All systems are go
Well, the final piece has been put into place for another air assault by our Nobel Peace laureate President. The New York Time‘s editorial board has finally endorsed the idea of our liberal president turning some part of Syria into a Guernica. Now the Times does not serve up red meat, like, say, dailycaller.com. So it is not really technically cheerleading for war. (For the record, dailycaller.com seems to be against this war because it is Obama’s idea, but it is certainly uncomfortable thinking that its disapproval might somehow prevent an innocent Muslim from being killed.) Being eminently reasonable The New York Times has all sorts of qualifications about the use of force as to duration, purpose, etc. Of course, the White House and everyone else could not care less about the qualifications. It’s like when The Times reviews a movie to the effect that “it might be worth seeing the terrific gore if the plot, characters and dialogue were not so insipid and the directing so puerile …” When the movie posters come out all that is left is “…terrific…” says The New York Times. And that’s what will happen here. No one will point to the mealy-mouthed “A political agreement is still the best solution to this deadly conflict,” nor should they. What the Administration will waive about is “Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons surely requires a response of some kind …” Surely.
Not that The Times has ever been against a foreign military adventure in living memory, but it just doesn’t seem right for a “liberal” President to start a war without encouragement from the paper of record.
I go to this length point out the prominent position of The New York Times, because I am looking at a paper copy of the editorial. The website evidently has been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army possibly preventing our important movers and shakers from looking at a screen and gravely nodding in agreement. A response is surely needed to counter the actions of the Syrian Electronic Army against The New York Times. Surely.
This would be all that is needed, except both The Times and the Administration keep fumbling about for additional reasons to launch missiles. The reticence of the Administration which has lobbed drones into more countries without Congressional approval than it cares to report is somewhat difficult to explain. Perhaps the overwhelming disapproval of this action by the American people has a part in it. Perhaps the Administration feels a bit sheepish knowing that when the dust clears the missiles fires from the U.S. flotilla will end up killing civilians. Perhaps more than the supposed chemical weapons attack by Mr. al-Assad. And there will be pictures of bodies of women and children and gruesome shots of children mangled and burned, permanently crippled and disfigured. And that will upset a lot of Americans. Not to mention solidify the opinion of supporters of Mr. al-Assad and ignite Arab and Muslim opinion outside the houka rooms of the oligarch’s mansions in the Gulf States, who mostly want this attack.
Whatever the reason two legal justifications are floating about. First there is the Chemical Weapons Convention (as well as the Geneva Protocol and the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court) which make the use of chemical weapons a war crime. Now oddly enough, none of those international agreements make it the duty of the U.S. Executive to do anything in the event of a violation. In fact, unlike the legislation that the Administration ignored requiring the suspension of funds to the Egyptian military, the international agreements don’t seem to have been drafted with U.S. military considerations in mind. Nor do these agreement provide for a military strike by one signatory against another that it believes has violated the treaty. The second purported justification is that NATO allows for collective action to come to the aid of a member country. The problem with this justification is that no member country has asked for aid. So while, as we have seen, the legal team of this Administration is at least as inventive and disingenuous as the team of the last Administration, even the President’s (anonymous) spokesmen seem uncomfortable resting their case on these international laws and agreements.
One also wonders if this country, given its record over the last decade, wants to get into a spitting contest over international law. Secretary Kerry called Mr. al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons a “moral obscenity” in the war to capture the heart’s and mind’s of the American people to prepare for war. “Morality” is an odd argument; one that the President has never resorted to in defense of his numerous foreign campaigns. Nor is it one that sits nicely on the brow of a President known for weekly kill meetings and one who won’t even acknowledge the targets of its assassination drones. But law (which this Administration treats with contempt when it hampers the President’s discretion) and morality (which the President never resorts to) are better arguments than utility. Because the campaign that he is about to initiate will without doubt kill more Syrian civilians than killed by Mr. al-Assad’s chemical weapons. The acknowledged civilian casualties of the Serbian campaign under President Clinton was 1,200 (including a mistaken hit on the Chinese Embassy). And that is the “limited” campaign that supposedly the President is modeling his latest adventure on.
This President can count on one ting. The “liberal” supporters in his party will roll over and not offer a whit of criticism. The Republicans would like to criticize him, and many will on his handling or its late start, but Republicans are never convincing when they act as though they are opposed to war. So if anything, the President will avoid any political hit for this unpopular decision.
And as for history, perhaps that will be taken care of by beginning the campaign tomorrow while the President is wrapping himself in Dr. King’s legacy. They are fellow Nobel Peace laureates after all. Maybe he should draw attention to that during the festivities.