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August 26, 2013


Peter G

No he didn't. He said the opposite. The qualification he added, based on historical precedent, says that effectively nothing will be done. In how many conflicts has it actually been possible to organize such a response? And wouldn't this legal justification have to include the UN where the Assad regime has a staunch ally on the Security Council. That doesn't mean there won't be a military response but it sure won't be under the term Hagel just outlined.

Robert Lipscomb

Peter, if I recall correctly, you are a Canadian citizen. If so, you might not be acutely sensitive to the depth of American denial of the existence of our empire.

In fairness to us, most of us really prefer to not have an "empire". We backed into it. Because of our denial, we have fumbled around with the whole thing.

To our credit, we seem to be getting away from the kind of empire that tries to subordinate other countries and force them to pay homage to us. We inherited the whole middle east thingy from the UK which came from Churchill's realization that the UK really needed a reliable gas station during the Great War which was confirmed during WW II. Then the whole 1970's OPEC debacle entangled us.

As best as I can tell, Obama point of view about the American Empire is aligned with his electorate - and frankly the rest of the world who understands that someone has to be in charge. Our/his primary goal for the empire is to protect ourselves. So, we are taking all reasonable measures against international terrorist organizations. We have struggled with that one.

Another primary goal is to ensure the free flow of goods and services in the service of international trade and healthy economies. the terrorist organizations try to disrupt that.

The final primary goal is to stand ready to protect and support our declared allies. (Hello, Great Britain; Bite me Russia.)

A secondary, and problematic role, is to act as the "policeman of the world" as first described by Harry Truman. No other country (empire) is better positioned atrocities - you know, little things such as chemical warfare against civilians men, women and children.

I know it is a little irrational to not be troubled so much by killing them by the tens of thousands with conventional weapons but get all wound up about only a couple thousand deaths by chemical weapons, but that is the way of the world.

So, no the American public will not support an invasion of Syria which (in international geopolitical terms) sounds like a divorce from hell. But (to further the analogy), no one in the neighborhood will much mind when the policeman takes a husband, who has just beat the hell out of his wife, out back and beats the hell out of him.

I am not sure what the equivalent of that is in Syria, but I am pretty sure we are about to do do it with the approval of the rest of the world.

Such is the way of the world.

Peter G

If I could ascertain with any degree of certainty who used chemical weapons in Syria or even that they had been used I would certainly support the formation of some coalition to deal with the problem. On the other hand, Robert, when I see a report that thousands have sought medical assistance but the the presence of never gas of whatever type cannot be confirmed I have to ask why? Nobody ever heard of gas chromatography in the middle east? Can't send tissue samples to a lab with an undisputable chain of custody. If nerve gases were used then it would be extremely simple to show it through direct measurement or the presence of precursor products in tissue samples.

Then there is the problem, once never gas use has been established, of who actually used it. Sarin has a short shelf life and it has be to be made frequently or the precursors kept separate in munitions. It is not hard to make. Anybody in Syria could have custody of some of these munitions.

I am not such a person as to condemn the efforts of the government of the United States to help even when the attempts failed. And there are a lot of people breathing now who wouldn't have been in places like the Balkans if it weren't for American leadership and intervention.

Robert Lipscomb

Peter, I share your misgivings about the certainty. I also have faith in Obama as not being the cowboy that Bush was. My sense is that Obama would be hesitant to act even with all due confirmation. I also suspect that many on the left will always be against the use of force by the American Empire.


As you note, Robert: "I also suspect that many on the left will always be against the use of force by the American Empire." This gets at what I see as one large difference between left and right in this country (Warning! Gross oversimplification ahead!):

The RIGHT obtains power and says "Yeehaw! Who can we club over the head with this? How much profit can we suck outta it?"

The LEFT obtains power and says "Ewww, this power stuff, is it morally correct to pick it up and use it despite all the evil things it can do, or should we dispose of it in an environmentally appropriate way? Ick, careful -- don't get any of it on you!"


In other words, Janicket, the Left is Frodo, and the Right is Saruman...


Hmmmmmm..... Then who does that make Gollum?

Robert Lipscomb


That's about it. For a long time, I followed in Gore Vidal's footsteps in hating empire and "I miss my old republic". I still do to a certain extent.

The reality is that we are an empire. What I had to learn is that as long as we run a laissez-faire empire, the rest of the world is and will be quite happy that we are running things - to the level I initially delineated.

When we go all neo-con, the world freaks. During the Cold War, we conflated anti-communism with with anti-socialism and became corporatist jerks at home and around the world.

The latest read on Obama/Kerry is that we intend to bomb the hell out of military targets (after 30 uses of chemical weapons) to encourage Assad to to go back to using conventional weapons to fight the civil war.

And not much more.

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