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Pres. Obama says US can't get attention of UN Security Council w'out acting like swaggering avengers

This statement by Pres. Obama makes absolutely no sense at all, and is actually an insult to the diplomacy practiced by the very body he's appealing to.

Obama at the UN today:

"Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council. But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all."

From what I've seen, so far, it's the U.S. threat of force which is the main obstacle to any Security Council agreement on a response to chemical weapon use in Syria. It's amazing to hear the president cite that US threat of force as the only impetus for the UN to act.

As Abe Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

It's great to see President Obama responding to our activism and advocacy

We've been bombarded by reports that Summers was a lock for the Fed*. The President himself had expressed confidence in Summers for that position. Now, he's withdrawn his name. That's no accident. He might have been a shoo-in if there wasn't resistance.

Likewise, the President has spent a great deal of time trying to convince Americans of his intention to step ahead of Congress and bomb Syria. He relented - decided diplomacy wasn't 'exhausted, after all - and has made moves to avert his own plans to unilaterally initiate war.

It remains to be seen whether the President holds true to his modification of his plans; is actually changing his mind to align himself with the reasoning which goes along with the dissent; whether his backtracking is something more than just a sleight of hand.

The ultimate outcome of these shifts in approach will depend on how much pressure he still feels to move in one direction or the other. We know his initial instincts. We shouldn't be sanguine about what will affect the ultimate outcome of his decision making.

The President needs more than just praise; he needs steadfastness opponents have demonstrated, so far, in vocalizing objections and insisting they be heard to overcome the nudges and cozying-up that comes from those already on the inside of his circle of influence and opinion. Opponents of his instinct away from their line of reasoning need to keep the pressure on.

Understand that bombing Syria is just a bad idea, no matter how you feel about chemical attacks

Greg Sargent is confused. He's having a hard time understanding folks who can't find anything righteous about bombing Syria, yet, refuse to buy into the fiction that there's some looming diplomatic settlement being orchestrated by Russia's Putin which Washington will accept as an averting of war.

here's Sargent:

I continue to be puzzled by an enormous imbalance we’ve seen in much of the commentary — from neutral analysts and Republican lawmakers alike — about Obama’s handling of Syria. On the one hand, the basic take has been that Obama’s handling of the process has shown him to be weak and inconsistent. He changed his mind on whether to go to Congress. But Congress rebuffed him. He changed his mind again on using military force, instead opting to pursue a diplomatic solution when the possibility presented itself. But he’s failed to get what he wanted from Putin. This sends a message of weakness and vacillation abroad that diminishes the credibility of the commander in chief and the United States.

By contrast, few of those making the above arguments have been willing to say whether they agree with the objectives of his decisions. They won’t say whether they think going to Congress and pursuing a diplomatic solution were the right things for the President to do, given the circumstances. This is separate from asking whether Obama’s motives in doing these things were pure. Many have argued Obama only went to Congress for political reasons, to give it partial ownership of the decision to bomb. But still, Members of Congress asked Obama to come to them. Regardless of motive, wasn’t going to Congress the right thing to do, and wasn’t that preferable to him bombing without Congress?

Similarly, many have argued Obama took the diplomatic route merely as an escape hatch, because he knew Congress would vote No to force. Yet many of these critics won’t say whether they think exploring the possibility of a diplomatic solution was the right thing to do given that this possibility arose. This is particularly jarring when it comes from those who also say they can’t support war . . .

What Sargent and other folks arguing persistently to 'do something' about Syria's chemical attacks fail to understand is that the administration and its war supporters have utterly failed to demonstrate how the threat of military force, or actually bombing Syria, will do ANYTHING substantive to end the possibility that chemical weapons are used again in their civil war.

Those folks out here who don't believe in either bombing or buy into the pantomime of diplomacy that Russia has cynically initiated; or buy into the administration's cynical embrace of the Russian initiative as a back door out of their dead end run through Congress; are told that their disbelief in the fiction of the successes of gunboat diplomacy against a nation which has not threatened us is really an outright rejection of diplomacy itself - as if this one opportunistic ploy by the Russians and Syria to forestall U.S. attacks is the end-all, beat-all of diplomacy regarding Syria.

Truth is, there aren't any folks out here opposing U.S. military intervention in Syria who don't welcome ANY pause or halt to the administration's deliberate and insistent march to war. It isn't as if there's some solid comfort zone that opponents of military strikes can relax and rely on watching this kabuki dance between U.S. and Russian officials.

President Obama has insisted all along that he has the authority to strike Syria without pre-approval from Congress, and, there are more than a handful of Democrats in the congressional and Senate leadership who have echoed the administration's insistence that this lull in their initial rush to war with Syria that they won't wait indefinitely before launching their military response.

Kerry initially gave the wait-and-see period before brushing the Russian diplomacy aside no more than a week. Democratic leader Steny Hoyer offered that he expects to have exhausted his patience in withholding support for military action 'no more than weeks' from now. Hoyer says the President already has authority to strike Syria, without his legislative body's approval.

That question is always answered by the level of support or opposition Congress manages in response to the autocratic decisions presidents make under the War Powers Act to declare adversaries a 'threat' and initiate their own unilateral militarism by reasoning that it's a defense of our national security.

To folks out here who have opposed previous administrations' exercise of that dubious and subjective 'authority' that president's sometimes assume, President Obama's invoking of that power in regard to Syria looks to be a distortion of what constitutes a threat to our nation and are not convinced that allowing military strikes would be a defense of our national security from a technical definition of a threat to our security or national interest.

That national interest is best defined when expressed by our legislature as a whole; not as a unilateral declaration from the chief Executive. It's not enough for the administration to have convinced itself of the efficacy of military force against a country which hasn't even threatened us. Nation's go to war; not administrations.

There may well be some merit in employing the resources and manpower of our nation's defenses in some humanitarian pursuit. Yet, the risks and consequences of lobbing missiles across sovereign borders for a dubious defense of morality and humanity is not a decision that should lie solely in the hands of one man.

If the Obama administration believes so strongly in the Russian diplomatic initiative, they should be prepared to see that process through; whether it takes weeks or months to resolve. That would be the commitment to diplomacy that proponents of military action chide the anti-war contingent for not caring about when they point to the obvious self-interest Russia and Syria have in promising anything to forestall U.S. attacks.

That insincerity on Russia's part - and the cynical embrace of that Russian initiative by the Obama administration's faltering rush to war - doesn't necessarily have to be the last word in diplomacy regarding Syria. The administration and their supporters would have you believe that, though.

The entire embrace of the Russian plan by the administration has been a hollow exercise to show Congress' recalcitrant members that the administration has 'exhausted' every option short of military strikes; a ridiculous and opportunistic view which ignores their own pivot away from a failed resolution in Congress toward this dubious, but diplomatic initiative; even after they had declared before the world at the UN that diplomacy with Syria was dead.

If the Obama administration is serious in securing an agreement with Russia and Syria, perhaps they should consider the conditions that their adversaries have offered. One important one for Russia and Syria is their insistence of the removal of the threat of military action by the U.S. before agreeing to secure their chemical weapon stockpile.

Conversely, the administration insists that it is that very threat of force which is their only motivator to an agreement. Without that threat of force, the administration and supporters insist, Syria would not be compelled to do anything.

Problem is, that's not diplomacy; it's outright coercion. That may well be an effective cudgel against those who fail to live up to our nation's expectation for them, but, it's also the mark of an arrogant nation and an arrogant administration which doesn't respect the primacy of Americans in deciding whether to employ our nation's defenses in such a dubious manner; so unrelated to our actual security.

Perhaps, it wouldn't be such a blatant course if the administration was content to rest with the judgment of Congress that they should exercise restraint and not lead with their militarism. Perhaps it would be a more convincing demonstration of their own commitment to diplomacy if they didn't insist - even as they appeal to the UN to adjudicate the Russian proposal - that they have the right to press ahead of the American people and launch military strikes against Syria whenever they feel they've had enough with diplomacy.

For those of us out here who have come to grips with the limitations and counterproductive nature of our military forces to effect these dubious goals of politics and humanitarianism toward nations who don't directly threaten us, there's isn't a point in this confrontation with Syria where we feel diplomacy dies and the military option progressively takes its place.

We believe that the introduction of U.S. military force in Syria will effectively place our nation in the role of the Syrian regime's primary adversary; instead of the Syrian resistance which our government has been so careful to distance itself from because of associations of elements of our nemesis, al-Qaeda. Yet, our nation isn't yet at war with Syria. It's hard to imagine though, how anyone would be able to credibly claim that distinction after a U.S. launch of destabilizing missile strikes which would serve to advantage one side of that civil war against the other.

Either the Obama administration is committed to war with Syria; or, they're committed to diplomacy. they can't have it both ways; they can't claim that gunboat diplomacy against a nation which hasn't threatened us is anything more than an outright provocation to war.

It's not for opponents of military intervention with Syria to prove that they can move mountains in Syria and force the regime to relinquish and renounce their chemical weapons with diplomacy. That burden is on those who are telling us that military strikes are the inevitable option after they've decided that waiting for a diplomatic solution isn't in their interest.

That burden is on proponents of war on Syria to demonstrate to the American people just how their militarism will effect ANY of their goals to restrain or eliminate the use of chemical warfare in Syria. So far, they just haven't made the case.

Democratic senator: Russia played a card on Syria, it could backfire (ya think?)

from CNN:

_____ Best case scenario for the Obama administration is Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Russia, hashes out a solid deal to get Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles put under international control, Syria complies without pulling any funny business, and the U.S. goes back to remembering that looming debt ceiling battle . . .

"Russia has played a card here, and they think it's going to work out in their advantage, this could be a total backfire for Russia," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey.

"If at the end of the day the sincerity, the transparency ends up being that this was just a ploy, I think the Russians pay a huge consequence for it," said Menendez.

read/watch discussion: http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/09/12/democratic-senator-russia-played-a-card-on-syria-it-could-backfire/

As Sen. Menendez says, the Russian initiative might be just a ploy, but the WH's cynical embrace of that initiative as the end-all to diplomacy with Syria is just as much of a sham.

Both Syria and Russia were looking for a way to forestall the imminent military strikes as the President insisted all along he had unilateral authority to launch; with or without Congress.

On the other hand, President Obama saw little downside to calling Russia's bluff and making a cynical embrace of the dubious proposal. He was set to lose the vote in Congress this week and believed he could advantage his case by engaging in a pantomime of diplomacy.

And, let's be clear; the cynicism came from the President and Kerry before anyone had a chance to express doubts about Russia's sincerity and Syria's intentions of following through.

The ploy from the WH? Present this dubious Russian proposal as the last word on diplomatic efforts regarding Syria; after Syria fails to follow through, they can then work to convince recalcitrant members of Congress that they'd gone the last mile and have no other choice but to follow through with their plan to begin bombing.

Putin is to be expected to engage in sophistry in his defense of Syria against U.S. military aggression, but, our Democratic administration is playing their own cynical game with Putin's proposal which has every appearance of leading to war. That too could 'backfire.'

It's incredibly sad to see so many folks I viewed as allies giving in to an appeal to strike Syria

. . . with the devastating force of our weapons.

I view it as a capitulation to every wrong instinct that the Bush administration exercised; every wrong instinct that most of us thought we had repudiated with the exit of Bush and our elevation of someone who claimed to understand the limitations, risks, and consequences of our nations use of military force abroad.

Now we have an entirely new set of justifications for authorizing the president to war against Syria which borrows on almost every one of Bush's imperialistic justifications for his own out-of-control military ambitions.

This will be a classic period of protest against an out-of-control White House working to manipulate Americans into supporting their dubious and dangerous military ambitions toward Syria. We'll be told that their every militaristic instinct is born out of their desire to address Syria's chemical weapons capability, but we won't see any abatement at all in their drive to war.

We didn't see one blip away from that militarism from President Obama tonight. We are now a nation being determinately driven to war by the man many of us convinced ourselves was above and beyond the type of reasoning which sees militarism as an indispensable part of our foreign policy.

The 'diplomacy' practiced toward Syria is nothing more than an ultimatum by this President- a coercion behind the devastating threat of our military arsenal. Even if Syria says they are in agreement with this cynical embrace of diplomacy by the WH, President Obama is determined to press ahead with seeking authorization to war.

We are undone, as progressives; as Americans; by this capitulation to military strikes. We will scarcely hope to restrain this administration as they prosecute their war and we will have lost every instinct or instigation away from the precipice that Bush took the nation to; that we hoped this President had pulled us back from.

U.S. 'diplomatic' plan still about military strikes; not intended to replace that military option


tweeted by, Ezra Klein ‏@ezraklein 1h
The "Kerry option" gives Obama a new argument he can use to persuade Congress to vote "yes." That's a big deal: http://wapo.st/13FSJbq

- The “Kerry option” gives wavering members of Congress another excuse to vote “no”. Any senators who want to vote against the force authorization without completely abandoning the administration have a new excuse: They don’t want to authorize force until this promising diplomatic solution is fully explored.

- It also gives the Obama administration a new argument to persuade Congress to vote “yes.” Prior to today, there was no option that either Russia or Syria were particularly worried about the U.S.’s “unbelievably small” war. That’s over. “Even if Russia’s proposal is just a bluff, it shows that President Obama’s threat has backed Moscow into a bit of a corner, and has forced Russian officials to at least pretend to negotiate seriously for the first time in a long time,” writes Max Fisher.

The Obama administration can now go to wavering members of Congress and argue that they need the authorization of force in order to have maximum leverage while pursuing this diplomatic option. And members of Congress can argue that they’re simply voting to give the Obama administration that leverage. Is all this a bit reminiscent of the bankshot arguments that ultimately passed the authorization for the war in Iraq? Yep. But remember, those arguments worked.

The Kerry Option at least gives Obama the opportunity to make a new argument in tonight’s primetime speech.You could see him previewing it to NBC News. “What we’re seeing is that a credible threat of a military strike from the United States, supported potentially by a number of other countries around the world has given them pause and makes them consider whether or not they would make this move,” he said. Now he can go before the American people and claim his policy is working and simply needs to be continued.

read: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/10/wonkbook-will-russia-bail-obama-out/

What good is a diplomatic initiative which still seeks authorization for military strikes? This is more like an ultimatum than it is a diplomatic proposal. If Assad abandons support for Russia's proposal, and a resolution is in place which authorizes military strikes, that will be a clever one-two step dance into war by the administration.

That will guarantee little more than just warring. Formally coupled with an authorized threat of force, this diplomatic initiative will be nothing more than a trigger to war against Syria.

As Abe Lincoln once remarked: "A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"

BBC Breaking News ‏@BBCBreaking 24m
Secretary of State John Kerry says US cannot wait long for Russian proposal on #Syria chemical weapons to work http://bbc.in/1b1cSxa

It isn't 'Bush Fatigue' which is responsible for opposition to Syria strikes; it's 'Lessons Learned'

One of the things Americans came to understand about George Bush's push past the UN Security Council to invade Iraq, despite the international organization's objections, was that he regarded that body as nothing more than a rubber stamp when they agreed with him and a mere nuisance when they did not.

Bush pushed past UN objections and forced UN inspectors to leave Iraq by pushing forward with his military invasion before they had time to conclude that Saddam did not have WMDs. The authority to commit forces is not actually inherent in the Iraq War resolution that he obtained. That authority is contained in the War Powers Act (referenced in the resolution) which decades of presidents have used to commit forces for months without congressional approval.

Some Democrats, at the time, saw the resolution as a way to restrain Bush and send him back to the U.N. Many were desperate to stifle Bush's argument for immediate invasion and sought to mandate a return to the international table by limiting Bush's authority in the resolution.

Yet, whether or not the resolution had passed, Bush was intent on invading and occupying Iraq. He had gone around for weeks proclaiming that 1441 gave him the authority to do whatever he wanted because of his definition of a 'threat' to our nation and defense of our national security. If the resolution had failed, I believe Bush would have committed forces anyway, as decades of presidents had also put troops in the field for months without congressional approval.

In that event the Congress would likely be loath to retreat and remove forces. Then, by law a resolution would have been drawn up, likely resembling the one we ended up with; urging Bush back to the U.N. and calling for internationalization of the conflict. Of course, by that time, Bush had already drawn the nation and our allies into a institutionally intractable military conflict.

That is how determined presidents get us into war. Check and checkmate. It's democracy-lite. It stinks, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to restrain a president from committing forces because of the loophole inherent in the War Powers Act, which is referenced in the IWR. Bush's position before, during and after invasion was that 1441 gave him authority to do any thing he wanted to in that region. He wanted cover, but the IWR didn't actually give him cover for his unilateral, preemptive invasion. Nowhere in the bill does it mandate what he ultimately did.

It isn't as if there's an infallible and decisive line of accountability from Congress to the president. Whatever control they have is a complicated gambit of allowing or withholding defense funds. That's where the actual check on that presidential authority lies.

One of the things that I, personally, want in a post-Bush presidency is a White House which understands that they take a nation to war, not just their administration. Having Congress assume initial responsibility for waging war is an integral and vital facet of our democracy. It's not a perfect check on that presidential prerogative, as we saw in the Bush-era, but it is a substantially important one.

That initial recognition by the president of that responsibility of Congress to initiate warring should be more than some political formality. However, as we've seen in many unilateral uses of force by the Executive over the course of history, Congress is loath to deny funding for an operation that's underway; for a mission where troops have already been committed to the field.

All our contemporary CiCs have had to do is make a unilateral declaration that their actions are in defense of 'national security' or in response to some 'threat' or the other against the U.S. or our interests. That's the reasoning the White House has decided to promote for their military ambitions in Syria. By declaring that attacks within Syria are in our 'national interests', and pose a 'threat' to our nation, the President and his deputies are declaring themselves above and beyond the initial judgment of Congress of whether their mission has merit and is supportable. For many folks out here, that's just a slippery slope to war.

That may well suit those who are firm in their belief that military force is imperative, yet, it is a stance which flies in the face of the overwhelming rejection of military strikes from a majority of Americans polled and a majority who have bothered to tell their Representatives and Senators where they stand.

As far as I've understood the President and his SoS, they believe they have that authority already, so I'm a bit puzzled why there's some question out there about whether he'll buck the judgment and vote of Congress and invade anyway. Maybe he won't, in the end. I just know that the President needs a constant and vocal reminder that there are a majority of us out here who don't agree with his stance and would appreciate if he would tell us up front that he'll respect the judgment of our elected officials and not rely solely on his own determination - his own decision - that we should go to war with Syria.

Lessons learned.



It would be illegal for the president to unilaterally wage war just to punish Syria . . . it is required by law that there be some demonstrable threat to the U.S. or our allies; or some imminent attack, in order for the CiC to unilaterally order the use of force.

The authority the WH is seeking is just an opportunistic attempt to be granted as much authority to meddle in Syria's civil war as they can manage out of Congress.

If that wasn't arrogant enough, they insist that NONE of that congressional (or UN) authority is actually needed for the President to unilaterally to ramp up and deliver a military 'message' to Assad.

"He gassed his own people."

That's the refrain Bush used to keep Americans chastened enough to allow him to use the force and threat of our military to meddle in Iraq's political affairs. It's, perhaps, coincidentally, the same hook the Obama administration is using to assuage Americans' and our legislators' ambivalence about unleashing our own destructive violence in response to another nation's leader's alleged violence inside of his own country.

'Syria isn't Iraq or Afghanistan,' goes the defense against such comparisons. 'Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq,' or something to that effect, 'and, Obama told the truth about chemical weapons in Syria.

Yet, it makes no difference at all that one justification for the use of military force abroad is a lie and the other isn't. BOTH distort and misrepresent the actual threat to our national security for the exact same reason.

BOTH Bush and Obama made their representations of the threat to the U.S. in order to declare and secure their unilateral authority to use our military forces (at least initially) any way they see fit, without congressional pre-approval - justified almost entirely in their view by their opportunistic declarations that our security is threatened.

That was the slippery slope that Bush used to war. That's the slope that Pres. Obama used to escalate Bush's Afghanistan occupation far beyond the former republican presidency's limits - with the catastrophic result of scores more casualties than Bush to our forces during this Democratic administration's first term and scores more innocent Afghans dead, maimed, or uprooted.

In pressing forward with a U.S. military response to the atrocities committed within Syria, this Democratic president is losing almost all of the ground we thought we'd covered in repudiating the opportunistic Bush wars. Bush's were waged, certainly, for oil and other greed; but just as certainly to effect U.S. expansionist ideals involving regime changes and 'dominoes.'

This Democratic administration is looking for a military wedge inside Syria to effect much the same idealistic set of political aims in that country and the region that the Bush leadership was obsessed with. It's carried forward by this self-important notion that the U.S. is in a position to dictate to other nations it's own versions of opportunistically constructed democracies which serve to elevate one U.S.-interested ideal over other equally pernicious and malicious ones.

The results, worldwide, of contemporary U.S. interventionism, speak for themselves. The Obama administration, almost blithely, is hoping that their Syrian 'misadventure' says something uniquely democratic and inspiring to countries which pose no actual threat to our nation. I'm afraid that all any one outside of this country will hear is 'empire.'
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