Follow-Ups on Syria

James Fallows has posted the arguments for war with Syria, submitted by his readers, and rebuttals, some of them harsh.

Also, it’s worth noting that if we want to help the Syrian victims of their civil war, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees living in underfunded camps:

Life for the 40,000 people who crossed the border from Syria into northern Iraq over the past two weeks will be extremely difficult.

After being closed for three months, the Peshkhabour crossing between Syria and Iraq reopened on 15 August. Tens of thousands of fleeing Syrians who had been stuck on the border were finally able to reach safety, with more continuing to cross each day.

Unfortunately, these new arrivals will feel the ill-effects of the lack of funding for refugee aid in northern Iraq. Before the reopening of the crossing, Iraq was home to 9% of the Syrian refugee population yet had received only 6% of the funding, according to the UN. Without urgent assistance from governments around the world, a dire situation will become far worse.

Food, water, shelter and sanitation for refugees is nowhere near as sexy as war, so this is getting little attention. If, as Juan Cole recommends, Obama decides to pivot and move to diplomacy after losing British support, focusing on the plight of refugees and using our airlift to send them aid would be smart politics as well as good policy.

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113 replies
  1. 1
    JPL says:

    If France is the only country that allies with us, what will congress call potato fries?

  2. 2
    Ash Can says:

    Now this is a great post. Thank you for this.

  3. 3
    deep tin says:

    It also has the added benefit of guaranteeing a continued American presence in northern Iraq would would be awfully convenient when a Republican takes office in 2017 and wants to invade Iran.

  4. 4
    Botsplainer says:

    Food, water, shelter and sanitation for refugees is nowhere near as sexy as war, so this is getting little attention. If, as Juan Cole recommends, Obama decides to pivot and move to diplomacy after losing British support, focusing on the plight of refugees and using our airlift to send them aid would be smart politics as well as good policy.

    So the preferred peace loving left model is Rwanda or Darfur, given the locations of camps.

    Awesome. The Sally Struthers/Sarah McLachlan fundraising videos for the next 15 years will be tearjerking, I’m sure.

  5. 5
    Ash Can says:

    @JPL: “We were never at war with Eurasia France.”

  6. 6
    Cacti says:

    Apples and oranges.

    Q: How does funding refugee camps act as a deterrent for the Assad regime violating norms of international law on chemical warfare?

    A: It doesn’t.

  7. 7
    KCinDC says:

    If the stated goal is to punish and deter the use of chemical weapons, I don’t see how helping refugees works as an alternative approach.

  8. 8
    askew says:

    @Ash Can:

    Now this is a great post. Thank you for this.

    I can’t agree that it is a great post because of the following paragraph.

    If, as Juan Cole recommends, Obama decides to pivot and move to diplomacy after losing British support, focusing on the plight of refugees and using our airlift to send them aid would be smart politics as well as good policy.

    The media and bloggers have already decided what Obama’s decision was and held him accountable for it. Even though, the WH has said repeatedly that no decision has been made. But, because of some unofficial and unnamed leaks, Obama is gearing up to drop bombs today. If he announces any decision other than that, it’s because the British or the media made him change his mind. So, pundits jump to conclusions based on rumors and when proven untrue, it’s because Obama changed his mind. Not that the rumors were false. And then Obama gets blamed for the rumors anyways because he is secretly a Republican or some nonsense. This cycle has repeated itself for 5 years already. It gets old.

  9. 9
    Cacti says:

    @KCinDC:

    If the stated goal is to punish and deter the use of chemical weapons, I don’t see how helping refugees works as an alternative approach.

    Maybe they can have drum circles in the refugee camps and sing Give Peace a Chance.

    That will fix everything.

  10. 10
    negative 1 says:

    @KCinDC: It doesn’t. We’ve already determined we’re going to let him use them.

  11. 11
    Botsplainer says:

    @Cacti:

    Q: How does funding refugee camps act as a deterrent for the Assad regime violating norms of international law on chemical warfare?

    It does gather them in one spot so they can be raided by government forces and paramilitaries.

    I know people who were on the UN refugee staff, and who ran a raided camp in Rwanda. When those raids happened, they begged for military assistance and were denied. A lot of the weaponry used by the raiders included machetes.

    You can guess the rest of the story.

  12. 12
    Belafon says:

    This would be mission creep, and exactly the kind of thing that I wouldn’t want Obama to use to justify the use of force to damage Syria’s capability to produce and use chemical weapons, which I continue to think is a valid reason. Doing anything in Syria right now should be for one purpose and one purpose only: Punishing them for using chemical weapons.

  13. 13
    RP says:

    Is Obama considering sending in ground forces? Because that’s what any normal person thinks of when hearing that we might go to “war with Syria.”

  14. 14
    askew says:

    OT – some big bombshells from the Miranda hearing in the UK today. Turns out he was carrying 58,000 UK classified documents and a password to unencrypt at least one of them. So much for Greenwald’s claims that Miranda was just an innocent bystander.

  15. 15
    Belafon says:

    @askew: Once again: Amateurs. That should have been memorized.

  16. 16
    p.a. says:

    Horrifying situation when Iraq is the safe haven. Er…slightly safer haven.

  17. 17
    Cacti says:

    Maybe we could send all of the refugees a puppy.

    That would teach Assad not to engage in unlawful chemical warfare.

  18. 18
    some guy says:

    boy oh boy, are Cacti and botsplainer eager to kill them some foreign people. the sooner we kill us some foreigners the better, and the more and bloodier the deaths we cause the bigger the cumstains on their undies.

    get Yer War On, Obama, your cheerleaders need a release.

  19. 19
    kindness says:

    @Cacti: I don’t think helping the refugees is the only response. It’s just one of the better ones to show we can help as much as we can destroy. You do see your posts are slightly trollish, don’t you. I suspect that is your point.

  20. 20
    p.a. says:

    Military force in Syria is the neocons’ fiendishly twisted plot to increase Iraq’s Christian population to preoccupation levels. (Iraq was 5%-10%, Syria 10%-20%)

  21. 21
    Cacti says:

    @some guy:

    boy oh boy, are Cacti and botsplainer eager to kill them some foreign people

    Ah, the feigned concern for the plight of the foreign people.

    The best way to ensure that several thousand civilians aren’t gassed again is…

    Do nothing.

  22. 22
    gnomedad says:

    I’m hoping Obama won’t go for a military option, but if he does, I don’t know how to argue that he’s wrong. He’s smart. He knows that Iraq was a fiasco. And while power corrupts, I don’t see him being corrupted in quite this way. I don’t think that’s who he is, and I don’t think that’s what he wants his legacy to be. I just don’t get it.

    Also, I’m suspecting that if he intervenes on behalf of the rebels, the meme on the right will be that he’s all about the Muslim Brotherhood. Impeach!

  23. 23
    gnomedad says:

    I’m hoping Obama won’t go for a military option, but if he does, I don’t know how to argue that he’s wrong. He’s smart. He knows that Iraq was a fiasco. And while power corrupts, I don’t see him being corrupted in quite this way. I don’t think that’s who he is, and I don’t think that’s what he wants his legacy to be. I just don’t get it.

    Also, I’m suspecting that if he intervenes on behalf of the rebels, the meme on the right will be that he’s all about the Muslim Brotherhood. Impeach!

  24. 24
    kindness says:

    I understand hitting them with cruise missiles is cheaper and safer than the alternatives. But I question what it achieves. Temporary closure of airfields? I think a better option is a no fly zone. Yea, that would be much more expensive and much more dangerous to our guys. Syria does have a 1st rate air defense. Well, they would for a short while at least. But I think that would achieve our objectives better than to simply bomb them once would.

  25. 25
    Xantar says:

    @askew:

    Obama’s just raring to drop some bombs just like he’s going to sell us out and cut Social Security ANY DAY NOW. He’s already made up his mind to do it, and if only the Republicans would stop getting in his way, he would have cut grandma’s check already.

    Clearly with regard to Syria our only hope is for Republicans to prevent Obama from engaging in any warmongering.

  26. 26
    gnomedad says:

    FYWP, iPad Theme Edition.

  27. 27
    Cacti says:

    @kindness:

    I don’t think helping the refugees is the only response. It’s just one of the better ones to show we can help as much as we can destroy. You do see your posts are slightly trollish, don’t you. I suspect that is your point.

    I have a long enough memory to remember when the emo-left was upset that Obama wouldn’t intervene in the Iran “green revolution”. Now they’re crapping their paints that he might intervene over the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.

    Intellectual consistency. Does our emo progs has it? No, not so much.

  28. 28
    Betty Cracker says:

    @askew: This. A thousand fucking times, this.

  29. 29
    some guy says:

    @Cacti:

    your support for Al Qaeda is touching, Cacti, it really is. what do you like best about your allies, the beheadings, the car bombings, the summary executions? I am guessing it’s the stoning of adulterous women that really gets you off, amirite?

    don’t worry, I am sure your active support for Al Qaeda will never come back to bite you in the ass.

  30. 30
    RP says:

    Which side of this debate sees everything in black and white, uses ad hominems to attack their opponents, and is utterly certain of their correctness? IOW, which side of this debate is more Bush-like?

    I don’t think it’s the people saying “wow, this is a terrible situation, it’s not clear that there’s an obvious solution, and we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of military action.”

  31. 31
    cvstoner says:

    In response to the guy who says, in bold,
    “We do not know war.”
    please let me be the first to say, Fuck you. We do, in fact, know war.

    Beautiful.

  32. 32
    joes527 says:

    @Botsplainer: I’m sure that those camps aren’t anything a couple of tomahawks can’t fix.

    The very mindset boggles my mind. No limit on military expenditures to ” solve” the problem. No money available for non military expenditures to solve the problem.

    At least that explains why Syria looks so much like a nail.

  33. 33
    kc says:

    @Cacti:

    I have a long enough memory to remember when the emo-left was upset that Obama wouldn’t intervene in the Iran “green revolution

    Huh. I don’t remember that.

  34. 34
    Cacti says:

    @some guy:

    your support for Al Qaeda is touching

    So, all those kids that were gassed were junior Al Qaeda operatives? Interesting.

    I don’t think even the Assad regime has made that big of a reach.

  35. 35
    cleek says:

    @Cacti:

    Intellectual consistency. Does our emo progs has it? No, not so much.

    oh, but they’re perfectly consistent. “Obama is always wrong” is their core. all other demands and complaints sprout from there.

  36. 36
    Betty Cracker says:

    @RP: Really? Because there are multiple examples right here in this thread of people who support military action sounding exactly like Paul Wolfowitz. /davidbroder

  37. 37
    magurakurin says:

    @Ash Can:

    agreed. much better. And I totally agree, the US should spend the money it would need to use to replace the 300 Tomahawks or whatever and help the refugees instead of doing some essentially useless bombing done in the name of a punitive strike.

  38. 38
    cleek says:

    and now Assad is using napalm on his people?

    maybe we could just blow him up?

  39. 39
    some guy says:

    the fact that the conservative warmongers here are supporting Al Qaeda’s operatives in Syria tells us all we need to know about how batshit insane the Right has become in this country.

  40. 40
    cvstoner says:

    @Cacti:

    The best way to ensure that several thousand civilians aren’t gassed again is…

    Do nothing.

    Why not? We’ve done nothing as thousands of civilians have been killed by more conventional means. Seems kind of absurd to me to make the use of chemical weapons the line between doing something and not doing something.

  41. 41
    RP says:

    @Betty Cracker: Who?

    Edit: Or was that snark? It’s so hard to tell these days.

  42. 42
    askew says:

    @Belafon:

    @askew: Once again: Amateurs. That should have been memorized.

    Or if it was too long to memorize, then write it down in code so no one else can figure it out. Haven’t they watched Burn Notice for pete’s sake?

  43. 43
    Cacti says:

    @magurakurin:

    done in the name of a punitive strike

    So your position is that gas attack on a civilian population should go unpunished?

  44. 44
    kc says:

    @RP:

    Let’s ask Cacti and Botsplainer.

  45. 45
    Cacti says:

    @cvstoner:

    Seems kind of absurd to me to make the use of chemical weapons the line between doing something and not doing something

    If not for that Covention on Chemical Weapons, you might have a point. But since there is one, you don’t.

  46. 46
    cvstoner says:

    @some guy:

    The fact that the conservative warmongers here are supporting Al Qaeda’s operatives in Syria tells us all we need to know about how batshit insane the Right has become in this country.

    Yes. As if we needed yet another example.

  47. 47
    RP says:

    Ok — post 9 was pretty snarky.

  48. 48
    cvstoner says:

    @Cacti:

    If not for that Covention on Chemical Weapons, you might have a point. But since there is one, you don’t

    Really? As if we’ve ever needed a fig leaf to take military action before.

  49. 49
    Cacti says:

    @cleek:

    and now Assad is using napalm on his people?

    Hey man, dead is dead.

    There’s no difference between a bullet and a tactical nuke.

  50. 50
    Baud says:

    Can’t we all find common ground and agree to bomb Texas?

  51. 51
    Cacti says:

    @cvstoner:

    As if we’ve ever needed a fig leaf to take military action before.

    So an international agreement signed by 193 countries is now a fig leaf.

  52. 52
    Carolinus says:

    @RP:

    Is Obama considering sending in ground forces? Because that’s what any normal person thinks of when hearing that we might go to “war with Syria.”

    Desert Fox model:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....-in-syria/

    This is what the Clinton administration did in 1998 with Operation Desert Fox, when it and the United Kingdom bombed Iraq as punishment for cheating on weapons of mass destruction disarmament. The strikes were also intended to degrade Iraq’s WMD production capacity. The 100 or so targets were, as now with Syria, telegraphed ahead of time. Many of them were empty. Iraq knew it was coming and was mostly unsurprised, which meant that it didn’t escalate. The campaign was limited in scope and, although the history of Iraq and WMDs is obviously a thorny one, appeared to be largely successful at least at punishing Saddam Hussein.

    President Obama has long made clear that he worries that any involvement in Syria could lead the United States to get sucked into a long and intractable conflict that it would hurt more than help. But his administration also clearly believes that Assad’s suspected chemical weapons use could set a potentially dangerous enough precedent that it demands some military response. A Desert Fox-style limited, telegraphed, calibrated series of offshore strikes appears to be the balance that the administration is striking.

  53. 53
    cvstoner says:

    @Baud:

    Can’t we all find common ground and agree to bomb Texas?

    No need. They’re doing a good enough job themselves with their fertilizer factories.

  54. 54
    Botsplainer says:

    @Cacti:

    There’s no difference between a bullet and a tactical nuke.

    Kumbaya, my lord, Kumbayaaaaaaaaa…..

  55. 55
    Baud says:

    @cvstoner:

    That sounds like rock-solid evidence of Texas’s use of chemical weapons. Let’s do this, people!

  56. 56
    magurakurin says:

    @Cacti: If it is impossible to do so at this moment in time, yes. I certainly am not privy to the information regarding just what the strike capability is, but from what can be gathered and from what they have said, it appears that they can’t take out all his capability and they can’t stop him from doing it again. Short of killing Assad there doesn’t appear to be a limited response that stops him. If there is, then they absolutely should do it.

    I don’t see what can be done, that will actually punish him when he is in such a desperate situation that he is willing to use chemical weapons against his own people. I also don’t believe there is yet evidence that he actually gave the order. If a lower level general was acting on his own, that changes the picture a lot in terms of the response.

    The US should register strong objection, monitor very closely and if it happens again there is a good chance that there will be very wide support among the rest of the world to act. But acting alone the US won’t send the message it thinks it is sending in regard to the use of chemical weapons. I understand desire to respond and I don’t think that those who feel strongly that something should be done are warmongers or dick waggers or any of that shit. But I just don’t think that the limited strike they are talking about will be effective as a prevention or punishment and a much greater and deeper involvement would be truly madness. Even a limited unilateral strike by the US could set off a tinder box. Regaining some of the moral high ground by a massive refugee aid effort along with continued diplomatic attempts to garner support seems like a less bad choice. But I am willing to admit that is morally gray and tortured choice, but set off an even wider war would surely be worse than last weeks gas attack. Hopefully at some future date, Assad can be dealt with in the Hague.

  57. 57
    Felonius Monk says:

    @Cacti:

    So an international agreement signed by 193 countries is now a fig leaf.

    Said international agreement applies to the 193 countries that signed it. Since Syria was not a signatory to this agreement, how does this treaty have anything to do with the current situation?

  58. 58
    some guy says:

    apparently, pro-Al Qaeda Rightwing warmongers like Cacti are all about international treaties and legal agreements, unless they don’t like them, and then they are no longer about international agreements and treaty obligations.

    UN Security Council authorizations? fuck that shit, we need to get our war on!

  59. 59
    Cacti says:

    @magurakurin:

    I also don’t believe there is yet evidence that he actually gave the order. If a lower level general was acting on his own, that changes the picture a lot in terms of the response.

    If a lower level officer gave the order, that would make the situation on the ground worse in some fairly significant ways, as it suggests that the chain of command in the Syrian military is faltering, and Assad no longer has full control of his chemical arsenal.

  60. 60
    Cacti says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    Since Syria was not a signatory to this agreement, how does this treaty have anything to do with the current situation?

    Since an overwhelming majority of the nations of the world supported it, it makes it normative as an international precedent.

    Otherwise, you might as well be saying that no Japanese military leadership should have been charged with war crimes, because Japan never signed the Geneva Conventions.

  61. 61
    Cacti says:

    @some guy:

    UN Security Council authorizations? fuck that shit, we need to get our war on!

    Yes, Security Council authorizations. Which depend on the good faith of the country that sold Syria both the chemicals and likely the munitions that delivered them. And that has billions of rubles of investments there, and is a major trading partner. Surely they have no ulterior motives for seeing that nothing is done.

  62. 62
    some guy says:

    Since an overwhelming majority of the nations of the world supported it, it makes it normative as an international precedent.

    see, this is why we can totally ignore the UN Security Council and bomb whoever the fuck we want to. Just because an overwhelming majority of the nations of the world supports the idea that the only legal attack by one nation on another nation is with UN Security Council approval means we can use normative international precedents to ignore normative international precedents.

    did you all not get the memo? we have always been at war with ;Eurasia Oceana Syria

  63. 63
    some guy says:

    shorter Cacti: the only good normative international precedents are the ones I agree with.

  64. 64
    cleek says:

    @Cacti:

    Assad no longer has full control of his chemical arsenal.

    note that this will be the guaranteed outcome if we damage any of his weapons depots to the point where his troops can’t defend them. al-Q will be more than happy to stock up.

  65. 65
    Morbo says:

    focusing on the plight of refugees and using our airlift to send them aid would be smart politics as well as good policy.

    Why do you love Al Qaeda?

    In more newsy news, the FSA is reporting that a (the?) chemical weapons division chief is dead.

  66. 66
    tybee says:

    @some guy:

    and i’ve not heard a word from them on what targets to strike, how that would dissuade Assad, what to do about collateral damages or what happens afterwards.

    but they sure do wanna kill some folks. to set an example. or something.

  67. 67
    Cacti says:

    @some guy:

    shorter Cacti: the only good normative international precedents are the ones I agree with.

    What are you babbling about now?

    I see you’ve taken a different tack than “Al Qaeda, booga, booga, booga”.

  68. 68
    Felonius Monk says:

    @Cacti: Apples and oranges. If Syria had used CW against another country, I would agree that it was normative. However, this is a civil war and these weapons were deployed within the boundaries of a sovereign country. While their use is certainly deplorable from a humanitarian standpoint, so far it has posed no threat outside Syria.

    And since there does not appear to be any international consensus that military action is necessary, the U.S. just seems to be swingin’ its dick in the breeze right now for no good reason.

  69. 69
    elmo says:

    @Cacti:

    The best There is no way to ensure that several thousand civilians aren’t gassed again

    Fixed.

  70. 70
    DaveinMaine says:

    I honestly don’t know what the best solution is here. I don’t think there is one, maybe a “least bad” option.

    But simply ignoring chemical weapons use is a bad precedent. They are called a “poor man’s nuke” for a reason. And simply sitting back and doing nothing (military/political/economic) is not a good solution. Because at that point, you are green-lighting any dictator or other asshole to use them.

    Hey Mugabe? Forget beating your opponents. Just invest a few million in VX…is that a world we really want to have?

  71. 71
    chopper says:

    @Cacti:

    that’s true, it doesn’t. i’d also suggest making some more moves at the UN regarding the chemical weapons treaty and maybe protocol II of the geneva conventions (syria isn’t a signatory to that either but FFS it’s the geneva convention). maybe come up with some way to have assad’s overseas assets frozen? i’m sure he has money stashed in various places.

    the latter could sting a bit. i dunno what else would be an effective deterrent.

  72. 72
    magurakurin says:

    @Cacti:

    Since an overwhelming majority of the nations of the world supported it, it makes it normative as an international precedent.

    But that same overwhelming majority is not coming out in support of a strike in this place at this time. That really just can’t be ignored.

    Ed Kilgore says it much better than I can

    Using military force to enforce “international norms” without international support is an inherently flawed concept. In the absence of any clear national security interest or self-defense motive for military action, it takes on the character of unilateralism in the guise of multilateralism, or to put it another way, a blow to collective security in the very name of collective security. There is no good or easy way out of this dilemma, but instead of forging ahead to “save face” or “re-establish a blurred red line,” the president should acknowledge the British action and the growing bipartisan rebellion in Congress by taking a step back and rebuilding his case and his network of support domestically and internationally. A “weak” but deadly attack to make a symbolic point will just worsen the situation all around.

  73. 73
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Vietnam
    Grenada
    Panama
    Kosovo
    Afghanistan
    Iraq
    Libya

    It’s obvious that America’s past use of military force acts as a powerful deterrent to, to, to…

  74. 74
    Jeremy says:

    My problem is with people acting like a strike is going to lead to some full blown war or topple the Assad regime. It won’t !

    It would be similar to what Clinton did in the 90’s to Iraq. And we still don’t know what the President will do.

  75. 75
    Cacti says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    If Syria had used CW against another country, I would agree that it was normative. However, this is a civil war and these weapons were deployed within the boundaries of a sovereign country. While their use is certainly deplorable from a humanitarian standpoint, so far it has posed no threat outside Syria.

    That would be you carving out a grand canyon sized exception to the prohibition on use, that doesn’t exist within the agreement.

  76. 76
    Jeremy says:

    @Cacti: I just think many are not in favor of another conflict even if it’s a limited strike because of Iraq and Middle East fatigue in general.

    Since there is no broad coalition I think we should definitely take a step back. I would also place the responsibility on Congress by demanding them to vote on it. If they kill it then the blame will be placed on them if more chemical weapons are used and more people die.

  77. 77
    chopper says:

    @Felonius Monk:

    the argument can be made that it’s customary international law. given that chemical warfare was also banned by the geneva conventions, to which syria is a signatory (tho it’s a gray area since this is a civil war), kinda bolsters that point a bit.

    if you think saddam gassing the kurds was illegal, than you’ll think this action was illegal.

  78. 78
    Cacti says:

    @Jeremy:

    I just think many are not in favor of another conflict even if it’s a limited strike because of Iraq and Middle East fatigue in general.

    I don’t disagree. The Iraq war has poisoned (no pun intended) future efforts to organize multilateral international interventions, even in situations where it’s thoroughly warranted under international law.

  79. 79
    RP says:

    @magurakurin: I basically agree with this. I hate the thought of letting Assad use these weapons, but if the international community doesn’t support action, I don’t think the US should go it alone. And, of course, airstrikes might be a complete waste of time.

    But this stuff about how those of us who aren’t rejecting military action out of hand want to kill brown people or swing our dicks is moronic.

  80. 80
    chopper says:

    @RP:

    I hate the thought of letting Assad use these weapons, but if the international community doesn’t support action, I don’t think the US should go it alone. And, of course, airstrikes might be a complete waste of time.

    exactly. what’s the point of airstrikes that don’t work?

    there’s got to be something or some set of moves that has an actual effect without blowing shit up.

  81. 81
    Cacti says:

    @RP:

    I basically agree with this. I hate the thought of letting Assad use these weapons, but if the international community doesn’t support action, I don’t the US should go it alone. And, of course, airstrikes might be a complete waste of time.

    If nothing is done at present, then the question essentially shifts to what is an acceptable number of chemical weapons attacks before intervention is warranted.

    I can’t say I’m really comfortable with a “one free gas attack” precedent.

  82. 82
    negative 1 says:

    @Jeremy: Yes, but you are the only one who has made this argument without saying “Oh, who cares about chemical weapons? You just want to kill foreigners!!!1!!!1 John McCain clone!!1!!”.
    A hint that someone is not being remotely coherent is when they can’t argue for their position on this conflict without ad hominem attacks, the words “republican”, “Iraq”, or “Afghanistan”.
    To everyone else: “dead is dead” would represent a sea change in the idea of international war crimes. The geneva convention was created after the last war in which chemical weapons were widely used, so obviously having seen them up close people disagreed with you. If you have evidence to the contrary, feel free to post.
    It is possible to still think that the war is not worth it even given the chemical weapons, but it is also possible to think that it is worth it if only for the chemical weapons. See how that works? I didn’t call anyone names or froth at the mouth.

  83. 83
    Anoniminous says:

    @DaveinMaine:

    That’s the world we’ve got.

    The reason modern chemical weapons (sarin was developed in the 30s) aren’t used is it’s a No-Win Game. VX – the modern version – is persistent for up to a year in rural areas and in urban areas for upwards of two years. (IIRC, it’s been a while.) You dump nerve gas, they dump nerve gas, and after a couple of iterations everybody is either dead, has severe neurological damage, or is busily and vainly trying to decontaminate hundreds or thousands of square miles.

  84. 84
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    The AUMF passed by Congress in 2001 authorizes the president to use military force against “nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

    There’s nothing in it that authorizes the president to use military force against an asshole dictator who gasses his people. If Congress is enthused about using military force against Syria then Congress will certainly pass another AUMF to authorize it – right? Otherwise, we are conceding that any US president can use military force against anyone anywhere in the world whenever he or she wishes. Do we want a Republican president to wield that kind of power?

  85. 85
    chopper says:

    @Anoniminous:

    luckily this stuff was sarin which disperses pretty quickly, but it’s a fair point. VX is some nasty shit. one of the reasons destroying our stockpile is taking so long.

  86. 86
    fuckwit says:

    That’s bizarre. We invade Iraq, create a clusterfuck, and cause shit-tons of Iraqis to stream across the border to Syria, as refugees (I remember reading the Bagdad Burning blog 10 years ago; I’m pretty sure she was among the refugees who fled).

    Now people are fleeing a clusterfuck in Syria, and becoming refugees in…. Iraq!

    Why do humans got to do all this killing? Is this really necessary?

  87. 87
    LAC says:

    @Botsplainer: yeah, because it is well known fact that refugee camps are impervious to gassing.

  88. 88
    chopper says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    meh. obama bombed libya in 2011 without citing the AUMF and without any congressional approval. most presidents have sent military assets some place or another without congressional approval.

  89. 89
    chopper says:

    @fuckwit:

    i remember making a recipe of hers for soup once. it was great.

  90. 90
    Baud says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    Otherwise, we are conceding that any US president can use military force against anyone anywhere in the world whenever he or she wishes. Do we want a Republican president to wield that kind of power?

    They already have it. Did Congress authorize Grenada? (Based on memory, they didn’t, but if I’m wrong, I’m sure there are other examples.)

  91. 91
    RP says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: The President does have that authority under the War Powers Resolution. IIRC, he has to notify congress within 48 hours and the activity can’t last more than 60 days.

    I’m pretty sure that the only people who think that law is unconstitutional are the presidents who think that *any* limit on their control of the military are unlawful and that Congress’s power to declare war doesn’t really apply to military action itself.

  92. 92
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Do note, Juan Cole is not an isolationist, pacifist or anti-Obama emoprog; he was very much on board with the Libya intervention, when I and many people here were not.

  93. 93
    Baud says:

    @RP:

    Yeah, Federalist Society folks hate the War Powers Act because they think it’s too restrictive.

  94. 94
    LAC says:

    @Cacti: Like you would ever see some guy helping out refugees in another country. Interferes with his searching for WIFI at starbucks and besides, he put a tip in the jar for Abdullah the barrista. So he helped…so there….

  95. 95
    ruemara says:

    @Carolinus: Jesus, I posted that article and the first comment was one of the warmonger type criticisms describing boots on the ground warfare. I had to ask if he actually read the article.

    I may be left, but I hate just reading headlines and jumping to conclusions based on feelings. READ. It still does not make me for striking Syria. I just don’t see a solution.

  96. 96
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Jeremy:

    My problem is with people acting like a strike is going to lead to some full blown war or topple the Assad regime. It won’t !

    It would be similar to what Clinton did in the 90′s to Iraq. And we still don’t know what the President will do.

    So, leading to a full-blown war and the toppling of the Assad regime by the following administration, several years later, fueled in part by a nagging sense that we didn’t finish the job and sold out our allies on the ground?

  97. 97
    chopper says:

    @RP:

    with libya, obama even argued that the WPR didn’t apply since it didn’t rise to the level of ‘hostilities’. he’d probably make the same argument regarding some cruise missiles.

    that being said, he still reported to congress commensurate with the WPR. and after the 60-day window ended he transferred us assets to NATO control so when congress put their pants back on and started to complain about the part of the statute that means anything at all, he said ‘fuck you guys, it’s with nato now’.

  98. 98
    Suffern ACE says:

    So this chemical weapons convention-what exactly does it say happens to those who sign it but disobey? That they are outlawed? That they must drop and give us 20?

  99. 99
    Chris says:

    @Cacti:

    There’s no difference between a bullet and a tactical nuke.

    And if you ban guns, people will just kill each other with knives and rocks.

  100. 100
    Figs says:

    @Suffern ACE: Or that any other signatory has the right to unilaterally enforce it by any means they see fit?

  101. 101
    Figs says:

    @Suffern ACE: Or that any other signatory has the right to unilaterally enforce it by any means they see fit?

  102. 102
    Cacti says:

    @LAC:

    yeah, because it is well known fact that refugee camps are impervious to gassing.

    And of course, Al Qaeda would never think of striking a camp where a bunch of displaced heretics were gathered together.

  103. 103
    mistermix says:

    @Matt McIrvin: Yes, plus I think, as Juan Cole does, when the NYT and Post are quoting “senior administration sources” about moves to bomb Syria, this isn’t just a bunch of commentators speculating about what Obama is going to do. So that’s why I discount the notion that this is a “right wing frame” that we’re buying into. But others, like Betty Cracker, don’t see it that way. We’ll see what happens.

  104. 104
    LAC says:

    @Cacti: NOOOOOO… of course not. It would never cross their minds. Instead, they would probably order pizza for everyone and sit down to a movie on Netflix.

    I wonder if we had all this social media back in the day, what would have been said about the gassing of jewish people by Germany. Just food for thought…

    OT: any upcoming discussion about the pretty, put upon Miranda and his “innocent” trip? Anyone? ….Bueller?

  105. 105
    ruemara says:

    @LAC:

    OT: any upcoming discussion about the pretty, put upon Miranda and his “innocent” trip? Anyone? ….Bueller?

    Nah. The NSA is still wrong and the US is the only spying government in the world and to quote Charlie Pierce on the issue of this information being in China and Russia,”Well, they’re not spending my money”, so that’s all that important. We should be more transparent by telling the press and Americans everything and giving information to journalists about everything because we’re spending American money and we’re the only big meanies in the world.

  106. 106
    LAC says:

    @ruemara: LOL! Well, then we are done here, right?

    And my question about the what happened in Germany was just thrown out there. I feel torn and conflicted about this – I do not want the US to go at this alone nor do I think we need to wade into every conflict in the world. But there is something uniquely awful about chemical warfare. It carries further than a bullet and leaving it unanswered is a dangerous precedent. And I am pissed off that because of fucking Bush (and the assholes who voted for this man TWICE or sat on their hands /or wasted a vote) that the stain of Iraq has to always be a part of any discussion.

  107. 107
    Betty Cracker says:

    @mistermix: I don’t know if it’s a right-wing frame so much as a media circle-jerk. I continue to hope that we’ll opt to sit on our hands, and I don’t trust unnamed sources who say we’re definitely going to start flinging bombs. A lot of people are talking about it as if it’s a done deal. Like you said, we’ll see.

  108. 108
    Betty Cracker says:

    @LAC:

    OT: any upcoming discussion about the pretty, put upon Miranda and his “innocent” trip? Anyone? ….Bueller?

    Seriously?

  109. 109
    LAC says:

    @Betty Cracker: yeah, seriously. Mr. “Innocent Spouse”… and the “pretty, put on…” is just a jab we fans of reality TV use to describe our wonderfully deluded stars of said shows.

  110. 110
    Pococurante says:

    I’m all for helping the refugees.

    But.

    Seems a bit strange to say, break all the civilians you want we’ll pick up the tab to free up your resources for, well, breaking all the civilians you want.

    It’s always amazed me why people who stand by when the bombs fall think just sending in the red crescent washes away their passive complicity.

  111. 111
    Pococurante says:

    @Baud: Only if we get the first poke in the eye, Irish stand off and all that.

  112. 112
    Anna in PDX says:

    @Cacti: The R2P is not an official written part of the CWC. And, also, Syria never signed/ratified the CWC. And, also, the R2P does not say that force is the only option for a response to the use of chemical warfare.

  113. 113
    Robert says:

    @KCinDC: Bombing Syria is the “easy” part of the plan…I agree that we should use our assets to carve out territory on the surrounding friendly borders, set up GOOD camps and protect them with our military…Get the non-combatants out of harms way, and let the antagonists get it on…

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