Beyond the Cusp

September 8, 2013

Ramifications of Obama’s Syria Blundering

The news stories have spent much ink and headlines pointing out the fiasco around Syria, chemical weapons, and President Obama’s pronouncement of the necessity for a strike against Bashir al-Assad’s military infrastructure in order to send a message that his use of such weapons will not and cannot be tolerated by the United States, the world, and in particular, President Obama and his advisers. We have read and heard about the shrinking credibility President Obama may suffer if he does not strike even if he should have the excuse that Congress would not authorize his request to use force. Many have pointed out that President Obama does not require anything from Congress in order to exercise his option as President to use force for up to ninety days before any Congressional action is required. I have always thought this was somewhat of a joke as a way to curtail the power of a President to engage in military actions as should a President instigate a military intervention and have even a mere thirty days freedom to act as he believes is necessary, a President could easily get American forces so engaged and deeply into a mission that no sane Congress would vote to pull the rug out from under them at that point. The reality that President Obama could have ordered his strikes on Syria and they would have been planned and executed all before the Congress returned from their Labor Day break assuming President Obama was being forthright when he said all he planned to do was strike selected military targets from the air using Tomahawk Missiles and other stand-off air assets fired from over the Mediterranean Sea from B-2 and B-52 heavy bombers. So, what has President Obama gained and lost by invoking Congressional approval and once again choosing dithering over acting?

 

The gains are easy for one to see but they are not envious gains and are likely going to cause the President serious harm and probably Congressional approval. The grandest gain is the American people have been allowed to give voice to their feelings on the whole matter of Syria and it appears they are almost unanimously against any form of United States military actions for any purpose in the Syrian conflict. Not sure if this is exactly a gain, but we now have a few more gems of complete inane and completely ridiculous comments from Senator McCain who among his brilliant opinions comes his defining the meaning of “Allahu Akbar” for the rest of us members of the ignorant masses which he defined as the same as a Christian exclaiming, “Thank G0d” and not what we had all likely assumed which was, “Allah is the greatest.” Many Americans are finding out whether or not their Congressional representative, be they either Senator or their Representative in the House, are able to understand that when hundreds if not thousands of their constituents call in demanding they vote against a military intervention, that such actions actually means the people do not want them to give the President blessings to go ahead and strike Syria. There may be a future lesson when at the next election for these same representatives who decide not to heed their public comes around and we will see if their constituents have any memory and actually meant what they said. There have already been a number of Senators and Representatives who have been interviewed specifically on why they changed their position from originally supporting the President for a strike on Syria and within a day or two changed their minds. Of the few I have been fortunate enough to hear or watch, and I always love watching politicians backing away from a previous position, it is just so amusing watching them stumble and try to sound contrite and convincing all at the same time, none of them have simply stated the plain truth. I sometimes wonder how difficult it is for a grown person to simply state, “After the barrage of calls my offices have received on this issue demanding my vote on this issue I have listened to the people and will do as they elected me to do and vote their desired position.” There you have it, all you politicians looking for what to say to the cameras in explaining your change, plain, simple, and oddly enough, it is the truth which would be nice to hear for a change. The final and possibly only advantage President Obama has gained by invoking Congress is he will have a way out of backing his poorly chosen red line threat without completely losing face as he can claim it is the will of the American people and after all, he will be able to claim he is nothing if not a man of the people.

 

The real ramification will have little effect on actions the United States was ever actually going to commit but at least that is now a certainty. If the Israeli leadership ever entertained the idea that President Obama actually intended to prevent the Iranians from gaining nuclear weapons, they have now been completely disabused of that notion. The evidence is now overwhelming and the truth is plain to see, President Obama is completely ineffectual on foreign policy. He is exactly as was warned coming in to the last elections by us here that the main problems on the doorstep of the world and especially the United States were not the seemingly immense problems with the economy or other items concerning the home-front but the affairs of state and the international crisis which were all coming to a boil almost in a tsunami. The world can only be left on autopilot so long before it begins to lose altitude and a crash becomes inevitable if nobody takes hold of the controls and steers it back on course. This has been the case numerous times throughout history, recent history even. Anyone observing the world stage during President Obama’s first term watched as Iraq slowly devolved back into sectarian violence with Sunni-Shia fighting growing almost daily by the end of the first term. Terrorism has been steadily rising and the Iraqi government has become a puppet of the Mullahs of Iran who have completely replaced the United States as the guiding influence. Egypt also has become unstable as President Morsi with the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to install an Islamic governance structured around Sharia and get the equivalent of what has taken Turkey’s Prime minister Erdogan almost a decade to do there and the Egyptian people revolted. The Egyptian military has subsequently intervened and replaced the Morsi government and now comes the slow decent into civil strife with terrorist bombings, shootings, burning buildings, and worst of all, the complete dissolution of Egypt’s oldest establishment, the Coptic Christians who are helplessly watching their churches and monasteries burned to the ground or converted into Mosques; their homes and businesses looted and destroyed; their women and children kidnapped, forced into marriages, forced to convert, or even murdered; watched as their numbers dwindle away as those who can get out of Egypt flee, and they realize that one of the oldest Christian communities is on the verge of following Egyptian’s once flourishing Jewish community into oblivion and wiped from the pages of history. Turkey is also experiencing violence between Shia and Sunni segments of the population and there have even been some demonstrations against the creep towards Islamist Sharia Law which the people are resisting at long last. Syria has completely melted down and the Christian community is being slowly decimated. There is also growing violence between the Kurdish elements and militias and the Sunni rebel forces. Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood have supplanted the pro-democracy forces of the rebel cause and the fight is now between Sunni and Shia forces with Iran and Hezballah supporting Shia al-Assad and his predominantly Alawite military forces while the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, and mujahedeen fighters are flocking into Syria to fight for Sunni preeminence in the Muslim world. Then there has been the financial collapse of much of Europe with Germany and France trying to prevent the complete meltdown of the Euro as an effective and useable currency. These are just the highlights of a world in complete upheaval almost anywhere one looks. We have not mentioned the still completely out of control Horn of Africa, the struggles between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria and Mali, the continuing friction between China and both Japan and the Philippines over claims on solitary islands and free travel within the South China Sea, the drug wars in Mexico, the collapsing scene in Afghanistan and Pakistan where terrorist forces are once again growing in power, civil strife in a number of Asian nations, financial difficulties among many South American countries and a plethora of lesser problems almost anywhere one looks. Add in the growing adversarial relations between the United States and Russia as well as China and it almost seems the Cold War has returned.

 

And lastly there is the Iranian drive to produce nuclear weapons which recently was uncovered is not only enriching uranium but is also producing plutonium making their drive a dual route pursuit for nuclear weapons doubling at the least their likelihood of attaining nuclear status that much sooner. With the now obvious punting of any possibility of an intervention by the United States concerning Iran, the entire responsibility will likely fall on Israel, just as it did in the early eighties when nobody was willing to prevent Saddam Hussein and the French had even built him a reactor aiding his drive for nuclear weapons. Israel addressed that problem and the world was fortunate that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program was so easily derailed. Despite what eventually was a grateful United States who years later quietly thanked Israel for preventing a nuclear Iraq, at the time of Israeli action against the Osirak reactor President Reagan joined the rest of the Security Council in condemning the Israeli strike. Preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon will not be as easy as a single sortie on one location but will require days or maybe weeks of sorties covering almost the entirety of Iran in order to cripple the majority of the nuclear sites strewn strategically throughout the vast country. Making matters worse is that Israel has to fly routes which would take her aircraft over such hostile nations as Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and of course Iran. It is also not guaranteed that such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait or any other nations which control alternate and much longer routes would be willing to stand down. The only probable nation which would be agreeable would be Jordan and I guess one should be thankful for any favors. Add to Iran the seeming determination of President Obama to divide Israel up in order to form a Palestinian state even to the point of dividing Jerusalem once again and Israel really has a difficult immediate future. The claims made by a number of Palestinian official spokespeople that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry provided the Palestinians with assurances that the borders would be crafted along the 1949 Armistice lines with only the land swaps the Palestinians allowed to alter the borders and one might decide that the best hope would be no success to the talks. Such possible outcomes make one hopeful that the Palestinians continue in their past tendencies to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Unfortunately, they only have to not miss one opportunity to make up for all those missed in the past, may it not be this one.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

August 27, 2013

Is Military Intervention in Syria Desirable?

The conversation debating militarily intervening in Syria due to chemical attacks which are presumed to have been carried out by the Syrian military on orders of President Bashir al-Assad has intensified considerably within the past week. The reports that a chemical weapons attack has been perpetrated in the fighting of the civil war in Syria came from the same sources as have the previous reports over the past year, namely France, Britain and Israel intelligence services. There have been urgent calls for a response to the use of chemical weapons from officials of Britain and Turkey even without first receiving approval for such attacks from the United Nations Security Council, alleging the near guarantee of a Russian veto and strong possibility of a Chinese veto of any such resolution. The main difference this time is the concurrence from officials within the administration of United States President Obama. All the calls for a punitive strike on Syria is targeting only the Syrian military and laying all suspicions and blame for the attack upon Syrian President Bashir al-Assad and ruling out the possibility that the use of chemical weapons by the any of the rebel forces. Despite all the noise one needs to question whether such an attack is necessitated, correctly targeted, desirable or even setting a sensible precedent.

 

As far as whether an attack on the Syrian chemical weapons stores may appear to be a responsible action, making such an attack now after two years does take away some of the moral basis behind such an attack. If the desire of an attack is to remove the possibility to use chemical weapons on troops or civilians by bombing the stores out of existence, such a move begs the question of why now so late in the game and not within the first few months of the Syrian hostilities. If the existence of chemical weapons and the availability making their use a clear and present threat, then why now as this has been true since the onset of violence especially when one takes into consideration the previous use by former President Hafez al-Assad, the father of the present President of Syria, on the city of Hama in February 1982 where it is presumed that the Syrian military had used hydrogen cyanide to cleanse some areas. With the hope of the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors being unable to carry out their assigned inspections as their convoy coming under sniper fire on their way to the scene forcing them to turn back and abandon their mission for now, and probably forever as it is probable they will draw fire whenever they set out for anywhere other than the airport to leave Syria. The possibility of gaining a United Nations resolution sanctioning such an attack is now probably impossible without any serious confirmation by the inspectors with which to push beyond a Russian veto.

 

There will always be that measure of doubt over whether the Syrian army or the rebel forces were the perpetrators of the chemical weapons use. This doubt is exaggerated by the limited numbers of casualties reportedly caused by this use of chemical weapons as any use of chemical weapons in an amount to be considered tactically significant would have caused tens or hundreds of thousands of casualties and have done so over a broad generalized area. This presumed use of chemical weapons causing minimal casualties in a relatively small defined area implies that the perpetrators releasing these weapons possessed a small amount and were unable of dispensing the chemical weapons in sufficient concentrations over a significant area of the battlefield which makes it somewhat doubtful that this was a Syrian military usage as their access to chemical weapons is extensive meanwhile the rebels are the side with a minimal if any access to chemical weapons stores and a resultant limited capability to use such weapons in any manner other than a relatively small front.

 

As for the questioning of whether such an attack would be desirable, we take a stance that this is an unwise move just as we said when taking our stand in Libya. The parallels between the current situation in Syria and the situation before the military intervention in Libya are very nearly identical. Both were internal conflicts where foreign fighters had joined one or more of the disparate forces involved in the civil wars. Just as was claimed by Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, Syrian President al-Assad has also made the claim that the majority of the forces his country is fighting against are made up predominantly of terrorists. We agreed with Gadhafi back then and do so again with Syrian President al-Assad and somewhat more people in agreement this time. Hindsight has definitively corroborated the claims by Gadhafi and will do so in Syria as well as such is beyond any shades of doubt and is accepted fact already. Knowing that the rebel forces are so predominantly made up of terrorist jihadists from al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood aligned groups and allying on the Syrian military’s side is members from Hezballah, also a terrorist force, and suspected members from the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps), an Iranian group which is suspected of organizing terrorist forces outside of Iranian borders throughout the world, there actually are terrorist forces fighting on both sides, making the Syrian civil war even less desirable for any intervention supporting either side.

                           

Then there is whether or not an intervention now would be setting a dangerous precedent which makes it necessary to comment on the general intents of those who have supported the concept of R2P, the Right to Protect. The origins of the R2P concept came about during the lead in to the Libyan intervention with some unsettling reasoning behind it. It was touted as the significant response required in Libya in order to protect the people from human rights abuses, especially those human rights abuses committed by a sitting government. The truth about R2P is it was initially introduced as one of the concepts which supported the intervention in Yugoslavia in support of the establishing of Kosovo as an independent nation by NATO, another intervention that this author was strongly opposed to and for which received many condemnations. During the arguments supporting the NATO intervention despite the lack of United Nations sanctioning resolution depended heavily on the R2P concept which was argued strongly by Samantha Power. For those who can’t quite place the name Samantha Power, she is the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations and former Senior Security Adviser to President Obama. What was interesting about the arguments around the R2P concept even before Kosovo when it was first being put forth by such human rights self-proclaimed groups such as the Open Society Institute was that R2P could be utilized as a means for intervention to be taken to force the formation of a Palestinian State even against all objections which might be proffered by Israel.

 

What was basically required for such a forceful intervention under R2P in Israel by the European Union, United Nations, United States or whatever coalition could be cobbled together would be the previous application of R2P in situations where there was strong international support and any military intervention could be promoted as necessary, popular, supportive of human rights and moral, especially moral. The discussion in many of the self-assigned human rights NGOs claimed that should R2P be used as the driving reasoning behind successful and acceptable military interventions, even if it had to be applied as having been useful and a necessary measure in the initial reasoning after the fact, it should be given sanction by such situations. Then, after R2P had been mainstreamed and given the purification of general acceptance as a positive means of addressing instances of human rights offensives, then it could be applied to the Palestinians plight and used against Israel giving sanction to the utilization of force against Israel in order to establish a Palestinian State along the lines of the full demands of the Palestinian Authority leadership, even if it resulted in the destruction of the State of Israel. Whenever one is to examine the reasoning behind interventions, especially military interventions, it is necessary and vital that all possible ramifications are considered. It is necessary to look beyond the immediate situation and to try and look forward to and predict any other situations which might come under the same criteria thus demanding an intervention in other situations which cry out for such interventions. Quite often the most sensible and good sounding ideas which are placed into the general public discourse are introduced not into the situation where the actual designed use is desired but first is vetted in controlled instances, sometimes even injected into arguments after the fact, in order to have the idea receive acceptance and become understood as a no-brainer whenever it is brought in as an argument for actions such as interventions simply to utilize it to justify and sanctify an intervention which may have otherwise caused stronger resistance had such a concept not been applied thus dressing the cause in a cloak of morality. R2P is being molded in such a manner and it will be used to sanctify actions which will be more and more questionable in the future once it has been amply established. That is the danger posed every time outside forces intervene in conflicts and other situations, no matter how dire or undesirable, which are internal to a single nation such as civil wars or popular uprisings as is currently occurring in Egypt and Tunisia.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 24, 2012

Just Another Mass Murder of Innocents in Syria

The forces loyal to Assad utilized an airstrike to slaughter people who were simply lining up at a bakery to purchase bread and pastries. The toll has already reached close to one-hundred with expectations that the final count of dead might exceed two-hundred. The result was bodies stacked and slung all over the entire block of the street in front of the bakery with dead and wounded lying together as others searched to find the living and separate them from the dead. The scene is captured in this <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIfdO7yzKeM&feature=player_embedded target=blank>explicitly graphic video</a> showing a scene of trauma expectant in the aftermath of such a horrific and senseless slaughter of innocent noncombatants. This attack comes on top of the revelation that Assad’s forces have begun to use scud missiles against rebel forces and civilians with no discrimination between the innocent civilians and those who have taken up arms against his rule. This has to lead one to believe that Assad is but a decision away from the use of his chemical weapons on these scud missiles and the horrors and havoc such will render on the remaining Syrian population in addition to the rebel forces. Meanwhile, the world leaders decry these attacks and invest great numbers of words and promises that they are monitoring the situation in Syria and will take serious and decided action should Assad introduce chemical weapons to the conflict. Judging by the lack of serious response to the over 40,000 civilian deaths estimated to have resulted from the civil war thus far, one has to wonder if such threats are empty bluster more than resolutions to take the actions threatened.

On the other side of the coin, news continues to enforce the existence of two distinct and separate groups which comprise the rebel forces. One group is a cobbled union of secularists, disparate minority groups, and Muslims who wish to establish some form of democratic governance with universal rights while the other group consists of Islamists belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda, Salafists, and other Sunnis who favor establishing a Sharia State. Many fear that once Assad is taken down from power the fighting will simply turn with these separate rebel groups beginning yet a second civil war for the future of Syria. The parallels between the situation in Syria and the history of the French Revolution is frightening and if the conflict in Syria should come to a similar end, the future for Syria is bleak and dark at best. This bifurcation of the rebel forces has also made supporting the rebels a more difficult proposition fraught with possible mistakes and weapons and aid falling into the hands of terrorists instead of the intended secular forces. Much has been speculated as to how much of the weapons and aid has already fallen into presumably unintended hands and this has clouded the plans to send further such assistance. This is definitely not an instance where one can simply make decisions using the old system of the enemy of my enemy is my friend as some of those who are enemies of Assad are also enemies of the West and a threat to the Western way of life. Decisions, decisions, all I can say is I am glad these are not decisions that will rest on my shoulders.

Then there is the last threat, the stores of chemical weapons. There are serious concerns as to into whose hands these deadly weapons of mass destruction will end up falling. There are many who claim that there are some who we can trust to receive these stores and some we must avoid allowing to come into possession of Assad’s vast stores of chemical weapons. My vote is that there is nobody who we should allow to come into possession of these weapons and possess such a threat. Assuming that the forces of the world continue with their hand-wringing and making bold statements while taking no actions, then these diabolical weapons are going to fall into somebody’s hands and the only safe solution would be to make sure that at the end of the fighting these weapons are destroyed and not left for anybody to possess, or even worse, to use. That is the one action which needs to be planned for and executed preferably with great stealth and assurances that all of these chemical weapons are destroyed. These weapons should not be allowed to continue to exist even if it is in the hands of a Western country, the Russians, the Israelis, or anybody else. The destruction of these chemical weapons stores has to be the one result of this conflict that must be made a primary goal. Any other path would be pure folly and could only end, sooner or later, in catastrophe.

Beyond the Cusp

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