Sunday, June 23, 2013

Slow Saturday Special: Finally, a Hawkish Kennedy

How far the Kennedy clan has fallen.

"Acrimony over arms for Syrian rebels; Some call Obama move overdue; others wary of a wider war" by Bryan Bender and Noah Bierman |  Globe Staff, June 15, 2013

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s decision to supply arms to rebel forces in Syria has deeply divided members of Congress, including those from Massachusetts, igniting a debate Friday over whether the administration is narrowly responding to a humanitarian crisis or embroiling the United States in another protracted Middle East conflict.

Following US involvement in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the prospect of even limited engagement in Syria has created divisions within the Democrat and Republican parties.

The all-Democratic Massachusetts delegation, which often speaks with one voice, included members who favor tougher action, but also warnings against yet another Middle East imbroglio and anguish over the difficult choice.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that we need to step up our engagement,” said freshman Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, a Brookline Democrat, one of the most hawkish voices in the delegation on the issue. Kennedy, for example, said he was open to going further, including imposing a no-fly zone, though with certain conditions. “The 93,000 civilians estimated killed, the use of chemical weapons, is certainly, I think, a game changer.”

Except it looks like the rebels were the ones that used them in some sort of false flag frame up.

The civil war has lasted more than two years. The Obama administration estimates that up to 150 people have been killed by chemical weapons.

But others in the state’s delegation had a decidedly different reaction to the White House announcement that the United States would supply arms to the rebels. The announcement late Thursday came after the United States determined that the Syrian government forces used sarin gas, crossing a line that Obama has long warned would have significant consequences for the regime.

Representative Stephen F. Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, said Friday he worried about inching toward further involvement, noting that the conflict seems to be pitting Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in the region against each other, much like the sectarian warfare that engulfed Iraq — and the US military — earlier in the decade.

“We’ve got a history of this,” Lynch said. “I’m concerned with us getting entangled in a conflict that is likely to spread beyond Syria.”

Like I said, he would have been he best choice for Senator.

The representatives’ two reactions reflected the broader debate in Congress. Some said Obama’s decision to provide arms to the rebels in Syria is too little, too late. Others said the humanitarian situation requires more direct US military intervention, in the form of air strikes or a no-fly zone.

Imposing a no-fly zone in Syria would be more difficult than in Libya, analysts said. Libya had an outdated air defense system when a no-fly zone was imposed by the United States and its allies in 2011. The allies also bombed Libyan government forces and facilities to assist antigovernment forces, and there were no US military losses.

Syria could be a tougher challenge. Earlier this year, Air Force Magazine said Syria has 450 combat aircraft, sophisticated antiaircraft capability, and as many as 50 mobile surface-to-air missile systems. Syria’s army is also better equipped than Libya’s and is being supported by outside forces.

Another worry is the size of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, which the Pentagon has estimated would require up to 75,000 troops to secure under some circumstances.

Some in Congress also worry that even the limited step of providing small arms and ammunition to the Free Syrian Army and other groups locked in a civil war with the regime of President Bashar Assad could result in US-supplied weapons ending up in the hands of Al Qaeda-linked terrorists or other American enemies. Or they caution that such steps could drag the United States into a wider war with Iran and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon.

Let me clue you in: they are going to them anyway.

Still others acknowledged they are not sure what position to take. Among those was Representative William R. Keating, a Bourne Democrat.

“There’s a reason the administration has been going so slowly because it’s a series of no-win situations,” Keating said.

How about backing off and stopping the lying? 

How about accepting defeat rather than being given the choice between covert destabilization and regime change or outright invasion?

The two candidates seeking John F. Kerry’s former Senate seat — Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, and Gabriel Gomez, a Republican and former Navy SEAL — issued statements applauding Obama’s announcement, though Gomez called for a stronger intervention.

Markey called Assad’s use of chemical weapons “a crime against humanity” and said he supported “providing arms to carefully vetted elements of the resistance.” Markey was also open to evaluating a no-fly zone, but cautioned that it could bring America more directly into the conflict.


Gomez said “stability in the Middle East requires removing Assad from power.” He said he supported Obama’s actions and repeated an earlier call for a no-fly zone. He also said he was open to committing ground troops as “a very last resort.”

Obama has been under growing pressure for months to help the opposition in Syria — including from within his own circle. Hillary Rodham Clinton, then secretary of state, and her replacement, Kerry, lobbied for a more active role. Some voices in Congress, including Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona who supports a no-fly zone, have criticized Obama for being too cautious.

The United States has been providing nonlethal support for the rebels, including communications equipment, and has also provided millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for some of the nearly 1 million Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey.

Millions of dollars in aid for something your government created, dear Americans.

Some analysts said the United States will have to do more than provide arms to make a difference, given that rebel forces have lost momentum against the Syrian regime and its Hezbollah and Iranian allies.

Retired Army General Jack Keane, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Advisory Board, said the United States must send heavier weapons to the rebels, such as antitank and antiaircraft missiles.

Keane said the United States could diminish Assad’s air power by destroying planes, airfields, and other infrastructure built by Iran and Russia. “What would need to be done is you would have to take away the use of his air power,” Keane said.

But such a potential escalation worries some members of Congress. “I understand the political impulse for wanting to do something,” said Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat. “I just want to make sure whatever we do is constructive. I don’t want to get sucked into another war.”

McGovern said that while Assad has violated international law by using chemical weapons, “that’s an international responsibility, not just a US responsibility,” he said.

Actually, HE DIDN'T USE THEM! Our Al-CIA-Duh allies did!

Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, said, “I don’t know what the right limit” of involvement is. But he had many questions. “Anytime you escalate an endeavor, of course it brings risks of broader conflict. But that’s already there. The question is: Can we help it? Can we limit it? And is it worth it in the long run?”


And look who is working at the school:

"Syria is melting away; Obama has no good options, but doing nothing can’t be the answer" by Nicholas Burns | March 18, 2013

Nicholas Burns is a professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. His column appears regularly in the Globe. 

He's also a former member of the George W. Bush State Department, which is left out for some reason.

Syria’s civil war is exacting an appalling toll on millions of suffering civilians. The carnage is so brutal that the United States and others must act quickly to prevent the country from descending into even further chaos.

It would be nice if we were not adding to it by supporting terrorists.

That was my major takeaway from an Aspen Institute meeting in Morocco last week with 25 former foreign ministers from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Didn't see anything about that in my paper. Albright famous for saying the deaths of 500,000 children in Iraq due to sanctions was worth it -- even as his entire program of WMD was destroyed.

The death and destruction in Syria is numbing. More than 80,000 people have been killed. More than 1 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries, and more than 2 million have lost their homes and are internally displaced.

The U.S has killed and displaced far more in Iraq, but I guess he has blood on his hands there.

The UN believes the refugee numbers could double or even triple in the next year. The health care system is breaking down with many hospitals destroyed or not functioning. The historic cities of Aleppo and Damascus are besieged. Lahkdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat and UN envoy to the conflict, told us in Morocco that “Syria is melting away.’’

Divisions are so deep among Syria’s main ethnic communities — the majority Sunni and minority Alawites, Kurds, Christians, Druze, and others — that the country might fracture into competing fiefdoms when President Bashar Assad is finally driven from power.

I no longer buy that Jewish propaganda, not concerning people who have lived together for centuries, intermarried, and don't act this way until we get there. 

Syria’s desperate plight is increasingly reminiscent of the Bosnian war. The United States and Europe watched and waited as the war engulfed millions, with both the Bush and Clinton administrations insisting we did not have vital interests at stake. But it turned out that we did after the 1995 Srebrenica massacre jolted us from our complacency. When the bloodletting was simply too awful to ignore any longer, we finally acted. US diplomat Richard Holbrooke joined NATO’s military strength with bulldozer diplomacy to hammer home a ceasefire and then the peace at Dayton.

The answer in Syria, of course, is not so simple. The United States is exhausted and risk-averse after Iraq and Afghanistan. And Syria is forbidding territory — its well-armed government is stronger than any we faced in the Balkans. Much of the fighting is in densely crowded neighborhoods in which it would be difficult for an invading force to distinguish friend or foe. President Obama is surely right not to put American troops on the ground in yet another Middle East quagmire.

Yeah, the new model is drone missile them to death.

But doing nothing can’t be the answer, either. Not when our adversaries Iran and Hezbollah are running arms to Assad to enforce a belt of Shiite radicalism from Iran through Syria to Lebanon. And not when we have a humanitarian obligation to help civilians as well as a real interest in preventing even greater instability in the heart of the pivotal Levant.

Many at the Morocco conference complained about the absence of US leadership. However much the administration wants to pivot away from the tumultuous Middle East, the United States is the only country capable of uniting effective opposition to drive Assad from power.

Related: Morocco’s justice system criticized over coerced confessions, political trials

Couldn't you guys have held the meeting somewhere else, or did you feel right at home?

Why, then, is Washington hesitating? One reason is that the options are all bad. But at the very least, the United States could lean on other countries to match US economic assistance and ensure more gets to rebel-held areas where suffering is greatest. France and Britain want to arm moderate rebel groups to accelerate Assad’s departure and gain influence with the people most likely to replace him. This will force the Obama team to think again about the wisdom of staying on the sidelines and failing to lead on a major international crisis. And, if Washington does not join Europe, Turkey, and the Arabs in supplying more decisive military aid to the rebels, it will leave us with the unpalatable option of trying once again to negotiate with a cynical Russian government for a political deal that might end up favoring Assad.

The failure of the United States to move resolutely down either path is striking. Sometime soon, the United States will have to choose, especially as the death toll mounts and the moral imperative of action overwhelms our caution.

Three months later.... 

At the start of the Iraq war 10 years ago this month, many Arabs and Europeans complained they had had enough of activist American leadership in the Middle East. Ten years later, some of those same people are now begging the United States to assert itself to help lead the Syrian people out of their nightmare of death and destruction.

You know, the nightmare we brought them in service of regime change.


Help me Obi-Con WarBurnsi:

"US is Syria’s only hope" by Nicholas Burns |  Globe Columnist, June 05, 2013

Syria’s savage civil war may have just entered a new and darker phase. During the past few weeks, momentum has shifted sharply away from the rebels in favor of the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad. The real possibility that his government, long presumed to be on life support, may now survive is bad news for rebel forces and the millions of Syrians who have suffered at the hands of a brutal regime. It is also a wake-up call for the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Europe, which could all end up the big losers in this Middle East power play.

Assad’s dramatic turnaround has been facilitated by an unholy trinity of Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia....

Hezbollah has entered the war in a big way....

Iran has also doubled down....

The only country with the power and resources to stop Assad now is the United States.

I don't like where this is going.

Washington has a lot to think about and a lot is at stake. One reason to act is to help the several million Syrian refugees who have lost their homes and hope and are on the run as the great powers bicker at the United Nations. Another is to prevent a wider regional war that could draw in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey.

By acting we do just that: widen the war!

Washington also realizes a victory for Iran and Hezbollah would be a long-term setback for the United States and Israel in the battle for power and influence in a changing Middle East.

This is all about the neo-con plan for world domination, with Syria and Iran being the last two pieces of the plan.

Despite President Obama’s understandable reluctance to dive into yet another Middle East quagmire, there may be no alternative. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent diplomatic whirlwind put the United States back in the game. By bringing the Syrian opposition and government together in Geneva next week to consider a transition in power, Kerry is calling Assad’s bluff and Russia’s too.

Except that meeting has been indefinitely postponed.

If, by some miracle, the warring Syrian parties manage to agree, it would open the shortest route to end the war. If it fails, as most expect, the world will point to Syrian and Russian hypocrisy as the major reason why.

Even thought the insurgents said they would not attend.

In this event, the United States and Europe could then counter by shifting support to the rebels. The European Union has already lifted its arms embargo, and Britain and France are prepared to supply the rebels with weaponry. The EU has supported rebel-held areas economically. The United States should do the same.

The Obama team could help to put Assad on the defensive by arming selected rebel groups and directing US air power to strike at Assad’s key military bases in retaliation for his use of chemical weapons.

The stakes are just too high for the United States to sit on the sidelines. If the Geneva talks fail, Washington should shift to a strategy to weaken and defeat the Iran-Hezbollah axis, drive Assad from power, and deal with the inevitable mess that will be left in his wake.

Are you READY for ANOTHER WAR!!!!!??????

With support from John McCain and other Republicans, Obama might even forge a rare bipartisan consensus to preserve US strength in the region.

It's not rare when it comes to empire, tyranny, and Israel.

As is so often the case around the world, the most difficult crises can only be overcome by strong, principled, and aggressive American leadership. It may be Syria’s only hope.


Can we get another opinion on that?

"Bush’s hubris bred disaster; will Obama’s, too?" by Alan Berger |   March 20, 2013

Consider Bashar Assad, the gangster-in-chief of the crime syndicate that has ruled Syria for more than 40 years. Scant weeks before the onset of the fierce uprising against his regime in 2011, he gave a long, boastful interview to The Wall Street Journal during which he ventured to explain why the popular revolts then raging in Tunisia and Egypt would never come to Syria. Whereas the populations of those other Arab lands did not agree with the beliefs of their rulers, Assad claimed, the Syrian public concurred wholeheartedly with his “resistance front’’ against Israel and alliance with Iran and Hezbollah.

The actions of the U.S.-supported terrorists have turned the Syrian people into the arms of Assad. That's another reason the insurgency is failing.

The reality all along was that Assad gave resistance a bad name. It will be for historians to judge whether he was blinded by his own hubris or merely lacked his father’s ability to enforce submission.

For his part, President Obama generally seems free of the self-delusion that rulers afflicted with hubris usually exhibit.

Is he? Doesn't seem that way to me.

However, in the arsenal that he wields as commander-in-chief, there lurks a weapon that invites a particularly seductive form of hubris: the drone.

The public is being exposed to a needed debate about the use of drones to kill US citizens. The spectacle of Obama, a former professor of constitutional law, having US citizens assassinated without due process of law has rightly aroused protest from the left and the right. There has also been justified criticism of drone strikes that are carried out without congressional oversight or any other form of accountability.

But too little attention has been paid to the dangerous precedent Obama sets by using drones to kill designated enemies on a hit list. In so doing, Obama risks legitimating use of a weapon that is likely to boomerang against Americans. More than 75 countries now have drones, and they are ideal weapons for terrorists. Hezbollah has already flown Iranian-made drones over Israel....

I'm more worried about the ones employed by my own government. 

Besides, wouldn't the total surveillance grid alert the government so they can shoot the thing down? 

Don't you love it when agenda-pushing propagandists roll out such s***?

Drones will present a much greater security threat to Americans than a jihadist boarding a plane with a box cutter. 

If you believe in that lie.

In falling for the temptation of drones, Obama is indulging in a form of technological hubris that is nearly certain to haunt this country in the future. Difficult as it may be, Obama should seek to have the lethal use of drones limited much as nuclear tests, landmines, and biological and chemical weapons have been banned or limited by international treaties....


Just let it burn, Obomber:

"The ‘let-it-burn’ strategy in Syria; Obama’s statecraft may be a calculated, Machiavellian approach" by Alan Berger |  June 22, 2013

Critics who complain that President Obama’s decision to provide small arms to select elements of the Syrian resistance does not go far enough and others who fret that he could be leading this country toward yet one more disastrous war in a Muslim land share a common assumption: They view his approach to the Syrian conflagration not as the deliberate pursuit of a strategy in the national interest but as a refusal to make hard choices. Administration officials reinforce this impression when they warn, with equal doses of anxiety, about the danger of leaping into the Syrian maelstrom and about the risk of allowing the war to continue unabated.

But there is another reading of Obama’s apparent passivity that ought to be considered. If one assumes that Obama knows what he is doing and that he is following a course based on US national security interests, then Obama’s statecraft in Syria may look less like indecisiveness and more like a Machiavellian strategy that cannot be described in the usual idealistic vocabulary presidents employ to describe their actions on the world stage.

Firefighters would call that strategy the “let-it-burn’’ approach. Syria is being treated like a forest fire too intense to be extinguished where it is centered. The fire is to be kept from spreading while it rages where it is and eventually burns itself out.

Except we are talking lives here, not trees!

To aficionados of the realist school, the conflict raging in Syria would be defined as a humanitarian tragedy that nevertheless brings some benefits for US interests.

That is awful!

Indeed, wittingly or not, Obama appears to be doing to the regime of Bashar Assad something akin to what Assad did to US forces in Iraq in the middle of the last decade.

Back then Assad took at face value what American neoconservatives had been saying about making a left turn and toppling Assad after they had taken down Saddam Hussein.

I always have. 

So as Assad’s secular, Alawite regime welcomed fanatical Sunni jihadists at the Damascus airport, his security services saw to it the holy warriors were accommodated not only in mosques but also at army camps, where they could be trained as suicide bombers and planters of improvised explosive devices.

Yeah, right, the Shi'ites brought in their arch-enemy Sunni extremists, yup. Or were those simply refugees the U.S. drove to Syria?

The strategic aim was to bog down the American forces in Iraq, bleeding them in a guerrilla war so that they would lose the will to do to Assad what they had done to Saddam.

Related: Sunday Globe Specials: US Lost Iraq War

Whether intentionally or not, Obama’s passive-aggressive approach to Syria is having a debilitating effect not only on the Assad regime but also on its allies, the clerical regime in Iran and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.

The increasingly dominant role that Iran and Hezbollah have taken in Syria’s counter-revolution robs them of their claim to be the regional leaders of resistance to the American imperialists and Israeli Zionists.

How does it do that? If anything it elevates them!

A dramatic turning point came when the leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshal, asked the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, not to assist Assad in the butchery of his people, only to be refused. After Hezbollah’s merciless assault on Qusayr, the Lebanese Shiite militia looks to the Sunni Arab world less like the spearhead of resistance to Israel than a willing enforcer for the regional ambitions of Iran.

Of course, Hamas is Sunni!

There is, of course, a danger that Iran and Hezbollah might enable Assad to suppress the Syrian uprising, thereby imposing their sway from Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast, through Syria and Iraq, and eastward to the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan. But for now, they are spending down Iran’s dwindling reserves, while bleeding and being weakened in a war that could persist for many more years.

Well, there you go. No end in sight.

And though Obama and his advisers appear understandably worried about Al Qaeda affiliates taking an ever-greater role in the Syrian revolution, those jihadists are mostly foreigners and would stand little chance of actually seizing power after the Assad mafia is overthrown.

Whether or not Obama would describe his Syria policy as a distillation of cold national interest calculations, what he has done and not done fits that definition. When it comes to analyzing the behavior of nation-states, you can rarely go wrong assuming the most cynical scenarios.