President Obama in Israel
Barack Looks for a Way out of Syrian Quagmire
As the Israeli’s escalate their attacks on Syria, offering the most spurious justifications for military aggression, we see the lingering effects of the Bush policy regarding preemptive strikes; which means attacking a potential adversary on the belief that they may someday strike you. President Obama should call for an immediate halt to Israeli aggression; it would be the wise and just thing to do.
But he dare not; lest he be sure to attract a hail of criticism from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and suffer a merciless skewering in the press. This would complicate everything else he is trying to get through a recalcitrant congress. That’s why he is attempting to justify it in a public statement of support, arguing that Israel is acting in their national security interests against the machinations of Hezbollah, an Iranian armed proxy. President Obama has evidently decided that choosing the wise and just decision would prove politically disastrous.
The President is trapped in his own rhetoric. In a moment of bravado designed to intimidate Syrian President Bashir Assad, an attempt to persuade him not to even think of deploying chemical weapons against his adversaries in the Syrian Civil War, President Obama drew a symbolic “red line” that, if crossed, would be Assad’s undoing. The impression given by that statement was that should the Syrian president cross the red line, Barack Obama would make him pay big time.
Now that there are claims such chemical weapons have been detected, the war hawks on the right, who are unceasing in their efforts to besmirch Barack Obama’s foreign policy record – which I regard as a demonstration of diplomatic virtuosity just like his orchestration of domestic policy – are calling for military intervention. In their ceaseless attempts to discredit the President, the Republican opposition has come very close to being not only disloyal…but a menace to our national security.
It used to be understood that in matters of war and peace, playing partisan politics is not only obscene but dangerous. It should be taboo for people who are entrusted with guarding the national interests to act as if they were shooting crap with the fate of the nation. How is it possible that intelligent men such as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham could so cavalierly speak of the US getting involved militarily by arming the rebels and even establishing a no-fly zone over Syria? These are acts of war.
Five years ago, when Barack was running against McCain for the presidency, I wrote an essay supporting the position of General Wesley Clarke that McCain was no better qualified to be commander-In-Chief than Barack Obama; despite McCain’s experience as a military officer. However I went even further. I argued that McCain was in fact unqualified to be Commander-In-Chief. My argument must have appeared ridiculous to many Americans in light of the Senator’s much vaunted military record.
However I thought his deep psychological need to “prove himself” by winning another war, after the debacle in Vietnam, meant that McCain would be prone to go to war at the first opportunity. The reasons are complex and since I have elucidated them elsewhere I shall simply refer the reader to the essay “General Clarke was Right: John McCain is unqualified to be commander-In-Chief!” on this blog.
Although the charge of sarin gas use is disputed by some experts, who told the Guardian- Observer of London that the evidence was highly suspect. After considering the testimony of eyewitnesses to the explosion they concluded that there wasn’t sufficient reason to believe that what they described was indeed a Sarin gas attack. The evidence, such as it is, is based on the analysis of soil samples.
Yet even if traces of Sarin gas have been detected it raises more questions than it answers. Where did it originate? Who gave the order to use it? Was the president talking about small traces of gas that are barely detectable when he drew the red line; or a large scale gas attack clearly ordered by the government that inflicted mass casualties? The last question is the most crucial.
Given the chicanery we have witnessed in the past by people who wanted to start a war based on bogus events, the President is displaying Solomonic wisdom in waiting for a thorough investigation by disinterested scientist before taking any action; the consequences of which are unclear since an American intervention might well make a bad situation worse. This would compound the problem of finding a peaceful settlement in Syria.
That’s why the Israeli attacks are so dangerous. US commitments to Israel in the matter of defense are very complex, but it is enough to know that our entanglements are such that any war Israel starts in the Mid-East will eventually involve the United States. Already their aggressions are being applauded by the usual suspects on the right, but President Obama has also given his approval while admitting that the US helped supply the intelligence that guided the Israeli attack.
We can be sure that hysterical cries for Barack to follow the lead of Bibi with no-fly zones, arming factions identified as being friendly to Israel and the US, and even airstrikes of our own. Yet given the confusing nature of the opposition it is hard to predict what the outcome of such actions will be.
After an Israeli Attack
And that’s how it looks….
…..Down on the Ground
The forces clamoring for the US to become involved in the Syrian civil war base their demands on President Obama’s loose talk about ill defined “red lines” that would trigger an American intervention. Senator John McCain has already snidely remarked that President Obama’s red lines “must have been written with disappearing ink.” This guy can hardly wait to start another war; chomping at the bit like a race horse at the starting gate.
Perhaps all of the morons on the left and Black Nationalist ideologues will finally understand why the President is wise not to adopt their rhetoric. Intellectuals like Cornel West and Boyce Watkins can say anything they please, just like whacko Republican elected officials who say crazy things; it is just hot air, “all sound and fury signifying nothing” as Shakespeare said.
But when the President of the United States makes a statement it has real consequences. Alas, it may even result in the US being pushed into a war that neither the President nor the American people want because of Israeli actions. The Israeli’s justify their aggressions with the argument that their actions are surgical strikes aimed at preventing the Lebanon based pro-Palestinian group Hezbollah from receiving missile shipments from Iran, who is the ultimate target of the Israeli government, because they will eventually be used against Israel.
The problem with this argument is that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy given Israeli actions. And the President must resist all attempts by the Israelis to draw us into their war plans because we just can’t stand another war in the Mid-East in terms of blood, treasure or the long term prospects for peace. It ought to be clear that the President of the United States needs to be level-headed and thoughtful about the consequences of military action.
The military might at a President’s disposal as Commander-In-Chief of the greatest fighting forces in the history of the world, can create feelings of omnipotence. Especially when military power is augmented by vast intelligence networks, funded with billions of dollars annually, and is capable of conducting spy operations all over the world. It could even make a US President believe that he has the power to determine the course of history through the use of covert actions and the outright projection of military power.
One need only look at the history of contrived events that have justified the US going to war based on bogus claims in order to find adequate reasons for skepticism in the present charges of chemical warfare in Syria. Looking back to the war that many historians feel marked the beginning of America’s foray into empire building, the Spanish American War; it was the suspicious sinking of the Maine in a Cuban harbor that supplied the justification for a war with Spain that resulted in far flung Spanish colonial possessions in the Atlantic and Pacific coming under US control: Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
Americans were persuaded to support a war in Vietnam because of a purported attack on an American vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin off the course of North Vietnam. We have subsequently learned that it was a bogus charge. And the invasion of Iraq was justified by the claim that Iraqi leader Sadam Hussein was hording “weapons of mass destruction” such as weaponized germs, poison gasses, and most of all nuclear weapons. That claim also proved to be untrue, but it will still cost us trillions of dollars, nearly 5000 thousand American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.
This sordid history is reason enough for us to view the increasingly hysterical calls for an aggressive American policy in Syria with a jaundiced eye, especially based on such spurious evidence. For instance one distinguished member of the independent commission investigating the charges, Carla Del Ponte, says she has evidence that it was the opposition who used Sarin gas. As a former Swiss Attorney General and prosecutor with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, Ms. Del Ponte is eminently qualified to conduct this type of investigation.
Given this possibility, along with the Russian and Chinese denunciation of the Israeli attacks on Syria and the US justification and support for them, it’s a safe bet that the US will not get UN backing for sanctions against the Syrian government. Although John Kerry is planning a mission to Moscow, the Russians have already made their position clear. Without specifically naming the America government, although it is pretty clear at whom Alexander Lukashevich’s remarks were intended.
Speaking on behalf of the Russian foreign ministry regarding Syria, he noted “signs that world public opinion is being prepared for possible military intervention. “ I think he is right, because I see the same signs; their frequency and vehemence are growing as I write. Now Democrats are joining Republicans in calling for direct American military intervention in Syria, and they are citing the Sarin gas claim as the raison d’etre. Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, is calling for the US taking out the Syrian air force while it is on the ground with surface to air missiles.
And longtime diplomat and New Mexico Governor Richardson appeared somewhat trance like as he repeated the growing mantra for American military intervention in the Syrian crisis. And all of them join in religiously, almost speaking in unison, chanting “but no boots on the ground!” In the minds of these mighty whiteys it’s all going to be a neat sanitized affair waged from the air.
Although I was in the Air Force, I agree with that old army man Colin Powell, who says the fly boys always promise more than they deliver in these kinds of civil wars. And the situation could get very messy. If these jokers manage to push Barack into yet another war we’ll see. In the meantime it is incumbent for all thoughtful Americans to let the President know, by letter, telegram and phone that we wish to study war no more!
The Ravages of War in Syria
Will Giving These Guys More Guns Make Things Better?
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
May 4, 2013