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I listened to Kerry's speech.

Separate from the issues about what is and is not true with what happened in Syria and separate from the issues of what immediate action the US is going to take, this statement really hit me as very important and critical.

It matters because if we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will.
This matters also beyond the limits of Syria’s borders. It is about whether Iran, which itself has been a victim of chemical weapons’ attacks, will now feel emboldened in the absence of action to obtain nuclear weapons.
It is about Hezbollah and North Korea and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons’ current or future use? Or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?
So our concern is not just about some far-off land oceans away. That’s not what this is about. Our concern with the cause of the defenseless people of Syria is about choices that will directly affect our role in the world and our interests in the world.
It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations.
This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us.
And it matters to who we are. And it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world.
People are arguing about whether Syria is like Iraq in terms of the quality of evidence. However, there is one very important respect in which the two situations are similar. The US government is prepared to assume the power to disregard international law and do what it thinks should be done to impose moral order on the world and hope to intimidate those who might disregard its moral authority.

That was the position taken in Iraq. The UNSC was bypassed and the US with the support of a limited coalition launched an invasion. In retrospect that turned out not to be a successful project. It seems probable that a military intervention will be launched in Syria. It is also pretty clear that the international support for it will me more limited than it was in Iraq. We won't know until some time in the future whether this intervention will turn out to have been useful and effective or yet another disastrous military adventure.

Clearly the US maintains sufficient military power that it can likely get by with playing global cop. The question is whether this is a posture that we as Americans want to see our country adopting over and over again. Speaking for myself, I can conclusively answer, no.  

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Comment Preferences

  •  No. nt (5+ / 0-)

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 11:36:49 AM PDT

  •  I think most polls would agree with you on this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, FG

    issue.  But here we are.  The Economist just published an article on this very subject:  "Global Cop"

    BARACK OBAMA came to office vowing to end wars in the Muslim world, not start them. For two years he has resisted calls, which close advisers have made with passion, to intervene in Syria’s ever-more-bloody civil war. And yet, as The Economist went to press, he stood poised to launch an attack on Syria’s armed forces, the results of which could not be foreseen. Even the most cautious American leaders will saddle up and play sheriff if the alternative is a world in which, when America has clearly announced that it will defend an international norm, a rogue dictator thinks he can call its bluff.

    "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth". Albert Einstein

    by Sydserious on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 11:42:39 AM PDT

  •  I do (0+ / 0-)

    not see this as an attempt by America to ''run the world''.

    We sat on the sidelines for two years as conventional weapons killed 100k Syrians.....if we truly were the world's cop, we would have stepped in earlier.

    Maybe we are the only ones that can enforce international laws militarily?

    If we step back, no one will do the world had done before in the 1930's, and Japan/Germany proceeded to take more and more aggressive actions against hapless victims.

    I am not a big fan of doing anything, but I am not the President of the United States, who historically has had all the pressure on him to try to maintain some check on guys like the North Korean dictator, and the Supreme Leader in Iran.

    I would not want to be the President right now, as it is easier to avoid the criticism that any intervention will bring, by doing nothing.

    If we do nothing, we better all pray that Assad ceases and desists, or WWIII could quickly develop if he gets full of himself and lobs some of these chem weapons into Israel....they will respond by wiping out Assad and his forces and it will be on....

  •  no moral authority whatsoever (7+ / 0-)

    we will continue illegal drone strikes where ever and whenever we desire
    we will continue to give military aid and US $ to the horrific egyptian and saudi militaries
    we will continue to sell cluster bombs (WMDs) to the saudis

  •  US hegemony obligates itself but the issue is as (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, aliasalias

    always, counter-hegemonic blocs and whether the inevitable reactions will such an action create "new terrorists"

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 11:57:26 AM PDT

  •  You've nailed it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    However, there is one very important respect in which the two situations are similar. The US government is prepared to assume the power to disregard international law and do what it thinks should be done to impose moral order on the world and hope to intimidate those who might disregard its moral authority.
    Yes, I think you've nailed it.

    The problem here isn't the quality of evidence (both Assad and the rebels clearly have the means and motivation to use chemical weapons, I don't think this is a yellowcake-memo situations) or about any doubt that whomever ordered this (I'd put my bets on one of Assad's cronies, but I'm not 100% sure it wasn't the rebels).  And it's certainly not about the acceptability of these actions: Assad is going to have some explaining to do when he moves on to the next world.

    But you don't make military and foreign policy decisions based on an obligation to impose morality on someone else.  This applies even when that someone else richly deserves what's coming to them.  Why?  It doesn't yield the results you think it's going to yield.  Either we do something symbolic (crater more of Syria's infrastructure and perhaps kill some collateral victims in a futile attempt to teach Assad a lesson, which just hardens everyone's attitude and accomplishes nothing) or we do something subtantial, which is a sure route to blowback and even more decisions like this down the road.

    Obviously, if someone got reliable air reconnaisance pointed at a stash of chemical weapons, I'd have no objections to a quick visit by a friendly cruise missile: this is not a "stand everyone down, nothing to see here" moment.  But unless someone is really stupid in the Assad camp, that won't happen.

    •  There is also the inconvenient matter (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      liberaldregs, grollen, aliasalias

      of the tendency to selective morality. A good cop should be prepared to act against the crime no matter where it occurs or who the suspected criminal is. That is what is meant by the rule of law. The US as super cop only goes to work when there is a political agenda attached. On any given day there are truly heinous atrocities happening in various parts of the world. We are quite happy to ignore most of them.  

  •  Kerry is sounding disturbingly like (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radmul, Richard Lyon, aliasalias

    John Bolton.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Fri Aug 30, 2013 at 03:14:01 PM PDT

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