Obama Face-Saving Solution on Syria Emerging (Updated)

When the world came dangerously close to nuclear war in the Cuban missile crisis, a key issue in resolving the confrontation was how to allow Khrushchev to back down. America’s concession was to remove nuclear weapons aimed at Russia from Italy and Turkey. On paper, this looks like a win-win (indeed, some historians think those armaments were the reason for Russia’s efforts to move missiles to Cuba in the first place). But the missile withdrawal from Italy and Turkey was a secret deal, so Khruschev was perceived to have come out a loser. He was ousted from power two years later in large measure because the resolution of this crisis was perceived to be a humiliation.

Fast forward to today. The Administration seems finally to have woken up to the fact that in trying to escalate in Syria, it has bitten off a ton more than it can chew. As Information Dissemination pointed out last week (hat tip Marcy Wheeler):

The arrogance of the Obama administration’s national security team is a parade of red flags right through the halls of Congress. Secretary Kerry actually argues that if Assad is “arrogant” enough to defend himself that the US and our allies have ways to make him regret that decision, apparently without going to war. The arrogance of John Kerry implies the question to Congress, what could possibly go wrong? With no political policy or strategy that can be articulated publicly, no military objective of consequence, no coalition of consequence or authority, and by taking action that injects our nation into another nations civil war uninvited – my question is, how does this possibly end well?

The Obama administration is taking greater risk with Syria than their calculations suggest, and I truly believe the potential for a significant strategic defeat like nothing seen in at least a century is greater than the potential for success. The entire gambit by the Obama administration rests upon the starting assumption that Syria will do nothing and give the Obama administration exactly what they want. The other starting assumption is that Iran won’t get involved or their involvement will be inconsequencial to our political objective….

If the Obama administration takes authorization from Congress and moves directly towards military action against Syria, the lack of a coalition is a significant condition that increases the strategic risk to the United States. Iran and Syria will recognize that this may be the only opportunity they will ever have to take on the United States without a broader coalition of support, and as such see this as their best opportunity to strike. In stepping through Red Team’s calculations, consider how exposed the US truly is.

1) The United States has no coalition, so a targeted, direct strike against the United States in “self defense” significantly limits the degree to which the international community will respond in support of the US…

2) The United States is strategically and politically exposed and military forces throughout the region are spread thin…Political cover by Russia and China will be available to Syria after the the US attacks.

3) Military objectives by Blue Team are not well defined, while military objectives by Red Team are well defined. All evidence suggests the leadership of the United States does not take seriously the threat of counterstrike. Russia has openly stated they will provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to help Syria, and that presumably would also be for support of military action in counterstrike.

4) Successful counterstrike against the United States will be celebrated regionally, resulting in significant restrictions of movement within the region by US military forces and a collapse of US political credibility broadly. Local pressure can be exploited by red team on regional military installations to restrict movement of US assets in the region.

When I take the red team perspective of action unfolding in the Middle East, if I am Iran and Syria supported by Russia, my calculation is that I may never have a better opportunity to change the regional security conditions and balance of power in the Middle East than the opportunity being presented in this situation unfolding.

And the American public is simply not on board with this project. While the Administration tries to claim more Congressmen are coming around to its point of view, whip counts and public statements show otherwise. Absent a miracle, there is no way Obama can get the AUMF passed in the House. The recent line of thinking is Obama would go for Senate approval and skip the House. But as Jane Hamsher wrote yesterday:

Just for the heck of it I ran the numbers in the Senate with what we already know, plus the following assumptions:

1) Everyone running in 2014 who is not currently committed votes no (most have already declared that way)
2) Everyone who is retiring votes yes
3) Every Democrat who is not declared or not running, plus Bernie Sanders, votes yes, including those like Leahy who are currently leaning no

I get 52 yes votes.

Those are awfully charitable assumptions. No wonder Biden is having Republicans to dinner tonight….


The ratio of nay to yea votes has gone from 2:1 on 9/2 to nearly 4:1 today.

But despite the fact that taking the Syria saber-rattling forward looks like a complete loser domestically, there is the wee matter of US and in particular, Obama’s prestige to consider. Recall that the Pentagon Papers revealed that the US defense and intelligence communities had understood full well that America could not win in Vietnam, yet felt it could not withdraw for reasons of prestige.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the US and Russia have agreed on a climb-down:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Monday backed a demand by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria put chemical weapons under international control and then destroy them, a rare sign of apparent agreement between Moscow and Washington…

Mr. Lavrov’s comments came hours after Mr. Kerry said Syria could prevent U.S. military action by handing over its chemical weapons to the international community, as President Barack Obama mounts an intensive campaign to promote a strike on Syria.

Agence France-Presse has tweeted that Damascus supports the proposal.

Screen shot 2013-09-09 at 12.11.50 PM

David Cameron, not surprisingly, is also on board.

While this is a very encouraging development, a sketchy proposal is a long way from a done deal. If the plan is merely to have Damascus hand over a big stockpile of chemical weapons (whether there is verification of how complete it is) for destruction and makes nice promises not to accumulate them again, it comes out a big winner. It’s not that much of a concession and negotiating with Assad reaffirms that he is recognized as the leader of the country. A potential sticking point is ongoing monitoring. On the nuclear weapons front, not complying with inspections is what has lead probable non-nuclear-weapons owner Iran to be demonized, while nuclear power Pakistan gets a free pass. Syria will almost certainly reject an ongoing verification requirement. The Journal account suggests not:

“We will be able to hold Bashar Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war,” he [Kerry] said.

In other words, the face-saving gambit is that the public destruction of a big stockpile with sufficient international fanfare will be taken as the sort of targeted response Obama promised. He will be able to pretend he lived up to his “red line” remark (which he could just as easily have wriggled out of as he has pretty much every promise he made to the beleaguered middle class).

If indeed this is all the US wants and gets, it looks as if the Administration finally woke up to how badly they need to get out of the corner Obama had painted himself in and found a way out. Let’s hope that the Administration does not get greedy and try to retrade this deal by adding conditions. They should be delighted to have found a way to declare peace with honor and move on.

Update 1:30 PM. No wonder Obama wants a deal. Independent of the geopolitical risk, his popularity ratings are taking a hit. Below are some of the results of a new poll conducted by Pew and USA Today, polling period September 4-8 (hat tip MS). The rising Congressional opposition reflects public attitudes hardening against military intervention:

Over just the past week, the share of Americans who oppose U.S. airstrikes in Syria has surged 15 points, from 48% to 63%, as many who were undecided about the issue have turned against military action. By contrast, the share of Americans who support airstrikes remains virtually unchanged: Just 28% favor U.S. military airstrikes against Syria in response to reports that its government used chemical weapons.


The new survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Sept. 4-8, 2013 among 1,506 adults nationwide, finds that this growing opposition to Syrian airstrikes is intense: 45% say they oppose airstrikes very strongly. That is roughly three-times the percentage (16%) that strongly favors airstrikes.


Republicans, in particular, have turned against Syrian airstrikes. A week ago, Republicans were divided about evenly: 35% favored and 40% opposed military airstrikes in response to the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Today, Republicans oppose airstrikes by an overwhelming 70% to 21% margin, with 51% saying they are strongly opposed.

And Congress is keeping the heat on. For instance, the Congressional Progressive Caucus sent 67 questions to Obama on Syria. Ouch.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Questions to Potus onSyria

Update 3:45 PM: Even as the White House is trying to walk back its previous remarks (as Antifa reminds us in comments, Kerry had issued an ultimatum, that Assad needed to give up his chemical weapons in a week or face an attack), the Senate is debating Syria. Mirabile dictu, Diane Feinstein is backing the Russian proposal.

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  1. tulsatime

    Very thought provoking, and reassuring too, that we might NOT sail over the edge on the temper and lack of foresight of a president that seems more self absorbed every day.

  2. Bruno Marr

    No matter the outcome, Obama is a cooked gooose, a lame duck president. All Hail the King, for the King is dead!

    1. jrs

      Not no matter the outcome. No matter the outcome Obama is becoming an increasingly *unpopular* president. But if he actually manages to get his war with Syria, that’s not a lame duck. A lame duck isn’t supposed to be able to accomplish anything – we should be so lucky!

      1. psychohistorian

        I have said before that I believed Syria and other Obama efforts done deals…not that I am supportive of any…going to a Syria protest tonight.

        That said, If Obama becomes a lame Trojan Horse because of this back down, what does it mean for the TPP, gutting SS and Medicaid, Summers appointment, etc?

        While on one had I see him as the consummate plutocratic puppet, he is a sick human on the other hand being told he can’t have his way. I think this makes for a very dangerous person and he currently has the power to make life and death decisions over many if not all of us…..don’t drone me bro……

        We live in very interesting times. How much are Obama’s actions are reflective of the growing “fear/lack of control” of the plutocrats behind the curtain?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I seem to recall Oliver Wendell Holmes making a point about the problem with the U.S. Senate being that they all think they will be President and subsequently don’t want to do anything to jeopardize being President which means undermining the President and the House because you don’t want anything but what is perceived as safe or passed by a popular President.

          Whatever the outcome, I suspect the “liberals” will find backbones in the near future and the grand-standers will start to grandstand. Centrists will start to look for delays because they don’t want to be too associated with an unpopular President with no hope of rebound.

          Summers presents a problem for Democrats. Soon they will be pro-war and anti-women in an easy way to understand. Obama isn’t on the ticket, and minorities didn’t show up in 2010. Opposing the President will be chic across the board. I think the closeness of the Amash amendment caught the powers that be off guard which I think may be responsible for the irrational behavior on the display. A 10% drop in the female vote means a safe Democrat loses, and if polling keeps dropping, electeds might be concerned there aren’t enough golden parachutes out there for everyone. Ed Markey’s vote of “present” is a sign of things to come absent Obama finding Jesus, firing Holder, and going after crooks.

          What is Obama’s current domestic priority? Its supposed to be “immigration reform,” but what is no one talking about? Immigration reform even the very serious people of Washington. The Obots aren’t out defending ACA.

          When people start showing up in town halls where the constituents receive more applause and applause for criticizing politicians, the initiatives of the ruling class won’t be tolerated at least until the next President.

        2. JerseyJeffersonian

          My read is that Obama is an extreme narcissist. Just look at the national security crew with whom he has surrounded himself; not a one of them can outshine him, nor would they be inclined to do so, for they know what kind of retribution would be visited upon them should they do so. Because a cornered narcissist is a psychopath. He has already shown an extreme lack of empathy, yet this is coupled with an ability to feign empathy to those not clued in to the “tells” that inevitably exist with such personality types.

          I base my understanding of this personality type on the Enneagram system as articulated by Don Riso in his various publications. In this ancient personality typing system, supposedly developed by Sufi spiritual guides to assist in directing the progress of their students through understanding of their characteristic strengths and weaknesses. Obama would fit into Type 3 (of 9 possible basic types), now called The Achiever, because when healthy psychologically, they are just that. Formerly, the description was more The Narcissist (sorry, don’t have the book to consult here at work), and indeed, as the Type 3 becomes less psychologically healthy, they slide easily in this direction, and at the lowest levels of unhealth, become vindictive and even psychopathic. Each person expresses (to varying degrees) not only their main type but an adjacent type as a “wing”. Obama to my reckoning is a Type 3 with a 2 Wing, “The Charmer”. Here are links to brief descriptions of these two types; note that the levels of health-unhealth are below the main descriptive statements:



          Note that, with increasing unhealth psychologically, the traits of these two types become a toxic stew of vindictiveness, unprincipled lying, and self-justification in order to preserve what has by that point become an entirely unjustified self-esteem.

          We got trouble, right here in River City. Such people will surround themselves with sycophants, and be not only unwilling, but also unable to process contrary readings of their situation and options.

          And as a further observation on the list of questions from the so-called “Progressive Caucus”, did anyone else notice the complete acceptance of the Obama World account of how this chemical weapons attack occurred, and who was responsible for it? Personally, I smell the stink of a false flag operation, and various reportage out here on the Interwebs supports skepticism; yet our “Progressives” are completely buying the official line, even in the absence of any revelations from its proponents of actual evidence to support this story line.

          I am old enough to recall the time that the KAL jet was shot down by Soviet fighter planes. At that time, monitored communications between the fighters and their command center were replayed before the Security Council. Does no one else find it, um, passing strange, that nothing like this kind of evidence is being advanced in support of the party line. And might I observe, that if the fundamental lie is swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, then it eases the way for some sort of AUMF to emerge from the “debates”. And this from the self-described “Progressives”.

          Sure looks compromised from the get-go to me.

          Oh, and to be fair, I’m a Type 4 with a VERY PRONOUNCED 5 Wing. Inclined to skepticism, and driven to know what really is at the root. Think that I’m overall pretty healthy psychologically. Not particularly trustful, particularly of inherently untrustworthy people or narratives, and I don’t accept these people or narratives as presented by those most likely to benefit from gullibility.

          My two cents…

          1. Fiver

            I was going to quibble with your designation of Obama as an “achiever”, but on second thought: I guess, historical context properly considered, turning in the worst performance as President in the entire history of the US is no mean feat.

            1. JerseyJeffersonian

              Yes, Fiver, he certainly has gotten the job done. Unfortunately, I’m entirely certain that he doesn’t work to defend the Constitution, so that’s a dead loss. For whom he labors has become quite clear. As George Carlin once observed, “They’ve got a club, and you ain’t in it”. Truer words were never spoken.

    1. Antifa

      We must remember that Kerry’s ultimatum to Syria was that they have one week to hand over all the CW’s or we will bomb them. One week!

      Logistically impossible, and Kerry knows it. It was issued as an impossible ultimatum.

      The Russians were clever to pick up on it and get Assad to make noises about agreeing to it, which puts everything on slow and diplomatic setting, but behold! — now Kerry and Rice and Obama are pedaling their bicycles backwards, saying they don’t believe Assad would ever actually do it so it’s not even a serious proposal.

      Because they want this war. They are committed to this war, and committed to this war involving Iran so that Israel has the excuse of “self defense” to strike Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities. That’s why this Syrian escapade is happening.

      Just as America once enforced the Monroe Doctrine to keep South America to ourselves, Israel has a ‘No Muslim Nukes’ Doctrine that they enforce without exception.

      Israel cannot, cannot, cannot permit a muslim nuclear bomb in the Middle East. It would constrain Israel from using its nukes, meaning all wars would be fought with conventional weapons, which means Israel eventually becomes little more than a punching bag for the enormous muslim populations that surround it.

      Israel is done waiting. They have to strike Iran, and will before October. The Saudis are on board to the extent of offering deals with Putin to ease off on terrorism in Chechnya if he leaves Syria to our side.

      President Obama chose to join in on this strike before October because it looks better if we start it in Syria rather than get dragged in after the fact. He and his generals know very well that Iran will strike Israel if Syria is attacked. They’re counting on it, and think they can handle the blowback.

      They can’t. We will lose the 20% of daily oil shipments that move through the Persian Gulf. Iran has promised this will be their first response to any attack on their territory.

      1. Banger

        In fact, if you recall the ultimatum to the Afghan regime in 2001 was similarly meant to be impossible to fulfill. Again, as many of us have said over the years, there is no change of direction in U.S. foreign policy–it is and has been primarily aggressive, dangerous, nasty and destructive to peace since the end of the Cold War. I blame Clinton, Bush 2 and Obama who have allowed the national security state to reign even though there is no longer a need for it (no Cold War and terrorism is not a military challenge but a police problem).

      2. s spade

        All this sounds true enough, but one must be careful attempting to analyze arrogant geopolitical stupidity. These clowns are so used to having their own way they just might try any f**king thing!

        Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. We ought to take more cues from Switzerland and Twentieth Century Spain.

        1. Malmo

          “President Obama chose to join in on this strike before October because it looks better if we start it in Syria rather than get dragged in after the fact. He and his generals know very well that Iran will strike Israel if Syria is attacked. They’re counting on it, and think they can handle the blowback.”

          So Putin’s gesture will be summarily rejected and this is a fait accompli? What happens if the House throws a monkey wrench into this plan? Obama can’t ignore the will of the people’s representatives, especially in light of Putin’s plan, right?

          Sorry, but Obama is trapped, his grand war plans notwithstanding. They’re going to roll over before the House vote. If he goes down it would be the first time that has ever happened to a president here. No way he goes there–to a HOR defeat.

          1. Antifa

            How I wish it were so. God, it would be nice to have a representative government!

            Unfortunately, President Obama has the War Powers Resolution that Congress gave to his predecessor. It allows the President to use our military to fight terrorism wherever, whenever, however he deems best.

            This is why Kerry and Obama stated even before involving Congress that they didn’t need permission of the UN or Congress or anyone to do this bombing. They have the right under the Constitutionally passed WPR.

            The only thing Congress can do to influence Obama at this point is specifically cancel the WPR, the Iraq AUMF and to be certain, ditch the Patriot Act as well.

            If they don’t, the White House lawyers will find a way to read one or the other of those documents to authorize war at the President’s discretion.

            Oh, and we’d better cancel the Emergency footing Dubya Bush put the country on right after 9/11. That allows for all kinds of extra-Constitutional shenanigans.

  3. Malmo

    Can’t wait to see how he dances around this in his speech tonight. He certainly won’t be talking about the need to use military action in light of this development, right?

    1. Antifa

      He’ll dismiss it as deceit on the part of the Syrians. They’ll never actually give up their CW’s, so forget it. Let’s make war!

  4. TG

    Regardless of how much or how little face the administration saves in this debacle, they’ve patently demonstrated to the citizens of the US and everyone else in the world that they have no clue what they’re doing. The ‘cover’ they so desperately seek (EU leaders, UN leaders, now congress) makes the emperor look completely naked.

    Good lord, talk about amateur hour. How the administration could be so clueless is beyond me.

    1. jrs

      That’s always been a large part of the conservative meme about Obama: the sheer incompetence, and the guy being way over his head, not having a clue how to handle the responsibilites of the Presidency. Now, there are plenty of better reasons to dislike Obama, he’s not just incompetent, his polices themselves are absolutely horrendous!

      But after the Syria situation the sheer incompetence for the job critique is ringing truer by the day.

      1. Antifa

        True that. But keep your eye on the crazy train he’s been riding lately, cuz he hasn’t been deterred or turned aside from going right ahead with bombing Syria, even if Congress has a hissy fit.

        He has the War Powers Resolution still in full effect, which gives whomever is the President the blessings of Congress to do whatever he wants to fight terror.

        He and Kerry and Rice are still determined to have a war.

    2. Dan Kervick

      Out of touch. Obama has surrounded himself with yes-men and seems to have no grasp of his own weakness. He’s spent five years saying “F you” to progressives in a misguided effort to build middle of the road bipartisan coalition. Now all he has left is a rump of establishment partisan loyalists.

      1. weinerdog43

        Ha ha, and well said. This Progressive offers a hearty ‘F You’ to Barry Obama. He’s earned it.

  5. LAS

    Destruction of chemical weapons actually sounds like a great alternative to me. More examples of climbing down or away from escalating warfare is exactly what humanity could use. You don’t win hearts and minds with bombs.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We all, as in every nation, should destroy chemical weapons.

      That would be a life-saving, as well as face-saving and neck-saving, solution.

      The only weapon we need, I believe, is one that weaponizes whatever biological cause the results in a brain condition in the victim that makes him/her emit generosity uncontrollably. That mental disease was mentioned in the links Sunday.

    2. ian

      I’m still trying to process the implications of having Obamas bacon saved by Putin. Sure, the MSM will spin this that it was only because of Obamas tough stance, threat of intervention, etc.. but everyone will know better. I mean, how weird is it for the United Nations to latch onto a peacemaking proposal from the Russians to slow down American aggression?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Will give a full report later, but short form is I am emptying my bookcase (it has about 500 lbs of books in it) and the super and another handyman are coming up at 3 PM. The plan is to pivot the base an inch or two w/o moving the top sections to the same degree to give the cat enough room to get out.

  6. Lambert Strether

    If Kerry doesn’t want this, it will be pleasant to watch Obama throw him under the bus. It will also be interesting to hear what former SoS Clinton has to say at the White House today, where a statement of some kind on Syria has been promised, or later today in Philly, where she’s giving a speech. Pass the popcorn.

  7. Malmo

    Can’t make this shit up. Susan Rice just said the military plan is still firmly perched on the table. Looks like they’re raising the middle finger at the Putin face saving solution.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Moon of Alabama predicted Rice would be out of a job in three weeks over how badly she’s managed this. There’s been ample evidence of a split between the intel community (who appeared to be motivated in part, if not largely by a desire to prove the value of snooping plus pull attention away from the ongoing Snowden disclosures) and the military, which has the good sense to recognize the troops are already overextended, and “limited” operations can easily morph into something bigger.

      I’ll have to see when MoA made that call and whether this plays out on his timetable.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        As far as the military brass goes, aren’t we moving into an age group of officers who actually served in the Gulf War as Lieutenants and Captains who do the hardest jobs which leading and fighting at the same time? They may not be in charge yet, but they make up the next class of brass.

        Petreus was a Lt. Colonel by the first Gulf War when he was shot accidentally* by training fire.

        *According to wikipedia. Considering the guy seems like a colossal prick, I doubt it was an accident.

      2. Antifa

        Quite a few retired and not retired Pentagon brass are having nightmares about how quickly a shooting war in the Middle East can go all to hell before you know it.

        Iran will attack Israel, and Saudi oilfields, if we attack Syria,

        Israel will attack Iran in return,

        Russia will supply their latest missiles and anti-aircraft systems to Syria and Iran,

        Hezbollah will fire missiles into northern Israel,

        Israel will strike back at Hezbollah,

        Iran will close the Persian Gulf, crashing our economy,

        Everybody’s locked and loaded and sworn to shoot back. How the hell do you have a “limited war” in a situation like this?

        1. Another POV

          Well, but realize, Pentagon brass are chosen for their willingness to say “oh HELL yes!” in the first place.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            They still have to be chosen from a pool of officers, and going forward, a kid going into West Point today is never going to make general because there are too many combat veterans who will make careers being in the army. The difference between the army going forward and the army 10 years ago is the officers know who is competent and incompetent which you don’t catch when it comes to parades. McClellan and R. E. Lee were West Point’s top cadet through the Civil War. McClellan’s incompetence wasn’t exposed until the war came because he was on the general’s staff in Mexico. Lee’s adventure in Mexico is incredible, and there would be at least 3 movies about it if he wasn’t a traitor. Winfield Scott always went to Lee when he needed someone after that because he knew he could count on Lee. He even asked him to take over the army despite being out of the army.

            A President is going to have a very hard time if he promotes the yes man responsible for some near disaster. The officers know who is McClellan and who is Lee behind the medals and spiffy uniforms, and they know the importance of getting it right.

    2. Dan Kervick

      They will keep up those calls until the deal is done, so that they can say that it was their tough posture that forced Syria to back down.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The Obots will try this, but my guess is Obama already made promises to various Sunni countries and the non-Al Qaeda rebels. Saudi Arabia and friends wanted a pipeline. Bibi wanted to kill Muslims and an excuse to distract his government’s regular thuggery. There will be people who lost in this including the defense contractors. Boeing and like-minded companies aren’t going to be kind to Obama when the NSA revelations and general austerity has made buying American weapons election nightmares.

        The outright similarity to Libya which resulted in a failed state. My guess is the less extreme sycophants ran to their computers and smart phones to read up on Libya to promote Dear Leader’s next “smart war,” and even they had shame. That idiot, Spoonfed, at Digby’s can’t even support Obama on Syria, and he is the perfect parody of the new Democrat Keyboard Commando.

        Obama’s real problem is the Russians are going to demand we pay to dispose of the weapons just as Obama is about to try to take his victory lap. Polling has demonstrated Americans want problems in America solved which means the money has to come from defense. Putin will say, “what is the problem? You were ready to go to war…”

        1. Crazy Horse

          Don’t forget that one of the few “bright” spots in the remaining US manufacturing capacity is the trade in weapons of death. The US simply owns the international arms trade, as befits a country that spends as much on its military as the rest of the world combined. Under Obama the US market share of “freedom tools” has grown from something like 65% to 85%.

          How can we expect to not loose that key part of our economy to the Chinese like we did with solar panels if we don’t hold regular demonstrations?

          The key to a successful snark attack is to base it upon elements of truth..

  8. backwardsevolution

    Hannibal – “The White House war mongers want their war even if it takes another (bigger) false flag operation.”

    Book it!

    1. Yonatan

      After reports of suitable ‘chatter’ (supplied by 8200) about a pending Iranian reaction, an oil tanker is sunk in the Persian Gulf (by one of Israel’s Dolphins). The sinking would be blamed on mines recently laid by Iran.

  9. Ishmael

    White House Live ✔ @WHLive

    Rice: “Our overarching goal is to end the underlying conflict through a negotiated, political transition in which Assad leaves power” #Syria
    Ish here – you give this White House credit for more intelligence than they have! What do you expect when you are The One.

    1. Malmo

      In the spirirt of John McEnroe, they cannot be serious. Enough already. I’m sick of their never ending bomb them to teach them a lesson rhetoric.

      Also, this regime change thing as a prerequisite wasn’t in the cards just yesterday. Thought they weren’t playing sides? What the hell gives?

      1. Ishmael

        Malmo – One thing I have learned in life (this involves mainly people – when they do things that normal people do not do then stop thinking they are normal but instead abnormal) when your govt (either conservative or progressive) stops behaving in a pattern that shows it is acting in a representative way of its citizens, then you have to wonder exactly whose interest are they acting in.

        1. Banger

          This is something we ought to be looking at very carefully using scholarship and rules of evidence.

          My own study shows me that the National Security State (NSS) has come to, largely, run foreign affairs and has a lot of allies from Wall Street, the mainstream media, the two major political parties and MIC. There is internal opposition to be sure but they are a minority though the Army has increasingly become filled with senior officers that don’t like the sort of wars we get into which is why Obama has chose the covert operatives and JSOC which are generally under the direct control of the President.

  10. Prezprado

    Perhaps Assad should insist that if he agrees to having his CWs destroyed, the U.S. ought to do the same.

    1. Crazy Horse

      At Boardman in Eastern Oregon there is a chemical and nerve gas storage depot that goes on for several miles. Earthen bunkers well separated from each other presumably for reasons of safety. I’ve no idea how current or viable the materials stored there are, but that might be a good place for international inspectors verifying that the US is matching Syria’s (Russian initiated) chemical disarmament program to start looking…

      On another topic, I’ve always considered Obama to be a brilliant politician because of his ability to deliver 1000% for his owners while still keeping his liberal and “progressive” base somewhat intact. But I do believe I misjudged the man.

      See what happens when you send a boy to play poker with a KGB hard case like Putin?

  11. Maju

    Although some of the elements of analysis brought here are interesting, especially the apparent capacity of Iran and Syria to destroy much of US naval power in the region overnight (not so sure myself, I must say), I don’t feel confortable with many of the propositions.

    The USA does have a coalition: at the very least France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as the smaller Gulf emirates. Other states like Spain, Italy, Israel or Jordan are a bit in the limelight but are also collaborating very actively. Britain of course only needs a real war situation to force the parliament to agree to join and I find totally unrealistic to imagine that NATO would not back the USA in bloc if the situation scalates, no matter if it’s technically covered by the treaty or not. Naturally the USA has free access to all the facilities of NATO members and Gulf allies, as well as Israel. There is a coalition because there is a empire, just that secondary vassals are a bit shy and awaiting, and also fearful of their own public opinion, which in Europe is as hostile to the intervention as in the USA.

    In my opinion the real dangers are:

    1. Effective blockade of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran, what would cause a major oil crisis at global level.

    2. Mass bombing of Israel by Syria and maybe Hizbollah. Syria has already warned that they will throw thousands of missiles against Israel if attacked, and if they say so, they probably will. Israel is just too small to survive that kind of attack, especially if chemical, and anti-missile defense is probably too inefficient yet to provide real security. After all Syria has 200,000 missiles.

    3. The war can easily become civil war in Turkey. Iraq would lean quickly to Iran. Iran can easily conquer Bahrain and the other Gulf Emirates by both land and sea. US and British military bases in the area can be pounded mercilessly…

    Of course destroying a moving target like the US naval force would be a great extra but it’s not the only problem. The main problem is that all the allies in the region are extremely weak internally and subject to be subverted and/or seriously hit by “the red camp” (why red?).

    I personally think they never really intended to attack, at least not since Cameron, the most vocal hawk initially, was defeated in Parliament and Russia and China began moving ships to the area. It’s harsh posturing but posturing after all. Losing this vote grants Obama a “honorable” way out that has been prepared since weeks ago. There will not be any strike but the US allies in the region have been served with the posturing and the blame of the “failure” will go to the “doves” while being a show of “democracy” at the same time.

    There will be no weapons handling either. Syria is a besieged country that will not make any such concessions much less while in civil war instigated by the same enemies. It’s just something they say but will be forgotten in due time.

    The verbal (and guerrilla) pressure against Syria will be maintained for the time being of course but they have no chance of winning the day.

    1. Antifa

      A very clear analysis.

      If shooting starts, things look primed to snowball out of anyone’s reach. Perhaps the critical question is at what point would nukes be used, and by which actor(s)?

      Two hundred thousand missiles seems enough provocation to nuke Damascus.

      Actually damaging Iran’s deeply buried uranium enrichment plants will require tactical nukes, by most accounts.

      Closing the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers would possibly be grounds for our using nukes against Iran, rather than suffer the collapse of most Western economies,

      As would Iranian trespass into other Arab countries in ‘our’ Middle East. After all, that’s our oil.

      I regret I cannot bring myself to believe our President wants a way out of this war. He wants war.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Too bad our oil is under their sand.

        Using nukes to safeguard Western economies is compelling Neocon logic. What a legacy for Obama.

        1. Maju

          It’s not (just) oil (nor just Israel) but the fact that Syria has no foreign debt, a an independent central bank (i.e. independent from the global bankster mafia) and more or less socialist politics. And also, of course, that it is a keystone between Israel and the Islamist regimes allied with the USA and Iran (and therefore China and Russia indirectly).

          In fact what we are seeing in and around Syria is in many senses a warning for European countries like Greece which may be tempted to exit the system considering the results. Nobody will exit the euro-gold-standard, nobody will nationalize the banks, nobody will serve the people above the interest of multinational corporations… or at least that’s the warning they are trying to convey.

          You must be like Haiti, not like Cuba or Syria. That’s what they are saying with their war threats.

          But it’s like trying to put gates to the ocean: a bit unrealistic to say the least. There’s no absolute power.

          1. Roland

            Funny thing is that Bashar was all about Washington Consensus policies.

            Under Bashar, Syria was opening up to foreign investment, privatizing state-owned firms, establishing Special Economic Zones, allowing privately owned banks, and eliminating subsidies on food, fuel, and medicines.

            Billions of dollars of FDI was coming into Syria during the mid-2000’s. A free trade agreement was signed with Turkey. A stock exchange was established. There were plans to make the Syrian pound freely convertible.

            New luxury hotels and boutique inns were springing up all over Damascus. Luxury cars were becoming common sights on city streets.

            In short, Bashar was trying to follow the Chinese model: liberalize the economy without liberalizing the government.

            Several uncontrollable factors combined to doom Bashar’s liberalization effort:

            1. Massive influx of refugees from the Iraq War (over a million). This drove up housing and food prices in Syria.

            2. A prolonged drought drove ruined farmers into the cities, further driving up food and housing prices.

            3. Declining oil output. Syria had never been a major producer, but they had been close to self-sufficient in fossil fuels.

            4. Easy money policy throughout the developed world during the 2000’s still further drove up food prices.

            The strain was too great. There were protests, riots and, with the instigation of foreign powers, the outbreak of civil war.

    2. Banger

      I think you brought a well-thought out analysis to the situation. Ultimately, there are three actors that are critical. The U.S., Russia and Israel everything else is secondary.

      The U.S. goal, to put it simply, is to make sure the region is dominated by either client regimes or failed/or semi-failed states who pose no threat to anyone–examples are Iraq, Libya and to some degree Egypt. Sometimes it is interesting to note the difference between the rule of Nasser and Egypt of the past few decades. The U.S. has consistently fought against secular regimes who chart their own course in the region (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt when it was independent) and always favored the Gulf States. The democratically elected government of Iran was overthrown by the U.S. in the early fifties because it was, in fact, a democracy and wanted to no longer be a client state of the U.S. and Britain.

      The Israeli goal is to weaken Hezbollah and Iran at all costs since Hezbollah is the only military force since Israel was founded that could defeat Israel on the ground and Iran and Syria are the only viable non-client states to the U.S. in the region that might block its goal of Greater Israel. Plus, Israel is, as always, is playing a power-game within the U.S. particularly the National Security State establishment.

      The Russians seek to keep in the game because, I suspect, they are very interested in copying the British role in Europe which is to keep the balance of power balanced. Their goal is to moderate U.S. power where possible to insure that the U.S. is occupied elsewhere and not bent on meddling with the internal Russian situation. Putin and other members of the Russian establishment remember very well what happened when that drunk Yelsin and his pro-U.S. cronies allowed both gangsters and Washington “consultants” to loot the country while people were starving.

      I don’t see much chance of war, at this time. The American people have been fooled to many times to take this call for war seriously. The Russians are offering all sides a chance for peace. Putin, although the American media makes fun of him is the most intelligent leader Russia has had since Khrushchev and unlike K he seems to be in control of his military and security apparatus and therefore can do what he says.

      1. Antifa

        Very good points.

        Russia has taken pains to support their allies in the Middle East, Syria and Iran, against the Americans and Israelis, supplying them with almost their latest models of anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles.

        Now, Putin has promised their very latest missile technology if the West starts bombing them.

        Russia has also parked one of their top line missile ships off the Syrian coast, adding to the standoff deterrence of all Syria’s land based anti-ship missiles.

        It seems clear that Russia enjoys the geographical buffer that a couple of proxy states in the Middle East provides. This arrangement also keeps the Saudis and Israelis from gaining the shared domination of the Middle East they covet so much.

        A balance of powers, as you say.

        1. ohmyheck

          Question. If Saudi Arabia changed its stance and allowed Qatar to run its LNG pipeline through its territory, would that be a game-changer?

          Also, I have appreciated all of your comments, Antifa. I hope you continue.

  12. MLS

    Another good example of Obama’s only known negotiating tactic – attempt to bully the other side into doing what you want. Also another good example of how this tactic fails miserably when you have no support, no credibility, and are dealing with a player that is willing to call your bluff.

    1. weinerdog43

      Not true. His other tactic is preemptive capitulation. See: Single Payor/Public Option; bankster criminal prosecution; Bush war crime prosecution; etc…

      In other words, rolling over and wetting yourself = strategy #1 and bullying until called on it, immediately followed by crying and sniffles = strategy #2.

      1. Banger

        I don’t see it that way. Obama didn’t capitulate on health-care–he never had the slightest interest in real reform–if he had I outlined a basic set of steps he cold have taken and he did the opposite. He took a fall–he managed to make progressive believe that he was on their side and created a weird Rube Goldberg device that appeared to do “something” and declared victory and all the pwogwessives cheered and talked about how we’d have single-payer in the decade. Nonsense!!!!

        1. weinerdog43

          “He took a fall–he managed to make progressive believe that he was on their side and created a weird Rube Goldberg device that appeared to do “something” and declared victory and all the pwogwessives cheered and talked about how we’d have single-payer in the decade. Nonsense!!!!”

          Nonsense is right. He never had any interest in negotiating. He PRE CAPITULATED. The question was whether he had more than 1 negotiating strategy. You just proved my point. He never had any intention of single payor or a public option.

    1. McMike

      “U.S. Going to Kill Syrians to Show Syria that Killing Syrians is Wrong”

      Is that on Onion headline?

  13. Ishmael

    I find it rather funny that the Progressive Caucus from the house sends a letter asking a bunch of quesitons when two of the biggest leaders of the Progressive Caucus in the Senate (Pelois and Boxer) are all in with the administration and beating the war drums as hard as they can.

    Is it not time to just admit that we are all just cannon fodder to the people in DC and they do not care what happens to you one way or another as they line their pockets.

    Kind of a weird group isn’t it — Pelosi, Boxer and McCain!

    1. Ishmael

      Oops, I miss spoke. Pelosi heads up the Progressive Causcus in the house. Silly me. So Pelosi beats the war drum and then hard but then the Caucus she heads in the house sends a document to the White House asking a lot of qestions. Why don’t they just ask her since she stood elbow to elbow with the Prez on this.

      Or maybe we need to bomb Syria to find out what is really in it.

      1. CB

        The progressive caucus is a fraud, a front for house quislings, another of the sternly worded letter poseurs. NOT WORTH SHIT, and everyone in DC, at least, knows it.

  14. fresno dan

    Evander Holyfield, in his upcoming fight with Mike Tyson, was asked how could he possibly expect to win. His reply was, “he’s (i.e., Tyson) never been hit.”

    Its been a long, long time since the US took a REAL hit. Iran has armaments that can probably hit a US carrier and cause massive damage, if not outright sinking.

    Iran would not mean tens of thousands of casualties, but hundreds of thousands.

    It is a strange thing to grow older…and see stupid (Vietnam) that you thought would be impossible to see repeated in one’s own lifetime

    1. Antifa

      Despite sanctions, Iran is gaining ground and prestige and influence in the Middle East, and enriching uranium besides, and trading oil directly to China and other nations, not using dollars. Russia is selling them some very serious missile systems, and lots of it. Those Iranians are just really out of line, and they’re Shiites, to boot.

      Neither the Saudis or Israelis are willing to put up with it any longer. It will only be harder and more costly if it’s put off. We’re fed up with Iran as well. Sanctions aren’t working.

      We tried the covert method. Syria was supposed to fall to the Saudi-financed, US-supplied rebels by this time. That isn’t happening. Instead, Assad is winning. Sanctions were supposed to crush Iran by now. Instead, they’re trading oil for goods from China. Brazil is getting into trading with them, too. India is next, and then everyone will be doing it.

      War is politics by other means. It is time to kick over the table and put things right in the Middle East. Iran has got to go down and stay down.

      That’s how our side sees things.

      1. Banger

        I think how “our” side (I don’t even remotely see it as “our” side)thinks is even more crude that what you state. Fundamentally, the National Security State (NSS) views the world in terms of itself. More chaos, more misery, more killing means more business and insured existence for those who march under that flag. That’s how systems work whether the individual managers intend it to work that way or not that is how systems work. As long as there are police crime will exist. As long as armies exist war will result unless the definition of armies or police changes into something quite different.

    2. Banger

      Well it may be “stupid” to you but it is not stupid to the National Security State (NSS) which thrives on conflict whether it is “won” or lost. The more harm, the better off those vampires are. What we need, particularly among progressives still enamored by the fake progressives in the Democratic Party, is a serious look at what that NSS actually is and what are its intentions. My own analysis says that its intentions are to create nasty conditions abroad and at home to increase their problem and, frankly, destroy Constitution. Furthermore, using techniques I learned in my study of systems analysis it is the only game that makes sense for them to play–which is why I have no problem in assigning intention here. Even if some of the major decision-makers did not have the intention of making life, generally, more miserable, it would not be to their advantage and would ensure that they quit or be passed over in their career. I know that this is the case in those areas of the NSS I’ve had the privilege to see close up.

  15. Doug Terpstra

    The Progressive Caucus grows a spine? Uh-huh, sure! Far more likely, Israel is finally having rational second thoughts about self-immolation. If AIPAC, Pelosi, and Boxer really wanted this war, the gelatinous invertebrates of the Progressive Caucus would never dare ask such obvious (im)pertinent questions, and the vote would be the usual 97% pro-war regardless of US public opinion.

    As Hannibal observes above, if AIPAC really wants this war, a no vote will be immediately followed by another, bigger false flag attack by the same (alleged) perps —CIA-Mossad-Mukhabarat “intelligence” forces. But the uncharacteristic fortitude shown by the PC, the fact that they would be allowed to ask such questions, is an indication that AIPAC/Israel itself is seriously vacillating, and that is very encouraging indeed. Calling Joe Lieberman.

    1. Banger

      I’m not sure AIPAC is on board completely on this. Yes, the usual clown-Senators who beg to kiss the arse hole of AIPAC at all times because everyone remembers what happens to members of Congress that invite the ire of AIPAC and their mainstream media stooges. I find this somewhat surprising–I don’t see the vehemence that one normally sees at least not yet.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Two reasons spring to mind:

        -age of AIPAC; its Israel who cares? Bibi has been a jerk for a long time. Rabin has been dead for a long time, and Golda Mair isn’t a symbol for the tiny little state that could. A person born in 1973 turns 40 this year. If you were 10, you are turning 50. Organizations need a certain amount of vigor. Young liberals have no connection to Israel, and the Israelis aren’t the underdog fighting off Muslim hordes out for a second holocaust while taking a break from the communal farms anymore. Apartheid regime is thrown around quite a bit, and when I first came to that conclusion, it was not a popular thing to say.

        -Syria has kept the Golan heights arrangement.

        I think the first one might be the most important. Money is important, but I haven’t seen much “we need to protect Israel” sentiment except from a McCain town hall. The pro-Israel guy didn’t think intervention would help Israel.

  16. Banger

    Assuming Putin is on the level, he may well have created the conditions for future peace in the region. The Israelis, Americans, Turks, NATO and the Gulf States all want more war, more disorder, more failed states (Libya is the ideal state for all of these actors) so that each of those named countries can further expand their power. The Israelis want no threat to their Greater Israel/annexation/apartheid policies, the Turks want to expand their power in Central Asia and the ME and return to some semblance of power they had during the Ottoman period and the Gulf States want to continue to expand their holy war against Shia Islam and increase the power of Al-qaida and related groups as footsoldiers in that effort, the U.S. wants to keep their “strategy of tension” going to make sure that the American people continue to support trillions of dollars go in in the coffers of the military/industrial/intelligence complex.

    1. jfleni

      QUOTE Iran will close the Persian Gulf, crashing our economy UNQUOTE

      They can do what they want, but a crash is very unlikely.

      1. Unlike the 1970’s and 80’s we now have vast amounts of solar, wind and gas from environmental activism and fracking unfortunately. We risk some inconvenience and shortages, nothing more.
      2. American industry could create shiploads and pipelines full of methyl alchohol from garbage and agricultrual waste to run vehicles in a pinch, despite conversion difficulties.
      3. The real losers would be the oil barons, Saudi, Qatar, and also Russia anmd Iran; we could easily be much better off afterwards.

      We are getting a harsh lesson in the realities of electing “constitutional lawyers” with no real or valuable experience in politics or administration, and their selection of fools like themselves for the cabinet.

      1. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan


        I wish you were right, but quantitatively, the energy sources you mentioned wouldn’t even come close to making up for the loss of oil from the middle east. The economic shock would throw us into a fairly severe depression. On the good side, we’d be forced into extreme conservation and conversion to natural gas and electrified vehicles. In the long run, this might be a good thing.

      2. Antifa

        If losing Gulf oil forced us onto a crash diet and a jump to alternative energy sources, hurray! Cuba managed a much worse situation when Russia stopped shipping them oil in 1989, though it was a hell of a scramble.

        I must take exception, though, to including Russia in the list of losers. Russia has lots of oil and natural gas, and the rise in world oil prices would make them all the stronger.

        The biggest losers would be America, Europe, and the oily countries along the Persian Gulf — including Iran, it should be noted. Virtually all of Iran’s oil wells are way down in the corner of their country, close to the Persian Gulf. They would suffer just as much as anyone in that region if they stopped oil from moving through the Strait of Hormuz.

  17. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan

    If Mr. Obama cannot deliver the war his handlers so desperately want, then he really is a lame duck – and possibly a dead one. If he’s not assassinated, he will probably be impeached and replaced with someone more able to deliver the goods, someone who would not have used the delaying tactic of asking Congress for approval.

    1. MaroonBulldog

      If he’s impeached, he’ll be replaced by Joe Biden. That’s what the Constitution says. Can Joe deliver the goods you speak of? Would they need to impeach Joe too? After the VP, the order of succession is established by a statute: next up, Speaker Boehner, after that, President Pro Tempore Reed, then Secretary Kerry, and on and on….. A list of characters as lamentable as the president we acttually have.

  18. Jim A.

    Really I don’t see how Obama loses…He has NO political pull in the house. If he declared that the sky was blue and mom’s apple pie tasted good, they’d be figuring out how to spin that as an excuse to call for impeachment. And since there is simply NO course of action (even doing nothing) that is likely to improve the Syria situation, if he loses he can blame congress for whatever goes wrong. Which is exactly what the House Republicans were planning to do to him. So he has little to lose. And really that was already lost when hey declared chemical weapons a “red line” and Asssad used ’em anyway.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      500 to 1 calling ratios against the President’s position is a loss when it comes to foreign policy decisions especially when one rehashes every Iraq War lie in a two week stretch complete with the President admitting there wasn’t irrefutable proof but common sense.

      Popular opinion forced FDR to begin economic sanctions against Japan even thought people understood this would be seen as provocations which would lead to war. The American people were already outraged by Japanese imperialism long before FDR’s first embargo. Even then, Americans wanted to stay out of the World War even though they were the ones who created the conditions which forced the economic embargoes which led to war.

      You can’t launch acts of war without the support of the American people, and you can’t even talk about it. The Iraq War was a pretty divided issue, but W. did have his supporters and knew the opposition was the Democratic Party, a hodge podge of thugs too ethnic for the GOP, charlatans, losers, and non-entities. Obama has cleansed the Democrats of anti-war types, so he had no tools to control them this time. Combined with GOP disdain, war weariness (catchall phrase), and real problems at home, going into Syria makes no sense unless the President wants to lose popularity.

      I think Obama was desperate to appear as the tough guy commander and chief after the Summer of the NSA and his constant lying and acted rashly at the first thing he thought he could sell.

      1. John

        Unless Obama wants to lose his popularity? Obama is doing what he is told. Not what he wants. And actually, I think he’s trying to not go to war without getting shot by TPTB that want to go.

    2. ian

      My sense is that he does lose if the Russians end up being the peacemakers here. The MSM will dutifully shill for Obama and make noises about the threat of military intervention brought the Syrians around, etc… But subliminally, in the back of their minds, people will know that Obama painted himself into a corner and Putin got him out. The irony is almost too much – the Nobel Peace Laureate hell bent on having his little war, the KGB thug being the voice of diplomacy and moderation?
      This all depends on whether Obama is bright enough to pursue the solution being offered before the vote in congress is taken – I still don’t see that passing.

  19. Jeremy Grimm

    The U.S. Naval deployment to intimidate Syria, combined with the opportunity to strike at the U.S. described in the Information Dissemination piece cited in Yves discussion sounds uncomfortably similar to the set up for the first Millennium Challenge 2002 War Games where Marine Corps Lt. General Paul Van Riper directed the Red forces.

  20. zygmuntFRAUDbernier

    I’ve been thinking about “good critique” and “good rhetoric”. I value foremost making logical counter-points wihout descending into ad hominem attacks, including trying to show that the other one is acting in “bad faith”. For exemple, if speaker B whose points you are “taking down” feels a threat of grievous bodily harm, while speaker B may indeed be mis-leading knowingly, he or she might be doing so to save his or her skin. Ultimately, your audience (sometimes) are invisible listeners C1, C2, C3, C4, C5 and so on. Also, I think arguments against arguments are more direct than arguments attaining speaker B’s good faith, attaining speaker B’s intelligence, or attaining speaker B’s “good ethics”. Also, “ad hominem” attacks distract from arguments against arguments. I think there are wiser ways of “denigrating” speaker B: wit, snark attacks, ridicule, sarcasm/irony , and I imagine various other well-worn rhetorical devices … But also I think each new situation is different from previous ones, because the stakes at play vary.

  21. Code Name D

    I disagree with Yves here. IMMHO, Obama’s “walk back” is probably just an attempt to buy time to turn the debate in his favor.

    In the lead-up to the Iraq War, Bush made all sorts of claims of WMDs. Saddam won’t let inspectors in, well he did, and they found nothing. Saddam won’t inspectors into his classified military bases. Well did, and they STILL found nothing.

    But the point wasn’t to get Saddam to surrender WMD’s that he no longer or never had. But a ploy to continue beating the war-drums in hopes that the rhythm would entrance enough people to go for the war. Bush’s “coalition” was actually rather week and consisted mostly of steamrolled opposition. But Bush was going to invade, no mater what. It was just a mater of finding the right pretext.

    Obama’s demand that Assad surrenders his CWs is precisely that, it’s a search for a viable pretext. And just like Bush with Saddam, Obama is going to demand Assad produce evidence for a negative. Assad is already guilty, so we will ignore all the evidence that suggest otherwise, and continue stove piping intelligence needed to build the new pretext.

    And should this pretext fail another one will be created to take its place.

    But there will be no “walk back,” but rather a “marching in place” to try and build more pressure on the opposition in congress, other countries, and especially Russia.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Obama has seen the polling. His walkback is an attempt to save face. The Russians just hammered him today by completely out maneuvering him diplomatically, and his “yes men” were too stupid not to shut up Kerry, Rice, and Powers today. Considering Hillary’s statement, I bet Bill put in a call to coach Obama through this. They threw Hitler comparisons and social media at us. It was like the Iraq War buildup on fast forward.

      I bet he is done. At this point, people are paying attention to Syria and the aftermath of the “smart war” in Libya. The Assad regime isn’t great, but it took in the refugees from the American crusade in Iraq. Al Qaeda has infiltrated the country. People are aware of the plight of Christian communities in countries we are saving, and I tend to think editorial cartoons are an insight to what Americans are thinking or likely to think. What are the cartoons? Obama feeding DoD dogs while the healthcare/education/social security dogs are starving. The budget deficit is going to pop up, healthcare is rising, and part time jobs don’t equal an economic recovery. People are going to ask why Obama was doing this with no evidence especially when the Russians play their trump card which is to demand that the Americans spend the money and resources to collect the chemical weapons.

      When Russia demands, the U.S., not the Saudis because they can’t be trusted with their support for one side, pay for Russian firms and Russian citizens to dismantle the Syrian chemical weapons and provide protection using the money meant for a Syrian war, then Obama will be forced into a corner. Peace will be up to Obozo, but he will have to find the money in the midst of a budget battle over an issue Americans and the majority of the GOP in the House didn’t want at all.

      1. Code Name D

        Of course he is. But that is just part of the game. The politics and diplomacy is all kabuki theater at this point and Syria will remain in the crosshairs, just as Iran continues to be under constant threat of US attack. The only component missing is the proper reality-shaping pretext. The previous gas attacks is better described as a hot-trial balloon, floated up to see who will try to shoot it down and why.

        If I am right, then this is what will happen in the next few weeks. First, the disarmament negotiations, despite Russia’s involvement will be “complicated” by scheduling conflicts and unacceptable table shapes, which will some how be blamed on Assad. The moment he dares to show even a hint of frustration to a camera, it will get 24/7 replay as proof of Assad’s saber rattling.

        Meanwhile, the existing pretest will begin to morph. Just like how Saddam’s Nuclear ICBMs changed into suit-case nukes, which changed again to include bio and chemicals weapons as well simply becoming WMDs. This in turn became a WMD “program” to which he could produce nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons any time between now and the next five thousand years or so – you know, imminent. By god, we got to attack now before international weapons inspectors have the opportunity to produce yet more evidence that this was all just made up.

        The charges against Assad will also morph into something else, and in will keep changing until they find a pretext that starts converting votes. Judging from the current media meme, my guess is that the first morph will evolve into some kind of justification where as military actions could result in some kind of benefits for Syrian refugees.

        Mean while, behind closed doors, a lot of arm twisting will take place, and it will be the kind that Republicans and Democrats will have a hard time saying no too. And with NSA wire-tapping underway, Obama will probably be able to bring a lot more pressure down than Bush could ever dream of. NSA spying will also make it difficult for the opposition to organize or mount an effective counter.

        Negotiations mean while will get worse, with US demands constantly growing and becoming unreasonable. No mater how much Assad agrees too, it will not be enough, and any resistance from Assad will be painted as belligerence and saber rattling. Assad himself will become his own worse enemy, lacking the needed serenity, patents, or popular savvy to withstand intentional provocation designed to invoke a reaction.

        It then becomes like a ratchet. Each new “incident” will make bombing ever more necessary, while negotiations and disbarment maneuvers strangely fails to relive any of the tension. It then becomes just a mater of time. Escalating tensions, failure with negotiations, strong arming political support, smearing the opposition and further “disturbing” intelligence will eventually produce the required pretext.

        Eventually, Obama will float another hot-balloon. If it gets shot down, then we go back to the ratchet. If not, then bombs start to fall.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          By October, our defectors will be in even worse shape as more of their supporters become refugees in the wave of a more disciplined regime force and better tactics from Al-Qaeda type outfits. People are paying attention more attention, and two things jump out. The rebels are really crummy, and the last “smart war” didn’t exactly work out for Libya, a failed state.

          The U.S. will be facing another budget crisis with a reinvigorated GOP Congressional base. The GOP underlings were on the record against this conflict. Many of the districts where the defense waste is spent (the NSA, b.s. contracts to small businesses to wreck Arlington Cemetary) are in Democratic districts. Voters might be convinced to pay poor kids from West Virginia to fight and die, but handing out contracts to guys who don’t understand how Snowden procured so much info doesn’t sell in Peoria.

          Obama and his cronies went crazy with their threats about not acting in Syria.

  22. allcppedout

    We might ask what Yves’ cat knew about Syria and who disappeared the dear creature.

    The more I read on the ‘strategy’ the less I seem to know. The history seems to be a combination of resource and finance curses and denial of democracy, including the capture of our own. My daughter works in a Middle East information and strategy unit at university after a period in Israel. She feels Israel is about to blow. The ideal ‘balance of power’ stuff Britain practised always involved getting other parties fighting to take advantage.

    It feels time we went ‘Swedish’.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think its closer to power being lost. George Orwell said something along the lines of there being too many actors and information with differing opinions for people to have a shared history.

      Part of the Syria mess is Obama is trying to be Presidential. Rep. Amash pointed out that 11 more Republican votes along with the majority of the Democrats who came on board would have ended NSA spying. We can argue about kabuki, but a majority of Democratic representatives disagreed with their President and the leadership of their party on a “national security” issue. This is a big deal, kabuki or not. How many Republicans do you bet they could get now with the Syria mess and Amash’s growing popularity?

      With the myriad of actors, I’m not certain Syria was ever clear except as a way of trying to get the country to forget its troubles. There was no plan, and I think they expected to get away with it like Libya.

      1. Synopticist

        Yeah, they lined up the big guns as usual, and they expected to blast their way through. They thought they didn’t need a plan.

        The Israelis, Saudis, the British cabinet, the neo-cons, the right wing media, the quasi-progressive media, the MIC, the Qataris, the bought and paid for think tanks, the oil lobby, etc etc, all the PTB were right behind it. A full spectrum astro-turf and consent manufactory.

        Public cynicism and distrust of the MSM, Ed Millband (weirdly). Putin and a president who’s never been that up for it might have brought the jugernought to a halt.

  23. ian

    Has it struck anyone else just how well Putin has played this whole thing? (and L’affaire Snowden as well).

    1. Synopticist

      Yes, hasn’t he.

      I never thought I’d see the day when an autocratic, hyper corrupt ex-KGB Russian dictator ends up looking like the leader of the free world.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Consider the competition. Obama looked like a super campaign genius, but he largely rode on Dean’s 50 State strategy coattails and faced Jack Ryan, Hillary Clinton who sidelined Bill in favor of his loser friends for the campaign, and John McCain in that order. Calls of racism have protected him.

        If Putin was less pro-Orthodox, he could really put the screws to U.S. leadership of the world.

  24. Malmo

    BREAKING (from me):

    Obama was all over TV tonight. His game plan is simple. He wants the resolution for military force passed by congress FIRST. He then claims he will use that as leverage so as to arrive at the Putin diplomatic solution.

    In short, Obama has kneecapped congressional oppositon here. If this is how it’s presented to the House and Senate then I predict he’ll likely get his green light for his strike. The question is, once he has his green light will he find some way around following through on the Putin plan and bomb the shit out of Syria anyway?

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      Don’t make stuff up. It’s embarrassing and rude.

      1. Obama doesn’t even remotely have the votes to get the AUMF passed in the House

      2. Support collapsed in the Senate. It was evident during the debate today. You even saw Ben Cardin, who voted “yes” in committee, tweet that he’s now undecided and favors diplomacy. The people who are maintaining whip counts say that if he tries going to a vote, he’ll be handed an embarrassing defeat.

      Obama has also effectively said he’s overruling Kerry and is willing to discuss the Russian proposal. And to give you an indicator of the degree of the reversal, I’ve been told the officialdom is trying to salvage Kerry by pretending it was his doing.

      1. Malmo

        I meant breaking from me (that’s why I made the parenthetical qualifier). I wasn’t implying anything else, but I can see it looks that way. Sorry, that was not my intention at all.

        Still, I stand by the information I provided, and my opinion that Congress could bend if Obama takes this to a vote, given these parameters.

        1. Malmo

          This was the interview I was speaking of. I see there are others now with various networks that claim no military authorization for force will be sought if the diplomatic route can be secured.

          I’ve never seen anything like this from the WH. The changes in posture seems to come by the hour. This is an absolute train wreck, but I hope it means no war in the end, which is what ultimately matters to me.

  25. Malmo

    CNN’s Jessica Yellin just reported on Piers Morgan, Obama is going for the quid pro quo as I outlined above: a limited military strike resolution passed by Congress, and then pursue the diplomatic solution. He gets to have his cake and eat it too if he gets his way.

      1. fresno dan

        unfortunately, I am an inveterate pessimist. I misquote the Bard because it is human nature to pluck defeat from the jaws of victory…
        To believe the issue is chemical weapons in Syria is to believe the issue was chemical weapons in Iraq…

        Begging your pardon, I’ll continue what I was saying. You must also take into account that we’ve gotten as much from our friends as they can give. Our regiments are full to the brim; our cause is ready.

        The enemy gets larger each day. We, now at our largest, can only decrease. There’s a tidal movement in men’s affairs. Seizing the highest tide leads on to (MIS)fortune (in this instance). If high tide is let to pass, all the rest of the voyage of their lives will be marked by difficulty and misery. It’s on such a high tide that we’re now floating, and we must take the current when it is offered, or lose our campaign.

        note the irony of the word campaign…

      2. Malmo

        All the post newshour shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox were loaded with war mongering apologists encouraging Obama on forward in his pursuit for AUMF. MSNBC, in particular, was fronting Hillary as Obama’s biggest and most loyal suppoter for the military option.

        It is abudantly clear that Obama is going on TV tomorrow to tell the American people that there will be little chance for diplomatic success absent military force. That was the theme this evening on those awful war mongering networks, and certainly will be tomorrow evening.

        Keep up your calls to Congress. These people are determined to win at all costs.

  26. Hugh

    There seems to be a lot of confusion over whether Syria is to contain its chemical weapons, turn them over, or destroy them. It is also not clear what precisely any of these mean or how feasible they are to carry out, especially in the short term. I am hearing contain from the UN, that is UN inspectors put a tape over storage sites. This would leave Syria in possession of them and not guarantee that all such weapons were under control. There might be secret undisclosed sites and there might be weapons already out in the field that would be unaccounted for. Physically surrendering these weapons and destroying them would both be logistical nightmares and especially dangerous since they would be taking place in the middle of an active civil war. As with containment, it would be difficult to ascertain if all such weapons were accounted for. There are also questions like whom would Syria turn these weapons over to and how would this be accomplished. As for destruction of them, it depends on the chemical involved. I would think most of Syria’s stockpile would be in the extremely dangerous to deal with category. You would need to construct a special facility to dismantle the munition and burn the chemical at very high heat. This would be a long, careful process and impossible to execute in a war zone.

    I do not see any of these choices as likely to actually separate the Assad regime from these weapons. It seems more of a fig leaf, face saving device than anything else.

    1. humiliatio

      Best of all, any agreement gives the Syrians and Russians an opportunity to demand reciprocity under the CW treaty, since the US government has failed to destroy its own stockpiles despite deadline extensions.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      This was never a legitimate offer by any stretch. Its a face saving measure for Obama with a victory lap for Putin and maybe a peace prize*. Putin will wait to see Obama’s reaction. If Obama remains militant, Obama will further separate himself from the American public and world opinion, and if Obama acquiesces, Putin merely needs to construct an offer for Americans to fund Russian clean up teams and to provide security without Saudi help.

      Of course, this depends on the views of Obama inside the Kremlin. If they are trying to avert a conflict alone, I think they might try to get to the next U.S. budget battle when cuts to services and higher costs of living fill the echo chamber.

      If they want to stick it to Obama, they will demand the U.S. uses the money it wanted to waste on strikes to clean up chemical weapons peacefully. With the Obots declaring 853rd dimensional chess to be a rousing success, they will be in a bit of tricky situation.

      *This would be hilarious.

  27. Paul Tioxon

    Congressional opposition to the use of the military when you can not draw a straight, threatening line between America and the country we need to protect ourselves from is not new. Bi-partisan opposition to going off into another fight where there seems to be no national interest to protect, oil, no American lives in mortal danger, Gulf of Tonkin, Grenada and a miserable mess of uncertainty of outcomes for intangibles, America’s credibility and reputation to deter future armed agression, the war in Angola that we avoided, even though Cubans were fighting there, is not new either.

    When Ronald Reagan tried to reinvigorate the Cold War, blunted by Detente with the USSR, he targeted unchecked Soviet expansion into Central America. In particular, Nicaragua and El Salavador. The Iran-Contra scandal was the product of the White House Cold Warriors being denied funding for their support of the Contras, who fought against the Sandinistas of Nicaragua. So vehement was the domestic opposition to the radical war posture of the Reagan administration, that the BOLAND AMENDMENT (#1)was passed by Congress 411-0. Remember, there are only 435 Reps in Congress. So, you can see, this is a complete denouncement of presidential power from the legislative branch. Without a source of funding, the White House sold arms to Iran, to release hostages. The money was diverted to finance the Nicaraguan Contras war against the Sandinistas. A second BOLAND AMENDMENT was passed, that was even more restrictive than the first, including a denial of the use of covert, secret programs by the CIA or any other agency, or any funding for the purpose of over throwing the Nicaraguan government by military or paramilitary agency.

    The secret deal which became the major scandal of the Reagan White House became public when the details came out in a pro-Syrian newspaper published in the Middle East.

    The long term relationships of the once super power, Russia is motivation enough to make Russia give Washington want it wants more than anything. The ability to exert control over events, maintaining its reputation with the international community as the indespensible nation. Why, because we are the only one with the capacity to keep the nations of the world from spinning out of control, outside of their fixed borders, and creating problems for everyone around them and around the world. Syria has reached that tipping point of spinning out of control. And Israel can’t just bomb its way out of the resulting mess of a total melt-down on its borders, with Egypt, Syria all at the same time.

    Russia’s long standing ally in the Middle East is Syria and now, a critical ally providing access to the Mediterranean. Syria would not have a shadow of its military without the USSR and now Russia. I have not read where the thousands of Russians who live in Syria, have all been evacuated. The Russian Naval outpost likewise has not been abandoned. We will most likely not kill Russians on our way to save face against Assad. The Russians have the capacity to exert an acceptable diplomatic resolution. The US has the military to immolate Syria. Obama and Washington want to show the world we can still make people do what we want, whether by hook or by crook. It doesn’t matter how we make Syrian back down, as long as they do. It doesn’t matter that Russia brokers the deal, as long as we declare victory after its over. WE will say that Russia knew its only path to saving its people was to convince Assad to disarm. The US will claim it is still indispensable because without the gun to Syria’s head, they would not be moved. It is the outcome that is important, not the means. As long as Syria backs down over Chemical Weapons, we will have provided the much need international order. And Assad can go on slaughtering rebels and jihadists the old fashioned way, one bullet at time. But at least, he won’t be doing it the way we told him he can’t. The ends aren’t everything, they are the only thing. The means can be anything. Even Russia. If we are all lucky.

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