Obama’s Options: All Lousy

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    Boy, some  people having a great time trying to pin what is happening in Syria and in Russian-American relations completely on the Obama administration. Situations that grew over decades, even centuries, simply aren’t solvable by one U.S. administration and its foreign policy, certainly not an administration that took the reins of government with two wars raging and a depression threatening.

    What caused the rupture between the U.S. and Russia? Most of the recent problems arose during the Bush years. Russia and Georgia fought the 2008 South Ossetia war. Poland was one of the leaders in condemning Russia and supporting  Georgia. The Bush administration and Poland signed an agreement to install an interceptor missile system in Poland, against strenuous Russian objections. Then-Russian President Medvedev reacted by stating that the missile system was a direct provocation to Russia, making Poland a legitimate target in any conflict. Also, remember that during the Clinton administration Poland joined NATO, upsetting Russia’s military strategy.

    Add to all that the fact that Russia’s only remaining naval installation on the Mediterranean is in Syria in a deal worked out by Assad and company and you have the rationale for Russia’s adamant support of the Assad regime. Plus, you have the fact that Putin and Obama simply don’t like or trust one another, neither did Putin and Bush.

    There is an ancient feud being worked out by war in the Middle East. The Sunnis hate the Shia and vice versa. Iran wants to be the regional power, but so do Turkey and Saudi Arabia. We’re hated by pretty much everyone there, and Russia and China are trying to take advantage of that fact. In many ways, the Middle East is a conglomeration of tribes, all distrustful of one another, at best. We’re caught in the midst for several reasons. We still need Saudi oil. We will never betray in any way our ally, Israel. We are still looked upon as the world’s remaining major power by the rest of the world (and by ourselves, too).  

    The American people are absolutely not ready for yet another war in the Middle East using American ground forces and American treasure. I hope and pray that we learned the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan well.  Regime change is impossible to bring about by an outside force, unless we are ready to be as brutal as any dictator running some fiefdom. Consider the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed after we overthrew Saddam. And, they’re still killing one another.  The Middle East does not have a history of slowly emerging democratic governance in the style of the United States or Europe. Nations don’t just become democratic because of the overthrow of some autocrat. The “Arab Spring” was about grievances of the people in those nations that overthrew their regimes. None of them have yet become democracies in our way of defining the term.

    That we could magically create a democracy in someone else’s nation was the pipe dream of the neocons who were irrational and foolish in thinking that all we had to do was turn people loose in chaos and they would magically become just like us. The neocons actually believed that we could “control” the world for the foreseeable future. Life doesn’t work that way.

    To end on a more hopeful note: As we ponder just what we can do in the Middle East and in Syria, for Jews all over the world tonight marks the start of Rosh Hashanah, the new year.  For my Jewish husband , L’shana tovah Tikatevu. May this new year be better and more peaceful than the last.

    • Elaine in Roanoke

      In Salon, Michael Lind has an interesting take on Syria, as well as other forays by America into war, near war, and/or proxy war.  

    • These Republicans are utterly bonkers.

    • Connolly Suggests Five Points to Consider on Syria Resolution

      Virginia Congressman Raises Points During Hearing with SecState Kerry



      WASHINGTON – During Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on President Obama’s request for a resolution authorizing action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons, Congressman Gerry Connolly offered five points that Congress should consider as it debates a Syria resolution.

      In his statement this morning during his questioning of Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Connolly said any resolution on Syria should be viewed through “a filter with five aspects to it” to stay focused on the issue and provide a path for Congress:

      ·         Is the evidence strongly compelling and convincing, if not incontrovertible?

      ·         If so, what action is warranted?

      ·         What is the efficacy of the proposed action and what are the risks?

      ·         What is the efficacy and what are the risks of doing nothing?

      ·         If the risk of doing nothing outweighs the risk of the proposed action, how can Congress provide an authorization that is narrowly drawn to provide no wider involvement beyond enforcing international law banning chemical weapons and deterring future use of such weapons?

      Connolly also said, “Everything I’ve heard from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle this week has been sincere and heartfelt.  I pray that we proceed on a non-partisan basis to try and tackle this issue while respecting everyone’s judgment because it is a difficult issue that does not lend itself to facile answers.  I’ve come to the conclusion myself that the evidence is convincing and compelling.”

      Tuesday evening, Connolly and Congressman Chris Van Hollen released an alternative Syria resolution they drafted that is very narrowly drawn.  It codifies what President Obama has said he wishes to accomplish and also codifies that there will be no boots on the ground.

    • ConsDemo

      Not enough discussion has centered on this topic.   The GOPers are claiming Obama’s Presidency is “finished” it the Congress votes “no” and, unfortunately, too many people in the foreign policy “establishment” and punditocracy peddle the same line.

      If it does fail, I hope the President heeds the message and doesn’t order military action. As an Obama supporter, I would feel obligated to support him were I a member of Congress.   However, as a citizen, I rather have the President’s (this or any other) ability to involve us in conflicts that don’t directly threaten American lives be limited.  If the resolution’s failure moves us in that direction, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      I also don’t see how Obama’s Presidency is “finished” if the authorization fails any more than Bill Clinton’s Presidency was “finished” when his (and Hillary’s) health care reform bill didn’t go anywhere in Congress.   Am I missing something?