Weekend Open Thread

The rumors are starting to fly thick and fast about a Biden run. My view: he’ll get in…but it might be a lot later than people think. Could even be after the New Hampshire primary. It has happened before – specifically, in 1968 when Bobby Kennedy entered the race after New Hampshire revealed the weakness of Johnson.

A few liberal fascists are urging Uncle Sam to bring RICO charges against global warming doubters – nothing says “science” like using the heavy club of government to stifle debate.

More and more people are coming to the understanding that our inaction in Syria is because we don’t want to upset our new friends in Tehran. The Syrian people are being thrown to the wolves in the name of this new policy – much as the Poles were thrown to Stalin in service to FDR’s idea that Stalin would be a nifty post-War partner for us. I suspect our Syrian policy will work out as well as our Polish policy did.

Turns out, The View sucks. But you already knew that.

No one at the EPA has been fired over the EPA’s poisoning of a river. Government is just a word for things we do together – and it’s ok that all of us dumped pollution. It’s only bad if a private company does it, you see?

Syria, Refugees and What to Do

I’m betting that everyone has seen the heart-breaking pictures of that little boy who washed up dead on the beach in Turkey – that picture plus the scenes of tens of thousands of people flooding into Europe has caught the attention of the world. This is because our modern world isn’t a place of thought and knowledge, but of emotions and impressions…and the picture of a dead child gives us an emotional impression…and demands that we “do something” get us off the hook, oddly enough, from having to actually do something (if we make a demand, in the modern mind, that is equivalent to action). But we do need to actually think about this – and then we really need to do something.

The refugee crisis is the result of the failure of the nations of the Middle East. No one went in there and made these people start fighting like mad. This was a conscious choice of the people there – no, not all of them, but enough of them to matter (and even those who didn’t want this also, in a sense, choose it – because they didn’t fight against the mad men, and each insane fighter has to have two or three non-fighters to support him in his efforts). This isn’t the legacy of Imperialism; this isn’t the result of Israel existing; this isn’t because we fought in Iraq – this is because of the people there deciding, all on their own, upon a course of action. The people of the Middle East failed, not the United States; not Europe, not the world.

It is worthwhile to note that the Middle East is not this monolithic entity. To be sure, most of them claim some version of Islam as their theology, but the place is actually made up of the ethnic flotsam and jetsam of 5,000 years of human migration into the Middle East; there are vastly different underlying cultures in the Middle East – just as Europeans have a lot in common but there are vast differences between, say, French and Bulgarian people. The passions within Islam have been held down for most of Islam’s history – invariably by a power which could apply enough force to convince everyone that peace is sweeter than freedom. Up to modern times, it was the Ottoman Turks who held them down; the Turks were briefly succeeded by European empires and then by various strong men. That has ended – and the people there are fighting it out; and there doesn’t seem to be any large force of people who are fighting for an Islam where everyone just goes their own way and lets everyone else just live and let live.

There are three courses of action:

1. Stay out – and that means, also, not allowing the people to come to Europe and the United States.

2. Go in – all the way in, with a massive military force. Pick a side we want to win and then fight until everyone opposed to that side is dead or taken.

3. Go on as we are – maybe a bit of military action; maybe a bit of half-hearted support for people we think might be ok; maybe a bit of diplomacy to try and broker deals between the sides.

The first choice means the war goes on; perhaps to a conclusion, perhaps to mutual exhaustion…but in either case, with plenty of very bad actors still around to cause trouble, including terrorism trouble in the West. The second choice means millions of men and women under arms in the Middle East for years – fighting a cruel war against forces which have no respect for common, human decency. The third choice means the war goes on, the refugees continue to flood into the West and vast amounts of blood and treasure get expended with no end in sight.

Rumors are that Russia is sending troops to bolster Assad’s regime in Syria – if true, then Russia is picking a side. And as brutal as Russia is under Putin, if they can provide enough force to Assad’s regime to beat the regime’s enemies, then peace will come to Syria – the peace of the grave for many, of course, but still peace. While I can’t imagine Putin taking such an action for humanitarian purposes, such an action is humanitarian in its ultimate outcome, if it works. The fighting will eventually cease. Some sort of government will emerge. People will be able to in some manner rebuild their lives. If you don’t like the idea of Assad’s regime surviving then here’s your choice: pick a different side and give it sufficient force to beat Assad’s regime, backed by Russia and Iran (with the attendant risk of war with Russia and Iran over it). Not too pretty a thing, right? But if you want to have a seat at the table when war is going on, then you have to fight – if you decide not to fight, then you are leaving all decisions up to those who will.

Which course do I favor? Either all the way in, or all the way out. Either we decide to fight until we get to impose an American settlement on the Middle East, or we stay out, completely. Half in means you just spend blood and treasure and still don’t get to have much say in how things come out. I don’t want American troops to die – nor to have them kill people – for anything which is unclear and/or indefinite. Whatever we do, we should do it all the way – even if what we decide to do is surrender American influence in the region.

Make a Deal With Assad?

So opines Leslie Gelb over at the Daily Beast – also noting that we’d have to do some sort of deal with Iran, while also keeping Saudi Arabia and Turkey on-side. Which is, well, a rather muddleheaded thing to try because, just as one for-instance, Iran and Saudi Arabia are not going to see eye to eye as long as their respective government’s are in power.

Now, as far as rat-bastards go in the Middle East, Assad is certainly not the worst, though he is pretty darned bad. In choosing what to do in that area, any where we turn we’re going to be dealing with nefarious characters. The question is which nefarious characters do we want to deal with, supposing we want a deal?

You see, we don’t actually have to be deeply involved at the moment in the area. To be sure, leaving it to fester in it’s own nastiness will carry the risk that some of the nastiness will be directed our way – vast numbers of people over there live for the day when they can kill lots of Americans. I’m sure ISIS has already got at least some preliminary plans to hit us – though being tied down in head-chopping, slave-dealing and attempted conquest, they probably can’t spare the time for us at the moment. We can pull back right now – and, in fact, under Obama it is probably better that we do so, given his complete incomprehension of the realities of power politics in the global arena. But even a hard-headed realist can make the argument that a U.S. withdrawal is a good course of action for the moment.

That argument goes like this: the American people don’t want to fight over there right now. The various factions fighting for power and influence all have, at best, grave doubts about us and, at worst, bitter enmity. For a variety of reasons, our post-9/11 campaign in the Middle East has failed and our prestige is at rock bottom in the Middle East. Getting our people out of there takes the immediate pressure off us – and by getting out of there, I mean all of us…troops, aid workers, diplomats, etc. If we really feel the desperate need to keep some sort of U.S. presence in a particular Middle Eastern nation (say, in places like Turkey, Jordan, Egypt), then it should be as small as possible. Essentially, don’t leave many American targets for the Islamists to attack. As we have recently proved, we’ve got enough oil and natural gas here at home so that even a complete collapse of oil production in the area can be endured…we’d be up to $5 a gallon gas, but as we recently paid $4 a gallon, we’d survive (and, of course, no one who attains any power over there is really going to cut off the oil spigot completely). As we are no longer involved, the blame for what happens there will less and less accrue to us and if there is an attack on us from the Middle East, the political will for war will swiftly return to the American body politic.

But we’re going to stay, of course, because inertia in politics is like that – we’ve been there, we are there, and so we’re going to keep on being there. And suppose Obama came down with a case of the ‘flu and had to spend a week in bed and during that time someone slipped him a copy of, say, Churchill’s The World Crisis or Hanson’s The Father of Us All and so Obama finally learned a thing or two about how the world works? We then might be able to proceed to a policy of U.S. engagement which isn’t stupid. And in an engagement policy which isn’t stupid, what is the best course of action?

Quite simply, it is to find a power player who can be purchased by us – and that does indicate Assad more than anyone else. His Iranian allies have not been able to restore his fortunes in Syria and he might be in the market for a new friend who can help out. Of course, he’d have to change his tune on a few things. We can’t expect him to do something enormous like make peace with Israel – but there is much he can do.

First off, no longer allow his territory to be a conduit of aid to the Iran-backed Islamists in Lebanon. Also, no longer keep any of his troops in Lebanon, thus freeing up that nation to be at least neutral in the various conflicts in the region…demilitarized, Jihadist sent packing or into the hereafter. Still a Muslim nation making rote denunciations of Israel and the United States, but no longer a subsidiary of Tehran and Islamism.

Secondly, part of Syria is going to have to become autonomous Christian areas…with Christian militias ostensibly under Syrian command, but really existing to keep Islamists out of Christian territory. It isn’t going to be much territory, but it has to be enough for Christians to live on in peace and security…and as they’ll be set up to lack heavy weapons, they’ll never constitute a threat to the existence of the Syrian government. Think of it as being akin to the Kurdish area of Iraq before everything fell apart in that nation.

Third, he’d have to amnesty those parts of the rebels who are not the full on, head-choppy Islamist fanatics…and incorporate them into his army and offer them a genuine seat at the power table in Syria. Not a full democracy – such is not really possible – but with veto power over government proposals which directly effect their lives. This new Syrian army – no longer being just the personal following of the Assad family – could then, with US air and some ground support (mostly special forces types), probably make short work of the biggest problem in Syria – the ISIS goons. Once the are taken care of, Assad gets U.S. aid to rebuild Syria and lines up with us against Iran in the regional balance of power.

Carried out with vigor and a keen eye to realities, such a policy could bring immense security relief to Israel (we might even be able to get Israel to give back a symbolic portion of the Golan: they can’t give it all back for security reasons, of course), free up Lebanon and turn Syria from long-term enemy to at least temporary friend – friend at least during the impending crisis of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and attempting to make Iraq a satrapy of Tehran…and if the deal can also be worked that the Kurdish areas of Syria are joined to those of Iraq in a new Republic of Kurdistan, then we’ve picked up three dominoes in the area and are in a much better position to confront Iran as well as an increasingly hostile Turkey. We’d also be less strategically dependent on Saudi Arabia and so we could start to systemically detach ourselves from the Saudis…until such time as they really feel the pressure from Iran and are willing to, well, not be quite so stoning-people, owning-slaves, flogging-bloggers sorts of people.

Of course, we’ll end up doing neither – we won’t get out, we won’t go in sensibly. So, get prepared for the worst of all worlds in the Middle East.

Obama’s Non-War

The usual course of action is that when the guns go off, we citizens are to rally ’round the flag and back our forces in the pursuit of victory. But that is a bit impossible right now – Obama and his Administration are telling us, over and over, that this isn’t a war. That we’ll be bombing the heck out of things and that lots of people will die horrific, violent deaths at our hands doesn’t count: per Obama and Co, war is only in existence is U.S. troops are on the ground doing the fighting.

So, no war – and thus no rallying ’round the flag. And even if we decided – correctly – that Obama and Co are just full of “stuff” and that this is a war so we’d better rally anyways, what would we be rallying for? Not for victory, because there can be no victory in this non-war. Its not like the enemy commander can offer to surrender to a drone. We’ll bomb a lot and kill a lot of people and this will help those who are fighting the people we’re bombing – and that, in turn, might lead others to victory. A Kurdish victory would be ok, as the Kurds seem a lot of very decent people – but it could also lead to Assad’s victory in Syria and Iran’s victory in Iraq; not exactly ideal outcomes for us. It could also lead to victory for non-ISIS, non-Assad forces in Syria, this might not work out well, either. Let’s just say I have my doubts about Administration assurances that they can pick the non-Islamist-screwball forces in Syria for us to back.

We can also get the worst of all worlds – we blow a lot of stuff up and kill a lot of people with attendant video showing what a bunch of hideous war criminals we are but after all that, Assad still rules his part of Syria, ISIS still rules vast tracts of Syria and Iraq and Iran has secured itself the part of Iraq it cares about (ie, Baghdad plus the oil fields). That sort of outcome is made doubly bad because if ISIS survives in any form, it will become the Islamist hero as it stood up to us, endured a pounding and emerged from the welter of slaughter with victory. Of course, all of this won’t fully come out until after Obama leaves office, so he probably doesn’t care in the least about it, even if he’s aware of the possibility.

This whole thing is the terribly bad decision of a man – Obama – who knows nothing of history, nothing of the world and yet sits assured that he’s the smartest guy in the room. I hope it works out – and I hope our losses are small. But the rule of thumb for war is that you either go all in, or stay all out. Our choices for ISIS were two:

1.  Go all out to war against them until they are all killed or taken, regardless of cost.

2.  Surrender to them and allow them to do as the wish.

Either course of action can have rational arguments to back them up. We have failed to choose between them – we’re just going to bomb a bit and hope for the best. I believe we will be disappointed – and maybe in a vastly worse geo-strategic situation two or three years from now.

UPDATE: Reeling from criticism about us not being at war, the Administration has decided we are at war with ISIS, just as we are against al-Qaeda. Meaning? I guess that six years from now ISIS will be around and a threat, just as al-Qaeda is still around and a threat after six years of Obama…

Thinking About Syria

Does anyone in any position of responsibility realize that for the Alawites lead by Assad, this is a matter of life and death?  That if they don’t win the civil war, they are in for a round of murder and pillage at the hands of their enemies?  While they are Muslims, they are considered to be a sort of heretical Islam by the dominant Sunni Muslims and for centuries before Syria fell under French rule post-WWI, they were oppressed by their fellow Muslims.  To be sure, they have used cruelty and chicanery to gain and maintain mastery as a minority Ruling Class in Syria, but now the fat is in the fire – the Alawites are not expecting mercy and brotherhood from the other side if they lose, so they’ll fight on until destroyed or they have secured their own homes and families.  Lobbing a few missiles at them will not make them stop doing whatever they think proves necessary to, at minimum, maintain their control over predominantly Alawite ares of Syria.  Only an army more powerful than they can do the trick…and if you’re wondering why this minority of 12% of Syria’s population has maintained control for decades and has an even chance of winning the Civil War look no further than the fact that the Alawites retained for themselves the best weapons…and constituted a majority of the total Syrian armed forces pre-Civil War.

I bring this up because no one seems to be thinking along these lines – that people with their backs to the wall are not likely to be easily swayed.  We’re treating them as if they are concerned about the whole of Syria and its welfare.  In some theoretical sense, this might be true – but in the concrete, the Alawite soldiers are fighting for lives of their wives and children.  These people will not go down easily.  Of course, they are not the only minority group in Syria.  In fact, Syria is a grab-bag of minority groups.  Sure, its overwhelmingly Muslim – but there are nearly as many Christians as there are Alawites (and the Christians probably do favor the Alawites because, point blank, the more secular-minded Alawites have tended to live and let live with the Christians…meanwhile, the rebels are increasingly infected with Islamism, and so Christians are increasingly brutalized); Islam in Syria is broken up in to quite a lot of different sects.

Syria isn’t really a nation as we think of it – its just another one of those colonial left-overs.  Ruled for centuries by the Turks, taken over by the French post-WWI, the people there never thought of themselves as “Syrians” in the sense that we think of ourselves as “Americans”…people with a common history, a shared set of basic values and a willingness to sink sectarian differences for the good of the larger community.  Essentially, the Alawites have provided what the Ottomans provided until 1918 and the French until 1946 – a group of people who keep down everyone else, until just lately, when for a variety of reasons a rebellion broke out (not in any case the first), at a time when non-Syrian forces were willing to back the rebels (and not us, good people – quite a lot of Gulf State Muslim money has poured in to the rebels).  And don’t think the rebels are keen on establishing a republic in which all Syrians live in brotherhood.  There might be a few such trotted out to meet with a junketing Senator McCain, but most of them are primarily interested in securing their own particular interests…and, if things work out, grabbing the sort of power the Alawites have held on to since the 1970’s.  I almost hate to point this out, but the only thing which can be found in common among most Syrians is probably a loathing of Israel…but even that has been set aside so that they can kill each other in a mad scramble for power.

Crucial to any expectations of results is to understand the reality of things.  Syria is not just “Syria”.  Its a lot of different things and the people battling there with extreme cruelty have clear ideas of what they want.  If we don’t have a clear idea of what we want and how it relates to the reality on the ground in Syria, then whatever we do will fail.  This does not at all preclude a diplomatic solution to the problem, by the way – in fact, it opens up wide vistas of diplomatic action, if we will understand the facts and figure out what it is we want.

Furthermore, we do have the power to impose a solution – our weight thrown on to any particular side will allow that side to emerge victorious.  If, that is, we make it clear that if we decide to come in on a side that we’ll come all the way in with whatever level of force would prove necessary.  Half measure won’t do; lobbing a few missiles is absurd.  If we want to have any particular result in Syria, then we have to will the means as well as envision the ends.  We could, perhaps, use our overwhelming power to convince all sides that it is time to sit down and talk – to set up some sort of federal or cantonal system of government which will allow each major element its own absolute sphere, surrendering only enough power to the central government as is necessary to make Syria a functional, national unit.  Carrots for everyone – and a threat of the Big Stick for anyone who decides that they’d rather keep fighting instead of negotiating a settlement…and, yes, this does mean that in certain circumstances we throw our weight behind Assad’s Alawites (if not behind Assad, who probably could be eased out by Alawites convinced that we’ll ensure their lives and property against revenge).

But if we are not willing to envision an end and unwilling to provide the means to achieve the end, then it is best we stay out.  At this stage of the game, staying out is probably the best course of action – mostly because Obama has botched it so badly to this point. It is not because people are getting isolationist that intervention in Syria is unpopular, but because Obama has proven himself a fool and no one wants to dive in to a murky situation without some idea of what we hope to accomplish, what it might cost and how long it will take.  But good things can be done with American power – wisdom is not to be found in launching endless wars, nor in the twin follies of pacifism and isolationism.  Clear headed, rational thinking informed by the actual facts can get us out of this mess – and help the people of Syria, in to the bargain.  My prayer is that some how, some way even Obama will start to see things clearly and a reasonable, humane policy will emerge.

UPDATE:  I’ve pondered it some more and here’s a follow-on comment I left elsewhere:

…(we have) all the ingredients which cool headed diplomacy can make much hay with.  If we understood diplomacy (ie, if we didn’t have Obama and team in charge) we would long-ago have said that our interest is peace in Syria and to that end we will exert pressure on all sides to engage in talks to reform the government of Syria to secure absolutely minority rights.  Once that announcement is made, support can be rounded up in the world for the effort and support built at home for a forward policy – while backstairs negotiations let all and sundry know that we are determined upon a peace settlement to be imposed on the warring sides with the carrot being US and international help to rebuild and the stick being US force being thrown against whichever sides proves most resistant to compromise (in other words, we’re telling them that we’ll even fight on Assad’s side, if he proves most willing to compromise).  Once the preliminary work is done, we call a conference of all the interested parties to reach an agreement to embargo all arms and impose sanctions on the warring factions…Russia, China and Iran would strongly object to this (and thus no such thing could be done through the UN…which is why we’d ignore the UN and go for genuine diplomacy), and we’d lay down the marker:  we’re going to do this and we’re willing to fight…and if Russia, China and Iran want to fight us in order to maintain their particular clients in Syria, then let’s have at it.  They would back down in front of that as no one in the world wants to go to actual war with the United States of America.  Once a cease-fire agreement is hammered out it is presented to the Syrian factions and they are given 36 hours to comply or face sustained military action by the United States until they do agree.  More than likely, all but the Islamist fanatics would agree, and they could be swiftly exterminated.  We can then mid-wife in Syria a Cantonal form of government allowing each group to keep its own while cooperating to sustain the larger entity of Syria.

At any rate, that’s what I would do.

The Answer to the Syrian Question is “Lebanon”

First off, Russia has released a report claiming that Syrian rebels used poison gas on March 19th. Whether or not the report is true, it does cast doubt on the Administration’s “Assad rat bastard against Freedom Fighters” narrative.  The Russian report, if proved correct, just adds one more bit of evidence that the rebels in Syria are just as nasty and inhuman as the Assad forces.  And this, in turn, makes it less and less wise for us to intervene in Syria.  But, there is a course of action the United States can take during this crisis which will help us, help our allies, weaken our enemies and leave us in a better position no matter who wins the Syrian Civil War – and that is to concentrate our efforts on Lebanon.

What is important is not necessarily what is in the newspapers.  In fact, what is making the headlines is as often as not the last thing we should be paying attention to.  This is because most reporters and editors are ignorant of things like history, strategy, military issues and such.  They are in the news business not to keep the citizenry informed, but to make bags of money and get rich and famous.  This Onion parody of why the MSM reported on Miley Cyrus actually explains the motivation of the  news business correctly.  Read it for the truth – and for the laughs, as its quite funny (language warning).  While reports showing the horrors of war and dead bodies will get people to tune it (especially if their are explosions!), what you’re seeing there isn’t what is at issue…it is the result of an issue.  The issue going on in the Muslim world right now is who gets to be in charge…all the battling and civil war and revolution and repression is all about who gets to be top dog.  Our leaders might think this, that or the other thing but the people there causing the trouble simply want power and are willing to go to horrific, anti-human lengths to obtain it.

Given this, we can be certain that whomever ruthlessly climbs to the top over a mountain of corpses probably won’t be a paragon of virtue.  In other words, whomever wins will be an enemy – actual or in prospect – of all we hold dear.  We can’t intervene on either side because both sides are simply after the same thing – ruthless, absolute power in order to perpetuate themselves (though, truth be told, the least dangerous outcome for us is an Assad victory…he doesn’t appear to have dreams of a global caliphate, as do many of the rebels).  So, our task then is to ensure that at the end of the bloody war, we and our allies are in the best possible position.  To me, this makes me turn to Lebanon.

Lebanon was wracked by civil war for years and then, essentially, came under Syrian and proxy-Iranian rule (the Iranian proxies are Hezbollah).  While this has made for peace in the sense of nobody immediately shooting each other, it has made for a lot of oppression as neither the Syrians nor Hezbollah are interested in the rights and desires of the people of Lebanon.  With Syria now locked in a death match and Iran expending energy keeping her ally Assad in power, the time is ripe for us to try and leverage Syria and Hezbollah (Iran) out of Lebanon.  The people there probably don’t like Syrian/Hezbollah rule, even if they don’t particularly like us, either.  There’s not much Syria can do if we decided to apply a little political pressure backed by covert military pressure to help the Lebanese push out the Syrians and then turn on Hezbollah. If we can get Syria/Hezbollah out of Lebanon then at the end of the Syrian Civil War we’ll have a weaker Syria, a weaker Iran, a free Lebanon and a more secure Israel – and if our efforts fail, we’ll be no worse off than we are now and we won’t have gotten ourselves involved in a Syrian Civil War which can do no good for us.

I don’t at all expect Obama to do anything like this.  He’s even more ignorant than a news reporter.  But I thought it worthwhile to demonstrate that there is an alternate policy for us to support – and thus put to rest the concept that some how or another because Obama screwed up and Assad is a bastard that we have to get directly involved.  The world doesn’t work like a machine – its run by human beings and thus can be quite confusing and the real issue can be off to the side while everyone is looking at the shiny object.  A true sense of our power and what our interests are clears things up a lot – pity that hardly anyone in a position of authority has any idea of either thing.

It is Time for a Conservative Anti-War Movement

As the Ruling Class circles the wagons around Obama and determines upon war in Syria to pull Obama’s bacon out of the fire, the question becomes: what can we do?  My answer:  start an anti-war movement.

To be sure, the anti-war movement in the United States has heretofore been the province of leftists – and very often the most kooky of leftists.  The left’s anti-war activity has tended towards being anti-American in effect – and more commonly anti-GOP, because we see how invisible it is now that a liberal Democrat is proposing war.  But just because leftists kooks have been anti-war that doesn’t mean that being anti-war is wrong, provided your being anti-war for sensible reasons.

War is a terrible, cruel and nasty business and should be avoided if at all possible.  Some times it is, however, necessary.  War will come when it comes – and there may even come times when it is necessary for us to start the war.  But what we have here in Syria is a war that isn’t coming to us and which we have no need to start.  The United States is not threatened.  US allies are not threatened.  The two sides in the Syrian civil war are equally bad – think of it like the Spanish civil war of the 1930’s where communists and fascists battled it out.  What possible good would US intervention have done back then – we’d have either midwifed a communist or fascist dictatorship.  In Syria, we can back Assad’s hideous regime, or back the al-Qaeda-like rebels.  No good.

The problem we have today started a long time ago – when Truman criminally hurled us in to the Korean War without obtaining Congressional approval.  That is when the war-making powers of Congress first began to atrophy.  These days, we have plenty of people – including some who are not at all dumb – saying that the President has authority to launch military action in Syria based upon his powers as Commander in Chief.  That is an absurd reading of the Constitution – but it is entirely in line with practice over the past 63 years.  A conservative anti-war movement must have as its goal the reform of this pernicious doctrine – we must return war-declaring power to the Congress.

While getting 100,000 people in to DC by Monday next might short-circuit this war in Syria, I doubt much that such a crowd can be gathered on such short notice.  Looking for the longer term, we should be seeking a law which will specifically prohibit the expenditure of defense funds on offensive actions not authorized by Congress (it is the power of the purse which gives Congress its actual power).  No money can be drawn from the Treasury without Congressional authorization, so all military expenditures would be covered by a law which says that the money can’t be used for offensive operations until Congress declares war (and it is preferred that it be an actual declaration of war – not an authorization to use force). This would still allow the President to use military force to defend – to defend the United States and our allies.  But it would not allow the Syrian strike (nor would it have allowed the Libyan war…and for you liberals out there if you want a piece of this, it would have prevented Panama in 1989 and Grenada in 1983) unless Obama obtains a declaration of war against Syria, first.

This all fits in with the broader, conservative desire to reform government by re-limiting its powers as intended by the Founders.  Only a limited government is a free government – and if we don’t stop this sort of thing, we will find ourselves living in an unfree nation very shortly.

Obama Tosses Syria Ball to Congress – Congress Should Vote it Down

Obama found out this last week that just setting a foreign policy isn’t the same as carrying it out.  Obama long ago said that use of chemical weapons by Syria would be a “red line” – and then he did precisely nothing to garner domestic and international support for a course of action should Syria cross that red line.  When it became alleged that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons (something I’m not at all convinced about – though, of course, the rat bastards who govern Syria are fully capable of such savagery), Obama found himself all alone.  After blustering a bit about how we can go it alone and he doesn’t need Congressional authorization, Obama backed down – and passed the buck to Congress.

On the left this is being lauded as a brilliant move – it puts the onus, so it is claimed, on Congress.  The idea is that Congress must authorize action – thus getting Obama off the hook for taking an ill-advised action – or bear the blame for refusing to act while Syria’s government murders children with poison gas (amazing how our liberals will still say its all “for the children” while they continue to back abortion which kills millions of children).  In the liberal mind, either way this works out for Obama – we’ll either get the military action and Obama is a hero, or the Congress will look like heartless bastards, and the Democrats will put full blame on the GOP for being the leading heartless bastards. I don’t see it that way.

What Obama is asking for is permission to pointlessly lob a few missiles at sites which will be long-since cleared out of valuable targets by the time we act.  Such strikes will not alter the course of the Syrian civil war, they will not stop the Syrian government from using chemical weapons and, indeed, will probably encourage further use (nothing encourages aggressors more than a weak response to aggression) and such strikes will do nothing to convince the world that America is a power to be feared.  I’d rather take the alleged heat for being a heartless bastard for not acting than bear the odium of participating in a perfectly useless action.  The Congressional GOP should vote this down.

If we vote for anything it should be an act which instructs the President to seek an international coalition for dealing with the Syrian crisis with a mind towards thwarting Iranian and al-Qaeda aims in Syria.  In short, pass a resolution which calls for a rational foreign policy.  In this resolution should be a general authority to use force in defense of the United States and our allies.  Throw the ball right back in Obama’s court – he’s the one who made this foreign policy failure, and he should be stuck with trying to clean it up.

UPDATE:  The case for war is made here – astonishingly at First Things, usually a place where first-rate thinking is displayed.  You can read it, if you like, but the nutshell is that we’d better get a-killing Syrians lest President Obama be shown to be completely ineffectual.  Heretofore, I had always rated The War of Jenkin’s Ear to be the most misbegotten war in human history, but this would displace it:  we’re to go to war to make the world safe for poltroonery.  Because Obama is afraid to lead and at his wit’s end (its a short walk, under the best of circumstances), we’re to send our best and bravest out to kill Syrians in an effort which is to be geared merely to avoid global mockery of Obama.

Sorry, ain’t buying – a great power can survive idiots being in charge, but we can’t survive going to war to cover up for an idiot.

Should We Go to War in Syria?

As the Obama Administration lets on that it is planning US military action against Syria and our forces move in to position we do have to ask, is such a war necessary?

First and foremost, is there any vital US interest at state in Syria?  To a certain extent, yes.  Syria’s government has long been allied with Iran and has fostered the terrorist group Hezbollah.  Destroying the Syrian regime, though, would only be useful if the potential successor regime would no longer be allied with Iran or any other US enemy and/or if such a regime would cease supporting terrorism…given the grab-bag collection of Islamists who make up the bulk of the Syrian opposition, it is almost certain that if they gain power they will continue to support terrorism and if not allied with Iran, would ally with some other enemy country, or countries.  Indeed, a successor regime run by the Islamist opposition might even re-ignite Syria’s war with Israel (which has never officially ended).

Secondly, is there a moral demand that we act – some times a nation must go to war even without a vital, national interest at stake simply because there is a vital, moral issue at stake.  Given the very nasty brutality of the Syrian regime, there is a moral case to be made for war.  Though if we were to move on this, it would smack a bit of hypocrisy because the Syrian government isn’t doing anything it hasn’t been doing for decades, accompanied by a resounding silence on our part.  Additionally, the Islamist opposition to the Syrian regime has been engaging in routine brutality of its own – especially, it appears, against Syria’s Christian minority.  Given their nature, we can expect an Islamist regime to crack down even harder on Christians, and on any Muslims who don’t live up to the Islamist ideal.  Morally, there is no problem with targeting the Syrian regime, but the result of knocking off the Syrian regime is almost certain to be a regime even more horrific.

Overall, the result of a successful military operation against the Syrian regime appears to be something worse than we have now.  That Assad is a brute and his regime inhuman is beyond doubt, but given the nature of the opposition, a successor regime would be at least as bad and, perhaps, more destabilizing to the overall region.  A tenet of the Just War Doctrine is that the war must not cause a worse situation than currently exists – given the  strong arguments against a good result (ie, getting something better than we have now), an argument can be made that a war against Syria does not meet the Just War criteria.

I tend to come down on that side – in Syria, we can’t make a result better than the current state of affairs and our efforts will, indeed, very likely make a worse result.  We should, therefor, stay out of Syria.  Our goal in this mess should be, instead, to work against overall enemy forces – which include both the Syrian regime and those fighting it.  Right now, with Syria wracked by civil war, proper American policy should be to leverage Syria completely out of Lebanon and by so doing also get Hezbollah out.  We cannot fix the whole world, but we can take advantage of this situation to help fix a small part of it – Lebanon has been a stomping ground for Syrian imperialists and Islamist terrorists for decades.  It has become a standing threat to Israel and the non-Islamist population of Lebanon suffers grave injustice from the Syrians and the terrorist groups.  Getting Syria and the terrorists out of Lebanon won’t usher in global peace, but it will help out the Lebanese and the Israelis as well as strengthening the overall US position in the area.  We should be doing what we can – directly and indirectly, to clear out Lebanon while sealing off, as far as possible, the Syrian civil war.  Once a winner emerges, then steps can be taken depending upon the circumstances.

What’s Next for Syria?

There have been many reports recently that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against the rebels – and this action supposedly crossed Obama’s “red line”, which should have triggered a US response.  But, no response.  Why?  This article in the New York Times gives a pretty solid reason:

As Islamists increasingly fill the ranks of Syrian rebels, President Bashar al-Assad is waging an energized campaign to persuade the United States that it is on the wrong side of the civil war. Some government supporters and officials believe they are already coaxing — or at least frightening — the West into holding back stronger support for the opposition.

Confident they can sell their message, government officials have eased their reluctance to allow foreign reporters into Syria, paraded prisoners they described as extremist fighters and relied unofficially on a Syrian-American businessman to help tap into American fears of groups like Al Qaeda.

“We are partners in fighting terrorism,” Syria’s prime minister, Wael Nader al-Halqi, said.

Omran al-Zoubi, the information minister, said: “It’s a war for civilization, identity and culture. Syria, if you want, is the last real secular state in the Arab world.”…

Which statement is pretty close to the truth – but doesn’t change the fact that Assad’s regime has been an unrelieved series of rat-bastard actions since the days when his dad was in charge.  While I doubt recent claims of chemical weapons use, it is pretty sure that the Syrian regime has used poison gas in the past against rebels.  Additionally, while the Assad regime is officially secular it has been long allied with Islamist Iran and has provided vital support to Islamist Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Even as an allegedly secular State, Syria has been helping our Islamist enemies – in addition to being implacably opposed to the existence of the State of Israel.  There is, in short, not much for us to love there.  Of course, the rebels do appear dominated by Islamists, so if they do manage to topple the Assad regime, it also won’t work to our advantage.

And so I’ve always said we should stay out – no matter who wins in Syria, we lose.  But what we should have been doing is using Syria’s civil war as a means to pry Hezbollah out of Lebanon.  Right now, no one in Syria has much time or resources to be supporting Hezbollah – a concerted effort against Hezbollah will now ultimately bear fruit because all actions against them will weaken their power, which cannot be easily rebuilt without active Syrian support.  Partnering with Israel and those elements in Lebanon (which are substantial) which would prefer to see an end to the quasi-State run by Hezbollah in Lebanon, we could have secured genuine Lebanese independence – so that no matter who wins the Syrian civil war, Syria’s position in Lebanon is permanently destroyed.

But, we did nothing of the kind –  because Obama doesn’t see enemies over in the Muslim world, just alienated friends (alienated by us, of course).  Obama – and all his foreign policy team – probably never even thought about how to exploit the Syrian civil war to our strategic advantage.  We’ve dithered and blustered and threatened and half-armed the rebels – and we may yet be dragged in to direct participation in the war and the subsequent cost of pacification and rebuilding.  But we won’t secure a pro -US regime in Syria and we may well end up midwifing a new, virulently anti-US regime which also controls Lebanon.

Its a miserable situation and because our leaders are ignorant of the realities of the Middle East, it will likely just get worse.