Another Chemical Attack

It looks like Bashir al-Assad dropped another bunch of chemicals on civilians in East Ghouta again today. Horrible photos of the dead are circulating on Twitter. It’s not clear whether this was Sarin or chlorine, or Assad’s trademark mixture of the two. Early reports are that over 100 people have been killed.

It is exactly a year ago today that Donald Trump sent 59 cruise missiles into Syria to respond to a similar chemical attack.

There’s a continuing argument among strategists about deterrence. One side says that if you whack someone like Assad hard enough, he won’t do it again. The other says that Assad will choose to do what is best for him strategically and take his lumps if necessary, or take the chance that there won’t be retribution. I tend toward the second

It’s that argument that continues around Barack Obama’s “red line” for Syrian chemical weapons use. One side says that taking the deal to disarm Syria of most of its chemical weapons instead of whacking Assad led to the belief that Obama was soft, hence Putin’s incursion into Ukraine and all other evils since then. I think that putting aside a strike that would have killed more civilians and been far from taking out all the chemical warfare facilities in favor of peacefully removing most of the chemical weapons was a sign of good judgment.

And, contrary to some of what I’m seeing in response to Assad’s strike today, nobody expected that every single drop of chemical agent would be removed from Syria. But most of it was, and the facilities for making more disabled.

 

139 replies
  1. 1
    Corner Stone says:

    It’s not that Obama was soft for not striking Assad/Syria. I was personally against military “boots onna ground” style intervention. But you can not, arguably, say that calling for a Red Line and then falling back on asking Congress to vote for authorization did not signal exactly where our weakness was.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    Why can’t we just kill Assad with a missile strike? Is his location unknown?

  4. 4
    Davis X. Machina says:

    What will we do? Nothing. Most of us, anyways. Except on Twitter.

    There, there will be those who will insist that this was the rebels gassing their own, to blacken the Assad regime. And the fans, left and right, of the Westphalian nation-state, because internal affair, sovereign something, something.

    Also “‘Humanitarian intervention’ is just another word for US invasion!”
    Or “Those people are animals. Let them kill each other.It’s far away.”

    Depending.

    Lovely species, we are…..

  5. 5
    efgoldman says:

    most of it was, and the facilities for making more disabled.

    Then where did it come from? Putin? NORK? Iran?

  6. 6
    Jager says:

    Think that leaving Assad out of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish “talks” on the future of Syria may have something to do with Assad’s actions?

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @efgoldman: If chlorine, the stuff is bog-standard, and available, inter alia, from just about every first- or second-generation municipal water treatment plant.

  9. 9
  10. 10
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davis X. Machina: It was the combo: chlorine and a nerve agent. Most likely sarin.

  11. 11
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Cheryl, thank you for this post. I was in a fast food place a couple of hours ago and I was seeing CNN (FFS) coverage of this. I got nome and was really surprised not to see anything mentioned here. I brought it up in comments below, but, Damn, chemical weapons….

  12. 12

    @efgoldman: It’s most likely some he held back.

  13. 13

    @efgoldman: It’s most likely some he held back.

  14. 14
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: C3. He should have been done a long time ago. Way before Putin took over as Godfather of Syria.

  15. 15
    Adam L Silverman says:

    At this point Russia and its Syrian client have violated the agreement reached with the US under the Obama administration regarding the removal and destruction of chemical and biological agents in Syria. Not responding forcefully should not be an option. And by forcefully I don’t mean lobbing a couple of cruise missiles at an air base that doesn’t even put the airbase out of commission for more than 24 hours. The whole premise of US Airpower theory is that we have dominance in the air domain. It is time to demonstrate that. Nothing should fly over Syria unless we allow it. Not planes. Not missiles. And anything that does should not be allowed to stay aloft for very long.

    And I will be very upfront: in 2013 I argued against enforcing the red line in a strategic analysis I did for the Office of the Secretary of Defense-Policy and CENTCOM’s Command Group, also distributed to the Director of the Department of State’s Near East and South Asia Desk, Army Central, SOCOM, US Army Special Operations Command, EUCOM, and US Army Europe. This is not 2013. And to mark my beliefs to market – I was wrong then. Not enforcing the red line did not significantly advance US, allied, and partnered strategic objectives as it simply encouraged Assad and his patron Putin.

  16. 16
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Corner Stone:
    That would be US aggression.
    Unless it was multilateral, and then it would be like Libya.
    Besides, it’s about the oil.
    And US hegemony.

    (We’ve been here before…)

  17. 17
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I just emailed her to thank her too. I was out having a “Passover is over, I can have real food” dinner, saw the news, and came home to do a post on it. Cheryl thankfully beat me to it.

  18. 18
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Fuck it. Assad is an evil asshole who deserves to get blown up by a missile. If Putin doesn’t like that, too bad.

  19. 19
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Adam L Silverman: At least you had real food.

  20. 20
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท: That’s the thing. Heads of State/Government generally don’t target one another lest it become a thing.

  21. 21
    GregB says:

    There is a quickening of events afoot.

    There is alot of news dropping about the direct connections between elements in Trumplandia and the GOP and Russia.

    The staggering corruption of Pruitt.

    NRAโ€™s Nugent openly calling for murder of liberals.

    The deterioration in Israel and Gaza.

    Plus much more.

  22. 22
    Corner Stone says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Where are the contradictions that we should be heightening?

  23. 23
    efgoldman says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I was out having a โ€œPassover is over, I can have real foodโ€ dinner

    OT, Adam, but i don’t know when else we’ll “talk”.
    Playoffs start Wednesday

  24. 24
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Corner Stone: In Amy Goodman’s green room.

  25. 25
    Corner Stone says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: We (the US) never had to kill Assad. Just like we did not with Sadam or Qadaffi. If it’s going to be fucked up we should at least fuck it correctly.

  26. 26
    Mary G says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The whole premise of US Airpower theory is that we have dominance in the air domain. It is time to demonstrate that. Nothing should fly over Syria unless we allow it. Not planes. Not missiles. And anything that does should not be allowed to stay aloft for very long.

    So, of course, the president has decided we should pack up and leave. Is there any way for the military to push back on him?

  27. 27
  28. 28
    Chip Daniels says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท:

    Assad is an evil asshole who deserves to get blown up by a missile

    As Obama was fond of asking in briefings, “OK<, then what happens?"

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Oh. No wonder! I keep looking in Nicolle Wallace’s panty drawer.

  30. 30
    Ken says:

    @Mary G:

    Is there any way for the military to push back on him?

    Speaking of red lines…

  31. 31
    efgoldman says:

    @Mary G:

    Is there any way for the military to push back on him?

    They could bomb Mal-a-Loco

  32. 32
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @efgoldman: or get Ann Coulter to tweet at him

  33. 33
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Chip Daniels:
    He dies.

  34. 34
  35. 35
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: True.

  36. 36

    It is exactly a year ago today that Donald Trump sent 59 cruise missiles into Syria to respond to a similar chemical attack.

    After asking Putin for permission, giving Putin and his allies time to evacuate the base. Not only did the attack do minimal damage, Putin used it as an excuse to cancel one of his agreements with the US.

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Yep, just got back from pizza. Mmmmmmm, pizza.

  37. 37
    Another Scott says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Counterfactuals are always fun.

    I think Cheryl’s take on Obama’s decision to let Kerry forge an agreement with Russia to get most of the chemical weapons out of Syria was a good one. I agreed with it, and still do.

    As for what to do now, I dunno. Why is the now situation different compared to the dozens of other times that Assad’s forces (almost certainly, but not 100% provable) poisoned civilians? How would a No Fly Zone help advance the US’s interests? Would any other signatory of the CWC, or important member of the OPCW join us in this action? What if other nearby states didn’t offer up their air bases for our use? How many carrier battle groups would we be willing to dedicate to this effort?

    The FAS link above says that Syria is not a signatory of the CWC, but they did so as part of the agreement in 2013.

    Wikipedia:

    The Framework states that, in the event of noncompliance, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The Framework does not state how Syria’s compliance would be measured, or what the penalties Syria would incur if it did not comply.[43] Under the UN Charter, Chapter VII measures range from “demonstrations” to sanctions or military action and could be vetoed by any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Russia and China had previously vetoed three resolutions attempting to condemn or sanction Syria,[44] and were considered likely to block any future Security Council sanctioned military action against Syria.[45] The U.S. indicated it might resort to military action outside the UN if Syria failed to comply with the Security Council resolution requiring it to eliminate its chemical weapons.[46]

    Chlorine, a common industrial chemical which would later allegedly be used in poison-gas attacks inside Syria in 2014, is not on the list of prohibited chemicals covered by the disarmament agreement.[47]

    Any sort of military action by the US seems unlikely to have UN backing. Would it have significant NATO backing? GCC backing?

    How and when would any US-enforced No Fly Zone end?

    I dunno. If we can’t get other countries to do more than say, “Sure, USA, you do what you need to do to enforce these important international agreements. We won’t block you, and we won’t send matรฉriel or money either”, then it seems to be another opportunity for us to waste time, money, and lives in a decades-long battle that we can’t win.

    If important other allies step forward, then we can talk more about what a sensible set of actions might be – and how we will know when we’re done.

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  38. 38

    @Adam L Silverman: It’s a hard call, but I’m going to disagree with you. As far as I can see, the punishment theory just doesn’t work, and Assad told us that today. I would say you were right in your earlier call, too. Assad sees chemical weapons as his ace in the hole, to be used when things get too bad. Ghouta has been a center of resistance; it’s the place Assad chemically bombed in 2013. It looks like the “hit them harder” approach doesn’t work for Assad either. However, he’s not unwilling to just kill them all.

    Then there’s the whole question of the US role in Syria and how far down do we want to get involved or how close to the Russians do we want to come.

    More abstractly, we get into the question of how a treaty like the Chemical Weapons Convention is to be enforced. Bombing violators for peace?

    Diplomacy, of course, would be the best, but it’s not been going well in Syria. As long as one side or the other feels they have an advantage, diplomacy will not be useful.

    There are no easy answers.

  39. 39
    Jay says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    Other than in Iraq, under US Sanctions.

  40. 40
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @GregB:

    NRAโ€™s Nugent openly calling for murder of liberals.

    This would be a day that ends in day.

  41. 41
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    We win, Putin is cowed, and the world is a better place. The end.

    /s

  42. 42
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @efgoldman: Yes, yes they do!

  43. 43
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: They’ve pushed back as far as they can based on the reporting over the past week.

    My guess is nothing will happen in terms of a response.

  44. 44
    Brachiator says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    It is time to demonstrate that. Nothing should fly over Syria unless we allow it. Not planes. Not missiles. And anything that does should not be allowed to stay aloft for very long.

    I don’t know that the US is a major player in the region anymore. Russia, Iran and Turkey seem to be having discussions to decide the fate of Assad and the Kurds.

    There was a recent Reuters story about Russian military flights into and out of Syria.

    The operation lays bare the gaps in the U.S. sanctions, which are designed to starve Assad and his allies in Iranโ€™s Revolutionary Guard and the Hezbollah militia of the men and materiel they need to wage their military campaign.

    It also provides a glimpse of the methods used to send private Russian military contractors to Syria โ€“ a deployment the Kremlin insists does not exist.

    https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/russia-flights/

  45. 45
    Jay says:

    I always take “chemical weapons” attacks in Syria with a lot of salt.

    Neither side is trustworthy, and all investigations, have been “questionable”, to a large part because neutral, believable parties can’t go to the site of the attack, take samples and investigate.

    It’s like “viagra rape drugs” in Lybia, and bee poop in Cambodia.

  46. 46
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Brachiator: I’ve seen the article.

  47. 47
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jay:

    Itโ€™s like โ€œviagra rape drugsโ€ in Lybia, and bee poop in Cambodia.

    I…uhhh…hmmm…

  48. 48
    RedDirtGirl says:

    How is it possible that there is nothing about this on the front pages of the FTFNYT and WaPo?!

  49. 49

    @Jay: Previous attacks have been investigated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and it’s pretty clear that the Assad regime has been using chemical weapons. Then there’s evidence like barrel bombs with chlorine dropped from helicopters. Only the regime has helicopters. And so on.

    There’s good evidence available.

  50. 50
    Davebo says:

    I lean towards the idea that there’s no good answer to the crap Assad is doing but I know for sure Putin’s puppet won’t come up with one if it exists.

  51. 51

    @RedDirtGirl: It’s only just happened. Let’s see how those front pages look tomorrow.

  52. 52
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @RedDirtGirl: twitter is very quiet, too

    It is exactly a year ago today that Donald Trump sent 59 cruise missiles into Syria to respond to a similar chemical attack.

    terrifying to think that he remembers every word of the hysterical praise he got for that

  53. 53
    Davebo says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Whoah!

    Are you talking taking control of Syrian airspace to include Russian Air Ops?

    Are you serious?

  54. 54

  55. 55
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: Yes I am. Denial of flight.

  56. 56
    Davebo says:

    @Adam L Silverman: That’s a precarious step to take. One I’m not sure we would be willing to back up. Perhaps even one we wouldn’t be able to back up at this time.

  57. 57
    Corner Stone says:

    @Davebo: Every single thing should have been shot out of the sky for at least the last few years.

  58. 58
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: I’m aware. I’m also aware it isn’t going to happen.

  59. 59
    Davebo says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Do you think Turkey would be supportive? I certainly don’t get a good feeling about putting a CAG around Cyprus long term.

  60. 60
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Brachiator:
    What the fuck does Turkey think it’s doing? They’re apart of NATO and supposedly an ally of ours.

  61. 61
    Davebo says:

    @Corner Stone: Well we could use LASERS FROM SPACE but if that doesn’t work out it gets a little complicated.

  62. 62
  63. 63
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: Turkey would not be helpful. Or, rather, the Erdogan government would not be helpful.

    The reality is it isn’t going to happen. I’d be very surprised if there is even a token response. Hence my overreactionary recommendations in the comments.

  64. 64
    efgoldman says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท:

    Theyโ€™re apart of NATO and supposedly an ally of ours.

    I this the same ally that sent goons out of their embassy to beat American protesters on us soil?
    Some ally they are

  65. 65
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Davebo:
    My point is they’re acting against US foreign policy, working with an autocratic, fascist regime that is a global threat. I understand the current Turkish government is autocratic itself, but my point remains. They aren’t an ally and should be booted from NATO. They’re values are incompatible with ours.

  66. 66
    smike says:

    @Another Scott: At this time it seems we will have to await a change on the presidential level for any alliance building to occur. I don’t think the “First, kiss my ring and profess my magnificence” approach is going to get us very far.

  67. 67
  68. 68
    efgoldman says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท:

    theyโ€™re acting against US Foreign policy

    For that to be true, the US would have to have a foreign policy.

  69. 69
    Corner Stone says:

    @Davebo: I say we drop a few of Vlad’s favorite pilots. Or maybe we can keep dropping our panties. Either way, I guess.

  70. 70
    Corner Stone says:

    Turkey, Iran and RUS held a summit about Syria the other day. Who was not there? The USA and NOT Syria.

  71. 71
    Bill Arnold says:

    Any comment on this yet? (Off topic but perhaps of interest to people interested in the Syria story)
    Secret, direct talks underway between US and North Korea !!!Warning: autoplay video on page.!!!

    Officials said the decision to use the already existing intelligence channel was more a facet of Pompeo’s current status as CIA director as he awaits confirmation as secretary of state than a reflection of the content of the discussions. Pompeo is expected to begin the process of Senate confirmation in the next several weeks.

    I’m quite happy to hear that at least some professionals are involved.

  72. 72
    Davebo says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Tactical Aviation meets reality. Don’t even want to talk about the clusterfuck that is Syria tonight.

    I have no idea what should be done but I’m confident our leadership doesn’t either.

  73. 73
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    I still don’t like it. Were we even consulted about this? I don’t think so.

  74. 74
    Davebo says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท: Last I looked, the US doesn’t “Own” NATO and can’t unilaterally decide who can and can not be a member.

    And that’s a good thing.

  75. 75
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท: This isn’t a NATO operation. No requirement for Erdogan to consult with us.

  76. 76
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: Yep. And Yep.

  77. 77
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: Have you checked with the President about your annual dues?

  78. 78

    @Bill Arnold: It’s hard to believe that any kind of meeting between Kim and Trump can take place without some of this kind of conversation. There is another channel through the North Korean UN ambassador that has been used as well. As the article says, they have to agree on a place.

    What’s not so good here is that apparently all the planning is being done by the CIA because Trump trusts Pompeo. State should be the lead. Maybe they will be if Pompeo is approved as Secretary of State.

  79. 79
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @RedDirtGirl: I am told that:

    I always take โ€œchemical weaponsโ€ attacks in Syria with a lot of salt.

    Neither side is trustworthy, and all investigations, have been โ€œquestionableโ€, to a large part because neutral, believable parties canโ€™t go to the site of the attack, take samples and investigate.

    Itโ€™s like โ€œviagra rape drugsโ€ in Lybia, and bee poop in Cambodia.

  80. 80
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Bill Arnold: Makes perfect sense to use the communication channel that exists.

    Also, at this point, what Xi wants and is willing to accept is going to have more weight. The more we push China on tariffs and a trade war, the more likely Xi will push Kim to do what Xi wants, not what the President wants.

  81. 81
    Corner Stone says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Isn’t the timing of all this China tariff nonsense really suspect?

  82. 82
    Lyrebird says:

    Regarding both:
    @Cheryl Rofer:

    More abstractly, we get into the question of how a treaty like the Chemical Weapons Convention is to be enforced. Bombing violators for peace?

    and
    @Another Scott:

    If important other allies step forward, then we can talk more about what a sensible set of actions might be โ€“ and how we will know when weโ€™re done.

    what a great time to have such wonderful relations with our historical allies /s

    ..and a demoralized and jaw-droppingly understaffed State Department, too.

  83. 83
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Adam L Silverman:
    Yes but we have interests there and we would protect them if they ever invoked Article 5. That should count for something. We were attacked by Russia in 2016, in order to undermine our society and government. Russia has also attacked private citizens on the soil of fellow NATO allies. Turkey has no business meeting with a rogue state like Russia to decide the fate of an entire region.

  84. 84
    NotMax says:

    @Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)

    Wow. Was there a clearance sale at Simplistic R Us?

    (Sorry for being so blunt, but really.)

  85. 85
    Corner Stone says:

    China will never show weakness to someone like Trump. Xi can hold out forever and just keep raining down damage bombs in small increments. We need China for a number of reasons. This is just stupid bluffing/blustering.

  86. 86
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Corner Stone: If suspect here means bad idea, then yes. If suspect here means because the President needs ego gratification because he hasn’t gotten a wall, the majority of American’s haven’t fallen in line and demonstrated their love and devotion for him, then yes.

  87. 87
    Lyrebird says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The reality is it isnโ€™t going to happen. Iโ€™d be very surprised if there is even a token response. Hence my overreactionary recommendations in the comments.

    Further props to you and Cheryl for sharing more of your thoughts and reasoning here for other jackals to read, maybe making more of us more informed for that time when we once again have someone in the White House who takes the job seriously. Brennan didn’t put too fine a point on that the other day…

    In the meantime, not sure what else to do other than try to dig up some more cash for the international rescue committee.

  88. 88
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @NotMax:
    I kind of hinted at the complexity when I rhetorically asked if his location was unknown. I understand that you can’t simply go around killing heads of state. Doesn’t make it any less frustrating when horrible crap like the chemical attack today happens.

  89. 89
    Amir Khalid says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท:
    Neither the US’ “interests” in Syria nor its room for manoeuvre in enforcing them extends indefinitely.

  90. 90
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท: Have you ever taken a Poli.Sci course? About anything?

  91. 91

    @Lyrebird:

    In the meantime, not sure what else to do other than try to dig up some more cash for the international rescue committee.

    That is a very good thing to do.

  92. 92
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Lyrebird: You’re welcome. Other than a certain over exuberance for an overwhelming military response, I’m not really sure that I’ve been overly helpful this evening.

  93. 93
    Davebo says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I’m giving 3% of my GDP every year.

    OK, basically I’m sponsoring a food stand just off fleet landing in Naples.

  94. 94
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Nope.

  95. 95
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: I used to love the bratwurst stand between the USAREUR HQ building and the parking garage at Clay Kaserne.

  96. 96
    Davebo says:

    @Adam L Silverman: On Saturday night a massive alpha strike sounds like the only solution.

    On Sunday morning you remember that there are limits to air power and you’re terrified about the alternatives left in the tool box.

  97. 97
    NotMax says:

    @Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)

    Um, Turkey is in the region and is a node of regional power there. That their foreign policy entails following what they perceive (not arguing right or wrong, wise or foolish here, just that the perception exists) to be (a) in their interest, (b) advances said interest and is not required to hone by default to the same of the U.S. is diplomatic reality. That is not to say or imply there is free rein granted by dint of their position and location.

  98. 98
    Brachiator says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    The more we push China on tariffs and a trade war, the more likely Xi will push Kim to do what Xi wants, not what the President wants.

    Well framed. Trump’s push for an economic “deal” of dubious value actually undermines his ability to negotiate with North Korea.

    Does he have anyone in place to give him good foreign policy advice? Would he listen?

    I get the feeling that even though may still have institutional wisdom available, he doesn’t know that he may not know enough to even ask the right questions, unless he magically develops the humility required to listen.

    Or maybe he is waiting for someone at Fox News to appear on tv and tell him what to do.

  99. 99
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Davebo: then somebody on twitter reminds you that John Bolton reports as the NSA on Monday morning

  100. 100
    Davebo says:

    @Adam L Silverman: In 86 I got so sick from a stand sandwich that my berthing mates made me move to a closet outside the ready room till the “exhaust” ran it’s course.

    Can’t blame them. It was bad.

  101. 101
    Davebo says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: The upside is Trump ignores Kudlow on economics so maybe he’ll ignore Bolton on foreign policy.

  102. 102
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: It’s just frustration on my part. I’ve been providing strategic analysis and assessment and operational support on this since 2012. I know better than most that we have few good options in terms of what would happen if Assad goes. And I know that the very light footprint by, with, and through strategy we’re using with our local partners makes the most sense. But a formally recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) civil war has waged for seven years. Far too many have been killed. Far too many have had to flee. It is just very, very frustrating. I should have let that comment sit for a while before hitting post.

  103. 103
    efgoldman says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท:

    My personal moral authority is more than sufficient though to know about this stuff.

    No it isn’t. Not to deal with the real world’s limitations, it isn’t.

  104. 104
  105. 105
    Jay says:

    @Corner Stone:

    https://www.belfercenter.org/publication/lessons-libya-how-not-intervene

    Basically, Quaffadi’s Security Forces were using extreme discrescion to put down a mostly Jihadi revolt, with very few civillian casualties, and were extremely sucessful at restoring law and order,

    Until the jihadi’s tapped into Social media, selling “predjudices” about the Lybian Regime.

    As my Syrian Refugee Doctor (Assyrian) explained to me, a long time ago, he got his family out of Syria early in 2011, not because he was anti-Assad, or pro-Assad, but because he saw “who” was leading the violent protests, an he knew they were the sort of people who would put Doctor’s heads up on sticks, for being Doctors.

  106. 106
    NotMax says:

    @efgoldman

    Yup. Judge, jury and executioner is not a good look on anyone.

  107. 107
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Brachiator: I don’t know who the Asia and China directors are on the National Security Staff. I don’t know who is left at State or if he’d even listen to them. I know some of the senior civil service Asia analysts at Department of the Army and DOD – one of them is a former student of mine. And I know that Secretary Mattis, Gen Dunford, and the Service Chiefs will give candid, but polite inputs. But I honestly have no idea who the President actually listens to. And I know Bolton won’t listen to anyone.

    The other problem is that the administration is all over the map. The President says one thing and then Kudlow comes out and says something else. Then Mnuchin says a third thing, Ross brings it back towards the President’s remarks, and then the President says something else. Or doubles down. At one level, whatever the President says on an issue is the US policy on that issue. Unfortunately the President contradicts himself a lot and his senior advisors all contradict him and each other. So at any given time there appears to be at least two, and sometimes five or six, different US policies on the same issue. And they’re usually all contradicting each other.

  108. 108
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: Ugh, that’s no fun. When I was in Iraq, I had no issues when I ate with the locals. Eating on post, however, would often make me sick.

  109. 109
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Davebo: Given that Kudlow knows less about economics than my dogs, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  110. 110
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    No. At that point I realized how stupid I was beginning to sound and was trying to bow out.

  111. 111
    ๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท says:

    @efgoldman:
    I know and I edited that comment to reflect that.

  112. 112
    Jay says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    Chlorine, not so much. Barrel bombs, yes, but the US used barrel bombs in Vietnam. Sarin, not so much.

    I’ve seen footage of the White Helmets supposedly handling a sarin attack and the victims, with a surgical mask, with no effect.

    Contrast that with the Skripal door knob.

    Part of the problem with “Red Lines”, is that some people will try to use that, to garner intervention.

    The OPCW has always in Syria, acted/investigated on second hand information. For some strange reason, OPCW couldn’t investigate the first Ghouta attack, on site, and on the ground. The Shrian Regime said they could, but for some reason, ( Allah’s Holy Army controlled East Ghouta at the time), it wasn’t “safe”.

    When the OPCW can’t put boots on the ground out of fear of creating another jihadi execution tape, the findings are “suspect”.

    I really wish it wern’t , but;

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBC_News_team_kidnapping_in_Syria

  113. 113
    Brachiator says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    At one level, whatever the President says on an issue is the US policy on that issue. Unfortunately the President contradicts himself a lot and his senior advisors all contradict him and each other.

    This is not reassuring.

    Allies and others (no point in calling anyone an enemy) could sit back and wait for a US response. But wouldn’t it be more likely that they would take advantage of an opening provided by Trump’s confusion and indecision?

  114. 114
    Jay says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท:

    You can’t kick people out of NATO,

    They can quit if they want, but you can’t kick them out.

  115. 115
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Jay: Not many people know this, but the OPCW is actually run out of an unmarked building in an office park in Northern Virginia.

  116. 116
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Brachiator:

    Or maybe he is waiting for someone at Fox News to appear on tv and tell him what to do.

    It’s called “Pirro duty”

    โ€œAides sometimes plot to have guests make points on Fox that they have been unable to get the president to agree to in person. โ€˜He will listen more when it is on TV,โ€™ a senior administration official said.โ€ Pirro duty is considered important enough that โ€œofficials rotate going on Pirroโ€™s show because they know Trump will be watching โ€” and partially to prevent him from calling in himself.โ€

    (“This is not normal!!!” No really. It’s not normal. Name a single enterprise in the world that operates like this other than the Trump administration.)
    (The bit about preventing DJT from calling in is especially … [something].)

  117. 117
    GregB says:

    Also too. Eric Prince has raided Wakanda and stole a shit load of vibranium.

  118. 118
    Rommie says:

    Here’s the deal for me: Chemical Weapons are the “C” in the NBC definition of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Anyone using them was supposed to cross that dreaded Red Line and trigger a OH HELL NO response.

    If using the “C” part becomes sternly worded letters and token responses, Pandora starts crying a river of tears. That was the conventional wisdom, was it not?

    So I understand Adam’s reaction to go OH HELL NO about this. The goalposts are getting moved into uncomfortable and/or dangerous territory.

    As usual, “why?” and “how?” are the simple questions with difficult answers.

  119. 119
    Jay says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    Yup, sell that to Alex Jones.

    The OPCW couldn’t put “boots on the ground” in East Gouta, because nobody, other than the Syrian Regime, would vouch for their safety.

    It’s a “big” problem when you can’t investigate claims of CBW use, because your people on the ground might end up on You Tube in orange jump suits, less their heads.

    Kinda “taints” the second person supplied “evidence” and “witness statements”.

  120. 120
    Jay says:

    @Rommie:

    The problem is the “C” is in “no mans land”.

    Red lines can be manipulated in absense of neutral evidence.

    The Anfal Campaign is now acknowledged by pretty much everybody to have been Saddam’s Chemical Ali’s handiwork.

    Funny thing, at the time, the US, knowing completely differently, blamed Iran.

    When Vietnam took on the Khymer Rouge, the US leveled charges of Vietnam using mustard based CBW against , civillians.

    Turned out to be bee poop.

  121. 121
    Corner Stone says:

    @Jay: Dood. Do you even know how crazy you sound rite naow?

  122. 122
    Arclite says:

    How about something more than the fucking ticky-tack bullshit we did a year ago. And if a few Russians happen to be in the military installation from which the chem attacks are occuring, fuck ’em. They are in the know, and therefore complicit. Make there be a real cost to this bullshit, and it will stop.

    Also, send a B-2 loaded with 16 2000lb JDAMs to wreck Assad’s palace, and he’ll get the message.

  123. 123
    Sm*t Cl*de says:

    @Jay:

    Iโ€™ve seen footage of the White Helmets supposedly handling a sarin attack and the victims, with a surgical mask, with no effect.
    Contrast that with the Skripal door knob.

    That is very silly, even by my non-demanding standards for absurdity. Sarin: extremely volatile, non-persistent. Novichok: low-volatility powder, persistent.

  124. 124
    J R in WV says:

    @efgoldman:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku:

    My personal moral authority is more than sufficient though to know about this stuff.

    No, personal moral authority doesn’t provide any knowledge whatsoever about anything. You approach the concept of Papal Divine Authority here, but in an area where you know very little about the politics, culture, or even scientific and technical parameters of the weapons being used against civilian populations.

    It doesn’t take much “moral authority” to know that using advanced chemical weapons against even trained and equipped troops is evil, that these weapons are terror weapons, etc. I’ll give you a pass on hating them for that reason. I took NBC training a long time ago, and the first aid kits all over the ship contained injectable Atropine, a go-to antidote for a wide variety of nerve agent poisons.

    We were taught how to use masks to protect against breathing such poisons, but of course in the real world, you need far more protection than just a gas mask against most nerve gas agents. More like a moon suit type of gear, to keep agents from any contact with your skin, eyes, breathing. We had such suits, and we could close the ship pretty much airtight, and actually spray a huge amount of sea water, surrounding the ship with thousands of gallons/minute of spray. It seemed like a pretense of protection to me, but I guess some folks more educated on the chemicals and fallout parameters devised these solutions.

    I’m pretty much willing to take serious military action against any agency using nerve gas, or even plain old chlorine. It is seriously evil and banned by many international agreements, even against military targets, let alone civilian targets. Assad is now among the more evil military leaders in the world’s history, in the hall of shame where Pol Pot, The Imperial Japanese High Command, Hitler, Stalin, and such folk reside in infamy.

  125. 125
    Barry says:

    @๐ŸŒŽ ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ๐Ÿ—ณ ๐ŸŒท: “Why canโ€™t we just kill Assad with a missile strike? Is his location unknown?”

    If I were Assad, I’d be taking many precautions, and doing a lot of deception.

  126. 126

    @Jay:

    Iโ€™ve seen footage of the White Helmets supposedly handling a sarin attack and the victims, with a surgical mask, with no effect.

    So you’re willing to believe some videos but not others. That’s called cherry-picking.

    The OPCW has always in Syria, acted/investigated on second hand information.

    This is not true. They have taken their own samples. In cases where they have analyzed samples taken by others, stuff like Sarin and the additive that the government uses turn up in the amounts one might expect from an attack. That’s pretty smart fabrication of samples. And the OPCW tries to have a chain of custody and treats the data with appropriate uncertainties.

  127. 127
    debbie says:

    I’m tired of people telling me we can’t do anything about Russia. I don’t care that it would violate the inviolate UN Charter. It is time to kick them out. Period.

  128. 128
    Another Scott says:

    @debbie: We can, and probably are, doing things about Russia. Things that we mostly don’t hear about.

    E.g. RFERL – Resumed Anonymous Bomb Threats Prompt Evacuations In Several Russian Cities.

    Anonymous bomb threats that had prompted mass evacuations in several Russian cities have resumed.

    Local officials said thousands were evacuated on December 20 from administrative buildings, schools, universities, shopping malls, markets, hospitals, and hotels in Moscow, Stavropol, Cherkessk, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

    A spate of telephone bomb threats that proved to be hoaxes had targeted some 3,500 public buildings in 190 Russian cities and led to the evacuation of more than 2.3 million people in September, Russian officials said.

    Bombs were never discovered in any of the cases.

    […]

    Is the US involved? Dunno. But we very well might be…

    The point is, we have many ways of expressing our displeasure and encouraging different actions.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  129. 129
    debbie says:

    @Another Scott:

    Anonymous bomb threats that had prompted mass evacuations in several Russian cities have resumed.

    More likely than US involvement is that Putin was behind this, if for no other reason than to gin up Russians’ fears and paranoia, as they did in Chechnya.

  130. 130
    germy says:

    I saw this response to a GG tweet:

    At this point, even calling the poisoning an "attack" is speculative. The symptoms are reportedly consistent with those of Paralytic Shellfish Poison (PSP), and the Skripals had just eaten a seafood lunch 40 minutes prior to getting ill.— Sue Greenwald (@SueGreenwald) April 7, 2018

    So it was just some bad seafood. Interesting theory.

  131. 131
    Another Scott says:

    @germy: It is indeed just another Iraqi WMD scam, you see.

    (groucho-roll-eyes.gif)

    Cheers,
    Scott.
    (“Who wonders how many of the 573 comments are from Putin’s troll farm…”)

  132. 132
    Leto says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    But I honestly have no idea who the President actually listens to

    We know who he listens to: they’re on every morning, Mon-Fri, from 4am-9am. They’re his friends. They speak directly to him. They know more about what’s happening in the world than anyone else. They “get him”. Anyone else? *crickets*

    @germy: Good to know food poisoning will leave you in critical condition, in a coma, for about 30 days. Yup, any sane/rational thinker will believe that.

  133. 133
    debbie says:

    @Leto:

    Lately, it seems to me that while he looks to F&F for tongue baths, Trump’s ideas and statements seem to have sprung from the brain of Stephen Miller. Especially this morning’s gems.

  134. 134
    Mike in Pasadena says:

    Back in the aughts we extraordinarily rendered people to Syria for enhanced interrogation (and killing, if necessary) because dickless Cheney and baby Bush thought doing so would win friends and influence people. So now that the Syrian government kills its own people we get on our high horse? Is the message “don’t kill people unless the U.S. tells you to torture and kill them” or something else? I am so confused.

  135. 135
    Jon Marcus says:

    Why would Assad have done this? My perception is that he’s got the rebels just about rolled up, with momentum on his side. Is that inaccurate?

    Because if it’s accurate, I see very little upside to carrying out a CW attack now. And OTOH, there’s quite a bit of possible upside for Syrian rebels in carrying out a false flag operation that (if successful) forces the Syrian gov’t to defend itself against outside attack.

  136. 136
    Formerly disgruntled in Oregon says:

    @Mike in Pasadena: “We” can get on our high horse and say that killing civilians is wrong no matter who’s doing the killing. This kind of what-aboutism may be the best argument Trumpers (“whattabout Hillary?”), white supremacists (“whattabout White lives?”), and gun-humpers (“whattabout [anything other than guns]?”) have got, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good faith argument.

  137. 137
    debbie says:

    @Jon Marcus:

    To Assad, the upside is that there will be no consequences.

  138. 138
    Mike in Pasadena says:

    @Formerly disgruntled in Oregon: You make a very good point. I inartfully used the word “we” when I meant the United States squandered its moral authority to tell others what to do or not do when the Cheney Administration committed war crimes. I do not object to people on this blog saddling up on their high horses. The U.S. government has a hypocrisy problem thanks especially to the previous Republican administration and the actions of the military and the CIA, whatever the implications of whataboutism might be.

  139. 139
    Jay says:

    @Jon Marcus:

    Informed Comment suggests that the Army of Islam, who don’t want to leave Douma, ( the last enclave in East Ghouta) for Ildib, ( Ildib is al Nusra turf for the most part, the two groups have a bitter blood feud based on religion and whom their sponsors are), don’t want to surrender and have walked away from “deconfliction” talks,

    Have been killing a fair number of SAA Special Forces, ( according to their claims),

    So this attack was a “message”,

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