The White House Markets a Syria War on the Web. Badly.


President Obama on Syria
White House

With proposals for military action against Syria sparking actual debate in Congress and drawing public support at levels that it would be charitable to call "tepid," the White House has turned to the sad necessity of winning hearts and minds. Logically enough, the Obama administration turned to the Internet, because who goes for direct marketing these days without a Website and videos? Unfortunately, the information devoted to Syria lays out powerful evidence that the Assad regime used chemical weapons against Syrians not firmly under its control, but doesn't explain how launching strikes against the country will improve the situation.

According to the Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria site's unclassified "Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013":

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime's preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.

The French government reached a similar conclusion regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, and body count is horrifying. But it's not clear that being murdered with gas is worse than meeting a similar fate from bullets or explosives, and the United Nations estimates a total death count in the Syrian civil war of 100,000 so far. Millions have been displaced. There's no doubt that it's a brutal situation, and one that's not improving.

Alleged sites of Syrian chemical weapon use
White House

But the White House site doesn't address the larger picture of carnage beyond the use of this one type of weapon, nor does it present a goal other than the (implicit) end to the use of chemical weapons.

On September 1, President Obama laid out the case for a targeted military action against Syrian regime targets as a result of the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons that killed over one thousand people–including hundreds of children. The President also made clear that this would not be an open-ended intervention, and there will be no American troops on the ground. Instead, our action would be limited in duration and scope.

The President has put forward a proposed authorization that is focused on his clearly stated objectives – preventing and deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons within, to, or from Syria; degrading the Assad regime's capacity to carry out future chemical weapons attacks; and deterring this behavior in others – including Iran and Hizballah – who would otherwise feel emboldened to use such weapons.

While the President was clear on the need for action, he announced he would seek Congressional authorization for the use of force.

OK. So "our action would be limited in duration and scope" to make sure that Syrians die from bullets and shells instead of gas? That's the whole point?

The limited goal is probably deliberate, since there's no clear path to ending the Syrian civil war that culminates in an end to bloodshed and a relatively tolerable and tolerant regime in power that behaves better than the country's current rulers. There's not even a pretense of a path that involves "no American troops on the ground."

But there's no clear path to ending the use of chemical weapons with actions "limited in duration and scope" either. Maybe Assad's regime will stop using gas because we blow up a few bases, and maybe it won't. It's not something anybody should bet on.

And there are still all of those people dying from other kinds of weapons.

As an effort to persuade Americans that the Syrian regime is using chemical weapons, the White House site might be reasonably successful. But while arguing that the U.S. should so something in response, it doesn't even try to make the case that such action will improve the situation or be effective in any way.

If this is the best the White House can do, don't expect this latest marketing effort to shift the American public's overwhelming opposition to war.

NEXT: Stuart Varney, on Syria: "The libertarians have significant power within the Republican Party these days....Public opinion is very strongly on your side"

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  1. The limited goal is probably deliberate, since there’s no clear path to ending the Syrian civil war that culminates in an end to bloodshed and relatively tolerable and tolerant regime in power that behaves better than the country’s current rulers

    If we didn’t give a fuck in Egypt, why would we give a fuck in Syria?

    1. Because we’re such swell guys when it suits our interest. And our Tomahawk missiles will be greeted as liberators as we rain down sweet, cleansing freedom over the heads of our benighted Syrian cousins.

      1. There’s nothing better than dying for another country’s political problems.

    1. +1!

      Wow, my response works on like… a meta level too.

  2. “We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack”

    The intelligence community was a lot more sure about Saddam’s WMD capabilities, so I’m a hell of a lot more skeptical of the Assad regimes intentional use of chemical weapons, let alone our interest in getting involved.

    Fuck off, slaver!

    1. The “intelligence” community didn’t express any such reservations in the October 2002 “White Paper”.…../doc01.pdf

      Neither did DNI George Tenet have a well-established track record of lying to Congress.

      Expressions of “high confidence” by pathological liars set a pretty low bar for going to war, especially when the Syrians and Russians are denying responsibility for the sarin attack.

  3. Video game it! That will get people to want to let you do it..

    I think we should be asking what they so desperately feel they need to bomb in Syria… Is there somethign they don’t want to tell us about? Someone that can give us information on Benghazi? Is this where Saddam’s WMDs ended and now they are afraid the bad guys will get them, but they can’t admit Boosh was right? Assad defreinded Obama on facebook and now Obama wants revenge? I want to know…

    1. the ACA is starting to look less like Obama’s legacy and more like a spreading inkstain, so he’s putting his chips on humanitarian warfare.

  4. Here is a dramatization of the attack on a rebel position.

    1. The Left would be on the side of the European (British) sophisticates and against American rednecks like Han, Luke and Dak.

  5. This guy has a pretty good analysis on the situation in Syria.

  6. the United Nations estimates a total death count in the Syrian civil war of 100,000 so far.

    I know we’re all supposed to gasp and clutch our pearls and faint at 100,000 deaths in a civil war (financed by Saudi Arabia), but let’s put this in a little historical perspective.

    Once upon a time, there was a country called the United States of America. In 1860, government census takers estimated that there were approximately 30,000,000 in the country. Round about the same time, some people had a rather heated disagreement about some country bumpkin lawyer from Illinois being President and negro slaves. Hilarity ensued. By 1864, approximately 800,000 of those 30,000,000 were dead, or about 0.0267% of the population over 4 years.

    Fastforward to Syria in 2013. Some defectors from the Syrian Army started a war a little over 2 years before in the name of ARAB SPRING-TIME FOR JIHAD. Subsequently, they were reinforced by various supporters of derka derka jihad. In that 2 year period, 100,000 people have died. Syria, as of 2011 had a population of 22,000,000. So over two years, 0.0045% of the population has died.

    100,000 dead and 0.0045% of the population against 800,000 dead and 0.0267% of the population.

    Seems the Syrians are doing less killing in their Civil War than America did in its own.

    1. Not to be pedantic, but you need to remove the percentage signs in your post.

      1. Duly noted.

        I neglected to move my decimal points.


    2. Your math is way off on the US Civil War. 800,000 is 2.67% of 30,000,000

      1. As NK said, it seems that you did the math and just added a percentage sign instead of leaving as is or moving the numbers two places to the left

        1. *rechecks*

          I bow to your mathematical superiority. That’s what I get for getting rusty.

          1. Just use the old wet thumb in the wind method. One percent of 30 million is 300,000, so 800,000 has to be more than 2 percent.

    3. I think the main point here should be that 1,400 people allegedly gassed by Assad isn’t any more of a reason by itself to invade than 100,000 killed before them by conventional means.

  7. It will truly be a great day when the government has to hold a bakesale to go to war and I get to keep more money in my pocket.

    1. The irony of that old bumpersticker is that the Democrats have become fairly skilled at “holding bake sales” — that is to say, using modern marketing methods to their advantage. That was one of the key factors in their defeat of Romney.

      Though that cycles back to another old saw — paraphrasing Maslow: “When your only tool is marketing, everything looks like a marketing problem”.

      1. Team Obama is simply a network of competent snake oil salesmen. They are utterly out of their depths when it comes to addressing real problems or engaging in a thoughtful debate on an issue.

        How they have responded to the NSA scandal and Syria clearly show that the only thing they know how to do is put President Not-My-Fault in front of a teleprompter and try to have him bullshit it away.

        1. there is another option – what has happened was meant to turn out as it has. People try to apply the usual calculus to this administration but you can’t. It’s not like the others.

          No one else promised fundamental transformation, no one else went out of his way to piss off allies and try to embrace villains, and no one else purposely fought off ideas that stood to produce good outcomes (see: Keystone; drilling permits).

      2. “When your only tool is marketing, everything looks like a marketing problem”.

        Or, when your only tool is a revenue problem, everything looks like a tax.

  8. How many hours of bombing do we give it before our civvy casualties outstrip Assad’s sarin victims? I’m betting at least one asprin factory-incident and one misguided rocket hitting a highrise, neither reported widely outside RT and Al Jazeera.

    1. Assad has probably moved preschools and orphanages to military sites by now.

  9. Is he going to get moronic celebrities to do a video for bombing brown people? 90% of them would probably agree to it.

    1. Perhaps a video from the folk singer who did the “Live Long in Oregon” ad.

      On second thought, maybe we could drop her on Assad.

  10. Americans are stupid and they are pussies.

    An informed individual would know that all the fear masturbation by the media and govt types is in no way related to the capabilities of BC weapons.

  11. I worked in One WTC on 9/11/2001.

    I’ve been against attacking Iraq from the start.
    I’ve questioned whether or not Bin Laden had anything to do with 9/11.

    I disagree with all of the conservative war-mongering assholes that say that the world is a better/safer place without Sadam and Bin Laden. I don’t believe it was worth the cost of LIFE in America and the MONEY we gave the Military complex to do this.

    I voted for Obama to END THESE WARS. He did nothing but extend them.

    Now, for the FIRST FUCKING TIME since Obama is in Office, the major Republicans are siding with Obama to go to another use-less war.

    The Military Complex along with Big OIL seem to control this government 100%. I believe the ONLY reason Obama was elected is because they control everything and intended to continuing these perpetual wars. They (Military Contractors and Big Oil) are the ONLY people making money on this. Everyone else is suffering.

    1. I worked in One WTC on 9/11/2001

      Is your real name Tania Head?

    2. and oddly, you absolve Obama of any responsibility. Goddamn; I thought it was just the left that was in cult mode but it appears to have infected anyone who voted for him.

      1. Even more oddly, she absolves herself of any responsibility for believing Obama.

        You’ll notice that she didn’t say whether she voted for him again in 2012, when she had full knowledge that he was extending wars.

        1. I did vote for Obama.

          Romney would have been worst in my opinion.

          Remember, I’m a liberal. Obama is the closest we have.

          My original comment is not necessarily me dogging Obama (although I real unhappy with him as he’s not liberal enough).

          My original comment is that the Libertarian claim that the Government has too much control on Business is NOT TRUE. Big Business completely controls the GOVERNMENT.

          1. So you think giving the government more power will prevent this?

            Do you even understand the concept of regulatory capture and the theory behind why it happens?

            Don’t give the government power big business (or anyone) would want to capture for their own interests and it ceases to be much of a problem, but you’d just give those that have captured government more power because you’re an ideologue.

      2. Currently, it looks like Dem ‘Yes’ votes outnumber Rep ‘Yes’ votes about 2 to 1.

        So yeah, if congress passes this, it’s all the fault of the GOP.

      3. I do NOT absolve Obama.

  12. Look, all of you here, you really want that war. It’s just that his highness hasn’t splained it to you well enough yet. This guy really does need a minister of truth. The peasants just can’t understand his vastly superior thinking.

    1. when all you have is messaging, everything is a messaging problem.

    2. For some reason the brainwashing doesn’t work on me. Maybe they should check my brain.

      1. We’re building these special camps to help people like you

        /The Government

    3. The peasants just can’t understand his vastly superior thinking.

      Remember he is the “lightworker”, spiritually attuned to the cosmos in ways lesser beings like us simply can’t fathom!

    4. His Oneness needs to explain to the proles in language they can understand:


  13. That last paragraph on the key question (who did it?) is completely devoid of any actual facts or evidence. It basically says “Assad did it. Trust us on that one.”

    Umm, no?

    1. Putin has a document we might want to take a look at. We also might want to interview some villagers in Syria who insist that the weapons came from Saudi Arabia and that the death toll was way lower than what Lurch the Snow Miser is telling us.

      1. yeah but it’s Putin, and there might be another naked painting of him out there and he’ll scare POTUS with his pecs and the left will accuse everyone else of wanting Vlad as the next GOP nominee.

        1. I know it’s sad when you trust a ruthless former KGB officer more than Americas POTUS, but I mean really, at this point, Obama is worrying me a lot more than Putin.

    2. Trust us on that one.

      Considering how many outright lies the administration’s been caught in lately, you’d really think people would start to wake up. But no, products of government education maintain their blind faith.

  14. Syria’s waging a war on the Web? No wonder Yahoo is down!

  15. I don’t give a fuck how many people die fighting so their Top Man can have power over the current Top Man in Bumfuck Don’tgiveashitastan.

    It’s still …. NOT MY FUCKING PROBLEM.

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