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View Diary: Is this really about 'punishing' Assad, or is it about feeling good about ourselves? (285 comments)

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  •  The weapon inspectors were not asked (15+ / 0-)

    to conclude who used Sarin but rather was it used.

    Answer to your wqeird question, no, it is not about feeling good about ourselves.  

    There are reasoned arguments for and agaisnt military action.  

    The rationale is deterence, not punishment.  It may not work (or even happen).  

    We don't want the Assad regime to fall (although we want Assad out).  So your premises about boots on the ground are off.  

    As for this,

    "The only way destabilization of Assad doesn't lead to a deeper and wider civil war is a large U.S. troop presence on the ground."

    I think that horse is alreayd out of the barn.  It is a civil war with multiple factions.

    No one has suggested securing the chemical weapons.

    There are real risks in the proposal and those risks may lead one to reject it, but the arguments you make, while possible popular, are really beloew your usual fine level of work.

    We all have off days.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 12:55:03 PM PDT

    •  sorry (40+ / 0-)

      but the main argument for war seems to be that Bad Things Happened and we have to Do Something. the military options don't solve anything. they are extremely poorly thought out. so, yes, for many people this is about feeling that they Did Something.

      The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

      by Laurence Lewis on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 12:58:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree that is the main argument. (9+ / 0-)

        It is why I am disappointed.  So many here make strawmen arguments rather than address the real argument and rebut it.

        There are many arguments against military action without creating strawmen.

        Presdient Obama has repeatedly made the point that the purpose is to deter use fo checmical weapons and reinforce the prohibition (and international norm) against their use.   There are arguments that accept that as the reason but still hold that military action is too risky (unintended consequences, why us?, destabilizes too much, Kos's dead is dead argument, etc.)

        Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

        by TomP on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 01:05:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's the stated purpose, but the (22+ / 0-)

          proposed actions show basically no logical route to that stated purpose - ergo it is a "do something" stated purpose more than it is actually something done and accomplished.

        •  yes (16+ / 0-)

          feeling good about ourselves includes a sense of purpose.

          The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

          by Laurence Lewis on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 01:17:47 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It's manifest nonsense that we can stop (24+ / 0-)

          Assad from using chemical weapons by attacking him. Only in the WackyLand DC Bubble could this be thought possible, by any stretch. Might as well believe if you paint cats green they'll sing Gilbert & Sullivan for you.

          If we degrade his ability to fight off the rebels -- and by all accounts the best organized, largest, and well-funded elements are jihadists (thank you O Beneficent Ally Saudi Arabia) -- well, Assad has seen what happened to 'Daffy and Saddam and their agents. So have his top people.

          What's he going to do if he feels it's "CW or Die" for him?

          At the very best, the very best, we'll definitely blow a bunch of Syrians to bits -- not metaphorically, but with their heads here and their torso 10 ft over there and a leg 30 ft that way -- and encourage Assad to kill even more vigorously and indiscriminately using humane methods of mass murder.

          Meanwhile, I wonder how many of our bombs dropped will have depleted uranium as part of the composition.

          btw, if it turns out the rebels did it, would we cut off the aid we give them? We know damned well it wouldn't even be a topic.


          Actual Democrats: the surest, quickest, route to More Democrats. And actually addressing our various emergencies.

          by Jim P on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 01:29:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  IMHO, a very limited and targeted strike (17+ / 0-)

          Is like a restraining order against an enraged ex.

          It only works if they obey it. And if they don't, there's not a hell of a lot you can do about it.

        •  Yet, the UN doesn't seem to be all that keen on... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          3goldens, mmacdDE, JVolvo, viral, maryabein

          ...reinforcing their own Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

          ...

          U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against military action that did not have the approval of the United Nations Security Council....
          That, despite the fact that the Secretary-General is well aware of the fact that the US is...:  
          ...Unable to win Security Council backing because of the opposition by veto-wielding Russia and China, Obama is seeking the support of the U.S. Congress instead...
          In fact,
          ...Washington's ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, made clear on Thursday that the United States had given up trying to work with the Council on the issue, and accused Russia of holding it hostage...

          The UN is unwilling and/or incapable of enforcing a treaty that most nations have signed, but the UN doesn't want the US to do the enforcing either.  Other nations that also signed that treaty (i.e. the UK, Germany, etc, etc) refuse to back the US acting to enforce the treaty.  

          Regarding our credibility:

          ...Regional attitudes toward chemical weapons (CW) use are also misunderstood... In reality, three issue areas, none of them driven by the CW question, determine Arab attitudes on Syria: humanitarian, sectarian, and strategic...

          Similarly, most Arabs have opposed U.S. action in Syria in large part because they see every American move as intended to serve suspicious interests...

          ...Whether or not Americans want to be the world's policemen, carrying most of the burden of enforcing norms, is one question to ask. But the questions should go far beyond that: It is one thing for other international players to refuse to pay their share, but another when they are not even applauding America for being prepared to pay the price nearly alone. If the moral case to intervene is so clear, how is it that we are not even able to get those in our moral universe, such as those in Western Europe, to at least say "thank you"?

          International moral action, like any credible action, cannot be separated from the judgment of the international community. And we cannot defend international norms by breaking them.

          •  a question . . . (14+ / 0-)

            If the US has the unilateral right to enforce international law on others without UN approval, do other nations have the same unilateral right to enforce international law on the US without UN approval, too?

            What would your reaction have been if, in the immediate aftermath of the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003, an alliance of nations including China, Mexico, Brazil and India, had bombed the United States, with the announced intent of punishing the US for violating international law---and then invaded the US and occupied Washington DC for the purpose of arresting Dubya and Cheney and trying them as war criminals.

            Think very carefully before you answer that. It will reveal a lot about you . . . .

            THAT is the real problem here. If the US gets to unilaterally decide when "international law" gets enforced and against who, then it's not law at all--it's nothing but superpower imperialism, cloaked in a legal figleaf.

            I am against superpower imperialism.  Even if we are the superpower.

            •  ? (0+ / 0-)

              Who says that the "US has the unilateral right to enforce international law without UN approval"?  Not me.  

              The UN at this point has cautioned against military intervention; hopefully the Administration won't decide to act without the consensus and support of the international community.  

          •  And the US has used its veto twice as often (4+ / 0-)

            as any other Security Council member.

            The next time the IDF commits war crimes, should other world powers just go ahead and "punish" them despite lacking a UN resolution due to a US veto?

            What your saying sounds a lot like it's coming out from under Boltons mustache.

            "But the traitors will pretend / that it's gettin' near the end / when it's beginning" P. Ochs

            by JesseCW on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 08:33:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Either I wasn't clear, or you have... (0+ / 0-)

              misinterpreted my comment completely.  

              The point is that if the United Nations and our allies do not believe that there is sufficient justification for a military strike on Syria, then perhaps the US administration should step back and rethink their push for independent military intervention.  

              International moral action, like any credible action, cannot be separated from the judgment of the international community. And we cannot defend international norms by breaking them.
              Nowhere have I advocated for US use of force in Syria, or for "punishing" anyone, anywhere.    
          •  Syria is not a signatory to the U.N. CWC, so how (0+ / 0-)

            can they be bound by it?

        •  Take a shot here, TomP. (10+ / 0-)

          Just for shits and giggles, why don't you speculate on how a "limited" missile strike might deter Assad from further chemical attacks.

          Not suggesting you actually take a pro or con position. But, can you (or anyone else giving Obama the benefit of the doubt in terms of his motivations) play devil's advocate for just a moment and suggest a scenario in which lobbing dozens or hundreds of cruise missiles into Syria will make Assad feel less desperate and less likely to pull out all the stops in a last ditch attempt to vanquish the rebel forces.

          See, that's the thing here. Neither Obama nor Kerry nor any of Obama's supporters have yet to explain, even theoretically, how this limited strike could actually lessen the threat of continued use of chemical weapons by Assad or his generals.

          This site's stated mission is absurdly contradictory. You don't get better Democrats by electing more Democrats. The latter is achieved by lowering the bar, not by raising it.

          by WisePiper on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 04:29:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'll repeat my comment from below: (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            edwardssl, JVolvo, Spit, bevenro, David54

            There are several reasons why the US might want to take out the chemical weapons production plants (and nothing else):

            1. if, as information seems to indicate, Assad's chemical weapons are no more stable than Saddam's were (they degraded into useless goo in just a short while), then striking the production plants will actually eliminate the entire arsenal, as it degrades and cannot be replaced. Within a matter of months, there simply won't be any more Sarin in Syria--just as Saddam's nerve gas was all degraded into junk within a few months of Desert Storm.

            2. Saddam's chemical production plants were located in relatively isolated areas, for security reasons.  It's a pretty good bet that Assad's are too, for the same reasons. Saddam's production plants were all bombed from the air and destroyed in the first days of Desert Storm, and no mass casualties resulted among civilians. It's a pretty safe bet the same can be done to Assad's plants, too.

            3. Syria seems to be storing its nerve gas as two separate chemicals, which they must mix immediately prior to use.  This is most likely a method for them to delay the degradation of their impure product. It would mean that there would be barely any full-strength nerve gas in the production facility, and the factory would instead be filled with diflour and alcohol, neither of which presents as large a danger to nearby populations. That would make the bombing of the plants even more likely.

            My money is on this as the major thrust of the cruise missile/drone strikes. It would do maximum damage to Assad's chemical weapons capability, and minimum damage to everything else. So I expect that's what the plan will be.

            PS--Let me state, before some breathless pie-fighter gets their undies all in a knot at me, that I am simply assuming what the US will probably do--I'm not, repeat not, as in n-o-t, saying that I like it or agree with it. As I have repeatedly said over the past few days, I see no good end to anything that anyone does in the Syrian civil war, I see no "good guys" anywhere in this situation (including the US), and I am adamantly opposed to any unilateral US action to "enforce international law" that does not have specific previous authorization by the UN.

            It should not be necessary for me to state that, but alas the roving packs of foaming-at-the-mouth wild dogs who latch on to anything they perceive as not part of their pack, makes it, sadly, necessary.

          •  Logic might therefore suggest (0+ / 0-)

            that despite the rhetoric, this attack will not be a "limited strike", that it will become a full-fledged effort at regime change and, depending on how successful it might be, carried on to Lebanon and to Iran.

            Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

            by truong son traveler on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 08:13:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  bluntly, there is only one thing that matters: (5+ / 0-)

          Has the UN authorized anyone to punish Syria for violations of international law?

          As long as the answer to that is "no", then anything we do is itself illegal under international law.

          (Though of course, being the biggest bully on the block, we can still do whatever we want, since nobody can stop us.)

        •  I tend to agree. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          maryabein

          In essence we are damned if we do and damned if we don't.  There are no easy answers - either "peace" or "war" may very well lead us down the wrong path.  I can see arguments for both, but I see no way clear that will not lead to more death and destruction. Assad will never listen to reason, neither will the Islamic extremists.

          I have heard that this whole mess started with crop failure in Syria, followed by peaceful demonstrations, followed by Assad (who apparently cannot allow even a tiny amount of dissent) cracking down with violence.  If true than this may be the start of numerous nasty wars over climate change.  See: http://www.globaldashboard.org/...

          Welcome to the new normal.  

    •  Cost/Risk/Benefit analysis (20+ / 0-)

      leaves no satisfactory options.  
      But there is one with almost no cost: nothing*.
      Nothing, in this case, is more than something. Nothing takes nothing from the budget, nothing takes nothing from 19 year old servicemen's bodies or mental health, nothing takes nothing from military families.
      Of course nothing makes nothing for Ratheon, General Dynamics or XE/Blackwater/Acadami.  Nothing does nothing to send petroleum higher on the market.  
      *Nothing may include some diplomacy.

      "Searches with nonspecific warrants were ‘the single immediate cause of the American Revolution.’” Justice Wm. Brennan, referring to the 4th Amendment

      by Nailbanger on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 01:09:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think the question is weird at all. Most (17+ / 0-)

      of the rallying cries supporting a Syrian attack revolve around chest-thumping, punishing the bad man, showin' 'em who is boss around these here parts, USA!USA!USA!, we're the world's cops dick swinging, and/or maintaining Obama's manly "red line or else" stance.  None of the ever-expanding WAR options are going to resolve the Syrian problem.  The hypocrisy displayed by the major players here is mind-boggling.  Killing people with bombs just to "punish" someone who killed people with gas is simply ridiculous.  If we want to help, we need to build refugee camps and provide food /meds / masks to the millions of displaced people who are watching their homeland go up in flames.  Destroying more of their country is not going to stop Assad or the rebels from killing more people.  But, I guess we'll be ok after we bomb and both sides go back to more conventional killing with bullets and tanks.  That's just dandy, I suppose.  How about we go after the chemical and weapons manufacturers or start freezing some assets and nixing some contracts.  Do we have no other tools in our toolbox now except munitions???  I refuse to believe or accept that.

      Funny how the real truth of the war goal is slowly coming to light - toppling Assad.  If that's what the administration wants to do, they need to come out and say so.  No right-thinking person should believe that dropping a few bombs on Syria will do anything but aggravate an already horrendous situation.  

      End the wars! Single payer now!

      by HCKAD on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 02:30:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Compare to this. (16+ / 0-)

      Very pursuasive arguments in this:

      Washington Monthly: Let's Not Bomb Syria

      According to John Kerry, the case for bombing the Syrian regime is to keep Assad from using chemical weapons again. Similarly, I hear from a lot of liberals is that the sheer moral offense of using chemical weapons obligates the United States to attack the Syrian regime.

      But 100,000 people have already been killed just as dead with conventional weapons, which can be just as indiscriminate as the worst poison gas. (Consider the estimated 100,000 civilians killed in a single night’s firebombing of Tokyo.) So put another way this amounts to sending a message that, should you be a dictator slaughtering your own countrymen, make sure to slaughter them with conventional guns, bombs, and knives instead of chemical agents.

      Ezra Klein puts it well:

      This is why there is no enthusiasm for intervening in Syria: Making the decision to punish Assad for using chemical weapons means explicitly making the decision not to stop him when he slaughters with conventional weapons. The brutality of what we are willing to accept tarnishes the better world we seek to preserve.
      Now, in addition to that, there’s the fact that according to the UN charter (which the US has signed) it’s illegal to attack another country without a UN resolution. There is a treaty banning chemical weapons too, but Syria has not signed it. So we’d be violating a much more important international law to protect a tacit norm of moderate utility at best. The way to preserve international norms and institutions, in my view, is first to not violate them all the time oneself.
      Furthermore, it’s quite unlikely that other countries will look at Syria and conclude that one can merrily gas away and get away with it, much less gas the United States, the world’s most aggressive and powerful country, as the administration has ludicrously suggested. It’s obvious that everyone is reluctant to get involved in Syria because of the idiosyncratic nature of the civil war there—it’s got everything short of “QUAGMIRE” written in the sky above it in 50-foot letters.

      So let’s stay out of this.

      Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

      by TomP on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 03:02:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No the real questions should be these (16+ / 0-)

      What outcome does the US hope to effect by "surgical bombing" of Syria?  I want this question answered by the administration since they are the ones pushing for this ill advised foray into Syria.

          1) How will our "surgical bombing" stop Assad from killing people in his own country if we do not want a regime change in Syria?

          2) How does our "surgical bombing" prevent collateral loss of life and injury among the civilian population?

          3) If our "surgical bombing" does effect a regime change in Syria, what is to prevent al Qaeda from taking over the country and further killing more civilians?

          4) What is the cost/benefit of our becoming involved in a civil war in Syria?  How does it promote peace and prevent future terrorism?  Is there any guaranteed positive outcome from this both for the American people and the people of Syria?

          This is absolutely not about humanitarian reasons.  Killing people to save them is not a good reason for war.

      "I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~ Dr. Cornel West speaking to Occupy Tallahassee on January 18, 2012

      by gulfgal98 on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 03:32:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Deterrence versus punishment. (7+ / 0-)

      You know, I'm a lawyer, and I'm used to splitting hairs, but even I can't see any real distinction between those two.  The way we propose to deter Assad is by punishing him for his prior use of chemical weapons.

      In other words, the two are inextricably linked.  In much the same way, our criminal laws are supposed to deter prohibited conduct by punishing the people who engage in the prohibited conduct.

      You're drawing a distinctinon without a difference.

      "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

      by FogCityJohn on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 04:11:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here's a difference: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        maryabein, starduster

        Your perpetrator is in handcuffs.  He is detained physically while on trial.  He has rights.  He has a trained advocate.  He had judge and jury.  And when/if he's found guilty some appropriate punishment is given.
        Assad is NOT detained, and we have no way, short of boots on the ground, to apprehend him.  We have no way to determine if he is actually the guilty party, because we are not publically investigating, nor trying him in a court of law.

        That makes the US guilty of vigilantism and violation of UN treaties if we go through with this fiasco.  We have laws and treaties for a REASON.  To prevent individual countries from doing exactly what we are proposing.

    •  Correction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JVolvo, maryabein

      "the Assad regime"?

      It is the Assad government no matter how that makes anybody feel it is actually a government. They only become "regimes" when America deems them so.

      Here is an excersive

      Write a sentence about America dropping white phosphorous and Syria releasing Sarin. using regime for us and government for them and explain the difference.

      It's a word problem I'm sure you'll get it right.

    •  They will also be reporting on the chemical (0+ / 0-)

      nature of the substances used.

      That's important.

      If Assad retaliates in a serious way, such as massively damaging or even sinking one of our warships, there will be no politically viable choice but boots on the ground.

      All arguments in favor of this war presuppose Assad to be an impotent entity without free will.

      "But the traitors will pretend / that it's gettin' near the end / when it's beginning" P. Ochs

      by JesseCW on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 08:30:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I would rec this comment if I could but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Spit

      I can't because of the timing of posting the diary to the front page.

      The diarist is simply wrong about so many facts, including the basic fact of the purpose of the weapons inspection.

      Out with the gloomage - in with the plumage!

      by mikidee on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 03:32:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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