Military Humanitarian Intervention: the Shock Doctrine Applied to Syria

Syria

(Note: Rob Prince teaches at the Korbel School of International Studies. Although tangentially, he has been associated with the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies and has participated in a number of its public forums, including on the Syrian crisis. Compelled to respond to the February 11, 2014 op-ed in the New York Times by colleagues, Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel, he critiques their arguments and makes alternative suggestions for ending the Syrian impasse.)

At a moment when the only viable path open to resolving the Syrian conflict lies in a negotiated settlement between the Assad government and the legitimate opposition, two colleagues at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, Nader Hashemi and Danny Postel of the Center for Middle East Studies, have put forth an emotional and poorly conceived call for military intervention to resolve the escalating humanitarian crisis there.

Using logic tinted with Cold War reasoning (blaming the Russians is bit out of fashion) and poor examples (Somalia — 1993?) to bolster their arguments, they put forth their ideas on the subject in an op-ed, in the New York Times on February 11 titled “Use Force To Save Starving Syrians.” In a one-sided appeal, they place the blame for the Syrian human debacle almost entirely at the feet of the Assad government for virtually all of the violence.

At the same time, the role of Salafist Islamic militants (trained and funded by the Saudis, Qatar, Turkey, and ultimately supported and manipulated by Washington) is minimized if not denied. Yet it is these elements who have, to a great degree, essentially hijacked a legitimate Syrian opposition movement, internationalized the struggle and continue to wreak havoc and death in their goal to establish Shari’a law in Syria and beyond.

Russia is criticized for failing to restrain the Syrian government’s military actions but no similar demands — none at all – are made of the United States and the Saudis to rein in “allies” fighting in the field. Nor is any weight given to the extensive human, infrastructural and cultural damage these Islamic fundamentalist elements have done or to their utter viciousness, cruelty and politically retrograde nature.

Calling for military intervention as a way to end or at least reduce the bloodshed in Syria does pull at certain ethical heartstrings. But it is, at best, a desperate appeal, and at worst, quite frankly, a cynical move meant to give cover to a not especially humane long-term geopolitical considerations.  

Indeed, perhaps the sorriest assumption of their argument is that the United States can save the day and end the humanitarian tragedy in Syria by riding in on its white heavenly horse laden with cruise missiles and drones. Are they forgetting Washington’s long record of supporting totalitarian regimes in exchange for oil in the Middle East and elsewhere, and whose involvement in the Syrian tragedy is, incidentally, far from innocent?

One must make a distinction between “humanitarian intervention” in times of war, and military intervention using humanitarian pretexts. The latter actually has a very long and sordid history going back several hundred years and has been used by virtually every colonial and neocolonial military intervention and massacre. It is nothing new, although lately, through the thinking of certain American intellectuals (Samantha Powers and others) it has been given a new intellectual gloss.

Pulling out the “humanitarian” pretext has become more in fashion in this post-Cold War era when the United States can no longer argue that countering the “Soviet threat” is a pretext for political and military intervention. Even during the Cold War, the United States would frequently invoke a humanitarian pretext (intermingled with anti-communism) for its Third World interventions, C.I.A. coups, whatever. The bodies of hundreds of thousands of Chileans, Argentinians, Brazilians, Guatamaltecos, Nicaraguans, Salvadoreans, litter the fields and oceans as evidence of the results of that policy.

Of late the swan song of “saving the natives from humanitarian disaster” has been cultivated into a fine art by the French in Africa in their attempt to re-position themselves to insure their share of that continent’s strategic assets, most recently in Mali and now in the Central African Republic. Washington is learning from Paris how to refine the argument. What is usually omitted or denied is the degree to which (in the case of the French in Mali or the U.S. in Syria) French or American behind-the-scene machinations contributed to the crises exploding in the first place. This is certainly the case for U.S. political activities in Syria — publicly calling for a negotiated solution — less openly training, arming, and financing some of the most dastardly elements in the Middle East to bring down the Assad Regime (or getting regional allies to do so).

Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine aptly applies to what the United States did in Libya (it was Washington pulling the strings even if the French took the lead in the bombing campaign) and what it has tried to do less successfully in Syria: use the pretext of humanitarian intervention to garner public support for a military-initiated regime change. Follow that up with U.N. Security Council support for limited military actions to give the cover of international law to the operation. Immediately violate the U.N. mandate by unilaterally extending the scope of the approved mission. Get as many “allies” on board to do the fighting to extend the weight of the “coalition of the willing.”

Once the regime change has been accomplished, the societies are restructured along neoliberal lines making for easier economic penetration and exploitation, their formerly more centralized governments fractured in one way or another. Once the fighting is over, offer World Bank and/or IMF structural adjustment aid to restructure the battered economies and infrastructure along neoliberal lines.

In calling for military intervention in Syria — something not even the U.S. military itself is particularly enthusiastic about — Hashemi and Postel cozy up, as they have before on Iran in 2009 and Libya in 2011, with the likes of AIPAC, along with this country’s band of intrepid and misdirected neoconservatives. These are the same elements that pushed this country into invading Iraq and continue to push the Obama Administration to intervene militarily in Syria.

What would be worse at the moment than a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria which has the possibility of aggravating an already destabilized region that much more and probably drawing in other players including Iraq, Iran and possibly Russia. The military situation on the ground over the past year has shifted dramatically in favor of the Assad government and its allies reducing Washington’s goal of regime change in Syria considerably.

The inner workings of the Obama Administration’s decision not to attack Syria last September remain hazy. Perhaps someday the deeper logic of the decision to pull away from the abyss will come to light. They seem to include both regional considerations as well as Washington’s desire, not to be exaggerated, to shift American strategic attention to Asia. The concern that military operations in Syria could result in Iraq or Afghanistan-like debacles for US policy probably figured into the decision. U.S. (or U.S.-led) military intervention is not likely to improve the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria but to worsen the already bleak reality that much more. There are no assurances — none — that it would in any way resolve the conflict.

Along with near global opposition to such a plan of action, the futility and probable negative results of an attack is figured large in the Obama administration’s decision not to initiate military action last September to the relief of much of the world. Whatever, that decision not to pull the military lever against Syria, followed by Washington’s opening for negotiations with both Syria and Iran, are some of the (few) wiser decisions that Obama had made on Middle East policy since coming to office in 2008.

Rather than ratcheting up the dangers of the Syrian explosion, is it not the time to do just the opposite? Should we not, instead, press for a negotiated political solution to a conflict that has proven it will have no military solution? Admittedly, the Geneva negotiations over Syria to date have been little more than a charade, but then are we — the world — not in a better place wrangling over how to settle the Syrian crisis politically rather than fighting over which targets U.S. drones and Cruise missiles might be targeting?

The failure of this round (Geneva II as it is called) cannot be blamed, as the authors do, on Russian machinations. To the contrary, Russia and most particularly its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, are looking more like the peacemakers in the Syria crisis than is Washington. Global public opinion recognizes very clearly that the Russians have played a positive, if not decisive, role in moving the Syrian crisis from big power military confrontation to negotiations while the Obama Administration’s approach is more confused and contradictory.

In a sharp U-turn away from military confrontation, having agreed to multi-party negotiations on Syria, the Obama Administration has gotten cold feet about pursuing the Geneva process seriously. The fact of the matter is that there is no way, none, that Washington can “resolve” the Syrian crisis independently on its own or to its liking. The Obama Administration plan for “regime change” in Syria — what it has been working for now for several years — is dead in the water.

What is the alternative vision to ending the humanitarian crisis in Syria…What can be done to stop the bleeding? The following are some steps I would recommend that might just make considerably more impact than bombing Damascus or sending U.S. troops to die in yet another senseless Middle East war. It is a global peace offensive that is needed, not military intervention.

1. That the international community could and should call on all parties to initiate an immediate multi-sided ceasefire. Of course pressure from outside allies would be key. If it would expected that the Russians and Iranians would hold the Syrians to task, it would also be expected that the United States and the Saudis would hold their allies on the ground to the same standard.

2. The recruiting, training, arming of all foreign mercenaries should end.

3. Assuming that the ceasefire could be established, then a massive humanitarian aid program, directed by the United Nations, supported by a Security Council resolution should be implemented as soon as possible.

4. The Geneva Peace Process has to be actively supported. Frankly, as Ibrahim Kazerooni and I have stated on our radio program, in our op-eds for the past three years, in public forums and elsewhere, there can be no military solution to the Syrian crisis. It can only be resolved politically and diplomatically.

5. The Geneva negotiations should center on talks between the Assad government and the legitimate Syrian opposition. By the latter is meant, those domestic opponents to the regime, whose grievances against the government are long-standing (and genuine) and whose roots in Syrian society are organic and undisputed. Such negotiations need to be pursued without preconditions beyond maintaining the ceasefire.

6. The Obama Administration has to be more engaged in the multilateral Geneva peace negotiations. While Washington made an important decision by not going to war last September, it seems to be essentially paralyzed in moving the negotiating process. Once again, it is time for Obama to once again show the political courage he showed the world in September by pressing the United States to negotiate seriously in Geneva and not let his domestic political opponents Syrian policy (neo-conservatives, AIPAC) once again gain the upper hand.

 

Rob Prince, whose teaching title has changed five times in the past 20 years, although the job is the same, is Teaching Professor at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. In recent years, he has written extensively on North Africa. He is also the publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

  • Clay Claiborne

    He starts with an assumption that is by no means proven no matter how many times it is repeated, “only viable path open to resolving the Syrian conflict lies in a negotiated settlement between the Assad government and the legitimate opposition.” One could have just as well said that about dealing with Hitler and ending WW2. In fact many Hitler supporters made exactly that argument as soon as it became clear the Nazi weren’t going to win militarily.

    Rob Prince may believe a negotiated settlement is the only way forward but clearly Bashar al-Assad doesn’t. He could have opened negotiations when the peaceful protests first started. Instead, he choose to respond with violence, time and time again, until those who were demanding change were forced to go over to armed struggle. Assad has never negotiated in good faith, witness the lack of progress in getting rid of his CW. Then there is the question of who Rob Prince considers the “legitimate opposition,” or did he intend to leave that decision to Assad? Presumably he believes the Assad regime is the legitimate government of Syria or at least that Bashar al-Assad, a mass murderer of ten thousand Syrian children, a legitimate partner for a peaceful settlement. Does he really think the bloodshed will stop as long as Assad is in power?

    More, later…

    • anti_republocrat

      How many times does “Hitler” have to die in his bunker. Hitler invaded neighboring countries. Syria is involved in a civil war and has been invaded by multiple foreign powers and mercenaries on both sides. How long do you require the world to experiment with forcible, military regime change before you accept the truth that it will not work?

      • Clay Claiborne

        I won’t hold my breathe waiting for you to speak out against “forcible, military regime maintenance”? That is what is going on in Syria today, because if not for massive financial and military support from Russia and Iran, Assad would have been out on his ear a long time ago. And by now, I should think that “regime change” in Syria should be the demand of every caring, thinking, person in the civilize world. After all the crimes that Assad has committed in the past three years alone, he should be in prison for life without the option, not running a country. Mass murderers should be ineligible to hold high office, particularly when they have used the instruments of government to commit those murders. And what kind of “man” makes such a principle of his presidency that he refuses to step down even after over a hundred thousand have died, when he knows removing himself from the struggle would greatly defuse it and save lives? Answer: The same kind of “man” who would drop barrel bombs on schools and fire sarin gas rockets into the bedrooms of sleeping children. So yes, most definitely, get him out of the Presidential Palace and into lock-up awaiting trial.

        How legit is his presidency in the first place? He runs a fascist police state. He hangs it on two elections, 2000 & 2007. That he got 97% & 97.6% of the vote tells you all you need to know about how “free & fair” those “elections” were. He’s so popular that he’s afraid to use his regular working class soldiers, those that he’s got left, against the revolution. He’s seen time and time again that they will defect, often en mass, when given half a chance. That is the bloody little secret of this war. That is why he must rely on long range weapons like aerial attacks and artillery, or on foreign fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon or sectarian driven fascist gangs with a tendency to “go too far.” Their is almost no real popular support for Assad in Syria. His support comes from foreign countries and sectarian gangs and he is waging a campaign of terror against a popular uprising. Were he has not been able to shell them, bomb them, or gas them into submission, he now tries to starve them into submitting to his rule. But the people still resist. That is what is going on in Syria, and you are still for regime keep.

        • anti_republocrat

          “Mass murderers should be ineligible to hold high office, particularly
          when they have used the instruments of government to commit those
          murders.”

          I’ll start engaging with you when you start applying that principle to the leaders of the US and other western countries and start agitating for the arrest and prosecution of the Bush cabal and impeachment of the current President for his un-Constitutional spying and assassinations in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and several other countries with which we are not at war, and for spending $5 billion in State Department and CIA money to support Molotov cocktail-throwing thugs in the Ukraine.

          Until then, I’m just a lone person and don’t have the money to hire a staff to come up with dozens of questionable web “sources” to support my agenda.

          • Clay Claiborne

            I’m my own staff and I do my own research but I’m also use to these sorts of attacks and innuendo coming from Assad supporters so never mind about that. I also have a long history of opposing US imperialism. You can Google that. See my film Vietnam: American Holocaust and don’t even bother to reply to my comments before you are willing to engage with me.

          • anti_republocrat

            The US has a long history of “humanitarian intervention” and “spreading democracy.” I’m not an Assad supporter, but the CIA found him quite useful for torture renditions. The latter is quite sufficient evidence that he’s a total thug. But why do you swallow all the claims that he supports his most violent opponents while ignoring and denying the ample evidence that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have supported those violent foreign jihadists/salafists, with the blessings of the CIA? Yes, I’ve heard before that he supposedly freed many extremists before all this started, but in one case in particular it was at the request of the US as part of a prisoner exchange.

            I do not claim to know everything about what goes on in Syria, but you don’t know neither, regardless of how many articles you might read about it on the web and reference. You are swallowing whole this theory of R2P, which is just another excuse to intervene in situations we really know very little about. R2P is basically the theory that we should bomb and kill women and children in order to protect their human rights, much like the need to destroy a village to save it.

          • Clay Claiborne

            I didn’t say you were an Assad supporter, just that you argued like one.

            It would be helpful if you could direct me to a well researched piece similar to what I have written in Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad that lays out the evidence of SA and Qatar support for ISIS or al Nusra. No doubt there are a few rich jihad supporters in their populist that contribute to al Qaeda but I do doubt that such support comes through official channels given al Qaeda’s avowed purpose of bringing down the Kingdom. Support for the revolution is necessary for them to maintain bourgeois leadership in the Arab nation and it is understood that they have contributed significantly to brigades in the FSA and IF and have shown considerable independent from the US in doing this. Once Obama had secured his re-election, they started violating the restrictions Obama and the CIA were trying to put on their support for the revolution.

            You say:

            Yes, I’ve heard before that he supposedly freed many extremists before all this started,

            Wrong he freed a thousand jihadists, many now in the ISIS and al Nursa, AFTER the protests started, as I wrote in the above piece:

            After mass democracy protests broke out in March 2011, Assad declared three separate amnesties between March and June of 2011. Al Jazeera reported, 21 Jun 2011:

            Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, has ordered a new general amnesty for all crimes committed in the country up until June 20, in another apparent attempt to calm months of protests against his rule.

            The state news agency, SANA, announced the move on Tuesday, nearly a month after Assad issued a similar amnesty for all political crimes.

            “President Assad has issued a decree granting a general amnesty for crimes committed before the date of June 20, 2011,” SANA reported, without giving details.

            The president ordered a reprieve on May 31 for all political prisoners in the country, including members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Hundreds of detainees were released, according to rights groups.

            That last was a big deal because in Assad’s Syria, mere membership in the Muslim Brotherhood could get one the death penalty. Bashar al-Assad said these amnesties were meant as concessions to the democracy movement, but that explanation just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny because while he was releasing Islamic terrorists and even common criminals from his prisons, he was shooting unarmed peaceful protesters in ever increasing numbers.

            And wrong again on R2P. R2P properly executed means “Never Again”, it means no more Rwanda’s, no more Dafur’s, it means I am my brother’s keeper.

            Do you really want a world order in which any fascist dictatorship that has the support of one of the 5 permanent UNSC members can get financing and military support from any country willing to help it stamp out domestic resistance by any means necessary, including CW and aerial bombardment on population centers, and can just start killing and starving its people into submission? Or do you want a world that will draw the line somewhere and says you are not free to commit genocide within your borders, a world that does recognize a responsibility to protect? Certainly the term and the concept has been misused, so has the term and concept “socialism,” should we abandon that too?

  • greenman615

    Great debate that reveals our (USA USA USA) subliminal “knee jerk” response to every problem — that it can be solved by an application of military force. Our “heroes” will save the day. Right!.

    • Clay Claiborne

      Excuse me, but would you advocate pleas of mercy in place of anti-aircraft weaponry as a response to aerial bombardment generally or is this a special case designed to increase the suffering of the Syria people? For example, did you oppose the US providing England and the USSR with anti-aircraft weaponry when the Nazis were bombing everywhere? Did you also oppose Russia and China giving anti-aircraft weaponry to Vietnam when the US was bombing everywhere? And when a mad gunman is on the lose in one of our cities, killing anybody in sight, do you demand that the police just stick to bullhorn tactics, i.e. attempting to negotiate a peaceful settlement? Because assuming that the problem “can be solved by an application of military force,” .i.e. taking out the killer with lethal force before he kills another person, “would only be adding to the violence.” Do you not believe in the right of self defense? Are you “non-violent” to the point of not raising a hand against your would be murderer? Are you one of those?

      Do you oppose a people’s right to an armed self-defense or their right to ask for assistance when they are attacked generally? Or is just special for Syrian?

  • Clay Claiborne

    The Assad government is responsible for virtually all of the violence. Certainly it is responsible for turning peaceful mass protests into an armed conflict. In three years it is responsible for every bomb cropped from aircraft, every shell or shot fired from an aircraft, the dropping of sarin from a helicopter in one case and the uses of poison gas fired from rockets on more than a dozen occasions. Its completely responsible for the uncounted thousands it has starved and tortured to death in its prisons. Its responsible for all the Scuds fired and the vast majority of all the other rockets and shell fired that taken so many Syrians in the past three years.

    One could also make an argument that Assad is responsible for the deaths caused by his looted arsenals, which is the main way his opposition has armed themselves, because his government had the responsibility to see that they properly secured, which they could have easily done had they not been so busy killing Syrians. I prefer the argument that the attacking party, the party engaged in criminal conduct, the one who set out on the murderous rampage is responsible not only for the deaths it caused directly, but also the lives taken by those practising self-defense and even “innocent bystanders” killed by either side.

    I blame the Nazis not only all the deaths their soldiers caused but also for the lives of those young Germans they turned into cannon fodder. I blame US imperialism not only for the millions of Vietnamese killed but also the 58,000 Americans it drafted to do its dirty work, and I apply the same standards to the Assad government, so hold it responsible for 100% of the deaths caused by his war to stay in power, even it that power rests upon elections in which he got 97% and 97.6% of the vote! If you believe those were free & fair elections, I’ve got a deal on a bridge for you. You can make so much money..call me.

    Finally there is this: Accidentally, civilians have been killed by all parties to this conflict, such is the nature of war, but Assad is the only party to this conflict that actively targets civilians. He bombs neighbourhoods, hospitals and schools. He shells breadlines. His bottom line strategy is the make the price of overthrowing him, in terms of Syrian lives, unbearably high.

    More, later…

  • Clay Claiborne

    “Salafist Islamic militants (trained and funded by the Saudis, Qatar, Turkey, and ultimately supported and manipulated by Washington)” All of that is a stretch, based largely on conjecture. While it can’t be denied that what could be called Salafist Islamic militants have received some funds from individuals and organizations based in Saudis, Qatar, Turkey and dozens of other countries, that tiny bit of truth doesn’t spin-out to a grand conspiracy run from Washington. I fear your US chauvinism is showing. The truth is the US is really at a lost for a workable, even from its pov, strategy to deal with events that are almost completely out of its control.

    If by “Salafist Islamic militants” you mean the ISIS and al Nusra, then why leave the Assad government’s payments to them, in the millions of dollars, for oil, or the fact that he let a thousand Salafist Islamic militants out of prison at the start of the revolution, and many of these are now even in the leadership of ISIS and al Nusra, or the Syrian special service agents that have been identified as “emirs” in the ISIS, or Assad’s bragging that he had agents inside the opposition? Are those connections and many more [See Man behind the Curtain for al-Qaeda in Syria is Assad for details.] problematic for your narrative?

    Finally, how can you blame those countries for having “internationalized the struggle” when you don’t mention Russia, Iran, Iraq and Hezbullah, all of which have soldiers fighting in Syria and are militarily supporting Assad’s bid to stay in power no matter how many Syrian lives it costs?

    More, later…

  • Clay Claiborne

    Calling for military intervention as a way to end or at least reduce the bloodshed in Syria does pull at certain ethical heartstrings.

    A less colorful way to say that is coming to the defense of civilians being bombed is the right thing to do. But I’m sorry to see you seem to revel in the idea that it is “a desperate appeal.” Why? Because you think that there is no chance the world will intervene even if Assad kills a million. 236 people are being killed every day in this conflagration and you refuse any meaningful intervention to stop it now in the name of “humane long-term geopolitical considerations.” Please!

    Are they forgetting Washington’s long record of supporting totalitarian regimes in exchange for oil in the Middle East and elsewhere, and whose involvement in the Syrian tragedy is, incidentally, far from innocent?

    Assad’s opposition certainly aren’t, and those that have been disillusioned as to any US claim to fight for justice and so on have been given a hard lesson because they have been seeing Obama’s betrayal of his claim of support for their democratic struggle and his real support for Assad’s totalitarian regime develop over the last three years. Naive and self-centered Americans may think Obama was really for “regime change” in Syria, but few Syrians, on either side of the fight, harbor such illusions themselves, even if one side finds it makes for useful propaganda. See: Barack Obama’s Courtship of Bashar al-Assad among others.

    More, later…

  • Clay Claiborne

    You say:

    One must make a distinction between “humanitarian intervention” in times of war, and military intervention using humanitarian pretexts.

    And I say that goes without saying. So what’s your point? In all things, and not just “humanitarian intervention” one must make a distinction between the real thing and its counterfeit. Is this bit of wisdom your way of telling us that you don’t think that there is a genuine need for humanitarian intervention in Syria today? Or is it your view that Bashar al-Assad should be free to fire Scud missiles at major population centers in Syria for as long as the Russians will supply them and still be free to drop barrel bombs on his people when they won’t? Is that the position you are fighting for?

    More, later…

  • Clay Claiborne

    You assert certain U.S. political activities in Syria:

    — publicly calling for a negotiated solution — less openly training, arming, and financing some of the most dastardly elements in the Middle East to bring down the Assad Regime (or getting regional allies to do so).

    This may be were we differ the most. You want to see the Assad Regime survive whereas I think they are the most dastardly elements in the Middle East. But the rest of this sentence is twisted as well. First US training. arming and financing of opposition fighters has always been far more myth than reality. In the best of times, a few small arms, radios and MREs, A training program in Jordan that recently started turning out 50 trainees a month. Much has been talked about and promised but almost nothing has been delivered. What has been delivered has gone to the Free Syrian Army, and some may now go to the Islamic Front, so unless you consider that they are the most dastardly elements in the conflict and not even the jihadist, Assad inspired and supported ISIS and al Nusra, which have gotten zero support from the US, that is another twist in your tale.

    More, later…

  • Clay Claiborne

    You say:

    The military situation on the ground over the past year has shifted dramatically in favor of the Assad government and its allies reducing Washington’s goal of regime change in Syria considerably.

    You also say Obama’s goal in Syria is regime change. And yet there have been no heavy weapons or anti-air craft missiles given to the opposition, no anti-tank weapons or the hundreds of other weapons in Washington’s arsenal that could have changed the game dramatically, There have been no NATO air operations against Assad, not even a single drone strike. Not even semi-military moves like Israel mobilizing along the Golan Heights, thus forcing Assad to tear some of his soldiers away from their current task of killing Syrians and put them back to defending the country. There are hundreds of very real measures that NATO et al could have taken to support the overthrow of Assad that they haven’t taken but you still believe they are for regime change because they keep publicly asking Assad to step down.

    The inner workings of the Obama Administration’s decision not to attack Syria last September remain hazy.

    Caught up in the fog of war are we? Maybe the reasons is because it was an empty threat meant for public consummation in the first place. He never meant to strike Assad. Remember what he said? If Assad used “a whole bunch of” CW. What kind of ultimatum is that? So Assad used CW a dozen times in small quantities with no response from Obama. Then he calls Obama’s bluff completely by clearly crossing even the “whole bunch of” line, and Obama still didn’t strike him. This should have only surprise those that weren’t looking. Get the net: Obama wants Assad to win. See also:

    Obama’s Dilemma and Assad’s Opportunity
    Barack Obama’s Courtship of Bashar al-Assad
    Barack Obama’s Courtship of Bashar al-Assad Exposed!
    Obama “green lights” Assad’s slaughter in Syria
    SecState John Kerry and his “dear friend” Bashar al-Assad
    Obama: Did the CIA betray Assad’s opposition in Syria?

  • Clay Claiborne

    You say:

    the Obama administration’s decision not to initiate military action last September [was] to the relief of much of the world.

    Well it certainly wasn’t to the relief of the 30 thousand Syria’s killed since then was it?

    You say:

    the Russians have played a positive, if not decisive, role in moving the Syrian crisis from big power military confrontation to negotiations

    What alternate universe are you writing about? Don’t you know that Russia is the number one weapons supplier and financier of the Assad regime?

    Since none of your “Peace offensive” proposals have have any force behind them, they all amount to pleading with Assad to stop murdering his people, and demanding that they stop trying to defend themselves. 136,000 dead and you still demand a course which keeps Assad in power at all costs.

    Finally, in #5 you tell us more about what you consider the “legitimate Syrian opposition, those

    whose grievances against the government are long-standing (and genuine) and whose roots in Syrian society are organic and undisputed.

    I like the way you throw the sly word “undisputed” in your description. Doesn’t that give Assad unlimited exclusions?

  • Mohamed Elgjini

    Mr Clay, it seems you ve learened a damn from Iraq´s debacle. But one thing that it looks like u ve never thought of, is that the Arabs themselves ve learned the game of a dirty war. And to mention Nazism again, it evokes only the old rhetorics about Saddam then. So what do we expect from intellectual prostitutes who lost their decency.