Unilateralism, Obama-Style


afp-516123548-4_3The United Nations Chemical Weapons Team led by Swedish Professor Sellstrom has decided for security reasons to postpone for at least a day any further visits to the locations of the most recent alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week. It came under sniper fire on August 26th as it tried to enter the affected area, but team members were able to take some samples, visit two hospitals and interview survivors, eyewitnesses and doctors in the western district of Muadhamiya.

In a statement issued on August 27th, the UN Secretary General’s Spokesperson Office said the following:

Following yesterday’s attack on the UN convoy, a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team.  Considering the complexities of the site, confirmation of access has not been obtained but is expected later today.

Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, all but declared the UN expert team’s investigation irrelevant. He claimed during a news briefing, without citing any concrete evidence, that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in the August 21st attack against opposition strongholds is now “undeniable.” He dismissed out of hand the distinct possibility that Islamist elements of the opposition forces, which include al Qaeda affiliates, could have launched the chemical weapons attack themselves with weapons they were able to obtain, and staged it to look like an attack by the Syrian government. Black and white, pre-determined assumptions are driving Obama administration policy, not hard evidence.

Accordingly, the Obama administration, under increasing pressure from the United Kingdom, France, Turkey, and hawkish members of Congress to take military action, is poised to launch a missile strike against the Assad regime. According to Reuters, “Western powers told the Syrian opposition to expect a strike against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces within days.”

With four destroyers already in the eastern Mediterranean Sea within striking distance of Syria and with warplanes in the region as well, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel pronounced the U.S. military “ready to go” if and when President Obama gives the order to proceed.

Obama has little room to avoid a military confrontation, having backed himself into a corner by declaring a red line last year on the use of chemical weapons and doing nothing about it until now. The problem is that Obama has no clear strategy in the Middle East to align U.S. interests with the least unfavorable outcome, since we can expect no real positive outcome in that part of the world no matter what we do – only a choice between the lesser of two evils. It is true that even a couple of days of missile attacks on weapons arsenals, aircraft, command and control centers, and other military facilities that the Obama administration may now be contemplating can weaken some of Assad’s military advantage. This may create some space for the opposition forces to regroup and regain some momentum in the fighting that it has lost in recent weeks. However, such limited-scope use of force will have no major strategic effect, especially with both sides to the conflict knowing that the Obama administration has no appetite for wider and more sustained military involvement. And helping the opposition means helping the al Qaeda affiliates and other Sunni jihadist groups that are fighting to replace the Assad regime with an Islamist state. A decisive victory by such Islamist forces would be even worse for the United States than the status quo.

The best we can hope for in terms of U.S. national interests is to help create the conditions for a stalemate, which draws Iran and Hezbollah even further into the Syrian conflict on one side and al Qaeda and other Sunni jihadists on the other side. It works to our advantage by having these terrorists fight each other to the death, but it will likely be at the cost of many more innocent lives as well.

Ironically, if Obama does proceed militarily as planned, he will be doing so without the imprimatur of the United Nations Security Council, whose authority under international law to legitimize the use of outside military force against a member state Obama has stressed in the past. This appearance of double standards by the United States is a problem of Obama’s own making. He has relied too much previously on the UN’s capacity to deal with issues affecting international peace and security, even those on which geopolitical rivalries and colliding national interests prevent a consensus necessary for the Security Council to act.

The result of Obama’s decision to operate outside the auspices of the UN this time will be to hand Russia and China cheap propaganda points, as one or both countries will be likely to demand an emergency session of the Security Council to protest what they will no doubt denounce as naked aggression. Any chance for the Geneva II peace conference that Kerry has labored to set up with his Russian counterpart, for the purpose of bringing Syrian government and opposition leaders to the table to negotiate a political solution, will be greatly diminished in the near term.

“Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

There is no good outcome that can be expected to emerge from the Syrian conflict. However, President Obama should at least avoid making things worse, which requires a well thought-out strategy for the entire Middle East region that is sorely lacking at present.

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  • adumbrate

    So let me get this straight. In 1988-1992, Saddam gases 200-300,000 Kurds – dead. 18 UN resolutions and 12 years later – in the wake of 9/11, an American president does something about it. The New York Times goes fricken crazy on The president over the chaos of a real war, with real objectives.

    But today, less than a week after a gas attack, with no evidence, no consensus – liberals are justifying it is ok to attack Syria?

    Have you liberals lost your minds? But with no press exposing your ill-brained ideas, this will not be like Bush. So no one will actually know, you’re an idiot – so I guess it’s between you and me.

    • WW4

      Correct. Saddam used gas back then, we now know, with the knowledge of the Reagan and Bush Administrations. Mr. Bush, Sr. went to war with him–uncontroversially and with consensus–in 1991, but over his aggression in Kuwait.

      12 years later, in the wake of 9/11, congress granted war powers to Bush II. Going after the Taliban? Uncontroversial. But occupying Iraq was much more controversial, because counter to Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Cheney, and FPM’s expectations, people domestically and internationally understood reforming Iraq and thus the ME would be a long, drawn out process at best, or a pipe dream at worst.

      Gassing the Kurds, you say? Yes, it was very touching when we “remembered” them 12 years later! Right–THAT’S why we invaded Iraq. Sure. OK. Almost forgot.

      Remember: if you thought invading Iraq was a bad idea, you got called a “traitor” routinely. That is, until Obama was elected, and it was safe for conservatives to admit they didn’t think it was such a great idea, either.

      So here’s a plan, adumbrate: conservatives can just wait until Obama does something, nothing, anything; big, little, unilaterally, or with consensus–it doesn’t matter! They just need to be opposed to whatever it is!

      • nomoretraitors

        “Remember: if you thought invading Iraq was a bad idea, you got called a “traitor” routinely. That is, until Obama was elected”
        Remember: dissent was “patriotic,” that is, until Obama was elected. Now it has become “racist”
        Some other interesting things to “remember:”
        The left routinely refers to Republicans as “war mongers” and America as “imperalist” for “meddling” in other countries’ affairs (even though both Korea and Vietnam were initiated by Democratic presidents), yet now support military action (therefore “meddling) in Syria. Why? Because Obama is now commander in chief (and I use that term very loosely)
        Jumpin Joe Biden is on tape calling for Bush’s impeachment should he take unilateral action against Iran, yet now support Obama taking unilateral action in Syria.

        • Gee

          Don’t forget Odumba’s other wars without Congressional approval – Pakistan, Yemen and Libya.

          Odumba has launched more wars than any other President ever

        • cathy

          THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION’S DOUBLE STANDARD

          Video: Biden Threatening to Impeach President (Bush) If He Launches an Attack Without Congressional Authority
          27 Aug 2013

          Biden: I was chairman of the judiciary committee for 17 years or its ranking member. I teach separation of powers and constitutional law. This is something I know. So I got together and brought a group of constitutional scholars together to write a piece that I’m going to deliver to the whole United State Senate pointing out the President (Bush) has no constitutional authority…to take this nation to war against a county of 70 million people unless we’re attacked or unless there is proof we are about to be attacked. And if he does, if he does, I would move to impeach him. The House obviously has to do that but I would lead an effort to impeach him.”

          http://www.breitbart.com/InstaBlog/2013/08/27/Video-Biden-Will-Impeach-Bush-if-He-Attacks-Iran-Without-Congressional-Authority

          • cathy

            Then there is the double standard of John Kerry.

            We Still Have a Choice on Iraq

            Senator John Kerry, D-Mass.
            New York Times
            September 6, 2002

            ” ….For the sake of our country, the legitimacy of our cause and our ultimate success in Iraq, the administration must seek advice and approval from Congress, laying out the evidence and making the case. Then, in concert with our allies, it must seek full enforcement of the existing cease-fire agreement from the United Nations Security Council. We should at the same time offer a clear ultimatum to Iraq before the world: Accept rigorous inspections without negotiation or compromise. ….”

            http://www.cfr.org/world/we-still-have-choice-iraq/p5596

        • WW4

          It’s not always “racist” to oppose Obama. Plenty have done so without the charge of racism. Obama’s made a lot of dumb calls, they’re pretty easy to argue against without claiming he’s the antichrist. Sure the Left has been idiotic in its use of the label “racism.” But plenty have warranted the label. One only need look at a thread on the killing of that Australian guy to see white supremacy is alive and well, here. HUGE list of racist comments–with a few good regular conservative FPMers calling them out, I should add.

          Similarly, it’s true the word “imperialism” gets thrown around, but a good Leftist (no, not me) levies that charge against Obama as well. There’s a lot of “Don’t attack Syria” coming from the Left right now. I don’t know if it’s politically motivated, I don’t know if it’s just war-weariness. But it’s out there, big time.

          • ziggy zoggy

            WW0, who exactly has criticized the Jihadi In Chief without being accused of racism? What does an FPM thread about vicious Black racism have to do with him? How do you write such obnoxious garbage without vomiting in your mouth?

      • CowboyUp

        It’s pretty obvious the opposition on the left after the voted for enforcing the GWCFA, was purely political. That IS treason. Iraq made sense strategically, bombing Syria on behalf of the muslim brotherhood and al qaeda doesn’t. There’s no lipsticking that pig.
        And I never changed my mind about Iraq. Defanging quaddaffy, discovering the Khan nuclear proliferation network, and exposing the UN and Euro corruption in the oil for palaces scam were serious gains, not to mention removing saddam and his psychotic sons and freeing up the US forces he tied down trying to contain him. The time to bomb boy assad was when he was supporting al Qaeda in Iraq, along with Iran. I fault Bush for his failure to attack the insurgent’s rat lines at their source and make Syria and Iran’s interference more costly than they were willing to pay.

        • WW4

          I don’t think it is as “obvious” as you say–which means the “treason” charge is still as fatuous as ever, a word to just get tossed around.

          That said, you’re absolutely right: some gains were made, and Mr. Bush deserves credit for them, just as Mr. Obama deserves credit for the things he’s accomplished, and both deserve blame for the things they didn’t do, or botched.

          I know your posts, and you generally have a solid point of view that warrants discussion. But your charge here of politics is no different then mine: What’s Obama going to do? Bomb? Not Bomb? Wait for Congress? Not wait for Congress? Bomb small? Bomb big? Who cares–we’ll be against whatever it is! Whose side are you on, Assad or the Muslim Brotherhood? Who cares–whichever side Obama’s (supposedly) not on!

          • ziggy zoggy

            This is the second time you’ve claimed that conservatives oppose anything the Jihadi in Chief says or does in a knee-jerk fashion. That is an amazingly stupid claim. We can always count on him to make the wrong decision but it would be nice if he made a good one once in a while. I would settle for a single pro-American decision but we all know that will never happen.

          • WW4

            No, “amazingly stupid” is thinking every choice he makes is wrong and detrimental.

            Prioritizing and getting bin Ladin just like he said he would in 2008? How about the amount of al Qaeda leadership decimated under his watch? Giving the order to take out the Somali pirates? Anti-American?

            Conservatives hate Obamacare, right? But they just have no idea why; because what they think it is, it isn’t. First president to actually reform heath care after 35 years of talking about it. Under it, the uninsured will be insured. The poorest will thus incur costs to us we know, rather than costs to us made up for by inflated imaginary numbers. The ones who can afford care will have access to a marketplace where there will be competition for their dollar. Consumers will be more aware of the real costs they incur and be more informed about health care decisions. Yeah, it’s a bit half-@ssed, I’ll agree. But consumer choice, market competition…anti-American? Huh?

            No one was “racist” for opposing Obamacare–just foolish, because they lacked the confidence or ability to make a real argument. The problem was–his main opponent pioneered Obamacare. Obamacare was essentially first dreamed up by a conservative think tank and proposed by Nixon. So when it came time to oppose it, they had to fall back on dummy scare tactics. They actually let Sarah Palin speak publically about it! Who in the right mind would do that, now?

            We’re mostly our of Iraq and Afghanistan–anti-American? Aside from that, he’s following the George Bush foreign policy playbook. Which isn’t much different from the Bill Clinton playbook, the George HW Bush playbook….

            He ain’t the best…but it’s just like George Bush being “stupid” to his opponents. All he has to do is something mildly smart, and he wins. Same exact thing.

      • Gee

        Nope there were a lot of people against going into Iraq and even more against spending $1.5 trillion to rebuild it.

        This bloodthirsty tyrant will not be satisfied without a 4th illegal war under his belt.

        He is a racist, coward that is attempting to destroy the United States

        • WW4

          Not a lot of conservatives.

    • myrna652

      just as Lawrence explained I’m startled that a single mom can make $9685 in 4 weeks on the internet. see here now w­w­w.K­E­P­2.c­o­m

    • CowboyUp

      They haven’t lost their minds to any greater extent, it’s purely political, and always has been. They default to whatever option is the worst for the USA and our allies, and best for our worst enemies.

  • DonaldYoungsRevenge

    Joseph Klein, you need to join hands with Aaron Klein and all the members of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s investigative team. Sheriff Joe’s lead investigator Mike Zullo has packaged the evidence and made it courtroom ready. All you have to do is look at. it.

  • cathy

    Sen. Ted Cruz: Congress must have say on Syria before Obama acts
    Thursday, August 29, 201

    “When and if President Obama makes a decision on Syria, he must immediately call a special session of Congress and persuade the American people that what he proposes is critical to the defense of our nation,” Mr. Cruz said. “I am confident all members of Congress would willingly return to Washington to work with him on this issue.”

    Mr. Cruz said that Mr. Obama’s comments suggest the nation does not face an imminent threat, so only Congress has the authority to declare war.

    He said the U.S. should take the lead of the the British House of Commons and the Israeli Knesset, which have called emergency meetings to take up the subject.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/aug/29/sen-ted-cruz-congress-must-have-say-syria-obama-ac/

  • cathy

    UPDATE!!

    Something akin to the British Parliament … will each US Congress representative be afforded a vote.

    UK LEADER DAVID CAMERON LOSES PRELIMINARY VOTE ON SYRIA IN STUNNING DEFEAT FOR GOVERNMENT
    Aug. 29 5:33 PM ED

    LONDON (AP) — UK leader David Cameron loses preliminary vote on Syria in stunning defeat for government

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/uk-leader-david-cameron-loses-preliminary-vote-syria-stunning-defeat-government

    Syria: Government Defeat On Military Action
    10:42pm UK, Thursday 29 August 2013

    MPs have rejected the Government motion on the principle of military action in Syria by just 13 votes. The motion, calling for a strong humanitarian response which may have included military action, was defeated by 272 votes to 285 on Thursday night.

    http://news.sky.com/story/1134732/syria-government-defeat-on-military-action

  • cathy

    Maybe an Executive Order is forthcoming. The Congress … the Constitution … are at times huge roadblocks for the Islamic appeaser/Marxist in the White House.

    British lawmakers reject military action in Syria, in setback for Obama administration
    Published August 29, 2013

    … The outcome raises serious questions for President Obama, who has not yet made a decision on the way forward in Syria but had indicated his administration would need international support for any strike.

    After failing to win support for an anti-Assad resolution before the U.N. Security Council, U.S. officials were looking to allies like Britain and France to build a coalition for action in Syria.

    The U.K. vote was not technically binding. Even if the measure was approved, Cameron would likely have had to seek another round of approval in a matter of days. But Cameron now risks a political backlash if he proceeds at all; he said Thursday that he understand the British people do not want to see the U.K. involved in Syria.

    Polls in the United States have shown similar distaste among Americans for military action in Syria. …

    Read more:
    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/08/29/syria-strike-push-hits-hurdles/

  • Barb3000

    Why don’t this government let Syria fight it out and stay out of it. These people have been fighting tribal wars for thousands of years without the interference of the US which didn’t even exist at that time. That’s what this is, a tribal war with no winners. On top of that the UN wants the US to take in thousands of Syrian refugees that have run to all the surrounding countries that will let them in. Why is it our tax payers job to support these people? I say help them in these countries and leave them there.

  • okokok
  • cathy

    Considering the gathered intelligence … sometime in the three days prior to August 21st … Congress could have held an emergency convening via teleconferencing and … with Congressional approval Obama authorize what needed to be done to prevent the gassing of almost 1500 Syrians.

    Three days!! Not even a warning!! What is wrong with this picture.

    ++++++++

    US government’s assessment of Syria’s use of chemical weapons

    Published August 30, 2013

    White House Unclassified Intel Report

    Preparations:

    We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

    Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.

    On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.

    Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

    Read more:

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/08/30/us-government-assessment-syria-use-chemical-weapons/