Iraq and Syria: al Qaeda on the march

January 9, 2014
The flag of al Qaeda

The flag of al Qaeda

Boy, it’s a good thing President Obama destroyed al Qaeda, isn’t it? Otherwise they’d have conquered the world, by now.

As it is, we can be grateful they only control more territory than they ever have:

From around Aleppo in western Syria to small areas of Falluja in central Iraq, al Qaeda now controls territory that stretches more than 400 miles across the heart of the Middle East, according to English and Arab language news accounts as well as accounts on jihadist websites.

Indeed, al Qaeda appears to control more territory in the Arab world than it has done at any time in its history.

The focus of al Qaeda’s leaders has always been regime change in the Arab world in order to install Taliban-style regimes. Al Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledged as much in his 2001 autobiography, “Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet,” when he explained that the most important strategic goal of al Qaeda was to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world, explaining that, “without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.”

Now al-Zawahiri is closer to his goal than he has ever been.

(…)

In September a CNN reporting team concluded, “Al Qaeda has swept to power with the aim of imposing a strict Islamist ideology on Syrians across large swathes of Syria’s rebel-held north.”

In sum, al Qaeda affiliates now control much of northern and northwestern Syria as well as some parts of eastern Syria, as well as much of Anbar province, which is around a third of Iraqi territory.

Thank goodness Obama and his Smart Power team came into office to fix George W. Bush’s mistakes, no?

Like I said before, this would likely not have happened had the Obama administration not bollixed the SOF negotiations with Maliki’s government. In both political and military matters, our proven ability to act as a trusted mediator between Iraqi factions probably would have prevented the political difficulties that gave al Qaeda this opening in Anbar, and provided the Iraqi Army with the support they need to deal rapidly and effectively with the threat. This was demonstrated time and again during the Surge operations.

But, under President Obama’s wise leadership, we left Iraq. We also dithered on Syria until jihadists became the dominant opposition force.

And now the black banner of jihad flies from Aleppo to Fallujah.

via Jim Geraghty, who writes:

Remember, “Bin Laden is dead and Detroit is alive”? Detroit is bankrupt and al-Qaeda now controls more territory than ever.

Heckuva job, Barry.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Shocker: Syria to miss deadline on Obama WMD deal

December 30, 2013
Not again?

Wishes he’d never heard of Syria

Hey, didn’t the Assad regime get the message that Obama really meant it when he said he was really, really serious about getting Syria to give up its chemical weapons? Keep this up, and he’ll go tell Putin on them:

Syria’s failure to move part of its chemical weapons arsenal to a Mediterranean port has prompted warnings that the disarmament deal struck with the country is falling seriously behind schedule.

A Norwegian navy frigate sent to escort a convoy carrying Syria’s mustard gas and sarin stockpile has said it has been advised to expect a substantial delay.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the body in charge of the UN-backed plan to destroy 1,300 tonnes of Syria’s chemical weapons, said it had put in place all the necessary “logistical and security” arrangements.

However, it added that tomorrow’s deadline for the shipment of the weapons-grade munitions cannot be met and could only proceed if President Bashar al-Assad’s government “intensified efforts” to move the material.

I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

Of course, everyone knew this would happen: Obama leapt at the deal brokered by Russia because he had stupidly opened his mouth and laid down an ultimatum he wasn’t prepared to back up. In the meantime, Assad has gained more time to defeat the rebels, his Iranian paymasters keep Syria as a client state and bridge to their proxies in Lebanon, and American influence in the region sinks lower as Obama can’t even enforce the minimum terms of a fig-leaf agreement he and Secretary Kerry touted as a major breakthrough.

That “smart power” sure has paid off, no?

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


US, Russia, reach sham deal over Syrian chemical weapons

September 15, 2013
"I won"

“I won”

With John Kerry as our lead negotiator, so you know it’s good:

The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on an outline for the identification and seizure of Syrian chemical weapons and said Syria must turn over an accounting of its arsenal within a week.

The agreement will be backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution that could allow for sanctions or other consequences if Syria fails to comply, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said.

Kerry said that the first international inspection of Syrian chemical weapons will take place by November, with destruction to begin next year.

Senior administration officials had said Friday the Obama administration would not press for U.N. authorization to use force against Syria if it reneges on any agreement to give up its chemical weapons.

The Russians had made clear in talks here between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry that the negotiations could not proceed under the threat of a U.N. resolution authorizing a military strike. Russia also wanted assurances that a resolution would not refer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the International Criminal Court for possible war-crimes prosecution.

President Obama has said that the unilateral U.S. use of force against Syria for a chemical attack last month remains on the table. But consideration of that action, already under challenge by a skeptical Congress, has been put on hold pending the outcome of the Geneva talks.

The rest of the article contains the usual blather about how inspections must be thorough, that there will be consequences for non-compliance, the international community has spoken, etc., etc. Note that the French are already circulating a resolution for “further measures” if Syria doesn’t live up to the deal. Naturally, those “further measures” are left undefined. It’s the 90′s inspection shell-game in Iraq all over again, just updated with new faces.

A Syrian government minister is much more honest:

“This agreement, an achievement of Russian diplomats and the Russian leadership, is a victory for Syria won thanks to our Russian friends,” Ali Haidar told Russian news agency RIA.

“We welcome this agreement. From one point of view, it will help Syrians exit the crisis, from another, it has prevented a war against Syria, having taken away the pretext for one from those who wanted to unleash (it),” he said.

(h/t Power Line)

Assad himself wasn’t available for comment; he was too busy laughing his head off.

This wasn’t only a victory for Syria, where the regime survives, they get to keep their chemical weapons (1), and an American attack is off the table for the rest of Obama’s term; this is a big win for Moscow, too. First, and regardless of how Team Smart Power spins it, the whole world a Nobel Peace Prize winner nearly bumble into war and then practically fall all over himself to grasp the life-preserver thrown to him by the ex-KGB tyrant. So much for American leadership and credibility.

Putin also showed he can deliver, where Obama can’t: his client is protected from the wrath of the Americans, he keeps his nice naval base at Tartus, and any future negotiations over Syria and its fate go through the Kremlin, not the White House. Oh, and while he’s at it, he’s letting the Iranians know that he has their back, too.

Mark Steyn called it: “American exceptionalism” has, under Obama, become American Ineffectualism:

Putin has pulled off something incredible: He’s gotten Washington to anoint him as the international community’s official peacemaker, even as he assists Iran in going nuclear and keeping their blood-soaked Syrian client in his presidential palace. Already, under the “peace process,” Putin and Assad are running rings around the dull-witted Kerry, whose Botoxicated visage embodies all too well the expensively embalmed state of the superpower.

There’s no way around it: this is an utter humiliation and we look absolutely foolish. A declining regional power has totally outplayed the world’s sole remaining superpower to reestablish itself in a region from which it was shut out 40 years ago. As Iowahawk put it, Putin is just doing donuts in Obama’s front yard. No wonder American allies in the area are looking to cut a deal with the new boss.

It’s going to be a long three years until the next election, isn’t it?

Footnote:
(1) Come on. You don’t seriously think Assad will really have to give those up, do you?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama, Chamberlain, Putin, and Alinsky all walk into a bar…

September 13, 2013

It’s a busy Friday today (whine… whimper), but here are a few items worthy of your consideration, all tied to the Syria mess and what it’s revealed of Barack Obama’s incompetence:

First, Bill Whittle in the lastest Afterburner remembers another time of weakness at the top and the monumental fatuousness of relying on personal charm as a basis for policy in a world of power politics — The Umbrella Men:

I’ve been saying for years that this feels like the 1930s, all over again.

Next, James Taranto makes the case that Vladimir Putin is a better student of Alinsky than our Alinsky-ite president, Barack Obama. First he analyses Putin’s NYT op-ed article and notes how the Russian leader leverages our own ideology and ideals against us:

This is right out of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals“: “The fourth rule is: Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more live up to their own rules than the Christian Church can live up to Christianity.” (Putin also appeals to the pope’s authority.)

Then he discerns the way in which Putin is a natural Alinskyite, while Obama is a mere academic pretender:

“Putin is bluffing that Russia has emerged as a major world power,” argues Stratfor.org’s George Friedman:

“In reality, Russia is merely a regional power, but mainly because its periphery is in shambles. He has tried to project a strength that he doesn’t have, and he has done it well.”

Because America is so much mightier than Russia, the American presidency is a much stronger position than the Russian presidency. But a strong man in a position of weakness, if he is ruthless about taking advantage of his adversary’s vulnerabilities, can get the better of weak man in a position of strength. Saul Alinsky understood that, and so does Vladimir Putin.

At its heart, Alinskyism is about the will to take and keep power. In that contest, the Judo-master Russian has it all over the bike-riding American.

I, for one, welcome our new neo-Stalinist overlords.

RELATED: At PJ Media, Ed Driscoll talks about the “Clown-car Presidency” and how the Democratic response to winning (yes, winning) in Vietnam compares to their reaction to winning (yes, winning) in Iraq. Bridget Johnson discusses the possibility that Bashar Assad is allied with al Qaeda. You can’t tell the double-crossers apart without a program. Richard Fernandez on the collapse of Obama’s presidency and the danger that means for all of us: Olympus Has Fallen.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


If Obama-Putin were a boxing match, it would have been stopped on a TKO

September 10, 2013
"Even the monkey is embarrassed"

“Even the monkey is embarrassed”

Or if it were T-Ball, the 10-run rule would have been invoked to save Obama’s pride.

Remember how I mentioned that Obama had leaped at an offer from Putin to settle the Syrian chemical weapons crisis? Well, just as Charlie Obama was ready to kick that football through the goalposts in his speech tonight, Lucy Putin pulled it away:

Russia is not keen at this stage for a binding U.N. Security Council resolution that would provide a framework to control Syria’s chemical weapons’ stocks, France’s foreign minister said after talks with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday.

“As I understood, the Russians at this stage were not necessarily enthusiastic, and I’m using euphemism, to put all that into the framework of a U.N. binding resolution,” Laurent Fabius told French lawmakers after a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

This is like a bully in junior-high school grabbing a wimpy kid’s wrist and hitting him with his own hand, while shouting “Stop hitting yourself! Why are you hitting yourself?”

It was a total sucker play; there was no deal, ever. The Russians and the Syrians just set Obama up, knowing he’d take the bait and try to make himself look like a tough guy in the process. Instead, Putin’s just made him look like a chump.

Again.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Spinning so fast I’m dizzy: Obamabots claim Obama’s strength forced Putin and Assad to negotiate

September 10, 2013

Wow. This, I think, wins the award for brass, even for this administration. From “Baghdad” Jay Carney:

“…And let’s be clear. What we’re seeing with the Russian proposal and the Syrian reaction has only come about because of the threat of — the credible threat of U.S. military action. Before this morning, the Syrian government had never even acknowledged they possessed chemical weapons. Now they have.”

Yeah, I’d buy that. Bashar Assad, who we believe used poison gas on his own people and who definitely imported Iranian snipers to shoot demonstrators, and Vladimir Putin, who flattened Grozny in a way that hadn’t been done since Berlin in 1945, were so intimidated by our threat of an “unbelievably small” strike that wouldn’t do any real damage that they immediately rushed to offer a deal (that originated in a Kerry gaffe).

They know better than to mess with this guy:

Don't you dare mock him!

I’d laugh, but I’m too busy picking my jaw up off the floor.

UPDATE: Deep in your heart, you just know Putin is loving every minute of this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#Syria (Video) Why we went to war in Iraq

September 10, 2013

While the world waits to see if Obama will get his war …no…  warning shot across the bow …er… targeted, limited attack …umm… Wait! I got it!… “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort,” or if Vladimir Putin (!!) will save him from being mocked, comparisons inevitably come up to our invasion and liberation of Iraq from another bloodthirsty Baathist dictator, Saddam Hussein. “If we were willing to go to war over WMDs then (1),” proponents of striking Syria might ask, “why not now?”

Because the two don’t compare at all, as you’ll see in this Praeger University video hosted by historian Andrew Roberts:

There were a lot of reasons, strategic and moral, justifying war against Saddam Hussein. And while there are some good arguments for intervening militarily in Syria (2), there are many more convincing ones for finding another way.

via Jared Sichel

Footnotes:
(1) And before someone thrusts a fist in the air and starts shouting “Bush lied! People died!” over Iraqi WMDs, please do us all a favor and read the final report of the Iraq Survey Group.
(2) None of them involving President Obama’s self-esteem and credibility, or sending messages to Tehran. The Iranians have already received that message, loud and clear.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Ever get the feeling @BarackObama does not want the #Syria resolution passed?

September 9, 2013

I mean, why else would you include in your “full-court press” of members of Congress a known liar (1) like Susan Rice?

From John Fund:

Up until now, the White House lobbying effort has been dismal. In an astonishing display of either ignorance or brazenness, the White House will mark the first anniversary of the Benghazi terrorist attack this Wednesday by sending National Security Adviser Susan Rice to Capitol Hill to argue the administration’s case for military force in Syria. Rice infamously delivered false talking points on national television, blaming the Benghazi attacks on a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Islam YouTube video. Sending Rice to Congress to brief members on Syria is like sending Typhoid Mary to lecture on public health. Her credibility is, to use a diplomatic term, limited. 

Okay, okay. Maybe I was being harsh on Rice. She *may* not have known she was lying. I don’t believe it, myself, but it is possible. In which case, the administration is instead sending a clueless tool rather than a brazen liar.

That’s an improvement?

Read the rest. There are more examples of the administration bungling its congressional “diplomacy” vis-a-vis Syria; this is just the most egregious.

But this is also what they get for doing everything but build relations with Congress over the past five years. President “I won”is now learning that, supine as Congress often is, there are still times when presidents will need them, and doing the necessary work to make sure members are on your side before you need them is part of the president’s job.

You’d think the guy widely proclaimed (by his own side) to be the smartest president ever would have known that, no?

Unless, maybe, he really just wants them to save him from his own red-line gaffe and make it go away by voting no.

Footnote:
(1) Yeah, Maureen Dowd. But, read her quotes from Senator Susan Collins (R-ME, and not known as a conservative hardliner) about Rice. Between the lines, they’re devastating and demonstrate just why Rice is such a poor choice for “reach out” work.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Delusional: Obama admin thought they could convince Iran to abandon #Syria

September 7, 2013

Top Obama foreign policy adviser

Top Obama foreign policy adviser

I think this is final proof that The One and his band of happy progressives have been into the wrong mushrooms.

According to Samantha Power, our UN Ambassador and key mind behind the fatuous “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine of humanitarian intervention (1), thought that a UN report on Syria’s use of chemical weapons could convince Iran (and Russia) to abandon Bashar Assad:

Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, hoped that a team of UN investigators — many of whom, presumably, have a longstanding relationship with Iranian leaders — could write a report that would convince Iran to abandon its ally at the behest of the United States.

“We worked with the UN to create a group of inspectors and then worked for more than six months to get them access to the country on the logic that perhaps the presence of an investigative team in the country might deter future attacks,” Power said at the Center for American Progress as she made the case for intervening in Syria.

“Or, if not, at a minimum, we thought perhaps a shared evidentiary base could convince Russia or Iran — itself a victim of Saddam Hussein’s monstrous chemical weapons attacks in 1987-1988 — to cast loose a regime that was gassing it’s people,” she said.

This isn’t merely “detached from reality,” this is foreign policy as a psychotic break. Where do I begin? Iran? Syria is their key client in the region, essential to their influence along the Eastern Mediterranean and a vital conduit to their “foreign legion,” Hizbullah. When the protests first started a couple of years ago, they loaned Assad snipers for use against the demonstrators, a tactic they employed in their own country. They’ve even dispatched their elite troops, the Revolutionary Guard, to help Assad because, let me say this again, Syria is vital to them.

The idea that Iran, which is seeking nuclear weapons to fulfill their fondest dream of wiping Israel from the map and bringing about the Islamic “end times,” would be intimidated by a report from the United Nations is beyond laughable.

And Russia? That same Russia run by Vladimir “I leveled Grozny” Putin, who’s publicly slapping Obama, taking his lunch money, and is happily planning to supplant the US in the Middle East? That Russia? The one that blocked us at the Security Council? They’re going to say “Oh, well. A UN report. That’s different!”?

I think I’ve figured it out. “Smart Power” was one big joke all along. On us.

I’m with Victor Davis Hanson: Obama’s naive blundering is reminiscent of JFK’s mishandling of the Vienna summit, which lead Khrushchev to think he could get away with putting nuclear missiles in Cuba, which in turn almost resulted in World War III. It worries me that , with more than three years left to go, one of our major foes is going to think he can similarly test Obama.

Oh. Hi, China!

via Twitchy

Footnote:
(1) That worked so well in Libya.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Before we trust John McCain’s judgment on #Syria…

September 6, 2013

Senator McCain said in Arizona this weekend that he was “unalterably opposed” to using American ground forces –”boots on the ground”– in Syria. Andy McCarthy thought that sounded familiar, and recalled that John McCain also said he was “unalterably opposed” to Muslim Brotherhood participation in Egypt’s post-Mubarak government.

Right before he became in favor of it.

I hate to say it about a genuine war hero, but John McCain has become a old fool, lead more by his own vanity than by good sense and sagacity. His is not a voice the public should heed when making up its mind about Syria.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Before we attack #Syria, let’s look at Libya, shall we?

September 5, 2013

If Obama wants to launch us into another humanitarian intervention against an Arab dictator (1), perhaps we all should look at how his last Big Adventure turned out? That would be in Libya, where, according to The Independent’s Patrick Cockburn, things have gone from bad to God-awful:

A little under two years ago, Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, urged British businessmen to begin “packing their suitcases” and to fly to Libya to share in the reconstruction of the country and exploit an anticipated boom in natural resources.

Yet now Libya has almost entirely stopped producing oil as the government loses control of much of the country to militia fighters.

Mutinying security men have taken over oil ports on the Mediterranean and are seeking to sell crude oil on the black market. Ali Zeidan, Libya’s Prime Minister, has threatened to “bomb from the air and the sea” any oil tanker trying to pick up the illicit oil from the oil terminal guards, who are mostly former rebels who overthrew Muammar Gaddafi and have been on strike over low pay and alleged government corruption since July.

Sweet. Our intervention there was so successful that the Prime Minister is threatening to bomb his own ports. Oil production, Libya’s only source of revenue, has cratered to a tenth of what it had been prior to the intervention, denying the government the revenue it needs to maintain forces to control the country. Far from governing Libya, this gelded government can barely control its own capital, Tripoli:

Rule by local militias is also spreading anarchy around the capital. Ethnic Berbers, whose militia led the assault on Tripoli in 2011, temporarily took over the parliament building in Tripoli. The New York-based Human Rights Watch has called for an independent investigation into the violent crushing of a prison mutiny in Tripoli on 26 August in which 500 prisoners had been on hunger strike. The hunger strikers were demanding that they be taken before a prosecutor or formally charged since many had been held without charge for two years.

The government called on the Supreme Security Committee, made up of former anti-Gaddafi militiamen nominally under the control of the interior ministry, to restore order. At least 19 prisoners received gunshot shrapnel wounds, with one inmate saying “they were shooting directly at us through the metal bars”. There have been several mass prison escapes this year in Libya including 1,200 escaping from a prison after a riot in Benghazi in July.

In short, after overthrowing Qaddafi, a tyrannical cross-dressing nut-job who, nonetheless, kept order and worked with us, we and our allies left Libya to its own devices, apparently doing squat-all to strengthen the central government. Instead, we patted ourselves on the back, picked up our toys, and left the place to torn apart by various tribal and jihadist militias.

Read the whole thing; it’s  a searing indictment of the incompetence of the British, French, and especially the American governments. The lack of any planning or even simple foresight about what to do after “we won” is stunning. If the Bush Administration could be justly criticized (2) for not properly planning for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, then the Obama administration’s failure to do even rudimentary post-war preparation is a blazing sign of incompetence. At least the Bush people had a plan, bad as it was. The yo-yos of Team Smart Power couldn’t even be bothered to scratch one out on a cocktail napkin.

And now they want to intervene in Syria.

But, don’t worry. I’m sure the Obama people have learned their lesson, gamed out the various possibilities in Syria after we intervene in order not to be mocked, and made plans for each contingency.

And I’m also Napoleon.

While Congress considers granting permission for this humanitarian intervention, they’d be advised to take a close look at the results of the last one.

RELATED: Andrew McCarthy on the people John McCain thinks we should help in Syria. Oh, yeah. It’s Libya all over again. Stanley Kurtz on Samantha Powers, one of Obama’s foreign policy guru’s, our current UN Ambassador, and one of the main architects of the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine of humanitarian military intervention. For an encore, Kurtz asks a rhetorical question: Shall we now retake Libya in the name of humanitarianism? Here’s an excerpt from his answer:

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda factions driven out of Mali by the French make their home in Libya’s southern desert, armed with weapons plundered from Qaddafi’s arsenals. Other arms, and no doubt Islamist fighters as well, flow to the rebel forces in Syria, strengthening precisely those elements that most threaten our counterweight to Assad. A year ago, Senators McCain and Graham repeatedly cited our apparent success in Libya as a model for intervention in Syria. They haven’t mentioned it lately.

Footnote:
(1) I can see a case for intervening, but I think the bulk of the good argument is against it. But that’s not out of any sympathy or liking for Assad, whom I think should be strung up from a lamp post. If he’s lucky.
(2) As I’ve said, I did and do support the liberation of Iraq under Bush. But, there’s no arguing that the post-war occupation and reconstruction was poorly planned, and for that they deserve criticism.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Obama in Sweden: “Red line? That wasn’t *my* red line!”

September 4, 2013

What’s the Swedish for “Don’t blame me?” Oh, yeah: Klandra inte mig! (1)

At a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Sweden (2), Obama engaged in this bit of historical… “tale-telling:”

“I didn’t set a red line,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference here in Stockholm. “The world set a red line.”

Funny. That’s not how I remember it. Nor is that what the press records:

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

That would be the President of the United States, Barack Obama, talking about his administration’s policy. Not the UN Secretary General, aka the “Chief Clerk for the Security Council,” speaking for some mythical “international community.” Just so we’re clear.

I guess that’s what happens when you’ve spent most of your political career voting “present.” When that’s not possible anymore, you try like the dickens to spread the responsibility around so that no one can hold you accountable: “I did not draw a red line; we all drew a red line. (Under his breath) So lay off me, okay?”

It’s the Steve Urkel presidency: “Did I do that??”

Harry Truman weeps.

Footnotes:
(1) Courtesy of Google Translate.
(2) You know, that social-democratic country that’s more free-market than the US.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Kerry on the Hill: “Assad used chemical weapons because Obama is weak.”

September 3, 2013

Wow.

Per Marc Thiessen of AEI, here’s what the Secretary of State said am few minutes ago while testifying before a Senate committee on the need to intervene in Syria:

One of the reasons Assad has been using these materials is because they have, up until now, made the calculation that the West writ large and the United States particularly are not going to do anything about it. Impunity is already working to kill a lot of people and to make things more dangerous. I guarantee you that is in their assessment.

As Thiessen points out, the leader of the West and the United States is the President of the United States. Ergo, Kerry is saying that Assad used chemical weapons because he assumed Obama can be safely ignored.

It’s the ultimate indictment of Obama’s blundering foreign policy and his incompetent Mideast grand strategy. His weakness has encouraged brutal dictators to use horrific weapons and, to stop it, we have to repair Obama’s self-image. What a great reason to start a war. At least the British had Jenkin’s ear.

Passing thought: What if this backhanded insult was Kerry’s way of getting revenge for being humiliated by Obama last week? Nah. He’s not that clever and is too anxious to be a team player.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Quote of the Day: Obama’s Bizarre Syria policy edition

August 31, 2013

I admit it: John Podhoretz got me to laugh out loud. Snark that’s true often does that:

Some people compare foreign policy to a game of chess. Barack Obama is playing 52 pick-up.

Though, really, that’s true of Obama’s foreign policy overall, not just Syria.


Syria: In which Jonah Goldberg rants

August 30, 2013

And it’s a thing of beauty. I would have included it in the last post, but I didn’t read the Goldberg File (1) until after sending it to press. But, I do want to share it. Far from his usual amiable discourses laced with pop-culture references, it’s clear he’s as disgusted as I:

For the first time since the Brits grew exhausted with the Hurricane of Fists they were getting from the 13 colonies, the British parliament voted against the government on an issue of war. Obviously, this was not directly Barack Obama’s fault. But he’s hardly blameless either. This mess is part of the larger mess he created. Obama follows polls and acts like it’s courage. He mocks and belittles American leadership and then is shocked when no one wants to follow America. We were supposed to be in an era of renewed global cooperation and engagement. Instead, Obama can’t hold the support of our closest ally — because the British Left balked. Forget forging new alliances with “former” enemies — as Obama promised would happen once it dawned on the Arab street that his middle name is “Hussein” and they realized he’s black; Obama can’t even maintain historic alliances with longstanding friends.

Oh, and thank goodness Hillary Clinton gave the Russians a big toy button with the word “overcharge” on it. We’re really reaping the payoff on that now.

Part of the problem stems from the simple fact that Obama can’t sell anything but himself. Even when he tried — and he really tried — he couldn’t sell Obamacare to the American people. When it comes to the Syria intervention — which, if done right, I am in favor of — he’s not even trying to sell. His body language in that PBS interview was that of a husband forced to explain to his wife how he got the clap. He talked like a teenager looking at the floor while telling his parents that he doesn’t know how their car ended up in the neighbor’s swimming pool. The only thing his “shot across the bow” talk did for him was convince everyone that he’s not wagging the dog to boost his poll numbers. A war-mongering charlatan would at least fake commitment better.

But what do you really think, Jonah?

He should have a headache more often.

Footnote:
(1) Email only, sorry. But do subscribe. It’s free and worth every penny.


Obama foreign policy success: Britain says “Thanks, but no.”

August 30, 2013
Obama foreign policy advisers

Obama foreign policy advisers

What was I saying yesterday about the “stunning ineptitude” of Obama’s diplomacy? On top of everything else, he’s failed to convince one of our oldest allies, Great Britain, to join us in “sending a message” to Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Late yesterday, the House of Commons dealt a stunning blow to the political fortunes of Prime Minister Cameron by refusing permission to attack Syria. While British domestic politics played the major role in this, there’s no doubt that Team Smart Power failed to do the needed legwork to make things easier for Cameron. I could rant about it, but Charles Krauthammer does it just fine:

This is a complete humiliation for the Obama administration. Forget about the merits of what Obama wants to do, which I think it’s a bad idea, but let’s assume it’s a good idea. This involves the elementary conduct of international diplomacy, trying to get some allies aboard so you don’t act unilaterally. 

So who’s the main ally in the world who has been with us in every trench for the last 100 years? The British. And now the British have voted against us. The other supposed ally was the French, President Hollande, and now he’s saying we got to wait for the report from the UN inspectors which will be early next week. So here is Obama and the Democrats, who railed against the Bush administration for its supposedly unilateral invasion of Iraq where we had 48 allies for a mission that involved boots on the ground — a real invasion, a real war. And here’s Obama trying to gather an ally or two for a pinprick, and he gets nothing. 

This is just on the basis of thinking ahead, let’s say, a week ahead. When they leaked all this information about exactly what we’re going to hit, where we’re going to hit it, what the reasons are and the objectives are’ and we’re going to have a coalition of the willing, did nobody actually think to check with the allies? I mean, these are guys who couldn’t organize a three car funeral.

In other words, Obama, who likes to be compared to FDR, who himself lead a grand coalition in World War II, wasn’t even skillful enough to put together an alliance less than one-tenth the size of that built by the reviled George W. Bush in 2003.

I guess Parliament didn’t think keeping Obama from being mocked was reason enough to go into battle.

At PJM, RIchard Fernandez looks the isolated state Obama finds himself in and considers his options — none of them good:

Now, with Britain out of the operation, Obama faces the prospect of going into Syria almost literally alone, without the UN, NATO, Congress, or even the UK to back him up. Two courses are now open to him. He can climb down as best he can and pretend he’s changed his mind or he can go forward risking a wider war for nothing. As Andy Borowitz of The New Yorker said in a satirical piece, Obama has tried to mollify the antiwar left by promising the Syria strike “would have no objective.” It would just be a couple of days worth of random drive-by shooting without strategic content and therefore moral.

Yet a climbdown would represent a public and devastating humiliation of the man who once believe he bestrode the world. It would also represent a huge propaganda victory for Assad.

The alternative would be for Obama to double down and order an attack on his own authority despite having, as Professor Goldsmith noted, no apparent legal leg to stand on. He would risk starting a wider war that he doesn’t even want to win, and possibly illegally to boot.

Whichever way it goes, Obama’s plan for a “limited but decisive” attack on Assad is probably over. George Will advised the president to quit talking himself into trouble. “The administration now would do well to do something that the head of it has an irresistible urge not to do: Stop talking. If a fourth military intervention is coming, it will not be to decisively alter events, which we cannot do, in a nation vital to U.S. interests, which Syria is not. Rather, its purpose will be to rescue Obama from his words.

And thus we see again the truth about everything Obama does: It’s all about The O. No rational calculation of American national interests, no attempt to show how humanitarian considerations might affect those interests. Just “doing something” for appearance’s sake because Obama drew the wrong red line.

As the great Strother Martin said in Butch Cassidy, “Morons. I’ve got morons on my team.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Syria: The New York Times goes foaming-at-the-mouth Neocon

August 29, 2013

So, this was the headline in an op-ed in yesterday’s times:

syria NYT hypocritical headline

And speaking as a Neocon… “amateurs!”

I eagerly await the Times editorial denunciation of the Times op-ed writers.

Can one die of an irony overload?

via Instapundit


Syria: President Short-Pants starts a war to avoid being mocked

August 28, 2013
Don't you dare mock him!

Don’t you dare mock him!

Oh, good God. Is this what our foreign policy has come to? That the President of the United States, heir in office to giants such as Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan, is going to attack another country so he won’t be called a wimp?

Hey, that’s not my description. Ask the infamous “unnamed US official:”

Some experts said U.S. warships and submarines in the eastern Mediterranean could fire cruise missiles at Syrian targets as early as Thursday night, beginning a campaign that could last two or three nights. Obama leaves next Tuesday for a four day trip to Sweden and Russia, which strongly supports Assad’s government, for the G-20 economic summit.

One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.

“They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said.

And there you have it, friends. We have officially returned to the Clinton-era policy of “lob a few missiles to send a message” that worked so well against al Qaeda that we wound up with a smoking crater in Manhattan a few years later. It’s a finely calibrated public relations effort, meant to show that Urkel is really The Hulk, not really to stop Assad’s gassing of his own people.

There’s an old saying: “If you strike at a king, you must kill him.” Roger L. Simon quotes Bret Stephens, who describes what Obama must do, if he’s going to war:

Should President Obama decide to order a military strike against Syria, his main order of business must be to kill Bashar Assad. Also, Bashar’s brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power. Also, all of the political symbols of the Assad family’s power, including all of their official or unofficial residences. The use of chemical weapons against one’s own citizens plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein. A civilized world cannot tolerate it. It must demonstrate that the penalty for it will be acutely personal and inescapably fatal.

If we fail to do that, if we just lob a few missiles in a weak version of Operation Desert Fox, then Assad will climb out of his bunker at the end and rightfully claim a victory — he stood up to the mighty United States and he’s still here.  Imagine how Tehran, Moscow, and Beijing will interpret that “message.”

If the United States goes to war, then it has to be done in such a way that there is no doubt who the biggest dog in the junkyard is.

George W. Bush understood this well, when we liberated Iraq: he had the military hunt down Saddam’s sons and kill them, and Saddam himself was dragged from a hidey-hole to be hanged. All the top Baathists were targets. The goal was to show the world that not only were these men beaten, they were unmistakably crushed and wouldn’t be coming back.

Now, in the age of Smart Power, the goal is to avoid being laughed at.

I weep.

via PJM

UPDATE: John Steele Gordon also notes the “all about me” angle.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Some questions before we bomb Syria

August 27, 2013

Syria_Topography

Threat Matrix, the blog of The Long War Journal, has some questions that need answering before President Obama, having decided Syria has crossed his ill-advised “red line,”  gives the “go” order. Here are a few of most interest to me:

3. Is there a possibility that the Aug. 21 attack was an accidental hit — of chemical stocks belonging to either the regime or the rebels — by the undisputed massive regime bombardment in the area at the time? It is known that the regime has been frequently moving its chemical weapons to keep them out of rebel hands, and it is also known that rebel fighters, including al Qaeda-linked groups, have sought and reportedly had access to chemical weapons also. The Al Nusrah Front is known to have pursued chemical weapons; credible reports of the group plotting to conduct sarin and mustard gas attacks have emerged from Iraq and Turkey over the past several months.

(…)

6. The regime has much to lose by mounting chemical weapon attacks, and especially while UN inspectors are in country and the world’s eyes are turned toward Syria. Why now? Is the basic vagueness of the US’s accusation due to a Western decision that now is the time to intervene militarily, regardless of who perpetrated the attack, since there is clearly a very distinct danger of the spread of chemical warfare in the region at this point?

…and…

8. What happens if the US actually succeeds in killing Assad and overthrowing the government? Will Islamist terror groups such as the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State of Iraq dominate the political scene in Syria, as they have dominated the fighting? Is that in the best interests of the US and the West, or, for that matter, those of Syria and the region? The West’s efforts for a resolution to the conflict in Syria ultimately hang upon the fragile hope that moderate forces will prevail, in a situation where the two strongest forces, the Assad regime and its largely Islamist opponents, each offer only harsh alternatives.

These are darned good questions, especially that last one. In one sense, it’s easier to deal with brutal, but secular, dictators; one can find mutual interest and cut a deal, even if that interest is simply survival. But apocalyptic minded fanatics who think conquering or destroying you is a divinely ordained mission? They simply don’t operate in the same paradigm we do, and coming to a genuine modus vivendi (other than “we surrender”) is usually impossible.

In the Telegraph, Tim Stanley asks a question related to number six, above: Why would Assad do something that would guarantee Western intervention in a war he’s winning?

Second, why would the Assad regime do something so stupid? It must know that by using chemical weapons it would isolate itself from any international support and invite a Western military response. More importantly, Assad was already winning the war – so why bother to use WMDs during the last lap to victory? Indeed, the only people who have anything to gain by Assad using chemicals are the rebels, because that would internationalise the conflict in a way that they have long lobbied for.

And yet there is a good case for intervention. Daniel Hannan weighs the arguments pro and con from a British national-interests point of view and, while he finds the interventionist arguments inconclusive, he concedes their strengths. Meanwhile asking a question for the pro-interventionists, Jim Geraghty (sorry, newsletter only) asks: If Assad has used chemical WMDs, are we prepared to accept the consequences of doing nothing:

The world has actually made good progress at eliminating existing stockpiles of chemical weapons. Most regimes have concluded the diplomatic and public relations cost isn’t worth keeping their aging stockpiles around. But . . . if an embattled regime like Assad’s successfully uses them to put down an insurrection with no major consequence short of rote international denunciation . . . how quickly will the cost-benefit calculus change? How certain could we be that Pyongyang, or some other embattled regime, wouldn’t feel the temptation? These sorts of weapons are cheap and relatively easy to make using regular civilian chemical equipment.

That’s not an easily dismissed possibility. It’s not for nothing that chemical weapons have been called the “poor man’s nukes.”

I myself have no good answers, though I’ve favored some sort of limited intervention since the civil war started, since hurting Assad hurts his patrons in Iran, the real source of much of the trouble in the Middle East and which, as Michael Ledeen persuasively argues, should be the focus of our efforts.

As for the administration having the answers…. Heck, I doubt they’ve even asked the right questions.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Chutzpah. That’s the only word for it

July 3, 2013

When the Boy-Butcher of Damascus calls on the dictator of Egypt to “heed the will of the people” and step down:

The Syrian regime, which is seeking to crush a more than two-year revolt against its own rule, is urging Egypt’s president to step down in line with his people’s wishes.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi says the only way Egypt can overcome its crisis is if President Mohammed Morsi realizes that the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people reject his presence and want him out.

Al-Zoubi told reporters in Damascus Wednesday that Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is a “terrorist” organization and a “U.S. tool.”

This, of course, comes as a sweet bit of revenge for Morsi’s call for Assad to resign. “Two can play that hypocritical game,” and all that.

Still, with over 100,000 casualties so far in Syria’s civil war, millions of refugees, and strong evidence of the use of poison gas by the Assad regime, it takes an extra spoonful of shamelessness to be able to advise another government about how to save its country.


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