Rarely has there been a more deceitful stream of words than those spoken by the President tonight, on September 10th, 2013. If you are sold on it, then I have no recourse but to believe you’re an absolute partisan hack. Any liberal with a pair–such as Chomsky–would scythe through this field of straw men with an enraged effort. The speech and the points it sought to make was so incredibly disjoint that I have to take these issues on a quote by quote basis.
“The images from this massacre are sickening, men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk.”
Think of the children! The cliché is as old as it was predictable tonight. The President undertook to describe the various symptoms of sarin gas poisoning while ignoring the shredded flesh and charred bodies of women and children torn by shot and shell. Of course, while those 100,000 died, he “resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force.”
The President draws this odd moral distinction “because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them.” Since they are directed by a tyrant, Bashar al-Assad’s conventional munitions are about indiscriminate as his gas attacks.
“The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people — to those children — is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.”
Again, the children. This is about as bad as the claims by anti-gun politicians after Sandy Hook who claimed we ought to show pictures of the deceased in hopes of passing an “assault” weapons ban. Evidently, too many Americans fail to realize that death isn’t pretty. The graphic depictions of death mask the President’s inability to articulate what he hopes to convince us of next: that Syria is a danger to our security.
“As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them.”
One needn’t consult Sun-Tzu to know that men on the brink act irrationally. Just because we will have shown Assad who’s boss doesn’t mean some other tyrant will heed the warning if he finds himself cornered.
“This is not a world we should accept.”
Syria is one country.
“The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.”
General Martin Dempsey specifically said there is no way the strike would prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again. So of what purpose is a strike?
“That’s my judgment as commander-in-chief, but I’m also the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes…”
Translation: “I’m the boss, just reminding everyone.”
“Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action — no matter how limited — is not going to be popular. After all, I’ve spent four-and-a-half years working to end wars, not to start them.”
What about Libya?
“I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”
Read closely: not in Syria. Really, it’s a mortal sin of omission. US operatives have already trained Syrian rebels in Turkey. Boots are already on the ground.
“It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists.”
Well, at least we acknowledge we’re fighting alongside Al-Qaeda.
“But Al Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death.”
Actually, the good thing about Middle Eastern dictators is that they keep a lid on extremist activity. Yes, they’re brutal. No, they’re not the kind of guys I’d have over dinner. But from a realpolitik perspective, men like al-Assad and Mubarak do the dirty work by keeping terrorists down with force.
“And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.”
How would we possibly go about doing this? Would we be in charge of a puppet government? Or would we back a conservative—that is, Muslim Brotherhood affiliated leader—as we did in Egypt? In any case, this resembles the protracted action that the President has specifically argued against. In what should be a prime spot for elucidation turns out to be another disappointment. The President again fails to articulate an objective. That he fails yet again provides redundant evidence that we ought not get involved in Syria.
“However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs, in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin.”
I’ll be a little less angry and a little more objective here. Perhaps the realpolitik strategy was to stack the chess pieces in the Mediterranean and act truly poised for a strike. The idea may have been to get Putin to drag Assad to the negotiating table. Still, what kind of brinkmanship is that? Threaten to destabilize a foreign nation in order to get it to atone for the deaths of one one hundredth of those that it killed? I would hope the first instinct of the President would have been to seek a diplomatic solution before reaching for the red button.
“Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails.”
Classic gunboat diplomacy. Park a pack of destroyers off a nation’s coast and demand they oblige your requests. This only serves to justify those that argue American imperialism is not dead.
“And so to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with the failure to act when a cause is so plainly just.”
A number of liberals oppose the intervention as well. Good way to prolong the notion of this as an “us versus them” debate, when, interestingly, the debate is far from partisan.
“To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain and going still on a cold hospital floor, for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.”
Is it just me, or does it seem like the President feels alone in this whole campaign for a campaign in Syria?
“Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.”
Translation: “If I’ve failed to make my point, hopefully repeating it will make it sink in regardless.”
There are a number of observations I’ve tried to make. In particular, it should be noted that a number of his own quotes refute points made in the very same speech. And all this, from the speaker hailed as an American Cicero.