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Tags: Syria

The Economist on Obama in Iraq and Syria: ‘Mission Relaunched’



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For anyone who scoffed at my “Barack W. Bush” label of the president yesterday

Not the second term he (or anyone else) was expecting, huh?

Tags: Iraq , Syria , ISIS , Barack Obama

America at War . . . Again . . . in a New Country This Time



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From the Morning Jolt:

America at War . . . Again . . . in a New Country This Time

This just handed to me: The ISIS morning staff meeting at the municipal building in Raqaa, Syria, is postponed indefinitely.

ISIS wanted our attention with those barbaric beheadings. Now they’ve got it.

The United States and five Arab allies launched a wide-ranging air campaign against the Islamic State and at least one other extremist group in Syria for the first time early Tuesday, targeting the groups’ bases, training camps and checkpoints in at least four provinces, according to the United States military and Syrian activists.

The intensity of the attacks struck a fierce opening blow against the jihadists of the Islamic State, scattering its forces and damaging the network of facilities it has built in Syria that helped fuel its seizure of a large part of Iraq this year.

Separate from the attacks on the Islamic State, the United States Central Command, or Centcom, said that American forces acting alone “took action” against “a network of seasoned Al Qaeda veterans” from the Khorasan group in Syria to disrupt “imminent attack planning against the United States and Western interests.”

Officials did not reveal where or when such attacks might take place.

Al Qaeda cut ties with the Islamic State earlier this year because the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, disobeyed orders from Al Qaeda to fight only in Iraq. Just days ago, American officials said the Khorasan group, led by a shadowy figure who was once in Osama bin Laden’s inner circle, had emerged in the past year as the Syria-based cell most intent on launching a terror attack on the United States or on its installations overseas.

The latest campaign opened with multiple strikes before dawn that focused on the Islamic State’s de facto capital, the city of Raqqa, and on its bases in the surrounding countryside. Other strikes hit in the provinces of Deir al-Zour and Hasaka, whose oil wells the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, have exploited to finance its operations.

The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) launches Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles (TLAM) against ISIL targets.

The good news is that the world has fewer ISIS members walking around this morning.

The bad news is that we’ve got a long way to go before we have anything resembling a reliable partner on the ground:

The army base in Iraq’s western Anbar province had been under siege by Islamic State militants for a week, so when a convoy of armored Humvees rolled up at the gate, the Iraqi soldiers at Camp Saqlawiyah believed saviors had arrived.

But this was no rescue attempt. The vehicles were driven by militants on suicide missions, and within seconds on Sunday the base had become a bloody scene of multiple bombings.

On Monday, a day after the attack, five survivors — including three officers — said that between 300 and 500 soldiers were missing and believed to be dead, kidnapped or in hiding. Army officials said the numbers were far lower, leading to accusations that they were concealing the true toll.

If the survivors’ accounts are correct, it would make Sunday the most disastrous day for the Iraqi army since several divisions collapsed in the wake of the Islamic State’s capture of the northern city of Mosul amid its cross-country sweep in June.

Here we go.

During the Ken Burns documentary series The Roosevelts, he mentioned that FDR, at the beginning of the war, after Pearl Harbor, prepared America for difficult times ahead. He noted that inevitably, there would be defeats, setbacks, and tragic losses. But he laid out why the fight was necessary, and why America could and would win.

I’ll stand and applaud our men and women in uniform as they take the fight to any foe, anywhere on earth. But I sure hope our president can and will prepare the public for the difficulties in the fight ahead.

Tags: ISIS , Syria , Iraq , Barack Obama

Can Our Forces Bomb an Outhouse in Syria Without Presidential Approval?



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Can Our Forces Bomb an Outhouse in Syria Without Presidential Approval?

Great.

The U.S. military campaign against Islamist militants in Syria is being designed to allow President Barack Obama to exert a high degree of personal control, going so far as to require that the military obtain presidential signoff for strikes in Syrian territory, officials said.

Welcome back to Vietnam, and General William Westmoreland’s experience:

Somewhere, some Baby Boomers are chuckling about what happens once you elect a president too young to have served in — or, it seems, remember — Vietnam.

Remember Obama’s boast, “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m going to think I’m a better political director than my political director.” I guess he thinks he’s a better general than his generals and a better bomber than his bombers.

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s book “Double Down: Game Change 2012” notes President Obama commenting on drone strikes, reportedly telling his aides that he’s “really good at killing people.”

Oh. So he really does think he’s an expert at killing people.

How the heck did we end up in this mess?

Through tight control over airstrikes in Syria and limits on U.S. action in Iraq, Mr. Obama is closely managing the new war in the Middle East in a way he hasn’t done with previous conflicts, such as the troop surge in Afghanistan announced in 2009 or the last years of the Iraq war before the 2011 U.S. pullout.

In Iraq, Mr. Obama had delegated day-to-day management to Vice President Joe Biden.

Oh.

Well, that explains a lot.

In other news, Mr. Vice President, look out for that bus!

Tags: Iraq , Syria , ISIS , Barack Obama , Joe Biden

Why Is Our President Thinking About What He Would Tell ISIS if He Were Advising Them?



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

Why Is Our President Thinking About What He Would Tell ISIS if He Were Advising Them?

A strange presidential comment, revealed to the world Sunday by the New York Times:

But the president said he had already been headed toward a military response before the men’s deaths. He added that ISIS had made a major strategic error by killing them because the anger it generated resulted in the American public’s quickly backing military action.

If he had been “an adviser to ISIS,” Mr. Obama added, he would not have killed the hostages but released them and pinned notes on their chests saying, “Stay out of here; this is none of your business.” Such a move, he speculated, might have undercut support for military intervention.

Why is our president thinking about what he would tell ISIS if he were advising them?

Does the president spend a lot of time thinking about this? Or did it just strike him as a fascinating little nugget of insight to share with a guest while discussing ISIS?

I can see the value in trying to understand the thinking of your enemy. I can see the value in thinking through an ultimatum to the group, contemplating what you’ll demand and what consequences to threaten. You can “offer advice” to a foe in the sense of, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

But Obama’s “if I was an adviser to ISIS” comment doesn’t sound like any of these — at least from the context that we’re given by the Times’s sources, individuals who have met with the president in the past week. It’s just, Hey, if I were advising the enemy, this is what I would have told them.

Okay . . . what’s the point? Why spend any time thinking about that scenario? Did ISIS call and ask for advice? They didn’t attach notes; they detached heads. That’s the choice they made. Now the question is what we’re going to do about it.

Notice Obama’s assessment presumes ISIS wants to avoid a U.S. military intervention. Is this a manifestation of the mirroring effect, where Obama projects its own values and priorities onto its foes? (Think about how often he insists publicly that seizing Crimea and moving into Ukraine isn’t in Russia’s interest, or that bellicose or provocative actions on the part of Iran aren’t in that country’s interest.) ISIS appears to want to send the message, far and wide, that they don’t fear a clash with the U.S. military. Perhaps they want to demonstrate that they can commit horrific crimes against American civilians with no serious repercussion. Maybe they think God wants them to do this. Maybe they’re nuts! In the end, the “why” matters less than the “what.”

Viewed from another angle, President Obama’s comment sounds like a complaint. If ISIS hadn’t beheaded Americans, there wouldn’t be such widespread demand for action against ISIS in the American public.

“If I were advising ISIS . . . ”

Well, you’re not, Mr. President. What, are you looking for another job? Some sort of freelance consulting gig on the job, when you clock out as Commander-in-Chief?

Walter Russell Mead:

It is probably true that a lower profile by ISIS would have made it more difficult to win support for airstrikes in the United States and around the world, but that’s hardly the point. ISIS is a master of the pornography of politics and the pornography of perverted religion: slave girls, heads on spikes, executions uploaded to the Internet, naked defiance in the face of its enemies. ISIS isn’t trying to win a conventional geopolitical chess match, it wants to electrify millions of potential supporters and change the nature of the game. The execution of American hostages succeeded brilliantly, from an ISIS point of view. It has made President Obama look weak, forced him to change his entire Middle East policy and brought the jihadi movement back into the world spotlight. The politics of spectacle has eclipsed Al-Qaeda, weakened Assad’s position, drawn the awe and admiration of jihadi wanna-bes and funders, and elevated 30,000 thugs and nutjobs to a major force in global events. Yes, that elevation carries with it the risk of serious pushback and even conventional military defeat, but jihadi ideology has benefited enormously from what ISIS has accomplished so far. ISIS still isn’t going to conquer the world, but radical Islam is closer than ever to launching the clash of civilizations of which bin Laden dreamed.

ISIS has much less money than President Obama does, many fewer fighters, much less equipment and in every other conventional measure of power it is a pipsqueak compared to the Leader of the Free World. But who is acting, and who is reacting? Who is dancing to whose tune?

Are we about to learn what happens when the United States goes to war with a commander-in-chief who doesn’t really want to go to war? A president who’s ordering a particular military action because he feels he has to in order to placate public opinion, but that he has deep doubts about? How can that possibly turn out well?

Josh Jordan: “Shorter Obama: If I were advising ISIS, I’d tell them not to execute Americans on video so I can keep pretending they aren’t a threat to us.”

Ladd Ehlinger Jr.: “Ah yes, I remember when FDR thought-experimented an advisorship position with Imperial Japan.”

Doug Powers: “Obama also probably would have advised ISIS to pin OFA donation envelopes and voter registration forms to the shirts of released hostages.”

Iowahawk to the president: “If you were advising ISIS, they would be bankrupt.”

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Syria , Iraq

The Sneaking Suspicion That Obama Doubts His Own Decision



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From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

The Sneaking Suspicion That Obama Doubts His Own Decision

Here’s what I fear is going through the president’s mind right now:

I don’t want to do this. I’m supposed to be the peacemaker president. I didn’t become president to start wars.

I’ve been telling people for years that there is no military solution to the problems in Iraq. Now somehow I’ve ended up telling people that I have a military solution for that and Syria.

We don’t have any reliable allies on the ground. There are at least fourteen different rebel groups, and they keep splitting into smaller groups, each one with a new name, and all of them sound the same. In March, a bunch of them formed the “Sham Legion.” Just perfect. I’m supposed to go out and tell Americans, ‘Hey, let’s give a bunch of weapons to the Sham Legion.’

This assumes that the Sham Legion or the Fake Brigades or whoever don’t just drop their guns and run away, leaving ISIS even more American weapons to use. Why can’t the Iraqis get their act together? We spent years and billions training the Iraqi army and they collapsed in their first real fight. I just went out and promised to do more training. Another couple hundred American soldiers over there, hoping to teach them how to fight. Is ISIS just going to sit and wait while we finish the training? Here’s the first lesson, guys. Stop throwing down your guns and running away.

Where the hell are our allies? I’m the exact opposite of Bush. I’ve talked about the importance of the multilateral approach until I’m blue in the face. You would think that in exchange for being consulted early and often, our allies would be more eager to help. Instead, every time I ask Susan Rice if the Germans are on board, all I hear is mother-blankers this and mother-blankers that. She did it while Rahm Emanuel dropped by and he asked her to tone down her language. It’s almost as if most of our allies don’t really mean it when they complain about not being consulted, like they just want to sit back and wait for somebody else to solve the problem.

Egypt, Jordan and Turkey have been screaming the loudest about ISIS, but now that we’re coming to do something, they’re tepid and not willing to make commitments. Heck of a job, Kerry. You know who’s most warmly welcoming the U.S. arrival? The Assad regime in Damascus. Those bastards.

I can’t shake the feeling ISIS loves the idea of us coming after them. They’re probably going to use some version of the Hamas playbook — provoke a fight with a more powerful, more technologically advanced foe, hide among civilians, play up any civilian casualties, and then declare yourself the winner once the bombardment ends.

Nobody wants to help. We’re trying to bomb an army, in the kind of “whack-a-mole” policies I used to criticize. The Democrats in Congress don’t want to touch this with a ten-foot pole. The Republicans will pounce on anything that goes wrong. The whole thing’s a distraction from what I really want to do with my remaining two years . . . 

In short, I think Obama has talked himself into a policy that he doesn’t really want to see through to the end. Which means that once it starts to go wrong — check Byron York for five ways this could go very wrong — President Obama will start having doubts. The moment flag-draped coffins start coming back to the United States, the public’s doubts will start to grow. Opportunistic politicians will read from Obama’s 2004 anti-war playbook.

Read the following and then ask yourself how long until you start hearing the word “quagmire”:

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years.

Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

Then Obama will want to undo this policy as quickly as he can. What happens when the United States tries to withdraw from a war “counterterrorism operation” in Iraq the second time?

Tags: Barack Obama , ISIS , Iraq , Syria

Coming Soon to Syria: Some Sort of U.S. Military Action Against ISIS



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Do we do covert surveillance anymore? Do we really need somebody to announce every step we take to keep an eye on the bad guys?

U.S. surveillance flights over Syria have started with President Obama’s go ahead, a step that will provide potential targets if airstrikes against Islamic State militants are approved.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that an unnamed U.S. official said the flights had begun. USA TODAY reported Monday that the flights will provide information on potential targets for strikes in Syria if Obama approves.

What next, a formal announcement?

Dear ISIS,

You are cordially invited to air strikes on Syrian territory beginning Friday, September 29, just after dusk. Please keep all personnel, vehicles, command posts, artillery, and stockpiles of weapons in place until that time. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Courtesy, the United States of America

Meanwhile, the editorial board of the Washington Post calls for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria:

No serious approach to the group can focus only on Iraq, as the United States has done thus far. The extremists treat Iraq and Syria as one area of operations, and the United States must do the same. In that theater, as Mr. Obama has said, the United States must find partners: Kurds in Iraq and Syria, Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq, the Iraqi government if it can become more inclusive, what is left of the Free Syrian Army. Aiding them does not require a U.S. invasion, but it will need “boots on the ground,” as Mr. Obama already has acknowledged by sending close to 1,000 special forces back to Iraq. They will be needed for training, to assist in air targeting and perhaps more. As The Post’s Greg Miller reported Sunday, the United States suffers from “persistent intelligence gaps” in Syria; these can be filled only with a human presence in the region, not by drones or satellite technology alone.

Peggy Noonan offered a wise thought that will probably be ignored by the administration: “Go to Congress for authorization of force, showing the world we have gained at least some semblance of unity.”

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Republicans vote “yes”?

If President Obama asked Congress for authorization for expanded operations against ISIS, would congressional Democrats vote “yes”?

For President Obama, the easiest option, thought not the wisest, is to go ahead with any operations he deems necessary and ignore congressional complaints about the War Powers Act.

Tags: Syria , ISIS , Congressional Democrats , Congressional Republicans , President Obama

Administration Fears ‘New Generation of Bombs’ Coming from Syria



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President Obama, speaking at the National Defense University, May 23, 2013:

That’s the current threat — lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates; threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad; homegrown extremists.  This is the future of terrorism. We have to take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them.  But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. 

The news today:

The Obama administration may ask overseas partners to enhance security measures at airports and is weighing whether to do the same here at home to address deepening concerns that terrorists in war-ravaged Syria are trying to develop a new generation of bombs that could be smuggled onto commercial planes, ABC News has learned.

“[This threat] is different and more disturbing than past aviation plots,” one source said. The issue was discussed this past week at the White House during a meeting of top-level officials from intelligence agencies, sources said…

Specifically, U.S. officials learned that associates of the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria — the Al Nusrah Front — and radicals from other groups were teaming up with elements of the Yemen-based group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which built such innovative devices as the “underwear bomb” that ultimately failed to detonate in a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.

Bolstered by more recent intelligence, U.S. analysts believe the “subset” of extreme terrorists in Syria could be looking to down a U.S.- or European-bound plane, with help from one of the thousands of Americans and other foreign fighters carrying U.S. and European passports who have joined Al Nusrah Front and other groups in the region.

The scale of that threat doesn’t seem like pre-9/11 anymore, now does it?

Tags: Terrorism , Syria , Barack Obama

Syria’s Looming Water Calamity



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Two reports from Beirut’s Al-Akhbar point to potentially catastrophic water problems about to affect Syria.

The lesser concerns Aleppo, where mortar shells and barrel bombs have slackened off but Islamist rebels have shut down the city’s potable water supply, forcing Aleppan residents in government-controlled areas to depend on wells and trucks for limited, contaminated, and expensive water. Lines of women and children “have become ubiquitous in front of mosque fountains and government wells in order to fill small containers such as cooking pots, teapots and plastic bottles as well as small barrels,” the paper reports. According to an official at the Syrian Red Crescent, “The situation signals a humanitarian and health disaster.”

The greater problem concerns the Euphrates River, the second longest waterway of the Middle East. Nearly all its volume originates in the Republic of Turkey, from which it flows into Syria and Iraq, ending in the Persian Gulf. It provides about one-third of Syria’s water supply. In the last few weeks, according to Al-Akhbar, the Turkish government completely stopped Euphrates waters from leaving Turkey and flowing into Syria, something made possible by the enormous reservoir behind its Atatürk Dam.

This action threatens water crises in Syria and Iraq . As one indication, the water level in Lake Assad, Syria’s largest body of water, has gone down by about 20 feet, according to the paper. Within days, some 7 million Syrians could be left without water as well as electricity. Al-Akhbar says that “a halt to the water supply is now inevitable and can’t be resolved unless the Turkish government takes the decision to resume pumping Euphrates water.” To make matters yet more worrisome, the fanatic Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group controls the Tishrin Dam, one of Syria’s three dams on the Euphrates.

The Syrian civil war keeps getting more ferocious, vicious, and barbaric — not a surprise given that Islamists, both domestic and foreign, dominate the fighting on both sides.

Meanwhile, the Euphrates River contains some of the world’s most volatile and fearsome waterworks; the Mosul Dam in Iraq, for example, could collapse, killing millions. Again, given the three states involved (Turkey, Syria, and Iraq), this also ranks as less than a surprise.

Should terminal dehydration kill massive numbers of Syrians, this will likely prompt Western opinion to call for intervention. 

Turkey’s AKP government has already shown itself callous about loss of life (recall the Soma coal-mine disaster). But is Prime Minister Erdogan really about to commit what appears to be genocide? 

Tags: Syria , Euphrates , Aleppo , water

Ukraine, Syria, Iran . . . America Is Out of the Consequence Business



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Also from today’s Morning Jolt:/p>

Chicken Kiev, Much Worse When Reheated and Served again*

So . . . Kiev is burning. Again.

It’s a bloody mess, and by the time you read this, the numbers are likely to be worse:

Ukrainian riot police charged protesters occupying a central Kiev square early on Wednesday after the bloodiest day since the former Soviet republic, caught in a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West, won its independence more than 22 years ago. At least 18 people, including seven policemen, died on Tuesday during hours of violence between security forces and civilians who have staged protests against President Viktor Yanukovich since last November.

The administration’s stance remains “Hey, stop it, you guys!

The Obama administration is “appalled” by the violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Washington announced no specific new action and did not immediately lay blame for violence that left at least 13 dead, but U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt threatened both sides with sanctions.

The crackdown is awful, but we’re not going to do a darn thing about it. We don’t do much in the world of foreign policy these days. You may or may not have noticed that the deal with Assad’s regime in Syria collapsed. As S. E. Cupp summarizes:

Peace talks have collapsed, Bashar Assad’s murderous regime continues, the rebels have splintered, a mere 11% of Assad’s chemical weapons have been collected and radical operatives aligned with Al Qaeda are settling in nicely.

In response to these events, the Obama administration is quickly and energetically pursuing a new strategy of not dealing with it.

We’re not letting the failure of the Syria deal slow down efforts for a similar deal with the Iranians, even though the Obama administration’s top expert on weapons of mass destruction just told Jeffrey Goldberg that he sees almost no chance of successful negotiations. The text of our deal with Iran remains secret, and the Iranian ground forces commander says the U.S. is facing its “final collapse.” Full speed ahead, guys!

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* For those of you who don’t understand the headline, President George H. W. Bush was accused of delivering a “Chicken Kiev speech” in the early days of the end of the Cold War, throwing cold water on Ukrainian independence:

He flew to Kiev after last summer’s Moscow superpower summit and delivered a speech that, to many, seemed like a tepid U.S. dismissal of Ukrainian aspirations to statehood.

“Freedom is not the same as independence,” Bush told Zayets and the rest of Ukraine’s legislature on Aug. 1. “Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism. They will not aid those who promote a suicidal nationalism based upon ethnic hatred.”

Shorn of rhetorical niceties, the American position seemed to be: Moscow and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev know best. Although the legislature here was dominated by Communists still opposed at that time to secession, Bush’s speech “went down about as well as cod-liver oil,” one Kiev-based diplomat remarked.

This time around, it’s not clear the Ukranians will get their own speech from the U.S. president.

Tags: Foreign Policy , Barack Obama , John Kerry , Syria , Iran , Ukraine

Scarborough: ‘Hillary Clinton is the biggest neo-con that there is out there.’



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The third and final part of my recent chat with Joe Scarborough, host of Morning Joe, about his new book, The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics — And Can Again.

Geraghty: For a while, you stood out from most Republicans in your views on foreign policy. You would describe it as non-interventionist, I’m sure you’ve had the term “isolationist” thrown at you. It does seem there’s been a shift in the party — you see in dealing with Syria, an exhaustion with Iraq, a frustration with Afghanistan. How different is your idea of a good noninterventionist policy from what President Obama is doing now, and how big an issue will this be in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, for Americans who want to find an alternative to what we experienced under Bush but also may not be happy with what they’re getting with President Obama?

Scarborough: I actually think the biggest fight is going to be within the Republican party — and I say fight, I really mean debate, and it’s going to be a positive debate.

Hillary Clinton is the biggest neo-con that there is out there. Democrats are basically going to be putting a candidate out there who’s going to be in agreement with my friend [former Bush official and Romney-Ryan advisor] Dan Senor the majority of the time. So we’re going to try to figure out whether we want to do what Bush said he would do in that second Inaugural Address, and end tyranny in all four corners of the globe, or whether we’re going to be tough realists like Ike was, and yes, like another Republican general, Colin Powell, was. He followed up on the [Caspar] Weinberger Doctrine that the United States of America only sends troops into battle as an absolute last option. And when we go in there, we go in with overwhelming force. As Colin Powell said in the 1990s, we don’t want a fair fight. We want to go over there, we want to kill the enemy, we want to achieve our objectives, and we want to bring our sons and daughters back home.

I think it’s funny that the New York Times and the other progressives will attack George W. Bush for eight years about being a neo-con, and then the second that Republicans start talking about restraint, suddenly we’re isolationists. What I’m talking about is not isolationism. It’s realism. We can’t keep spending $2 billion a week in Afghanistan, which we’ve been doing for years now, and rebuilding Afghanistan instead of rebuilding our own country.

Geraghty: The costs of interventions are crystal clear in a situation like Iraq, where we spent a great deal of blood and treasure, and then see inconclusive or dissatisfying results. But there’s also a cost of not intervening, and you see it in places like Syria, where we’re not involved, and the death toll has passed six figures and it’s getting messier. Is America, and or the world, ready for the consequences of a world with a non-interventionist America?

Scarborough: We’ve got to choose our strategic targets carefully. Afghanistan was doomed to fail from the beginning when we moved beyond what George W. Bush had [originally] planned for Afghanistan to be, which was an anti-terror campaign. When it stopped being an anti-terror campaign, and began being a counter-insurgency campaign, and we started trying to rebuild Afghanistan instead of hunting down the terrorists who blew up our buildings on September 11, killing them or bringing them to justice, then we had mission creep. Then Obama tripled the number of troops. That’s insanity. I said it in real time, and I’m still saying it today.

You brought up Syria. If you look at a map of the Middle East, over the past 25 to 30 years, you see our two enemies — and I use that term specifically — have been Iran and Syria. There are times where there are strategic battles to be fought. If Barack Obama had gone into Syria six months ago, nine months ago, a year ago, things would have been different. If the president had actually had a plan to do that, I would have been supportive of it.

I wasn’t supportive of him going into Libya. I wasn’t supportive of it, because I didn’t see that as central to U.S. foreign-policy interests. I do see Iran and Syria and the checking of those regimes as central, not only to long-term U.S.-foreign policy objectives, but also to our biggest ally in the region, Israel.

Geraghty: I live in Virginia, where Ken Cuccinelli just got demolished on the airwaves, accused of wanting to ban birth control, ban divorce, and so on. Are social issues a liability for the GOP? Is it just a matter of avoiding Todd Akin moments, or do they have to approach these issues differently?

Scarborough: Avoid a Todd Akin moment, but understand that Chris Christie is pro-life. He’s the first pro-life guy to get elected in New Jersey since 1973, since Roe v. Wade passed. He used an approach to social issues that I used in northwest Florida. He said, “I could have been very outspoken and aggressive and ideological about it.” He let people know he was a Catholic, he let people know he was pro-life, and he let people know he wasn’t going to waver on that position. That’s a great approach.

Let me say also, this idea that Ken Cuccinelli was defeated because of his positions on social issues is absolutely ridiculous. Cuccinelli will tell you that, and the polls and the numbers show it. The first thing that killed him was the government shutdown. Cuccinelli will say that, and all the people close to Cuccinelli will say that. The other thing was that the Republican polling killed them. Republican pollsters got it wrong in 2013 the way they got it wrong in 2012.

All the polls showed him down seven, eight, nine points. That kept the money out. . . . With a little more money, and without that government shutdown, which Cuccinelli’s people say totally got him off his game and really hurt him in northern Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli would have won.

You would be hard-pressed to find a race where a candidate being pro-life cost them an election. We’ve got a pro-life senator from Pennsylvania [Pat Toomey], and we’ve got a pro-life governor in New Jersey.

A lot of this has to do with temperament and emphasis. If a Republican candidate can convince middle-class voters and working-class voters, that he’s the one who has the best ideas for getting them back to work and strengthening the economy, they’ll vote for a pro-life candidate.

Geraghty: What is the one most important thing that Republicans need to do between now and the 2014 midterms?

Scarborough: They need to come together. I’ll be the first to take my share of the blame. I was very critical of some guys who are actually friends of mine, leading up to the government shutdown. I was because I thought it would hurt the party, and I think I was right. But one of the things that exasperated me after the election this year was that everybody was sniping at each other. Cuccinelli was the bad guy, or Christie was the bad guy. We’re going to start winning elections when we get the Christie supporters and the Cuccinelli supporters on the same side. And we’re going to start winning elections the way Reagan won elections when we get a candidate that both Ted Cruz and Colin Powell can vote for. . . . We can do it again. But we’ve got to stop the ideological witch hunts, and we’ve got to start focusing on beating Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Tags: Joe Scarborough , Syria , Hillary Clinton , Iraq , Ken Cuccinelli , Chris Christie

Our Bored President



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From the Los Angeles Times this morning:

If U.S. spying on key foreign leaders was news to the White House, current and former officials said, then White House officials have not been reading their briefing books.

Some U.S. intelligence officials said they were being blamed by the White House for conducting surveillance that was authorized under the law and utilized at the White House.

“People are furious,” said a senior intelligence official who would not be identified discussing classified information. “This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community.”

From a New York Times article on the formulation of Syria policy, last week:

Besides the Syrian government’s gains, there was mounting evidence that Mr. Assad’s troops had repeatedly used chemical weapons against civilians.

Even as the debate about arming the rebels took on a new urgency, Mr. Obama rarely voiced strong opinions during senior staff meetings. But current and former officials said his body language was telling: he often appeared impatient or disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum.

From Ace of Ace of Spades, last night, discussing Obama’s disconnection from the problems in his health care plan:

I saw a quote by Valerie Jarrett, recently. The quote itself is old, from 2010.

“I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. . . . He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. . . . So what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. . . . He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.”

Ordinary people read detailed reports and take an interest in their own jobs. Obama, at least according to Jarrett’s puffery, has always felt that to be beneath him.

Why would he suddenly change simply because he’s president?

Answer: He wouldn’t.

I do not believe that smart people remain bored for long. They may be bored in a particular situation, but they will find things that interest them. Active minds seek stimulation.

If it’s true that Obama’s been “bored all his life,” I’d suggest that’s because he’s not terribly smart or curious. And not very hard working at all. Hard work, I think it’s fair to say, “bores” him, because hard work is frustrating.

We all know where Obama is at his most Alive, and it’s not reading reports or writing speeches or analyzing policy. It’s having a speech put in front of him on TelePrompters and reading it for deliriously cultish fans.

That seems to be the only thing capable of holding any of his interest.

We’re in the very best of hands! Only three more years of this!

Tags: Barack Obama , Obamacare , NSA , Syria

Relax, Everybody! Obama, Kerry, Putin, and Assad Say Syria’s Fixed!



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The first Morning Jolt of the week features revelations that the U.S. State Department’s management is even worse than you thought, some questions on who really is influential on the right, criticism of Michelle Obama’s “Drink water!” plan, and, of course, Syria:

Relax, Everybody! Obama, Kerry, Putin, and Assad Say Syria’s Fixed!

Today and in the coming days, we’ll see President Obama and his surrogates insisting that the deal on Syria represents one of the greatest foreign-policy accomplishments of his presidency.

And they’re right — but not in the way that they think. In terms of policy, it’s a disaster. Assad is left unpunished, other than turning over weapons he wasn’t supposed to be able to have anyway. His cooperation is not guaranteed, and is in fact unlikely. Assad has gone from comparable to Hitler a few days ago to the only guy who can ensure the chemical weapons get turned over.

But the American people — left, right, and center — spoke clearly on Syria: “We don’t care what happens over there, just don’t get us sucked into another war in the Middle East.” And by acquiescing to a Russian plan designed to fail, Obama avoided war. So politically — really, the only measurement that matters to this administration — he wins. Considering how disastrous the military option appeared, maybe that really is the better choice.

Jeffrey Goldberg, over at Bloomberg:

. . . this limited Western victory might feel like a moral and strategic defeat, for two reasons.

One: Our allies across the Middle East, having seen the U.S. promise to help remove Assad and then not follow through, will further doubt American steadfastness and friendship and will reorient their policies accordingly, with some adverse consequences for the U.S.

Two: This plan probably won’t work. Assad is a lying, murdering terrorist, and lying, murdering terrorists aren’t, generally speaking, reliable partners, except for other lying, murdering terrorists. In any case, disarmament experts say that this process, properly carried out, would take years and years to accomplish, but of course they really don’t know how long this might take because no one has ever tried to locate and secure hundreds of tons of chemical weapons on an active battlefield, particularly one in which Hezbollah and al-Qaeda are vying for supremacy.

But for now, the president has underscored the international norm governing the use of chemical weapons, and he has done what the American people say they wanted — staying out of the conflict. He may not be a clear winner in this drama, like Assad and Putin are, but compared to Congress — in particular its reflexively isolationist, self-destructive Republican caucus — he looks like Churchill.

Sen. John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, points out an inconvenient fact for the Obama administration’s victory lap:

Moscow is not even complying with a commitment to eliminate its own chemical weapons. A State Department assessment in January reported that Russia has provided an “incomplete” list of its chemical agents and weapons to be destroyed. It has also missed deadlines to convert former chemical-weapon production plants. Why would we expect Moscow to help enforce similar restrictions against Syria? . . . 

Based on the experience of the past four years, the Russians, like the Iranians, are well aware that pretending to go along can buy time until the Obama administration becomes distracted with another issue. The U.S. should be prepared for the diplomatic effort on Syria to fall flat and have more effective alternatives ready.

Here’s how the plan is playing on the ground:

Air strikes, shelling and infantry attacks on suburbs of Damascus through yesterday morning offered evidence in support of opinions from both Assad’s Syrian opponents and supporters that he is again taking the fight to rebels after a lull following the August 21 gas attack that provoked the threat of US action.

“It’s a clever proposal from Russia to prevent the attacks,” one Assad supporter said from the port of Tartous, site of a Russian naval base. “Russia will give us new weapons that are better than chemical weapons,” he added. “We are strong enough to save our power and fight the terrorists.”

Rebel fighters have expressed disdain for US President Barack Obama after he backed away from striking over alleged chemical weapons attacks, saying the world does not care about Syria.

“America told the world it would bomb Syria and then, when the time came, it got scared,” said Abdelqaderi Asasheh, operations chief of the Liwa Al Tawhid brigade in Aleppo.

Then again, just in case you’re feeling bad for the rebels . . . 

Al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists in Syria say they are targeting members of the Alawite community in the country, adding that they massacred dozens of Alawites in three Homs villages last week.

On Sunday, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks in which at least 30 Alawites, including several women, children and elderly men, were shot dead in cold blood.

Syria went from a horrific bloodbath that didn’t interest the world, to a horrific bloodbath that included chemical weapons, to a horrific bloodbath that did interest the world . . . and it will soon go back to being a horrific bloodbath that doesn’t interest the world.

It’s like that old Arab proverb: “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama , Bashir Assad , John Kerry , Vladimir Putin

Guy Who Used Chemical Weapons Promises to Give Them Up Someday



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Today’s Morning Jolt, the final of this week, features an update on the attack on the U.S. consulate in Herat, Afghanistan, praise for an NR colleague’s dogged reporting, and then this latest twist in the farce that is our reaction to Syria:

‘Peace’ Plan That Is Impossible to Implement Hits First Obstacles

Is there a point where the Geneva talks become too much of a farce to continue?

Thursday afternoon on CNN, Fareed Zakaria was ooh-ing and ahh-ing about the important, historic achievement of persuading the Syrians to sign the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

Just how reliable is the signature of a dictator who used those chemical weapons against his own people, and who’s still denying the attack? We’re supposed to believe that a guy who’s okay with gassing kids would never lie?

Because early indications are that the Syrians aren’t behaving like they intend to turn over all their stockpiles: The Wall Street Journal:

A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials.

The movements of chemical weapons by Syria’s elite Unit 450 could complicate any U.S. bombing campaign in Syria over its alleged chemical attacks, officials said. It also raises questions about implementation of a Russian proposal that calls for the regime to surrender control of its stockpile, they said.

U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies still believe they know where most of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons are located, but with less confidence than six months ago, U.S. officials said.

Also note Assad is now making his own counter-demands:

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has spoken about placing its chemical weapons under international control and said that the US must “stop threatening us and supplying terrorists with weapons”.

Speaking on Russian TV’s Rossiya 24, he said that only Russia could make the agreement happen as “Syria has neither contacts with, nor trust in, America”.

Now, you can like arming the Syrian rebels, you can hate arming the Syrian rebels. But the guy who just committed a crime against humanity, and who has our fleet off his coast, doesn’t get to make demands.

So how does Obama want to resolve this? I figured the new aim was to get the public to forget that the “red line” statement ever happened, that he ever wanted to fight a war over Syria’s chemical weapons, that his best efforts to persuade Congress and the public fell flat, that he ever got himself entangled into this mess, and that the country of Syria exists.

Allahpundit offers another possible Obama goal, a quick, check-the-box strike:

If Assad tells them to get lost, then what? O’s surely not going back to Congress; proof that Syria’s disarmament is a sham might win him some extra votes, but he’s in such a deep hole with both Democrats and Republicans that he might still not get to 218. I think the plan, such as it is, is to bomb Assad straightaway if he doesn’t comply, without congressional approval, on the theory that the public will be a little more tolerant of a new war if it looks like Assad and Putin are jerking the UN around. That would also explain the oddly belligerent tone to Obama’s speech on Tuesday night even though, ostensibly, it was all about how we *shouldn’t* attack right now. Maybe he’s concluded that the only way to get back some credibility is to hit Assad anyway, and the UN stuff is just a prelude designed to build a bit of extra moral authority for doing so. The fact that he tried a last resort to diplomacy and it went nowhere because Assad’s a liar will be presented as a game-changing fact by his spin team which requires an immediate response by the commander-in-chief, without waiting for approval from Congress.

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama , John Kerry

Got a Spare Billion and Two Years for a Syrian Disposal Plant?



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A Campaign Spot reader in the military, familiar with chemical weapons disposal, writes in:

To be truly secure, the weapons have to be transported out of country or 
destroyed in Syria. Neither is an easy solution.



Moving them: To take them to another country, they have to be packaged for
 transport. The international standards for transport of chemical/biological
 weapons are extremely stringent and would be difficult to meet given the 
situation in Syria. Simply preparing them for transport will take a long 
time and it will be an extremely expensive proposition. Then, of course,
 there’s the security aspect of doing this in the midst of a civil war.


Destroying them: To destroy them in place would require building a disposal 
facility. Estimates to construct such a facility would easily be over $1 
billion and could be even twice that. It would also likely take a year or 
two to construct. On this option, once again, we have to consider security.
 How do you build such a facility in the middle of a conflict? ;Plus, for an
 additional degree of difficulty, you still have to transport the weapons 
from around Syria to the destruction facility.

 All in all, highly unlikely that any of this will go anywhere.

So if this is an idea that is highly unlikely to work, why is it being treated as a serious proposal in Damascus, Moscow, and Washington?

Because Bashir Assad doesn’t want the U.S. to bomb Syria. Vladimir Putin doesn’t want the U.S. to bomb Syria. President Obama isn’t sure if he wants the U.S. to bomb Syria. The U.S. Congress, for the most part, doesn’t want to bomb Syria. A solid majority of the American public doesn’t want to bomb Syria. And with the exception of France, most U.S. allies don’t want to join the U.S. in an effort to bomb Syria.

For most of the above groups, the reluctance to bomb Syria is stronger than the desire to punish Assad.

So, like in the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, everyone pretends to see something that isn’t there — a workable diplomatic solution.

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama

You Can’t Inspect for Chemical Weapons in a War Zone.



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Huge Morning Jolt today — another terrorist attack in Benghazi, the dramatic win for Republicans and Second Amendment advocates in Colorado, reaction to the president’s speech . . . and then the massive question before the United States:

Syria has a reported 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, three known storage depots; five “scientific research centers” believed to be involved in chemical weapons production; two dual-use sites believed to be involved in chemical weapons production. Then when it comes to delivery systems, the Syrians had (when the civil war began) a few dozen SS-21 ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 72 miles, with mobile launchers; 200 Scud-Bs, with a maximum range of 180 miles, with mobile launchers; 60 to 120 Scud-Cs, with a maximum range of 300 miles, with mobile launchers.

Here’s a BBC map of depicting which side controls which territory, updated as of August:

Imagine being a U.N. inspector, needing to negotiate with militias every time you move from a red patch through a red-and-blue patch and a blue patch.

Here’s how unidentified assailants greeted a U.N. team in Syria last month:

U.N. inspections in Syria are going to make the U.N. inspections in Iraq from 1991 to 2003 look like a well-oiled machine.

For all of Obama’s indecision and foolishness, his original point in his “red line” comment was a good one. Chemical weapons are different and more dangerous than conventional weapons, and we should seek to prevent, and punish, their use whenever possible.

Bashir Assad used them, and the consequence will be . . . that he has to give the rest of his weapons up — or more specifically, he has to promise to give up the rest of his weapons. As seen above, verifying his compliance will be nearly impossible.

And that’s it. A guy who John Kerry and other officials were comparing to Adolf Hitler avoids any run-ins with a U.S. Tomahawk, gets to stay in power, gets to keep killing his opponents as long as he only uses conventional means.

Peggy Noonan, late Tuesday afternoon:

The president has backed away from a military strike in Syria. But he can’t acknowledge this or act as if it is true. He is acting and talking as if he’s coolly, analytically, even warily contemplating the Russian proposal and the Syrian response. The proposal, he must know, is absurd. Bashar Assad isn’t going to give up all his hidden weapons in wartime, in the middle of a conflict so bitter and severe that his forces this morning reportedly bombed parts of Damascus, the city in which he lives. In such conditions his weapons could not be fully accounted for, packed up, transported or relinquished, even if he wanted to. But it will take time — weeks, months — for the absurdity to become obvious. And it is time the president wants. Because with time, with a series of statements, negotiations, ultimatums, promises and proposals, the Syria crisis can pass. It can dissipate into the air, like gas.

A lot of things “dissipate into the air like gas” with this administration. Benghazi. Fast & Furious. The IRS targeting the Tea Party. The Department of Justice collecting the phone records of the Associated Press. Attorney General Eric Holder’s potential perjury. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shaking down health-care companies for “contributions” to promote Obamacare. The General Services Administration’s wasteful spending scandal. The demonization and incarceration of the guy who made the YouTube video, and the use of him as a scapegoat for Benghazi. The NSA’s domestic surveillance programs. Huma Abedin doing private-sector consulting work while working for Hillary Clinton at the State Department.

There’s never any damn accountability with this bunch.

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama

Putin Demands the U.S., Not Assad, Renounce Use of Force



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Now Putin announces that the Russian deal on Syrian chemical weapons only works if there are no consequences for not honoring it:

Russia’s initiative to place Syrian chemical weapon stockpiles under international control will only be feasible if the United States and its allies pledge not to use force, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday.

It is difficult to obligate any country, including Syria, to unilaterally disarm if force is going to be used against it, Putin said, adding that the Russian authorities “will work together with the Syrians and with our American partners.”

Assad gasses people and resumed bombing his people today, and it’s the United States that is expected to renounce the use of military force.


I’m sure he has only the best of intentions.

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama , Russia

Ultimately, We Won’t Even Take Assad’s Cheerios Spoon



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Greg Corombos and I just taped our daily Three Martini Lunch podcast. Our format is to select one good, one bad, and one crazy news story each day. Today, the proposed deal to avoid military action in Syria qualifies as all three.

The development is good if you opposed the United States’ beginning a war in Syria and you think that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is unlikely to use his chemical weapons in the near future — or at least as long as there are international inspectors in his country. (Then again, United Nations inspectors were in Syria when the regime used chemical weapons September 21.) If you thought President Obama didn’t really want to fight this war — or that we would only launch an “unbelievably small” effort, largely symbolic, that would only leave the U.S. looking weaker — this course appears to avoid that bad scenario.

The development is bad if you believe that a dictator must be punished for using chemical weapons. Assad’s only punishment will be giving up his remaining stockpiles — presuming, of course, that the U.N. can find, track, and inventory those stockpiles in a country that is gripped by civil war. With the West’s disinterest in intervention now so obvious to the world, Assad’s odds of remaining in power are improving. That’s bad news for the Syrian rebels — and while they have many in their ranks who are no friend to America, the non-radical elements must feel betrayed by the United States now. Once again, the United States appears to be an unreliable ally, and a distinctly unmenacing enemy.

It’s bad for the Syrian people, because Assad now can fight with impunity, as long as he doesn’t use chemical weapons.

The development is crazy, because it appears that John Kerry just gave Assad and his friends the Russians an escape hatch by speaking off the cuff. This is why John Kerry would have made a bad president and is a bad secretary of state — his inclination to say whatever he thinks will be most persuasive to whoever in front of him at that moment. When Kerry needs to make an impassioned case for punishing Assad, he can do so with great passion and emotion, and he compares Assad to Hitler. When Kerry needs to reassure a nervous ally, he emphasizes that the attack will be “unbelievably small.” When he thinks he needs to appear reasonable and not too eager for war, he tosses out a scenario that puts the entire U.S. war effort on hold.

The Russians now appear to be altering the plan, preferring that it is never written down with any specific requirements or consequences spelled out:

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.

So if there’s no binding resolution . . . well, then, it’s not really a resolution, now is it?

“Trust us.”

Tags: Syria , Barack Obama , John Kerry , Russia

Cruz: Consistent on Using Military Force in Syria



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The Hill charges that Sensators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida are “singing a different tune from just months ago, when both seemed to advocate a more muscular U.S. response to Syrian President Bashar Assad.”

The Hill bases the charge on Cruz’s June 20 statement:

We need to be developing right now a clear, practical plan to go in, locate the weapons, secure or destroy them, and then get out. The United States should be firmly in the lead to make sure the job is done right.

Cruz declared yesterday he would vote against the Senate’s resolution authorizing military force.

Cruz’s staff says The Hill ignored the facts that the office provided them regarding the senator’s stance on Syria. They argue that Cruz has always been open to military action to secure chemical weapons, but he’s deeply wary about action that is designed to punish an “international norm” or arming the Syrian rebels.

They point to three statements in recent weeks.

First, an interview with Sean Hannity, August 26:

CRUZ: Number two, our concern should be those chemical weapons, preventing them from falling into the hands of Hezbollah, preventing them from falling into the hands of Al Qaida, that should be guiding our actions, not expressing some moral outrage from a university facility lounge. . . . If Assad is toppled and replaced by a radical Islamist regime, what would be truly dangerous for the United States, for our allies like Israel and Jordan, is for a radical Islamic government to seize control of those chemical weapons and to deploy them against us or our allies. That should be the focus of the President, and as we’ve seen throughout the Middle East that has not been the focus of the President.

Then a released statement from August 31:

Assad’s murderous actions have claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand of his own people, which is a humanitarian tragedy. But our chief strategic concern should not be international norms; it should be preventing the chemical weapons from falling into the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists who might use them against us and our allies.

Finally, an op-ed in yesterday’s Washington Post:

It is not the job of U.S. troops to police international norms or to send messages. Our men and women in uniform have signed up to defend America . . . 

Today, the threat is active in Syria, where jihadists have infiltrated the rebel groups while Hezbollah is supporting Assad, making the presence of chemical weapons in Syria ever more perilous. And it is active in Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism that seeks a nuclear bomb to wipe the United States and Israel off the map.

If the president’s proposed military strike against Assad succeeds, al-Qaeda could be strengthened and terrorists could seize control of Syria’s vast cache of chemical weapons.

U.S. military force should always advance our national security. Should we in the future have intelligence that al-Qaeda or Hezbollah is on the verge of acquiring chemical weapons or that Iran is nearing a nuclear breakout, I would support aggressive military action to prevent them from acquiring those weapons because the alternative is unacceptable: allowing Islamic extremists to acquire chemical or nuclear weapons that could be used to slaughter millions in New York or Los Angeles or London or Tel Aviv.

On Rubio, The Hill summarizes:

Last week, he voted against the Syria strike resolution approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But in April, when Assad was first accused of using chemical weapons, Rubio said, “the time for passive engagement in this conflict must come to an end.”

If a lawmaker doesn’t like “passive engagement,” but then is presented with a military-force authorization that is equally problematic or worse, is he obligated to support it?

Tags: Ted Cruz , Marco Rubio , Syria

Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya: America’s Out of the Deposing-Rulers Business



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Today’s Morning Jolt features a surprising vote for Ken Cuccinelli in the governor’s race, analysis of Putin’s maneuvering in the Syria crisis, and then a look at an element that’s been missing from the discussion of war in Syria:

Why Americans Aren’t that Angry at Bashir Assad

Real American anger at Assad is missing from the current debate about Syria; by and large, we don’t really feel enormous animosity or fury or rage towards the Syrian dictator. Ironically, there isn’t much dispute about his worst crime; the polling is pretty clear: “While eight in 10 Americans believe that Bashar al-Assad’s regime gassed its own people, a strong majority doesn’t want Congress to pass a resolution authorizing a military strike against it.”

But Assad doesn’t set Americans’ blood to a boil. Perhaps a decade of war, and runaway anti-Americanism, have left us shrugging when we see an evil man who has, at least so far, avoided direct confrontation with the United States.

America has a lot of enemies in that region who are directly confronting the United States: Just under one year ago today:

  

Cairo, above; Benghazi, below.

The pictures above are from Egypt — where we thought we stood with the Egyptian people, in their decision to depose Mubarak — and Libya, where we and NATO took military action to help the Libyan people against the dictator Qaddafi. And then the locals turned on us and attacked our diplomatic facilities and personnel. Then you throw in the response of the Iraqi people and the Afghans, last seen inflicting “green on blue” attacks by infiltrating the Afghan security forces and killing coalition personnel.

Right now, Americans aren’t that convinced that anybody over there is really deserving of our help. We’re not convinced that we would do much good, we’re nearly certain no one would be thankful, and we’re suspicious that the folks we help will just turn around and attack us again later. It’s painting with a broad brush, but one shaped by hard experience.

Tags: Obama , Syria , Benghazi , Egypt , Afghanistan

Trading a Small Attack for Faux Inspections



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Hillary Clinton appears to have endorsed the last-minute alternative to U.S. military action in Syria, where the Assad regime gives up its chemical weapons:

If Syria’s government immediately surrendered its chemical weapons stockpiles to international control, “that would be an important step,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday during an event at the White House. “But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction. And Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account.”

A system of international inspectors will sound like a good idea to anyone who has completely forgotten the United Nations’ inspection of the Iraqi programs for weapons of mass destruction from 1991 to 2003. That inspection system was marked by intermittent cooperation from Saddam Hussein’s regime, punctuated by occasional U.S. bombing when the regime failed to cooperate, and an oil-for-food program that generated $10.1 billion in illegal revenues for Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Obviously, international inspections will be impossible in a country currently experiencing a civil war.

It appears the Obama administration will happily trade an “unbelievably small” military action for faux inspections.

A cinematic portrayal of Hans Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission from March 2000 to June 2003.

Tags: Syria , Russia , Hillary Clinton

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