Obama and Romney Want Assad Gone, But Rebels Who Could Take His Place Are Worrying


Last night's presidential debate featured a revealing exchange regarding the situation in Syria.

The President was quick to point out that he was wary of intervention (full debate transcript here): 

… for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step. And we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping, that we're not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or our allies in the region.

Obama is right to be cautious about supporting the rebels in Syria. Although Assad's military is conducting atrocities it does not necessarily follow that his opponents are saints. Syrian rebels have conducted their own mass killings and abuses. Aside from their violence the Syrian rebels can be characterized by their diversity. The rebels include media-savvy pot field burning "moderates", Kurds, Al Qaeda elements, as well as the Free Syrian Army. Each has its own motivations and goals, not all of them conducive to the outcomes Obama and Romney would like.

Romney made sure to put the Syrian conflict in the context of Iran and Israel:

Secondly, Syria's an opportunity for us because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right now. Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea. It's the route for them to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon, which threatens, of course, our ally Israel. And so seeing Syria remove Assad is a very high priority for us. Number two, seeing a — a replacement government being responsible people is critical for us. And finally, we don't want to have military involvement there. We don't want to get drawn into a military conflict.

And so the right course for us is working through our partners and with our own resources to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in a — in a form of — of — if not government, a form of — of council that can take the lead in Syria, and then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves.

Hezbollah is indeed involved in the conflict, siding with the Syrian army against the rebels (something denied by Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah). The group, which has been branded as a terrorist organization by the U.S., enjoys support from Iran and is influential in Lebanese politics, currently occupying 12 out of the Lebanese parliament's 128 seats and two of the 30 cabinet positions. While Hezbollah and Syrian instability are concerning, Romney's hopes of seeing a "council that can take the lead in Syria" are far fetched. Syrian opposition leaders have struggled to come together as one unit, and concerns are being raised about certain unpleasant groups  coopting the rebellion.

Both Romney and Obama made sure to state that they want Assad gone and a transition to take place last night, and expressed scepticism of military interventions. However, it is far from clear that the Syrian rebels would be able to offer a situation conducive to stability and peace were Assad to be removed from power.

A situation where Hezbollah and Al Qaeda elements are fighting one another sounds like one we should be avoiding entirely. Being seen to support either of these groups will have dangerous implications for the U.S. and our allies in the future. 

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  1. Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea.

    What a fucking dumbass. A POTUS should know what a map of the Middle East looks like.

    (except Dumbya)

    1. I figured now was as good a time as any to brush up on my ME geo and make sure I knew what was what.

      And I came across the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Wha? I didn't expect to find a whole new political entity I was unaware of.

      1. It's a disembodied piece of Azerbaijan. Those wacky pan-Soviet breakups.

      2. IIANM, it was formerly known as Nagorno-Karabach. The Armenians and Azerbaijanis almost went to war over it.

        1. No, that's a different entity. That's claimed by Armenia to be a disembodied piece of itself in Azerbaijan.

          1. Yeah, I checked it out after I posted.

    2. What a fucking dumbass. A POTUS should know what a map of the Middle East looks like.

      What the fuck are you talking about?

      1. Romney thought Syria was Iran's route to the sea.

        Iran famously uses the Straight of Hormuz. Basically that is Bush-level stupid.

        1. What sea was he talking about? Do you know?

          1. THE sea, meaning the ocean at large.

            It's also worth noting that Iran and Syria don't share a border in the first place.

            Your reflexive defense of Romney's bullshit is pretty entertaining.

    3. That's almost as bad as not knowing that the military still uses bayonets.

      1. "fewer bayonets", you fucking tool.

        1. doesn't. They're still standard issue to every soldier that carries a rifle, and they're still used in combat.

          1. Do we have as many as in 1916? No.

            Do we use them as often as in 1916? No.

            Are they as effective as in 1916? No.

            Are all of these things also true about destroyers, cruisers, and battleships? Yes.

            Obama was absolutely right.

            1. Do we have as many as in 1916? No.

              Quite possibly. I'd need to track down an a comprehensive inventory for both 1916 and 2012 to know for sure, but as I said they're standard issue, so we probably have bunches.

              Are they as effective as in 1916? No.

              Last time I checked men haven't evolved any thicker skin in the past 98 years, so I'd say yes.

              Here's the thing: Obama paired bayonets with horses, implying they are completely obsolete and no longer used at all in a warzone. Problem is, he was dead wrong. I'll give him a pass on the horses, since the only people that have been using them are Special Forces guys who are operating in rugged terrain and trying to blend in with the locals, but as I said bayonets are still standard issue, and HAD been used in Iraq. Hell, a British unit led a friggin' bayonet charge there.

              Obama tried for an off-the-cuff snarky remark and simply failed.

  2. If Obama had sad that Fox News and Limpy would be doing somersaults.

  3. I have yet to hear any candidate say what we all want to hear, that they're going to have the CIA install an U.S.-friendly strongman to get to tamp things down in the region.

    1. Why don't we just skip a step and install a CIA employee as the leader?

      1. It's a good thing no one bothers to pay attention to libertarian blogs otherwise you just gave away the playbook.

        1. I was thinking an American, but yes, we are fortunate in that way.

  4. From what I gather, our position on Syria is 'let them kill each other for a while', which wasn't something Obama was just going to openly admit.

    What I want to know is, will I ever get to see a debate where both parties aren't falling all over themselves trying to suck Israel's cock? No mention of the drug war on our own fucking border, but they ramble on about how much each one would jump to defend some shitty little beach on the other side of the globe.

    Will all due respect to my friends who identify as Jewish - fuck Israel. They can take care of themselves.

    1. Good post.

      Letting them "kill each other" should have been the strategy in Iraq too. Fuck them and fuck Israel too.

      Both parties have an Israel problem - the Dems for the large number of Jewish American vote and the Reps for their wingnut fundie Apocalypse base.

      1. Both parties have an Israel problem

        And I bet you have a solution to it don't you shreek?

        1. Yeah, do nothing.

          And tell Bibi to fuck off.

    2. Will all due respect to my friends who identify as Jewish - fuck Israel.

      You just lost the Evangelical vote.

      1. and Florida...

    3. I think it's important to remember that Jewish doesn't necessarily equal unquestioning support of current Israeli policies. There are many Jews, both here and elsewhere, who are critical of settlements, etc.

      Also it's important to remember that end-times Christians are some of the most gung-ho supporters of Israel, not because the give a shit about Israelis (or Palestinians), but something about ushering in the end times.

      And you can't say anything negative about Israel without invoking howling, distracting attacks about how you're "anti-semitic". Israel is the sticky ball of world politics, any contact and you just get sucked further in.

  5. There are no good answers. Asad is an anti American asshole. But whenever there is a revolution, the Islamists are the best armed and the most ruthless and are likely to take over. So your alternatives are

    1. Leave Assad in power
    2. Let the Islamists take over
    3. Intervene and kick Assad out and put your own people in.

    None of those are good options.

    1. The FSA secularists are already thinking ahead. I don't have the link, but there was a story in The Telegraph about how FSA units are working to choke out the Islamists. They intercept and steal supplies bound for Islamists.

      It is silly to assume that Islmamist victory is inevitable in Syria. The Islamists are better armed and funded but the moderates/secularists are far more numerous and probably more rational and better organized. I think Israel and Turkey will 'massage' post-Assad Syria away from Islamism.

      This also means Kurdistan is closer to reality, and that is a good thing.

      There is still no compelling reason to get involved.

      1. Send the Kurds and secularlist every arm they want provided they kill as many Hezbullah, Assad, and other assorted jihadists as possible.

        1. If we intervene, it should only be after Assad is overthrown and it's a straight secularist vs Islamist fight. Then the USG has the moral obligation to tip the scales.

          1. You throw around more moral obligations than the Pope.

            1. JJ Abraham's Star Trek is morally superior Star Trek.

          2. The US government doesn't have the moral right, let alone the obligation, to take my money to pick sides in a civil war in Syria

      2. This also means Kurdistan is closer to reality, and that is a good thing.

        Yes, totally.

        Unfortunately, we ain't never going to push for establishment of an independent Kurdish state because that would alienate Turkey who has a substantial Kurdish population and they don't want to give up land, sovreignity, etc. And we need Turkey.

        No good options.

        1. Tricky tricky I have to agree. It would not be a bad idea to for the USG to play matchmaker with the Turkish government and an incipient Kurdish government, under the right circumstances.

  6. I was all good with this article until A situation where Hezbollah and Al Qaeda elements are fighting one another sounds like one we should be avoiding entirely.

    WTF?!?! What could be more ideal than having your enemies kill each other? What better argument could there be for staying out of it is there than letting our enemies kill each other!?!

    1. I am not following that either. We are not going to intervene and put our people in power. So it seems to me the next best option is a protracted war of attrition between our enemies for control of Syria. That is still a pretty lousy option. But it is better than the alternatives.

      1. What just happened here? Are you two saying that we should stay out of the fight and let Hezbollah and Al Qaeda kill each other?

        1. Of course I am. I have never advocated going into Syria or Libya for that matter. You people just assume I do because scream War Boner is easier than thinking.

          1. No, I'm trying to figure out why you and your buddy are going nuts over Feeney saying we should stay out of it when you're saying the same thing.

            1. Read my comment please. This time try to comprehend it.

            2. I fairness I think we both misread Freeney. I read him to be saying we should avoid a situation where Al Quada and Hezbollah are killing each other meaning we dont' want it to happen. Now that I look at it, maybe he meant we should avoid intervening not prevent it from happening.

              1. That's what had me rereading the last paragraph three times. You guys are agreeing with him.

                1. I read it wrong. We are agreeing with him.

          2. This. The Children are convinced by their own bullshit; it's reflexive. Much like how Liberals are convinced that if you don't want government to fund X, you are against X. Now comes the part where MNG bitches about me being your sidekick.

            1. Really? Are you guys that bad at reading? Does the version of the article I got have a different ending than the one you read?

              1. The version I read made it sound like we should work to avoid conflict between AQ and Hizbollah. I see now how I misread it. It was written ambiguously.

                1. Don't let that stop you from calling everyone else "Children", though.

                2. Not that ambiguously. I think it's safe to assume that most people read it right the first time.

    2. Covertly fan the fires, FTW!

  7. How about we leave the region altogether? Just go? What's the worst that could happen?

    1. They still try to kill us.

      1. Why? And if they do, we can always blow shit up in retaliation.

        I assume that if we left, someone would take over. Maybe just Israel, maybe Europe, maybe Russia, maybe all of the above. Oh, and "Europe" includes "Turkey" for this discussion.

        1. Because they hate us for our freedoms.

          I mostly just want to to run clandestine intell ops to stop that.

          1. You want to run intel operations to stop them from hating us?

            1. I'd send Hate Doctors. They administer anti-hate medicine in the form of lead.

            2. I'm sure there's some alternate universe where that statement makes perfect sense.

              1. It's part of Objectivist reality.

                1. Neither writing nor thinking are Cyto's strong suits. He should specialize in oxygen metabolism.

                2. Thanks bunches, Sparky. I appreciate that.

          2. So is that why the government is taking away our freedoms? So they won't hate us?

      2. They're attacking our troops because they view them as an occupying force in their home.

        They're going to leave this home that they were protecting to go after American civilians in America?

        That's asinine.

        1. Terrorist attack never happen to good people. Unless you draw cartoons of The Prophet. Or otherwise piss of The Religion of Pieces.

          It's not asinine, it's reality.

          1. It's not asinine, it's reality.

            The people who believe they are fighting foreign invaders are not going to follow the troops home.

            The religious nutjobs who want to kill civilians aren't going to go toe-to-toe with the best equipped and trained military the world has ever seen.

            Apples and oranges.

            1. The religious nutjobs who want to kill civilians aren't going to go toe-to-toe with the best equipped and trained military the world has ever seen.

              Except...when they do. Like in Iraq, where they eventually got destroyed. Your ascribing rationality to the crazies.

              1. They're not crazy.

        2. Who's "they"?

          For some of the groups we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, your statement holds absolutely true. For ideologically pan-Islamist terrorist groups, not so much.

        3. sarcasmic, America can never be safe until we murder every non-American. And, thankfully, that includes Canadians.

          1. Well, in that case...

          2. Does this include strawmen? What about non-American strawmen?

            1. Anyone might attack us at any time. All countries and all people are our enemies and we have the right to attack them any time we feel like it.

              Oh, and when we do it never, ever causes them to hate us and attack us later on.

              It's not a strawman to baldly state the conclusions you don't even bother to artfully dance around.

              1. So you want to bomb the strawmen with...strawmen! OMG brilliant!

            2. Yes, non-American strawmen must be destroyed. Terrorists can hide behind them, you know.

          3. Isn't it fun to feed Cyto his own medicine. There's probably a terrorist somewhere in Canada ... and you know what that means

    2. They won't sell us oil.

      Really, it's true, I heard it on the teevee. We will be unable to buy teh oil from these states because they'll just stop selling it because they don't need the cash.

      1. Good luck with that. And with all of the shale deposits in the North America, that weapon is getting weaker and weaker.

    3. Oh, I know the movies make it look like all fun and games, being left home alone, but in reality Children and Youth Services come to arrest you and give your kids to foster parents. Is that what you want? Do you want our children to be raised by the Russians?

      1. That is how I feel about Iraq. The other day Chapman was on here whining about how Iraq was now going to be dominated by Iran. If Iran wants to try its hand at dominating Iraq, I wish them luck.

        1. Iraq has been annexed by Iran, you fool. Bush gift-wrapped it for the Mullahs.

          1. Iraq has been annexed by Iran,

            God you are a fucking retard. Actually that is an insult to retards. You write the stupidist shit on here. Complete bullshit fantasies. And they are not even funny. Retards are at least funny sometimes. You never are.

            Iran has not annexed Iraq you dip shit.

            1. Iran's effort to takeover Iraq-much ballyhooed here as proof of the disaster Iraq is-has been such a failure that even Moqtada al-Sadr has turned against Iran. Iran hasn't been this weak in a long time.

              1. And I love how whenever we talk about Iran's nuclear program the company line is that Iran is peaceful and no threat to anyone. But whenever the subject of Iraq comes up Iran is this budding evil super power that George Bush handed Iraq to.

                1. THOUGHTCRIME DETECTED

    4. Not an option. As Sarc pointed out, Evangelicals have a boner for Israel. As long as they're part of the must-not-alienate republican base we're screwed (on this, and many other things).

      1. Nothing wrong with a boner for Israel. I've got one, here look.

        Sending money over is wrong. There is no reason to do that.

      2. If it wasn't for those God Damne socons, we could just let the Arabs rid the world of those God damned Jews and be done with it. Right Tonio?

        1. Are Jews an endangered species? Is it our job to protect them from extinction?

        2. Because the odds of all-out war with a nuclear armed Israel are oh so high.

          Last I check we weren't talking about a collection of shepherds with slingshots.

        3. ...we could just let the Arabs rid the world of those God damned Jews and be done with it. Right Tonio?

          I never said that, John.

          This is a classic example of what I was talking about upthread. Die-hard zionists and their xtian enablers will do anything to prevent an honest discussion about MEP, and whether the US should disengage from the whole mess. Suggest even a sliver of light between US and Israeli FP and you're ipso facto a genocidal maniac.

        4. I thought the Iranians were going to annihilate the Jews? You are aware that Persians aren't Arabs?

  8. And we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping, that we're not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or our allies in the region.

    A little late for that in regards to Libya, n'est-ce pas?

    1. I think he means we're going to quit arming teh Middle East. At least , that's the only way I see to keep those weapons from being used against us.

    2. Pretty much any time you arm someone you risk those arms being used against you.

      That's why US FP was to only allow third world countries to have weapons systems two full generations behind our current technology, etc.

  9. Obama and Romney Want Assad Gone, But Rebels Who Could Take His Place Are Worrying

    Just more example of how presidents don't really campaign on any real foreign policy position, because they know its a big losing-topic for most voters. So they waffle in the vaguest terms such that you really have no idea what their real objective is.

    I think Obama has gone one step farther than every previous administration in actually extending that ambiguous, vague, amorphous, ineffectual thinking to actual *action*... With I think libya being a prime example; the question can be asked: What were we trying to achieve? Did we achieve it? Are *we* (not qaddafi) better off now? Are any regional allies? Do we HAVE any regional allies??

    I think based on the most recent track records of 'interventions', perhaps we are best served by minding our own goddam business.

  10. Ask yourself why they are worrying. Perhaps a decent root cause analysis of our situation would show why we are concerned with who runs a shitty country like Syria and others, say China, or Australia, or Brazil are not so much.

    1. Oh China is plenty concerned.

  11. Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea.

    Uhm, say what now? That's got to be one of the dumbest things any presidential candidate has ever said. I mean, that's right up at "57 states" level of stupidity. Is it possible that in reality GWB, Barack Obama, and Mitt Romney are actually the same person that somehow got split into 3 through some kind of Star Trek style temporal anomoly or something?

    1. That would explain a lot, actually.

      1. You know what explains more? That Romney meant the Mediterranean Sea. A fact he's explained five times now.

    2. Transporter malfunction more likely.

    3. Loki| 10.23.12 @ 4:13PM |#

      Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea.

      Perhaps the assumption here is that ultimately Iraq will be subsumed into the Persian empire, and then Syria and Lebanon will fall to Ayatollah Xerxes' hordes, then Iran will then have finally access to the Mediterranian, at which point the world will be faced with total domination.

      Erp. Maybe they meant pipeline.

      Honestly, as i mentioned in the Al Gore thread... Iran has been the fucking election-year Boogeyman since BushII-round1. Every president has to do this pantomime song and dance about how they're 'tough on Iran' to let Americans know that no matter how absurd and ineffectual the 'threat' to our interests, we must always respond with a combination of hysterical chest thumping and pants-wetting.

      If I were Iranian, i'd be wondering, "Why the fuck do the americans keep pretending we're like some kind of 'Big Deal'?"

      Oooh! They have *a Nuke*. I'm skeptical they're as excited to start WWIII-squared as we all make out.

      The best policy with shithole countries like Iran is to ignore them until they collapse.

  12. Oh shit... we don't live in a perfect world.

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