Sunday, June 16. 2013
Big event this week was the election of Hassan Rouhani as president
of Iran, succeeding scarecrow Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The arrival of an Axis
of Evil leader who apparently isn't evil -- who in fact had attempted to
reason with the West before -- threw the hawks in Jerusalem and Washington
into a tizzy. First they assured us that the president of Iran has no
actual power, so the change of president will leave Iran as evil as ever.
And just before the election, Obama suddenly changed course and decided
to actively arm Syria's anti-Assad "rebels," a move which (not for the
first time) brought us into an alliance with Al-Qaeda. Reason? Because
Iran backed Assad, and Iran is out eternal enemy, and we all know that
the enemy of our enemy is, well not exactly our friend, but the cheapest,
most cost-effective pawn we can rent in the Great Game. (Sure, there was
some fluff about Assad using chemical weapons, but what press release
escalating a war in the Middle East would be complete without something
Meanwhile, some scattered links:
Ramzy Mardini: Bad Idea, Mr. President: A few days before Obama made
his Syria announcement, Bill Clinton lectured him publicly, warning that
if he fails to intervene in Syria he will be viewed as a "total wuss."
I suppose Clinton knows this because he used to be a "wuss" himself, but
he reversed himself and bombed Kosovo and thereby came to be recognized
as a decisive leader comparable to Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt.
I'd love to see some polling reflecting that, but Obama took the bait.
Lacking a grand strategy, Mr. Obama has become a victim of rhetorical
entrapment over the course of the Arab Spring -- from calling on foreign
leaders to leave (with no plan to forcibly remove them) to publicly
drawing red lines on the use of chemical weapons, and then being obliged
to fulfill the threat.
For nearly two years, the Obama administration has described the
Syrian regime as having "lost all legitimacy" and "clinging to power."
And yet, it has surprisingly endured. That's because neither assertion
is really accurate. Mr. Assad still has strong support from many Syrians,
including members of the Sunni urban class. While the assistance Syria
receives from its external allies, like Iran and Russia, is important,
it would be inconsequential if the Assad regime were not backed by a
significant portion of the population. [ . . . ]
The Syrian revolution isn't democratic or secular; the more than
90,000 fatalities are the result of a civil war, not a genocide --
and human rights violations have been committed on both sides.
Moreover, the rebels don't have the support or trust of a clear
majority of the population, and the political opposition is neither
credible nor representative. Ethnic cleansing against minorities is
more likely to occur under a rebel-led government than under Mr.
Assad; likewise, the possibility of chemical weapons' falling into
the hands of terrorist groups only grows as the regime weakens.
And finally, a rebel victory is more likely to destabilize Iraq
and Lebanon, and the inevitable disorder of a post-Assad Syria
constitutes a greater threat to Israel than the status quo.
Mardini concludes that Obama "would have been wise to make a
forceful diplomatic push first before succumbing to the naïveté
of his pro-intervention critics." But he also pointed out that
Obama trashed his ability to do anything diplomatic when he gave
up any pretense to neutrality and disinterest by publicly insisting
that Assad step down.
Shamus Cooke: Who Killed the Syrian Peace Talks? He argues that
talks instigated by Russia and the US have failed "because the
U.S.-backed rebels are boycotting negotiations." I'm not sure if
that's all there is to it, but we've seen before -- Kosovo and
Darfur are two cases I've heard the same thing about -- that when
the US picks sides, that side ups its ante in any negotiations.
It is certainly arguable that one reason, besides the repressive
nature of the Assad government, Syrian groups turned so quickly
from peaceful protests to civil war was their expectation that
the US would come to their aid, as had happened in Libya.
MJ Rosenberg: To Win UN Job, Samantha Power Begged Forgiveness, Wept,
for Criticizing Israel: You may recall that Power got booted from
Obama's 2008 campaign for bad-mouthing Hilary Clinton. She did wind
up with an under secretary job, under Clinton, and now gets a bump to
the UN Ambassador job, but only after taking back every blasphemous
thing she's ever said about Israel: specifically a 2002 interview:
She told an interviewer that she did not believe that Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon or Palestinian President Yasir Arafat would ever stop the
killing on their own and that "external intervention is required." She
specifically called on the United States to "put something on the line,"
by which she meant the "imposition of a solution on unwilling parties."
Admitting that the idea of imposing a settlement was "fundamentally
undemocratic," she said it was preferable to "deference" to leaders
who seem "politically destined to destroy the lives of their own
This was not surprising coming from Power. She is the leading advocate
of what is known as "liberal interventionism." She has said that as a
child she was shaken by the world's indifference to the Holocaust. Her
feelings were deepened by her experiences as a journalist in Bosnia.
Ever since, most notably in the case of Libya, Power has recommended
"going in" to stop the killing of innocents. Right or wrong, it's who
Unfortunately for Power, the reality of U.S. politics dictates that
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict be exempted from rules or theories one
applies elsewhere. That is why some of the most aggressively anti-war,
pro-human rights progressives in Congress, the media and the blogosphere
simply go silent, at best, on the subject of the Israeli occupation or,
at worst, openly support military actions like Israel's wars in Gaza.
They know that the Israel lobby will make life very difficult for those
who insist on applying the same moral yardstick to Israel as to other
Ed Kilgore: Power and the Neocons: one reason she was able to
escape the wrath of the Israel lobby is that the neocons lover her
Paul Ryan: The Mythical Promise of Obamacare Doomed Me and Mitt Romney:
How unfair of the Democrats, promising people that their government
would help make their lives better, when we all know that the real
function of government is to make you more miserable (unless, that
is, you're rich):
Former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan told conservatives Friday
that Obamacare helped President Obama defeat Mitt Romney in the 2012
election, decrying the "empty promises" of the law that hadn't yet
"This was our challenge that Mitt Romney and I had in this last
election," Ryan said in a speech at the annual Faith and Freedom
Coalition conference in Washington, DC. "We had to argue against
the promise and the rhetoric of President Obama. The great soaring
rhetoric, all of the empty promises."
You might be wondering why the Republicans didn't think of that
("soaring rhetoric/empty promises") themselves. Actually, they did,
but couldn't resist attacking Obama even when he adopted their
Dan Zevin: Hazy With a Chance of Apocalypse: This week's weather
forecast. A little far-fetched, I think, especially for Thursday.
Also, a few links for further study:
Tom Engelhardt: The Making of a Global Security State: Does a nice
job of summing up how the NSA revelations fit into the imperial security
complex that seems to have become a permanent, unassailable feature of
Nicholas Schmiddle: In the Crosshairs: How Chris Kyle became one of
America's most proficient killers in Iraq, then brought his gun culture
home, parlaying his success into a bestselling memoir, building an empire
ranging from training snipers to taking vets on shooting trips to help
release stress. Eventually one of the crazed vets he took out shot him.
Kyle, of course, was pretty crazed himself, but he hung out with people
like the Palins who celebrated that.