A Syria’s Screw Job

Second-guessing President Obama while still in office never gets tiring for Team Ezra, you know.  Max Fisher declares Syria lost and it being Obama’s fault, because hey, why not?

There was a time before Syria was a paradox, before it was unsolvable. It’s difficult to say for sure when that time ended, when the window closed. And policy analysts and historians will surely debate, for years to come, what specific US actions — had the US acted when the window was open — might have best addressed Syria’s war.

But it is clear that, at the very least, there was a period of time when the US had a range of options that could have led to a range of outcomes. But those options have since closed off, and the outcome we’ve ended up with is one of the worst imaginable. Maybe it could have been worse, but it certainly could have been better.

There was never an easy or a perfect solution to Syria. But early on, the security vacuum was not so dire, the chaos and destruction not so severe, and the world might have removed Assad without toppling Syria into an unsalvageable chaos.

The opposition was, early on, not nearly so divided by ideology and politics as it is today. Though extremists did begin joining early in 2012, the rebels were still heavily populated by moderate volunteers and defected Syrian soldiers whose primary aim was to topple Assad. Had he fallen then, the opposition might have laid down its arms rather than turning on one another. It was not until late 2013 that rebel infighting became so bad that analysts began warning Assad’s fall would lead to a second civil war.

Early on in the war, before Assad destroyed his own country’s physical and political infrastructure, there was still enough of a state that a post-Assad government could have, in a best-case scenario, restored order with the consent of the Syrian population. But even if it hadn’t, the Syrian population was less riven by sectarianism, the territory less divided among rebel groups apt to lapse into infighting and warlordism.

The point is not to retroactively advocate for a specific policy on Syria, nor to suggest that the country could have been saved completely by US intervention; it’s unlikely a war could ever have been averted once Assad decided to fire on his own people. Rather, the point is that removing him could have at least hypothetically opened up a different set of paths for Syria. Those surely would have had downsides as well, and some could be even worse than the status quo, but there is at least a range of possible outcomes that might look better than today’s reality.

While Fisher is concerned with the reality of Syria today and is correct that it is awful, he also argues that the window for doing something existing mainly between Spring 2012 and at the very latest, Fall 2013.  The reality at that point overlooks three massively important things, all of which are missing from Fisher’s analysis.

One is Congress, who made it very clear with an election coming up that the kind of intervention Fisher wanted was never going to happen. Fisher mentions Congress all of once in his piece, and even if the Republicans in the House weren’t going to tell Obama to go to hell, enough Democrats would have.  It got nowhere fast, eliminating all of 2012 in Fisher’s scenario.

You can argue that 2013 could have gone better and that there was still time to act then, but by March we were already into Assad’s chemical weapon attacks, and Russia’s reality as the Assad regime’s major patron stonewalling and buying time.

Number two is a US desperately tired of war.  Even Libya was too much for America to support anymore back in 2012, and while a robust air campaign could have helped, in an election year it wasn’t going to happen for the reasons listed above.

Third is the 2012 election itself.  If we somehow had gone into Syria’s civil war with both US political parties screaming bloody murder, Syrian intervention in 2013 would have most likely been President Romney’s problem, not President Obama’s.

Yes, Syria has devolved into a crisis now, one that won’t be solved anytime soon. But saying Obama “lost” Syria is Monday-morning quarterbacking at its worst and most of all simply untrue. Obama isn’t the only person on Earth who could have done something about Syria, and Syria was never ours to “lose” in the first place.

I’d Like to Introduce President Don’t Give a Fuck

I love this:

President Obama on Monday mocked Republican presidential candidates as thin-skinned for lashing out at CNBC over the network’s handling of last week’s primary debate.

“They say, ‘when I talk to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, he’s going to straighten out,'” he said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York City. “And then it turns out they can’t handle a bunch of CNBC moderators.”

“If you can’t handle those guys, I don’t think the Chinese and the Russians are going to be too worried about you,” Obama added.

The high-dollar event at the Richard Rodgers Theatre featured a special showing of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

Obama, who took his daughters Malia and Sasha to see the critically acclaimed show in July, said he was “annoyed” he did not get to see it again.

“Michelle and I love this show. It also happens to be the only thing Dick Cheney and I agree on,” he joked.

Chilling at the theater, poking fun at the wingnuts. My man.

Four more years, please.

You Get Ore-Gone

Go north to Alaska, east to Atlantic City
Or south to Rio, almost as far as you can go
Get outta town, just rent a car,
So they won’t know where you are

Not everyone in Roseburg, Oregon, is glad that President Barack Obama will visit the town Friday. The president was expected to travel to Roseburg after a mass shooting last week to comfort the survivors and families of those killed. However, opinions are divided in Roseburg about Obama’s gun policies, and gun rights supporters planned to protest during the president’s visit.

At least one parent of a student who survived the shooting says he will not meet with Obama, according to the Associated Press. The student said she does hope to meet with the president.

He’s not wanted here. He’s coming here purely to push his garbage, and we don’t want it,” Michelle Finn, who is helping to organize the protests, told the AP.

The protests are expected to take place on intersections near the airport where Obama’s helicopter will touch down. In the days after the shooting at Umpqua Community College, it was widely reported that Douglas County, where Roseburg is located, is home to many gun owners who believe that more guns, not fewer, are needed to solve the problem of mass shootings.

The issue of guns on the Umpqua Community College campus had been a topic of discussion for months before the shooting, and faculty and staff had debated whether to arm campus security officers, the AP reported. On the morning of the shooting, just one unarmed security guard was on patrol.

I’m old enough to remember when the President showing up to speak to a community after it suffered heartbreak was considered a sign of respect, and that respect was returned.  That apparently ended on January 21, 2009 and I guess I just missed the memo or something.

I mean, it’s not like the guy abandoned a major American city to a hurricane and then botched relief efforts or anything, folks.

What Everybody’s Wearing This Season

I’ll bet every one of the fuckers at that godawful shitshow of a debate tonight think this graph is an index of decline. Still, a simple fact remains: despite Hobby Lobby, despite the war on Planned Parenthood, despite years of noise, bullshit and outrage from a bunch of bible banging old men, almost all women on insurance can finally get a safe and effective medical device without paying out of pocket.

When I see graphs like this, it makes me stop and think about the amount of simple human misery Obamacare has reduced or eliminated in just a couple of years.

Everything’s Obama’s Fault

Jeff Greenfield over at WIN THE MORNING decides that this whole “President Obama kicking ass for the last year or so” thing is getting boring, and giving a black President a positive can’t possibly be right, so we’re back to everything is Obama’s fault as to how he has destroyed the Democratic party.

Under Obama, the party started strong. “When Obama was elected in 2008, Democrats were at a high water mark,” says David Axelrod, who served as one of Obama’s top strategists. “Driven by antipathy to George W. Bush and then the Obama wave, Democrats had enjoyed two banner elections in ’06 and ’08. We won dozens of improbable congressional elections in states and districts that normally would tack Republican, and that effect trickled down to other offices. You add to that the fact that we would take office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, and it was apparent, from Day One, that we had nowhere to go but down.”

The first signs of the slowly unfolding debacle that has meant the decimation of the Democratic Party nationally began early—with the special election of Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy’s empty Senate seat in Massachusetts. That early loss, even though the seat was won back eventually by Elizabeth Warren, presaged the 2010 midterms, which saw the loss of 63 House and six Senate seats. It was disaster that came as no surprise to the White House, but also proved a signal of what was to come.

The party’s record over the past six years has made clear that when Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017 the Democratic Party will have ceded vast sections of the country to Republicans, and will be left with a weak bench of high-level elected officials. It is, in fact, so bleak a record that even if the Democrats hold the White House and retake the Senate in 2016, the party’s wounds will remain deep and enduring, threatening the enactment of anything like a “progressive” agenda across much of the nation and eliminating nearly a decade’s worth of rising stars who might help strengthen the party in elections ahead.

The really weird part is that nowhere in the entire piece do I see the words “Debbie Wasserman Schultz” who, as chair of the DNC, would ostensibly be the person in charge of the election strategies and GOTV tactics that Greenfield is complaining about, but I guess Greenfield has never met her or something.

Also, there is the small matter of the impressive number of Democrats who lost by running as far away from Barack Obama as possible in 2010, 2012, and 2014 but no, the problem is of course Obama.

That’s the Beltway wisdom, and it will be for a very, very long time.