Obama’s Syria Strike Part of ‘Broader Strategy’ (Germanos)

Andrea Germanos writes at Commondreams

As the Obama administration continues its "flood the zone" campaign to win congressional support for military force against Syria, a statement by the president Tuesday indicates its plan is to go beyond punitive strikes against Assad and to pursue a "broader strategy." 

President Barack Obama meets with his National Security Staff to discuss the situation in Syria, in the Situation Room of the White House, Aug. 30, 2013. (Photo: White House/Pete Souza) Although, as McClatchy reports, the administration's case to use force against Syria "is riddled with inconsistencies and hinges mainly on circumstantial evidence," Obama signaled he was confident his request for authorization to use force would win votes from Congress next week.

Speaking to congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday, President Obama outlined the broader strategy, saying:

As I've said last week, as Secretary Kerry made clear in his presentation last week, we have high confidence that Syria used, in an indiscriminate fashion, chemical weapons that killed thousands of people, including over 400 children, and in direct violation of the international norm against using chemical weapons.  That poses a serious national security threat to the United States and to the region, and as a consequence, Assad and Syria needs to be held accountable. [...]

This is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear message not only to the Assad regime, but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms, that there are consequences.  It gives us the ability to degrade Assad’s capabilities when it comes to chemical weapons.  It also fits into a broader strategy that we have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability not only to Syria but to the region. 

But I want to emphasize once again:  What we are envisioning is something limited.  It is something proportional.  It will degrade Assad’s capabilities.  At the same time, we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition, allow Syria ultimately to free itself from the kinds of terrible civil wars and death and activity that we’ve been seeing on the ground.

Republican Senators John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who have pushed for an aggressive attack on Syria, left a Labor Day meeting with Obama "encouraged the administration appeared to be developing a plan for Syria that would degrade the military capabilities of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime while improving the capabilities of rebel forces," The Hill reports

And on Tuesday, "the House leadership on both sides has publicly positioned itself behind the president," the Guardian notes in its Syria live blog.  House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi was among those offering support for this "broader strategy," though she also said that congressional support wasn't really necessary:

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, and speaker John Boehner, a Republican, have both just delivered statements outside the White House calling for support for military strikes in Syria.

House majority leader Eric Cantor subsequently released a statement of support.

Speaking in separate appearances after a meeting with the president, Pelosi and Boehner said they would urge their caucuses to support Obama.

"The use of these weapons have to be responded to, and only the United States has the capability and the capacity to stop Assad," Boehner said.

Pelosi said the case for taking action is strong.

"I feel pretty confident… that we have a good conversation to have with our members," she said.

Pelosi said did not think congressional authorization "is necessary" for the president to use force in Syria, citing the 1999 Nato bombing of Serbian forces in Kosovo.

However, whether or not Obama gets this congressional authorization, if he goes forward without approval from the United Nations, it would be a war crime, Noam Chomsky told the Huffington Post.

Further, the implications of the authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) could be far-reaching, as Jim White writes at emptywheel:

It is not lost on Iran that the AUMF for action in Syria is written broadly enough that US military action could spill over into Iran. A Fars News article dated yesterday cites the Jack Goldsmith analysis of the draft AUMF that foresees US action in Iran:

"Goldsmith asked whether the proposed AUMF authorizes the President to use force against Iran or Lebanon’s Hezbollah, in Iran or Lebanon? Again, yes, if the President accuses Iran or Hezbollah of having a (mere) connection to the use of WMD in the Syrian civil war, and the use of force against Iran or Hezbollah would prevent or deter the use or proliferation of WMD within, or to and from, Syria, or protect the US or its allies (e.g. Israel) against the (mere) threat posed by those weapons. Again, it is very easy to imagine."

The article continues, noting (as Marcy [Wheeler] has many times) how the 9/11 AUMF has been interpreted broadly:

"It brings to mind the AUMF passed in the aftermath of September 11. While that resolution directly concerned Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, it was later broadened to justify drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia–even on targets that were clearly not part of Al-Qaeda."

Amidst the sound of the drums for war, the U.N. stated on Tuesday that ongoing violence has created two million Syrian refugees and over four million internally displaced people, and warned there was no end in sight to the “humanitarian calamity.”

——

Mirrored from Commondreams.org

9 Responses

  1. So what is in America’s “national interests” in Syria and what really poses a threat to America’s security? It seems to me that if we really believe chemical WMD falling into the hands of our mortal enemy al-Qaeda is a threat to our security, we should be telling Assad to destroy his chemical WMD and we’ll team up with the Russians to help him kill al-Qaeda in Syria. That would send a message to the ME that’s consistent with American policy since 9/11. You can’t make and keep WMD and you can’t harbor al-Qaeda. Of course, such a solution to the crisis in Syria is unthinkable. But we need to understand why it is.

  2. I have questions. Germany also gassed its own people. Should we have intervened sooner? Is this comparable to the present Syrian situation, and is this gassing the possible beginning of something more awful to come, where more and more people are being gassed indiscriminately? Are we not living in a civil era?

    No matter who is doing the gassing, it is a horrendous crime against humanity. And aren’t we part of the global human race? Aren’t we? Aren’t we part of humanity, a humanity living in a civil era? And should we passively stand by and say nothing or do nothing, while our fellow humans are being exterminated like ants? I thought my heart would break when I watched that mother tenderly lay her child down on the ground, shrouded and dead. Lots of questions.

    • Yes, in the case of Germany, Great Britain, France and Poland should have intervened to stop Hitler. They had military superiority, but PM Chamberlin sabotaged any effort at joint action, believing that he could placate Hitler by feeding him other countries, including Poland! Churchill was a voice in the wilderness. Six million Jews died, many gassed, and millions of other non combatants also died horrible deaths, all in the name of avoiding war.

  3. Anyone want to start a pool on when the first weapon from whatever nonsense ooops!-erational acronym and “coalition” cover name will be given to “distinguish” US warcraft-launched or -delivered explosives lands in Damascus or other Syrian territory? I claim Tuesday, 9/10 at 0800… first prize is a piece of shrapnel from the site. Grand prize is a piece of shrapnel with body parts and blood smears, maybe even HAIR! suitable for framing or mantelpiece mounting.

  4. “…..if he goes forward without approval from the United Nations, it would be a war crime, Noam Chomsky told the Huffington Post….”

    Chomsky is a linguistics professor at MIT but has been outspoken as a leftist on Middle Eastern issues – he briefly lived on an Israeli kibbutz during the 1950s.

    A recent analysis of the “Linguist Chomsky” versus the “Political Chomsky”:

    link to annarborchronicle.com

  5. “Although, as McClatchy reports, the administration’s case to use force against Syria “is riddled with inconsistencies and hinges mainly on circumstantial evidence,” Obama signaled he was confident his request for authorization to use force would win votes from Congress next week.”

    What does that say about the senators who voted for a war on Syria after the charade promoted by the foreign relations committee? “Riddled with inconsistencies” could pass as a synonym for BS and “mainly circumstantial evidence” as “maybe true, maybe a lie.”

  6. “Republican Senators John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who have pushed for an aggressive attack on Syria, left a Labor Day meeting with Obama “encouraged the administration appeared to be developing a plan for Syria …”

    And after those bullies left Chuck Hagel looking like a hapless wreck at his confirmation hearing, Assad will probably write him off as someone to not worry about. There can’t be many people other than those sucking up for a promotion inspired by Hagel after he allowed himself to be abused in such a crude and squalid manner. How’s that for emasculating the man in charge of our war department?

    Given the evidence of the senior bully of that pair being caught playing poker and thus considering it more interesting than a declaration of war that will kill thousands of innocent people, it seems fair to conclude this hearing was nothing more than a typical senate charade.

    • Ugh. Playing poker while trying to decide whether to go to war. You are right, Bill. It is more than fair to conclude that the hearing was a charade. And ethically bankrupt.

  7. It has been a naive conceit for Americans to believe that the affairs of faraway places can be run through the short sighted and utterly self interested meat grinder of inside the beltway Washington politics forever with no consequences. Of course there are absolutely vital US interests in Syria as there are in Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon and the rest of the volatile but ancient and precious part of the world that has so seized the ambitions of empires and made them a play thing. What is necessary is to bring the slaughter in Syria to an end and find a political path to a renewed Syria. That is not done with cruise missiles and “limited” death from above but a whole hearted commitment to the object of bringing an end to the slaughter and finding a path to peace. The actual, tangible, interests of American security depend on leadership that defines a path to peace in Syria and if that path requires a military component, leadership that will not shrink from it what ever it is. A military response must serve a strategy and a policy consistent enough and humble enough to be taken seriously but ambitious enough and principled enough that it may actually inspire Americans to understand what their interests are in Syria and make whatever sacrifice they are called on to make as they have done, or sought to do, on many an occasion.

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