Two things I wonder:

1. Was Russia testing Trump, through Assad?

2. Does Assad use chemical weapons all the time, and this time we decided to notice?

The lines we draw are funny. Yes chemical weapons are a whole new level of horrible, but conventional weapons are no picnic either.

Now what?

Recommended by jconway, betsey, judy-meredith.


23 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Is this the new normal?

    I refer both to the state of Syria, and to Blue Mass Group (the site issues).

  2. Two quick replies

    1. Was Russia testing Trump, through Assad?

    2. Does Assad use chemical weapons all the time, and this time we decided to notice?

    1. Don’t know.

    2. He hasn’t used them since the ‘red line’ was last crossed and Obama, Sec. Kerry and the Russians worked to take the chemical weapons out of the country. It’s pretty silly for the hawks (which include Sec. Clinton) to criticize the President for ‘failing to follow through on the red line’, when arguably the threat of war was enough to get Assad to back down.

    So using that framework-he violated a previous agreement with the US and the other powers on the UNSC-it does make sense to enforce ‘international law’ by punishing Assad. That said-this should’ve been done with a lot more consultation with Congress, our allies, the UNSC and diplomacy. It just reeks of the haphazard incompetence this administration is known for.

    • Because diplomacy with the same actors worked so well in the past?

      Rice and Kerry stated that there was verifiable no nerve gas or chemical weapons remaining in Syria. Uh-huh.

      As far as Congress goes, JC – do you honestly think they can be trusted not to leak an attack? Really?

      He has 48 hours under the War Powers Act. He met that obligation.

      • He called the Russians but called zero allies

        Ronnie even gave Maggie a call before Grenada “you’re not going to like this, but I thought you should know”. Bush and Blair stood shoulder to shoulder before attacking Iraq, just as he and Clinton had before Allied Force and Desert Fox. Obama had NATO leaders on Libya. This was truly unilateral without authorization. Even Iraq had allies and Congressional ascent.

    • He's used them... least according to this morning’s interview with the past ambassador to Syria. I can’t recall his name but he said this morning on NBC news that the Assad people have been using chemicals weapons on a steady basis, even since the ban.

  3. Incidentally

    Pelosi, Schumer, and unfortunately Sec. Clinton herself all gave bipartisan cover to this move with their statements on Syria. It really pains me to see the partisan allegiances shift so rapidly-some Democratic hawks found a way to attack Trump over not acting are now attacking him for acting, and the Republicans who opposed Obama when this last came up for a vote are now celebrating. Principled exceptions on the right are the usual suspects like Jones, Amash and Paul, as well as surprises like Ted Cruz.

    I think Moulton and Warren had the right takes in our own delegation, and Tim Kaine was also consistent on requiring Congressional approval.

  4. At some point it would be helpful to admit

    that President Obama really, and I mean REALLY fucked up Syria. The whole “red line” but oops never mind was an absurd own goal that essentially removed any leverage we ever had in Syria, and surrendered control completely to Assad, Iran, and Russia. It really is hard to overstate just how bad a bungle that was.

    I suspect that this was more about being able to say “See, I am not a Putin puppet” than anything else. On the positive side, the US has more diplomatic leverage today in Syria than we have had since 2011. What is a shame is that there is no one in the administration with the diplomacy skills to use the opportunity.

    • I'm not ready to admit that

      In my view, Syria is a quagmire. I do think Obama messed up by drawing the red line, but the notion that that obligates us to war (and it would have been war) — I can’t get there.

      • Realpolitik doesn't sell

        Red Line was a campaign tool against Romney at a time when more Americans than not favored “doing something” about Assad. The real politik play is that Russia and Iran got sucked into a quagmire while we didn’t. Obama may have been wise to play it, but it is cold and heartless. There’s a realist argument that an Assad first strategy prior to Russian intervention might’ve deprived ISIL of its base of support. Michael Weiss, an ISIL expert, makes this and is ecstatic about the bombing. Other experts I respect like Tom Ricks and Daniel Larison are a lot more skeptical.

        My own view mirrors that of my former debate partner who worked with an NGO that smuggled refugees out of Syria (he did the smuggling). And basically it’s that there was a window, it closed, and now intervention makes the situation worse. It would be nice to think doing something would make a difference-but I have yet to see a long term plan for how we remove Assad without enabling ISIL and how we rebuild Syria after this.

        Hillary and to a lesser extent Trump now-are taking about triage. Reduce the violence Assad can inflict on his people. But there is no plan that could eliminate him that won’t result in a Libyan vacuum at best or a regional war at worst.

      • Sure it is a quagmire

        Which means that the best card was a threat of intervention– without intervening. But geez you don’t make a threat and then meekly climb down. Obama’s error wasn’t not “going to war” but rather making an ultimatum and then saying “umm, nevermind.”

        In my view, the problem in Libya was less that there was an intervention, and more that it was a half-hearted, yes-no-maybe-please repeat the question hokey pokey dance intervention.

        It was the same in Afghanistan. Declare victory and bail out? Double down? Neither: instead lets just not decide and hope the problem goes away.

        I don’t think the Obama administration was particularly good on this kind of stuff AT ALL. It was always indecision, neither fish nor fowl, and thus the worst of both worlds.

    • Libya also limited our options in Syria

      Something supporters of that intervention (and I include myself) have to own up to. Russia and Iran accelerated their support for Syria after that and Russia-which abstained from stopping the UNSC action in Libya-vetoed everything on Syria after that. Obama messed up. It’s also likely the golden hour passed many years ago, it’s unclear if intervening now makes the situation better.

      Nobody talks about the Saudis. We are helping them engage in similarly ugly warfare in Yemen where they are allying us with Al Qaeda against Iran. They are also arming and supplying ISIL and Al Nusra in Syria. Can we fight both sides of the Syrian Civil a war and come out victorious? Oh and our allies Turkey and Iraq are fighting our Kurdish allies in Syria-the only force that has beaten Assad and not been infiltrated by extremists. I’m highly skeptical our current policy is working, but I’m not sure what else Obama could do or now Trump can do differently.

      I do think we could’ve grounded his Air Force in a limited air war in 2011-12
      while arming the SNC before it became radicalized and splintered. A lot of generals defected to the opposition and we should’ve telegraphed to Assads inner circle that they would be spared in a transition. Then ISIL showed up and we started attacking them-which only helped Assad solidify his other front and wipe out non-ISIL opposition forces. Now it’s a binary fight between two horrible forces. Can we wipe them both out without provoking a wider war with Iran or Russia?

      • I doubt you would have ever gotten a Russian abstention

        Qaddafi was much more isolated diplomatically. The Russians have bases in Syria and the Assads have been their allies since the Cold War. On the other hand, if the Libyan war had been more successful in its political outcome, (ie. resulted in a stable Democracy) there may have been more support in the US for bombing Syria.

  5. That's the second thing this week...

    …that I find myself mostly wishing DEMS had taken care of when they had the chance – the other being nuking the filibuster.

  6. Trump's Ticklefight Tactics.

    The United States gave Russia a warning ahead of time. What message does that send?

    The United States didn’t bomb the airstrips! What message does that send?
    Reuters reports:
    “JUST IN: Syrian warplanes take off from air base hit by U.S., carry out strikes in Homs countryside – Syrian observatory for human rights

    Message received:

    Trump supporters (except the Far Right) support the move.

    The dog has been wagged.

  7. Mind reading

    is not possible. But what do we know:

    At 890,000 per missile, 40+ million for the barrage.

    Syrian jets took off from the bombed air field to carry out bombing raids

    The Russians were told of the raid, and much hardware was removed before lauch

    Were there casualties? Were innocents killed?

    Russia cut off communications so planes can not know whose is in their space

    This will not turn out well for all involved. On that note, I leave you all with Mark Twain’s “War Prayer”

    • Another mis-direct

      Russia SAID that they cut off the “deconfliction channel” immediately after the attack. Multiple sources, including Fox News, report that the channel was re-opened on Friday:

      Russia has agreed to keep the communication channel between U.S. and Russian military operations in Syria open on Friday despite claiming it would be shut down following the missile strike at a Syrian airbase, senior U.S. military officials said.

      The Russian’s were given an hour’s notice of the raid. If “much hardware was removed before launch”, one can only assume that the Russians already knew the attack was coming.

      • I'm grateful they knew

        As Ian Bremmer put it, notifying the Russians before the attack was the first smart foreign policy decision Trump has made. I mean, imagine if he hadn’t what the fallout (possibly literal as well as figurative) would be.

        That said-they definitely had more than an hours notice if they removed all personnel and equipment. And by all accounts-so did Assad. The airbase was flying missions again within 24 hours. This was entirely an optics based strike-and the media and liberal pundits fawning over Trump are committing malpractice as they did in the lead up to the Iraq War.

  8. What happens next?

    What if Assad uses chemical weapons again? What if he deploys them out of range of tomahawks or reinforces his bases with Russian missile defense? Then we have to send pilots who will get shot down and could die. The chemical stockpiles, aircraft, and missile capabilities are all still there. Now likely to be reinforced or hidden underground.

    Assad has killed hundreds of thousands with conventional weapons. Why not destroy his Air Force? Why leave the airfields intact? How will we coordinate with Syrian pilots on anti-ISIL operations? Will they shoot our pilots or attack or special forces to retaliate?

    None of these questions were considered by this President or his security team and that should trouble us all-especially the dumbass Democrats fawning over this action today.

    • Russian and Syrian planes have already stuck the area again.

      Who knows how many were killed. Can some ask Trump why killing a “tiny baby” with an explosive burst of heat, energy and mass is somehow more acceptable that using nerve gas ?

  9. Tullsi Gabbard and Rand Paul

    No I’m not linking them, but both made interesting points.

    Tulsi Gabbard.

    Rand Paul.

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