Obama Blinks on Syria. Who Won and Lost?

This has been a wild afternoon, for a change in a good way. Obama has overruled John Kerry, Susan Rice, and Samantha Powers in their opposition earlier today to the Russian face-saving proposal, which had been accepted by Syria and endorsed by the Ban Ki-Moon and David Cameron, of having Syria destroy its chemical weapons. The State Department tried walking back Kerry’s remarks that Syria needed to give up its nasty WMD and Susan Rice said that only regime change would do.

But at the end of the afternoon, Obama said he was willing to pursue the Russian plan. From Politico:

President Barack Obama would put strikes against Syria on hold if Bashar Assad’s regime were to turn over control of its chemical weapons, he said Monday, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he will wait to hear the president make his case to the nation Tuesday before holding an initial vote on military action.

The moves came at the tail end of a tumultuous day for a White House that appeared to be knocked off-message by Secretary of State John Kerry’s positive response to a question about whether the administration would consider a proposal that would allow Syria to avoid a military strike by turning over any stockpile of chemical weapons.

The president said his team will engage in talks with Russia and Syria. “We’re going to run this to ground,” he told CNN. “And John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious.”

Not surprisingly for an Administration which is fond of taking unusually aggressive measures to rewrite history, the Politico write-up reveals that the Administration is trying to spin that this plan is moving forward due to, rather than despite, Kerry’s efforts.

But what appears instead to have occurred is that support for the AUMF collapsed in the Senate. And it apparently was not due to just to the wild card of the Russian proposal but also Kerry’s ineptitude. From Jane Hamsher:

Update 12:30 PM: Senate sources say that John Kerry’s comments this morning about an “unbelievably small” planned attack on Syria have “lost them every undecided Republican in the Senate,” and the vote may be pulled.

“Even Democratic loyalists like Barbara Boxer can’t afford to have a 35-65 vote on their record.”

Remarkably, during the Senate debate, AIPAC loyalist Diane Feinstein voiced support for the Russian idea.

And the Congresscritters were running from the AUMF sinking ship. Hamsher again:

5:14: Sent. Kelly Ayotte (R-NY) previously said “I am convinced we must take this limited military action against the Assad regime’s military capabilities.”, but tells the Hill today she’s undecided.

5:34: Ben Cardin (D-MD) tweets that although he voted for attacking Syria in committee but now “I have concerns about action, right now we need to deal with #Syria via diplomacy if possible.” Moving him to undecided because it sounds like he wouldn’t support a vote if it was taken this week.

6:02: Johnny Isakson (R-GA) goes from undecided to firm nay, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Everyone was watching the Senators from the defense contractor states as the canaries in the coal mine. If guys like Shelby, Isakson, Sessions et al started going against, it would be taken as a sign that it was all over.

6:26: Majority Leader Harry Reid did not file cloture today, which means there will not be a vote on Wednesday in the Senate.

Mind you, this national security team is capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. All we have at this juncture is an agreement in principle. This deal could still fall apart. Nevertheless, this is huge progress relative to where things stood 24 hours ago.

So who has won and lost? A starter list, readers invited to contribute in comments:


John Kerry, big time. One Beltway insider says that Kerry has proven to be so inept that he doesn’t see how Kerry survives. Obama needs to get rid of Kerry to preserve his credibility. The problem is you can also say the same of Samantha Powers and Susan Rice. But Politico also has a piece up on Kerry’s actions today, which it tries to frame charitably as, “Throughout his career, Kerry’s had a problem with words.” This piece reads like a PR plant to try to salvage Kerry and Rice. My Beltway sources think he’s become too toxic to be redeemed, but the Politico reporting may persuade people removed from the action otherwise. It could also have the nasty side effect of emboldening the national security team that can’t shoot straight at precisely the wrong moment.

AIPAC. I can’t recall AIPAC ever taking such a visible defeat. But the Israel lobby’s eventual decline is inevitable. Young Jews poll as not having much affinity for Israel, and many are firmly opposed to its policies in Palestine. Indeed, I’ve long suspected that Israel’s efforts to escalate against Iran aren’t driven as much by Iran’s projected timetable for nuclear development as by the recognition that demographic change in the US means its days of being able to rely on the US as a staunch ally are numbered.

The Saudis.

Al Quaeda.

The Syrian opposition. Lambert: “Where were the spokesmen? The exiled government? (And IIRC, check me, the video shown on Capitol Hill was a year old. WTF?)”

The War Party is a loser. Whoever propagated the phrase “The War Party” is a winner.

Obama. As one political expert put it, “This was a wild and confused routine. Obama comes out looking stupid. But he would have lost ten times as much if the US had launched airstrikes.” A Congressional staffer said, “Obama ‘s been amazingly inept, but at least we now know he isn’t self-destructive. But he will no longer have any real influence on policy.”

David Cameron is a loser or more accurately, more of a loser.


Putin. The score so far is Putin 2, Obama 0. And Putin’s wins against the world’s only, and widely resented superpower has boosted his stature considerably.

Alan Grayson. Grayson was out early and aggressively against attacking Syria. He went toe-to-toe against the White House and won. Admittedly, the Russia move was a lucky break, but Grayson was also doing a good deal behind the scenes to whip opposition to the AUMF. He’s taken vocal stances on two major issues, financial services reform and US adventurism in the Middle East, which now gives him a considerable authority in the House.

Justin Amash. Amash was less visible on Syria than in the fight against the NSA, but he was still an important player and garnered more power and political good karma points.

Assad. He’ll be negotiated with as a ruling head of state.

Charlie Rose. Lambert: “Nice get on the Assad interview, and who was the genius PR shop that booked it?!”

Larry Summers. If Obama has pushed ahead on Syria, either with no Congressional vote or only Senate approval, the liberals and Republicans would be hopping mad and the widely-anticipated Summers nomination would be an obvious way to retaliate. That does not mean Summers is a shoe-in, but the revenge motive will at least be out of the picture.

Syrian civilians who would be collateral damage in the alternative future with war.

War-weary American voters and US soldiers.

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  1. Dan Kervick

    Right now the strategic incoherence at the top of the American government and the global power vacuum that has been revealed are somewhat frightening. And I’m not just talking about Obama and the Democrats. The Republican Party also has no coherent global strategy or outlook. The last few weaks have revealed the 600 key figures in the US government apparently just making it up as they go along.

    There is a window of opportunity for old-style internationalists to revive the UN movment. America certainly isn’t in charge any more. But no one wants Putin to be in charge either. Europe can’t do it; China can’t do it.

    i”m worried about the American military and intelligence services. This is a dangerous situation.

    Other losers: all American politicians attached to the previous four administrations. Their era is ending. Some kind of changing of the guard is going on. But what it is changing to is anybody’s guess. All is in flux.

    1. Mondo

      Nice typo – “The last few weaks…” :-)

      Also agree with your comment overall. It is still better however to have the rank incompetence exposed rather than all of us continuing to be ruled by these amateurs in front of, as well as the fanatics behind the curtain.

      Also, like it or not, in the end it may turn out that it was indeed Obama himself who finally got this changing of the guard going. I may be reading it wrong, but to me it seems like Obama is now using every opportunity to break from his script, and weaken his puppet masters. If he succeeds the impact would be huge (and unpredictable), but it is too early to tell.

    2. Numenius

      I am awfully glad this ship of fools heading the U.S. government wasn’t minding the helm during the Cuban missile crisis.

      It’s quite worrying that our culture now seems unable to produce anything beyond mediocre political leadership. The implications of this on the domestic side are depressing enough, but in foreign relations this could lead to a complete disaster.

      On the plus side, the alliance between the leftmost Democrats and the libertarian Republicans, which we also saw in the vote on the Amash amendment on the NSA, is heartening. Combined, this makes for real pushback against executive overreach.

      1. LifelongLib

        At the presidential level at least, the primary system seems to bring forth smaller people than the smoke-filled rooms at the conventions did.

        1. s spade

          I try, but am unable to imagine how anyone could put John Kerry in charge of anything. Maybe one of those outdoor Parisian toilets, but I think those have all been torn down, right?

          1. Synopticist

            Oh boy, the ineptitude.

            It’s genuinely comedic that the worst of the crisis has been defused by his stumbling stupidity, accidentally providing the only feasible, peaceful solution and then immediately trying to walk it back. Only to find his opponents seize upon as a great idea, and his boss agreeing with alacrity.

            It would take a comedy writer of genius to make that stuff up. Could it possibly be ( shoot me down, please) that America dodged a massive bullet when you re-elected Bush ?

            1. Kurt Sperry

              I was actually pondering the same thing–that a Kerry presidency, based on what we’ve seen since his becoming SoS, could easily have been worse even than Bush’s second term. Think about that.

            2. PghMike4

              I had assumed that Kerry only said the stupid things he said because Obama wanted him to. But now, who knows? Maybe Kerry is really this incompetent, but if so, it doesn’t reflect well on Obama’s choosing him and continuing to put up with him.

              1. Banger

                No I don’t think Kerry was representing Obama–I believe his agenda is much the same as the Bonesmen in the CIA–war, chaos, death, glory etc.

                I believe Kerry represented the War Party and Obama felt it was time to move away from perpetual war for perpetual peace. Something clearly was decided between Obama and Putin and I believe, if this situation goes well, that we may be in store for a period of relative peace.

          2. sd

            I’m going to guess you are either extremely young. John Kerry was the catalyst for the BCCI & Iran Contra Senate investigations

            1. zvan

              People change, and not always for the better.

              The entire, pathetic, scary train wreck we’ve witness these last few weeks reminds me of the classic Kubrick movie, Dr Strangelove. Even the main players of today are somewhat similar to the characters in the movie: Samantha Powers as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper; Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Buck Turgidson, played by Susan Rice; Barack Obama as President Merkin Muffley; and most importantly, Dr. Strangelove, brilliantly played by John Kerry.

            2. s spade

              Well, they can put it on his tombstone next to the phony Medal of Honor. He should be satisfied with the baked bean heiress and retire to commuting among his five houses.

        2. GusFarmer

          That’s in large part because the money folks behind today’s politics don’t WANT competent leaders in the White House. Such leaders would challenge their control; they want people inexperienced or inept enough to be puppets, regardless of how eloquent they might be.

      2. Paul W

        How close were we to nuclear war? At least in 1962 both sides knew what was at stake and were able to work a compromise to end the crisis peacefully. This time America, and the western media, were so out of touch with reality that they saw this as giving bad boy Assad a spanking and nothing more. This could easily have turned into a shooting match with Russia. I wonder what the Russian leadership would then be thinking as they fought against a country with totally irresponsible leadership and the largest nuclear stock pile in the world? The biggest loser would be the side that didn’t strike first.

        1. GusFarmer

          That was always my concern, too — if we keep playing world war roulette, we eventually land on the loaded chamber, probably more by accident than design. Unfortunately, this “face-saving” move will probably not be used as a stepping stone to address the REAL global terror issue, the fact the world still has ~20K nuclear warheads. There WILL be some other similar crisis unless we demand they do so.

        2. Banger

          Both sides in 62 did not want peace. The Joint Chiefs wanted war as did many others. JFK, RFK, Pope John, Norman Cousins and, above all, Premier Khrushchev wanted peace. The generals wanted a nuclear war–they believed they would kill most citizens of the USSR but only lose 40 million Americans which they thought was a fair price to pay for “victory.” Fortunately, most U.S. generals today don’t have that attitude but they did then. There were also Russian officials who wanted war and in the end both leaders fell not too long after because they wanted to stop the Cold War and those who profited on both sides of the world did what they could to keep the phony “war” going–in fact, it had become a scam just as the “Global War on Terror” is a scam.

    3. Dan Kervick

      Personally, I am not heartened at all by any alliances between the libertarian right and the progressive left. But unfortunately, a few decades of Democratic interventionism abroad have pushed progressives into the arms of the libertarians.

      For whatever reason, Obama decided here to end a long, long pattern of unconstitutional war-making by going to Congress. He deserves credit for that at least. The national security elites must be furious.

      1. Paul W

        Has someone been passing out the Jonestown kool-aid again? First libertarians are non-interventionists. Unlike liberals who oppose the military option when there is a republican President but support it when a democrat is in office(see: Sam Powers). Libertarians actually believe in certain things. Something I wouldn’t expect wishy-washy liberals to ever understand.

        Second, Obama has never said he’d respect Congress’s decision. He was just looking to attract more passengers into his Titanic as he headed full steam ahead for the iceberg. Had it not been for Russian diplomacy it would still be bombs away. I know it’s late in the day but Obama may finally be realizing what an idiot he has been. But I’m not holding my breath on that one!

        1. Dan Kervick

          Not sure what the point of your response is. Yes, libertarians believe in certain things. But since I don’t believe in most of those things I do not personally relish the prospect of a closer relationship between progressives and the Pauls, Rothbardians, Raimondos, etc.

          1. Lambert Strether

            I don’t relish it either, but I don’t relish endless imperial wars and the destruction of the Fourth Amendment either. Maybe the liberals will wise up, but the iron laws of institutions says they’ll double down on fail. Controlled flight into terrain….

          2. dSquib

            What sort of “alliance” would this be? I’m thinking something less ironclad than that term would imply. There’s already plenty of left association with Raimondo. I have no problem with it. Do we fear some sort of pollution of left thought? Will we come to embrace right-to-work? Corporate personhood? Maybe some will. I guess my point is liberalism or leftism either has a case to make that has mass appeal, or it doesn’t.

            1. Malmo

              I embrace much of the civil liberties push dear the libertarians hearts.

              There will never be a so called pure ideological utopia, at least in my lifetime. I’ll take allies/friends wherever I can find them. I find aspects of conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism and anarchism that appeal to me. However, at base, I’m more or less anti authoritarian when push comes to shove. I pretty much get along with anyone not trying to push their individual agendas down my throat. Most people of all ideological stripes I’m acquainted with don’t do this. If they do, it’s a quick bye bye for good.

              1. dSquib

                Me too, anti-authoritarian that is. I’d generally differ mostly from libertarians, in theoretical arena, in their usual assumptions about property and money.

                The idea of an alliance does not trouble me. But then it wouldn’t trouble me with liberals, conservatives, paleocons, anarchists or Jacobins. Neocons are where I’d draw the line personally, as they seem to quite deliberately treat every non-war issue as indirect cause marketing for war.

      2. Cynthia

        What a bizarre alliance–the Obots, the neocons, and the Israel boosters. These three groups–easily the three nastiest political groups in the USA–want us to attack Syria, while everyone else in the world opposes it.

        This means, if you oppose attacking Syria, you’re sure to be called a commie, a racist, and an anti-Semite, all at once!

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The Obots aren’t allies with any group. They are sycophants to Obama. They receive nothing but piece of mind. They are some of the most pathetic people on the planet. The Christian right gets way more from the Republican establishment or has in the past than is perceived from tax breaks to support for their schools. The Office of Faith-Based Initiatives was a huge coup for their private clubs.

      3. Banger

        The “liberal class” as Chris Hedges has eloquently and unassailably stated has failed. The only possible hinderance to an authoritarian state lies on the right, sadly. Progressives need to ally themselves with civil libertarians on the right to at least return to democracy and rule of law before its too late–later we can fight it out in the political arena–when that arena is more open.

        1. Jim

          This is too much old-style thinking, referring to the “liberal class”. There are two new parties emerging, with the NSA & Syria debacles finally exposing the new paradigm.

          One party is the old, tired War Party: the old-line Republicans & Democrats who have worn out their welcome on just about every issue, siding with Wall Street & the Military-Industrial Complex on everything.

          The other party is the new anti-War, anti-NSA-snooping party, headed by Grayson & some in the Tea Party. As screwed up as this is, this is the future of this country…thanks Democratic Party.

          While the Tea Party types are libertarian on economic issues, they’re not libertarian on social issues. So while both sides of this new party are for the Fourth Amendment & against non-stop war, the two camps are polar opposites on both what to do about the ongoing depression and on social issues. Many social issue victories for the left may end up being undone, at least in the short term, while we wait for the Baby Boomers & Generation X to die. In this meantime, the real left in this country will have to decide whether to fight for economic justice for the 99%, or the gay marriage / let all the Mexicans/Indians in / abortion rights complex.

          Other losers, in addition to the previous list:

          1. The Military-Industrial Complex. While I’m concerned that the military higher-ups and contractors will be looking for revenge on this power-losing & money-losing defeat, the drubbing they’ve received this summer, on two fronts, has been shocking.

          2. Obamabots, who are more concerned with social issues then economic issues, and who have followed their man straight to Hell. This group is what I think a lot of people refer to as the “liberal class”, but actually don’t really care about the poor. So, in this case only, this group, personified by MSNBC’s lineup, is definitely so over. Grayson is on the vanguard of a new left, that is less neoliberal, less adventurous overseas, cares about privacy, and is on the right side of history on economic issues.

          1. jrs

            “The other party is the new anti-War, anti-NSA-snooping party, headed by Grayson & some in the Tea Party.”

            Let me know if that ever becomes a party, wait do I actually want such a party? Well I would welcome a Pirate/Crypto party …. Otherwise I’m going to think it’s business as usual for the most part. The NSA isn’t actually going anywhere.

            “1. The Military-Industrial Complex. While I’m concerned that the military higher-ups and contractors will be looking for revenge on this power-losing & money-losing defeat, the drubbing they’ve received this summer, on two fronts, has been shocking.”

            Tell me when the military budget starts getting the major axe. Will it be before or after social spending does? To ask is to answer. But sure after everything collapses THEN I guess there is rebuilding.

            “Obamabots, who are more concerned with social issues then economic issues, and who have followed their man straight to Hell. This group is what I think a lot of people refer to as the “liberal class”, but actually don’t really care about the poor.”

            I doubt it’s what Hedges meant, but he probably falls down too favorably on overrating the institutions in the good old days. Suffice to say there was a day when some people actually believed and advocated in favor of all the bill of rights, plus freedom from hunger and so on as rights. So that could truly be called “liberal class”.

          2. Banger

            Precisely my point. The old liberal class is done. The new emergent new party–some kind of alliance between the anti-authoritarian right and left is indeed the future. It’s and extremely uneasy alliance but one thing I have seen that is promising is a weakening of the social conservative movement. For example, as more family members of conservatives have come out as part of the LGBT community attitudes have changed profoundly. People used to believe that LGBT people were a “them” and suddenly they are “us.”

          3. JTFaraday

            “In this meantime, the real left in this country will have to decide”

            There’s a real left in this country?

            The real left is going to have to walk back that redefinition of human being and citizen into mere labor fodder.

            Expect a battle.

  2. Benoit Essiambre

    This is not a game for politicians to win or lose. This is a real situation with real lives at stake that doesn’t have a simple solution. This is one of the worst post I have seen on this blog.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, but this is politics. War per Clausewitz is politics played out by other means. Who is perceived as winning and losing, who gains or loses stature, has major implications for how events play out in Syria, in the Middle East generally, and for political fights in play in the US that also have serious consequences, such as the pending trade deals and Obama’s ongoing efforts to gut social safety nets. And if you care about averting war, you should be concerned about who is gaining or losing advantage as the tussling and negotiations progress.

      Your faux piousness is tantamount to a refusal to give credit to the people who at this juncture to have pulled the US back from the brink of war and to call out the people who nearly drove the US into what could have been a summer 1914 level miscalculation. A holier than thou posture does not save lives. The people who’ve wrestled in political mud like Grayson to stop Obama have. If you really cared about saving lives, you should be delighted that Kerry’s star is fading. But no, you’d rather clutch your pearls and tut tut.

      1. Carol Sterritt

        I liked the first two statements: “This is not a game for politicians to win or lose. This is a real situation with real lives at stake that doesn’t have a simple solution.” But then denouncing your post is simply killing the messenger. Nothing you could do would cost anyone any lives. Obama, Kerry, Rice and Clinton’s words and actions can indeed cause the loss of life.

      2. Ken Ward

        I would add the name of Paul Krugman to the list of losers. This fearless critic of the war in Iraq went so far as to confess in his Monday column that he was ‘conflicted’ on the Syrian question, which I think was the Conscience of a Liberal’s first mention of Syria. Some contrast with this website’s coverage!

      3. Susan the other

        This false flag interruptus is creating some interesting questions. I observed Lindsey Graham saying he thought this would be a good solution – to have Assad turn over his sarin stockpile; but the honorable John McCain was conspicuously absent for any comment. I think, because McCain has been such a pusher for unrest in Georgia, Chechenya, Dagestan, etc that he must be very disappointed. And another thing that seems to be disappearing in this conversation is the sarin stash of the “rebels.” I’m wondering if the Russians came up with such good evidence, maybe chemical footprint evidence, that the sarin was not Assad’s, that we couldn’t refuse his offer to mediate. I think, in this event, Assad is a winner because it will all have to be argued that the rebels have sarin too and they must also turn their stockpile over. That will be interesting.

        1. Bruno Marr

          Yes, Assad wins if there is international (UN) control of CW. He doesn’t need the CW to win the fight against the rebels (the CW are a latent threat to Isreal).

          Any future use of CW will likley be recognized as coming from Saudi, Qatar proxies.

      4. Dr. Noschidt

        Will the UberDiplomat Putin make the cover of TIME? For the “enemy” of President Fool of Fools to present him with Face-Saving Grace on a Silver Salver, while sparing the People of the United States catastrophic humiliation and ruin, well: THAT’S DIPLOMACY! Clearly, the Art of Diplomacy is not dead, it was just buried by the Power of Bully Might.

        Thank you, President Putin. Now only if France will take a hint.

    2. Richard Kline

      If this is the best that’s done, I’ll take it. A stronger international response to severe and routine human rights crimes by the Baathist regime is necessary, not that I expect that to follow. This is probably not enough to head off a nascent ‘Algerian solution’ in Egypt, where the counter-revolution has been directly encouraged by international fecklessness on the Syrian conflict. There are much bigger regional issues in play here than the crimes of this conflict alone, not that those are minor.

      When Putin trades Ed Snowden to the US to get this step back, where will that one be ticked off on the ledger, I wonder? But hey, no sacrifice by someone not us is too great, am I right?

      ” . . . [H}ead off a summer of 1914 miscalculation.” Jimminy-crimminy, what hooey. This is not, _remotely_, such a situation, and to even attempt to equate it as such is piously self-serving in a way I have never seen in commentary on this blog to this time.

      Had my say; on my way . . . .

      1. H. Alexander Ivey

        Easy on that comment about 1914, Yves may be guilty of over speak, but I hope to God that we’ll never know, ‘cos she may be right. August 1914 also was time of casual over-reach, and no one understanding the forces they were unleasing. And 1914 also had its earlier run-ins of 1912, etc. that could be analogous to the USA’s forays in the Middle East.

      2. Massinissa

        Oh please. We have 1914 style situations all the time. The Georgian conflict in 2008 was one such situation. That dumbass Dick Cheney wanted to intervene.

        The thing is these situations USUALLY blow over.

        1914 didnt. But nonetheless, conflicts that may internationally domino happen all the time, they just dont. I dont see why youre being so judgemental.

        Im sure if Austria didnt invade serbia you would be saying it would have been impossible for it to have the impact it did, am I right?

        1. Synopticist

          Kosovo too, another potential 1914, when Russian paratroopers arrived at Pristina airport just as British paras turned up. General Wesley Clark ordered the Brits to attack. The UK commander told him to fuck off, he wasn’t going to start world war three.

          And here’s Wesley today, moonbat f*ckin crazy still…


        2. GusFarmer

          True, MOST of the time they blow over. But it only takes one. When they don’t MILLIONS die and countries end up in ruins. With today’s weaponry, the death toll could easily be billions. We MUST see this as the warning it is and get all of the major powers to the negotiating table and ensure they do not leave until they abolish nukes, chemicals and biological weapons once & for all.

      3. Dan Kervick

        Why do you think that’s an exaggeration? The Middle East is a powder keg. There was just a coup in Egypt, a strategically vital country of 80 million people. Israel’s conflict with its neighborhood is as fraught as ever. The Iran issue is as fraught as ever.

      4. Banger

        Nothing has been proven about CW in Syria. There is a good argument for it being a false flag operation, certainly Syria had to be insane to do what they are said to have been done. And, frankly, the sources of this “intelligence” are beyond not being credible if we believe history and logic. The forces involved in the Syrian conflict are really, even worse than those involved in Iraq.

        As for sparking general war–no, it’s not 1914 at all but it could lead to a general strategy of tension wherein all militarist all over the world come to dominate society as they did in the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the largely Cold War.

    3. Massinissa

      This is a real problem at stake with lives on the line… And the Syrian people won by not getting bombed.

      I fail to see any problem with the post, could you please explain more?

      And politics and war are ALWAYS games with peoples lives. What the hell did you think Iraq was if not political? It certainly wasnt about WMDs or Iraqis.

    4. Antifa

      There is a game people play at lawn parties where they compete to carry brimming full cups of water through an obstacle course without spilling a drop. Whoever spills the least amount wins. It’s all for fun.

      Now imagine that whoever spilled the most was promptly shot at the finish line. Or their country was bombed. Suddenly lives are at stake. (The Aztecs used to play for keeps like this in their ball games.)

      Watching politicians make history in the moment is no joke, no horse race. History reveals that it is often the personal interactions between individual political actors that determines decisions with enormous implications for millions of humans. A simple turn of phrase that changes just a few minds might mean a million deaths, or a million saved.

      Historically, the participation of the populace led by these politicians was not invited. Before the internet, those millions heard about who spilled their water after it was too late. The opportunity to closely watch the politicians carrying our water in real time, and influence them, is taken for granted nowadays, but it makes us all hands-on in seeing how our water is handled.

      We know damn well lives are at stake, and our participation is needed on some days from hour to hour to let our politicians know our wishes. They don’t listen very well, so we sometimes all have to yell, sometimes a lot.

      Or does someone want to let John Kerry carry our water without democratic supervision?

    5. steve from virginia

      Other winners and losers not mentioned:


      – Israel. The US is deeply involved in Syria right now (Special Operations commandos and materiel support for anti-Assad militants); none of that will change, in fact commandos and support will increase. The militants are effectively engaged against Hezbollah … on Syrian ground. This has been a wet-dream for Israelis since the appearance of Hezbollah in the 1980s to bog them down is never-ending combat away from the northern Israeli border.

      – Israel II: Israelis prefer a weakened, ineffectual Assad without mandate, over a powerful one or a country dominated by jihadis. With Russian support a weak Assad is what they will have.

      – Putin, who wanted a weak Assad as a puppet.

      – UK Parliament and Labor Party, who were the first to derail the Obama Express and did so in such a way to lever all subsequent opposition to air strikes; a PR success.

      – The US military command/Martin Dempsey, who gained some much needed credibility (at the expense of the State Department and the president); another PR success.


      – French and Hollande who supported the Obama initiative to the bitter end; a PR failure.

      – Europe: whose benighted so-called ‘leaders’ who have been praying for a fossil fuel price war between Saudia and Qatar vs. Russia … and a return to the ‘glory days’ of 1950’s American-style waste … needed to ‘rescue’ the corroding EU economy.

      – Qatar; whose leadership bet on the wrong horse.

      – Iran and Shiite leadership who outmaneuvered Obama when it counted … this in turn torments the Saudis.

      – China, who will use American dollars to buy Qatari gas that would otherwise flow to Europe.

      – Exxon-Mobil and other energy companies who would have benefited from hydrocarbon gold-rush in the eastern Mediterranean. Now, every btu will be contested with RPGs and machine guns.

      – Syrians: this is not a political war or an energy war but one to decide who drives in this world and who doesn’t. The end of the war is not to win but destroy automobile consumption. A ‘war of a different color’ between haves- and have-nots. 100,000 Syrians are dead, 100,000 who will never buy a new car. Car sales and fuel consumption are exportable: war is the solution to the ‘net export’ problem.

  3. Hugo Stiglitz

    If this results in diminished US power, gradual disengagement from the Middle East and waning support for Israel, the Saudis and other “friends” in the region, the American people and the rest of the world wins, at least in the long run.
    The price of oil can be determined by market forces instead of military forces, a diminished role of the US dollar as the reserve currency forces the US to live within its means. Ultimately democracy might be reinstated in the US if the economy is demilitarized.
    Getting the hell out of the Persian Gulf is a win-win for most Americans, at least in the long term.

  4. Paul Tioxon

    I just posted my best case scenario in your earlier update. I agree, that Russia and Syria come out winners. But, even the Obama Administration comes out ahead by not launching missiles, dropping bombs or landing helicopters full of special opps. Russia looks particularly good, considering they have spent most of the past 4 decades arming Syria to the teeth with the most advanced weapons systems, that no one outside of the USSR or Russia ever received. They tried to create military parity with Israel, but the Soviet Union fell apart and Syria could just not match the Israel Defense Force, no matter how hard they tried.

    And Assad will be treated as the legitimate if repulsive head of state. But then, aren’t they all? Obama looked sick to his stomach at the G-20 conference. His key players all looked like double talking, insincere used car salesmen. The women looked like double talking, blue sky real estate agents, blowing more smoke than a forest fire. Nobody made any sense what so ever. There was no coherent description of the problem, why it was in our interest to solve it, and changing definitions of the problem and the solution.

    Expect to hear the word appeasement, coming jihadist storm and Congressman Issa, conducting Syriagate hearings in preparation for impeachment.

    Whatever it cost us to have Russia broker this whole thing, it does not seem that any of it was quarterbacked from Washington, but rather from Russia and the OPEC nations.
    “Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war and any change in Moscow’s stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

    Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion (9 billion pounds) of Russian weapons as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia’s position as a main gas supplier to Europe.

    In return, Saudi Arabia wanted Moscow to ease its strong support of Assad and agree not to block any future Security Council Resolution on Syria, they said.

    A Gulf source familiar with the matter confirmed that Prince Bandar offered to buy large quantities of arms from Russia, but that no cash amount was specified in the talks.

    One Lebanese politician close to Saudi Arabia said the meeting between Bandar and Putin lasted four hours. “The Saudis were elated about the outcome of the meeting,” said the source, without elaborating.”


    This all denied by Russia:

    But like previous accommodations in the past, secret quid pro quo usually greases the deal. When JFK humiliated Kruschev in public, he secretly got them to back off by promising to move our missile out of Turkey, making the Soviets feel safer, in exchange for abandoning the nuclear arming of Cuba. Castro was furious, the world thought Kennedy won, but the USSR got something out it to make it worth their while.

    The democrats will play up the peace making and the republicans will denounce the weak capitulation, blah blah blah. Maybe we caught a break with Hillary out of the loop. She wouldn’t have messed this up so badly in public. Putin may have been scared to death to take her up on any good ideas, even inadvertent off message comments.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I have to beg to differ. Rice was calling for regime change less that 24 hours ago. You don’t negotiate with a regime you are trying to delegitimate and remove.

      1. Paul Tioxon

        “Assad. He’ll be negotiated with as a ruling head of state.”

        This is what you said.

        So, I call him legitimate head of state, but you say no, he is ruling, but not legit? Is this a case of de facto ruling, but non de jure, not at all legit? Is Assad provisional in Rice’s eyes? Who do we secure any agreement concerning WMD? If not with the man in power? Rice tried to de-legitimate Assad in order to use military force against him. We aren’t supposed to attack the legitimate government. Now that we are negotiating with him over WMD, we have to change the policy, that he is the man in power, de facto and de jure, the legitimate government of Syria who can make binding agreements. Such as letting the UN in and destroying his chemical weapons, much like the IRA let their weapons be destroyed by international negotiators. The IRA was not considered legitimate by the UK, other than a legitimate threat. But, when the time came to stand down and disarm, they did. Hopefully, Assad will see this through.

        At any rate, this is the incoherent state of the administration that can not get its policy articulated clearly and consistently.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          We are still talking past each other. Rice insisted on regime change. That would imply negotiating with Assad AND the rebels. Negotiating with Assad is confirmation of the rebels’ limited/questionable legitimacy.

          Mind you, the rebels aren’t credible representatives but we were trying to pretend they were. Recall that DeGaulle was virtually created by the US. The US needed to legitimate someone as a representative of a government in exile. No analogous effort underway in Syria.

          1. Calgacus

            Recall that DeGaulle was virtually created by the US. The US needed to legitimate someone as a representative of a government in exile.

            DeGaulle, for what its worth, created himself. Nobody else forced Hitler to carefully read his military works. If anybody else could be said to have created him it was his pal Winston and the UK, who immediately attacked their erstwhile ally France once it had fallen and needed a government in exile, when the US still recognized Vichy, and continued for some time. DeGaulle’s relationship with the USA and FDR was famously frosty,

            1. ex-PFC Chuck

              I agree that DeGaulle created himself. In June, 1940, when he escaped to Britain, he was not a very senior officer; the equivalent of a USA brigadier general, IIRC. Almost all other general officers of the French military regarded the Petain government as the legitimate successor of the Third Republic. Churchill and the British government initially tried to control him and when they soon found they couldn’t they tried to marginalize him, at which they weren’t much more successful. For a guy dealt a hand full of deuces and treys, DeGaulle played it amazingly well. When US troops landed in Algeria and Morocco in November, 1942, Eisenhower, et al, first tried to set up Admiral Francois Darlan as head of the Free French military but he was assassinated on Christmas Eve. Then they turned to General Henri Giraud. Both were very senior to le grande Charles; Darlan was commandant of the French Fleet and Giraud had commanded an Army in the Netherlands during the blitz, had been captured, and shortly afterward escaped. The latter proved just as obstinate to deal with as DeGaulle but far less competent and unable to rally the remnants of the French military then in North Africa.

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              I don’t have the time to track down the WWII historians I’ve read who disagree. Just because he was capable does not obviate the fact that the US desperately needed someone to fill a role, and DeGaulle was there to fill it.

              DeGaulle would have gotten nowhere had the US not needed to promote the puny French Resistance as meaningful and put forward a courageous leader as its symbol. We’ve run that script again with much less good fortune and judgment in other arenas (the biggest being Chalabi in Iraq, who successfully conned a lot of trigger happy folks into believing what they wanted to believe in Iraq, that the US as invader and occupier (NOT liberator) would be welcomed by the populace.

              1. steve from virginia

                DeGaulle a creation of the US during the war: he was capable and could manage large armored units, not many French were able to do so effectively in 1939. Certainly not after 1940. His units were equipped by America … so were the Poles, British and to some degree the Soviets (used US diesel fuel and equipped w/ Dodge and Studebaker trucks); US = Arsenal of Democracy.

                DeGaulle was certainly his own man after the war ended. He founded the Fifth Republic and ran it for 10 years. His biggest blunder was the colonial war in Algeria which ended in failure. The French admired him unlike US puppets. Adnan Chalabi was loathed by Iraqis, Nhu by S. Vietnamese, Batista by Cubans, etc.

                1. ex-PFC Chuck

                  DeGaulle a creation of the US during the war: he was capable and could manage large armored units, not many French were able to do so effectively in 1939.

                  DeGaulle definitely was used by the US during World War II, but he most certainly was not the creation of either the US or the British. The evidence for this is implicit in the second part of the quoted sentence. There would not have been large French units to command, armored or otherwise, had it not been for DeGaulle fighting off British and American attempts to integrate free French soldiers into Allied units as battalions and regiments within British and American-commanded divisions. DeGaulle viewed himself as the only legitimate head of the government of France, albeit in exile. In his relations with first the British and later the Americans he stridently resisted any and all attempts of the two major Allied powers to denigrate France’s role and status. This frequently put him crosswise with Churchill and Roosevelt at the top, and Alanbrooke, Marshall and Eisenhower below them, all of whom dismissed much of DeGaulle’s prickliness as pettiness. As for DeGaulle’s abilities in tank warfare, they’re not at all surprising. In the 1920s and early 30s he played the same role in the French army that Rommel and Guderian did in the German, and Patton and Eisenhower in the American. They were the champions of the tank and the strategic and tactical possibilities that it opened up. In an example of the old saying that it’s the losers who learn from war, only the German army took the message to heart. Guderian readily acknowledged that many of the ideas he implemented in German blitzkrieg tactics were inspired by his readings of the articles that DeGaulle had written in French military journals.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  Didn’t the Germans have forty divisions for Operation Barbarossa? Admittedly, French demographics put France at a disadvantage, but its all relative. The British arguably had created the conditions for ending Nazi rule of France on their own. With the Soviet invasion and failure to knock out the Soviet leadership, the Soviets weren’t going to tolerate anything less than bulldozing Berlin. Its relative.

                  The size and importance of the Resistance (full disclaimer, the old country is Quebec, not France, how can they be so disloyal to our King?) doesn’t disqualify the bravery and sacrifices of its members, but on the other hand, do you think a more pleasant time in France would have stopped the Russians?

                  1. bobs

                    I don’t dispute the fact that the French Resistance’s
                    contribution to the victory of the Allies was “puny.”
                    So was the Polish resistance or, for that matter, any
                    of the resistance movements during the war. But to call these movements puny bothers me, since they were among
                    the most admirable example of collective action in horrific times.

          2. Synopticist

            The invisibility of the opposition figures is slightly puzzling only if you haven’t seen them interviewed. They’re a thoroughly unimpressive lot, and they’re kept away from the media because they wouldn’t be able to answer any questions on the forces they barely pretend to control.

            They hang out in 5 star hotels in Istanbul, looking for chances to be corrupt.

            The true leader of the “Syrian Opposition” is Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia. Him, and the captains of the 1200 odd rebel fighting brigades. Oh, and Zawahiri, the al qeada guy, who’s probably living in a comfortable house in a Pakistani nuclear base.

            1. redleg

              Don’t overlook Qatar and their “rebels,” The Muslim Brotherhood.
              There are two competing foreign funded rebel groups in Syria, neither of which represent Syrians.

          3. Paul W

            What made me uncomfortable about the original Assad comment was the sense it was influenced by western MSM group think. You may not have meant it that way but you framed Assad as a winner based on the MSM biased portrayal of him. Assad is a legitimate head of state, even if the 1% in the West and their lackeys don’t like it.

            1. Dan Kervick

              There is nothing “legitimate” about Assad. If he stepped on a land mine tomorrow I wouldn’t mind.

              1. Paul W

                Your personal likes and dislikes does not determine whether one is legitimate or not. I can think of many public figures I wouldn’t mind seeing swinging from lamp posts but that my opinion and has nothing to do with anything else.

                  1. Paul W

                    He’s a head of state, leader of a country recognized by the UN. He’s as legitimate as the regime in Washington or their puppet governments in Canada, Australia and Europe.

                  2. Antifa

                    His legitimacy stems from the barrel of a gun. The Baathist Party, or tribe, is a minority population that rules an enormously larger majority population. Only extreme violence got them atop that nation, and keeps them there.

                  3. NotTimothyGeithner

                    The Assad regime’s legitimacy comes from merely existing. All governments rule by the consent of the governed. Mr. Jefferson already made that point. Every government can fail tomorrow. Its unlikely, but the can. Some people disagree with his government and are fighting violence with violence. On its own, Syria would separate, and Assad’s regime would maintain legitimacy.

                    Assad’s support has probably grown as the original rebels let in Al-Qaeda operations and likely opponents fled. At the end of the day, the Syrian rump state is populated by people who would prefer Assad to the alternatives whether U.S. lackeys or Taliban-like enclaves. Assad could be tossed, but he works for enough people to keep him around. Its unlikely he could be beat in a fair election without a run off system, and even then he would probably win.

                    1. Dan Kervick

                      That’s a pretty lame sense of “consent”. Consent in that sense just boils down to not having the strength and wherewithal to overthrow someone.

                    2. nobody

                      Consent of the governed, or something else?: “Do not forget that every people deserves the regime it is willing to endure!” — Sophie Scholl

                  4. dSquib

                    Probably the biggest problem is the assumption in these kinds of debates that if a leader is deemed illegitimate (as judged by whom?) then whatever other actor that topples them must have legitimacy in doing so, even if they are an outside force or not broadly supported in that country.

                    1. NotTimothyGeithner

                      This is why the French Foreign Minister in the 1770’s, Vergennes, might be the only sensible interventionist in history. He waited until the Americans came very close to destroying two British armies in the same month. Washington came very close to crushing the British army outside of Philadelphia except he made a mistake he would have learned if he had a more classical military training. I’m convinced this is the reason he pushed for West Point despite his other issues with standing armies. Could you imagine news of British armies collapsing at Saratoga and Philadelphia arriving a week apart in London in 1777? They might have beheaded George III*, a pretty decent king, that very day or given him powers to disband Parliament or the current MPs.

                      After this, the formerly obstinate, Vergennes, told Louis it was time to support the American rebels, only after the rebels demonstrated they would win on their own. Vergennes merely wanted to end the conflict on more pro-French terms more swiftly, but he didn’t want to sign up for some conflict where Red Coats, these were crack troops, would embarrass the French again. This isn’t to say the French shouldn’t be our eternal friends and brothers, but the primary driver of French policy during the period wasn’t shifting the balance of power but speeding up an ongoing process.

                      *The Hannovers didn’t die out. They were just Catholic or too Catholic to take over the Anglican Church.

              2. dSquib

                You may not mind, but to place hope or importance on it is a fallacy; that all a country’s ills must stem from a strongman, and if they are killed or removed that country will improve.

                This is also contrary to evidence in this particular case, that Assad is less aggressive than many of his top commanders who seek even greater punishment of the rebels.

              3. Massinissa

                And then Assad is replaced by some baathist brute who actually DOES decide to use chem weps or at least to crack down more brutally not only on the rebels but on their sympathizers.

                Like assad or not, he could be far worse. Killing him would be naive, and furthermore it would not defuse the war. It may serve to ESCALATE it.

                1. NotTimothyGeithner

                  I always thought Bashir Assad was invited back to prevent his thug younger brother from trying to gain the top job and to delay a contest for leadership. I even wonder if the recent election has given Assad power for the first time beyond serving as a figure head for a cadre. In the arrangement, he could off lone troublesome types now and again, but he couldn’t overrule the decision of a small majority was my understanding.

              4. NotTimothyGeithner

                This would be a disaster. He is a negotiated ruler. His younger brother was next in line among the Assad loyalists, but the brother was basically an Uday/Qusay clone. Bashir was brought in to keep the Assad family loyalists happy while keeping a non-nation state together.

                Assad might not be Saint Jesus Superstar, but he was the best of a a crummy situation. Obama may not have the crusading instincts that W. had, but Assad is someone who can handle appeals to reason. Without him, who knows who will try to grab power?

        2. Susan the other

          This all makes me think our real policy is the pivot to Asia. We have recently negotiated oil deals with PEMEX, for which they are willing (they say) to change their constitution. We might be working on Venezuela. Keystone XL remains undecided. We’re fracking our brains out. This, combined with Russia’s subtle, but strange, behavior makes me think we really are getting out of Dodge. The Saudis and the Russians might be a match made in heaven. Since, between the two of them, they would control at least half of the world’s oil, the big question they would face is What are we going to do with all this oil when the world stops using it?

          1. Bruno Marr

            The world isn’t going to “stop” using petroleum. It might start to use it more efficiently, but it isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

      2. Cynthia

        I agree, Yves. The US has been at war with any nation (Iran, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, North Korea) who doesn’t take part in the central banking scheme forced on 98% of the world’s nations.

        The US has been sanctioning these nations for decades. Now due to the Arab spring, the US has devised a new tool in order to achieve regime change. They fund EXTERNAL terrorists and then have the mainstream media portray the movement as legitimate. When these terrorists begin to lose, the US then creates FALSE FLAGS (chemical use) in order to push their regime agenda and shift the tides of war.

        When will America wake up to this?

    2. Roland

      Russia never equipped Syria with the latest of anything. Syria’s arms are almost all obsolete stuff from the 1960’s or 70’s. Antediluvian.

      Syria and Russia were negotiating deals for more modern weapons (i.e. stuff actually designed post-1980) but after the outbreak of the civil war, Russia refused to make delivery of anything more than ammunition and spare parts for Syria’s existing weapon systems.

      1. Bill Smith

        Lots of stuff beyond ammunition and spare parts…

        96K9 Pantsyr-S1 Mobile AD system delivered 2008 – 2012
        9K40 Buk/SA-17 SAM system delivered 2010 – 2012
        S-125 Pechora-2M SAM system delivered 2011 – 2012
        Yakhont/SS-N-26 Anti-ship missile delivered 2010 – 2011
        Kh-31A1/AS-17 Anti-ship missile/ARM delivered 2009 – 2010
        KAB-500/1500 Guided Bomb delivered 2012 – 2012
        Igla-S/SA-24 Portable SAM delivered 2008 – 2010
        9M311/SA-19 Grison SAM delivered 2008 – 2012
        9M317/SA-17 Grizzly SAM delivered 2010 – 2012
        K-300P Bastion-P oast defence system delivered 2010 – 2011

        Even more in the 2000-2010 range….

    3. Banger

      Kennedy had no reason to “humiliate” Khrushchev–both leaders did not want war and thus they agreed both parties wanted peace and the lowering of Cold War tensions–a position that the Joint Chiefs did not want — they wanted nuclear war this is all in the record.

  5. tiebie66

    Most interesting and I hope it plays out positively. What surprises me though, is the public’s considerable sentiment against a war, especially the willingness to express this sentiment so firmly. I wonder if the Affair Snowden has undermined the Administration’s credibility fatally and if the popular opposition to a war reflects this loss of trust.

    1. Carol Sterritt

      I think many in the public remember the final days of the Bush Presidency, and the excitement they felt that if Obama got in office, then there would be a new day, with a new type of political leader. But once in office, Obama was more of the same ol’ same ol’. The appointents he made were all in favor of the Big Corproations. (The people who voted for him in ’08 included not only FDR style Democrats, but even “TeaBaggers” – all of whom who wanteed wars to end and sound fisal policies.) The Pew Reserch Foundation studied voters back in Spring of 2008. Only 36% of all American consider themselves to be loyalist Dems. And only 22% of all Amerians are loyalist Republicans. So you actually now have a larger number of people who are wanting substantive change, away from war, and for personal freedom, like the ability of gays to marry, and use of marijuana without criminal penalties. Obama couldn’t even keep his promsie to not arrest med marijuana users here in Calif. So not all that many people were going to give him a pass on the Syria matter.

    2. Dan Kervick

      I don’t think Snowden has that much to do with it. It’s not an administration “credibility” problem. The US public is just, on the whole, sick of the entire f-ing Middle East and wants out of that region and its endless conflicts … yesterday.

      Another “winner” in this will be fracking, pipelines, etc. because Obama will take the public mood as a further spur to ending US dependency on Middle Eastern oil.

  6. Fiver

    While Kerry’s performance is almost a case-study into how poor “Kick Ass” is as a communications strategy, I think the actual turning point was in the G20 meeting. The rest of the world lined up against the US, with only lap-dog States (Canada, Australia et al) supporting action, while the entire “emerging world” (now caught by the exiting flood of QE-engendered speculative money the Fed so aggressively poured in over the last 5 years) is in no mood for more US unilateralism. When Putin challenged Obama straight-up to conclusivly prove chemical weapons were used by Syria in exchange for a Russian withdrawal of veto the Admin, when it balked, had nowhere to go without being globally labeled war criminals. It was then evident to all the US simply did not have the proof, nor could it change its story yet again to cook up something else.

    Totally agree that Kerry’s overblown machismo did far more damage to his own cause than anything I’ve ever seen – note women are much more averse to a US attack than are men, while just a couple months ago, women out-pointed men by more than 10% on the “need for”/approval of NSA spying to ensure “our security”.

    I do not, however, count this apparent “defeat” for Obama as the last word when it comes to Syria. The US has still ramped up the scope and deadliness of its weapons shipments, there are still tens of thousands of foreign death squad types loose in the country, and these practioners of atrocity undoubtedly have more of whatever chemical soup it is they used Aug 21. You could not possibly rule out another chemical attack by the “rebels”, or even some other type of contrived or useful “incident” that allows Obama to strike with righteous fury, this time better controlling the scene and information flow.

    I very much hope for meaningful negotiations on the part of the US, but the entire record of the War on Arabs and Muslims reads against it – unless Obama himself has finally had his eyes opened, and now knows it’s one thing to drone women and children in some remote village as “collateral damage”, quite another to see the “rebels” you’ve so stupidly supported for 2 years murder hundreds of kidnapped children with some sort of chemical in order to video-tape it as a kind of reverse blackmail to force him to take a higher profile part in the “rebels” losing war.

    Now, if he would only be true to his newly embraced “sense” and back off the madmen in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the CIA we just might get somewhere.

    1. Antifa

      There is also the statement by Kerry in front of the Foreign Relations Committee that our government was aware of Syrian plans to use chemical weapons three days before they used them.

      Say what?

      He meant it to serve as further proof that ‘we saw the whole crime,’ but it totally invalidates our government’s shock — “shock, I tell you!” — that someone would actually use chemical weapons anywhere in this world.

      A whole lot of people all over the world sat back in their chairs at that remark, thinking, “Then why the hell didn’t you speak up? One word to Assad that we knew, and wouldn’t stand for it, would have saved hundreds and hundreds of lives and averted any need for war and the risk of involving Iran . . . or did you stay quiet because you wanted that excuse for war?”

  7. Jackrabbit

    As Hugh points out in the earlier thread, there is still much uncertainty.

    I felt rather pessimistic when hearing the comments from Obama’s team as it seemed to demonstrate just how determined they were for drumming up support for an attack: walking back a statement; initially rejecting a compromise and moving the goal posts (from punishment to regime change). And along those lines, McCain now claims that a vote for AUMF is still necessary to strengthen Obama’s hand and thereby ensure a satisfactory diplomatic settlement.

    Obama is a winner in that he has:
    1. diverted attention from his many scandals;
    2. avoided his self-made trap (“red line”); and
    3. media spin will highlight his Constitutional and humanitarian values. (Whataguy!)

    Just ’cause some wonks give him low marks doesn’t make him a loser in terms of the bigger picture.

    But again, am somewhat pessimistic as I initially thought that Syria was just a PR exercise (because changing the subject to jobs was a complete failure) only to find that the push for AUMF was so strong. We will have a couple of weeks of ups and downs before we know if a diplomatic solution is going to work.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      It’s clear Obama (more accurately Kerry, Powers, and Rice) could blow this tentative deal, either by design or ineptitude. I flagged that clearly, plus Obama laying the groundwork for pinning any failure on Assad’s bad faith even if the reasons are different.

      But treating this as done or “ought to be done” puts the heat on Obama. The optimism in the post is tactical. Not that I labor under the delusion that what NC says or does matters that much, but I want to do what I can.

      1. LucyLulu

        This situation readsreads as done, or ought to be done, short of incompetence or intentional failure on the part of the Administration, and will be treated as such by the press, the Republicans, and outside the US. If it fails, it will not bode well for Obama. He’s already in enough hot water. He needs to pull this off, badly.

        1. Antifa

          Nations go to war for inescapable and relentless reasons, usually economic pressures to gain more advantage in relation to other nations, or to avoid their gaining such advantage on them.

          Like glaciers colliding, nations find it impossible to let the status quo continue, and that is when politics is expressed as war — kicking over the table and taking the gloves off and seeing who’s left standing afterward.

          Those pressures haven’t changed for any of the nations directly involved in this recent fustercluck of kick-ass diplomacy gone all to pieces.

          So after a suitable pause, and cleaning up this mess, we will be back here again in a slightly different form.

          1. They didn't leave me a choice

            If so, then obviously you should be able to point out what exactly it is that USA could possibly win by waging a war in Syria, yes?

            1. Antifa

              Our war on Syria would immediately involve Iran striking Israel, Saudi oilfields, and closing the Persian Gulf to oil tankers. All excellent excuses for Israel and we to attack and flatten Iran and Syria in “self defense.” Our buddy Israel gets to go after Hezbollah in Lebanon without help from Iran anymore, so Israel will win this time.

              We get regime change in Syria, which allows pipelines from Qatar to go through so oil and natural gas can be shipped to Europe, breaking Russia’s near monopoly on heating and motoring fuels for Europe. France is very interested in making this happen.

              We get regime change in Iran, which puts a stop to them trading oil in “other than dollars” with China, India, Brazil and other nations, and weakening the petrodollar. We get their oilfields for ourselves, not China or India. There’s a whole lot of people in those two countries, and they’d use it all up in no time!

              With Syria and Iran in our orbit, we can move on the little muslim nations up in the soft underbelly of Russia, and go after the enormous oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian Basin.

              Oh, golly yeah. We get all kinds of cookies by making war on Syria.

              1. Carol Sterritt

                You conveniently left out the fact that the Iranian people could well msuter enough of a fighting force to leave us in a shambles. Then there is the tricky busness of the fact that Russia sides with Iran. As do all 4,600 of Russia’s nuclear weapons. 1,500 of those weapons are already prepped and ready for launch. The remainder could be in opeation within 96 hours.
                It is no small concern tht Russia immediately sent into the Gulf region some of its Naval ships with anti-American naval carrier weaponry poised to go. Whether our attacking Syria would have resulted in WWIII or not is anyone’s guess. But it defineily might have jeopardized the lives of any of our Navy service people who would are sitting victims of a Russian anti ship attack.

  8. psychohistorian

    While this might look like a step in the right direction, with plutocratic anointed sociopaths in charge, this step could be over a cliff of psychopathic revenge.

    What ever comes of this, it is clear that Americas’ star in no longer rising. How swift will be the fall? It is not like we have enlightened leadership in Congress, they are part of the same problem….and now they are backed into a losing corner.

    Oh well, if it were not for all our lives at stake, this could be highly entertaining….pass the popcorn.

    1. Antifa

      Next up, the whole world gets to witness the American Congress shut down the American government because Congress is unwilling to pay the debts Congress has already approved and spent.


      Yep. Congress won’t raise the debt ceiling, thus putting at risk “the full faith and credit of the American government.” You know, the dollar, the world’s reserve currency. Make it a more dubious instrument.


      Because there’s a black man in our White House. Success at anything must be withheld from his grasp, by all means, at any cost.

      Welcome home, John Birch. Take a seat on the roost with all the other chickens that have come home.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        This isn’t the only reason for the budget battle. Obama made the budget process transparent and vowed to cut spending while putting defense in a protected category.

        Obama wanted a grand bargain and stopped sending budgets. Everyone complains about budgets, but the President sends the budget over and Congress put their pork in to sell it to their home districts their broken promises and blames the problems the other 434 members. Obama sent one budget to the House in 2009 when the Congress members complained while adding their pork projects, voting for the budget because it helped the district.

        A Congressman can vote for something if he can drown out the noise with a few ribbon cutting ceremonies. What is waste in the next state means jobs in this state and that money won’t be going to those welfare queens but to hard workin’ people right here. They did for almost 80 years and failed to do it while he still had a majority in the House in 2010.

        Obama’s arrogance won’t let him get back to the old precedent because its become an issue in the eyes of voters.

        1. Carol Sterritt

          And add in the reality that now we all know for a fact that Obama really and truly has the ability to gather his wits and make the Oval Office into a bully pulpit. If he can do this for the “emergency” of sarin gas in Syria, then some Loyalist Dems might have to question why he can’t bring himself to do this with the matter of the budget sequestering. Why is only the military functions and military bluster of this country of concern to him?
          I live in a county in Northern Calif., where our school budget has been slashed from over 16 millin some three eyars ago, to less than ten million. Schwartzennegger, a Republican, did not want these budget cuts to materialize. Instead, when governor, he appoached the Federal government for a loan. Geithner denied it, saying the deficit could not handle such. Yet over the next ten months, Geithner did not seem to mind the naiton spending some 255 BILLIONS of dollars on modernizing an already over equipped military, propping up the toalitarian surveillance state, and sending 55 BILLIONs of dollars of weaponry off to Israel and to Saudi Arabia.The lack of educational resources for kids is far more scarey to methan what is happening in a distant place. Eventually these kids will be adults out there voting, and trying to find work. The military leadership Obama is trying to provide is nothalf as needed as responsibility for our doemstic affairs.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            The other issue is the staffing and missions of the OMB and the GAO. The budget is a huge operation. Congressman don’t have the resources to produce one except various stunts based on bullet points. The GAO largely exists to answer questions of the 535 electeds. If everyone has questions, they are pretty busy.

            I know its government by bureaucrats, but we could do worse and let elected do it. 435 can’t agree on anything or even produce a majority on their own if its too complicated. Congress recognized this and recognized the budget was largely assembled by requests from the President anyway minus pet projects, and in 192?, they made it official. The bureaucracy to produce a budget exists around the President not Congress. He doesn’t even need to make a speech. Obama just needs to send a budget. Now he may need to put in increases, so the Congress can “cut” them. A 15% increase for head start can be cut by 50%, the recalcitrant Congressman Y Jr. from X is bought off with money for the Air Show Memorial for Congressman Y Sr., and everyone wins. This is how the sausage is made, but Obama decided he could do something else because he is Obama.

  9. Virmont

    If this “dignified exit” pans out, we can be sure that Syria will only allow a windowdressing portion of their chemical arsenal to be destroyed. The Syrian government would be crazy to give up the only strategic deterrent that partially binds Turkey’s and Israel’s hands.

    However, we are only seeing the end of round one. The US appears to be training a mercenary force from a Jordanian safe haven that is operating in the Daraa Governorate. The endgame for the US appears to be in building its capabilities until it’s able make a move on Damascus. At this point that the US will create another pretext so as to become its Air Force.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We have not gotten any conclusive analysis of what exactly the toxin was. I saw a detailed initial review of the rebels’ footage by an expert, and he ruled out neurotoxins (which would include sarin) due to the lack of adverse reactions among unprotected first responders. His take was that the chemical used was not military grade but a some sort of commercial chemical.

      As a result, I’d venture Assad could afford to get rid of whatever stash he has in its entirety precisely because he needs only nasty industrial grade chemicals to do the job, and many of those can be procured readily, in bulk. In fact, the real WMD like sarin are super difficult to handle and may be more trouble than they are worth (as in you need highly trained people and very careful storage and handling to prevent killing more of your own people than your opponent).

          1. Bill Smith

            The Russian report was about the chemical weapons attach in Aleppo. The first sentence in the article:

            “Russia says a deadly March sarin attack in an Aleppo suburb..” But why should the Russians be believed any more than anyone else?

            I agree with your point about the use of industrial grade stuff would be just about as good.

            Interesting but long at about 10 minutes video that shows how things could be traced back for the August 21st attack.


              1. Trisectangle

                Médecins Sans Frontières say that hospitals which they are supporting treated patients with neurotoxic symptoms and I’d trust doctors on the ground over someone analysing the videos. However as they themselves said they scientifically confirm the details and (obviously) can’t cnfirm who deployed/released it.

                But yes, waiting for the UN report is the way to go.

                1. Yves Smith Post author

                  Both can be true:

                  1. Vid presented by rebels that they asserted showed WMD use (so much has happened, I’m not sure who first claimed that it looked like sarin or a neurotoxin) was actually the result of a different nasty

                  2. Other victims not shown on vid did get doses of sarin

                  As in more than one chemical agent used in the recent attack, so we have the “which part of the elephant are you examining” problem.

            1. Banger

              Why are the Russians to be believed? Because their agenda is to maintain peace, stability and maintain a healthy balance of power–while those in charge of USG national security state want war to militarily and politically dominate that region of the world and have shown repeatedly they will make up stuff, break laws, assassinate leaders, create false-flag events with impunity. I trust neither gov’t but you have to understand the motivations of all actors in this drama.

        1. Mike S.

          Methylphosphonyl difluoride is harmless?
          It’s not as dangerous as sarin itself, but maybe you could slather the difluoride up and down your arm and report to us the results.

          IIRC sarin is readily decomposed in the presence of certain minor impurities, that’s one reason for keeping on hand the two precursors as opposed to storing sarin itself.

          1. skippy

            Schedule 1 substances, in the sense of the Chemical Weapons Convention, are chemicals which can either be used as chemical weapons themselves or used in the manufacture of chemical weapons and which have no, or very limited, uses outside of chemical warfare.

            These may be produced or used for research, medical, pharmaceutical or chemical weapon defence testing (called “protective testing” in the treaty) purposes but production above 100 grams per year must be declared to the OPCW in accordance Part VI of the “Verification Annex”. A country is limited to possessing a maximum of 1 tonne of these materials.

            They are sub-divided into Part A substances, which are chemicals that can be used directly as weapons, and Part B which are precursors useful in the manufacture of chemical weapons. Examples are mustard and nerve agents, and substances which are solely used as precursor chemicals in their manufacture. A few of these chemicals have very small scale non-military applications, for example minute quantities of nitrogen mustard are used to treat certain cancers.

            Chemicals which can be used as weapons, or used in their manufacture, but which have legitimate applications as well are listed in Schedule 2 (small-scale applications) and Schedule 3 (large scale applications).

            skippy… there is industrial stuff all over America like this, you don’t want to see the safety records.

    2. Jagger

      If Syria loses chemical weapons as a deterent to Israeli nuclear weapons, then Israel and AIPAC win. Israel/AIPAC’s first choice was a direct attack by the US on Syria. Best win. However removal of chemical weapons is almost as good from Israel/AIPAC perspective with the only cost being credibility lost by the US and Obama. Still very good win.

      Of course, if we were really going to push for removal of weapons of mass destruction, why are we focused purely on chemical while discussing WMD while ignoring nuclear weapons (Israeli) in the middle east? As usual, we are playing a two faced game to our advantage while ignoring the obvious.

      I see the US and Syria as losers and Israel/AIPAC and Russia as winners. And I strongly suspect Syria will not completely comply with any CWD removal. They can’t with Israel next door.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        This whole mess in Syria on the U.S.’s part has nothing to do with chemical weapons. The immediate is feeding Obama’s ego, and Obama has been pressing for action in Syria. The American people more or less opposed action. Whatever Obama’s original goal was, I suspect serving his own ego is his primary motivation, chemical weapons didn’t cause the U.S. to join the friends of Syria or were a concern in Libya where Qaddafi had disarmed under a deal made with the 43 Administration. Arming and training the rebels wasn’t about chemical weapons. If Obama cared about chemical weapons, he would have left Libya alone.

        I think Obama wants to create an image of wise warrior for peace who is willing to give the “go” order. It doesn’t make sense except to feed an ego. I’m reminded of the scene in “The American President” where Aaron Sorkin presents how Presidential Michael Douglas is at least in his view by having Michael Douglas say how unpresidential he is by reminding the spin-masters he is killing a janitor. Democrats love this movie because a Democrat is tough but wise. It appeals to the shallow, and I think Obama wants to create this image for himself.

        The Russians don’t want a conflict. It doesn’t serve their interests which is to rise peacefully. Americans arms dealers have enjoyed unprecedented reign but are facing decline domestically and internationally. The Russians have a chance to clean up. When Kerry said getting rid of chemical weapons could solve the problem, the Russians jumped at the chance. If the Israelis nuke Damascus or any place, what happens? The answer is Israel becomes a real pariah and dies on its own. They have nothing to offer beyond hokey desert shrines. The Mormons proved people are happy going to local desert shrines.

        Obama’s new arguments for war focused around chemical weapons, but they have trying for a long time to get people on board and they thought the chemical incident would work. The Russians and the Assad regime jumped on Kerry’s one line. Faced with growing backlash, Obama has had to back down. The real issue is how big is Obama’s ego. The Obots are claiming belligerence was a ploy us dumbards couldn’t figure out, but Obama has been embarrassed and outplayed. Can he accept this situation?

      2. jfleni

        This post really hits the nail on the head!

        The existence of rather limp Syrian chemical WMD is only because because BIBI the MAD has 200 plus nukes (all developed and facilitated by various American traitors and mercenaries) ready to go, including an unknown number on (conventional) missile-submarines around the eastern Med (Apart from Arab countries, Cypriots,Turks, Greeks, and Italians take note).

        About a year ago, BIBI and the Syrians were nogotiating peace, but nutty BIBI wanted to keep Golan (about ten times the size of downtown Tel Aviv!) and so the peace talks went nowhere.

        It’s BIBI the MAD and the AIPAC crazies that have to blink, not just Barry and his collection of clowns.

        1. Antifa

          One blink the Israeli nation can never do is allowing a muslim nation in the Middle East to have nuclear weapons, or even to enrich uranium — the preliminary step.

          Without nuclear omniscience, Israel is so vulnerable it can scarcely hope for a permanent place in the region.

          1. steve from virginia

            Atomic bombs are made out of plutonium not uranium.

            Enriched uranium is used to make reactor fuel, power plant fuel enrichment = 3-4% Highly enriched uranium is for maritime power plants as are built into submarines = 95% enrichment.

            Plutonium is produced in a chemical facility that can be placed undetectably underground, the precursor is uranium 238 in energized reactor fuel pellets or inserted in packets into purpose-built reactors.

      3. Banger

        Syria doesn’t lose completely here–it now is clearly under the protection of the Russians who have let it be known that a healthy balance of power in the region is their goal. This proposal may well halt the agenda created by PNAC, which is still official policy, that states that the goal of the U.S. is to destroy all non-client states in the region–including Syria and Iran. A Russian guarantee of support makes an attack on Syria/Iran an attack on Russia.

        Putin is playing a gutsy game–why does he appear so confident? Because he knows that the USG is deeply divided into warring factions and the U.S. can no longer act with impunity. The nature of those factions are not the major parties–those fake factions have absolutely nothing to do with anything other than theater (as far as national security is concerned) but something within the deep state.

      1. Synopticist

        One of the comments ACTUALLY says…”I think we’re witnessing 11th dimensional chess, a concept I never believed in…until now.”

        Wow. Just wow.

    1. ohmyheck

      Haha! I am going with this being posted as snark. Here is a little push-back from that truly pathetic diary:

      “99% of the Daily Kos commenters and diarists suffer from the Dunning-Krueger effect. They assume because of their education, left leanings and assortment of other backgrounds that they’re smarter, more insightful or more talented than they actually are. It’s so impossibly painful reading through this sight and listening to people who think they’re more intelligent than they actually are.”

      Reply: “You got that right. I used to think this site was full of smart people. Experience has taught me that the left is almost-but-not-quite as full of idiots as the right. The only difference is, the left has childlike, naive idiots who put too much faith in the schools they went to. The right is full of angry, authoritarian idiots who put too much faith in their churches.

      The right’s still a whole lot worse than the left, but I’m remaining cynical about the far reaches of either. Archie Bunker and Mike Stivic were both assholes…”

      It seems that not only have Obama Critics have had enough of this Administration, but have had enough of Daily Kos Obots as well.

  10. ian

    I come out of this with a newfound respect for Putin (to be clear, I don’t like or admire him). He has been pitch-perfect on the Snowden business and Syria. Neither affair has cost him anything and he has come out of them with greater stature as a defender of civil liberties and statesman interested in peace.
    As I said in the previous posting, I am still trying to process Obama being saved by Putin.
    To me Putin comes out of this a winner, and Obama, a loser. The administration may try to spin how it was only their threat of intervention that brought this about, but I suspect most people realize in the back of their mind that the administration was blundering about until they were offered this lifeline.

    1. vlade

      I’d agree with that – unfortunately. That said, it’s easy to look like a genius in the face of an opposition that had pumped up PR but very little else…

    2. Cynthia

      Don’t forget: the Chicago community-organizer is playing political checkers, and Putin is playing world-class chess. I’m watching for a Russian-Chinese-Syrian surprise move that silences GoBomb’em’s, Valerie Jarrett’s and Susan Rice’s pitiful talking point approach to international tension and crisis.

  11. tulsatime

    This is not over, and the general tone of belligerence does not bode well going forward. A Major war has moved too far up the probability chart for my taste, and the tea influence in foreign affairs makes me nauseous. I did NOT want live to see a nuclear exchange, even a short tactical one.

    I’m glad we had some blinking, and let’s get 6 month’s away from it now.

    1. GusFarmer

      Agreed 100%. We have to stay alert for some new pretext for war. It might not be in Syria(maybe in East Asia?), but there are still too many open casks of gunpowder laying around and too many fools playing with matches to rest easy.

  12. VietnamVet

    President Obama really painted himself in the corner, big time, again, but with millions of lives at stake this time. The Plutocrats faced a real time rebellion if the powers to be ignored the 70% of Americans who are against the War. The neo-cons could never over come the repulsion at the idea of providing air support for Al Qaeda.

    The Russians saved the President’s ass. Once things settle down, the House Republicans are sure to try to impeach him for deserting Israel except the possibility of President Biden will end impeacement dead in its tracks in committee.

    1. Synopticist

      The ” we shouldn’t be al qeadas air force” is the kind of message that overcomes a barrage of pro-intervention propoganda. Whats great about it is it’s true.

  13. Roland

    I don’t like Cameron, but why mock a PM who actually respects a vote in Parliament?

    I don’t like Obama, but if he doesn’t go to war, I’m content to let him save some face.

    Whoever among the Russians who came up with this formula might actually deserve a Nobel.

    Of course, the warmongers will try to play all sorts of games with the verification process. I don’t see how Syria can avoid accusations of noncompliance, especially since the government has lost control of some of its chemical weapons stocks to the rebels.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      England is a parliamentary democracy. Much easier for Parliament to dispose of an out-of-control Prime Minister than Congress to impeach an out-of-control President. So I don’t see his action reflecting better character, but him being less able to defy concerted opposition on a big issue.

    2. Antifa

      “I don’t see how Syria can avoid accusations of noncompliance, especially since the government has lost control of some of its chemical weapons stocks to the rebels.”

      This will always be a problem, in two ways. One, in a country ripped apart by tribal warfare it is damn close to impossible to keep track of your own behind on an ongoing basis, much less move around the country counting weapons, or be the few guys in blue UN helmets guarding a particular warehouse while bullets and bombs fly back and forth. So the count will always be iffy.

      Two, the UN Security Council is a highly legalized body, and will only accept evidence with a clear chain of possession verified and verified again. In an actual chemical attack, that chain of evidence gets lost pretty fast because the country is at war. It’s not like the sarin attack in the Tokyo subway, where a police force was on the scene immediately. So the evidence will always be iffy.

  14. middle seaman

    The part about AIPAC is blown out of proportion. I have no idea why AIPAC decided to support war on Syria, but it isn’t the powerful lobby some think it is. The support for AIPAC among Jews in the US was always limited. Who the hell supports lobbying of any kind?
    The support in the US for Israel doesn’t seem in much danger in the foreseeable future. In a Middle East of Syria, Egypt, Libya and Hezbollah one has to be blind, deaf and indifferent to think of the rather commonplace nationalistic dispute between Israel and Palestine as the worse thing on earth.
    But then, old hat lefties stick to the AIPAC legend at any cost.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘The part about AIPAC is blown out of proportion … AIPAC isn’t the powerful lobby some think it is.’

      Is that so? Let’s review three undisputed facts:

      1. Israel, with an estimated 200 nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems, refuses to permit international inspections — and the U.S. runs diplomatic interference to preserve Israel’s exorbitant privilege!

      2. Despite having joined the OECD rich countries club, wealthy Israel continues to receive far more foreign aid from the U.S. than many of the poorest nations combined.

      3. AIPAC’s 2011 Policy Conference included the attendance of approximately two thirds of the US Senate and House of Representatives, including President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker John Boehner. AIPAC’s annual policy conference is second only to the State of the Union address in the number of federal officials attending.

      America’s rabid ‘Israel right or wrong’ policy tilt is the central deformity in U.S. foreign policy; one which played a major role in disasters ranging from the Iraq invasion to the current dust-up with Syria.

      Nice try at painting red toenails on the nine-ton AIPAC elephant hiding in the strawberry patch! But we still see it.

      1. LucyLulu

        AIPAC doesn’t have much support from Jews in the US but it sure as hell DOES have support inside the Beltway.

        1. Antifa

          It bears mentioning that a small percentage of financial aid to Israel is earmarked for generous bribing — sorry — lobbying of members of Congress to win support of policies friendly to Israel.

          It pays for itself and then some.

        2. Banger

          And why that is so would make an interesting story–but most Americans are afraid to speculate. Here’s a clue–the politics of the deep state are very different from the politics on the surface.

  15. Roland

    The Israeli interest in the Syria war is this: if Syria’s government collapses, the Lebanese forces opposed to Israel (chiefly but not solely Hezbollah) will be weakened. Then Israelis can attempt again what they tried to do in 2006.

    Bear in mind that Israel does not have a rational regime. Religious and racial fanatics comprise nearly a third of the Israeli polity, and such people hold some key ministerial positions. Israel has never managed to define their final boundary demands, because there are significant political parties in that country still crave more territorial expansion.

    1. LucyLulu

      And Iran loses their only major ally.

      OTOH, Israel is none too keen about Al-Qaeda and the extremist Muslim factions who comprise some of the opposition forces in Syria. They may be better off with the devil they know.

    2. Antifa

      The one-third of Israelis who would see expansion of Israel proper for religious reasons are joined by pragmatists throughout the government who see that northern Israel will never be properly developed while Hezbollah owns and operates southern Lebanon.

      They also see that even in the absence of Hezbollah and Syrian opposition, there is not enough water in northern Israel to allow development.

      But there is the beautiful Litani River just a little ways north in Lebanon. And many say that river used to be either the border of old Israel, or well within old Israel’s territory. It’s a beautiful river, and it would do wonders for northern Israel if only . . .

    3. Snake Arbusto

      “Bear in mind that Israel does not have a rational regime. Religious and racial fanatics comprise nearly a third of the Israeli polity, and such people hold some key ministerial positions.”
      Sounds like a description of the situation in the US…

  16. Hugh

    Kerry is a gasbag, but then so is Joe Biden, and Obama has never dumped him. Because he is a gasbag, Kerry was unable to suitably package and sell the incoherence over Syria of his boss. Kerry, Powers, and Rice were caught all singing from the same songbook, when Obama changed the music on them. Of course, they looked stupid, or rather stupider, for those who have followed their careers. Rice, at least, should know the drill considering the same thing happened to her over the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi.

    Going back to Libya for a moment, it is important to remember that the US and NATO operating under UN sanction were not there to effect regime change. Yet the regime was overthrown and Gadhafi ended up just as dead. So protestations that US interventions are not about regime change should be treated with the lack of credibility they deserve.

    About the only thing that can be said about this affair with any certainty is that Obama botched it from beginning to end. I don’t know that anyone, including his closest advisers, has any idea what the hell he wanted out of this or why.

    If this had been Bush and Cheney, they would have set the stage with some hypocritical remarks about how dangerous Assad was, delayed just long enough to get forces into position, and then sent them in to shoot the place up. They would have presented the world with a fait accompli. I was surprised that Obama didn’t go this route. Shooting up the place is something that our armed forces still do really, really well. Go in blow stuff up, shift the balance of power against the regime some, and walk away. It seemed a gimme, so even more incomprehensible why Obama balked.

    I suppose that he did we can account as a victory. Perhaps I am too jaded. Every so-called victory I can remember in the last ten years has been temporary, provisional, and often later rolled back, with interest. Whether Obama becomes more of a lame duck, whether his neocon advisers have egg on their faces doesn’t matter much to me. We still live in a kleptocracy. Even if Obama has hobbled himself, the empire will go on. The system will remain the problem, the class war will continue, and there will be no real victories until we change the one and win the other.

      1. Malmo


        Me too.

        They are still moving forward with the intention to have this voted up or down. The caveat for dipolomacy is the ability to use force at a moment’s notice. Obama wants Congress to rubber stamp that option–military force in a carrot and stick game. The linkage here is crucial–the diplomatic solution will fall apart absent a unifed America willing to have the miltary option, or so they say. If the votes aren’t there, and, say, Congress doesn’t even have a vote, then nothing changes until the next WMD atack, and we are back at square one. Obama is taking this to the limit. All or nothing. Victory dances need to be put on hold.

        1. Dan Kervick

          I heard Heidi Heitkamp on the radio this morning, and I’m worried about the kind of language that they are going to insert in this new Manchin-Heitkamp alternative. After decades of having punted away primary responsibility for national security and military action to the White House, Congress doesn’t seem real eager to pick it up again. Seems to me that Democrats are especially eager to pass the buck back to Obama.

          1. LucyLulu

            I think Jane Hamsher got it right. Nobody wants to go on the record supporting a military strike for fear of being primaried by their bases, each for different reasons…… neocon GOP’s for not voting for a real war and supporting Obama, libertarian GOP’s and Democrats for voting for a military option. Accountability is a lost virtue in DC.

        2. Malmo

          …If I had to bet one way or the other I’d say Obama will be forced to work within the parameters of the Russian proposal, absent Congressional approval of force. In the long pull, say months, Putin’s proposal will be unworkable. We’ll then be back where we started. At that point a real or false flag event will start the process anew. The State Dperatment and Obama are going to be privately fuming over this setback. They will be more prepared next time round–and they will be pinning for next time with every waking moment. They need to tell all of us who opposed they told us so.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I saw D.C.-area Democrats jump on board than back off. They are dependent on war spending and would benefit the most from small business matching contract in their distract. As the economy continues to suffer, Obama will lose more support, and elections are coming up. Obama’s relative sheen didn’t bring out minorities and young people in 2010. White liberals voted.

            Obama can’t come back to this. He needs it now or never. Perhaps he can’t fathom losing as he has never lost in his mind and advanced to quickly to take responsibility for anything.

            He was losing the vote and was still going to hold a televised speech declaring the need to go to war. Congress loves wars and backed off because the American people spoke. Its now or never.

            Could imagine a Russian chemical weapon disarmament proposal being vetoed in the UN Security Council by the U.S. trio? No country without a dog in this madness is going to vote against it which is the majority of the members. It may not be binding by UN law, but it will create a demand for a change in how things run at the UN and will permanently harm U.S. leadership around the globe.

        3. GusFarmer

          Right. This pushes the war party into the shadows a bit, but parasitic things don’t need light to grow…

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        I would be worried about explicit promises Obama has made. This war push preceded the chemical incident. Who has the goods? Do the non-Al-Qaeda-type rebels, the defectors from the regime, have access to U.S./UK/French special forces? Youtube videos of revenge killings aren’t going to play well.

        I don’t understand Obama’s motives, but there are many actors with various agendas. Turkey is run by a religious nut these days, and he probably wants a swift resolution for his side where hopefully violence won’t cross the border. Saudi Arabia is reaching a point where there isn’t a clear successor. Father to son dynasties are quite rare, and the ruling cadre is very old. They may be clearing the board to protect the younger generation of the Saud which may not have a clear leader if there is a conflict over leadership. Hollande can’t do anything domestically, but he had some success in Mali at least from his perspective. Cameron’s domestic situation is a disaster.

        I think Obama likes the idea of being above petty issues and tries to emulate movie Presidents to feed his ego, and since he has a small pool of advisers, he probably is very close to any arrangements which were made. He may have to go in there to avoid exposure.

        1. GusFarmer

          “Father to son dynasties are quite rare, and the ruling cadre is very old.”
          Not really. It’s just that most dynasties are constitutional figureheads and therefore all but invisible today. Dynastic succession dominates world history, and both the Assad and al-Saud dynasties have direct power like those old rulers.

          The Saudi regime is somewhat unusual in that succession has been horizontal within one generation (all of the kings have been 1st-gen sons of the founder, Abdul Aziz) rather than vertical. When time comes to pass the torch, there are hundreds (at least) of princes in the 2nd gen vying for power, and it could well result in civil war there.

      3. Susan the other

        I have the same bad feeling. Because we cannot control our own political factions and some of them are very dangerous ideologues. If war is what they want they will terrorize one or several of our cities (as was recently demonstrated in Boston), or our consulates or embassies (ala Benghazi), and force Obama to do a George Bush. Another unnerving thing is that when Obama spoke up for Larry Summers his reason was that Larry was “good in a crisis.” Well, what crisis was he thinking about? It’s not like we haven’t been in a crisis since 2008 and Janet Yellen has been a very steady governor. And basically I have a bad feeling because Obama is such an artful dodger. Who knows what his goal is now?

        1. Malmo

          Chris Van Hollen just announced that there is drawn up language being sent to the Armed Services Committee which states there will be a 30 day period in which Syria will be engaged so as to facilitate the handing over of their CW stockpiles. If the conditions are not strictly met, then the wording of the resolution will allow US force. That’s what Obama will be fighting for in his speech tonight. After watching Kerry getting grilled on the Hill this morning, I think Obama’s task is virtually impossible if he expects to pass any resolution involving the words authorization of force.

    1. JTFaraday

      “It seemed a gimme, so even more incomprehensible why Obama balked.”

      Well, you know. Maybe it was Putin. Obama has spent his entire life surrounded by flatterers and enablers.

      Maybe Obama was also brought face to face with the weight of a whole history that he and his closest IR advisors– “humanitarian interventionist” Samantha Powers?!!– simply have no real knowledge of, so quickly did our neocon spin meisters, starting with Fukuyama, sink the USSR clean out of sight.

      That’s not to say Obama will not be forced to rediscover his sea legs.

    2. Fiver


      Why is it so hard to believe Obama changed course due to intense opposition domestically, but at least as important, worldwide?

      The problem from the get-go was that nobody believed the US/Israeli “evidence”. This posed so difficult a fact that manufacturing consent, which is absolutely vital to US Empire, could not get any traction. The UK choked on the evidence, the Russians called Kerry a liar, and as noted above (way down in the order given the time stamp)they offered to sit on their veto if the US could provide any real evidence. The US could not, so the game was over for now.

      It is just amazing how deeply Americans hold the notion of superiority, invulerability, inviolability etc., even when faced with a resounding global “Stop right there!”. Just maybe the few remaining sane people in the upper echelons realized US unilateralism in this instance would cost the US far, far more than knocking overy Assad is worth.

      The US hasn’t done anything positive on the world stage in many decades. Over all of that time, the rest of the world has grown in economic power and political sophistication. Faced with a US that knows only how to dominate or destroy, it was but a matter of time before these “lesser” powers combined, at least when it suited them. This was one such time. There will undoubtedly be more as this 2nd tier of power continues to grow and integrate policy, in particular trade and currency policy.

      The US may be on the cusp of finally learning that an Empire based on economic and military aggression makes for cronies, not friends, for destruction, not production, for social degradation, not health.

      1. Fiver

        The UK, US and France have decided to immediately betray the spirit of the tentative agreement reached earlier by demanding now that the Assad be referenced to the International Criminal Court and that any US-determined “breach” be met with instant military mayhem.

        I am currently watching Obama, and can say without any doubt whatever, that I’ve never seen a more disgusting speech. The Drone King’s heartbreaking appeal for empathy for the “children” was beyond the pale, given he has killed more children with his pen than the “rebels” did with whatever gas they used.

        The US, as Yves has said more than once, may yet snatch a disaster from the jaws of peace.

      2. Hugh

        What is difficult to understand from Obama’s point of view is why he dithered sufficiently to let opposition build and percolate into the political classes. At the same time, he jerked around all the usual supporters of imperial war, leaving them out there hanging and more exposed than he was. No one knew if he were coming or going on this. As I said, even Bush the Deciderer was smarter. He would have known he would catch political heat either way. So once his decision was made he would just have gone with it. As for Obama, since Snowden happened, he has been acting more and more unhinged, like someone off their meds. He is still a neocon and friend to the looters, but he is more and more a loose cannon, ineffective and inconsistent, a screwup in other words. It is like he is precipitating his lame duck status even faster than might be expected. It is looking like a rough and ugly road to 2016. The only silver lining being, in a kleptocracy, an early lame duck President may be able to accomplish a little less evil.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I think its a situation of experience and Obama’s narcissism meeting head on. Obama has faced no opposition from his party; although I dismiss the Democrats, it would be rash to say they are all crooks. They understand 50+1 is an important number. Except for a handful of districts (Rangel, Vermont in general, and a few other places), the President if so motivated could crush anyone by showing up to an event for a primary challenger. He wouldn’t even have to acknowledge an incumbent candidate because everyone knows who the President is and no one knows who their congressman is. Obama (any President) holds considerable power over members of his caucus and can make them support him on almost any issue for this reason.

          So far, the threat of being painted as a racist and racial solidarity from the CBC has been useful. Look at the vote on the extension of the Bush tax cuts. They didn’t even make the GOP vote on an extension for the $200k ceiling in a symbolic act.

          Obama made it through Libya without a hitch despite fairly negative views from a sizable portion of the electorate, but now Obama isn’t on the ticket and his popularity is fading. I don’t think he knew what to do. His legislative career was insignificant. He never did anything similar to say Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and sexual assaults in the military. Carl Levin treated her like crap when he dismissed minor attempts at making reporting rape easier on victims. His most vocal critics were deranged or painted as racists (see South Carolina in 2008).

          Obama won’t be on the ballot again, and a much more popular Obama didn’t bring anything to the table in 2010. At the same time, Congress is worried about the record low approval ratings.

          Combined with his status as “The one” and his small cadre of sycophants, I think Obama expected a bit of razzle dazzle to stun the crowds and the international community to recognize his moral greatness.

  17. vlade

    I’d slightly disagree that Cameron is more of a loser (except in a generic sense… That said, the fact that the UK election in two years time is still his to lose does say something about capabilities of Labour… ) – the climbdown, and the fact that it was all initiated by the vote in the UK parliament (I have little doubt that if UK approved, there would have been strikes shortly), is in fact quite a bit of a face saver for him.

    1. Synopticist

      I think Millband will come out of it as a long term winner though. Those 2010 libdem voters who gave up on Labour because of Iraq will now be nailed down.

      Cameron has been shielded from worse damage because the entire MSM, with the occasional exception of channel four, have been pro-intervention from almost the beginning.

  18. JL Furtif

    I think the biggest winners are the lots of ‘brown bodies’ that will not be blown to red mist, the women that escape rape and the children that escape an early death.
    With a bit of luck, even the Yemenites and Pakistanis can hope for droneless weddings or funerals.

    And why not dreaming of a bankster or two ending up in prison? I am still convinced there is a HUGE financial crisis brewing with all this taper talk and bond money disappearing, and a small war in Syria would be an even better distraction than Snowden – which distracts from the money, but not from the Administration’s endless wrong-endedness.

    1. Antifa

      Our six big banks are as deep in the doo-doo as they were before the 2008 crash, and there is much less of tools and of resources on hand to deal with another crisis.

      But that hasn’t deterred the big banks or hedge funds or corporations from recreating the glory days of ’07.

      But as has already been very painfully demonstrated, it cannot last.

      They can’t stay up there.
      They don’t even know how to unwind it, and climb down.
      So how are they gonna come back to earth?

      I’ll go ask Humpty-Dumpty.

  19. Synopticist

    I think Obama has come out not too badly hurt. If he’d bombed after Congress voted no he’d have looked like a war criminal and dictator, and if he’d accepted the vote he’d have looked like a very sick duck.

    So he’s taken a stabbing, but avoided getting shot.

    Another winner is Iran, big time. If Aipac, Saudi and the neo-cons couldn’t pull off an attack on their closest ally after a WMD massacre, it’s hard to see anything which would provoke a far more serious assault on the Islamic republic.

    Ed Millband is another winner. So, arguably, is Qatar. The Saudis took over the running of the Syrian war from them a few months back, promising quick change and an immediate improvement. That hasn’t really occurred, so they make get some of their Syrian clients back.

  20. Mahesh

    First of all – Greetings and Thanks for this excellent post.
    While it is nice to see the situation getting defused – my fear is the pull-back may be mostly tactical and hence transient in nature.
    Secondly, me also thinks that things might actually go against Assad in long term (not that I care about him – just voicing my opinion on your inclusion of Assad in Winners list).
    Please allow me to elaborate.
    First, the tactical nature of pull-back. The reasoning goes something like this – none of the factors that precipitated this pre-war situation appear to have been resolved. Russian and Iranian interests , Saudi and Qatar involvement, Israel’s stalemate , MIC’s eagerness for new venues to sell the weaponry … nothing changes. All we see is a tactical retreat. Perhaps a result of un-willingness amongst the players to go really all out. All we will probably get is some UN inspections of chemical weapons sites. That hardly resolves the underlying factors.
    Second, Mr. Assad. Remember Iraq and those UN inspectors in Iraq ? Me thinks something similar might play out here. At least to the point that some folks have bought some time by bringing in UN inspection. Doesn’t exactly translate as a great prospect for Mr. Assad.
    That is perhaps all to it for now. And I guess that is how it is going to be for quite sometime now. Being at the mercy of war mongers ineptitude.
    Thanks again – for all the good work and stay well.

  21. zygmuntFRAUDbernier

    The strong leanings in the N.C. commentariat to “first, take care of things in the home-country, USA” (as opposed to a humanitarian mission to “save the world”) led me to further questioning.
    My parents, under Foster Parents Plan, sponsored children; the first was in Greece around 1975, the second in Peru after the Greek foster child reached about 16. Today, I say to myself: “neo-liberalism was at work then; NATO meddled in Greek internal affairs, and the US meddled in South America affairs”.
    So, I went searching with Google for things related to:
    charities working to end global poverty
    So far, one un-orthodox message came from Oxfam, i.e. that the richest 200 could do quite a lot in alleviating poverty. Charities that present themselves as “working to end global poverty” (except maybe from Oxfam that I just flagged as having unorthodox messages) don’t put “tackling neo-liberalism” at the forefront, and don’t try to reform the home system. So, it was a nice little sampling experiment using Google.

  22. craazyman

    Additional Winners:

    NFL football fans – no bombing to distract from early season action (as predicted by the local Seer)

    Nostradamus — Recent developments show how hard it is to predict the future, which only makes his efforts all the more impressive.

    Additional Losers:

    Greece — they seem to lose no matter what happens, so why should this be different?

    Upper Volta — You need another loser to point to and there’s nobody in Upper Volta prepared to defend themselves

      1. Snake Arbusto

        Greece always loses… Actually it’s the Greek working people who seem to always lose, and by extension working people everywhere.

  23. Trisectangle

    I’d have put the Syrian Civilians in the losers as well as the winners bracket. If only to acknowledge that there is no way that things are going to turn out well for them if things continue as they are.

    Also, I am generally uncomfortable with praise for Putin, especially if it’s about him doing the right thing to prevent war. He is knee deep in this proxy conflict and his opposition to the bombing is because it threatens his pieces in play in the region. He is damn good at playing his cards to his advantage (the the US woeful, that shoddy report man, especially since after the Iraq report debacles everyone was going to be hugely skeptical about anything the US produced) but he doesn’t give a flying fuck about the wellbeing of people in the region. He is operating on his own imperialist agenda.

    Yeah he is a winner in this situation but lets not fall into the trap of thinking that Putin has a wholesome vision for the region or that Putin has the best interest of Syria at heart and that we should cheer for his general success.

  24. SBG1

    Winners and Losers.

    Alan Grayson. Welll, this week, maybe. But he’s got to be more politically under control. He’s never learned a basic lesson of politics – “When you lose, say little. When you win, say less”.

    Prancing around in his victory dance after he’s just scored the equivelent of a political touchdown makes it damned tough to maintain a working relationship with the folks you just beat. Remember, those folks are (most likely) still going to be around for the next act.

    Vlad (Putin). This is a little tougher. Short term winner perhaps. Mid to long term, potential loser. Give the man credit, he’s got game in terms of managing a short field (both offense and defense). But, he just put himself out there where now he’s going to be taken seriously, and that means that folks are going to really put his strengths and weaknesses under the microscopes.

    And Putin (Russia) has some very serious weaknesses. But the weaknesses are not immediate, and it means that POTUS has to make some hard calls that tend to conflict with his personal ideology.

    A substantial portion of Russia’s economy is hydrocarbon based. And in Europe (Gasprom), that’s a hammer. But that whole power environment that has been carefully crafted by Putin can be shaken to it’s core by exporting LNG from other (non Russian) sources to Europe. I’m not saying that’s the way to go necessarily, but if POTUS wants to re-establish credability vrs. Putin/Russia, that’s the economic (non military) way to accomplish it.

    Another option is to really push for shale exploration in Europe. Either of these two options can deliver a blow to the Russian energy based economy, which is Putin’s entire base of power. But, as the saying goes, “Their source of strength is also their point of vulnerability”. Just a thought.

    BIG Winner: US military. It’s “Go big, go home, or go dark” (make it so big that nobody doubts you; don’t go there from the start, or fight it out in the shadows where nobody can see you). Hopefully, we’ll stay out of this and just let AQ fight it out with Iran and Hezbollah. If there’s no winners between that bunch, we win. If the Russians want to get sucked in and involved on the ground, fine. Good luck with that.

    1. Snake Arbusto

      “Hopefully, we’ll stay out of this and just let AQ fight it out with Iran and Hezbollah.” Well, “we” are not out of it and never were, if “we” is the US and/or UK and France. AQ is “our” creation, isn’t it? So, for that matter, is Syria. And “we” set Iran up for 1979 in 1953. We could go back even farther…

  25. Dino Reno

    We’ll never no for sure, but we may have just dodged WW3. The documents may leak out twenty years from now showing how close we came to the big one. If that’s the case, the world is a big winner here.
    As for Russia, despite it being a lawless state, it has a strong attachment to international law and treaties, relatively speaking. It took its defense pack with Syria very seriously and was looking for a way out of the coming conflagration. Because America wipes its ass with the treaties that it signs, it couldn’t conceive of Russia honoring a commitment to defend Syria after the bombing started. For my money, this was the biggest miscalculation Obama and the gang who couldn’t shoot straight were about to make.

  26. Conscience of a Consrvative

    I think you will find that Israelis are fine with a Russian compromise. They usually prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t know. The Golan has been quiet and they can predict how Assad will react. The big negative is that Iran and Hezbolah are not weakened here, which hurts the chance for regional peace.

    And of course Obama and Kerry look awful here. Amateur hour at its worst.

    Also can’t understand why Hillary Clinton is speaking out here at all except to appear “presidential”?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Bill is her top adviser these days. My guess is she is smart enough to not let his gang of loser friends run the campaign this time. Hillary needs to be on the scene if she is going to run in 2016 considering her age. I doubt she will be able to face a real race, and she will face questions. The Iraq overhang is real, and she voted for the crusade.

      I suspect Bill despises Obama after the South Carolina whisper campaign of racism and would love to have his little woman appear as the wise pontiff next to the struggling and increasingly incoherent Obama.

      She can’t reject her hawkish ways because Bill and Hillary still stuck in 1992 and triangulation, but Bill still has the touch.

      1. Lambert Strether

        The Big Dog wasn’t the only one to be appalled by the “South Carolina whisper campaign of racism” — or by the vile misogyny of the 2008 Obama campaign, either, now in full display — nobody could have predicted… — in the impending coronation nomination of Larry Summers. (Preventing that would be a sweet victory as well.)

        However, I think the Clintons have had their day, and we’ll never know the counterfactual of whether a Clinton administration would have been marginally better than an Obama administration, although it can be fun to talk about. Man, though, that Cory Booker: Can he tweet, or what?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I can’t tell anymore. Is the Corey Booker mention snark or not? I saw “Street Fight” years ago and followed him long enough to recognize a Harold Ford clone.

          I think Hillary would have done a better job of inuring herself from legitimate criticism. We would have seen heads on Wall Street placed strategically around the National Mall. It wouldn’t have been anything close to cleaning house, but it would be enough for the Democratic sycophants to be vaguely credible when they claimed how Hillary had cleaned up Big Finance. Obama defenders can’t even offer up google results.

          1. lambert strether

            Cory Booker is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

    2. Banger

      You may be right about Israel. The Israeli version of the Mighty Wurlitzer did not go into gear–AIPAC went through the motions but really didn’t do much to persuade Congress to vote for a quick strike and they were fully capable of doing so if they pulled out all the stops.

  27. charles sereno

    I haven’t seen this anomaly mentioned. Obama, covering for Kerry’s blooper, said that the chemical weapons sequester had been considered earlier. If so, why did Obama cancel his meeting with Putin at the G-20? That’s when it could have been worked out. I think the unexpected popular and political resistance made the difference. Obama initially intended to (and still may) strike.

  28. salvo

    I’m not so sure they have really turned back from the intention of waging a new war, at least considering the French resolution plan

    “1. The UN condemns the “chemical massacre” committed on 21 August “by the Syrian regime”
    2. The Syrian regime “shed all light” on its chemical weapons programme without delay, placing it under international control and dismantling it
    3. Syria must put in place a complete procedure to allow full inspections of chemical weapons and must become party to the chemical weapons convention
    4. There would be extremely serious consequences if these obligations were violated
    5. The “authors” of the 21 August chemical attacks must face legal sanctions via the international criminal court”

    points 1 and 5 are unacceptable as they imply the Syrian admit having committed the war crime (regardless of the missing evidence)
    point 4 sets up the stage for a new intervention

    Unfortunately, I think the powers that be still want their war

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, I have this from an insider (as in sees some of the intel):

      Putin wants to keep Syria in his sphere of influence, and is in many ways responding to a US attempt to grab it. There’s also a Russian red line drawn long ago with Syria and Assad. The Russians told Assad’s father he could have chemical weapons (not nukes though) as long as he got permission from the Russians before he used them. Either (a) Assad didn’t get permission or (b) there was a breakdown of the Syrian command and control structure or (c) the rebels did it. In none of these cases does Putin want chemical weapons floating around Syria. Putin isn’t our friend but in this case he wants the removal of the chemical weapons with no regime change in Syria.

      1. Antifa

        I wonder if Assad will really lose ready access to his chemical toys? They may simply be sequestered in-country, which allows them to still be a real counter threat to unilateral Israeli action. Doesn’t take long to unlock the bunker in case the Israelis attack.

        But I can’t see Russia ever being happy with the use of chemical weapons, so maybe complete removal is the plan. They’re only there to be a credible threat, not to be used. Using ’em is just an invitation to get yourself nuked but good.

        Besides, sequestering them in-country only makes them a well marked target for Israel, and us.

        Putin will probably sweeten the deal by quietly providing more modern missile technology, and small arms to counter the little army we’ve been training in Jordan.

        Russia won’t let Syria down, and won’t let America or Europe have it for a pipeline that cuts into Russia’s near monopoly on energy sales to Europe.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Chemical weapons are a red herring. Imperial Japan and the Nazis extensively tested chemical and biological weapons, and what they learned was they were incredibly inefficient for use by soldiers with access to artillery. They can create terror, but at the end of the day, chemical weapons require a whole separate force to use efficiently which means less real soldiers. The U.S. closed its programs because we realized the same thing. The Soviets kept it up because the Soviets never let a bad idea go away.

          The Japanese planned to drop fleas with the plague onto North America. Bubonic plague was already in the wilds of North America at the time. Proximity and concentration matter as well as current health of targets, but if you launch a chemical warhead on a windy day, the wind is going to take the payload away from the target and probably disperse it to a background menace at best. If it isn’t windy, its just going to sink where the shell lands. An artillery shell will drive people inside a visible structure for protection which can then be targeted resulting in deaths every time.

          With the Russian backing, making the international community take care of the chemical weapons and exposing the rebels to a larger audience is pretty much a win-win-win for the Syrians.

  29. optimader

    Kerry is one of those idiots in love w/ the sound of his own voice. Apparently never learned in Politics 0101 that just because you’re asked a question doesn’t mean you have to answer it. No less, doesn’t he know he is about the last person in the world that should be speaking extemporaneously?
    Kerry’s job is JUST NOT THAT DIFFICULT. How he couldn’t stick to an Admin list of talking points on a PostIt note is remarkable. BHO felt obliged to dust off Hillary? Oh, the horror..

    Powers and Rice? they sounded like a couple shrill soccer moms at the Village Hall meeting lamenting “***** for our children’s safety!” spinning this into a US national security issue? gimme a break

  30. Cynthia

    Syria is just the next “domino” in line to fall in the neo-con’s PNAC “Defense Strategy for the 21st Century” — which really has nothing to do with “defense,” but rather everything to do with spreading MIC hegemony into the gas/oil producing ME in order for them to secure and profit from those resources.

    The corpora-fascists and banksters — which really comprise a global cabal — are the ones leading the charge, as they finance and “own” the governing bodies in many countries.

  31. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan

    It seems that Mr. Obama can not deliver the war his handlers want. From their point of view, his usefulness is at an end. He will very likely be assassinated or impeached before the end of his term and replaced with someone more pliable. The war with Iran (For which the Syria conflict would simply have been a catalyst) has only been delayed.

  32. Gaianne

    The US wanted war–diplomacy would not serve, for reasons known only to the powers that be–and wanted it now. Not coincidentally the rebels had started losing, at the very least the US intended to provide them with air cover. Now all that is pushed back. The US will try again, but it will take time, especially after the current debacle. Internationally, the US image, already in decline, took a major blow, and recovery of that will not be easy. Of course the US assumes it can ignore other countries, but there are limits. Losing in the British Parliament was one of them.

    This is a strategic victory for Russia and China, for time is on their side, and not on the side of the US. Both Russia and China have their troubles, but compared to the US they are under far less time pressure. This is well understood by the powers that be, and is the underlying reason the US wanted its war now. Though the US will try again, future circumstances will be less favorable, and this is understood by everyone.


  33. Adriannzinha

    Privately, Obama and his cabal are no doubt reeling from Kerry’s colossal blunder. Just as they had the war drums at crescendo, no doubt cutting deals in congress to get a fig leaf for their invasion, Kerry’s goof got picked up by the Russian minister.

    Undoubtedly this provoked immediate questions about the motivations for the attack from even the mainstream media. Because admitting that the attack was part of a long standing plan to eventually invade Iraq by removing it’s allies, not to mention the al-Qaeda led FSA has had a string of setbacks, the administration has had no choice but to go along with the Russian proposal. Otherwise it would be plainly obvious to anyone that the planned invasion has other motives.

    It’s certainly gives the Syrian people and regime a bit of breathing room but I have absolutely no doubt that the Obama war plan is entire still in the works. It simply got pushed back a bit.

    Recall the lead-up to the Iraq war when Bush and Co were ready to invade when Saddam unexpectedly allowed greater access and transparency to UN inspectors. It forestalled things yes, but once the war plan was in motion, eventually Bush invaded anyway – ignoring the statements of the inspectors, notably Scott Ritter. First there weren’t any weapons found so Bush sent Powell and his lackey’s to claim there were alleged mobile weapons labs.

    Unfortunately it is fairly clear we’ll see that same scenario play out. Either through some convenient “error” or “delay” by the Syrian government or even a provocation by the FSA to frame the Syrian regime.

    War plans this evolved and part of such a key strategy don’t simply get undone though it appears there will be a delay.

    1. Antifa

      You state the situation very clearly.

      It is puzzling that throughout this push for war in a hurry, more and more resistance showed from the Pentagon, from the people who actually do wars. Their reaction was to ask, “Do you realize how quickly this will escalate to Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Strait of Hormuz? Cuz it will. Are you ready for that? Cuz we aren’t.”

      Is Obama’s circle of advisers and minders closed to experienced advice? Military advice? Financial advice?

      He was so suddenly and adamantly set on war right away during this recent debacle that it was clear he was meeting someone else’s deadline. Not listening to any advice to the contrary.

      Until he hit a wall. Now there will be a short delay.

    2. Banger

      Though I am nowhere near privy to any inside information, there was a time that I did get my glimpses. In the aftermath to the Iraq War during the days the Iraq Study Group was around (whose findings were largely ignored) the appeared strong groups of dissenters to the neoconservative agenda of conquering the entire Middle East through military and covert operations. I personally believe that this dissenting group has grown, particularly where it was strongest, i.e., CIA analysis people (very different from the paramilitary CIA) and the Army.

      This crisis has shown me (I’m always reading between the lines because if and you can’t do that in Washington you don’t know sh!t) that the national security apparatus is deeply divided and factionalized–so much so that it may be as stuck as Congress. I believe the two witches and Kerry represented a faction that was desperate for war and this was their last chance to keep the agenda of PNAC going. I believe, though I don’t like Obama and feel he is as sleazy as any pol, Obama did not and does not want that faction to succeed. My guess is that he and Putin worked out this deal at the G-20 through intermediaries of just texting. It makes perfect sense for both leaders, both gain, Putin keeps his hand in as the guarantor of the balance of power in the region and slaps that creep Bandar (CIA) Bush in the face plus Obama gets what he ultimately wants stability in the region and defeat of the Gulf States desire for a Sunni/Shiite holy war. I could be wrong–but that’s my read.

      1. damian

        and… Putin stops the NG pipeline from Qatar to Turkey thru Syria as long as Assad stays in place – which is the real prize – chemical weapons are the side show

  34. LucyLulu

    A diplomatic solution is Putin’s dream come true. The final piece of the puzzle just fell into place.

    I recall reading a while back that Putin overarching ambition for Russia to return to Superpower status. Obama’s missteps are his lucky breaks. If he can successfully broker this deal, while Obama’s displays his inability to rally support among Congress, the American people, and it’s world allies, he will appear to be the leader the world can turn to for solutions. Russia doesn’t engender the same level of rivalry and animosity from other nations that it does here in the US.

    It never quite made sense why Putin would admonish Snowden not to make new revelations yet grant him asylum. Putin wanted to make clear to Obama and the US that he couldn’t be pushed around. If he didn’t want to extradite Snowden, he wouldn’t. (He could have flown Snowden Aeroflot out to Venezuela and been rid of him as well, yet he chose not to.) He wanted to make clear that he also had Snowden under his control. It was theatre and the world was his audience. He was making it crystal clear who was in charge of the situation, down to every last detail.

    Granted, Putin has other interests at stake in the Middle East but this ties it all together in a pretty red bow. And who knows who will succeed Putin, but would Putin as world leader be any worse than Cheney and Obama? In any case, my suspicion is this is the beginning of the end of empire for America anyways. We’re resembling the declining Greek and Roman empires, with our resources increasingly concentrated in fewer (corrupt and immoral) pockets and heavily invested on foreign shores, and nobody tending the homestead.

    We need to be having serious discussions about what we want the future of our country to look like if the trajectory is to change. It’s not too late. Instead, those who have been rooting for the government to fail may be getting their wish.

    1. Banger

      I think you make a lot of sense LucyLulu. I don’t thin Putin is interested in “superpower” status so much as creating a world with a more balanced power-structure.

      I believe he was genuinely concerned by the tendency of the American Security State (the state within the state that actually runs foreign relations with agendas that remain constant over various administrations) to want to dominate the world as the New Rome. I’m not sure Putin would be 100% against it–I just believe he and others around the world believe the U.S. has regressed pretty drastically as a society and become a bit dangerous because American officials are now deeply divided and, frankly, are not of the caliber to run and empire so Putin sees himself as a check to U.S. power–not a rival. He wants to cooperate because with American non-belligerent politicians like Obama who also seeks to check the power of the war-mongers that largely run him. I think, indeed, Putin had very mixed feelings about Snowden and I thought he handled the whole thing very adroitly and wen’t as far as he could to not embarrass Mr. Obama.

      1. TimR

        You know Banger, I actually had some vague intuitive sense today that (even though like you I’m no Obama fan) throughout this whole thing, Obama might be walking a tightrope between the powers behind the throne, and his own inclinations… That could account for some of the strange “zig-zagging” through all this, the bumbling and incoherence… Remember the brusque tone of that first speech he made urging a strike on Syria, that turned the public against the whole idea. And his famed long walk before bringing it to congress. I’ve heard a lot of establishment types very disturbed about the congress business. That may account for a lot of the lack of support – they would go to war, but not in the *way* Obama is doing it… Then he jumps at Putin’s offer.

        Anyway, nice to see my amateur antennae backed up a little by your comments (which are always insightful.)

        1. Banger

          All Presidents, particularly since JFK walk a tightrope. They are, at best, brokers between very powerful and very ruthless factions withing the world-governing system. I don’t envy his position. Americans, sadly, believe in a kind of “good guys/bad guys” world view so common in comic books and action movies. That’s not even remotely how the world is. American democracy is failing because of our inability to graduate from high school.

    2. Cynthia

      Putin just found out that Sir Golfsalot can’t even get a majority of his own party to support this latest war-of-choice. Basically he’s just taunting poor Barry now.

      Putin is playing multi-level chess while Barry is still trying to find his marbles.

  35. barrisj

    The Onion once again has the last word, as it cogently lays out the case for and against US military intervention in Syria:


    -It’s the right thing to do, maybe
    -Let American people finally sleep at night after years of being tormented by thoughts of innocent Syrians dying
    -Will put thousands of honest, diligent American Tomahawk cruise missiles back to work
    -We’re the good guys
    -Syrian people deserve to be free of a psychotic, oppressive dictator for a few weeks
    -Moral obligation to our defense industry
    -Footage of missiles being launched off decks of ships, green night-vision images, aerial shots of explosions—all that good stuff
    -Have plenty of money, a fresh, rested military—why not?
    -Be nice to throw Kathryn Bigelow a bone
    Chance for Obama to put an exclamation point on an already great year
    -It’s been a while since we did one of these things


    -Someone might be hurt, or even die
    -Could turn Russia and Iran against U.S.
    -Fear of setting a precedent of military action without U.N. approval
    Slight, almost infinitesimal chance intervention might be a completely ineffectual act that even further destabilizes the region, touching off massive anti-American sentiment while allowing jihadist radicals to take power
    -Painful memories of intervening in Rwandan genocide
    -It’s hard
    -Bashar al-Assad just had a baby. A baby!
    -Bush invaded a foreign country. If Obama invades a foreign country, he will be like Bush. It is not good to be like Bush.
    -If we ever want to patch things up with Assad, this won’t exactly make that conversation a cake walk
    -Situation might work itself out

    People, I ask you – can The Onion’s analysis be any less credible than what has been on offer from the WH and its minions the past 10 days? I say no.

    1. jrs

      Of course I literally read these first two as winners for the war being on hold:

      -It’s the right thing to do, maybe
      -Let American people finally sleep at night after years of being tormented by thoughts of innocent Syrians dying

      Bias some? Oh not at all, I just can’t even read correctly, anymore.

  36. stevelaudig

    Last year’s election was quite expensive for the War Party and it expects good return on its investment/bribe/campaign contributions, there’ll be another war ginned up soon so the munitions makers [who own the networks] can get their ROI. This was a fluke, a Black Swan, if you would, not a trend.

  37. lb

    I’m just waiting for Obama to bomb Syria for refusing to release its chemical weapons program’s long-form birth certificate.

  38. felix

    At his point Obama is El manco trying to run the frontier town with a revolver with no bullets. All bravado but precious little gunpowder or lead to spray around. And that’ll be it, the end for his administration and legacy. Can you say the lamest of all ducks?

  39. charles sereno

    Sec of State Dogberry Kerry will meet with Lavrov in Geneva Thursday. Determined not to be misunderstandable this time, he’s prepared his remarks aforesaid —

    “Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves…and I’ll be pleased for you to make conveyance of that to Purtin and Arssad!” (apologies to WS)

  40. cee jay

    Obama should be impeached. Then he should be tried for war crimes, and putting the world on the brink of a nuclear war illegally, immorally, and irresponsibly, given a speedy and fair trial, tortured, and hung.

  41. Malmo

    Obama was pathetic with his lies tonight. His CW screed was preposterous and hypocritical. He want’s war, only he can’t get it YET. I’ll leave you with a John Pilger excerpt to lay historical context to Obama’s lies tonight:

    “…When the public is “psychologically scarred”, as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people’s overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, suppressing the truth is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the “rebels” used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US, not Syria, that is the world’s most prolific user of these terrible weapons.

    In 1970 the Senate reported: “The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population.” This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand – the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a “cycle of foetal catastrophe”. I have seen generations of children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama “red line” for them. No showdown psychodrama for them…”


    1. Vedicculture

      Your kidding right. This is the biggest nothing in history. Nobody cares about it and its power is useless politically.

      The Neo-cons and the MIC were trying a run around and it didn’t work.

      There will be no war in Obama’s term.

  42. Sanctuary

    I hope you guys realize that this “deal” is not going to hold and this crisis will go back to war shortly. There are too many parties on the ground who have a vested interest in having a war for there not to be one. Without a war, Assad will roll up the Al Qaeda mercenaries we know as the “rebels” within the month. This “deal” has too many parts that will be deemed unacceptable and lead to an impasse, such as forgoing binding UN votes and the US renouncing the use of force beforehand. Besides that, how does anyone propose verifying and safeguarding chemical weapons spread throughout the country in the middle of an active battlefield? It’s untenable. That’s why this is nothing but a pause on the path to regional war.

    1. dSquib

      Quite probable, but perhaps a long pause. Presumably depends on what the rebels do if and when any plan to safeguard CW is attempted. Hate to be whoever has to draw up arrangements for that.

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