Why are wingnuts cheering an Iranian diplomatic victory?

The vote in Parliament against war with Syria is a diplomatic victory for Iran and a diplomatic defeat for the U.S. How come the flag-waving party is so damned cheerful about it?

I have absolutely no clue about what the U.S. should, or shouldn’t, do about Syria. Since I’ve seen no coherent story about how an intervention will make things better, I’m inclined to be against one, but since I’ve also seen no coherent story about any other way to keep the Iranian client regime in Damsascus from continuing to slaughter its people, merely being against intervention doesn’t seem, by itself, like an adequate position.

From the perspective of a British M.P., the proposition “Let’s follow the U.S. into another optional war in the Middle East” must have seemed pretty damned resistable. Still, why the Coalition couldn’t muster a majority – or whether Cameron was actually happy with the result – and why its failure to do so doesn’t call for a resignation or a dissolution, is something I’d like to hear about from an expert on UK politics.

All that said, the vote was a clear victory for the Assad gang and its sponsors in Teheran and Moscow. That makes the glee with which the news is being greeted by segments of the right-wing media fairly hard to take.

I suppose I should be glad to learn that there’s a country Donald Rumsfeld doesn’t want to invade, even after its government has not merely acquired WMD but actually made use of them in combat. But the timing of his comments – just before the Commons vote – meant that he was helping to bring about an Iranian diplomatic victory and a U.S. diplomatic defeat. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I seem to remember a period where that sort of behavior by a former Secretary of Defense would have been counted – especially by conservatives – as utterly out of bounds.

No doubt the Iranian Republican Guard and George Galloway were grateful for Rummy’s support. So was Vladimir Putin. And, as I said up front, for all I know he’s right on the substance, even aside from the fact that an enthusiast for torture might not be expected to be excessively fastidious about poison gas. But you’d think that a party which so completely wraps itself in the flag might be a little bit less cheerful about the success of the country’s bitter enemies.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

64 thoughts on “Why are wingnuts cheering an Iranian diplomatic victory?”

  1. I don’t know which wingnuts you’re referring to, but nothing could top the neocons handing Iran its greatest victory ever with the Iraq invasion.

    1. And Mark, ISTR a certain ‘expert’ in ‘public policy’ who got the Iraq War question wrong.

      I’m not saying *who*, but I will say that *everybody who got that wrong* should kindly STFU while the adult talk about this.

          1. My argument? If you automatically dismiss the arguments of anyone who has ever been wrong on a major issue, you’ll end up listening to no one and you should probably shoot yourself to make sure that you don’t take your own advice, either.

  2. I think its been made harder since I learned about the process in school but I think the government has to lose either a money bill (appropriations in US parlance) or an actual motion of no confidence. Also, my memory is that even under the previous rules the government had to lose a whipped vote or party line vote and my assumption based on the news coverage is that this was a free vote.

    Best I can do from memory. Hopefully there’s somebody out there with the knowledge that’s willing to educate us.

      1. Wow! That means the Tories really did need Labour to pass the motion. Do you know where to find the vote tally? I looked on the Guardian and BBC websites but couldn’t find it. It sounds like they lost many LibDem backbenchers and more than one or two of their own. I wonder if this has implications for the a leadership change in the LibDems? Do you know if the LibDem leadership also whipped their vote?

        1. From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10275158/Syria-crisis-No-to-war-blow-to-Cameron.html

          ” The motion backing the use of force “if necessary” was rejected by 285 votes to 272, a majority of 13 votes. ”

          From: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/pensions/10276925/Syria-David-Cameron-humiliated-by-party-rebellion.html

          “After being ordered to rush back from summer recess, 30 Tory MPs voted against the principle of a strike on Syria.

          A further 31 Conservatives abstained, leading to a major government defeat. “

          1. So where does this leave Cameron? Are we likely to see fireworks at the next party conference?

          2. Mitch Guthman, yes there will be fireworks; no, he is in no immediate danger of losing a challenge to his leadership. Because the alternative (David Davies) is as divisive as he is. This could change quite quickly if he develops a habit of dropping the ball like this.

  3. A minor point, but please do not abet the application of “Weapon of Mass Destruction” to chemical weapons. I am old enough to remember when this term was applied only to what it
    actually describes — nuclear weapons — and its extension, whether in law or common use, has been nothing but a source of (often deliberate) confusion.

    1. It’s actually not so minor a point. To paraphrase an obscure British author, control the language and you control the people. Of course, the perversion of the WMD phrase pales beside the exquisitely fluid definition of “terrorism”, but both serve the same purpose – to provide a fig leaf for an unjustifiable, but highly profitable (for some), perpetual war.

    2. Readily conceding your point on chemical weapons, biological weapons can absolutely be considered WMD.

  4. I really don’t see why I or any other American is required to root for our diplomats to “win” situations where the US is clearly acting as a bellicose and imperialist power. Innocent Syrians are going to die if we attack, and there’s no reason to take sides in a Syrian civil war. As for chemical weapons, that is a matter for the UN, which has the power to either enforce or not enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention. I certainly wouldn’t want to endorse a position that would permit the US to be attacked without a Security Council resolution for its deliberate and repeated violations of the Convention Against Torture.

    I accept an obligation to root for American servicemembers in an actual shooting war. Whether I agree or not, I don’t want our people killed. But in diplomacy. I hope we suffer humiliation– maybe a few humiliations and we might finely start behaving as a country that doesn’t feel it has the right to dominate the world and murder foreigners.

    According to Paul Waldman of the Center for American Progress, we’ve averaged a war every 2 1/2 years for the last 40 years. When we say we are reluctant about warfare, we are lying. We are some of the most murderous people on earth (or at least our government is).

    1. I really don’t see why I or any other American is required to root for our diplomats to “win” situations where the US is clearly acting as a bellicose and imperialist power.

      You aren’t but this is another case of assuming something on the part of the original poster that isn’t there. Mark didn’t ask why *you* are happy at lowering the prospects of a strike against Syria. He’s asking why a very specific, non-Dilan Esper, set of people are happy about it given their previously expressed opinions on a selection of issues that indicate a very strong preference in similar situations for bombing Middle Eastern countries, particularly their hatred of Iran.

      1. No. Let me quote Mark’s headline to the original post: “Why are wingnuts cheering an Iranian diplomatic victory?”

        “…but since I’ve also seen no coherent story about any other way to keep the Iranian client regime in Damsascus from continuing to slaughter its people, merely being against intervention doesn’t seem, by itself, like an adequate position.”

        Note that the US government itself has said that this was to ‘send a message’, and not go overthrow the Assad regime. Mark’s side (the same neocons who supported the Iraq War) doesn’t have an actual plan to stop the slaughter, and by now is openly admitting it. They just want to start a war.

        “All that said, the vote was a clear victory for the Assad gang and its sponsors in Teheran and Moscow. That makes the glee with which the news is being greeted by segments of the right-wing media fairly hard to take. “

        1. Point me to where Mark said that the vote was a bad thing. It very definitely was a victory for Assad and the Iranians but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing to do. And Mark doesn’t say that it was.

          As usual, a lot of people who read this blog are listening to the voices in their heads rather than reading what’s actually written. The posters here are highly capable of making factual observations without making any statement at all about the desirability of those facts. This seems to drive a bunch of people insane because they just have to have that final opinion and they’ll make it up if they have to.

          1. rather than a circular firing squad of people calling bs on each other, i think it would be helpful if dr. kleiman would read through the various threads of comments here and offer clarification where appropriate.

  5. Why shouldn’t our homegrown Taliban be happy to see a chance for greater hostilities with Teheran? Ronnie gave them TOW missiles and a cake, both paid for with drug money obtained from a secret government within the government operation in the White House basement.

    The GOP has long since gotten over any real attachment or loyalty to America; like the companies that own them, the GOP minions simply see the US as a flag of convenience and a pleasant place to operate so long as the natives can be kept in their place, thanks to the US Supreme Corp decisions enshrining money as the only political principle of note (and allowing an outright return to Jim Crow voting laws).

    Keeping this scam going and pretending to give a rip about America means that GOP needs monsters abroad the way a fish needs water; they are happy to hand Assad and Iran victories, because then they have a chance of selling “On to Teheran” in 2016, which will delight them as they get to reprise “Boy, that Carter, wasn’t he a wimp” for their 60-70-80 year old voting base.

  6. dr. kleiman,

    i think the problem here is that while this vote in parliament might, in some small way, represent a victory for assad it isn’t clear that an opposite result in parliament would have represented even a small defeat for assad. i offer this article from the european council on foreign relations highlighting the complexities of the situation– http://ecfr.eu/content/entry/commentary_eight_things_to_consider_before_intervening_in_syria
    i would also point to general dempsey’s declassified summary of available military options to senator levin (7/19)– http://www.levin.senate.gov/download/?id=f3dce1d1-a4ba-4ad1-a8d2-c47d943b1db6 — and his note to congressman engel (8/19)– http://democrats.foreignaffairs.house.gov/113/Letter_for_Rep_Engel_19_Aug_13.pdf as evidence that intervention is freighted with a multitude of pitfalls.

    just because the republican party has become the party of crazy does not mean that they are wrong in this instance, even if their opposition seems derived from the reflexive gainsaying of almost any obama administration policy rather than any well thought out concept of global politics or the appropriate limits of american military power.

  7. “That makes the glee with which the news is being greeted by segments of the right-wing media fairly hard to take.”

    Give me a freaking break! What makes it hard for YOU to take is that Obama is likely going to be embarrassed. Foreign policy is secondary to that in your hyper-partisan mind. If Obama getting his way meant Iran was going to benefit somehow, you’d be pleased as punch with the result.

    1. who are you responding to? from the quotation you seem to be responding to dr. kleiman but your statement seems to be an illogical condemnation of his position since the plain sense of his post was criticizing the vote BECAUSE it was handing iran a victory. i certainly have criticisms of dr. kleiman’s post (see the comment immediately preceding yours) but at least mine is based on an actual reading of the post.

      1. @ben–

        i apologize, now that i have had a chance to reread your comment with less haste i see that i missed the point of your comment. i regret the error.

        1. You were right the first time. It was an idiotic reply, though it becomes clear that you read neither Mark’s post nor Ben’s comment correctly on the first go round. Really, try reading it again and tell me where he’s criticizing the vote. I’ll wait because you’re going to be a while on that one.

          Let me state it very clearly: Mark was criticizing the wingnuts both for their usual mindless belief in the desirability to smash Iran and their specific forgetfulness about their usual beliefs when they have a chance to bash Obama. On the vote itself, he explicitly and clearly tells you his view in the very first sentence of the post. I’m not clear exactly how it is that so many of you missed it.

          1. mr. neal, what i was responding to in my initial comment above this thread were the following three statements which make dr. kleiman’s position something different from what you seem to be indicating–

            “. . .but since I’ve also seen no coherent story about any other way to keep the Iranian client regime in Damsascus from continuing to slaughter its people, merely being against intervention doesn’t seem, by itself, like an adequate position.”


            “All that said, the vote was a clear victory for the Assad gang and its sponsors in Teheran and Moscow.”


            “But you’d think that a party which so completely wraps itself in the flag might be a little bit less cheerful about the success of the country’s bitter enemies.”

          2. Absolutely none of which leads to your conclusion. Mark saying that the issue is complicated and that Assad is, in fact, backed by a bitter enemy of the U.S. does not mean that you ought to ignore the explicit conclusion he started his post with. You are just making shit up, in other words, lying about what he said.

          3. mr. neal, in my response to ben, above, i may have been drawing an overly stark distinction about what dr. kleiman said in his post in order to highlight what i initially thought was an absurdity in ben’s argument, but if you return to my initial comment at 3:26 am you will see that what i am challenging is the notion that the results of the vote represent either an unalloyed defeat for america or victory for assad. the article and letters i point to in my comment, to me, represent a powerful overview of the complexities and ambiguities in the situation. as much as i might enjoy dr. kleiman’s pillorying the hypocrisy of republicans about this i also find myself in opposition to the military actions that we seem bent on pursuing. if, as you say, i have misinterpreted dr. kleiman’s post based on my reading of the tone of the quotes i listed, i appear not to be alone in such an interpretation judging by some of the other comments.

          4. Mark obviously thinks that the vote was an unalloyed victory for Assad. In this I think he’s clearly correct: he and his Iranian backers are clearly better off if they don’t have to dodge US Air Force munitions on top of everything else. Frankly, how anyone can see this as not a clear victory for him baffles me. In what possible way is he better off if we do start lobbing missiles?

            Mark goes on to say that this was a diplomatic defeat for the U.S. Again, I’m not sure how you can deny this. You may not agree with the position the Obama administration has taken but they pretty clearly hoped that the British would be on board with any action. That Parliament voted against that is pretty much the definition of a diplomatic defeat. Just because you approve of it doesn’t mean that that’s not what happened.

            What Mark did not do in any way was to indicate whether or not he thinks we should start lobbing ordnance. He does explicitly say that he doesn’t know whether or not we should. You choose to ignore that explicit statement in favor of drawing inferences from the rest of what he writes. You do so without any actual evidence, so it says a lot about your priors but nothing much about Mark’s views.

            Everything else that you quote is Mark saying that this is a dismaying situation and that it is deeply unsatisfying to leave the Syrians stranded in the middle of a brutal civil war in which at least one side is using chemical weapons on the civilian populace. Again, I’m not sure how you could possibly argue with that. Unlike Mark, I will state categorically that I think active military intervention is a bad idea that I hope we avoid because I don’t see how anything we do leads to an improved situation. But I’m deeply unsatisfied with that answer. I think it’s a fucking shame. And I do find the set of people who view this only through the prism of whether or not the U.S. intervenes to be morally obtuse.

          5. mr. neal, you write that “You choose to ignore that explicit statement in favor of drawing inferences from the rest of what he writes. You do so without any actual evidence, so it says a lot about your priors but nothing much about Mark’s views.” if a person writes one thing and then goes on to write other things in the same piece which seem to contradict the first thing that is not ignoring the explicit statement, it is instead pointing out the contradiction and in pointing out those parts of the piece which seem to contradict the original explicit staement it is not doing so without evidence, it is instead using the evidence of the individual’s own words. i suppose it is possible that dr. kleiman did not intend for the things he wrote later in the post to seem to undercut his initial sentence but i can’t read his mind, i can only go by the evidence of his words which i have previously quoted. i have admitted the possibility that i and others have misinterpreted these words but the words are his, not mine. i have not made those words up, dr. kleiman wrote them and posted them along with that opening sentence.

            i have also agreed that the behavior of the republicans is hypocritical. but the position they take, despite being hypocritical coming from them, seems to me to be the correct position at this time. i would also say that if you are using “u.s.” to mean the obama administration then i would agree that the vote in parliament was a diplomatic defeat for the obama administration. i use the designation “u.s.” to mean the nation as a whole and i don’t think it is at all clear that the decision of the british parliament to reject immediate action is a defeat for our national interest.

          6. The problem is that your interpretation of what he says later relies upon things that are not there. Just because you fabricate an interpretation of his words doesn’t mean that I should take you seriously.

          7. mr. neal, i get that you don’t agree with my interpretation of dr. kleiman’s words. i certainly accept the possibility that my interpretation is wrong and in a thread above this one i have expressed that i would welcome a clarification from dr. kleiman. what i cannot accept is for you to blithely dismiss my interpretation as a “fabrication” or as “making s*** up” when i have pointed out the parts of dr. kleiman’s own words from his original post on which i base my interpretation and pointed back to them twice more. you are welcome to regard that evidence as insufficient or incorrectly interpreted but you are not welcome to regard it as fabricated. whether my interpretation is right or not that interpretation relies on exactly the words that are in his post. we can disagree about the meaning of dr. kleiman’s words but for you to imply that i am not working from his words to reach my interpretation, well . . . truly i cannot argue with logic like that.

  8. Indeed, the result of the parliamentary vote was based more an attempt by the irreconcieables on the right of the tory party to win political capital by inflicting a defeat on Cameron than any real opposition to a limited punitive intervention. Although the polls show minimal support for strikes, the opposition to them is broad but extremely shallow. If there was real strong feeling against airstrikes you would have seen far more Lib Dem rebels.

    Combine that with the opposition leader removing his support mere hours before the vote meaning that there was no real whipping operation in place.

    And of course over here it’s the glee from the left (again the party of the Iraq war) which is hard to take.

  9. Essentially, what Kleiman is saying is that those publicly opposing US action are giving aid and comfort to our enemies (Iran, Russia, etc.). That’s the kind of argument that should have disappeared forever with the Vietnam War. Non-intervention may well be a “victory” for Iran, but that’s not really clear and, in any event, that’s but one factor to consider and perhaps not near the top of the list.

    I don’t know Rumsfeld’s motivation for speaking when he did or why he took the position he did. I also don’t know why any intelligent person should pay any attention to what Rumsfeld says, and I’m pretty sure that members of Parliament in Britain didn’t pay any attention to him.

    1. Essentially, what Kleiman is saying is that those publicly opposing US action are giving aid and comfort to our enemies (Iran, Russia, etc.).

      This isn’t even close to what he is saying. Try again.

      1. Read the frikkin’ words which Mark wrote. Start with the title: ‘Why are wingnuts cheering an Iranian diplomatic victory?’

        1. Well, why are they? As I said to navarro, this clearly was an Iranian diplomatic victory. I think Parliament did the right thing but I can clearly see that that’s what happened. In this case, the costs of denying them that victory were too high to be worth paying. So I hope that we don’t pay them. So I’m not real happy with the idea of cheering what happened even if I agree with it. It highlights that every single choice we could make leaves us with a complete disaster on our hands.

          What Mark is pointing to, though, is the fact that a large segment of the wingnuts really are celebrating this outcome. That flies in the face not only of the catastrophe taking place but contradicts several levels of their loudly proclaimed beliefs.

  10. Simple answer to a pretty silly question:

    Just like many liberals, the wingnuts don’t want to get into another middle eastern war. And it’s a blow to Obama, of course.

    I’m cheering Parliament this morning, and I’m no wingnut.

    Mark, this is a really, really foolish post. Might I suggest that it stems from this:

    I have absolutely no clue about what the U.S. should, or shouldn’t, do about Syria

    1. “Just like many liberals, the wingnuts don’t want to get into another middle eastern war. And it’s a blow to Obama, of course.”

      IMHO, a real blow to Obama is for him to have this war, because it’s starting shooting with no clue as to what step #2 is. It would be the second worst own-goal of his career, maybe the third.

  11. As I understand the Obama administration’s plan, which is what the English parliament was voting whether to back, is to persuade a sociopath engaged in a life and death struggle to stop using chemical weapons by blowing up some buildings and killing some people about whom Assad cares nothing, whilst simultaneously proffering assurances that we mean him no harm and will do nothing to in any way disadvantage him in his war for his and his family’s very survival. And this will have what effect on a man whose regime has not only used chemical weapons on the civilian population but also apparently just napalm bombed a school filled with children?

    This is a silly plan. All we’re going to do is kill some plebs so that Obama can save face. The Assad family and the people around them care about one thing and one thing only: Their own personal survival. If you don’t threaten them personally, then the only thing that will be accomplished is to kill a bunch of plebs and talk about how the US has “sent a message”.

    As Corrado “Junior” Soprano once told his nephew, if you’re looking to make a move, “come heavy or don’t come at all”.

  12. First, Mark is entirely correct that the wingnut class is guilty of gross hypocrisy. At this point, we should have come to expect that but, even so, the source in this case takes this far beyond the “normal” level of hypocrisy that we have come to expect.

    That said, the President is in a tough position. Much of the left and center oppose any military action because of the delayed adverse reaction to the Iraq War lies of today’s hypocrites-in-chief. However, the following questions remain: (i) What sort of military action would be effective, (ii) what Syrian/Iranian counter-measures can we reasonably expect, and (iii) how far are we prepared to go if each step we take leads to counter-measures that invite or challenge us to take ever more expansive military actions. Further, of course, what actions should be coupled with explicit Congressional authorization.

    In a book by Max Shulman that I read many years ago, a WWII soldier on leave went to a series of movies all of which were entitled “Murder the Bastards!” Well, ten year or so ago, given the same situation, I would be hootin’ and hollarin’ “Murder the Bastards!” Maybe I’m just getting old and soft, but I’m not taking up that cry today.

    1. I agree that the president’s hasty words in laying down a red line put him in a bit of hot water, but I suggest that he should ignore this fact. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s no reason to go to war. Our credibility is not at stake. Everyone on the planet knows that we bomb pretty often.

      He is in the same place as the rest of us — trying to figure out, what is the right thing to do? We know it’s not “nothing,” but that’s about all.

      I still think we should guilt/browbeat/embarrass any moderate Muslim countries that we can find to take the responsibility. I don’t care if it’s hard, I don’t care if it takes a long time, and I think it would still be better than some half-a**ed bombing which won’t work anyway. Heck, maybe we should try to guilt Putin into doing something. What could it possibly hurt?

      1. Oh, and can we please remember, it is only the government of Iran that doesn’t like us. The people, miraculously, seem not to hate us. Let’s not change that unless we get a *much better reason.*

      2. One problem, I think, is that any method of responding to the crisis that requires money other than military action would require Congress to pass appropriations. That isn’t going to happen. Obama can’t unilaterally send aid to the refugee camps. That’s a really screwed up governmental system but it’s what we have. He can spend money to drop bombs but nothing else.

        1. “Obama can’t unilaterally send aid to the refugee camps. ”

          He could. There’d be some way of BS-ing about it, but he could send aid (‘defensive force logistical support’) and film people getting it. Then dare Congress to do something about it.

          It’d be smaller than it should be, much smaller, but he could do something, which might be extensible.

    2. I really can’t agree. Even by wing-nut standards, this is a very stupid plan. We are announcing, in advance, that our air strikes will be carefully calibrated to not hurt the enemy and will be specifically designed not to aid the rebels seeking to defeat Assad gang, even though our stated desire is the removal of that regime.

      I think that even GW Bush would understand that a slap on the wrist that leaves Assad and those close to him untouched and with the regimes military capabilities undiminished does nothing to punish previous uses of chemical weapons, does nothing to deter the use of such weapons in the future and actually makes the United States look weak and silly.

      1. Not quite. It should be possible to calibrate a strike such that it sends the message, “if you continue to kill civilians with conventional weapons (e.g. chemical reactions that kill by exploding) we won’t intervene. However, if you kill by chemical reactions that poison tissue we will make it expensive for you to do so. Therefore, it would be rational for you to forbear further use of chemical poisons and devote your efforts to chemical explosions.”

        1. One further complication–what constitutes chemical weapons. I believe that there is now evidence that in the past 48 hours or so there was a napalm or phosphorus attack on civilians. Is that a use of a chemical weapon (or, if your prefer, a WMD) or do only Sarin, mustard gas, and the like count? I honestly don’t know what the “right” answer to this question is.

          And the basic problem remains: Even in this colloquy among fairly like-minded individuals (ok,contentious like-minded individuals) there is no consensus as to what answers to give to the four questions that I posed at the top of the discussion. While Mark has not weighed in, I think that he is uncertain as to the answers to these questions.

          1. Can’t possible be a war crime. Nothing more wholesome and all-American than the smell of burning napalm in the morning.

            On a non-snark basis, yes, both of these attacks clearly constitute war crimes. Phosphorus is a prohibited weapon, even if the status of napalm remains ambiguous because of it popularity with Americans. In any case, one would think that napalm bombing a school filled with innocent children is pretty much the archetypical war crime. This particular atrocity doesn’t seem to be covered by Obama “red line,” so it doesn’t present a problem for American “credibility,” so it’s apparently not part of the discussion about how to extricate this country from Obama’s intemperate statements.

            You know, Junior Soprano might not be the kind of guy who really equipped for, say, a fancy Georgetown soirée, but I think he’s got a pretty good grasp of reality. Half-measures under these circumstances will just make Obama look foolish and hyper-legalistic—especially if it looks like Assad’s response is simply to technically comply with Obama’s finely crafted demands by using napalm on civilians instead of mustard gas.

        2. Well, you might think that it’s possible to design such a response that would constrain a sociopath fighting for his life and that of his family but the rest of us, even the crazy neocons, have serious doubts.

          I mention this because the assumption that such finely crafted diplomacy is applicable to our present situation is partly how we got in this mess in first place. Obama didn’t want to say there were absolutely, positively no circumstances under which he’d get involved so instead he drew a line in the sand (use of chemical or biological weapons) that he felt confident Assad wouldn’t cross. Thereupon, Assad illogically and, one would have thought, imprudently tested Obama’s resolve by making a small scale attack.

          Obama’s response was not to bomb Syria round the clock until Assad and his closest supporters were dead. No. Instead, He made another speech in which he really, really, double-dared Assad to make another chemical attack; which it now seems clear (to everybody who ins’t Ron Paul) that Assad has done.

          At the same time, I believe there are many people such as myself who are unwilling to allow Assad to remain in control because we can imagine the nature of the reprisals he has in planned if he wins this civil war. The human costs are unimaginable. The only thing likely to prevent such a tragedy is the death of Assad himself, along with a large number of regime insiders, which might then be followed by a negotiated settlement in which the survivors of the regime could live out their remaining years in Moscow.

          Apparently, however, the strategy is for Obama to keep drawing lines in the sand in the hope that eventually Assad will finally terrorize and brutalize the population into laying down their arms and submitting to their fate. Yet, as I say, Obama’s already drawn lines in the sand which Assad now has twice crossed with impunity. It seems to me that, at this point, a solution that doesn’t involve sending Vladimir Putin the head of Bashar al Assad in a box is no solution at all.

    3. “However, the following questions remain”

      Which is really, really bad. A lot of people are pointing out that the ‘plan’ is:

      Step 1: Shoot missiles, drop bombs.
      Step 2: ???????????????
      Step 3: ???????????????

      It’s worse than the Underpants Gnomes’ plan.

  13. What’s most pathetic about this already deeply pathetic post is that it’s mostly LIBERAL blogger types cheering the UK vote. (See Yglesias et al.) Or, perhaps Kleiman meant “left wingnuts?”

  14. J. Michael Neal says:

    “My argument? If you automatically dismiss the arguments of anyone who has ever been wrong on a major issue, you’ll end up listening to no one and you should probably shoot yourself to make sure that you don’t take your own advice, either.”

    It’s not ‘any’ issue, it’s somebody who was wrong on the Iaq War, and wrong for the same reasons.

    1. Then deal with his arguments. (The actual ones, not the ones you imagine.) Dismissing him just because he was wrong on the Iraq War is idiotic. Sure, severely discounting the arguments of someone like Bill Kristol, who has been wrong over and over again on the same basic issue, is one thing. Pointing to a single instance of being wrong as reason to dismiss someone means that you would never listen to anyone, including yourself.

      So, I would appreciate it if you followed your own advice and go away.

  15. now that obama has asked for congress to authorize the use of military force we’ll get a chance to see a few things–

    how deep republican hypocrisy runs

    whether the hypocritical right and the antiwar left can come together long enough to reject the authorization

    whether obama will hold off if authorization is denied

    1. I’m not sure that this vote will be any kind of exposé how the Republicans abandon their long held policies just to defeat Obama. While the general idea of bombing Syria has long held considerable appeal for them, there are simply no Republicans who are already strongly in favor of the plan Obama has actually outlined. It is a plan that seems carefully crafted to satisfy the need to “punish” the Assad regime for crossing Obama’s “red line” yet have utterly no appeal whatsoever to either conservatives or humanitarian interventionists.

      Obama and his designated leakers have already said that will do nothing to dislodge Assad from power and, indeed, we will be careful not to actually hurt the enemy. I cannot agree that it would be hypocritical would even the most hawkish hawk to refuse to support such a phony war. A war that would be waged not in the national interest but simply to save Obama’s face. More likely, it will expose the hypocrisy of many Democrats who will feel compelled to vote their party’s line

      1. As has been pointed out by others, the right has been quick to turn against policies, if Obama supports them. So that in and of itself is not surprising, nor notable.

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