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Originally published on Eclecitfying

I’m in favor of the current thrust towards resolving the Syrian chemical weapons problem without war. If the disarmament can be made to work it is far preferable to an uncertain future after we kill more people by remote control in the Middle East.

That said, I have to say I was stunned by how it happened. An offhand remark by our Secretary of State turned out to actually describe a workable path forward. A remark that he tried to walk back.

Why wasn’t this something floated for real? The administration was so stuck in a path towards violent response that it didn’t even consider offering anything else at all. They saw no way around it.

The team was frankly incompetent here. We have some very smart people in the State Department, the White House, and the Pentagon. And between them all they didn't think to make this proposal. Forgive me for citing the Bush administration, but even they gave Afghanistan a potential path to avoid the war (turn over bin Laden and followers). They weren't going to take it, but just offering it was smart. And what if they had turned them over? At least that possibility was on the table.

This administration couldn’t see that it should offer an out. And that’s doubly bad because it happens that — as far as we can tell, pending future events — the Russians and Syrians were ready to take that kind of out.

Instead we went out on a limb for military action, and that limb was collapsing, with the British vote in Parliament, and the lack of nearly any support from any ally. In fact, Putin saved Obama from having to go it alone, and probably an embarrassing defeat in Congress.

We will see if this process actually produces anything. But we will actually see. No thanks to the smart folks in charge of our foreign policy.  (Well, minor thanks I suppose for not being stubborn after the fact.) We stumbled into a path when we should have led with it.

We pay those folks to figure out solutions. They let us down. I hope they’ve learned, not just that they should think harder, but how seductive, apparently, is the path to war.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Don't you know? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, Johnny Q

    It was all part of the super secret plan all along!

    Or so I read on the internet.

    "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

    by just another vet on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 12:11:27 PM PDT

  •  I agree (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corvo, Johnny Q

    However I think you'll find that most of the hawks on this site who were (like the administration) convinced that bombs were literally the only option (think of the children!) now know that "making Putin blink" was totally the plan the whole time! WOW!

    They know this because the Russians and the U.S. were talking about stuff at the G20. Stuff. Which means this was totally a deliberate outcome and not Putin stepping up and taking a deal that the U.S. stated multiple times was purely rhetorical.

    Banking on the American people to be able to sort all this out and declare the adult in the room the winner is a very big bet. -Digby

    by Boogalord on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 12:14:00 PM PDT

    •  No intrigue to see here, move along... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo, Johnny Q

      Yeah, I totally can’t get behind this being some N-dimensional chess playing. For one thing, I don’t think Kerry is that good an actor. And the walk-back would have either been quicker or not done.

      But mostly because if they were about to do that, the move into Congress makes no sense. It was very risky (although it was the right thing to do). It exposed Obama to all kinds of potential public failure. It certainly made him look less decisive (in a way that I, personally, appreciate, but still…)

  •  I am sure they knew that this was an option (0+ / 0-)

    I strongly suspect this is what they were aiming for. Pretty much throughout history major nations don't publicly lay their cards on the table but rather take a more aggressive stand than they really want to take and work diplomacy from there. THis goes back as far as history goes (e.g. the Peloponnesian War in ancient Greece...). If the diplomacy works, then the aggressive threats don't materialize. If the diplomacy fails then the nation in question has to either back off and be embarrassed or follow through with their threat.

    Obama pretty much did what almost every major nation has done throughout history when it comes to negotiating a solution to a tense situation. He outlined an aggressive threat, then allowed the other side to convince him to reach a compromise. Nothing spectacular but also nothing bad...simple diplomacy.

    I do not see anything but typical diplomacy that in this case worked. Had it not worked we would have been bombing, and we wouldn't lose anything but also wouldn't accomplish much. Obama's gamble was: if our threat had to be carried out, we could do some limited strikes, show some damage, and push the macho image. No big gain or loss. If our threat produced the expected (and I expected/hoped it from day one) result, then we gain respect internationally and might actually help reduce tensions in Syria.

    I see Obama coming out just fine on this. And I assume he came out the way he expected.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. NYC's Progressive/Reform Blog

    by mole333 on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 12:53:13 PM PDT

    •  Then why all the talk about regime change? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PhilK, Johnny Q

      And honestly, can we do a credible carrot-and-stick without all of Kerry's frantic Godwinating?  Or is that suddenly okay?  If so, let me know so that I can sprinkle Godwin goodness all over my DKos posts.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 01:18:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Who is talking about regime change (0+ / 0-)

        other than the usual crazies? (Yes, McCain, yes, Graham, I'm looking at you.) Even the hawkiest Neo-Con-men, including Rumsfeld and both Cheneys, are against attacking Syria, apparently only because Obama would get the credit for any success. Certainly the isolationist Libertarians are against it.

        The only other thing I see via Google is the usual suspects peddling Conspiracy Theories about Obama having a sekrit strategeric plan for regime change that the mind-reading CT-mongers have been able to divine from the very fact that the Administration says that regime change is off the table.

        Russia Today:

        US grabbed opportunity to back off, but regime change still ultimate goal in Syria

        The Cato Institute:

        Washington Is Pursuing Risky Regime Change in Syria

        It is entirely the Conventional Wisdom (usually the other toxic CW) that dumping Assad and the Baathists would result in a blood-Baath (sorry!) and another extended multi-faction civil war involving separatist Kurds, multiple Al Qaeda-linked groups, multiple strands of Islam, and Syrian Christians, just for starters. With further meddling (or "supporting legitimate aspirations") from Russia and Iran and various Arab regimes and the CIA.

        Zakaria: Syria regime change won't end civil war

        I don't have an answer. The Marshall Plan is our best model, and programs like it have only ever been tried properly in mostly ethnically homogeneous countries that fully surrendered and were put under military governments for years before elections were thought of. (Germany, of course; Japan, certainly; Korea, eventually; Afghanistan and Iraq, nothing like it.)  The (Neo-con) idea of instant elections as the complete foundation for functioning democracies, without bothering about building civil society and establishing human rights and the rule of law, would be entirely laughable if it were not so tragic.

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:25:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Obama is on record saying (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Johnny Q

          that Assad "must go"; and we've been supporting various armed opposition groups both diplomatically as well as logistically.  We might even be sending them arms via the CIA and third-party state actors.

          In fact, there never hasn't been a time in the past couple of years when we haven't been actively working toward "regime change" in Syria.

          Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

          by corvo on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:41:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  and all Obama is saying now (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Johnny Q

          is that air strikes are off the table.  For the time being.

          Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

          by corvo on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 02:41:48 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  or, for that matter, keep on sending out signals (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PhilK, Johnny Q

      that even if Congress won't approve a war authorization, we can attack anyway.  Yeah, that sure fills me with constitutional warm fuzzies.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 01:25:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Russia and the US, among others (0+ / 0-)

    have been talking about getting rid of the Syrian CW for years. This is on the public record. As Kerry noted when he pointed out the option of getting rid of CW at the press conference, there was no reason to expect Russia and Syria to budge now, even with a credible threat of a US attack, and it wasn't at all clear to him how you could dispose of the CW in a war zone. It turns out to be insanely difficult, but not impossible. There are precedents, though not many.

    But perhaps there is a new factor in the equation.

    Some of us have speculated that, if Gen. Maher al-Assad really ordered the Sarin attacks, as intelligence reportedly suggests, both Russia and Syria became seriously afraid of events spiraling out of their control, first inside Syria, then internationally. (There is obviously neither direct evidence nor classified intelligence on what they were thinking, and what they said to each other under top-level security precautions.) I observed that there is nothing worse for a dictator than to be seen to be losing operational control of his own armed forces. There is historical precedent on the matter. If, as we suppose, there is no way for Bashar al-Assad to rein in his younger and significantly nastier brother Maher short of getting rid of him, then the only remaining solution is to take away the worst of his toys and let him run around killing rebels and civilians with conventional weapons. Because the world may fret and fuss about that, but it won't do anything decisive unless some other new factor enters the equation.

    That brings us to the highly speculative suggestion that perhaps Russia would go so far as to broker a real peace conference, or at least a cease-fire in place with discussions of a political transition. There is further speculation that Russia might offer the Assads asylum. I have no idea, but none of us had any idea about Syria signing the CWC in such haste. Its inventory of CW, manufacturing sites, rockets and launchers capable of delivering the CW, etc. is due seven days from signing (on the 13th), much shorter than the usual 30 days specified in the convention. That means by Friday this week, Sept. 20.

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 01:28:58 PM PDT

    •  This assumes, of course, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Johnny Q, callmecassandra
      I observed that there is nothing worse for a dictator than to be seen to be losing operational control of his own armed forces
      that Bashar al-Assad has ever had much control over anything in his own country.  Look, the guy was cut out to be an ophthalmologist, ferchrissake, not the Second Coming of Adolf Hitler, as John Kerry and more than a few Kossacks keep claiming.  He was groomed for the position of Adolf Hitler of the MENA rather late on, and fairly hastily, and in any case he inherited his dad's nomenklatura, which no doubt did a fine job of resisting any reforms he may have attempted.  Nomenklaturas are like that.

      It's American propaganda, easily absorbed by the gullible, that buys into the notion that those we declare to be Bad Guys are all possessed of practically superhuman powers until, of course, vanquished by Captain America.  But real life is usually more complex than that.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 01:40:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I didn't say that he had full control (0+ / 0-)

        I said that he risked being seen to have lost control.

        Even in tyrannies, the tyrant is dependent on the consent of some fraction of the governed, those who are rewarded by the regime, whether with wealth or power. The nomenklatura have to go along with the pretense that their guy is fully in charge, or they have to get rid of him. You can't be halfway in charge in a tyranny, any more than anybody can be halfway pregnant.

        Read the bits in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire about the Praetorian Guard and the Army installing and deposing, even murdering, various Emperors.  (I don't generally recommend trying to read the whole thing.) There are many other historical precedents. Shakespeare's version of the history of Richard II and Bolingbroke/Henry IV is scheduled for this coming Friday on PBS. Check local listings.

        The clearest example of the pretense is England's Glorious Revolution, in which William of Orange and Mary (niece of James II of England) swore an oath in order to become King and Queen, agreeing to the provisions in the English Bill of Rights limiting their power and authorizing Parliament to depose them if necessary. But the key difference there is that it is Parliament that gained power, not merely a nomenklatura or an aristocracy.

        Magna Carta is an exception, where the barons rebelled against "Good" King John but kept him in place so that they could at least try to insist on him obeying what he signed (which both sides failed to do).

        Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

        by Mokurai on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 05:32:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The rocket were Russian made (0+ / 0-)

      Criminal always come back too the scene of their crimes,in further developing  Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter this morning   , forget the chemical ,what about Syria biological program  such as thier develpoment of Ebola and  Monkey Pox   http://goo.gl/...

      •  English please? n/t (0+ / 0-)

        Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

        by corvo on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 04:13:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It isn't so much the English grammar as (0+ / 0-)

          the run-on sentences and spelling, and the apparent lack of coherent thought. Let me give it a try.

          The rocket were Russian made

          Criminal always come back too the scene of their crimes,

          becomes
          The rockets were Russian made.

          Criminals always come back to the scene of their crimes.

          A simple non sequitur, where the first sentence is significant, and the second is random.
          in further developing  Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter this morning,
          Becomes
          in further developments, Turkey shot down a Syrian helicopter this morning.
          Simply irrelevant, though evidently correct, and of some interest in context.

          Turkey Says It Shot Down Syrian Military Helicopter Flying in Its Airspace

          forget the chemical ,what about Syria biological program  such as thier develpoment of Ebola and  Monkey Pox
          becomes
          Forget the chemical weapons. What about Syria's biological weapons program, such as their development of Ebola and Monkey Pox?
          A fantasy, as far as I can tell. Ebola would be far too dangerous to its users, and monkey pox has a very low fatality rate.

          Syria and weapons of mass destruction: Biological weapons

          Syria is generally considered not to have biological weapons. However there are some reports of an active biological weapons research and production program. According to NATO Consultant Dr Jill Dekker, Syria has worked on: anthrax, plague, tularemia, botulism, smallpox, aflatoxin, cholera, ricin and camelpox, and has used Russian help in installing anthrax in missile warheads.
          http://goo.gl/maps/TwtQR
          Google URL shortener

          404: Page not found – the page http://goo.gl/maps/TwtQR does not exist.

          If you typed in or copied/pasted this URL, make sure you included all the characters, with no extra punctuation.

          I can't help with that.

          supremeliberal has made some funny and insightful posts, like asking whether Obama Derangement Syndrome would be covered under Obamacare, and whether Republicans should therefore sign up for coverage. It's a shame that this one didn't work out.

          Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

          by Mokurai on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 05:58:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm just wondering whether the commenter (0+ / 0-)

            should've posted in his native language.  Certainly ain't English.

            Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

            by corvo on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 07:33:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Just because you can deal with truth (0+ / 0-)

          The truth hurt does it ,you  paranoid not about the NSA spying on you,maybe you worried about those XXX porn flick you posted online

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