4 Takeaways from Obama's Speech on Syria

On September 10, 2013, President Obama addressed the nation to explain why he favors a U.S. military strike in Syria. Reason TV's Nick Gillespie offered four takeaways from Obama's speech.

Approximately 1.30.

Shot and edited by Jim Epstein with help from Anthony Fisher.

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  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    Did you just wake up and film this, Nick?

    Anyway, point #4 is a good one: it is highly hypocritical for Team OBama to cite American exceptionalism.

    But the rationalization has always been the same: it's okay when our Team does it. We have the right Top Men and we should trust them.

  • Tony||

    Obama has always been about American exceptionalism and he doesn't really have another choice as president.

    The only difference from the past is Obama made a damn convincing case for the idea.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    Please explain what America's interest is in Syria and how it relates to national security.

    Obama explicitly said that he, in his infinite, monarchical wisdom, decided that US security required a strike on Syria.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Please explain what America's interest is in Syria and how it relates to national security.

    Don't encourage it! Ixnay!

  • Ann N||

    ^^^ reminds me of nomad telling you to not shoot off goliaths helmet.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    Please explain what America's interest is in Syria and how it relates to national security.

    Obama explicitly said that he, in his infinite, monarchical wisdom, decided that US security required a strike on Syria.

  • Tony||

    His argument is that a zero-tolerance approach to chemical weapons respects international law and furthers national security goals. Agree with the distinction for chemical weapons in law or not, that was policy negotiated and ratified by the world community. National security, he argues, is implicated by way of the domino effect. Allow chemical weapons use to go unpunished, and it sets precedent for others who would use them.

    You forget the eternal truth as discovered by Plato: a philosopher king is the best possible form of government. Regular elections are simply a bow to the reality that kings aren't always philosophers.

  • Sudden||

    You forget the eternal truth as discovered by Plato: a philosopher king is the best possible form of government. Regular elections are simply a bow to the reality that kings aren't always philosophers.

    Are you now considering Obama a philosopher king? I know you're ride or die with TEAM BLUE and all that, but jebus man, that is a caricature that can't actually be true, can it?!??

  • Tony||

    He's a stark reminder that who we elect as president matters in this country with respect to the powers legally bestowed on the president. Obama is far more a philosopher than Bush, and that, unfortunately, is a best-case choice given the further intellectual degradation of the Republican party.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Obama is far more a philosopher than Bush

    An outhouse philosopher, maybe.

  • Jeff Dermer||

    Lol. Stand-up Philosopher, maybe.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl4VD8uvgec

    As someone says below, Syria isn't a signatory so the whole international law thing goes away.

    This is all classic wag-the-dog only with a complete and utter incompetent behind the wheel. Nothing personal to Pres Zero, every failing regime does this stuff, from Robispierre to Clinton. The poor are gettin' screwed? Attack someone. We've always been at war with Eastasia.

  • Bill||

    Let me be clear, some would argue that: he seems to have kept many of Bush's worst policies so I see why you think he is completely different.

  • ||

    "Obama is far more a philosopher than Bush"

    Which part? His made up book fairy tales? His ruminations on...let's see, not sure he has any real ideals at this point. What 'philosophy' does you leader possess exactly that's special? In you mind, perhaps, he's a great orator but I would invite you to watch Cicero and Churchill and then come back to me.

    At least Bush wasn't bitch-slapped in front of the whole world like Kerry-Obama have been. Bush stuck to his guns - excuse the pun - and never dithered.

    Obama is the epitome of leftist emptiness. Playing 'on the other hand' is not an example of intellectualism, Tony.

  • ||

    "further intellectual degradation of the Republican party."

    I'm sorry (/knocks telephone receiver on table) but I must be missing something. WHO is in power? I believe it's the Democrat party of the United States.

    Are you seriously suggesting the 'intellectualism' of this party is grand?

    There is no, "there, there" with this party. It's just a 'let's wing it and see what the polls show' philosophy hinged on the notion that Obama believes he can sway a nation in his favor using less facts and reason and more emotional appeals.

    Guess what? He lost on that gamble.

    I know. Bush.

  • Irish||

    National security, he argues, is implicated by way of the domino effect. Allow chemical weapons use to go unpunished, and it sets precedent for others who would use them.

    The domino effect? Tony, you're now using the exact same argument that they used to get us into Vietnam. Do you not see how ludicrous that is?

  • Tony||

    Far more important than the argument is the outcome. The argument might be sound. But he obviously has no desire or political motive to start another Vietnam or Iraq.

    I agree that the distinction between so-called conventional and unconventional weapons is to a degree artificial, making intervention, at best, a matter of enforcing possibly obsolete international law.

  • Ghetto Slovak Goatherder||

  • Sudden||

    Syria is not a signatory to one of the major treaties (which binds only signatories), and not a single such treaty has any enforcement mechanism other than ICC trial. Certainly, none calls for a military response, and further still, none empowers the USA to be the judge, jury, and executioner of such a response.

  • Marshall Gill||

    It is cute how you guys respond to it as if it were human.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    The social contract binds them.

  • grey||

    That can't be right, didn't Obama say he was judge, jury, and executioner?

  • Loki||

  • Almanian!||

    Far more important than the argument is the outcome

    Yes. The ends always justify the means for you Proggies.

    The ends being whatever YOU want, of course - not what anyone ELSE wants.

    Go fuck yourself and your God Emperor.

  • Tony||

    Wash the fingerpaints off and go back to your desk.

  • T0NY||

    My name's Tony. I iz sooper dooper smartz cuz my mommie sez so! any1 who disagreez wit me iz teh stoopid. Becuz I iz so awesum and sooper intelijint. Becuz mommiy sez so! So THER!!!11!!!

  • ||

    Far more important than the argument is the outcome.

    That is awesome. That's the best excuse I've ever heard for someone's favorite politician making a ridiculous argument: it's leading to outcomes I like, so who cares if it's based on a stupid premise?

    Avoiding the start of another Vietnam or Iraq is a pretty low standard of excellence. I assume, then, that you're all for pre-emtive military adventurism to prevent vague, possible future badness, as long as it doesn't immediately look like Vietnam or Iraq? It sounds like something taken right out of the Bush Doctrine playbook, except of somewhat more limited scope than Bush's plays.

  • grey||

    + 1 Brian for a cogent explanation

  • Pulseguy||

    I think you have to ask yourself Tony. If this were Bush arguing for war in Syria, same arguments, would you be all for it? Or, would you be calling him a nutcase?

    Bush went to war in Iraq with the support of Congress, most Americans, and 38 countries. The UN were okay to go to war, but wanted to wait three weeks. Obama has no support and spent the last two weeks stumping for war. You support him. Did you support the war in Iraq?

  • ||

    Yeah, I forgot to point that out.

    Runs right in line with Nick's 4th (excellent I might add) point: The hypocrisy of the left...it's endless.

    They mocked the Domino theory and here they are using it.

    Tony's vapidness knows no boundaries.

  • ||

    Tony's vapidness knows no boundaries.

    He also forgets that, when Vietnam started, Vietnam didn't look like Vietnam.

    He's afraid of slippery slopes, presidents, and escalation, when it comes to chemical weapons. We got started in Vietnam sending military advisers. But Obama says he doesn't want to do a Vietnam. So, no need to worry.

    It's so vapid and pointless at that. He doesn't want to start another Vietnam? Great. I hope he's also against financial crises, plagues, and nuclear accidents.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    National security, he argues, is implicated by way of the domino effect. Allow chemical weapons use to go unpunished, and it sets precedent for others who would use them

    Ah yes, the domino effect. God knows that's served our foreign policy well in the last 50 years.

    It's total bullshit. One, chemical weapons are not and never have been as effective as conventional weapons. We are not going to see more and more instance of their usage if we fail to lob a few missiles into Syria.

    Two, 'national security interests' is a meaningless phrase. Assad using chemical weapons has not made the US unsafe. What country would use chemical weapons on the United States? It's madness.

    You forget the eternal truth as discovered by Plato: a philosopher king is the best possible form of government. Regular elections are simply a bow to the reality that kings aren't always philosophers.

    You definitely must be a spoof because I've never seen the real Tony be that vapid and absurd.

  • Tony||

    I am in complete agreement that guns should be treated with the same level of contempt that chemical and other so-called unconventional weapons are. Let's start with the streets of the United States in our newfound appreciation of body count over a fetish of killing devices that look a certain way.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Don't start with the streets. Start with the government.

    You know which government in the world has the biggest stockpile of those eeeeeeeeevil chemical weapons, and the biggest stockpile of guns? Hint: not Syria.

  • Dweebston||

    Let's start with the streets of the United States

    Let's do. Perhaps you could prevail on Barack to lob a few missiles into Chicago. He seems rather fetishistic over them.

  • Bill||

    Let's do start with the streets. Cars kill many, many more people than guns. Maybe there should be a 10 day waiting period for them?

  • Tony||

    Libertarians for gun control and public transport. Today is a great day.

  • ||

    Libertarians for gun control and public transport. Today is a great day.

    Or, against the highway program. I mean, if slowing the adoption of cars saves just one child's life, doesn't that mean we shouldn't have massive government programs building highways? Body count trumping everything else, after all?

  • Contrarian P||

    Except nobody but you said they're for either, and you sure are no libertarian. The only thing great about today is the political figures you support have been once again shown to be empty suits and the silliness of your arguments have for about the thousandth time been laid bare.

  • wadair||

    Public transportation is to personal transportation as mainframe computing is to personal computing.

    Do you really want to set the economy back 100 years by forcing individuals to move according to predefined and centrally controlled schedules, patterns and routes?

    Mainframes are probably more energy efficient than large numbers of personal computers, but do you really want to give yours up? And what about smart phones?

    Personal transportation is an innovation. Why go back?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    gree with the distinction for chemical weapons in law or not, that was policy negotiated and ratified by the world community.

    Then let the goddam world community enforce it.

  • Bam!||

    Agree with the distinction for chemical weapons in law or not, that was policy negotiated and ratified by the world community.

    No it wasn't. There is no "world community" that imposes laws all nations. The Chemical Weapons Convention is an agreement among nations. Syria didn't sign and ratify. Where does any other nation find the authority to dictate to Syria what weapons it can and cannot have?

  • John C. Randolph||

    You forget the eternal truth as discovered by Plato: a philosopher king is the best possible form of government.

    Bullshit. Plato was a philosopher who wanted people to obey him. The best possible form of government is self-government.

    -jcr

  • Tony||

    In the absence of an immortal line of philosopher kings, sure.

    But self-government, also known as democracy, never produces libertarian outcomes. So are you sure you prefer it?

  • Zeb||

    Democracy is majority rule, not self government. And I think you will find that a lot of libertarians are rather ambivalent about it. But some democracy (such as you get in a democratic republic) seems to be the least worst option. Autocracies tend to produce even less libertarian outcomes.

  • Jake W||

    Looks like everyone took into to Philosophy this Fall. Been seeing it enough lately.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Democracy is not self-government. It's mob government.

    I guess education isn't really necessary in your line of work, is it?

    -jcr

  • Zeb||

    I'm not going to assume I know Plato's motives. But to his credit, he did ultimately admit that the whole philosopher king thing was bound to fail. I read the Republic as more of an exercise in rationally describing human nature than an actual model for how a state should be run. I still don't get people who are actual Platonists who think he was largely right in his conclusions. But I am rather fond of Plato.

  • Square||

    I always read the Republic as being ironic - the ideal ruler (of a city-state, which is what Plato was thinking of, not an inter-state empire) - is a Philosopher King. This is impossible, however, since no true Philosopher would ever want to be king, and no effective king would ever have any use for philosophy. Thomas More makes the same point in Utopia as he is pondering whether to become Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, a decidedly unphilosophical king.

    The point, of course, is that the world is imperfect, and therefore government is, too. The bottom line with both More and Plato is: who in Sam Hell would ever want to live in these hellish cities they've invented?

    I don't think the intent is "let's vote for someone and then pretend that they're an Ideal King so we can live in Utopia." I think the intent is "the idea of Utopia is nice, but inherently tyrannical, and no one can actually dream up a perfect society that wouldn't be a nightmare for someone else."

  • Ballz||

    Plato was a fag.

  • Ballz||

    Not that there is anything wrong with that

  • ant1sthenes||

    His argument is that a zero-tolerance approach to chemical weapons respects international law and furthers national security goals.

    He wants to launch a war that it is illegal under international (and domestic, without Congress's authorization) law to stop attacks that, while terrible, are not illegal under international law, to foster respect for international law?

    Regular elections are simply a bow to the reality that kings aren't always philosophers.

    Silly me, I thought they were a bow to the reality that the exercise of power and authority is not legitimate without consent of the governed government has to get our consent to fuck us, and regularly ensuring that its officers have the support of the people is intended to work to that end.

    I hate that you're so convincing as a sock. It's easier to ignore shriek because he's just a brainless cretin.

  • Jerryskids||

    His argument is that a zero-tolerance approach to chemical weapons respects international law and furthers national security goals.

    He wants to launch a war that it is illegal under international (and domestic, without Congress's authorization) law to stop attacks that, while terrible, are not illegal under international law, to foster respect for international law?

    I'm no legal expert like the President, but I believe the international law he is referring to encompasses a provision for enforcement. That part of the international law he is asking us to respect calls for hauling Assad before the International Court of Justice in The Hague to stand trial for war crimes and/or violations of international law. Nowhere does it call for unilateral or even multilateral military action.

    What Obama is proposing smacks of a cop opening fire upon a fleeing shoplifter and justifying it by claiming A), that the shoplifter is a criminal and therefore deserves whatever he gets and B), he swears the shoplifter was making a furtive movement toward his waistband.

  • ||

    "[C]alls for hauling Assad before the International Court of Justice in The Hague..." would be pretty rich from an American president, given that no US Administration has ever recognized its authority.

  • ||

    WO, camel! Did Tony just suggest Obama is a philosopher king? WOW!

    The only things Plato and Obama share is their totalitarian impulses.

    And I find it exceptionally astonishing that you claim Obama was 'always for American exceptionalism' when all indicators (speech and action) point to the exact opposite. Furthermore, nice way to give your boy an out with the "he has no choice" bit.

    Real leaders (and ahem, thinkers) ALWAYS MAKE SURE THEY HAVE CHOICES.

    Loud enough for you?

  • ||

    Oh and...Tony!

    Psh.

  • anewrepublic||

    Ck-g-hROOOOORGHH!!! Agh....ack...sorry, I just threw up in my mouth. What??

  • Pulseguy||

    If it is international law, then why has no one else stepped up to the plate?

    But, you're ignoring a main point. What is the goal? Who are you punishing? Especially if eliminating Assad is not the goal? He is to be punished. By how, killing a few night watchmen, janitors, secretaries and the like?

    Obama has no objective here, other than to save his 'legacy', such as it is. But, he has ruined it by this action. Not even by the action, but by the call to war, echoed by Pelosi and other cheerleaders for O. No one thinks he is here to bring peace and goodwill to anyone, anywhere.

    He is happy to kill, provided he doesn't get his hands dirty. His Presidency is the equivalent of a drive-by shooting.

  • widget||

    Ayn Rand's favorite president was Gerald Ford.

  • Loki||

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!111!!!!!11!!

    Oh man, that's a good one... oh wait, you're actually serious. Uhm... wow... I just... wow.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    This is first time I've ever seen an American president and all his little people get led around on a leash by a foreigner.

    So many Presidents blunder into stupid wars, but Clown can't even get the blunder part right. Holy shit that's epic-bad.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Well, Stalin pulled some numbers on FDR towards the end of the war in Europe.

  • TheZeitgeist||

    FDR at Yalta was not a a hapless sucker, his was more a Weekend at Bernie's type situation. Obama is allegedly at full intellectual power. Yikes.

  • ||

    I think plenty of naiveté along with sympathetic leanings toward fellow socialist worker's hero Stalin played a very significant part.

  • Marshall Gill||

    You are way too generous. FDR wished he could be like Stalin. Look at the Yalta pictures. It looks like he wants to go down on Stalin.

    FDR, the most evil American to ever live.

  • Almanian!||

    Ahem - Andy Dick, anyone?

  • Marshall Gill||

    Point taken.

  • Ballz||

    "Weekend at Bernie's"

    hilarious! (In a "we got royally fucked" kind of way.)

  • PapayaSF||

    Stolen and adapted from elsewhere:

    Obama was on time for his speech today. That must have been because Putin recently cleaned his clock.

  • Archduke Trousersenthusiast||

    Happy 9/11
    (even tho the rest of the world writes the date as 11-9)!

    May your dreams be merry and bright.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    Bah humbug! *slurps greul*

  • ||

    9/11, the day America lost it's soul and the terrorists won.

  • Doctor Whom||

    (even tho the rest of the world writes the date as 11-9)

    I have to review a lot of correspondence and official documents from around the world, so I know that that isn't true.

  • Zeb||

    I've taken to always writing the month with words when I write a date to avoid that confusion.

  • ||

    Stupidity got us into this mess-why can't it get us out?
    -Will Rogers Obama's Foreign Policy

  • amelia||

    So glad it's not my job to watch presidential speeches. I can barely tolerate to watch 2 minutes of Obama speaking. Has there been a more supercilious president since the advent of television? He always looks like he's about to burst into laughter.

  • Oso Politico||

    2 minutes is more than I could take. Thanks for taking the bullets for me. Do you think that he is secretly laughing at us?

  • Almanian!||

    No, I think he's openly laughing at us.

  • XM||

    People fear treat chemical weapons for the same reason they fear nuclear radiation. It's unseen, can be spread easier, and you won't know right away if you've been infected. We assume that victims die long, painful deaths as they writhe on the ground spitting blood, foaming at the mouth, and shedding skin. Any areas hit with deadly gas would resemble one of those Russian ghost towns.

    I don't know if all of that is more fiction than fact, but it seems to me chemical weapons are more WMDs than (non nuclear) conventional weapons. An armed citizen could gun down a madman shooting people at a mall. What can I do if he released gas through the vent?

    I'm perfectly find with doing nothing. But I wouldn't necessarily oppose plans to drone strike facilities or rebels known to make or use chemical weapons. But we don't know who's doing what, and all Obama
    can say is "I can't tell you exactly what I want to do, but I can definitely say that it won't be like Iraq, so it's safe to act".

    If you want to commit, then make the case. Otherwise, do nothing.

  • XM||

    "perfectly fine"

  • ant1sthenes||

    What can I do if he released gas through the vent?

    Wear a gas mask and call Hazmat? Hell, it's not like there aren't plenty of entirely accidental things that can flood an area with poisonous gas. If it became a statistically valid threat, I imagine that the sort of people who carry guns would carry masks and chemical detectors too.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "but it seems to me chemical weapons are more WMDs than (non nuclear) conventional weapons"

    Do you consider napalm a conventional weapon?

  • Marshall Gill||

    As we proved without a shadow of doubt in WWII over Dresden and Tokyo, TNT is a WMD.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    The biggest takeaway from the whole Obama/Syria issue is that Obama needs to go to Amazon.com and order a copy of "Foreign Policy for Dummies".

    Ditto for Kerry.

  • ||

    This schmuck is such an amateur. The only think he is good at is getting elected. To be so easily flanked by Putin just goes to show how easy it is to run circles around this idiot.

  • triclops||

    Putin and Assad will Double extra promise that we got all the chemical weapons, and US democrats will declare victory and tell us this was philosopher-king's plan all along!

  • Pulseguy||

    Some NY Times writers are already spinning it that way.

    Assad will be shown loading some sinister looking canisters into a big Russian transport plane, they will be empty or will contain failed chemical weapon attempts, but his real chemical stores will be intact. Dems will cry victory, and it will be so annoying especially knowing that there isn't a ghost of a chance Putin will force his best ally in the ME to do anything.

  • DenverJay||

    I had an eloquent and persuasive argument showing that Plato was playing Devil's Advocate in The Republic, leading his listeners to the conclusion that a Noocracy can't work, not that he was actually advocating the system of philosopher kings that The City had. But the damn squirrels ate it. Bastards, I hope their nuts rot.

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