Monday, 2 September 2013

Obama & Kerry “Outline US March to War in Syria”

From Friday’s All In, this is a pretty good segment, with plenty of video clips of Secretary of State John Kerry making the case for intervention, and why it matters to the United States.

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Here is what Kerry said:

“It matters today that we are working as an international community to rid the world of the worst weapons. It matters to our security and the security of our allies. It matters because a lot of other countries, whose policies challenge these international norms are watching… What we choose to do, or not do, matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things, we need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing?”

The US will go it alone, if it judges it necessary. And the American people’s “war fatigue” was not enough, and a poor excuse:

“President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decisions on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests. We know, that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about. And history will judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction…”

In other words… Well, this is a bit thin. Stating that it is in the United States’ interest to go in, but not explaining what these interests are is not good enough. “History will judge us extraordinarily harshly” is also not sufficient. As someone who errs towards Realism-as-Sense, this type of ephemeral nod towards “interests” comes across as thinly-veiled liberal interventionism (or adventurism, depending on how you see these things). I think the only way the administration is going to convince the American people, and on-the-fence members of Congress, is to articulate clearly which national interests are under threat.

And the dismissal of “war fatigue” is equally lacking in intelligence. Not only for ethical reasons, but for financial reasons. This intervention in Syria will not be like George H.W. Bush’s actions in Kuwait and Iraq in 1990-1, in which the US actually made a profit, because the other nations involved donated more financial aid than was ultimately needed.

Representative Jim McDermott, who joins Chris in the segment, articulates a popular concern, and that is that the language from the administration is so similar to that which we heard in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. As mentioned in the previous post on this blog, for administration officials to say the comparison can not, and should not be made is disingenuous. The tone we are hearing from administrative officials (and David Cameron’s government in the UK) is very bellicose, as if they are “banging the war drums”. Regardless of what you believe, or whether or not you agree that the US, UK and UN should intervene, the manner in which officials are articulating the case comes across as so eager for war, that it is perhaps not surprising that citizens are nervous and leery of agreeing.

Here’s the second clip from the same show, which offers parallels between Syria and Iraq (with statements by David Cameron, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and others)…

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This is the greatest long-term blow that has come about since the George W. Bush administration, and the Republican handling of Iraq: the President’s (and US’s) ability to act internationally, especially when clear national interests are not visibly under threat, has effectively vanished. The construction of Foreign Policy has become more constrained.

The segment also goes into the wisdom of telegraphing the upcoming attack, as the President and White House voices have been doing for days.

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