Big Red Car here. Nice hot day here in the ATX. What a day.
The Boss is still out of town and I am left again with the house sitter — who runs the Big Red Car hard and fast. And the Big Red Car loves being run hard and fast, ya’ll.
The house sitter is not much on the international geo-political scene. He’s more into blondes and Blue Moon nectar. Well, that’s not all bad.
So, the Secretary of State — tough guy in an Hermes tie, ya’ll — makes the case for the punishment of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons against its own people. I thought he laid out the facts very well. The Secretary of State John Kerry brings a bit of baggage as a Viet Nam War anti-war activist and is understandably focused on not being perceived as a squishy liberal.
There is probably nothing as dangerous as a guy in a Hermes tie who is actually a bit squishy trying to compensate for his squishiness by being a bit more belligerent. This is both a Foggy Bottom and a White House problem.
Nonetheless, this is the second time, at least, that the Syrian regime has done exactly that — used chemical weapons against its own people in violation of international law. [The Big Red Car loves the notion that there are laws which limit how you can kill people in a war. Oh, yes, we are a delusional bunch.]
At least the second time they have tested our President’s utterance about “red lines” and “consequences”.
Whether a President, a Commander in Chief or a startup CEO, it is important to be discriminating when making threatening utterances.
It is equally important to have staffed the notion of any threatened consequences. If you are going to make threats — not something the Big Red Car espouses as a leadership initiative — then make damn sure that you have thought through the consequences, have staffed their implementation and actually unleash them when your bluff is called.
Otherwise, what you have done is engage in a game of “chicken” and have played the weakling to boot.
What is a national strategic interest for the United States?
The President does not have a blank check when it comes down to the implementation of military adventurism. There is a law — The War Powers Act of 1973 — which requires the President to obtain Congressional approval prior to committing the Nation to combat. Only when the United States is attacked, can the President act with impunity as it relates to Congressional authority.
The trigger point for the implementation of war is a clear, present and unequivocal “imminent danger” to the United States, its people or our national security. Presidents have been able to spin this necessity in a number of different ways but the best is to simply ask the Congress for a declaration of war. This is a bit of the messy fabric we call “democracy” here in the oldest standing continuous democracy in the world.
Most Presidents have taken the position that it — the law — is either unconstitutional or inapplicable. Back in the recent unpleasantness over Libya, the President went to some considerable trouble to justify the action of NATO and America’s involvement. Here is a good reading of it all — NY Times article. <<< click this link
That sound you hear in the background is the stretching of both the law and the truth. Twang! Ooops.
All of this begs the most important question — does the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime against its own people resulting in 1,426 dead Syrians constitute a national security threat to the United States?
Big Red Car is not equivocating suggesting that the world would not be well served by the death of Syria’s Butcher of Damascus. He should be in Hell right now roasting beside others of his ilk.
Secretary of State John Kerry — blue Hermes tie and all — did a very good job of justifying the elimination of Assad but he did not really convince many folks that the United States is at risk strategically by the most recent addition to the 120,000 Syrians already murdered by Assad.
The British Parliament stuck their collective thumbs in their Prime Minister’s eye by voting against the use of force by the Brits against Syria even if done in tandem with the United States, a huge traditional ally. The Brits do not see the Syrian use of chemical weapons as threatening the strategic interests of the United Kingdom.
The Middle East
The Middle East is not a region of the world that embraces subtlety. They do not debate the differences between Cajun and Creole cooking or what constitutes good Zydeco music. They understand tanks in the street, violence, car bombings, martyrdom and hatred. As they have literally for centuries. Since the time of the Crusades, the west has been a provocateur and a trouble maker. Something the west is very good at and perhaps is well deserved.
Plunking Israel down in the middle of things has not helped the state of affairs and has literally added fuel to the fire. We have had a series of wars and the future does not look very bright just now.
On the other hand, the United States understands the politics of oil and, at times, the interests of a bunch of fleeting alliances. This is real politik writ large. It is not particularly attractive but it is real. [Aside: This is why having a coherent energy policy that produces energy independence is so critical to world peace. Solyndra was not the answer. That is not a coherent energy policy. Let's make the Straits of Hormuz an irrelevant game show question answer.]
The people deserve better
The Big Red Car wants to say something very important, listen up, ya’ll: The people — not the governments — of the Middle East are the exact same as us. They yearn for freedom, the opportunity to live a good life, to raise their families in peace, the opportunity to eat at McDonald’s.
The people of the Middle East deserve better and if the United States is to act in a moral way — and the Big Red Car is not arguing that it should, mind you — then it should look to the people rather than the terrorists and governments which are visiting the current travails on their own people.
In all of this, there is good and there is evil and they are wrestling mightily but every person is not involved and the people are just like us. Remember that, ya’ll. We are all God’s children.
Eliminate the shitheads but do not harm the innocent people.
The long game
The issue of whether to retaliate against the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons has other ramifications for the mischievous Ayatollahs of Iran and their quest for nuclear weapons. Nobody in the world thinks Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons can have a good outcome. Everyone recognizes that Israel is a nuclear tipped spear looking for a target. The Ayatollahs are watching how things play out in Syria very carefully as they understand the ramifications for them and the region.
If the United States cannot be counted upon to keep its word — even if that word was originally misguided and nonsensical — then the Iranians are understandably encouraged to think that the Obama administration is just bluffing toward Iran. What is the argument to think otherwise? Big Red Car sees none.
So, Big Red Car, very funny goofing on the Hermes tie wearing faux warriors. But WTF is going to happen?
1. The United States Congress is going to come back into session on 9 September and will be still debating it all by the end of September. Remember, the Congress is just a huge debate society of millionaires. They are all going to want to hear their own voices on this subject.
2. The US will ultimately not launch a military attack. WTF, really, Big Red Car? No, the Big Red Car says the US will not attack Syria. There will be massive amounts of pontificating and the military will use this as a means of attacking the sequester — mandated cuts in Pentagon spending — to avoid the impending spending cuts.
3. There will be at least two big speeches by the President. Oh, how America loves a good Barack Hussein Obama speech on, well, anything. The Big Red Car admits to having been under the spell of the President’s impressive oratorical skills but now the Big Red Car would rather undergo a cylinder boring — the automotive equivalent of a root canal — rather than hearing another meaningless bit of theater.
4. We will be left with the Middle East aflame. Arab Spring? Not bloody likely. It has now become a nightmare.
5. Syria will continue to spiral out of control. Assad will eventually be removed though America — for some reason that completely escapes both logic and the Big Red Car — contends it does not seek regime change. Why not? The guy has killed 120,000 of his own countrymen. Surely this is an easy call, no?
6. The Iranians will be encouraged by the President’s inability to muster the world, to frame and make a decision, to act with dispatch and the lack of real consequences. The Iranian situation will get much, much, much worse as a result of the intransigence of the Syrian “red line” and “consequences”.
In the first Gulf War, General Colin Powell was asked — WTF are we going to do, General Powell? He replied: ’First, we’re going to cut them off and then we’re going to kill them.”
Not a statement which would likely be said in the rarefied salons of Foggy Bottom or Georgetown. But a clear and precise statement of strategy and consequences. The fact that his strategic vision became reality — in the context of the war only — is a great teaching lesson. He did not bluff and he did not equivocate. He promised and delivered action.
The President needs to stop writing checks with his mouth that the nation is not prepared to cash with its blood and treasure. And, yes, let’s stop cloaking our national security interests in Hermes ties.