Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The morning read

A whole lotta news going on.  Some news aggregation for you dear bloggy readers:

-Questions for President Obama-- before he pulls the trigger by Andrew Bacevich.  Prof. Bacevich is one of my favorite voice, as he asks the tough questions on military ventures. Like:

First, why does this particular heinous act rise to the level of justifying a military response? More specifically, why did a similarly heinous act by the Egyptian army elicit from Washington only the mildest response? Just weeks ago, Egyptian security forces slaughtered hundreds of Egyptians whose “crime” was to protest a military coup that overthrew a legitimately elected president. Why the double standard?
Second, once U.S. military action against Syria begins, when will it end? What is the political objective? Wrapping the Assad regime on the knuckles is unlikely to persuade it to change its ways. That regime is engaged in a fight for survival. So what exactly does the United States intend to achieve and how much is President Obama willing to spend in lives and treasure to get there? War is a risky business. Is the president willing to commit U.S. forces to what could well become another protracted and costly struggle?
Third, what is the legal basis for military action? Neither Russia nor China is likely to agree to an attack on Syria, so authorization by the U.N. Security Council won’t be forthcoming. Will Obama ask Congress for the authority to act? Or will he, as so many of his recent predecessors have done, employ some dodge to circumvent the Constitution? With what justification?
Prof. Phil Seib turns to hard power on Syria:

What will people say 20 years from now when they look back on today’s events in Syria? Will they apologize for doing nothing while chemical warfare was employed?
The United States and its NATO allies possess the precise military capability to cause significant damage to Assad’s war machine. Perhaps the source of the chemical weapons could be hit, and if that is not feasible due to the danger of releasing chemical agents into the atmosphere, airfields or other military facilities could be targeted.
The point of all this is to show Assad – and the rest of the world – that certain behavior, even in wartime, will not be tolerated. Some would argue that this kind of action is a mere gesture and that Assad will find other ways to kill Syrian civilians. Perhaps, but that is not a reason to do nothing at all.
Despite the allure of soft power as a way to deal with international disputes, there is no getting away from the sad reality that hard power is sometimes needed. Forceful action will speak to global publics as its own kind of public diplomacy. It is time to blow up at least part of Assad’s capability to slaughter innocents.
But, fwiw the architect of the surgical strike plan being pushed forward doesn't think it will work:
"Tactical actions in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counterproductive," Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said. "I never intended my analysis of a cruise missile strike option to be advocacy even though some people took it as that." 
And Larry Derfner in +972 makes a good case that if you can't stand the heat in hell's kitchen, stay out:
The ones most discussed are reportedly a “surgical strike” on the Assad regime’s chemical weapons by missiles fired from long range by U.S. ships, and/or the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria. Nobody is talking about putting American or other Western soldiers on the ground there, not as fighters or as peacekeepers; after Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody wants to get in the middle of another Middle Eastern civil war. Instead, the idea is a no-risk, remote control operation that stops the use of chemical weapons, doesn’t last long, and that has a guaranteed exit strategy. 
In other words, if the Syrians or their ally in the field Hezbollah hit back at American targets after a U.S. missile strike, or violate a no-fly zone, or attack Israel or Turkey or Saudi Arabia or some other enemy and thereby take the Syrian war regional, it would screw up the plan. America would have to strike back decisively – as many times as it takes – or walk away humiliated, giving Assad, Hezbollah and Iran an undreamed-of victory. 
Neither America nor any other Western power has the stomach for such an adventure. And the thing is, Assad, Hezbollah and Iran know it, which would seem to almost guarantee that if the U.S. acts militarily in Syria, it will meet with military resistance. Real simple: If America can’t stand the heat, and it can’t, it should stay the hell out of the kitchen, or rather the oven that is the Syrian civil war.
And one more good debate/discussion from George Packer over the Syria question, even if it happening with himself

And on the other end of the sandbox, NYTimes editor Bill Keller has a good piece called Adrift on the Nile:
It has become the conventional wisdom in Washington that the United States has no “leverage” in Egypt. That is at best an excuse for not trying very hard, at worst a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, “leverage” does not mean that supplying a few F-16 fighter planes buys you the compliance of a foreign army. (Witness Pakistan.) And, of course, Egypt’s fate is, and must be, in Egyptian hands. But we have serious strategic interests in a democratic Egypt, as the president himself asserted with such fervor, and we have influence. We should have used our influence earlier. We can and should use it now.
And so not everything is gloom and doom, 33 teachers who got the last laugh.

PS: Bacevich has an excellent piece in the American Conservative about the Counterculture Conservatism required by the Conservative movement.

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