World View: The Drums of War Beat over Syria

This morning's key headlines from

  • U.S. promises 'accountability' for chemical weapons attack
  • Military intervention in Syria raises many issues
  • United Nations chemical weapons inspectors reach attack site
  • Syria versus Iraq
  • Mideast peace process meeting canceled after 3 Palestinians killed

U.S. promises 'accountability' for chemical weapons attack

U.N. chemical weapons inspectors travel to attack site on Monday
U.N. chemical weapons inspectors travel to attack site on Monday

The horrific videos of Wednesday's chemical weapons attack in Syria have been streaming in, and Syria continued until the last week to bomb and shell the site of the attack, in order to degrade and destroy the evidence. These factors have dramatically changed international attitudes between Friday and Monday. As recently as Friday, officials indicated that there was no desire for military action. By Sunday, attitudes were changing rapidly, and by Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry was using very strong, personally emotional words:

"What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality. Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders, by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard it is inexcusable, and despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable. ...

Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place. And with our own eyes, we have all of us become witnesses. ...

I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us. As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while chaos swirled around him; the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound; bodies contorting in spasms; human suffering that we can never ignore or forget. Anyone who can claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass. ...

But make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people. Nothing today is more serious and nothing is receiving more serious scrutiny."

No U.S. aircraft carriers are being sent to the region. However, there are four U.S. destroyers positioned in the eastern Mediterranean, with hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles ready to be launched, if and when President Obama gives the order. Countries on the region are going on high alert. U.S. Department of State

Military intervention in Syria raises many issues

These are some of the issues being raised about military intervention in Syria against the regime of president Bashar al-Assad:

  • Military options: No boots on the ground, except possibly for special forces already stationed in Jordan. Most likely attack from cruise missiles. Russia has provided Syria with advanced long-range S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, and so aircraft are unlikely to be used.
  • Missile targets: These include airports that are used by Russians to resupply weapons to Syria. Missiles will attack runways, aircraft, munitions and fuel stores. The objective will be to substantially degrade al-Assad's military power.
  • Legal issues: Russia is saying that any attack on Syria would be a "grave violation of international law." The Obama administration would like to have some legal justification for an attack. Russia and China would veto any U.N. Security Council resolution. However, there are two military actions from the 1990s that are being considered as precedents:

    • Operation Desert Fox (1998): When Saddam Hussein blocked U.N. WMD inspections, the U.S. bombed military and security targets, to degrade Iraq's ability to produce, store, maintain and deliver weapons of mass destruction.
    • Nato peacekeeping operations (1990s): Nato launched bombing missions several times in the 1990s, particular on Bosnia in 1995 and on Kosovo in 1999. In both cases, the objective was to prevent further genocide.
    The legal standing of an American military intervention would be considerably stronger if other nations participated militarily, rather than America going it alone.
  • Military objective: What's the objective of a missile campaign? When President Clinton sent some cruise missiles into Afghanistan hoping that one of them would kill Osama bin Laden, nothing was accomplished. Is the objective for the attack on Syria simply to punish al-Assad? Can Syria's air power be sufficiently degraded to militarily justify the attack?
  • Blowback: Russia's defense minister Sergei Lavrov is warning that if the U.S. attacks, then Syrian jihadists will use it as an excuse to attack Western targets, a laughable claim, since jihadists need no excuse. Lavrov also made a comparison to the Iraq war and the Libya military intervention, which he said "destabilized the region in a dangerous way." However, as I wrote two days ago ( "24-Aug-13 World View -- U.S. hints at cruise missile strikes against Syria"), my opinion is that Syria has reached a tipping point and that the Syrian conflict is going to spread around the region, irrespective of whether there's any attack or not. If there IS an attack, then the attack will be blamed for the wider war.
Dept. of Defense and NATO

United Nations chemical weapons inspectors reach attack site

After being delayed by the Bashar al-Assad regime for five days, the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors finally reached the site of the attack on Monday. The lead vehicle came under heavy attack by unidentified snipers as it approached the site, and was forced to turn back, but there were no injuries, and the inspectors reached the site later. According to a spokesman, the team had a "very productive" day collecting evidence and interviewing victims, and will continue its work on Tuesday. CNN

Syria versus Iraq

I've written many times in the past that if Al Gore had won the presidency in 2000, then he would have pursued the Iraq war, just as President George Bush did. (See, for example, "The Iraq war may be related to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." from 2008.)

I received a lot of scoffing and ridicule for that assertion, but now with President Obama we can see what might have happened with a President Gore. There is no one more politically opposed to any military action than Obama, but he's being forced into attacking Syria for political reasons, but knowing that he'll be blamed if anything goes wrong, just as he bitterly attacked Bush for the Iraq action.

And so, once again, Generational Dynamics has been proven to be right, and its critics have been proven wrong. This has happened too many times to count.

Mideast peace process meeting canceled after 3 Palestinians killed

The Palestinian Authority canceled peace talks on Monday, after Israeli security forces killed three Palestinians at the Kalandiya reguee camp in the West Bank. According to the security forces, they were reacting to a large scale attack on them by hundreds of Palestinians. A Palestinian spokesman called on the United States to intervene and prevent the collapse of the "peace process." Jerusalem Post

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