ce que nous n’avons pas fait. Nous nous déployerions unilatéralement et occuperions le Soudan, ce que nous n’avons pas fait. Ceux d’entre nous qui se soucient du Darfour ne pensent pas que ce serait une bonne idée. Obama (2007)
Il s’agit d’un crime contre l’humanité et un crime contre l’humanité ne devrait pas demeurer impuni, ce qui doit être fait doit être fait. Ahmet Davutoglu (ministre turc des Affaires Etrangères)
Tout cela ne peut que nous rappeler les événements d’il y a dix ans, quand, en prenant pour prétexte des informations mensongères sur la présence en Irak d’armes de destruction massive, les Etats-Unis, en contournant l’ONU, se sont lancés dans une aventure, dont tout le monde connaît maintenant les conséquences. Alexandre Loukachevitch (porte-parole de la diplomatie russe)
As it turns out, Arabs and Muslims are today reviling Barack Obama’s America for proposing military action that is aimed at protecting Arabs and Muslims from atrocities in Syria. That is more or less the same thing that happened when George W. Bush sought to overthrow the Taliban oppressors of Afghanistan and Iraq’s madman tyrant Saddam Hussein. Whatever it is that the U.S. winds up doing in Syria will not have the imprimatur of the United Nations, and it will be opposed by the Arab League even though that august body has been vocal in its criticism of the Assad regime and supportive of efforts to effect regime change in Damascus. But the use of U.S. force to punish an Arab government for using chemical weapons against its own people is still a bridge too far for them. As the U.S. prepares to attack Syria, it will do so without a U.N. endorsement or even encouragement from those Arab governments that hate Assad. What exactly is the difference between this and Bush’s “coalition of the willing” that the American left (including Obama himself) mocked so much? Not much. (…) Just as Muslims claimed that American wars fought to save Muslim lives in Somalia, Kuwait, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq were really expressions of American imperialism, now Obama’s war in Syria is treated the same way. Jonathan S. Tobin
George W. Bush was widely mocked by the Left during the Iraq War, with liberals jeering at the “coalition of the willing,” which included in its ranks some minnows such as Moldova and Kazkhstan. Michael Moore, in his rather silly documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, went to great lengths to lampoon the Iraq War alliance. But the coalition also contained, as I pointed out in Congressional testimony back in 2007, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, and 16 members of the NATO alliance, as well as Japan and South Korea. In Europe, France and Germany were the only large-scale countries that sat the war out, with 12 of the 25 members of the European Union represented. The coalition, swelled to roughly 40 countries, and was one of the largest military coalitions ever assembled. As it stands, President Obama’s proposed military coalition on Syria has a grand total of two members – the US and France. And the French, as we know from Iraq, simply can’t be relied on, and have very limited military capability. It is a truly embarrassing state of affairs when Paris, at best a fair weather friend, is your only partner. John Kerry tried to put a brave face on it at his press conference today, by referring to France “as our oldest ally,” but the fact remains that his administration is looking painfully isolated. Nile Gardiner
Rien n’illustre mieux l’impossible équation syrienne que le refus du Parlement britannique d’autoriser le Premier ministre conservateur David Cameron à participer à d’éventuelles frappes contre le régime de Bachar al-Assad. Par rapport aux précédents irakien et libyen, on assiste à un renversement total de la situation. En 2003, la Grande-Bretagne, sous la direction de Tony Blair, s’était alliée à George W. Bush pour se débarrasser de Saddam Hussein, provoquant une profonde fracture à l’intérieur de l’Union européenne. En 2011, David Cameron avait fait cause commune avec Nicolas Sarkozy pour voler au secours des insurgés libyens contre Kadhafi, entraînant le soutien réticent de Barack Obama. Face à l’imbroglio syrien, les Etats-Unis sont laissés seuls, avec une exception qui peut paraître paradoxale: la France. Les autres Européens se tairont ou approuveront, mais de toute façon ne participeront pas à d’éventuels raids sur des sites stratégiques syriens. Daniel Vernet
Évidemment, cela serait désastreux si le régime du président Al-Assad l’emportait après s’être débarrassé de la rébellion et avoir réaffirmé son pouvoir sur l’intégralité du pays. Mais une victoire des rebelles serait également très dangereuse pour les États-Unis et pour beaucoup de ses alliées en Europe et dans le Moyen-Orient. Des groupes extrémistes, dont certains appartenant à Al Qaida, sont devenus la force de frappe la plus efficace en Syrie (…) Le maintien d’une impasse devrait être l’objectif de l’Amérique. Il n’y a qu’une seule solution pour atteindre cet objectif : armer les rebelles quand il semble que les forces de Bashar Al-Assad reprennent le dessus et, au contraire, cesser de les approvisionner lorsqu’ils sont en train de gagner. Edward Luttwark
Maintenant que nous avons révélé au monde entier, et donc au président Bachar El-Assad, tous les détails de la future attaque aérienne contre la Syrie – la source (plusieurs navires de guerre et peut-être un ou deux bombardiers), les armes (des missiles de croisière), la durée (deux ou trois jours) et l’objectif (punir et non “changer de régime”) –, peut-être devrions-nous aussi indiquer l’heure exacte des bombardements ? histoire de ne pas déranger Damas à l’heure du souper. Charles Krauthammer
Pour revenir aux questions d’obscénité morale, les soldats français, britanniques, allemands, ou les boys peuvent-ils faire le coup de feu dans le même camp que ceux qui se plaisent à exécuter un gamin en place publique, devant ses parents, parce qu’il avait affirmé ne rien avoir à faire de Mohammad ? Dans le même camp que ceux qui filment la décapitation de prêtres chrétiens et diffusent les images sur Internet ?
Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists. The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islamic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions. But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel. Victor Davis Hanson
Bombing a monstrous regime guilty of past WMD use was amoral; now it is ethical? Victor Davis Hanson
Après la tragédie, la farce ?
Alors que l’actualité dissipe, sous nos yeux et chaque jour un peu plus, les illusions des révoltes ochlocratiques (la loi de la rue et de la foule) qui avaient jusqu’ici passé pour le « printemps arabe » laissant enfin voir en plein jour, entre Téhéran, Ryiad et Doha et avec le soutien objectif de Moscou et Pékin, les vrais instigateurs et financiers du terrorisme mondial …
Comme celles du coup de la prétendue centralité du conflit israélo-palestinien (entendez: la responsabilité israélienne) pour la résolution des problèmes de la région …
Et que se dégonfle une fois de plus la baudruche de l’immense espoir soulevé il y a cinq ans par l’élection à la Maison Blanche d’un prétendu messie noir et maitre es votes « présent » qui, pris à son propre bluff, tente à nouveau de jouer la montre en s’abritant à présent derrière la consultation du Congrès …
Mais aussi, piégé à présent par son mentor américain de l’autre côté de l’Atlantique, celle de l’Obama corrézien qui, seul rescapé d’une coalition réduite à lui-même (contre près d’une cinquantaine pour le « cowboy » Bush), avait tant critiqué l’activisme brouillon de son prédécesseur …
Comment ne pas voir, avec l’historien américain Victor Davis Hanson et alors que 10 ans après une intervention américaine (et en fait alliée) qui avait soulevé l’hystérie collective anti-Bush que l’on sait …
L’incroyable et cruelle ironie que présente actuellement un imbroglio syrien où, en une sinistre et meurtrière partie de poker menteur planétaire sur fond d’une population à nouveau martyrisée et par les deux camps …
L’on se retrouve sommé de choisir, par ceux-là même qui avaient le plus critiqué alors « l‘aventure irakienne« , entre le monstre Assad et ses doubles à la puissance dix allahakbaristes?
August 29, 2013
Israel’s enemies are doing more damage to each other than Israel ever could.
Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
Israel could be forgiven for having a siege mentality — given that at any moment, old frontline enemies Syria and Egypt might spill their violence over common borders.
The Arab Spring has thrown Israel’s once-predictable adversaries into the chaotic state of a Sudan or Somalia. The old understandings between Jerusalem and the Assad and Mubarak kleptocracies seem in limbo.
Yet these tragic Arab revolutions swirling around Israel are paradoxically aiding it, both strategically and politically — well beyond just the erosion of conventional Arab military strength.
In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists. Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could — and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion. Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.
The old nexus of radical Islamic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islamic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions.
But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel.
Secretary of State John Kerry is still beating last century’s dead horse of a “comprehensive Middle East peace.” But does Kerry’s calcified diplomacy really assume that a peace agreement involving Israel would stop the ethnic cleansing of Egypt’s Coptic Christians? Does Israel have anything to do with Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people?
There are other losers as well. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to turn a once-secular Turkish democracy into a neo-Ottoman Islamist sultanate, with grand dreams of eastern-Mediterranean hegemony. His selling point to former Ottoman Arab subjects was often a virulent anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Turkey became one of Israel’s worst enemies and the Obama administration’s best friends.
Yet if Erdogan has charmed President Obama, he has alienated almost everyone in the Middle East. Islamists such as former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi felt that Erdogan was a fickle and opportunistic conniver. The Gulf monarchies believed that he was a troublemaker who wanted to supplant their influence. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians trust him. The result is that Erdogan’s loud anti-Israeli foreign policy is increasingly irrelevant.
The oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf once funded terrorists on the West Bank, but they are now fueling the secular military in Egypt. In Syria they are searching to find some third alternative to Assad’s Alawite regime and its al-Qaeda enemies. For the moment, oddly, the Middle East foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil monarchies dovetails with Israel’s: Predictable Sunni-Arab nationalism is preferable to one-vote, one-time Islamist radicals.
Israel no doubt prefers that the Arab world liberalize and embrace constitutional government. Yet the current bloodletting lends credence to Israel’s ancient complaints that it never had a constitutional or lawful partner in peace negotiations.
In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt dictatorship is gone. His radical Muslim Brotherhood successors were worse and are also gone. The military dictatorship that followed both is no more legitimate than either. In these cycles of revolution, the one common denominator is an absence of constitutional government.
In Syria, there never was a moderate middle. Take your pick between the murderous Shiite-backed Assad dictatorship or radical Sunni Islamists. In Libya, the choice degenerated to Moammar Qaddafi’s unhinged dictatorship or the tribal militias that overthrew it. Let us hope that one day westernized moderate democracy might prevail. But that moment seems a long way off.
What do the Egyptian military, the French in Mali, Americans at home, the Russians, the Gulf monarchies, persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and the reformers of the Arab Spring all have in common? Like Israel, they are all fighting Islamic-inspired fanaticism. And most of them, like Israel, are opposed to the idea of a nuclear Iran.
In comparison with the ruined economies of the Arab Spring — tourism shattered, exports nonexistent, and billions of dollars in infrastructure lost through unending violence — Israel is an atoll of prosperity and stability. Factor in its recent huge gas and oil finds in the eastern Mediterranean, and it may soon become another Kuwait or Qatar, but with a real economy beyond its booming petroleum exports.
Israel had nothing to do with either the Arab Spring or its failure. The irony is that surviving embarrassed Arab regimes now share the same concerns with the Israelis. In short, the more violent and chaotic the Middle East becomes, the more secure and exceptional Israel appears.
Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Books. You can reach him by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 29, 2013
Victor Davis Hanson
Most of the arguments pro and con for an intervention in Syria have already been made.
I think the consensus is that while stopping Assad in 2011 might have been wise (before the use of the WMD and 100,000 dead), doing so now is, well, problematic.
He has shown far more resilience than the administration thought when it ordered him to leave (dictators rarely leave when ordered to by an American president). The opposition seems far more dominated by al-Qaeda affiliates than originally thought (not all that many Westernized intellectuals, persecuted minorities, and Arab Spring bloggers are still left on the barricades).
In addition, both critics and supporters of the president point out that had Obama just kept quiet, he could have kept the option of intervening on his own timetable, rather than being forced to when his rhetorical red lines were not merely crossed but erased in humiliating fashion. Since his bluff has been called, he now has to act to save face rather than to save lives — 100,000 of them too late.
Yet the rub is not just that it is unlikely that we can find all the WMD depots and destroy them safely from the air (keeping them out of both Assad’s and our allies’ hands).
Nor is the problem just that it is unlikely that a limited punitive blow against Assad will topple him (and then what?) and restore American rhetorical credibility.
Instead, we are not sure that the opposition is likely to be any better than the monster Assad. Did we learn nothing from Libya and Egypt? The paradox in the Middle East is that Americans can control the postwar landscape and promote consensual government only by inserting large numbers of ground troops — an unacceptable political reality. A Putinesque shelling and bombing solution (more rubble, less trouble) is ethically unacceptable to most Americans.
Then there are the domestic politics. During the Iraq War, authorization from Congress was essential; now it is not? The excruciating and ultimately failed effort in 2002 at the UN took weeks; now it is not even attempted by a Peace Prize laureate? Bombing a monstrous regime guilty of past WMD use was amoral; now it is ethical?
August 28, 2013
Well today, Thursday, it looks like we’re running away from the very idea of doing anything. Today’s headlines say that the intel is suddenly dubious, that Cameron won’t do anything without the UN — which means he won’t do anything at all — and Hollande is suddenly cautious.
Surprised? You say it’s inconceivable that Obama would do nothing at all after all the yelling and jumping up and down?
It wouldn’t be the first time. Think back to the Iranian-sponsored plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador to Washington. There was a monster press conference, featuring the FBI director and General Holder himself. Intel was presented. Violent words were uttered. Anyone who watched it would have had only one question: what terrible vengeance will we wreak upon the Iranians?
And then…nothing. Aside from General Mattis, it’s hard to find an authoritative voice condemning the inaction (and Mattis only said it on the eve of retirement). The story just went away, as pundits assured their readers, viewers, and listeners that the Iranians couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered an attack on American soil.
Kinda like the current refrain that Assad couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have ordered a chemical attack against his enemies…
As you know, I think the best way to go after Assad is to help the Iranian people bring down their theocratic fascist regime. There are only two chances that Obama will support such a policy (and Slim has moved to Qatar). I would not be surprised if the air goes out of Obama’s trial war balloons, and the public is told that it never happened at all, that he never seriously contemplated violent action, and that he fought from the get-go to rein in the hawks.
Orwell says in 1984 that history was always manipulated, but nobody in the past had the ability to totally erase and rewrite recent events now on display. It may be only a matter of hours before we are told that Obama’s brave decision — to do nothing — is an example of consummate presidential leadership, courage under pressure, and moral virtue.
Yes, it could happen. Most anything can happen.
Aristotle gives Obama a lesson about Syria.
What is the right thing to do about Syria? On the one hand you have the thuggish Assad regime, which has murdered thousands in the past year. I doubt whether Vogue will be running more pieces like “A Rose In the Desert”  any time soon. That now-notorious interview with Mrs. Assad from February 2012 — talk about bad timing! — treated the magazine’s 11 million readers to a gushing portrait of the “wildly democratic” Assads, a power couple who combined the fashion sense of Anna Wintour herself with the do-gooder instincts of a latter day Mother Teresa. The preposterous puff piece won Wintour and her writer, Joan Juliet Buck, last year’s Walter Duranty Award for Journalistic Mendacity .
On the other hand, you have the opposition to the Assad regime. What manner of beast is that? Not all that dissimilar to the Libyan opposition. You remember those freedom fighters: two parts al-Qaeda energized by Salafist radicals  and tempered by the wise beards of the “largely secular” (or so says our director of national intelligence ) from the Muslim Brotherhood. Doubtless there was also a sprig or two of genuine secular protest, but that element was like the lemon peel on the Martini glass: a fleeting aroma of spring freshness backed up by an 80-proof cocktail of radicalism.
The trace fragrance of lemons in a properly made Martini  has approximately as much to do with spring time as the ochlocratic uprisings that are currently tearing apart Egypt, Libya, Syria, and other places of fun and frolic in the Muslim world. It isn’t an “Arab Spring,” as sentimentalists in the press and the Obama administration insisted, but a bad case of what Andrew McCarthy calls Spring Fever .
So what’s a panicked Alinskyite narcissist to do? So far, Obama’s Middle East policy — if a pattern of blundering confusion can rightly be called a “policy” — has borne an eerie similarity to his voting record as a state and later a U.S. Senator: cagey attestations of “Present” whenever a vote is taken, combined with a canny and ruthless talent for somehow taking the credit for eventualities that might redound to one’s credit. The demise of Osama bin Laden  is a case in point.
When Obama took office, Egypt was ruled by an authoritarian but basically pro-Western and pro-Israel autocrat. Now the country is teetering on the edge of anarchy, its economy in shambles, its people mere weeks away from starvation. When Obama took office, Libya was ruled by a preposterous transvestite thug who had been brought to heel by Western suasion. Now Libya is a toxic breeding ground of Islamic triumphalism, aptly epitomized by the obscene murder of Muammar Gaddafi by a mob of radical Islamists as well as the attack on our installation in Benghazi last September 11, a coordinated assault that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead and which Obama’s spokesmen blamed on a rancid anti-Muslim internet video but which was really the result of his administration’s dithering incompetence. “Present” didn’t save the day for Ambassador Chris Stevens and the brave men in his security detail and it hasn’t been working out too well with respect to Syria, either, where someone —was it Assad’s minions? (Was it?) — unleashed poison gas near Damascus , killing hundreds.
So, should Obama bomb Syria, even if it is illegal ? Careful. There’s a reason why Russia’s deputy prime minister — speaking, of course, for Putin himself — said that the West was behaving about Syria like “a monkey with a grenade .” The vertiginous spectacle of blundering incompetence is painful to behold.
And this is where Aristotle makes an entrance. In a famous passage of The Nicomachean Ethics , Aristotle observed that one can behave in certain ways that make any course of action morally opprobrious. Most of us do not choose to act in an unjust way. But we can live our lives in such a way that no good course of action is open to us. “The unjust and profligate,” Aristotle says, “might at the outset have avoided becoming so… although when they have become unjust and profligate it is no longer open to them not to be so.” Once you cast the stone, you cannot bring it back, but you are responsible for having taken up flinging the stone in the first place.
Or voting “Present.” Some of my friends believe the grounds for military action against Syria are patent. I suspect it is too late for such clarity. There was a time, in the early days of the Obama regime, when we might have taken effective action in the Middle East, when leadership might have made a difference in Egypt, in Libya, in Iran. In those days — how distant they seem! — the United States still exerted enormous if widely resented moral influence in the region. Obama’s habit of “leading from behind” (i.e., relinquishing leadership) has not-so-gradually eroded that authority. Now what? Obama, along with his Goneril and Regan, Samantha Power and Valerie Jarrett, would be sadly comic if the game they were playing were not so serious. Obama’s blundering has already cost thousands of lives in the Muslim world, many American lives as well as the lives of indigenes. In Syria, the stakes have been raised yet again. Intervene or leave it alone? There are those who believe that the horror of the gas attacks in Syria require that action, some action, any action, as a necessary cathartic for us moral paragons in the West. But what if it unleashes something far worse? Are we confident that this president and his band of not-so-merry pranksters have the skill to deploy force at the right time, in the right place, for the right ends, and in the right proportion? Pondering that I think of Aristotle’s observation that “only a blockhead fails to recognize that our character is the result of our conduct.” I am not uplifted by the reflection.
— In addition to his work at PJ Media  and The New Criterion , Roger Kimball is the publisher of Encounter Books , a purveyor of serious non-fiction titles from a broadly construed conservative perspective.
ROGER L. SIMON
Okay, I’m a warmonger.
Worse than that — I’m a chickenhawk. The closest I have ever come to war is a bar fight with a contributor to the Daily Kos. (Kidding… almost)
Nevertheless, I don’t see what choice the U. S. has about striking Syria — and not because our president drew some sort of “red line,” but because of gas itself. You don’t have to be Jewish to believe that, since Auschwitz, gassing your fellow human beings is pretty close to the most obscene act we can perform on each other. It’s forbidden by the Geneva Conventions for a reason.
The people who perpetrate this obscenity — Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad — deserve to die for their actions. And I’m not even much of a believer in capital punishment.
That’s one reason to move against the Syrian regime, although I fear our administration will not do enough and make the whole thing moot.
The second reason is to scare the bejeesus out of what Brother Ledeen calls the “terror masters” in Iran and perhaps deter them from obtaining nuclear weapons. We will certainly have to do more in that regard, but any weakening of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria nexus is to the good.
Some worry we will be aiding al-Qaeda. Perhaps so. But they’re next. (Or possibly simultaneous if this report from Le Figaro  is to be believed.)
In any case, in the War on Terror, we are going to have to learn to walk and chew gum at the same time.
We’re even going to have to learn to function without a good commander-in-chief… at least for a while.
If you want more extensive elucidation of my views, I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday .
— Roger L. Simon is the co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media.
DAVID P. GOLDMAN
Go after the dog’s master, not the dog.
Kudos to Michael Ledeen  for explaining that the road to Damascus starts in Tehran. As Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu  explained on Aug. 25, “Assad’s regime isn’t acting alone. Iran, and Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria. In fact, Assad’s regime has become a full Iranian client and Syria has become Iran’s testing ground. … Iran is watching and it wants to see what will be the reaction to the use of chemical weapons.”
We are at war with Iran, and I have little to add to Michael’s excellent summary. As he reiterates, we have been at war with Iran for decades. The only distinction is that Iran knows this and the Obama administration pretends it’s not happening. Because the American public is disgusted with the miserable return on our investment of 5,000 lives, 50,000 casualties, and $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, Republicans are too timid to push for decisive military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program — although air strikes rather than ground troops would be required.
I made a similar case on March 29 :
It’s pointless to take potshots at Obama for failing to act on Syria. What we should say is this: “Iran is the main source of instability in the Middle East. Iran’s intervention in Syria has turned the country into a slaughterhouse. By showing weakness to Iran, the Obama administration encourages its murderous activities elsewhere in the region.”
I also recommend Ed “Give War a Chance” Luttwak’s  Aug. 25 op-ed in the New York Times, “In Syria, America Loses if Either Side Wins.” Victory for Assad would be victory for Iran. “And if the rebels win, “ Luttwak wrote, “moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers.” The whole region is paralyzed and ripe for destabilization. Saudi subsidies are keeping Egypt from starving, literally. “Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.” I would add that Turkey also is at economic free-fall with its stock market down by 40% in dollar terms since April.
Luttwak argues that the U.S. should favor “an indefinite draw.” Here I disagree: the chemical attack shows how easily Iran can manipulate events in Syria to suit its strategic objectives. The best solution is Yugoslav-style partition: an Alawite redoubt in the Northwest including Latakia (where Russia has its naval station), and a Sunni protectorate in the rest of the country, except for an autonomous zone for Syria’s Kurds. Everyone wins except the Turks, who understandably abhor the idea of an independent Kurdish entity. Someone has to lose, though. What has Turkey done for us lately?
Obama probably will choose the worst of all possible alternatives. Daniel Pipes warns that this course of action “will also entail real dangers. Bashar al-Assad’s notorious incompetence means his response cannot be anticipated. Western strikes could, among other possibilities, inadvertently lead to increased regime attacks on civilians, violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States. In other words, the imminent attack entails few potential benefits but many potential drawbacks. As such, it neatly encapsulates the Obama administration’s failed foreign policy.”
If the problems of the Middle East look intractable now, consider what they will look like if Iran can promote mass murder from under a nuclear umbrella. The hour is late. If we Republicans can’t summon the courage to advance fundamental American national security issues in the midst of crisis, we will deserve the voters’ contempt.
— David P. Goldman  joined PJM after nearly 10 years of anonymous essaying at Asia Times Online and two years of editing and writing at First Things.
The most discouraging thing about the Syrian situation is the seeming pointlessness of Washington’s actions. There appears to be no directing intelligence, no strategic calculation behind the administration’s actions.The reasons for the proposed strike are largely cast in emotional terms: outrage at Assad having killed a thousand with nerve gas. But given that the last 100,000 of his victims did not elicit the same outrage, the recent indignation seems a judgment upon the manner (and not the fact) of the execution of innocents — a tragedy, as it were, of manners.
Yet none of the truly important questions have been aired in the proper forums. What is America’s interest in Syria? To checkmate Russia and Iran? To prevent Islamic terrorism from seizing yet another failed state? To forestall a wave of unrest and instability across the region? To prevent Israel from being drawn into war? And how will a limited strike designed not to inconvenience Assad too much achieve of any of these?
These questions were meant to be asked. They were required to be asked by the Founders, who personally knew more about war in more intimacy and length than the president ever will. This administration has abolished war by the adolescent method of giving it a variety of aliases like “leading from behind,” “kinetic military options,” and “sending a message.” In so doing, Obama has not only trivialized war but obviated the need to think on it.
Under its former and ugly name, the act of one country striking another country with military force was an awful thing, a fearful landscape to be entered only by long debate in the widest possible forum. The gateway to the battlefield was hung about with dread signs and the memories of sacrifices past. Today it’s a punch line.
The president might remember that in war the other side gets to vote and no plan, no set of talking points ever survives contact with the enemy; that once he starts something there is is an element of risk about where it goes. Did I say “the other side?” Well is there “another side” and does it have a name? It is the measure of the absurdity of the situation that this fundamental quantity, the sine qua non of conflict, the question of who is the enemy, remains, like the word “war” itself, concealed under an alias.
President Obama may not be interested in consequences, but consequences may be interested in him.
— Richard Fernandez  has been a software developer for nearly 15 years.
The good thing is that this is a military action with a clearly defined purpose: to distract us from the ineptitude and corruption of the Obama administration. In order to achieve this goal, a contained and restricted action should suffice, requiring little more than the meaningless scattershot dropping of bombs, followed by a presidential speech about poison gas featuring a Very Serious Expression. The word “barbaric” and the phrase “will not be tolerated” should only be deployed if absolutely necessary, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. The sides are clearly drawn: on one we have the murderous tyrant Bashar al-Assad, and on the other, we have al-Qaeda, and really, you just couldn’t ask for a nicer bunch of people. So, looking on the bright side, at least we’re unlikely to miss hitting our enemies. I remember when the media and the left excoriated George W. Bush for “going it alone” and “rushing to war” in Iraq even though he waited for more than a year and solicited the support of our allies and the UN. I’m glad to say Obama will not be distracted by that sort of background noise. It’s much easier to make these decisions by yourself in a big hurry when it’s nice and quiet.
— Andrew Klavan  is an award-winning author, screenwriter, and media commentator.
I have previously argued  that what to do about Syria and the regime led by Bashar Assad leaves us few good options. I have also been critical, in another column , of the arguments made by the interventionists. Since then, with the recent proof of the massive chemical attacks unleashed by Iran’s proxy (Syria), the situation has changed.
The administration has made it clear with their leaks of apparent plans that they are contemplating what we might call an ineffectual and purely symbolic raid on Syria, one that will leave Assad in power, spare even his presidential palace, and allow him to brag how he managed to withstand the attack from imperialist America. As a Wall Street Journal editorial  explains, “the attack in Syria isn’t really about damaging the Bashar Assad regime’s capacity to murder its own people, much less about ending the Assad regime for good.” It is “primarily about making a political statement, and vindicating President Obama’s ill-considered promise of ‘consequences,’ rather than materially degrading Assad’s ability to continue to wage war against his own people.”
If this is the reason for the administration’s contemplated strike, the outcome will only be to strengthen the regime, embolden the Iranians to move forward more quickly to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and build up the authority of the Putin government in Russia, while emasculating further the authority and position of the United States in the world. It will likely mark the fruition of Obama’s ill-considered strategy of “leading from behind” and will also show the folly of both his outreach to the Muslim world and the once-heralded decision to work through and with the Muslim Brotherhood.
A few days ago, the Foreign Policy Initiative released a letter to the president  signed by a distinguished bipartisan group of liberal and conservative writers, foreign policy experts, journalists, academics, and political leaders. The group stated:
We urge you to respond decisively by imposing meaningful consequences on the Assad regime. At a minimum, the United States, along with willing allies and partners, should use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons. It should also provide vetted moderate elements of Syria’s armed opposition with the military support required to identify and strike regime units armed with chemical weapons.
The group goes on to urge that the president consider “direct military strikes against the pillars of the Assad regime.” Not only the use of chemical weapons, but all weapons that Assad can use against his own people must be taken out of operational use. The writers call for training and arming moderate and trusted elements that would oppose both the Assad regime and the growing Islamist radicals working with the opposition.
They are correct to argue that if nothing or only a symbolic action is undertaken, after the president has said time and time again that certain red lines cannot be crossed, the world will see our talk as nothing but empty threats, and the Iranian regime will be emboldened.
There may be many reasons to be wary about the effects of intervention in Syria, but doing nothing is an option our nation can no longer afford.
— Ron Radosh  is a professional historian, author or co-author of more than 15 books, and an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute.
Yes, the U.S. should act. Short of all-out World War III, or IV, or maybe V (take your pick), for U.S. policy to have any deterrent effect on the world’s worst regimes developing and using the world’s deadliest weapons, America’s threats must be credible. The stakes here go way beyond Syria, or even the use of chemical weapons.
As President Obama said in 2009, alluding to a North Korean ballistic missile test, “Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” Or, as Obama has said in multiple permutations for at least five years now about Iran, “When the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons, we mean what we say.” Or, as Obama said a year ago about the conflict in Syria, “If we start to see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” that would cross “a red line.”
Since these various pronouncements, North Korea has conducted additional long-range missile tests plus two nuclear tests. Iran despite growing layers of sanctions has carried on with pursuit of the nuclear bomb. And Syria’s Assad regime, according to Obama himself, has used chemical weapons (evidently a whole bunch of them, on multiple occasions, this latest attack being the worst).
All these developments are connected, and not solely because they involve weapons of mass murder. There is an axis of rogue regime activity here, whether we call it an axis of evil, a gathering storm, or a concatenation of unacceptable red line crossers. As Michael Ledeen has rightly been explaining for years, the core problem is Iran: chief ally of Syria, business partner of North Korea, and world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, including its role as patron of Hezbollah and collaborator when convenient with al Qaeda. All these folks in various ways do business with each other, and from each other’s pioneering moves in the field of proliferation, they not only swap weapons materials and technology; they also learn how much it is possible to get away with. If anyone would like to start keeping a dossier labeled “Moral Obscenities” (to round out Secretary of State John Kerry’s description of chemical weapons use in Syria), all of the above would belong in that file.
A move to seriously disable any part of this hydra would send a much overdue message to the rest. It would also signal to Russia and China, the chief protectors and suppliers of this axis of terror, that the U.S. is not actually willing to cede the 21st century world order to the thug states of the globe.
I’d cast my vote for the prescription of Bret Stephens and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, for a strike that targets Bashar Assad and the vital figures of his regime. That leaves the question of what might follow in Syria — and the deeper question there is less who might prevail in Damascus, than whether the U.S. has prepared an end game for the fall of the regime in Iran. What’s desperately needed here is not just a tactical response, but a strategy in service of U.S. interests that aims to win.
— Claudia Rosett  is journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and heads its Investigative Reporting Project.
Forgot about the hysteria of an impending U.S. attack on Syria. Forget about the likely self-congratulatory backslapping by policy makers and the chanting of “USA!” by citizens. A U.S. air assault on Syria will not change anything.
Clearly, it will not change the regional problems, including the U.S. support for an Islamist government in Egypt, the unstable Islamist government in Tunisia, the grim expectations for a “peace process,” the constant betrayal of the United States by the Turkish government, and the Iranian nuclear race. But beyond that, it won’t change the Syrian crisis.
Would the attack determine the outcome of a Syrian civil war, either in favor of the Iranian-backed government or the Islamists favored by the United States? No. Would it by itself increase the prestige and credibility of the United States in the Middle East? No.
Let’s consider the three motives for the potential Syrian attack. One, the humanitarian motive. After perhaps 100,000 people in Syria have been killed, this addresses one percent of the casualties (namely those by chemical weapons). That might be worthwhile but leaves unaddressed the 99 percent of other casualties. Is it really true that the Syrian government somewhat, without motive, used chemical weapons? And finally, is it really humanitarian since the rebel side is likely to be equally ferocious against minorities and people it doesn’t like? The humanitarian motive, while sincere, really doesn’t amount to very much but merely tells the Syrian government the proper way in which people can be killed. Second, what message does America’s potential attack in Syria really send? That American power, which will be limited, is not going to be sufficient to change the course of the war. So the United States will not determine who wins and that, after all, is the only thing that everyone is really interested in. The third motive is to send a message to Iran that it won’t be able to succeed in aggression. But in fact this too can be said to send the opposite message: that, in the words of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, “the United States cannot do a damn thing.”
What are the possible outcomes of this mission? The Syrian government will not be overthrown or saved. That is going to be totally outside this operation. Perhaps it will make the outcome more likely to be a diplomatic one. But again, the likelihood that Russia and Iran will agree to have their client deposed is simply low. One could argue that the attack will lead to a lower estimation of American credibility since not much will have changed afterward, although this is not what the media will say. It is interesting to note that in confronting Saddam Hussein the Clinton administration attacked Iraq at least four times in 1998 alone. But of course Hussein was only overthrown six years later by a controversial decision by another administration.
What would the best beneficial outcomes for the Obama administration be? First, that Obama will congratulate himself on his daring use of force and on not backing down to anyone. But so what? Aside from the newspaper headlines and the bounces in public opinion polls, the effect will be merely psychological and domestic. In friendly capitals, it will only show that he is willing to support the Sunni Islamists and oppose the Shia ones. In enemy capitals, there will be continued derision of the limited means at Obama’s disposal for affecting events.
What would be the best outcome for America? That the war will go on long enough until one side (not the regime) wins. But basically the civil war is going to be fought out. It might well be said that strategically it would be better that Iran didn’t win the victory, but frankly a victory by radical Islamist rebels and al-Qaeda is hardly a bargain. Don’t forget that in practice an American intervention would not be on the side of easing the lot of Syrian civilians but on the side of an extremely oppressive and unstable future government winning. In other words, it is not that there are no easy answers, but that there are no good answers.
— Barry Rubin  has been a PJ Columnist since April 2011 and is also PJ Media’s Middle East Editor. He’s also the editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal  (MERIA), and editor, Turkish studies, at Taylor & Francis Online .
Regarding Syria and possible American intervention in that benighted and savage land, there’s really only question worth asking — and it’s not whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea, or whether it helps or harms Israel, or whether it encourages or discourages Iran from its Twelver  obsession with Armageddon. And that question is: why?
As Napoleon said, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” – and for the “Arab world” (perhaps better characterized as the ummah), this is the biggest and best mistake they’ve made since the Iran-Iraq War. For it is of absolutely no moment to the United States who wins the struggle between the Assad government and the al-Qaeda rebels trying to take it down; the “Arab spring” delusion surely has taught us that by now — and if it hasn’t, please see Benghazi . It is of no moment whether Assad has used poison gas on his own people; please see “Hussein, Saddam,” as Western high dudgeon is entirely opportunistic. Indeed, the entire Middle East is no longer worth the life of one more American soldier, for it is an area in which we have not a single vital national interest.
Once the Obama administration has been retired into the infamy of the history books, fracking and other forms of new energy will more than compensate for any loss of Arab oil (as the old saying goes, “what are they going to do – eat it?”). Israel’s security — like that of western Europe during the Soviet threat — is guaranteed by the American nuclear umbrella, not to mention its own. Is there a scenario under which Israel suffers, depending on who wins the struggle for power in Damascus? Of course there is — but that is true about every development in the Middle East, and does not affect our strategic relationship with the Jewish state in the slightest. Further, dragging Israel into the equation, however benignly, only fuels the anti-Semites on both the Left and the Right who see the Zionist Hand behind every American foreign-policy decision.
The hand-wringing and bed-wetting over Syria represents the triumph of Foggy Bottom fecklessness over military realpolitik. Our lawyer-ridden and process-obsessed society has all but subordinated strategic thinking to the striped-pants set, whose only frame of reference is: yap, yap, yap; they’re like the capon judge, Don Curzio, trying to figure out what the hell is going in in the great sextet from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro , while it’s perfectly clear to everyone in the audience.
Now another Hussein, Barack Obama, is typically dithering about what sort of “measured” and “proportionate” response the U.S. — without congressional approval, of course — should offer to… what provocation, again, exactly? The Left used to stand for not imposing “our morality” on the Third World, so what’s different this time, besides the occupant of the Oval Office? Neither Obama nor Vice President Valerie Jarrett has the slightest understanding of the uses of power other than for self-aggrandizement, but then that’s what happens when you elect the unholy love child of Al Capone and Saul Alinsky to the nation’s highest office.
So let ‘em kill each other, and for as long as possible — and if the conflagration spills over the borders, quarantine it as one would a viral outbreak. Intervention, especially when we have already advertised that our goal is not regime change, will net us a grand total of zero good will from the Believers, whose zest for slaughtering each other almost matches their zest for murdering us.
To quote Napoleon again, if you start to take Vienna, take Vienna. If the goal is to stop Iran, then stop Iran, destroy its nuclear capability, disestablish Islam as the state religion, and restore the glory of Persian culture and the Peacock Throne (again ). That would have the added advantage of thwarting the Russian Bear, which has lusted after Iran for more than a century, and lost its best chance when its agent-in place, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh , served a stint as the Islamic Republic’s foreign minister during the Jimmy Carter Hostage Crisis. (Ghotbzadeh was eventually stood up against a wall and shot as a traitor to the Revolution.)
Islamism is a fever; best let it rage until it burns itself out. And if it kills the host, that’s too damn bad.
— Michael Walsh  is a weekly op-ed columnist for the New York Post and a regular contributor to National Review Online.
J. CHRISTIAN ADAMS
The Obama administration is on the verge of reducing their whole reason for existence — this time in Syria. In 2008, Obama ran for president promising an America where race was in the rear-view mirror. These days, racial issues are crashing through the windshield, in no small measure because of Obama’s rhetoric. In 2008, Obama capped years of harping about the UN, congressional authorizations of force, and American military hubris with an election win. Swarms of his supporters, particularly the young, bought into the rhetoric of the gentle and restrained America. The absurd “Coexist” bumper sticker had become policy.
In Libya, Obama first revealed himself as an international hypocrite. Congressional authorization for force wasn’t so important now that he was ordering it. In Syria, he is about to double down. The oddest thing about this president is that he always seems to take the side of the radicals on the Islamic spectrum — both at home and abroad. At home, he shoves a radicalized version of civil rights down Americans’ throats, forcing schools to give teachers weeks off for the Haj. Abroad, Obama has sided with regimes and factions that are slaughtering Christians and threatening the security of Israel. Some Americans, particularly journalists, avert their eyes to the ominous parallels. Rather than oppose evil, this president seems to lurk in its fringe. Rather than vocally condemning the murder of Catholic priests and the destruction of churches in Syria, this president is about to take the side of the murderers. Never before has America had a leader like this. He is not the man to be leading the nation in this present darkness.
— J. Christian Adams  is an election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice.
URLs in this post:
 PJ columnist: http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/
 Foundation for Defense of Democracies: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/
 Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B003H4I4OK/pjmedia-20
 PJ columnist: http://pjmedia.com/victordavishanson/
 Hoover Institution: http://www.hoover.org/
 Vogue will be running more pieces like “A Rose In the Desert”: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/01/the-only-remaining-online-copy-of-vogues-asma-al-assad-profile/250753/
 Walter Duranty Award for Journalistic Mendacity: http://pjmedia.com/blog/walter-duranty-prize/?singlepage=true
 Salafist radicals: http://blogs.thenewstribe.com/blog/68760/growing-salifist-terrorism-in-syria/
 director of national intelligence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POwd44zH9GA
 properly made Martini: http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2013/03/08/how-robert-bork-defended-the-original-martini/
 demise of Osama bin Laden: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2137636/Osama-bin-Laden-death-SEALs-slam-Obama-using-ammunition-bid-credit.html
 unleashed poison gas near Damascus: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/fears-of-possible-western-strike-on-syria-ripple-across-the-middle-east/2013/08/28/23818cde-1050-11e3-a2b3-5e107edf9897_story.html
 even if it is illegal: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/opinion/bomb-syria-even-if-it-is-illegal.html?_r=1&
 a monkey with a grenade: http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130827/182995837/Russian-Deputy-Premier-Calls-West-Monkey-With-Hand-Grenade.html
 The Nicomachean Ethics: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B006OIST5U/pjmedia-20
 his work at PJ Media: http://pjmedia.com/rogerkimball/
 The New Criterion: http://www.newcriterion.com/
 Encounter Books: http://www.encounterbooks.com/#
 if this report from Le Figaro: http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/28/report-u-s-syria-strikes-may-target-latakia-assads-home-province/
 I wrote a good deal more on the subject, yesterday: http://pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2013/08/28/emerson-syria-and-the-principal-enemy/
 Michael Ledeen: http://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2013/08/25/the-road-to-damascus-starts-in-tehran/
 David P. Goldman: http://pjmedia.com/spengler/
 Richard Fernandez: http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/
 Andrew Klavan: http://pjmedia.com/andrewklavan/
 previously argued: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/2013/06/14/7315/
 Wall Street Journal : http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324591204579039011328308776.html
 letter to the president: http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/foreign-policy-experts-urge-president-obama-respond-assads-chemical-attack
 Ron Radosh: http://pjmedia.com/ronradosh/
 Claudia Rosett: http://pjmedia.com/claudiarosett/
 Barry Rubin: http://pjmedia.com/barryrubin/
 the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal: http://www.gloria-center.org/
 Taylor & Francis Online: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ftur20#.UZs4pLUwdqU
 Twelver: http://twelvershia.net/
 Benghazi: http://pjmedia.com/michaelwalsh/2013/05/05/benghazi-blues/
 Le Nozze di Figaro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1b6Gb2c-M0
 again: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Iranian_coup_d
 Sadegh Ghotbzadeh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadegh_Ghotbzadeh
 Michael Walsh: http://pjmedia.com/michaelwalsh/
 J. Christian Adams: http://pjmedia.com/jchristianadams/
— Michael Ledeen is a PJ columnist  and the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies . He is a highly regarded expert on Iran’s Green Movement and maintains close ties to opposition groups inside Iran. The author of more than 20 books, see Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West .
Voir par ailleurs:
Obama recklessly gambles with American credibility.
The Wall Street Journal
September 1, 2013
President Obama’s Syrian melodrama went from bad to worse on Saturday with his surprise decision to seek Congressional approval for what he promises will be merely a limited cruise-missile bombing. Mr. Obama will now have someone else to blame if Congress blocks his mission, but in the bargain he has put at risk his credibility and America’s standing in the world with more than 40 months left in office.
This will go down as one of the stranger gambles, if not abdications, in Commander in Chief history. For days his aides had been saying the President has the Constitutional power to act alone in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, and that he planned to do so. On Friday, he rolled out Secretary of State John Kerry to issue a moral and strategic call to arms and declare that a response was urgent.
But on Friday night, according to leaks from this leakiest of Administrations, the President changed his mind. A military strike was not so urgent that it couldn’t wait for Congress to finish its August recess and vote the week of its return on September 9. If the point of the bombing is primarily to « send a message, » as the President says, well, then, apparently Congress must co-sign the letter and send it via snail mail.
It’s hard not to see this as primarily a bid for political cover, a view reinforced when the President’s political consigliere David Axelrod taunted on Twitter that « Congress is now the dog that caught the car. » Mr. Obama can read the polls, which show that most of the public opposes intervention in Syria. Around the world he has so far mobilized mainly a coalition of the unwilling, with even the British Parliament refusing to follow his lead. By comparison, George W. Bush on Iraq looks like Metternich.
But what does anyone expect given Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy leadership? Since he began running for President, Mr. Obama has told Americans that he wants to retreat from the Middle East, that the U.S. has little strategic interest there, that any differences with our enemies can be settled with his personal diplomacy, that our priority must be « nation-building at home, » and that « the tide of war is receding. » For two-and-a-half years, he has also said the U.S. has no stake in Syria.
The real political surprise, not to say miracle, is that after all of this so many Americans still support military action in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons—50% in the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC poll. Despite his best efforts, Mr. Obama hasn’t turned Americans into isolationists.
A Congressional vote can be useful when it educates the public and rallies more political support. A national consensus is always desirable when the U.S. acts abroad. But the danger in this instance is that Mr. Obama is trying to sell a quarter-hearted intervention with half-hearted conviction.
From the start of the Syrian uprising, these columns have called for Mr. Obama to mobilize a coalition to support the moderate rebels. This would depose an enemy of the U.S. and deal a major blow to Iran’s ambition to dominate the region.
The problem with the intervention that Mr. Obama is proposing is that it will do little or nothing to end the civil war or depose Assad. It is a one-off response intended to vindicate Mr. Obama’s vow that there would be « consequences » if Assad used chemical weapons. It is a bombing gesture detached from a larger strategy. This is why we have urged a broader campaign to destroy Assad’s air force and arm the moderate rebels to help them depose the regime and counter the jihadists who are gaining strength as the war continues.
The very limitations of Mr. Obama’s intervention will make it harder for him to win Congress’s support. He is already sure to lose the votes of the left and Rand Paul right. But his lack of a strategy risks losing the support of even those like GOP Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham who have long wanted America to back the Syrian rebels.
Yet now that Mr. Obama has tossed the issue to Congress, the stakes are far higher than this single use of arms in Syria or this President’s credibility. Mr. Obama has put America’s role as a global power on the line.
A defeat in Congress would signal to Bashar Assad and the world’s other thugs that the U.S. has retired as the enforcer of any kind of world order. This would be dangerous at any time, but especially with more than three long years left in this Presidency. Unlike the British in 1956, the U.S. can’t retreat from east of Suez without grave consequences. The U.S. replaced the British, but there is no one to replace America.
The world’s rogues would be further emboldened and look for more weaknesses to exploit. Iran would conclude it can march to a nuclear weapon with impunity. Israel, Japan, the Gulf states and other American friends would have to recalculate their reliance on U.S. power and will.
These are the stakes that Mr. Obama has so recklessly put before Congress. His mishandling of Syria has been so extreme that we can’t help but wonder if he really wants to lose this vote. Then he would have an excuse for further cutting defense and withdrawing America even more from world leadership. We will give him the benefit of the doubt, but only because incompetence and narrow political self-interest are more obvious explanations for his behavior.
All of which means that the adults in Congress—and there are some—will have to save the day. The draft language for authorizing force that Mr. Obama has sent to Congress is too narrowly drawn as a response to WMD. Congress should broaden it to give the President more ability to respond to reprisals, support the Syrian opposition and assist our allies if they are attacked.
The reason to do this and authorize the use of force is not to save this President from embarrassment. It is to rescue American credibility and strategic interests from this most feckless of Presidents.
Voir de même:
Edward N. Luttwak
The New York Times
August 24, 2013
WASHINGTON — ON Wednesday, reports surfaced of a mass chemical-weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs that human rights activists claim killed hundreds of civilians, bringing Syria’s continuing civil war back onto the White House’s foreign policy radar, even as the crisis in Egypt worsens.
But the Obama administration should resist the temptation to intervene more forcefully in Syria’s civil war. A victory by either side would be equally undesirable for the United States.
At this point, a prolonged stalemate is the only outcome that would not be damaging to American interests.
Indeed, it would be disastrous if President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to emerge victorious after fully suppressing the rebellion and restoring its control over the entire country. Iranian money, weapons and operatives and Hezbollah troops have become key factors in the fighting, and Mr. Assad’s triumph would dramatically affirm the power and prestige of Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based proxy — posing a direct threat both to the Sunni Arab states and to Israel.
But a rebel victory would also be extremely dangerous for the United States and for many of its allies in Europe and the Middle East. That’s because extremist groups, some identified with Al Qaeda, have become the most effective fighting force in Syria. If those rebel groups manage to win, they would almost certainly try to form a government hostile to the United States. Moreover, Israel could not expect tranquillity on its northern border if the jihadis were to triumph in Syria.
Things looked far less gloomy when the rebellion began two years ago. At the time, it seemed that Syrian society as a whole had emerged from the grip of fear to demand an end to Mr. Assad’s dictatorship. Back then, it was realistic to hope that moderates of one sort or another would replace the Assad regime, because they make up a large share of the population. It was also reasonable to expect that the fighting would not last long, because neighboring Turkey, a much larger country with a powerful army and a long border with Syria, would exert its power to end the war.
As soon as the violence began in Syria in mid-2011, Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, loudly demanded that it end. But instead of being intimidated into surrender, Mr. Assad’s spokesmen publicly ridiculed Mr. Erdogan, while his armed forces proceeded to shoot down a Turkish fighter jet, before repeatedly firing artillery rounds into Turkish territory and setting off lethal car bombs at a Turkish border crossing. To everyone’s surprise, there was no significant retaliation. The reason is that Turkey has large and restless minority populations that don’t trust their own government, which itself does not trust its own army. The result has been paralysis instead of power, leaving Mr. Erdogan an impotent spectator of the civil war on his doorstep.
Consequently, instead of a Turkey-based and Turkish-supervised rebellion that the United States could have supported with weapons, intelligence and advice, Syria is plagued by anarchic violence.
The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways; Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion; and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world who have advertised their intention to turn Syria into a base for global jihad aimed at Europe and the United States.
Given this depressing state of affairs, a decisive outcome for either side would be unacceptable for the United States. An Iranian-backed restoration of the Assad regime would increase Iran’s power and status across the entire Middle East, while a victory by the extremist-dominated rebels would inaugurate another wave of Al Qaeda terrorism.
There is only one outcome that the United States can possibly favor: an indefinite draw.
By tying down Mr. Assad’s army and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies in a war against Al Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington’s enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America’s allies.
That this is now the best option is unfortunate, indeed tragic, but favoring it is not a cruel imposition on the people of Syria, because a great majority of them are facing exactly the same predicament.
Non-Sunni Syrians can expect only social exclusion or even outright massacre if the rebels win, while the nonfundamentalist Sunni majority would face renewed political oppression if Mr. Assad wins. And if the rebels win, moderate Sunnis would be politically marginalized under fundamentalist rulers, who would also impose draconian prohibitions.
Maintaining a stalemate should be America’s objective. And the only possible method for achieving this is to arm the rebels when it seems that Mr. Assad’s forces are ascendant and to stop supplying the rebels if they actually seem to be winning.
This strategy actually approximates the Obama administration’s policy so far. Those who condemn the president’s prudent restraint as cynical passivity must come clean with the only possible alternative: a full-scale American invasion to defeat both Mr. Assad and the extremists fighting against his regime.
That could lead to a Syria under American occupation. And very few Americans today are likely to support another costly military adventure in the Middle East.
A decisive move in any direction would endanger America; at this stage, stalemate is the only viable policy option left.
Edward N. Luttwak is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of “Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace.”
Speeches Against Going to War with Iraq (2002)
Delivered on Wednesday, October 2, 2002 by Barack Obama, Illinois State Senator, at the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq war rally (organized by Chicagoans Against War in Iraq) at noon in Federal Plaza in Chicago, Illinois; at the same day and hour that President Bush and Congress announced their agreement on the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War, but over a week before it was passed by either body of Congress.
Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.
The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.
My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.
I don’t oppose all wars.
After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income — to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
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.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.
I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.
Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance, corruption and greed, poverty and despair.
The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not — we will not — travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.
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August 30th, 2013
President Bush knew how to build a coalition
George W. Bush was widely mocked by the Left during the Iraq War, with liberals jeering at the “coalition of the willing,” which included in its ranks some minnows such as Moldova and Kazkhstan. Michael Moore, in his rather silly documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, went to great lengths to lampoon the Iraq War alliance. But the coalition also contained, as I pointed out in Congressional testimony back in 2007, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy, Poland, and 16 members of the NATO alliance, as well as Japan and South Korea. In Europe, France and Germany were the only large-scale countries that sat the war out, with 12 of the 25 members of the European Union represented. The coalition, swelled to roughly 40 countries, and was one of the largest military coalitions ever assembled.
As it stands, President Obama’s proposed military coalition on Syria has a grand total of two members – the US and France. And the French, as we know from Iraq, simply can’t be relied on, and have very limited military capability. It is a truly embarrassing state of affairs when Paris, at best a fair weather friend, is your only partner. John Kerry tried to put a brave face on it at his press conference today, by referring to France “as our oldest ally,” but the fact remains that his administration is looking painfully isolated.
There can be no doubt that David Cameron’s defeat in the House of Commons was a huge blow to President Obama, and has dominated the US news networks this morning. The absence of Britain in any American-led military action significantly weakens Obama’s position on the world stage, and dramatically undercuts the Obama administration. The vote reflected not only a lack of confidence in the Commons in the prime minister’s Syria strategy, it also demonstrated a striking lack of confidence in Barack Obama and US leadership.
In marked contrast to Obama, President Bush invested a great deal of time and effort in cultivating ties with key US allies, especially Britain. The Special Relationship actually mattered to George W. Bush. For Barack Obama it has been a mere blip on his teleprompter. Bush also went out of his way to build ties with other allies in Europe, including with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and an array of countries in Eastern and Central Europe. Obama simply hasn’t bothered making friends in Europe, and has treated some nations with sheer disdain and disrespect, including Poland and the Czech Republic. He has found common currency with France’s Socialist President Francois Hollande, an ideological soul-mate, but finds himself in a very lonely position elsewhere across the Atlantic.
In addition, and most importantly, George W. Bush was a conviction president on foreign policy matters, driven by a clear sense of the national interest. President Bush emphatically made his case to the American people and to the world, explaining why he believed the use of force was necessary, and dozens of countries decided to follow him. In the case of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy has been weak-kneed, confused and strategically incoherent, the president hasn’t effectively made the case for military intervention in Syria, and has made no serious effort to cultivate support both at home and abroad. President Bush may not have been greatly loved on the world stage, but he was respected by America’s allies, and feared by his enemies. In marked contrast, Obama hasn’t generated a lot of respect abroad, and he certainly isn’t feared.
July 26, 2007
Barack Obama’s latest pronouncement on Iraq should have shocked the conscience. In an interview with the Associated Press last week, the freshman Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate opined that even preventing genocide is not a sufficient reason to keep American troops in Iraq.
« Well, look, if that’s the criteria by which we are making decisions on the deployment of U.S. forces, then by that argument you would have 300,000 troops in the Congo right now — where millions have been slaughtered as a consequence of ethnic strife — which we haven’t done, » Mr. Obama told the AP. « We would be deploying unilaterally and occupying the Sudan, which we haven’t done. Those of us who care about Darfur don’t think it would be a good idea. »
Mr. Obama is engaging in sophistry. By his logic, if America lacks the capacity to intervene everywhere there is ethnic killing, it has no obligation to intervene anywhere — and perhaps an obligation to intervene nowhere. His reasoning elevates consistency into the cardinal virtue, making the perfect the enemy of the good.
Further, he elides the distinction between an act of omission (refraining from intervention in Congo and Darfur) and an act of commission (withdrawing from Iraq). The implication is that although the U.S. has had a military presence in Iraq since 1991, the fate of Iraqis is not America’s problem.
Unlike his main rivals for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Obama has been consistent in opposing the liberation of Iraq. In a 2002 speech, he declared that « an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world. » But Mr. Obama’s side lost that argument, and it is no longer 2002. For America to countenance genocide of Arab Muslims hardly seems a promising way to extinguish the Mideast’s flames or to encourage the best impulses of the Arab world.
One may take the position that genocide would not be the likely result of an American retreat from Iraq. That is the view of Mr. Obama’s Massachusetts colleague John Kerry, the 2004 presidential nominee. Mr. Kerry, who served in Vietnam before turning against that war, voted for the Iraq war before turning against it. He draws on the Vietnam experience in making the case that the outcome of a U.S. pullout from Iraq would not be that bad. « We heard that argument over and over again about the bloodbath that would engulf the entire Southeast Asia, and it didn’t happen, » he said recently.
« It didn’t happen » — just as Mr. Kerry predicted it wouldn’t. In his June 1971 debate with fellow swift boat veteran John O’Neill on « The Dick Cavett Show, » the 27-year-old Mr. Kerry said, « There’s absolutely no guarantee that there would be a bloodbath. . . . One has to, obviously, conjecture on this. However, I think the arguments clearly indicate that there probably wouldn’t be. . . . There is no interest on the part of the North Vietnamese to try to massacre the people once people have agreed to withdraw. » Mr. Kerry acknowledged that « there would be certain political assassinations, » but said they would number only « four or five thousand. »
Here is what did happen:
In 1973, the U.S. withdrew its troops from Vietnam, as Mr. Kerry had urged. In December 1974, the Democratic Congress ended military aid to South Vietnam. In April 1975, Saigon fell.
According to a 2001 investigation by the Orange County Register, Hanoi’s communist regime imprisoned a million Vietnamese without charge in « re-education » camps, where an estimated 165,000 perished. « Thousands were abused or tortured: their hands and legs shackled in painful positions for months, their skin slashed by bamboo canes studded with thorns, their veins injected with poisonous chemicals, their spirits broken with stories about relatives being killed, » the Register reported.
Laos and Cambodia also fell to communists in 1975. Time magazine reported in 1978 that some 40,000 Laotians had been imprisoned in re-education camps: « The regime’s figures do not include 12,000 unfortunates who have been packed off to Phong Saly. There, no pretense at re-education is made. As one high Pathet Lao official told Australian journalist John Everingham, who himself spent eight days in a Lao prison last year, ‘No one ever returns.' »
The postwar horrors of Vietnam and Laos paled next to the « killing fields » of Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge undertook an especially vicious revolution. During that regime’s 3½-year rule, at least a million Cambodians, and perhaps as many as two million, died from starvation, disease, overwork or murder. The Vietnamese invaders who toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979 were liberators, albeit only by comparison.
In the aftermath of America’s withdrawal from Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of refugees fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. According to the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, between 1975 and 1995 more than 1.4 million Indochinese escaped, nearly 800,000 of them by boat. This does not include « boat people » who died at sea, 10% of the total by some estimates.
Mr. Obama’s blasé cynicism about the possibility of genocide in Iraq is of a piece with Mr. Kerry’s denial of the humanitarian catastrophe that followed America’s departure from Vietnam. It also creates an opportunity for the Democratic front-runner.
In 1998, Hillary Clinton’s husband traveled to Rwanda, where he apologized for failing to intervene to prevent the 1994 genocide in which Hutus massacred some 800,000 Tutsis. « We cannot change the past, » President Clinton said. « But we can and must do everything in our power to help you build a future without fear, and full of hope. » It was in this spirit that Mr. Clinton intervened in Kosovo in 1999, over Republican objections, to prevent ethnic cleansing of Albanian Muslims.
Like Mr. Kerry, Mrs. Clinton voted for the Iraq war, then tilted against it before facing the Democratic primary electorate. Her opponents on the left have made much of her refusal to apologize for her vote. But if she can find the courage to defend a continued American presence in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, it will reduce the likelihood that the next president will have to apologize for something far worse.