Syria

How America Will Enter the Syrian War

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The thin red line. |||

Last year, President Barack Obama declared that if Syria used chemical weapons against rebel forces the evil Assad regime would be crossing a "red line," after which there would be some kind of heightened retaliation by the United States, presumably involving miitary force. As Ed Krayewski pointed out yesterday, France has been saying since last summer that any chemical weapons usage should trigger Western intervention. At a press conference in Israel yesterday, Obama answered questions about murky chemical-weapons allegations by declaring that "Once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer." It seems likely that no matter how war-weary Americans might be, we may soon be in another Mideast military conflict.

This illustrates, among other things, the perils of drawing "red lines" in an era of ever-lower bars for American intervention. Presidents volunteer, in the face of constant badgering from congressional hawks and the press, the line beyond which the U.S. will have to intervene. If it's in the context of a civil war, participants seeking American help (and outsiders cheering on intervention) will thus be incentivized to make sure that that line is or appears to be crossed. When that happens, hawks will make a lot of noise about "American credibility," and before you know it, here we go again.

Chemical weapons usage isn't the only red line available; the mere possibility of putting "chemical weapons" and "jihadis" in the same sentence will also suffice, as this roundup of hawkish commentary suggests.

Wait, Lindsey Graham was on Meet the Press? |||

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.):

I've never been more worried about weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorists' hands than I am right now. And I would urge the president and Republican leaders to openly embrace ending this conflict sooner rather than later with a post-Assad plan that focuses on securing these chemical weapons sites.

Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.):

President Obama has said that the use of weapons of mass destruction by Bashar Assad is a 'red line' for him that 'will have consequences.' If today's reports are substantiated, the President's red line has been crossed, and we would urge him to take immediate action to impose the consequences he has promised. That should include the provision of arms to vetted Syrian opposition groups, targeted strikes against Assad's aircraft and SCUD missile batteries on the ground, and the establishment of safe zones inside Syria to protect civilians and opposition groups. If today's reports are substantiated, the tragic irony will be that these are the exact same actions that could have prevented the use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria.

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee:

If we know their intention to use these chemical weapons and don't do anything about that, that is a stain on our national character….So we've got a growing bloody conflict, you've got a regime that's under pressure, at least a high probability they have used most recently or in the past some amount of chemical weapons. This is the time to act. Don't wait until we have 5,000 dead. That's too late.

What the hell, Graham again:

I don't care what it takes….If the choice is to send in troops to secure the weapons sites versus allowing chemical weapons to get in the hands of some of the most violent people in the world, I vote to cut this off before it becomes a problem.

That last quote might be the most apt. Some interventionists literally don't care what it takes to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for determining world events. Dead Syrians, dead Americans, regional chaos, tax dollars down the sump hole, limitless deployment, unintended consequences, NO MATTER. What's important is to uphold the childish illusion that we can always just "cut this off," whatever "this" might be.

Read Reason's symposium on (evidently unlearned) lessons from the Iraq War.

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  1. And if Iran sides with Syria would that create yet another front to the war? Yea! More wounded soldiers for the FedGov to take care of! More spending on drones and other weapons! Yea! We’re not it debt or anything are we?

    A recent post on Iran:

    https://reason.com/blog/2013/03…..ch#comment

    1. Iran has already sided with Syria.

      They’re giving Syria tons of money and arms.

      They’ve been doing it for a long time.

      They see Assad remaining in power as critical to their own security.

      1. Check out the link:

        http://www.reuters.com/article…..BA20130314

  2. Of course, the dueling war mongers, Graham, and McCain are the first to start beating the war drums.

    I have a suggestion, put them both on the front lines in Syria, and watch them scream and cry like little girls. Please get this on film and post on youtube.

    1. “I have a suggestion, put them both on the front lines in Syria, and watch them scream and cry like little girls. Please get this on film and post on youtube.”

      Members of the Nomenklatura think they are too good for grunt work of any kind. They need to force the peasant class to do that. It would be fun to watch them cry, however.

      1. I do find it odd that after suffering for however many years in a fucking hellhole Vietnamese POW camp that McCain’s so overtly warbonerish.

        Seems like most vets who come back are more circumspect, esp if they’ve gone through particularly gruesome shit. It’s just seemed to have made him a bigger dick. Too bad.

    2. Hey, I’ll say this for McCain. He walked the walk he talks. He’s a warmonger, but he’s no chickenhawk.

    3. When he says he doesn’t care what it takes, he doesn’t include his actually being in danger.

  3. “Presidents volunteer, in the face of constant badgering from congressional hawks and the press, the line beyond which the U.S. will have to intervene.”

    If they did use chemical weapons, this is one promise I hope Obama breaks.

  4. I heard this fucking “red line” meme all after noon yesterday. The latest phrase that needs to be banned – “red line”.

    Besides, the proper term is “the line of death.” I couldn’t find the skit about the always-moving “line of death” from back in the day. Too bad – that would have been funny to post. HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!

    The End

    1. PS Hearing this yesterday, it cause me to wonder, again, why some ways of dying are more horrific to us. “Well, if they shoot each other with guns, or even choke each other to death, that’s OK. But CHEMICAL WEAPONS! – no wai!”

      Dead is dead. It makes me wonder why we care. Seems endemic in human beings. But it just makes me wonder – why is OK if they’re killing each other with rockets and AK’s, but ot with mustard gas? Dead is dead.

      Just wonderin’….

      1. Chemical weapons might contribute to global warming?

        I don’t know, I’m spitballing here.

      2. This. Another thing along these lines. How can (nonpersistent, at least) agents be considered weapons of “mass destruction”? They leave the infrastructure pretty intact.

  5. You never know. Maybe some day Obama will get to look back and say about Syrian chemical warfare what Clinton later said about Rwanda genocide.

    1. “You should put some ice on that?”

  6. Obama Lied,
    Proggies got their war boner on.

    1. I wish it were just the progressives, but I’m seeing a lot of support from Republicans up there.

      1. Yeah, biparisan war support is scary.

        1. Sorry. I meant bisexual Parisians.

    2. Dulce et decorum est…

  7. The only circumstances in which the United States should become directly involved in Syria are if Syria attacks the United States–full stop.

    If France, Great Britain, Turkey, et. al. want to get directly involved, more power to ’em. I’d love to see Assad’s head on a pike, but there’s no reason for the United States to get involved in that.

    We should get directly involved in Syria once the president finally thinks it’s safe for us to pull our troops out of Germany–how’s that?

  8. Another thought listening to this yesterday – “An M1 machine gun in the right hands is a fucking ‘weapon of mass destruction'” says I to myself while listening to the radio. So how do we better define “weapons of mass destruction?” Cause right now it’s basically the same as “assault rifle” – meaningless, and lots of assumptions (“well of course nukes and chemical weapons” “Which chemical weapons? Molotov cocktails OK?” “Well…”).

    I dunno – it’s all fucking awful – to be in that kind of environment. Yeah, the unseen death of some chemicals snooping into your foxhole and choking you to death is scarier for the uncertainty in some ways – but you don’t see the bullet(s) that gets you, either.

    People are weird. And evil. And powerhungry. And stupid. Not a good combination.

  9. It would be nice to have some facts. What kind of of weapons are we talking about? In what form are they in? How much do they have? Without knowing the answers to those questions, it is pretty hard to judge what to do.

    Beyond that, I think considering our enemies, we do have a real interest in making sure that chemical weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands. If they are in the hands of a government, we know who to hold responsible for an attack. For that reason, they unlikely ever to be used against us. But if they are in the hands of a terrorist organization, they won’t give a fuck. And suppose they are and they are used on us, who do we attack? What are we going to go bomb Syria then? A little late isn’t it?

    1. “And suppose they are and they are used on us, who do we attack? What are we going to go bomb Syria then? A little late isn’t it?”

      Why do we have to find something to bomb every time a group of fanatics do something fanatical?

      1. When someone attacks us and kills a bunch of people, it would be nice to do something about it rather than tell the entire world “thank you sir may I have another”. You completely miss the point. There wouldn’t be a damn thing we could do about it. Bombing Syria would be pointless and stupid. Basically, the world and our enemies could rejoice at the death of Americans and that would be it. That is why we probably ought to make sure such weapons stay in state hands.

        1. That is why we probably ought to make sure such weapons stay in state hands.

          And that is the rub. How do you do it at this point? Best to stay out of it.

        2. “When someone attacks us and kills a bunch of people, it would be nice to do something about it rather than tell the entire world ‘thank you sir may I have another’.”

          Sure, if the perpetrator can be identified then justice should be meted out.

          “That is why we probably ought to make sure such weapons stay in state hands.”

          Which involves what? Invading Syria and scouring the country for chemical weapons? I guess gun control legislation isn’t so bad then, because who knows when a bad person is going to steal a gun and kill a bunch of people with it, right?

          1. “That is why we probably ought to make sure such weapons stay in state hands.”

            Just as an aside, I’m not absolutely sure that a regime like Assad’s will necessarily be more responsible with them than the rebels.

            This sounds kind of like what gun control advocates say about how the only people who should have guns are the people in government–becasue only they can be accountable.

            Meanwhile, the cops in LA shot two unarmed women because their truck resembled that of a renegade cop, who was going around shooting people.

            I maintain that the best long term solution to America’s security problems are peace, freedom and prosperity in the rest of the world, and I think Assad is standing in the way of that.

            If Assad and the forces that support him are worried that the rebels might use their own chemical weapons against them, then I’m not sure that’s necessarily 100% a bad thing.

        3. Because having a sane immigration policy would be too easy.

          The only way the terrorists can attack us is if we let them come over here.

    2. There are other countries in the world, who can and do respond to various provocations.

      Turkey, for instance, is a NATO ally.

      It isn’t just the United States that always has to be the solution to everything, and if terrorists in Syria get their hands on chemical weapons, chances are that our allies in Europe will be the most likely targets.

      I do not believe that the terrorists have an effective means to deliver chemical weapons to the United States for a large attack.

      I’d also point out that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, considering that Hezbollah is working so closely with Iran to defend the Syrian regime from its people, that whatever chemical weapons the Syrians have may already be in the hands of a terrorist organization.

      There are terrorists on both sides of this conflict.

      1. I do not believe that the terrorists have an effective means to deliver chemical weapons to the United States for a large attack.

        I would like to believe that. But in both of our cases it is nothing but wishful thinking that may or may not be true. And dumping a bunch of chemical weapons lose in Syria would be a pretty good way to make it not true.

        I’d also point out that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, considering that Hezbollah is working so closely with Iran to defend the Syrian regime from its people, that whatever chemical weapons the Syrians have may already be in the hands of a terrorist organization.

        And that is a good thing?

        1. You’re not going to keep those chemical stockpiles out of the hands of terrorist unless you want to fight both the Assad Regime and the rebels.

          1. Sometimes life only has bad options. Again, the question is what kind of chemical weapons are we talking about and how many of them?

            Suppose for a moment they are really bad ones, the kind that the Soviets and the US developed during the cold war that can kill by the thousands and there are lots of them floating around. You really think it is a good idea to sit around with our thumbs up our asses hoping for the best?

            If we are talking about a few mustard gas shells, that is different. But if we are talking about the real shit, this is a problem.

            1. One reason we destroyed our stockpile of chemical weapons was that the damn things are difficult to maintain. This is much harder than storing bullets or even high explosives. So while we can’t rule out individual actors setting off a shell in a train station somewhere, getting large quantities of these weapons out, and maintaining them probably requires a sophisticated organization.

            2. “You really think it is a good idea to sit around with our thumbs up our asses hoping for the best?”

              Not invading Syria isn’t doing nothing.

              We have allies in the region who probably more worried about being targets of a WMD attack than we are.

              For goodness sake, we’ve managed to (more or less) make allies of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after they took over control of the government.

              You seem to be making several assumptions that look a lot like a slippery slope argument when strung together, and that just doesn’t support sending American troops to Syria.

              1. Who said I was advocating invading Syria? Would could probably secure and or destroy these weapons without doing that.

        2. Not a good thing, but you can’t un-fuck a pregnant woman.

          1. But you can give her an abortion. In fact, it’s unassailable right to have one, so I hear.

        3. Exactly how are these chemical weapons going to be delivered to the US?
          Ballistic missile?
          Intercontinental bomber?
          C’mon genius with a warboner. How?

          1. Exactly how are these chemical weapons going to be delivered to the US?

            Put in a shipping container and send by sea. Once in the US, detonate in downtown NY (although I would prefer DC).

            1. (although I would prefer DC).

              That makes two of us.

            2. I often wonder, if it was that easy, why hasn’t it been done by now.

              1. I often wonder, if it was that easy, why hasn’t it been done by now.

                Not easy at all. First they would have to get their hands on the warheads. And the world would turn on whoever did it and raze them to the ground. Which is why nation states don’t use “WMD.”

                The problem with the Syrian weapons is where are they and how would the US secure them? The US would have to fight both Assad and the rebels to get to them. Stupid to even try.

                1. Even if some terrorists got their hands on some warheads, again how would they deliver them? Transporting containers is not a trivial or inexpensive task.

                  1. Transporting containers is not a trivial or inexpensive task.

                    Flying airplanes into buildings in not a trivial task either. Shipping a container around the world is not that big a deal, there are actually companies that do that on a daily basis; as long as you can keep operational security. IF they are motivated enough, they could do it. But it is not easy.

                    All that said, I don’t think it is a situation that we will ever have to face. And it certainly is no reason to get involved in another misbegotten war.

                    1. You can’t hijack a shipping container with a box cutter.

            3. “Put in a shipping container and send by sea. Once in the US, detonate in downtown NY (although I would prefer DC).”

              It should be noted that Hezbollah hasn’t intentionally attacked an American target since elements of what coalesced into Hezbollah attacked our Marine barracks in 1983.

              In some 30 years, Hezbollah hasn’t attacked us directly–but we’re going to attack them out of fear that they might enter into conflict with us?

              There’s a flaw in that logic somewhere.

              This will not be the first time our former adversaries are overthrown and their WMD falls into the hands of rebels. We don’t need to invade a country that has WMD every time they fall to fight the rebels for WMD–out of concern that we might get into a conflict with them.

              If the rebels win, instead of fighting them for their weapons stockpiles, maybe we should offer them a free trade agreement instead? Maybe France and Turkey (being more likely targets of a WMD attack) are even more concerned than we are, and they’ve got something they want to do?

              Making enemies of rebels with WMD should probably be the last thing we try. And there are lots of other things we can do that don’t involve the U.S. sending troops anywhere.

          2. The same way drugs are?

    3. we do have a real interest in making sure that chemical weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.

      The idea that chemical weapons are not in the “wrong hands” already is either naiive or stupid or a lie.

      What it’s about is widespread knowledge of their use. All we have to do is say “wrong hand A” used chemical weapons on “innocent party B”. Proof is not necessary, Washington will do what it wants to do and will make up whatever reason works if a reason is demanded.

      Anything to distract the plebes from noticing their purchasing power being stolen.

  10. I say strap McCain into a bomber cockpit and let him lead the attack. He can go out fighting instead of in a hospital bed.

    1. I say strap McCain into a bomber cockpit and let him lead the attack.

      He would either crash it or get it shot down. Fun either way.

    2. He probably would jump at the chance. I hate John McCain as much as the next libertarian, but he’s no coward.

      1. He was shot down twice, once by the Vietnamese and once by Barrack Obama.

  11. Last I heard, the reason we didn’t find stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq was because Saddam had shipped them all to Syria.

    I wonder if Saddam’s mobile bioweapon labs are in Syria as well.

    1. They’re right next to his stash of yellowcake uranium.

  12. “What this country needs is a good five cent cigar Holy War.”

    1. How about a five cent Holy Cigar War?

  13. What happens if in reality it was the rebels who used them? There is a bunch of finger pointing, no one knows if it actually even happened, but reports from the other side say the rebels did it (not throwing my lot in with either ‘side’ mind you). If it turned out some group of rebels used them would that mean they ‘crossed the line’ to trigger Western intervention so that NATO bombs the rebels and helps Assad regain control of the weapons? Would these jackasses advocate plowing Syria over wholesale, destroying all comers to keep any of these people from possibly obtaining the weapons we have no idea exist or not?

    1. I’d hate to think Syrians using WMD against each other would mean we would have to get involved directly.

      Just because either or both sides do something stupid, that doesn’t mean we have to do something stupid, too.

      Whatever other criteria there is for us to go to war, it should also include the stipulation that it must be in our best interests to go to war.

      Whether we sent troops to Syria should depend on whether it’s in our best interests to do so–not on what Assad or the rebels do or don’t do.

      Could Assad or the rebels do something that makes it in our best interests to fight them? Absolutely. Is using WMD against each other one of those things?

      I don’t think so.

  14. A conservative friend, who isn’t a war monger, says get out of Middle East but if there is another 9/11 style attack, then Mecca disappears if a Islamist group takes credit or is proven to be the aggressor.
    Or if they claim “false flag,” then Islamic world gets one week to help us identify the real perps or goodbye Mecca. If that brings declarations of war from Islamic nations, and they actually do shit to America, then their capitals wink out one by one. Mailed fist in Velvet Glove stuff.

    1. You do that to Mecca, and we’re at war with every Muslim in the world, but I could see doing something like that with Afghanistan or the border areas in Pakistan.

      If some terrorist organization takes over Afghanistan again, and terrorists sponsored or harbored by that government launch a successful terrorist attack on the American people?

      We don’t send troops next time. We take the gloves off.

      What’s six feet deep and glows in the dark?

    2. What the hell does Mecca have to do with it?

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