World View: Obama Echoes Truman Doctrine Pushing Syria Intervention

This morning's key headlines from

  • Obama gives a surprisingly coherent defense of Syria intervention
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves military action in Syria
  • Russia's president Putin accuses John Kerry of lying
  • Iran's government splits over al-Assad's chemical weapons

Obama gives a surprisingly coherent defense of Syria intervention

Obama with Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm on Wednesday
Obama with Sweden's Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm on Wednesday

I listened to part of President Barack Obama's press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday. He was asked a question about NSA spying, and he rambled on for about 15 minutes without saying anything coherent. In the past couple of weeks he's said one dumb thing after another about the situation in Syria and made a chaotic mess of American foreign policy. 

So imagine my shock and surprise when he gave the clearest and most coherent defense of U.S. military action that I've yet heard when he was asked about Syria: 

First of all, I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war.

Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty. Congress set a red line when it indicated that -- in a piece of legislation titled the Syria Accountability Act -- that some of the horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for.

And so when I said in a press conference that my calculus about what’s happening in Syria would be altered by the use of the chemical weapons, which the overwhelming consensus of humanity says is wrong, that wasn’t something I just kind of made up. I didn’t pluck it out of thin air. There’s a reason for it. That’s point number one. 

Point number two -- my credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America and Congress’s credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important. 

And when those videos first broke and you saw images of over 400 children subjected to gas, everybody expressed outrage: How can this happen in this modern world? Well, it happened because a government chose to deploy these deadly weapons on civilian populations. And so the question is, how credible is the international community when it says this is an international norm that has to be observed? The question is, how credible is Congress when it passes a treaty saying we have to forbid the use of chemical weapons? 

And I do think that we have to act, because if we don’t, we are effectively saying that even though we may condemn it and issue resolutions, and so forth and so on, somebody who is not shamed by resolutions can continue to act with impunity. And those international norms begin to erode. And other despots and authoritarian regimes can start looking and saying, that’s something we can get away with. And that, then, calls into question other international norms and laws of war and whether those are going to be enforced.

It's laughable that he claims he didn't set a red line, but that's not why his response was coherent. 

Obama's response is fully in the spirit of the Truman Doctrine, put forth by President Harry Truman in 1947 and making the U.S. the Policeman of the World. Truman's reasoning was that WW II was so expensive, and cost so many lives, so intervening in the Greece/Turkey crisis of the time would cost only a tiny fraction comparatively and would be well worth it if it prevented a new world war. President John F. Kennedy repeated this theme in his inaugural address. 

Obama's reasoning is that the world must prevent the use of chemical weapons, which could lead to a new world war, and that this justifies American military action. This is a modern day justification that's similar to the Truman Doctrine. 

Unfortunately, President Obama earlier said so many dumb things, he has little credibility left. And nobody knows what Obama's plans are for Syria if he wins Congressional approval. White House

Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves military action in Syria

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved a resolution giving U.S. President Barack Obama authority to take military action against Syria over its use of chemical weapons on civilians. The measure must pass both houses of Congress to become law and is expected to face stiff opposition that splits both parties. 

The Senate committee approved a plan that would give Obama authority to order limited strikes against Syrian military targets for 60 days. He could extend the window by another 30 days under certain conditions. The resolution does not authorize the use of ground troops. It states military action must be aimed at deterring and preventing Syria from carrying out future chemical weapons attacks. VOA

Russia's president Putin accuses John Kerry of lying

Russia's president Vladimir Putin, who is giving massive amounts of advanced heavy military weaponry to Syria's psychopathic president Bashar al-Assad for use in massacring civilian women and children, and who feels free to order the invasion of Georgia or any other country without getting permission from the U.N. Security Council, on Wednesday accused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of being a liar: 

"I watched the debates in Congress. A congressman asks Mr. Kerry: ‘Is al-Qaeda there?’ He says: ‘No, we are telling you responsibly that they are not.' ... 
[The Syrian rebels’] main combat unit is al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda unit. They [the US] are aware of that. ... He [Kerry] lied. And he knows that he lied. This is sad."

It turns out that Putin misquoted Kerry, but Putin is attacking the United States, hoping to stop the bleeding of his own popularity numbers which have been plummeting. Furthermore, Putin risks major embarrassments on several issues this week with the G-20 summit taking place in St. Petersburg. 

It turns out that Russian public opinion is indifferent to the fate of Syria's al-Assad regime but is extremely upset about a number of other issues, including: 

  • Putin has imposed extremely punishing trade sanctions on Ukraine in retaliation for Ukraine's moves toward signing an association agreement with the European Union. This subject will be mentioned by European countries attending the G-20 summit.
  • Russia's Far East has experienced catastrophic flooding in August, and Putin was slow to respond and did so ineffectively. (Think of Hurricane Katrina.)
  • Moscow is holding mayoral elections on Sunday, with implications for all of Russia. Putin's candidate, Sergei Sobyanin, is being threatened by an upset victory from opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Putin is denying Navalny any media time, but he's gaining quickly because of an effective grass-roots campaign. Putin's candidate is expected to win anyway, in the same way that Putin's candidates won the last couple of elections -- through massive corruption and vote fixing.
  • As we reported yesterday, Obama is snubbing Putin at the G-20 meeting but will meet with Russian gay activists to embarrass Putin.

Ria Novosti and Jamestown

Iran's government splits over al-Assad's chemical weapons

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has been a leading dissident in Iran's government since the 2009 presidential elections but is still highly revered as a hero of the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979. Last week, Rafsanjani blamed Syria's president Bashar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons in a radio interview, as posted on an Iranian news web site: 

"The Syrian people have had more than 100 thousand dead and eight million displaced inside and outside. The prisons are full of people [and] have no more space, some have taken stadiums and are filled. Bad circumstances rule the people. On one side, the people are chemically bombarded by their own government and from another side, today, must await American bombs."

Since this was far from Iran's policy, the remarks were taken down from the web site and altered to say something completely different. Rafsanjani may be in serious political trouble for having spoken the truth. One MP is quoted: 

"We are impatiently awaiting Mr. Hashemi [Rafsanjani's] denial and plainly and correctly announcing his position. We also request the Ministry of Intelligence to investigate this matter and report the truth to the people. If this tape is real ... [it means] that he seeks to weaken the Resistance Front against the Dominant system, which of course is untrue in my opinion."

Another MP said even more ominously: 

"I have seen that speech's video and certainly the video cannot be manufactured. Of course Hashemi [Rafsanjani] stated those words and it is his opinion. 
Perhaps Mr. Hashemi views the country's expediency in this, but overall [one] must request explanation from him to plainly announce his opinion. 
Some have said that Mr. Hashemi's statements are a cooperation of sorts with America, while it is not like this at all because Mr. Hashemi condemns America. Perhaps Mr. Hashemi's opinion has been that if the Syrian government used chemical weapons, we condemn these measures but will not stop supporting Syria. 
So long as the majority of the Syrian people support the government, we will also support them. Supporting Syria is very important for Iran because they are the Axis of Resistance, and in case of their elimination [Lebanese] Hezbollah will no longer be effective. 
The Syrian government must implement the necessary reforms. If from the beginning, it did not exhibit violence in reacting to the protests of a section of the people, we would not have reached the current point, but overall we considered the Assad government acceptable by the majority, therefore we support them."

Iran is in a generational Awakening era (like America in the 1960s), and although Rafsanjani is in the older generation of survivors of the Great Islamic Revolution, he's been taking the positions of the younger generations in Iran's Awakening era "generation gap." In the 2009 presidential election, several leaders supported the views of the younger generation, and many of them were thrown into jail. Some of them have never gotten out. Rafsanjani has survived so far, but one of these days he's going to tell the truth once too often, and then the Supreme Leader will do the equivalent of tying a cement block to his leg and tossing him into the Caspian Sea or the Persian Gulf. 

American Enterprise Institute and Reuters and American Enterprise Institute

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Syria, Bashar al-Assad, Sweden, Fredrik Reinfeldt, Truman Doctrine, John F. Kennedy, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Russia, Vladimir Putin, John Kerry, Sergei Sobyanin, Alexei Navalny, Iran, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani 

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