The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pandora's Box

In my view, Stratfor regularly publishes the Web's most indepth, rational, and non-partisan analysis of geopolitical matters. Today's Stratfor analysis by George Friedman addresses the looming attack on Syria. Friedman, not one for conspiracy theories or wild assertions, writes:
Al Assad is a ruthless man: He would not hesitate to use chemical weapons if he had to. He is also a very rational man: He would use chemical weapons only if that were his sole option. At the moment, it is difficult to see what desperate situation would have caused him to use chemical weapons and risk the worst. His opponents are equally ruthless, and we can imagine them using chemical weapons to force the United States to intervene and depose al Assad. But their ability to access chemical weapons is unclear, and if found out, the maneuver could cost them all Western support. It is possible that lower-ranking officers in al Assad's military used chemical weapons without his knowledge and perhaps against his wishes. It is possible that the casualties were far less than claimed. And it is possible that some of the pictures were faked.

All of these things are possible, but we simply don't know which is true. More important is that major governments, including the British and French, are claiming knowledge that al Assad carried out the attack. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a speech Aug. 26 clearly building the case for a military response, and referring to the regime attack as "undeniable" and the U.S. assessment so far as "grounded in facts." Al Assad meanwhile has agreed to allow U.N. inspectors to examine the evidence onsite. In the end, those who oppose al Assad will claim his supporters concealed his guilt, and the insurgents will say the same thing if they are blamed or if the inspectors determine there is no conclusive evidence of attacks.

The truth here has been politicized, and whoever claims to have found the truth, whatever it actually is, will be charged with lying. Nevertheless, the dominant emerging story is that al Assad carried out the attack, killing hundreds of men, women and children and crossing the red line Obama set with impunity. The U.S. president is backed into a corner.
It is more than a little ironic that Barack Obama and his supporters were apoplectic when George W. Bush attacked Iraq because of the threat of hidden nukes. Bush spent months and months at the UN and got congressional approval for the strike. With hindsight, his decision was a bad one.

Obama is giving lip service to the UN, but with a UN ambassador who was too busy to attend the first meeting on the subject, it appears that a feckless UN will be useless (as it almost always is). The President has given no indication that he is going to ask Congress for approval.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, an attack on Syria is a bad idea. Although it will allow moral preening by those who are rightfully appalled by the claim that Assad used chemical weapons, it opens a Pandora's box of unintended consequences—all of them bad—and is not in the strategic interest of the United States.

Again from Stratfor:
Syria was not an issue that affected the U.S. national interest until Obama declared a red line. It escalated in importance at that point not because Syria is critical to the United States, but because the credibility of its stated limits are of vital importance. Obama's problem is that the majority of the American people oppose military intervention, Congress is not fully behind an intervention and those now rooting the United States on are not bearing the bulk of the military burden -- nor will they bear the criticism that will follow the inevitable civilian casualties, accidents and misdeeds that are part of war regardless of the purity of the intent.

The question therefore becomes what the United States and the new coalition of the willing will do if the red line has been crossed. The fantasy is that a series of airstrikes, destroying only chemical weapons, will be so perfectly executed that no one will be killed except those who deserve to die. But it is hard to distinguish a man's soul from 10,000 feet. There will be deaths, and the United States will be blamed for them.
If you are to believe Obama's shrinking legion of rabid supporters, you'd think the President was smarter than this. Apparently, he isn't.

Update (28 Aug 2013):

As I recall, the run-up to the Iraq war had many months of UN inspections, meetings at the UN, lengthy presentations outlining our belief that Saddam Hussein had WMD stockpiles, and major consultations with between the President and Congress. And still, the Left screamed when military action was taken and continue to suggest that "war crimes" were committed by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Bill Roggio and Lisa Lundquist
note that some fundamental questions remain unanswered as Barack Obama stumbles headlong into military action with Syria:
When will the proof be produced, and what is it? … Since the site of the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack is in territory that has been a rebel stronghold for months, is it reasonable for the US to have made this claim? … Is there a possibility that the Aug. 21 attack was an accidental hit — of chemical stocks belonging to either the regime or the rebels. … Why is the US so quickly dismissing the UN investigative effort as too late. … Is there a way to rule out the possibility, given the timing of the Aug. 21 attack, that it could have been perpetrated by rebel groups seeking to draw the US into a military intervention against the Assad regime? … What is the US’s endgame in Syria?
These are all reasonable questions, none of which have been answered with any specificity. But that's really not a surprise. With this "transparent" administration, so many questions on so many things -- and so few answers that have any substance.