Saturday, August 31, 2013

Obama's wise move on Syria attack

President Obama made a wise decision to involve Congress in the decision about attacking Syria.   He made the case for a response to Syria's use of chemical weapons and clarified that it would be a short-term, limited attack.

Then here is the part that I think is a wise move:
"But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I'm also mindful that I'm the President of the world's oldest constitutional democracy. I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I've made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress."
Promising to provide "every member with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America's national security," he then said:
"Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. . . .

"Here's my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What's the purpose of the international system that we've built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?
"Make no mistake -- this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won't enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide? . . . 

"We all know there are no easy options. But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate. . . . our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together."
I don't know if he had planned to do this all along, or whether it is a response to those who have criticized him for not doing so.   But it is a wise move.   

What if Congress says no?  The no votes will come from more than one direction.   Some liberals, yes;  but hawks John McCain and Lindsey Graham have already said they will vote no, because it doesn't go far enough.   They want us to go in and oust Assad.   It would be good to have Congress rebuke that view, as well as support the president's plan.


Friday, August 30, 2013

War drums #2

Now that I vented my dislike of Donald Rumsfeld for his hypocrisy in saying we have no justification for a military strike on Syria, let me say that I tend to agree with those who oppose attacking Syria.    

At least not without backing from at least two of the following:  (1) the U.N., (2) the U. S. Congress, (3) the Arab League, (4) NATO, or (5) the British government.  At this point none of the above has given approval.

Yes, use of chemical weapons is despicable.    Yes, there need to be consequences that say the world will not tolerate such.

But, if our government has actual proof -- as opposed to conjecture -- that the Assad regime was the one who used chemicals, we have not been given any evidence.

The next big question is:   what would it accomplish, other than symbolic?    Might Assad simply retaliate by increasing the use of chemicals to show us we can't dictate to him?   Might Hezbollah step up its terrorist attacks on us and our allies in the Middle East?   Would Iran take up the cause and further complicate our attempt to rein in their nuclear program?  And what would we do then?

In short, what are the possible consequences weighted against the possible benefits?  At this point, I would keep trying for support from any and all of the above.   Just as I write this, the British parliament has voted down support for Prime Minister David Cameron's non-binding request to join the U.S. in military strikes.   The Arab League is said to be opposed.  There is strong opposition in our own Congress (but also strong support).   NATO has not taken a position.   It's assumed the both Russia and China would veto any proposal to the U.N. Security Council.

So where does this leave us?   Go-alone-cowboy is Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush style, not Obama.  But can he justify not acting in face of the humanitarian crisis?    He will be criticized politically no matter which choice he makes.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

War drums

There are valid arguments on both sides of our (probable) military intervention in Syria.  I can easily agree with both sides, which makes it difficult to decide -- as it must be for the president.

One person voices the 'don't do it' argument by saying:   (1)  No national interest has been demonstrated;  (2)  No other justification has been demonstrated;  and (3) It's "mindless" to tell Syria what we intend to do before we do it.

So, whom do we thank for this wisdom?   None other than Donald Rumsfeld, one of the prime architects of our invasion of Iraq based on: (1) no national interest on our part (except oil);  (2) trumped up, false "justification" (weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist);  and (3)  Our preparation for actual troop invasion (not just some bomb attacks) was the big news for months before it happened.

Do we dare to think Rumsfeld learned something from what he and Cheney put our country through?   Is he simply passing on his hard-earned wisdom?

Somehow, I don't think so.   No.  This has hubris and arrogance (two of his trademark qualities) written all over it.


Seriously . . . it's time for him to go

Televangelist Pat Robertson has amused us for years with his nutty attributions of natural disasters and terrorists attacks to God's anger for our nation's sinful ways.   I've come to regard him as a dottering old fool.

But now he's spewing out dangerous lies.   On his PTL (for Praise the Lord) television show, he answered a question from a listener about transmission of AIDS.  She had given a man a ride to church and later found out he is HIV positive, and she was incensed that he hadn't old her.

Robertson told her that the man couldn't tell her because it's against the law to talk about having AIDS.
 "There are laws now... I think the homosexual community has put these draconian laws on the books that prohibit people from discussing this particular affliction. . . .  You can tell somebody you had a heart attack, you can tell them they’ve got high blood pressure, but you can't tell anybody you've got AIDS."
It gets worse. 
“You know what they do in San Francisco? Some in the gay community there, they want to get people. So if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger. . . .  Really. It’s that kind of vicious stuff, which would be the equivalent of murder.” 
The misinformation and utter lies were beyond the pale -- and apt to whip up homophobic violence among the ignorant and bigoted.

Please take him off the air before he does more harm.


Bill O'Reilly's inadvertant expose

Bill O'Reilly inadvertantly exposed Republicans' snub of the events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.    He angrily insisted that "no conservative or Republican was invited."

Well, it turns out that was simply not true.  Both former presidents Bush were invited but declined for reasons of health.   Every member of congress was invited.  Prominent Republicans had better things to do:  John Boehner had a meeting with congressional colleagues (obviously with knowledge of the schedule conflict).  Eric Cantor's snub was even more blatant:  He had a meeting with oil lobbyists to attend.

Thanks to O'Reilly's angry, false accusations, news hounds sought out the truth -- and thus exposed the obvious snub of a group the Republicans claim they want to attract into their tent.

The truth will out -- thanks to loud-mouth Bill.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Syria: no good options

It looks like we are in a countdown to cruise missile strikes on strategic targets in Syria.   But Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst who drew up the plans months ago, has serious misgivings about carrying them out. 
"Tactical actions in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counterproductive. . . . I never intended my analysis of a cruise missile strike option to be advocacy even though some people took it as that. . . .  

"I made it clear that this is a low cost option, but the broader issue is that low cost options don't do any good unless they are tied to strategic priorities and objectives. . . .  Any ship officer can launch 30 or 40 Tomahawks. It's not difficult. The difficulty is explaining to strategic planners how this advances U.S. interests."
President Obama and his advisers have been debating this at great length.   They are not naive.   I'm sure they're examined this argument from every conceivable direction.   They know the risks.

Add to that the fact that at least one poll showed less than 10% of Americans support military action in Syria.  The problem is that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military against its own people cannot be ignored by a humane world.  Ideally the U.N. should respond, but that's not likely to happen.

So where is the good option?   What if we blast them with missiles and it doesn't change anything?   What then?