Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


By VLADIMIR V. PUTIN Published: September 11, 2013
September 11, 2013 9:54 PM   Subscribe

A Plea for Caution From Russia (SLNYT) My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
posted by philip-random (316 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.*

* Void where gay
posted by lumensimus at 9:59 PM on September 11, 2013 [81 favorites]


* Void where gay

Eh, the comments on the op-ed are full of these tu-quoque retorts. "You can't lecture us on Syria because [gays/authoritarianism/Pussy Riot/insert latest outrage]." It's not a very good rebuttal. Indeed, it's a logical fallacy.

Someone can be hypocritical, and also 100% right.
posted by dontjumplarry at 10:08 PM on September 11, 2013 [109 favorites]


It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.

Ahh...COMMUNISM IS BACK, BABY!!!!
posted by hal_c_on at 10:09 PM on September 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Focusing on the anti-gay stuff is a great way for American exceptionalists to reframe the debate and ignore the more relevant issues.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:10 PM on September 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


I'm not saying the overall thrust of the argument is wrong -- I'm thrilled about the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to this clusterfuck as the next guy -- but it's exceptionally tone-deaf to appeal to some sort of universal brotherhood when you've done such a great job of demonstrating contempt for it.
posted by lumensimus at 10:13 PM on September 11, 2013 [35 favorites]


I was struck by the degree to which this letter demonstrates understanding of American self-perception and a willingness to speak to Americans in their own cultural terms. It is clearly phrased, makes its argument without hedging or lecturing, and does not waffle. It also makes more sense than anything I have heard from Obama on the subject.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:15 PM on September 11, 2013 [39 favorites]


The anti-gay issue is a non-sequitur. Russia's ongoing supply of military and economic aid to the Assad regime, thereby abetting the government's slaughter of its own populace, on the other hand, is absolutely germane. I'm also glad there's a chance that a symbolic, strategically pointless and potentially destabilizing American attack may get trumped by an effective diplomatic solution. But let's not pretend that Putin is on the side of the angels here. Or that he has the interests of the American people at heart. He sees an opportunity to influence public opinion in the US at a crucial moment, thereby strengthening his hand and the hand of his brutal client state at the negotiating table. It's shameful that the NYT has allowed its Op-Ed page to be used as a conduit for propaganda. The least they could have done would have been to publish some sort of sidebar detailing the Russians' conflict of interest here.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:18 PM on September 11, 2013 [66 favorites]


To recap:

- Peace: good
- Unilateral military action: bad
- This specific unilateral military action: also bad
- Ventriloquizing the divine to look folksy and humble: tacky whoever does it
posted by lumensimus at 10:18 PM on September 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


Eh, the comments on the op-ed are full of these tu-quoque retorts. "You can't lecture us on Syria because [gays/authoritarianism/Pussy Riot/insert latest outrage]." It's not a very good rebuttal. Indeed, it's a logical fallacy.

How about, 'you can't lecture anyone on Syria because you have been selling weapons to the Assad regime for years, including precursors for Sarin, and they've suspiciously recently started paying you back very quickly'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:18 PM on September 11, 2013 [47 favorites]


Amen, Mr Putin. If only we had sane and wise Statesmen like that in our Country, instead of the corporate puppets who try really hard to look like they are in charge.

The anti-gay stuff is a derail. I hope we can keep from kicking the Syrian powder keg, and perhaps start to work towards using a Justice system against terrorists, instead of repeating yet again the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the good old days, we hunted down criminals, arrested them, and brought them to trial. We didn't spend a $10,000,000 missile to kill someone in a house, and then find out (or probably not) years later we had bad intel, and we just recruited 5 more terrorists because we killed an innocent family at breakfast.

Justice systems work, not perfectly, but they work... let's go back to using them, instead of unleashing the dogs of war.
posted by MikeWarot at 10:20 PM on September 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Having Vladimir Putin—his many faults and dubious deomocratic and human rights bona fides notwithstanding—reach out as a voice of reason in one of the largest newspapers in the US should be a serious wake up call.

Twelve years hence, and you'd be forgiven for thinking the terrorists won.
posted by flippant at 10:21 PM on September 11, 2013 [36 favorites]


Focusing on the anti-gay stuff is a great way for American exceptionalists to reframe the debate and ignore the more relevant issues.

I goes both ways. Focusing on American warmongering is a great way of attracting attention away from his government's shocking homophobia.

I will give him credit for the fact that his plan of taking control of Syria's chemical weapons prevents further atrocities against the Syrian people, averts American military intervention and emphasizes the importance of international law. It's an outstanding idea and I hope it succeeds.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:21 PM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


That Vladimir Putin is the best spokesman we have right now on the world stage for both peace and the rights of political dissidents is not so much praise for Putin as it is the most damning indictment imaginable of a US president who is so morally and intellectually bankrupt that he can't even figure out how to betray his supposed core principles properly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:23 PM on September 11, 2013 [70 favorites]


Having Vladimir Putin—his many faults and dubious deomocratic and human rights bona fides notwithstanding—reach out as a voice of reason in one of the largest newspapers in the US should be a serious wake up call.

I think I'm starting to actually enjoy this Cold War reboot.
posted by philip-random at 10:23 PM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


We should immediately, unilaterally, and decisively bomb the ever-loving shit out of Syria - with packages of gas masks and atropine injectors.

Blowing buildings up will not help anyone here, but using our military-industrial complex to equip every civilian in the war zone with the tools they need to protect themselves against sarin gas might. You want to send a strong message against the use of chemical weapons? Make them fucking irrelevant.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:25 PM on September 11, 2013 [22 favorites]


A cold war reboot is bad news if it happens. But at the same time, even if every accusation against Russia and Syria were true, I'm not sure that would be enough to justify overriding the UN. If we're really committed to international law (and I think we should be), then we can't take unilateral military action every time a UN vote doesn't go 'our way'.
posted by Pyry at 10:31 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is Russia toying with US?
posted by stbalbach at 10:32 PM on September 11, 2013


It's a good thing that in America people can write op-eds in newspapers disagreeing with the government and generally not fear for their lives.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:33 PM on September 11, 2013 [24 favorites]


A cold war reboot is bad news if it happens

not if it takes Marshall McLuhan's hint and happens in the media sphere, which is what seems to be happening here.
posted by philip-random at 10:34 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a good thing that in America people can write op-eds in newspapers disagreeing with the government and generally not fear for their lives.

I think the fact that an amoral tyrant like Putin can make a concise and nearly morally bulletproof argument against our intervention in Syria shows you how awful our proposed intervention in Syria is.
posted by empath at 10:35 PM on September 11, 2013 [59 favorites]


It's shameful that the NYT has allowed its Op-Ed page to be used as a conduit for propaganda.

What else is the Op-Ed page used for? Or do you only call it "propaganda" when it's from "them"?
posted by Goofyy at 10:36 PM on September 11, 2013 [40 favorites]


Is Russia toying with US?

Almost certainly, no conspiracy theory needed. Russia has fewer critical interests and can leverage them more nimbly.
posted by dhartung at 10:36 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I dunno. I'm not someone who is generally in favor of war. But if France says Assad has been using chemical weapons, I'm inclined to believe them. France generally takes a pacifist stance, and from what I know -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- they don't seem to have any interests in Syria.

Somebody who knows the situation better than I do : do Putin's claims have any merit? Is the rebel opposition using chemical weapons in an attempt to draw the US into the conflict?

Occam's razor seems to point to "no".
posted by evil otto at 10:37 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bahahahaha, bahaha, haha, ha. That's a good one, Vova.
posted by Nomyte at 10:39 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's shameful that the NYT has allowed its Op-Ed page to be used as a conduit for propaganda.

It's fine with all the paid propogandists of the US war-machine use it, though? The op-ed pages of major newspapers are always full of whatever calvacade of hokum that the major think-tanks are shitting out that week.
posted by empath at 10:39 PM on September 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Putin is a smart guy. He has a very good writer who knows how to turn a phrase that resonates with what many Americans (and the world) is thinking. That said, Putin is a brutal asshole who can (and probably has) had people killed since the fall. He and his ex-commie cronies took over the Soviet industrial infrastructure and made themselves rich. The Russian mafia operates openly; the country is virulently anti-gay.

I don't care for Obama; he over-thinks, is too non-committal, and uses the word caution as a cover for feckless non-action (look at the banking crisis, for starters). Nevertheless, that's small potatoes when compared to an animal like Putin. Seriously, when the guy was 8, someone asked him what he wanted to be and his answer was "I want to be a spy". He comes from a strong-arm background, and he's a chameleon. He'll say anything that makes him look good, no matter the consequences. America is far from perfect, but we don't sell Sarin gas precursors to butcher dictators.

What a mess the Middle East is!
posted by Vibrissae at 10:40 PM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Putin is a smart guy. He has a very good writer

yes.
posted by philip-random at 10:41 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Where are the photos of him shirtless on the back of a mighty steed in the middle of a big game hunt using only a kbar knife clenched between his gleaming teeth?

this man is clearly a charlatan
posted by elizardbits at 10:41 PM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


But if France says Assad has been using chemical weapons, I'm inclined to believe them.

So am I. That doesn't mean that a bombing campaign is the correct response to it. Assad has been murdering civilians for years, now. Why does it matter if he did it with gas instead of carpet-bombing and machine guns? Bombing him won't end the war, won't result in fewer deaths, and might escalate the conflict unpredictably, while drawing us in deeper. There's absolutely no positive outcome possible from our intervention and the possible negative outcomes are near-apocalyptic.
posted by empath at 10:41 PM on September 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


He's a horrible human being, and he no doubt has plenty of ulterior motives for saying what he's saying, but it doesn't mean what he's saying is wrong.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:42 PM on September 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Bahahahaha, bahaha, haha, ha. That's a good one, Vova.

This is how Russians think, and talk. There is always two sides to everything; in the most ironic of ways. Great language; great people.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:43 PM on September 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


He's a horrible human being, and he no doubt has plenty of ulterior motives for saying what he's saying, but it doesn't mean what he's saying is wrong.

I wonder how many denizens of the history books you could say this about.
posted by philip-random at 10:44 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many denizens of the history books you could say this about.

Genghis Khan, believe it or not, had quite the way with words.
posted by empath at 10:46 PM on September 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Well, apart from the fact that the speaker doesn't believe any of what he's saying (or more damningly, believes about 50% of it), I suppose this is a pleasant essay.

But it really does matter that he conflates the anti-democratic Security Council and the UN; it matters that he cites the "Iranian nuclear problem" which he himself plays a large role in maintaining; it matters when he claims BS like Russia has "advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law" and that he tellingly critiques only the opposition in this essay; and it matters when he says shit like "there is every reason to believe [the gas] was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists." Comments like "Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw" -- by Russia! -- and "My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust" are just icing on the cake.

It does matter that this is a really bad guy saying a lot of stuff he doesn't remotely believe. Some of the words at the end are good -- though the God stuff sounds pretty fake to my ear, especially knowing Putin -- but the speaker is not. I don't think it's unfair to withhold praise of the speech and keep it at arms length because the speaker is a genuinely evil person, even if it wasn't riddled with hypocrisy. The government's increasing hostility toward gays is perhaps less germane, but there's plenty of stuff just in the essay itself to give us serious pause. "There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy." And then there are those being steadily and intentionally dragged back away from democracy by their so-called leaders.
posted by chortly at 10:49 PM on September 11, 2013 [21 favorites]


Yeah I dunno. I mean, Russia has a military base in Syria that they really really care about. I'm not so sure I'd be inclined to believe anything Putin has to say on the subject. However, the fact that Syria and Russia are allies means that it's kind of Russia's job to rein them in. So if Putin can put the screws to Assad and make him comply with international law, I'd say great. That's how things are supposed to work. However, I think this situation calls for a "trust, but verify" approach.
posted by evil otto at 10:51 PM on September 11, 2013


France generally takes a pacifist stance, and from what I know -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- they don't seem to have any interests in Syria.

The French are not, and have never been, pacifist. They are not currently as interventionist as the US/UK but still have their military fingers in lots of pies, notably in Africa. Syria was established under French mandate. France has interests in Lebanon, so the stability of Syria matters in that respect. Hollande has also worked out that, dating back to 2008, the UK/US special relationship has been dead, and UK voter anger over Iraq left an opportunity for France to become best buds with Obama.

Putin is right that bombing Syria is a dumb strategy, but he isn't remotely speaking in good faith. If Assad goes, Russia loses an ally, a strategic base and a pair of ears on Turkey and Iraq. Regime change in Syria would uncover all sorts of embarrassing facts about how Russia supports Syria. He doesn't want US-aligned interests installed in Syria or poking through its dirty laundry.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:56 PM on September 11, 2013 [39 favorites]


anyone else think this whole thing is a sign we are living in Bizarro world?

I don't consider myself a conspiracy theory nut, but something just doesn't feel right with this whole situation.

And reading comments here, it seems like many folks are projecting their own values and opinions in interpreting the motivations behind our world's leaders.

Do we really know enough info to make an objective opinion?
Or am I just paranoid that I'm feeling like I'm getting sold a bunch of lines as a part of some more elaborate plot?

Something doesn't smell right here at all.
posted by johnstein at 11:00 PM on September 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Something doesn't smell right here at all.

well, my first assumption when I stumbled onto the headline was, it's The Onion (or similar). And then I saw that it was the NYT and quickly concluded, this is brilliant marketing if nothing else. The timing, the wording, the venue ... I look forward to hearing the story behind that particular negotiation.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I look forward to hearing the story behind that particular negotiation.

Newspapers = boring things nobody cares about or pays money for anymore. Something your grandparents were into because apparently Great Depression starvation inured them to suffering.

Money = something everybody wants, especially the Newspapers.

Draw your own conclusions.
posted by evil otto at 11:09 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is how Russians think, and talk. There is always two sides to everything; in the most ironic of ways. Great language; great people.

Could you tell me more? I am very curious.
posted by Nomyte at 11:11 PM on September 11, 2013


Could you tell me more? I am very curious.

I met a guy in Berlin back in the mid-90s. He was from Yugoslavia, on some kind of an eastern block Physics scholarship (still in effect even years after the wall came down) that stipulated he do his studies in Russian. I remember him saying to me, "You'd think having five words for something that English one has one would make for a good Scientific language. But it sucks. Extreme detail leads to arguments."
posted by philip-random at 11:19 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Putin is right that bombing Syria is a dumb strategy, but he isn't remotely speaking in good faith. If Assad goes, Russia loses an ally, a strategic base and a pair of ears on Turkey and Iraq.

I have idly wondered if it would be possible to take Russian interests in Syria off-the-table simply by guaranteeing that Russia's bases would stay no matter what happens with the new government.

Not that we're in any position to negotiate for the opposition.
posted by empath at 11:29 PM on September 11, 2013


Where's John Le Carre when we really need him?
posted by philip-random at 11:34 PM on September 11, 2013


The French are not, and have never been, pacifist.

I'd go even further and say that overall France has been one of the two most aggressively militaristic countries in the world. More so than the USA by a long shot. They've been less interventionalist in the last two decades but that is, historically speaking, a short blip on a very long history of warmongering.

They don't have clean hands here. When it comes to Syria I doubt anyone willing to get involved has clean hands.
posted by Justinian at 11:35 PM on September 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


We should immediately, unilaterally, and decisively bomb the ever-loving shit out of Syria - with packages of gas masks

Gas masks will not protect you from sarin. One of the terrible things about it is that you can absorb it directly through your skin.
posted by Justinian at 11:41 PM on September 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


As an illustrative example, France has tested 210 nuclear weapons over the years, which places it third on the list of testing nations behind the USA and USSR. It is also third on the list in current number of nuclear weapons (though they have announced they are reducing their arsenal of certain warheads somewhat).

Also recently:
"In 2006, French President Jacques Chirac noted that France would be willing to use nuclear weapons against a state attacking France via terrorist means. He noted that the French nuclear forces had been configured for this option."
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:51 PM on September 11, 2013


Vibrissae: "America is far from perfect, but we don't sell Sarin gas precursors to butcher dictators."

Anymore.

Or at least, that's what our official agents of government tell us.
posted by symbioid at 11:53 PM on September 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is the little marginal illustration that accompanies the piece really the international sign for "talk to the hand", with a rocket?
posted by chavenet at 11:56 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the two biggest problems in Putin's argument are that a) he blankly asserts that the chemicals were used by insurgents on themselves and b) he makes an absolute appeal to a particular notion of international law. Certainly he may have a point with these, but they are not well developed in the letter.
posted by polymodus at 12:03 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Putin is schooling Obama as if Obama were a child. Which in the arena of foreign policy would seem to be the case. At least Palin could see Russia from her back porch. Obama seems completely ignorant of his adversary.

I'm seeing checkmate. If Obama takes it to the UN - he can make whatever case he wants - and then watch Russia veto any resolution. If he doesn't then any American action will be America going it alone which will not end well. Either way Putin wins and Obama looses.

The American President is in over his head and the whole world is watching him drown in a pool of his own foolish making.

Putin is going to get a Nobel Peace prize and show Skippy how you actually earn one.
posted by three blind mice at 12:08 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't want to see us bomb anyone or start yet another war.

But I am not a derail and what's happening to people like me in Putin's Russia is not a derail. If LGBT people were considered an ethnicity, what's happening would be considered a possible precursor to genocide.

Whatever Putin or his writers say, I can't ignore that, and I don't think I should be expected to.
posted by treepour at 12:09 AM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


Leaving aside Syria - because who the hell knows what to believe - I'm fascinated by this:

'And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.'

And whilst I love Americans and lots about America, there is a huge element of truth in that statement. I haven't seen it called out so publicly though.
posted by maupuia at 12:12 AM on September 12, 2013 [24 favorites]


Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of 9/11 for Americans, but it was also the 40th anniversary of the CIA's toppling of a democratically elected government in Chile, in which the CIA was pivotal in installing Augusto Pinochet, who killed about the same number of Chileans as people who died in the 9/11 attacks, but also tortured tens of thousands more. Just in case. When Americans rely on their own self-appointed moral authority to call others warmongers etc. they are ignoring, willfully or otherwise, that America has been kicking over governments for a long time and that millions of people have died as a result. Just because we're incapable of operating on anything longer than an 8-year time scale, that doesn't mean that everyone everywhere forgives us for what we've done. We are special in our own heads and pretty much nowhere else. I wouldn't take it for granted that everyone snorts at Putin and is ready to give Obama a big fat hug.

As for the international law thing, Obama's the one making a claim that Assad broke international law by gassing his own people, and that war is the correct legal response. But Syria isn't a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which would've banned such an attack, and the Hague Convention that Syria is a member of doesn't address itself to anything other than international conflicts. Civil wars are not included. And in neither case do those treaties authorize acts of war as a response to violations. So I don't really know what Obama's talking about here. He should make a purely moral argument, because on the legal side of things I don't understand what authority he's using. He recognized the Syrian opposition as the legitimate government of Syria in December of last year, and if they were the ones requesting strikes then there might be a legal thread that made sense. But I think Obama knows as well as everyone else that the "Syrian opposition coalition" consists of normal militias that are in active and open conflict with religious maniacs, and that there's no one credible manning the phones who could even make such a request.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:13 AM on September 12, 2013 [25 favorites]


I winced when I heard Obama's shout-out to America's morals, ideals and exceptionalism, because it's all patently false.

In the last twelve years alone, we've acted like scared children. We've abandoned so many of our professed ideals--Obama has abandoned so many of our professed ideals--that to hear him invoke such things was nothing short of galling.

I would like to see us get back to having ideals. I would like for us to start walking the walk.

And yes, all that said: Vladimir Putin may be right, and he may be wrong, and he may be both... and he's also the guy who is giving Russia's bigots a free hand to persecute queer people in his country, and he's the guy shielding a ruthless dictator who has been mass murdering his own people for a couple years now.

Context matters. Context always matters.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:24 AM on September 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


evil otto: France generally takes a pacifist stance

Sure about that?

Between 1960 and 2005, France launched 46 military operations in its former colonies in Africa
posted by syzygy at 12:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


U.S. weapons reaching Syrian rebels

The CIA has begun delivering weapons to rebels in Syria, ending months of delay in lethal aid that had been promised by the Obama administration, according to U.S. officials and Syrian figures. The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

posted by Drinky Die at 12:39 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm okay with someone attacking Assad over his using chemical weapons and/or other atrocities, even if this "escalate the conflict unpredictably".

I'm not okay with the U.S. playing any role in such an action given our recent record. And Obama hasn't fixed the Bush abuses, ala closing Gitmo, exiting Afghanistan, etc.

France has some credibility due to their large arab voting block and official criticism of the Iraq occupation. Also Egypt, Turkey, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:48 AM on September 12, 2013


evil otto
The French have had an awful lot to do with Syria in the past. See also.
posted by adamvasco at 12:51 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Putin is going to get a Nobel Peace prize and show Skippy how you actually earn one.

If giving the prize to Obama didn't turn it into a joke, doing this certainly will.

Putin is many things, few of which are positive. Russia's interests in Syria are essentially to support a brutal regime so that it can have a naval base and pretend like it's still a relevant world military power. America's case for wading into the conflict may be based on cowboy ethics, but Russia doesn't exactly hold the moral high ground here either.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 1:01 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional,

Yet here we are. How many other nations are you addressing in this, um, exceptional manner? Are the French getting a billet-doux to help them calm down? The Brits a little thank you note in the London Times?
posted by Segundus at 1:09 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


He just peed on Obama's rug.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:09 AM on September 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


Focusing on the anti-gay stuff is a great way for American exceptionalists to reframe the debate and ignore the more relevant issues.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:10 PM on September 11 [+] [!]


I am not an exceptionalist, but my husband and I, if we lived in Russia or one of its puppet states, would be beaten or murdered by Putin and his thugs, and that would be considered legal and proper. Putin is just a gangster, and he has no coin whatsoever to speak credibly on the equality of human beings or about acting within the confines of the law. No legitimacy, at all. This op-ed is a sick joke.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:32 AM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


So I read TFA. How in the world is this a bulletproof case? There are the bullshit allegations the rebels gassed their own people. There is the concern trolling in pointing to the UN, when it is again!) Russia and China keeping it from functioning properly. There is the claim that it would escalate the war. Really? How is that? Maybe it would, maybe not. We don't know what is being contemplated. But it's far from part of a bulletproof case.

Full disclosure : I wrote to all my natuonal elected officials, telling them it is not our job to enforce unilaterally the CWC. It just isn't.

What I think happened here is that people seized on the calling of Obama on his use of American exceptionalist rhetoric. Though the assholes on Fox and co. have done their best to poison the notion of AE, I think Obama really believes in it. And I don't think he's crazy for doing so. To believe in AE isn't to believe America is the best country (whatever that might mean); it's just to believe it's a great country. And (so say I) it is. It is so, in spite of slavery and Native genocide and Jim Crow and Dresden and the Shah and Bush II and Cheney and on and on.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:46 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am not an exceptionalist, but my husband and I, if we lived in Russia or one of its puppet states, would be beaten or murdered by Putin and his thugs, and that would be considered legal and proper.

Until 2003, you could have been thrown in prison for the same in many states in the US.
posted by empath at 1:48 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


To believe in AE isn't to believe America is the best country (whatever that might mean); it's just to believe it's a great country

The word 'exceptional' means that it's an unusual case. It by definition means at least that it is better than most countries.
posted by empath at 1:50 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right. It was in the US until Lawrence v. Texas just like it is Russia now.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:01 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Putin is just a gangster, and he has no coin whatsoever to speak credibly on the equality of human beings or about acting within the confines of the law. No legitimacy, at all.

All true. But then as a supporter of more repressive, autocratic and kleptocratic regimes including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Equatorial Guinea, what right does an American President have to talk about civil rights and democracy?

I don't think Vladimir Putin is acting in good faith. But one has to question the motives and credentials of the US and its allies. Our concern for civilian lives, democracy and the rule of law is highly selective.

I mean, a brief look at history: while NATO was agonizing over the Balkans in the nineties up to a million people were killed in Rwanda alone. The war in the Congo is estimated to have created several million additional deaths from 1998 onwards.

Bombing recalcitrant governments into submission while arming disparate rebel groups in countries highly divided along ethnic lines is a recipe for civil war. We don't have to speculate on the possible impact on Syria. We can look across at Iraq.

Nearly 400 civilians have been killed in Iraq so far in September. 57 yesterday. 34 on Tuesday. 25 on Monday. 20 on Sunday. 12 on Saturday. More than 900 were killed in August. To scale impact that in population terms against the US: that is a 9/11 every 10 days. But instead of hitting two or three buildings the impact is spread up and down the country, with every cafe, shopping centre, meeting place, place of worship, road and checkpoint a potential target.

Is Putin fundamentally wrong with his predictions of mass casualties, regional destablization and waves of terrorism? No. Is he acting in good faith when he proposes the US goes down the UN Security Council route, handing Russia the veto? No. Is he right that outside America many countries do not see it as a model of democracy? Yes. Is he correct that there are other routes to resolving the conflict? Given the unpalatable options on the table at present, yes.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:38 AM on September 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


Blazecock: While the messenger is a prick, in this case the message is still correct. Clearly Putin doesn't live by what he has said, but that doesn't make what he says here incorrect.

Vibrissae: Putin is a brutal asshole who can (and probably has) had people killed since the fall.

I don't care for Obama; he over-thinks, is too non-committal,

Holding them to somewhat different standards there. Obama has also proved happy to bomb people when the mood takes him, often leaving a higher power to sort out the guilty from the innocent. Now he is wants to do that again in Syria.

Plus he is commander-in-chief for a gulag of course.
posted by biffa at 2:41 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vibrissae: Putin is a brutal asshole who can (and probably has) had people killed since the fall.

Obama has killed plenty of civilians with drone attacks as well as directly targeted american citizens for assassination. He's presided over the incarceration and torture of at least one dissident soldier, as well as the continued detention of people in Guantanamo without any due process. Nobody's hands are clean here.
posted by empath at 3:01 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


All true. But then as a supporter of more repressive, autocratic and kleptocratic regimes including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Equatorial Guinea, what right does an American President have to talk about civil rights and democracy?

With respect to Russia, I think there's something to be said for the novelty of its official stance vis-a-vis civil rights. Engaging in a war of choice against a class of people previously offered something approaching equal treatment under the law is a sad brand of innovation.

Again, this doesn't make Putin's suggestion any less pragmatically good, and the US is also doing a bang-up job of oppressive innovation in other senses. It's just disappointing, is all.

I dearly wish leaders could be more up front about the boogeymen they "fight" for political gain, and could offer up a reasonable tally of the shameful human sacrifices that keep them at bay.
posted by lumensimus at 3:02 AM on September 12, 2013


He just peed on Obama's rug.

That's why we have to start bombing. That rug really tied the room together.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 3:03 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


including precursors for Sarin,

Sodium Fluoride is, indeed a precursor to Sarin, but it's also what you use to fluoridate water. It's in your toothpaste! If they sold methylphosphonyl difluoride to Syria, that would be a much different thing -- CH3POF2 is basically only useful for making sarin and soman.

But yelling that NaF is a precusor to sarin is, well, frankly stupid. Here's another precursor to sarin -- Isopropyl Alcohol, and OMG THEY BOUGHT THAT TOO! PROBABLY FROM WALGREENS! MAKE WITH ALL THE BOMBZ0RS!

Hint: There are about 100 other nations that either buy, or make, NaF, and I wouldn't be surprised if the number was much higher. Tracking this stuff is like tracking aircraft aluminum to figure out who's building nuclear weapons, because you might use it to build the bomb casing.

And reports like this tell me that somebody wants to bomb Syria and isn't going to let things like factual evidence in the way. Besides, we *know* Syria has large stockpiles of chemical weapons. They've been very clear on that point -- they have they, them have lots of them, and they've made it very clear that they will use them if somebody* uses chemical or nuclear weapons against them.

In fact, making Sarin is not hard. It is very tricky, much in the same way that isolating elemental fluorine is, in that there's about a billion ways for it to leak out and kill you, but it's not hard.


* Somebody, here, is primarily Israel.
posted by eriko at 3:21 AM on September 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


To believe in AE isn't to believe America is the best country (whatever that might mean); it's just to believe it's a great country. And (so say I) it is.

Fair enough, but is it so great that it should get to ignore (what there is of) international law? To intervene militarily at its own whim? Because that's what AE is being used to justify, so that's the bit that's relevant here, not whether or not America is just swell.
posted by bonaldi at 3:31 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


On the Putin side, the last piece he wrote for the NY Times is interesting, too.
posted by bonaldi at 3:34 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Newspapers = boring things nobody cares about or pays money for anymore. Something your grandparents were into because apparently Great Depression starvation inured them to suffering.

Money = something everybody wants, especially the Newspapers.

Draw your own conclusions.

This implies a really basic misunderstanding of journalistic ethics and the economy of newspapers. It also misunderstands how we get good, verified information about the world. Newspapers as a model have a lot of problems in terms of both economy and reporting, and I'd love to see Op-eds and candidate endorsements diminish or disappear entirely. But the claim you're making is wrong, and crazy.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 4:00 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


philip-random: "Having Vladimir Putin—his many faults and dubious deomocratic and human rights bona fides notwithstanding—reach out as a voice of reason in one of the largest newspapers in the US should be a serious wake up call.

I think I'm starting to actually enjoy this Cold War reboot.
"

More like a fanfic without the yaoi as far as the U.S. is concerned.
posted by Samizdata at 4:00 AM on September 12, 2013


It's going to get ugly really quickly.
posted by h00py at 4:14 AM on September 12, 2013


The anti-gay stuff is a derail if you aren't gay.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:22 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


This has me wondering if any American presidents have ever been published in a Russian paper.
posted by jquinby at 4:28 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Politics is such a terrible, fucked up game. Although it is incredibly bad for Syria to be unleashing chemical weapons it would be even worse for another front to be opened up by the USA in the middle east. I really hope that diplomacy can be used here, I really really do.
posted by h00py at 4:29 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, he lost me when he started championing the U.N. as the go-to for travesties such as Syria. I support going to the U.N. too, but hearing that advice from one who would be all, 'nice try but VETO' just leaves me cold.
posted by angrycat at 4:32 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If Putin is trying to stop another war from starting, considering all that he is and all that he's done, surely that means something?
posted by h00py at 4:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If Putin is trying to stop another war from starting, considering all that he is and all that he's done, surely that means something?

I don't have any illusions as to his motives. All it says is that he's trying to keep his ally in power for as long as possible.
posted by empath at 4:39 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The anti-gay stuff is a derail if you aren't gay.

No. Gay or not, the anti-gay stuff is a derail for at least the rest of this century. Currently the international red line is set at chemical warfare on innocents (in excess of 1000 apparently, with video footage preferably), and we're still lumping women right on in there with children.

The world has quite a way to go before anti-gay acts are international moral atrocities.
posted by de at 4:39 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you think that's all it says? I guess I'll remain hopelessly naiive until the end of my days. Maybe he just knows a lost cause when he sees it having been involved in things like Chechnya, for example.
posted by h00py at 4:41 AM on September 12, 2013


And surely the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan has to mean something?
posted by h00py at 4:43 AM on September 12, 2013


There was an interesting piece at al Jazeera today, "Israel and AIPAC clash on Syria strike," about the differences between US-based lobby groups like AIPAC who are pushing hard for a bombing of Syria and Israeli officials/commentators who are not so keen on the idea. It has a number of points - Obama/Kerry constantly harping on Israel's vulnerability makes it seem weak, Israelis would prefer to use what influence they have on Iran, not "waste it on Syria," many Israelis don't take Syrian threats of retaliation seriously at this point, etc - but this is the part that struck me most:

"They're undermining everything the government has tried to do," said one foreign ministry staffer, who asked to remain anonymous, referring to AIPAC's work...

"The Israel lobby is quite independent, and I don't think we can give it orders," said Shmuel Sandler, an analyst at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. "But we're uneasy about it. We want to stay away from this mess as much as possible."

...Local newspapers have carried several op-eds this week critical of AIPAC's lobbying efforts. In a column for Maariv, Shalom Yerushalemi argued that the group is "harming Israeli interests" by openly pushing for a US strike. "AIPAC is trying to make clear that aiding the rebels can be considered aid to Israel. Who decided that?" he wrote on Monday. "We should tell them, simply, ‘stay out of this,'" writing those last words in English for emphasis.


I thought it was an interesting complexification of the "Israel wants this bombing" stuff.
posted by mediareport at 4:55 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm okay with someone attacking Assad over his using chemical weapons and/or other atrocities, even if this "escalate the conflict unpredictably".

I'm not okay with the U.S. playing any role in such an action given our recent record. And Obama hasn't fixed the Bush abuses, ala closing Gitmo, exiting Afghanistan, etc.

France has some credibility due to their large arab voting block and official criticism of the Iraq occupation. Also Egypt, Turkey, etc.


You know, I had got over my hatred of Bush and the thought of his painting his bad paintings made me smile a bit, but now I'm angry all over again.

I just don't get this reasoning about the U.S. not being a credible actor, outside of a kind of PTSD from the Bush years.

I mean, yeah, I'm skeptical about U.S. motives, but you know what? I don't see how we can hand-wave the humanitarian concerns here. Because of Somalia, we didn't intervene in Rwanda. So do we look back at that and say, 'Good job with that moral calculation'?

If one assumes that every state actor is morally bankrupt, well, good luck with that survival of the species.
posted by angrycat at 4:57 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


US-based lobby groups like AIPAC who are pushing hard for a bombing of Syria

At Obama's request, I should have added.
posted by mediareport at 4:58 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That Vladimir Putin is the best spokesman we have right now on the world stage for both peace and the rights of political dissidents

As long as they aren't Russian.

America is far from perfect, but we don't sell Sarin gas precursors to butcher dictators.
Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene.

The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US.
posted by ersatz at 5:01 AM on September 12, 2013 [12 favorites]


Justinian: "Overall France has been one of the two most aggressively militaristic countries in the world. More so than the USA by a long shot."

You're not serious, right? You cannot possibly.... Unless you simply mean France has been around a lot longer and their collective military history..... (though why it would be relevant considering how aggressively militaristic the US has been for the past 60 years), I suppose your comment is only marginally less amusing than R.Schlock's "It's shameful that the NYT has allowed its Op-Ed page to be used as a conduit for propaganda".

If only the US media, readers and commentators were as skeptical of the motives of their own President, its government and military as they immediately are of Putin. Obama is no more credible a speaker than Putin. They're on the same level, right at the bottom.
posted by bigZLiLk at 5:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is no moral high ground to take here. It's a matter of not only choosing one's battles but also the manner in which they will be fought. Diplomacy is a valid and powerful alternative. No-one, regardless of religion or nationality, wants innocent people to die.
posted by h00py at 5:05 AM on September 12, 2013


Hilarious. Two men, up to their knees in blood, arguing about whose shirt is cleaner.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:05 AM on September 12, 2013 [41 favorites]


I wonder what happened to all the informed debate about the illegal activities of the NSA?

Where did that go?
posted by jefflowrey at 5:05 AM on September 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm so naiive, I know I know.
posted by h00py at 5:06 AM on September 12, 2013


ersatz: "The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US."

US complicity in Iraqi chemical weapon use goes back even further - to 1983, at least:
In contrast to today's wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein's widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.

In the documents, the CIA said that Iran might not discover persuasive evidence of the weapons' use -- even though the agency possessed it. Also, the agency noted that the Soviet Union had previously used chemical agents in Afghanistan and suffered few repercussions.

[...]

"As Iraqi attacks continue and intensify the chances increase that Iranian forces will acquire a shell containing mustard agent with Iraqi markings," the CIA reported in a top secret document in November 1983. "Tehran would take such evidence to the U.N. and charge U.S. complicity in violating international law."

posted by jquinby at 5:14 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's weird in all these discussions is this baseline assumption that the US is the good guy - or specifically the US people. Whether it's the administration's belief that we have a moral role to play in Syria or oppositional belief that the administration doesn't represent the will of the US people (which is supposedly a good and true will). Putin is a bad guy. We're good guys. It's crazy and has no basis in reality.

I mean, we still have blood on our hands from Iraq, one of the worst actions any modern state has taken in recent history. And that wasn't a short one-time oopsie. That was a sustained and popularly-supported war where we used chemical weapons against a civilian population.

When you have a military-industrial hammer, Muslims look like nails.
posted by allen.spaulding at 5:21 AM on September 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


"This has me wondering if any American presidents have ever been published in a Russian paper."

I'm not sure that we've ever had one who could speak Russian beyond short Gipper quips.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:23 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stop the world. The day I agree with Putin is the day I need to get off the Internet.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:25 AM on September 12, 2013


Blaseldb - You're almost certainly right on that. It's almost been a bizarre point of pride to not know any other languages. A polyglot candidate would probably be dismissed out of hand immediately as an effete Euro-intellectual or crypto-immigrant from Somewhere South.
posted by jquinby at 5:28 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The NYT's attribution line for the OpEd: Vladimir Putin is the prime minister of Russia.

How does the NYT get it so wrong -- and leave it uncorrected for so long -- on an article that has such a high profile?

I haven't seen a better example of "don't trust anything you read in the paper" in a very long time.
posted by Dimpy at 5:30 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Putin is as eloquent in defending the government for which he works, which is in turn defending its empire, as Obama is in defending his own government, which is doing the same thing. Putin is a liar, a scoundrel, and a criminal. But he is mostly right in this editorial letter.

I take issue with a few of his points. He claims Russia is not protecting the Syrian government, but this is counter to my limited knowledge of the situation. I suppose it depends on your definition of the word "protect"—a brand of rhetorical squirming with which Americans are well familiar.

It's not lost on the people of the world that neither Russia nor America has a strong record of "preserving law and order". That is something empires do sporadically and selectively.

His stoking of America's concern for Israel seems cynically disingenous at best. What stake does Russia have in Israel's survival? It's an honest question; I'm no expert on this.

"Force has proved ineffective and pointless." Or perhaps it has served a domestic purpose. Again this is typical empire behavior.

With regard to American exceptionalism, he's right on the money. America is doing the things empires do as they decline. It's always messy.
posted by maniabug at 5:38 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not a great believer in American exceptionalism, but there's a huge amount of irony in a Russian complaining about the concept of exceptionalism per se given the way Russian regards itself historically (Holy Mother Russia, Third Rome, leader of world socialism).
posted by Jahaza at 5:40 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


He was the prime minister at that time (I think).
posted by de at 5:40 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Yeah, Dimpy, your link is from 1999, when Putin was indeed prime minister of Russia. The current op-ed is attributed to him as president.)
posted by mediareport at 5:41 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is just a high-profile version of every time in my life some asshole agreed with me, not out of principle, but to bolster his own self-serving agenda. Go away, Putin. You're not helping.
posted by echocollate at 5:42 AM on September 12, 2013


Exceptional?

We're 17 on the happiness index.

CNN report (but you can find this pretty much anywhere).

Take infant mortality, life expectancy, access to unpolluted water, etc., and the US is getting it's ass kicked. Work/life balance, medical access, etc., and there's very little to be proud of being American these days.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:44 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


The more people who say no bombs let's talk the better I say, regardless of their appalling records. Surely saturation point can be reached?
posted by h00py at 5:44 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Human Rights Watch's Response:"What Putin didn’t tell the American people."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:46 AM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]



I dunno. I think this whole affair was handled pretty well by Obama.

First, by taking a position of military action, he's forced the Republicans to stand on their head and become pacifists. Because if Obama says he likes puppies, then puppies are from Satan and also spread communism.

Second, America has more stick than carrot with Syria - while Russia on the other hand has a much better bargaining decision. Any proposed action on this problem will necessarily involve them. Russia wasn't going to do shit diplomatically until Obama put military action on the table.

Third, a diplomatic solution is a diplomatic solution, whoever you decide to assign credit for it. If it succeeds in people not being gassed then that is a win. A win Obama helped create.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:47 AM on September 12, 2013 [21 favorites]


I wonder what happened to all the informed debate about the illegal activities of the NSA?

Where did that go?


The timing of all this is very 'Clinton bombing Kosovo during the hieght of the Lewisky scandal' isn't it?

Tried and true tactics, when the domestic is about to implode, start a war.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:47 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oops - never mind what I said about the NYT getting Putin's title wrong. As anyone could have guessed, it was me that was wrong, not the NYT.

My theory of "Dimpy Exceptionalism" has taken a major hit.

posted by Dimpy at 5:50 AM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


It comes down to this: Peace, not war. War doesn't solve anything. Only peace does that. That's why I'm 100% for peace. It's kind of my mantra: "Peace is the solution." In case you weren't sure, I've got the bumper sticker to prove it. It's like this: give me a scenario, and whichever option is the more peace-ful (note the hyphen!), that's the side I'm on. Now, sure, sometimes that puts me "against the grain," I suppose. But I don't care, because I don't bend to pressure or compromise my principles. If you look at me, you're looking at a guy who is 100% for peace, and against violence. And that's why I always listen when Vladimir Putin has something to say.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 5:51 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm actually okay even with the U.S. bankrolling an operation against Assad. I'm just not okay with U.S. defense contractors seeing that money.

"Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets" - Lupe Fiasco
posted by jeffburdges at 5:51 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The inside word is that the Assad regime did not authorize the use of chemical weapons, at all, and they were deployed by Assad's idiot brother, who didn't believe the US had the gumption to get involved, and wasn't particularly afraid of official backlash.

Assad's regime is now in a blind panic since they know they can't win their civil war without air support, artillery and armor, and once the Americans get involved, there goes their air support, artillery and armor. So, as strange as it seems, the Russian plan, getting Syria to declare their arsenal, disarm under UN supervision, and sign onto the CWC, is likely to work - as long as the US holds up its end of the bargain.

What a weird world, with the USA and Russia playing "Good Cop/Bad Cop."
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:59 AM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


I agree with the "exceptional" part. It's one of my biggest problems with America's brand of Christianity - it teaches that every person is extremely special.
posted by agregoli at 6:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're supposed to have an international community. What's wrong with the US saying. "Look, our track record on this stuff hasn't been great lately, and we're spread a bit thin, everyone knows we'll just fuck this up, we're broke, and we need to address a few shitty things at home, so can someone else step up and take this one?" Seriously, why can't Putin say, "Look, we've got this one." Let someone else do the money spending and the dying this time. Let some other country take the world's blame when shit goes sideways (like it always does). Let some other country spend the next 20 years does a poor job at nation building for ingrates and people who will eventually us the weapons provided on the people who provided them.

Put out a press release that says the US will provide food, water, medicine, and doctors to any country willing to take in refugees, but stay the fuck out of Syria.

It's not like we're going to win the hearts and minds and make friends by using missiles and bombs.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:03 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree with everything you just said except for the word 'ingrates'.
posted by h00py at 6:07 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


agregoli - I think the 'exceptional' bit refers to the idea that there are separate rules for us, that we are the exception - a people or nation set apart because of our overwhelming awesomeness.

That a person is special because of being made in the image and likeness of God is neither specific to American Christianity nor Christianity in general.
posted by jquinby at 6:07 AM on September 12, 2013


Re: Human Rights Watch's Response:"What Putin didn’t tell the American people."

All of those arguments can be made against Obama. The US continues to lock people up, without charge, some proven innocent, in conditions that have involved and may continue to involve torture. The US Government is acting outside of the constitution by collecting and analyzing all of the world's communications, abusing the existing laws and creating laws to later on to exonerate their actions. The US has no credibility on human rights.

The US continues to give money and sell weapons to the Egyptian military while they kill unarmed protesters. And what evidence has the US supplied that the Syrian government is responsible for the chemical weapons attack? What credibility does the US have given their deliberate use of false evidence to invade Iraq?

And none of this is a credit to Obama. Kerry made a glib offhand comment that has been seized on by others, forcing Obama to back down from the inevitability of military action.
posted by bigZLiLk at 6:08 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would suggest that those people who find themselves siding with Putin in his Op-Ed really read ZenMasterThis's link to the Human Rights Watch response. If you think HRW is some neocon or right-wing organization, then you're just on a bizarro nuts planet and I don't think I can engage you in any conversation. Most notably, the HRW response points out that Russia has been obstructing various solutions to the Syria problem for going on two years.

People who continually conflate Bush and Obama vis-a-vis their Middle Eastern policies drive me nuts. It's uninformed at best and at its worst merely does the bidding of Fox News and their ilk in muddying the waters as we try to dialogue in this country about how best to respond to the crisis in Syria. I teach at a University in the US and have Syrian students so the crisis was made painfully real to me about two years ago. I have two letters on my desk right now, addressed to me from my state's US Senators, dated March 2012. I had written to them expressing my support for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria. Obama has been avoiding intervening in Syria for a long time. I think even now he is trying to move as slowly as possible and (hopefully) is really only threatening military force to leverage Russia to a realistic bargaining position. So, the idea that he is jumping rashly into a trumped-up war in the way that Bush did in Iraq, or that this is more American "exceptional" military adventurism, doesn't agree with any version of reality that I have experienced.

I pretty much agree with Pogo_Fuzzybutt on this one. Obama (again, hopefully, because I can't read his mind) is only threatening military action, credibly, so that Russia will have to take negotiating seriously, instead of abandoning their position of the last two years, which has been to obstruct and allow Assad free rein.
posted by Slothrop at 6:10 AM on September 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


If you view the Arab Spring as a revolution similar in effect to the French Revolution or the Revolutions of 1848, Putin is essentially taking on the role of the Tsars in abetting the forces of reaction to promote stability.

Putin has been consistent in trying to create stability because there is a fear that the effects of the Arab Spring will be felt on Russia's borders. American policy makers have been rather nonchalant about creating instability in the Middle East thus the continued opposition to American foreign policy.
posted by banal evil at 6:13 AM on September 12, 2013


I'm just amazed about how many people have fallen for Putin's 'Live and let Live' and, 'He who cast the first stone', and 'Can't we all just get along?', or and at worst 'you're just as bad as us really'. And it works because they do actually have a point. but. It's is a mind bendingly stupid way to run your international relationships.

1 question. What do you think is Putin's/Russia's preferred outcomes? is it

a) Status quo
b) Status quo plus we get to embarrass the US
c) Status quo plus we get to embarrass the US and strengthen our strategic position.
d) all of the above.
e) all the above and another generation of American voters will continue to flail around randomly.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:13 AM on September 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


It is outrageous and egregious that knee-jerk liberals here will listen to a repressive autocrat simply because he whispers a few words that are comforting and ring true to them. There are far better human beings who have said the best things in this piece far more eloquently without adding all the idiotic tripe Putin found it fitting to include. This piece is clearly intended not as a friendly warning but a bitter diplomatic slight.

We liberals are supposed to be better than this. We're supposed to see attention-grabbing ploys for what they are. So why in god's name do we care what Putin has to say on this issue? Can anyone answer that?
posted by koeselitz at 6:16 AM on September 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


The people talking about a "reboot of the Cold War" must have not been there during the actual Cold War, because in those days, the Soviet Union had functional ICBMs and massive armor divisions waiting to storm the Fulda Gap that just don't exist today.

The Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990's, and what's left of it hasn't built much new stuff at all. Their planes are old, their ships are old, and most importantly, their subs are old. Nobody has subs anywhere near our subs. From what I hear, Jimmy Carter can call your mom from -2000m, and she'll swear it was you.

The media is clamoring for a "reboot of the cold war" rhetoric that has no teeth.
posted by Sphinx at 6:17 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's be frank. Putin wants to keep alive Russia's only remaining ally in the region. After 1974, Egypt turned away from the U.S.S.R. And the Soviets were long allied with all of the Baath parties in the region because of their socialist platforms. Iraq was the next to go. Now Syria, where Russia's last Mediterrainean naval base is located, and whose government has always bought Russian-made weapons, may fall. Putin is afraid of that.

We should use that fact to reach our aim. To stop countries from using chemical weapons. Syria is one of four countries not to sign the chemical weapons protocol and destroy their weapons. The US has spent the last 10 years destroying its massive stock, as has Russia.

And in the end, I think that we've probably already reached the goal of deterring Syrian chemical weapon deployments. Let's take the final step and have Syria join the convention and destroy their weapons.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:17 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


The main problem, as I see it, is that the plan for surrendering and destroying chemical weapons will not work. It's extremely difficult to do safely, let alone when it's distributed in small pockets throughout the country and in an active war zone. Russia and the United States are both in the process of destroying their chemical weapons arsenals, and it's taken years.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:19 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also makes more sense than anything I have heard from Obama on the subject.

Maybe it's sort of late in the thread for this, but since we didn't have an FPP for Obama's speech...

Here's a transcript of Obama's Tuesday speech on why we should take action on Syria (with a video as well)
George Packer at The New Yorker: Obama's Speech On Syria: A Cause Already Lost
Fred Kaplan at Slate: Your Move, Putin
Carol E. Lee and Janet Hook at The Wall Street Journal: Obama Holds Fire On Syria, Waits On Russian Plan
Michael Cohen at The Guardian: Obama's Syria Address: Do We Look That Dumb?
Andrew Sullivan: The President Makes The Case
posted by Going To Maine at 6:19 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


there's a huge amount of irony in a Russian complaining about the concept of exceptionalism per se given the way Russian regards itself historically

Right. Notwithstanding the rights and the wrongs of the Syrian business, criticism of "American Exceptionalism" from the leader—the increasingly autocratic leader, mind you—of a nation whose leaders and spokesmen have proclaimed its own exceptional destiny for twice as long as the US has even been a nation is pretty ballsy.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:20 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


We liberals are supposed to be better than this. We're supposed to see attention-grabbing ploys for what they are. So why in god's name do we care what Putin has to say on this issue? Can anyone answer that?

Whether we like it or not, Putin is effectively the Leader of the Opposition of the coalition of those opposed to American intervention in Syria by virtue of his office.
posted by banal evil at 6:20 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is outrageous and egregious that knee-jerk liberals here will listen to a repressive autocrat simply because he whispers a few words that are comforting and ring true to them.

"This Mr. Putin sounds like a reasonable man! He's open to negotiation! He promised us safe passage!"
posted by Ironmouth at 6:21 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


We liberals are supposed to be better than this. We're supposed to see attention-grabbing ploys for what they are. So why in god's name do we care what Putin has to say on this issue? Can anyone answer that?

Whether we like it or not, Putin is effectively the Leader of the Opposition of the coalition of those opposed to American intervention in Syria by virtue of his office.
posted by banal evil at 6:20 AM on September 12 [+] [!]


eponis-there's a reason I drink.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:22 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Genghis Khan, believe it or not, had quite the way with words.

Small nitpick, but it was Güyük Khan, Genghis's grandson. Hell of a letter though.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:23 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually think Putin has helped quite a bit here.

But I reserve my deepest gratitude to the UK House of Commons.
posted by spitbull at 6:23 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


We should care about what everyone has to say about this. Modern day wars are guerilla wars. The enemy hides amongst the innocent. There has to be a way to change things without sending in airstrikes. That hasn't worked for a very long time. Diplomacy is incredibly important and should always be the first port of call.
posted by h00py at 6:24 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hi, those of us at Bullshit Detectors are here to provide you with an accurate translation of this important speech.

RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Shit's getting real and Obama looks to be on the losing end of this one, so we're just gonna pile on. No, this has nothing to do him canceling a meeting with me, the Great Vladmir Putin. Look at my trained falcon, who is also a close and person friend.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

We were pals once, against that Hitler guy! We both fought like hell and you guys looked the other way when we killed 20 million of our own peasants. Bro.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

Hey, you guys agreed to this consensus thing, so if we vote no, you can't do anything. Check the rulebook.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

You want to be that guy, the one who destroyed the United Nations? Go ahead then, that's on you, not the people who voted no.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

If you do attack Syria, which sits on top of a Hellmouth, you'll unlease the big bad. It's true, we have scientifically determined this. Don't be THAT guy. Not even Xander would do something this stupid. What? So what if he released a demon that almost killed Buffy, in Once More with Feeling? That's not canon.

Syria is not witnessing a battle for democracy, but an armed conflict between government and opposition in a multireligious country. There are few champions of democracy in Syria. But there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all stripes battling the government. The United States State Department has designated Al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, fighting with the opposition, as terrorist organizations. This internal conflict, fueled by foreign weapons supplied to the opposition, is one of the bloodiest in the world.

Al Qaeda. BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA!

Mercenaries from Arab countries fighting there, and hundreds of militants from Western countries and even Russia, are an issue of our deep concern. Might they not return to our countries with experience acquired in Syria? After all, after fighting in Libya, extremists moved on to Mali. This threatens us all.

Hey, YOU trained Bin Laden to defeat us after we invaded Afghanistan, so it looks like egg on your face.

From the outset, Russia has advocated peaceful dialogue enabling Syrians to develop a compromise plan for their own future. We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law. We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos. The law is still the law, and we must follow it whether we like it or not. Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

My name is Vladmir Putin, I am shirtless and keep crocodiles as pets and am all about following the law.

No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

ISRAEL, are you its ally or not?!

It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

Nobody really likes you and we never invite you to the cool parties.

But force has proved ineffective and pointless. Afghanistan is reeling, and no one can say what will happen after international forces withdraw. Libya is divided into tribes and clans. In Iraq the civil war continues, with dozens killed each day. In the United States, many draw an analogy between Iraq and Syria, and ask why their government would want to repeat recent mistakes.

C'mon buddy, look at your recent track record. You really want to saddle up again?

No matter how targeted the strikes or how sophisticated the weapons, civilian casualties are inevitable, including the elderly and children, whom the strikes are meant to protect.

Your people are way squeamish about civilian deaths, so let me put that anchor around your neck.

The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

Enough bullshit, let me talk serious for a minute. It'll be a nice change of pace.

We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.

Which we, Russia, are a wonderful model of. Look at my abs baby!

A new opportunity to avoid military action has emerged in the past few days. The United States, Russia and all members of the international community must take advantage of the Syrian government’s willingness to place its chemical arsenal under international control for subsequent destruction. Judging by the statements of President Obama, the United States sees this as an alternative to military action.

You're fucking with someone who sends us lots of cash, so whoa there Comrade!

I welcome the president’s interest in continuing the dialogue with Russia on Syria. We must work together to keep this hope alive, as we agreed to at the Group of 8 meeting in Lough Erne in Northern Ireland in June, and steer the discussion back toward negotiations.

Hey, we made a pinky swear at that sleep over, so no takebacks.

If we can avoid force against Syria, this will improve the atmosphere in international affairs and strengthen mutual trust. It will be our shared success and open the door to cooperation on other critical issues.

Don't wreck of the government of a country that keeps sending us sweet, sweet cash and I can stop having Dimitri writing these damn Opeds. Think of Dimitri!

My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Oh god, shut UP, I'm so tired hearing about how awesome you are. I'll pray for you, and the gays.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:24 AM on September 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


Frankly the American Exceptionalism thing is a bit of a side show. America is exceptional if for no other reason than that it's the biggest 90 pound weakling to ever walk the planet.

Which is the problem. We're back to the League of Nations basically. And that worked so well.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:27 AM on September 12, 2013


Metafilter: Someone can be hypocritical, and also 100% right.
posted by Fizz at 6:28 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can we focus on the important debate here for a moment? I mean: how the hell is Once More With Feeling not canon?
posted by koeselitz at 6:30 AM on September 12, 2013 [7 favorites]



We should care about what everyone has to say about this. Modern day wars are guerilla wars. The enemy hides amongst the innocent. There has to be a way to change things without sending in airstrikes.


I'm confused. Who in the players in this situation is bombing innocent civilians?
posted by Ironmouth at 6:31 AM on September 12, 2013


So why in god's name do we care what Putin has to say on this issue?

because he's a player in this awful game - he can block us in the UN, he can supply those who we are targeting, his country's citizens are in syria and could be in the line of fire, and most of all, he believes that russia is more likely to be affected negatively from the side effects of whatever we end up doing

we're devolving into a world of regional powers and russia is one of them - more importantly, this is going on in russia's region and putin is getting very uncomfortable with how things are going in this region and with how we've helped screw them up

that what he has to say is self-serving and hypocritical in part is true - but he is sincerely concerned that we are on a path that is going to screw things up for everyone in that part of the world

actually, he may be worried sick about it - and his main point is we should be, too
posted by pyramid termite at 6:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Let's have a quick look at Iraq and see how that's worked out for the civilians, shall we?
posted by h00py at 6:36 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether we like it or not, Putin is effectively the Leader of the Opposition of the coalition of those opposed to American intervention in Syria by virtue of his office.

But why is Putin against this? Because he hates war, even though he's unleashed them? Or is it because Syria is Russia's ally and a major arms customer in Russia's #1 industry?

So, you guys are fighting alongside a guy that launched a war against Georgia and who was the guy behind the Second Chechen war, a decade long fight to control a place where Russians don't live?

And just think! You can help him by cheering him instead of just doing the smart thing and calling your congressman.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:37 AM on September 12, 2013


Let's have a quick look at Iraq and see how that's worked out for the civilians, shall we?
posted by h00py at 6:36 AM on September 12 [+] [!]


Pretty terribly. But previous mistakes aren't a particularly good reason for giving up and going home.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:40 AM on September 12, 2013


Obama is trying to provide diplomatic cover for the covert war that is going very badly in Syria. The purpose of the war is to drain Iranian resources in our on going proxy war, and of course, Putin is looking for anything to punish American interests. And I can hardly blame him after we have started destroying a third country in his neighborhood and vastly destabilizing the entire region by providing weak states so Shia and Sunni extremists can rip each other's throats out.

As far as whether Obama and Putin are good, I'm not sure who is more likely to go to hell. Obama has knowingly escalated a rebellion that was largely created by our destabilization efforts, and helped even further by our disaster in Iraq, which caused a shortage of basic needs in Syria when that country was flooded with 2 million of our refugees. Now one hundred thousand are dead, Syria is in tatters, and there are now millions of refugees in Syria. This is all directly related to Obama's choices on the US policy of regime change. And of course, we can talk about drone strikes, Guantanamo, Manning, Snowden.

Obama certainly loses the death toll comparison, and if the parameters were restricted to treatment of non-citizens, Obama loses by a mile. Most importantly, the body count isn't due to a struggle for democracy. It's to wage a proxy war against Iran to curb their influence, as this serves the need to soothe American paranoia and protect Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies, and serves as a promotion for Turkey in the new balance of power in the Middle East. That is the real reason for our interest -- "the long war" and we have been participating since WWII.

That's why we haven't ever announced regime change for any place away from our political interests. We don't care if you are suffering under a repressive government if you don't have anything else to offer. (Unless you are under the thumb of on of our dictators, in which case, good luck.)

Also, I'm a bit confused at all of the shots at Putin for his backwards homophobia. I hope you realize that the same individuals who support beheading sodomizers in Saudi Arabia -- our dear, lovely, tolerant, democratic ally -- are the ones fronting the cash to arm and train other jihadi terrorists who share the same opinions. We are providing all the logistics, as well as training and intelligence and diplomatic support.

Putin isn't any worse than some of our current allies, and compared to some of our old allies, he's less insane and less violent and less backward. But the American public mimics our government policy. Morals and character are irrelevant. What is important is the answer to Americas favorite foreign policy question: are you with us, or against us?
posted by deanklear at 6:40 AM on September 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


When I agree with someone who has done reprehensible stuff in the past on a particular issue it doesn't mean that I agree with everything they've ever been a party to. That kind of attitude has led to all the stupid wars that your country and mine have waging for the last two decades. Unwinnable, civilian killing, ethically ambiguous but we're the good guys, damnit!
posted by h00py at 6:42 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree with everything you just said except for the word 'ingrates'.

You're right. But it's not like people are grateful for our drone strikes and boots on the ground and the war crimes and indiscriminate killing are they? I'd pick another word, since that one makes it sound like they should be grateful that we brought liberty and freedom and Democracy to them.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:42 AM on September 12, 2013


I'm not saying don't do anything at all. I'm saying explore all options before unleashing the might of the military.
posted by h00py at 6:44 AM on September 12, 2013


Obama has knowingly escalated a rebellion that was largely created by our destabilization efforts, and helped even further by our disaster in Iraq, which caused a shortage of basic needs in Syria when that country was flooded with 2 million of our refugees. Now one hundred thousand are dead, Syria is in tatters, and there are now millions of refugees in Syria. This is all directly related to Obama's choices on the US policy of regime change.

Pure fantasy. Any citations to back that up? So Assad is not responsible and Obama is? Up is down.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:46 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel like a fish leaping for every hook. I'm going to stop now. I'm just saying, look at what's happened since the first Gulf War. Military strikes don't help civilians, particularly when there's no end in sight.
posted by h00py at 6:46 AM on September 12, 2013


When I agree with someone who has done reprehensible stuff in the past on a particular issue it doesn't mean that I agree with everything they've ever been a party to.

Unless they're using it for a whitewash in the West. In which case, you are helping that whitewash.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:48 AM on September 12, 2013


Piffle.
posted by h00py at 6:48 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


> ... they were deployed by Assad's idiot brother ...

That's really handy. We have a full complement of game pieces ...

because if Russia and China are to agree to a UNSC resolution it necessarily includes someone standing trial for the (last) chemical weapons attack, 21 August; and Russia and China have vetoed intervention (all along) based on not wanting regime change.

Assad gets to stay put; Syria joins the CWC; Russia adds Syria's chemical stockpile to its list of things to do. (It has an extension until 2015. The US has an extension all the way out to 2021 ... it's busy enough.)

And the idiot brother gets to swing.

BTW: Merkel speaks Russian.
posted by de at 6:49 AM on September 12, 2013


It's outrageous and egregious that anyone would make such an accusation about listening to someone.

I don't see too many people here siding with or falling for Putin's propaganda. Way to miss the point. Putin's op-ed is as credible as Obama's speech on Syria. This article in The Guardian today (Obama's Syria address: do we look that dumb?) makes the point.

Ironmouth: The US still has a ways to go destroying it's chemical weapons stockpile.

"The United States promised, but failed, to destroy these stocks by 2012 at the very latest. The most recent forecast from the US is that the process of "neutralising" the chemicals in its Colorado weapons dump will be finished by 2018; the date for Kentucky is 2023. That will be 11 years after the US promised to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, and eight years after Russia – the other major possessor of declared chemical weapons – says it will have finished destroying its arsenal."
posted by bigZLiLk at 6:50 AM on September 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


"The United States promised, but failed, to destroy these stocks by 2012 at the very latest. The most recent forecast from the US is that the process of "neutralising" the chemicals in its Colorado weapons dump will be finished by 2018; the date for Kentucky is 2023. That will be 11 years after the US promised to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, and eight years after Russia – the other major possessor of declared chemical weapons – says it will have finished destroying its arsenal."

I guess 98% destruction on the way to 100% isn't good enough for some people. I reviewed the stats Monday.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:53 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


From Russia with love.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:54 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, this has nothing to do him canceling a meeting with me, the Great Vladmir Putin. Look at my trained falcon, who is also a close and person friend.


Wait a second...that's not Vladimir Putin! That's Jose Mourinho in a cunning Vladimir Putin costume!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:54 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


> A polyglot candidate would probably be dismissed out of hand immediately as an effete
> Euro-intellectual or crypto-immigrant from Somewhere South.

Jimmy Carter speaks perfectly good Spanish and gave at least one full speech entirely in Spanish to a majority Spanish-speaking audience while President. Us rednecks down in GA knew all about him speaking Spanish when we elected him guv'nuh.

(Though, as for accent, Jimmah speaking Spanish sounds exactly like what you would expect Jimmy Carter speaking Spanish to sound like, i.e. exactly like Jimmy Carter.)
posted by jfuller at 6:54 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


But why is Putin against this? Because he hates war, even though he's unleashed them? Or is it because Syria is Russia's ally and a major arms customer in Russia's #1 industry?

It comes down to wanting to quash instability so close to Russia's borders. He doesn't want another Iraq like power vacuum in another Middle Eastern country. Who knows how Iraq is going to be sorted out in the long run; he wants to prevent the same sort of thing happening in Syria.


And just think! You can help him by cheering him instead of just doing the smart thing and calling your congressman.


I personally contacted by congressperson and urged them to oppose the intervention. That being said, there is widespread contempt of the American political elite by much of the American population, and many rightfully feel that Congress are responsive to the demands of the rich, not those of the masses.
posted by banal evil at 6:54 AM on September 12, 2013


Obama and Putin are, on this issue, the Carpenter and the Walrus.

...

On the bright side, this is the first thread in a while in which someone has correctly used the term "concern-trolling". Putin does not care about Syrians or unjust military action. He cares about Syria to the extent that it affects Russia's interests. His appeals to higher-minded ideals are disingenuous - he only raises them to persuade non-Russians.

That said, it doesn't necessarily mean that Putin is wrong with regard to his ultimate point on Syria. Disingenuous arguments are often perfeclty accurate - sometimes even more accurate than passionate, sincere arguments. When you make a disingenuous argument, you're typically watching your words more closely, and only including those parts which make some sort of sense.

That said, he did drop the unsupported assertion that the gas attacks have come from the rebels...

...

Let's have a quick look at Iraq and see how that's worked out for the civilians, shall we?

I have no love for what the US administration is doing, but Iraq is an inapt comparison. The US is not explicitly ousting Assad and actively installing a new government.

At BoingBoing, Jasmina Tesanovic drew a much better comparison to Serbia.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:55 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thought experiment:

Let's say 50 right wing nut jobs took over a theater with hundreds of people in it. Would you support pumping nerve agent into the theater to subdue the terrorists even if it meant 130 hostages died?
posted by Ironmouth at 6:56 AM on September 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


pyramid termite: “that what he has to say is self-serving and hypocritical in part is true - but he is sincerely concerned that we are on a path that is going to screw things up for everyone in that part of the world”

Even if he's right about everything he says, I think it's extraordinarily doubtful that he's "sincerely concerned." "Sincerely concerned" people don't involve themselves in a conflict from the beginning and fund and finance the use of chemical weapons. If Putin is "sincerely concerned" about anything, it's about a weakening of the balance which current leans toward Russia's geopolitical interests in the region. He does not care about human life there, and he's made that very apparent.

People should be sincerely concerned, I know. But Vladimir Putin is a man like most longtime leaders of nations – he's made it his business always to seem concerned and never to actually be concerned.
posted by koeselitz at 6:57 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth, I think you misread deanklear's post. His larger point is that the people of Syria, hapless and lacking resourcefulness, have no agency. The bloom of violence is not a result of a decades-long conflict between the Alawite government and the oppressed citizens, but rather the actions of a United States President who has been in office for five years and who has been trying to avoid dealing with the situation there in every way possible. You're looking at it from the perspective of a person who seems to understand the history of the country; deanklear is looking at it from the perspective of someone who doesn't, but who wants to score political points. So to ask him to back up his statements with citations is largely unfair; his point wasn't to discuss the factual events as they happen to be occurring so much as it was to exaggerate possible motivations as a way to take a stand against American foreign policy. A stand that, let's be honest, is bold, courageous, and novel.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:58 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


> I guess 98% destruction on the way to 100% isn't good enough for some people. I reviewed the stats Monday.

I reviewed the stats pretty recently, too, and it was 10% remaining. If what you're saying is true, 98%, and 2% will take all the way out until 2021 to destroy, how bloody much of the stuff did you have?

The US and Russia still hold the world's largest stockpiles!

Geezus.
posted by de at 6:58 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's say 50 right wing nut jobs took over a theater with hundreds of people in it. Would you support pumping nerve agent into the theater to subdue the terrorists even if it meant 130 hostages died?

I would play Robert Altman's Quintet until everybody fell asleep.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:59 AM on September 12, 2013


That Vladimir Putin is the best spokesman we have right now on the world stage for both peace and the rights of political dissidents is not so much praise for Putin as it is the most damning indictment imaginable of a US president who is so morally and intellectually bankrupt that he can't even figure out how to betray his supposed core principles properly.

I don't really see the US President as morally and intellectually bankrupt. I see the US President as head cat-herder.
posted by ovvl at 6:59 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth: I wasn't saying it wasn't good enough, I just thought it added value. I couldn't find a mention of how much had been destroyed already, which decreased the value of the article imo.

Also, regarding deanklear's comment about destabilization efforts in Syria. It's not much, and refer's to British action, but it was something I came across recently.
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:01 AM on September 12, 2013


But the American public mimics our government policy. Morals and character are irrelevant. What is important is the answer to Americas favorite foreign policy question: are you with us, or against us?

Ah, my friend, you misunderestimate the American public if you think "Are you with us or against us" can describe us in all our complexity. At critical moments like this, Americans also raise their skinny fists like antennae to heaven and shout "Huh?"; "So, in this case, the enemies of my enemies are my friends? Right?"; and "What does Miley Cyrus have to do with all this?"
posted by octobersurprise at 7:02 AM on September 12, 2013


'It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional'

if everyone is exceptional then no one is exceptional...
posted by judson at 7:03 AM on September 12, 2013


'It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional'

if everyone is exceptional then no one is exceptional...


If everyone thinks they are the Punisher, then yes
posted by banal evil at 7:04 AM on September 12, 2013


The bloom of violence is not a result of a decades-long conflict between the Alawite government and the oppressed citizens, but rather the actions of a United States President who has been in office for five years and who has been trying to avoid dealing with the situation

Really? So a tiny religious minority has been supressing 95% of its population since 1965 and the bill comes due because a bunch of other countries had revolutions and it swept the Middle East hitting Syria, but hey its all the U.S. President's fault?

Like I said, up is down.

What should have Obama done in the past that would have fixed Syria, helped Assad bomb?

Really, I mean show me what he could have done to fix this? Stopped the Arab spring? Propped up Mubarak? Name me the things.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:05 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Stupid sarcasm should have no place in this thread.
posted by h00py at 7:07 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Watching those on the right trip over themselves to praise Putin is both funny and disgusting at the same time. I suddenly understand the "love it or leave it" statements I'd heard from conservatives growing up. Really? You think Putin is a stand-up guy in this situation and not just playing politics? Wow, PT Barnum was right.
posted by bgal81 at 7:07 AM on September 12, 2013


Here's my major point:

Its perfectly possible to successfully oppose US use of miltary force without helping Putin whitewash his own image. Because that's what this is. If it was written last week, its purpose could have been to help the situation. But now? He's trying to cash in his chips quick so you'll still watch the Olympics in February and stop giving money to Russian gay groups who will use the law to embarass him.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:09 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth, worse than the sarcasm is the straw-man argument you've raised. No-one here is arguing that Obama is responsible for the situation is Syria. The default position that the United States is required and authorized to act at all is under discussion.
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:10 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let's say 50 right wing nut jobs took over a theater with hundreds of people in it. Would you support pumping nerve agent into the theater to subdue the terrorists even if it meant 130 hostages died?

I would play Robert Altman's Quintet until everybody fell asleep.


Putin chose the nerve gas.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:11 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can appreciate the use of the weapon of rhetoric without supporting the speaker.

Putin's argument "unilateral action with hinder UN nonproliferation and disarmament efforts" sounds a little more grown up than "diplomacy is impossible and deferred punishment will embolden all dictators" regardless of the reality of either.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:12 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


No-one here is arguing that Obama is responsible for the situation is Syria.

Did you read the comment I responded to?

Here it is:
The bloom of violence is not a result of a decades-long conflict between the Alawite government and the oppressed citizens, but rather the actions of a United States President who has been in office for five years and who has been trying to avoid dealing with the situation

That's a person blaming Obama for the violence in Syria.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:13 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Putin chose the nerve gas.

It wasn't nerve gas; best guess is that it was fentanyl. Result was more or less the same though.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:14 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


No-one here is arguing that Obama is responsible for the situation is Syria.

Well, I mean, except for the guy who wrote this: Obama has knowingly escalated a rebellion that was largely created by our destabilization efforts, and helped even further by our disaster in Iraq, which caused a shortage of basic needs in Syria when that country was flooded with 2 million of our refugees. Now one hundred thousand are dead, Syria is in tatters, and there are now millions of refugees in Syria. This is all directly related to Obama's choices on the US policy of regime change.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:15 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Putin chose the nerve gas.

It wasn't nerve gas; best guess is that it was fentanyl. Result was more or less the same though.


Nobody knows what it was but it was using chemical weapons on your own people, no?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:15 AM on September 12, 2013


Agreed. Putin is trying to cash his chips in, but what we're doing here is using his propaganda vehicle to point out the exact same thing in Obama's speech.

Actually, I read (Arsenio's) comment as a sarcastic and not very convincing suggested inference from deanklear's comment.
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:17 AM on September 12, 2013


Wow so basically Putin, shirtless, pointed a wand at the left in the U.S. and now we're like broken into two beefing crews.
posted by angrycat at 7:17 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


.."has knowingly escalated".. I don't read "is responsible".
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:18 AM on September 12, 2013


Ironmouth, worse than the sarcasm is the straw-man argument you've raised. No-one here is arguing that Obama is responsible for the situation is Syria. The default position that the United States is required and authorized to act at all is under discussion.

Beg your pardon?
Obama is trying to provide diplomatic cover for the covert war that is going very badly in Syria. The purpose of the war is to drain Iranian resources in our on going proxy war, and of course, Putin is looking for anything to punish American interests....

Obama has knowingly escalated a rebellion that was largely created by our destabilization efforts...
.."has knowingly escalated".. I don't read "is responsible".

I would, especially when combined with the phrase "largely created by our destabilization efforts", which you omitted.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:22 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


.."has knowingly escalated".. I don't read "is responsible".

Its spelled out clearly:
The bloom of violence is not a result of a decades-long conflict between the Alawite government and the oppressed citizens, but rather the actions of a United States President who has been in office for five years and who has been trying to avoid dealing with the situation

The writer is trying to blame Obama. Its the only conclusion possible from the writing.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:25 AM on September 12, 2013


Stupid sarcasm should have no place in this thread.

From beneath you, it snarks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:26 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a person blaming Obama for the violence in Syria.

I think that particular person was facetiously blaming Obama for the violence in Syria as a way of pointing out that, in fact, Obama has treated Syria like a hot potatoe he doesn't want to handle from the get go. Anyway, I LOL'd.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:28 AM on September 12, 2013


Ironmouth, those are two different commenters! The "bloom of violence" comment was Arsenio sarcastically rephrasing deanklear's argument that US actions, "escalated by Obama", caused destabilization in Syria that lead to civil war. At least, that's the way I read it.

I don't have any evidence to support such an argument, and I'm not making it, so I'm just going to leave this thread now, because all we've achieved is a derail to the point that neither Putin nor Obama have credibility, nor deserve credit for this nonsense.
posted by bigZLiLk at 7:34 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Justice systems work, not perfectly, but they work... let's go back to using them, instead of unleashing the dogs of war.

Justice systems require an enforcement mechanism. When the accused has a military force at his disposal, your enforcement mechanism is called war. This is partly why I laugh whenever I read the term "international law."

Putin is going to get a Nobel Peace prize and show Skippy how you actually earn one.

By fueling separatist wars and presiding over military occupations in three neighboring countries and attempting to assassinate the leader of a fourth?

I'm sure the Nobel Peace Prize is dy-no-mite (hur hur), but you can keep it.
posted by snottydick at 7:35 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can appreciate the use of the weapon of rhetoric without supporting the speaker.

Putin's argument "unilateral action with hinder UN nonproliferation and disarmament efforts" sounds a little more grown up than "diplomacy is impossible and deferred punishment will embolden all dictators" regardless of the reality of either.


Uh, you do realize that Obama never said "diplomacy is impossible" and that indeed, he is letting diplomacy work, right?
posted by Ironmouth at 7:37 AM on September 12, 2013


Which is a good thing, along with Putin also calling for it. Does everything have to be an enormous dick show? The Cold War should have taught us a lesson, right?
posted by h00py at 7:40 AM on September 12, 2013


I still maintain that much of the recent posturing is down to internal US politics, and not any particular desire to blow up Syria, and Putin is playing along rather nicely for his own internal political reasons.

The whole thing sort of reminds me of a hockey game being played between three teams at the same time; two Stanley Cup champions are playing against each other, while a team from El Paso skates around waving their sticks, trying to be relevant.
posted by aramaic at 7:43 AM on September 12, 2013


"We liberals are supposed to be better than this. We're supposed to see attention-grabbing ploys for what they are. So why in god's name do we care what Putin has to say on this issue? Can anyone answer that?"

We should care because he is the small angry wizard behind the curtain engineering the murder of children to demonstrate that the US government can't do a damn thing to stop him from bullying the world to line his pockets because, for all sorts of reasons good and bad, we won't let it.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:49 AM on September 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nobody knows what it was but it was using chemical weapons on your own people, no?

No, it wasn't. It was stupid and wreckless, but there's a wide gulf between an anaesthetic and VX.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 7:52 AM on September 12, 2013


Nobody knows what it was but it was using chemical weapons on your own people, no?

No, it wasn't. It was stupid and wreckless, but there's a wide gulf between an anaesthetic and VX.


I'm sure those 130 innocent people who died are interested in this newfound hair being split to create a new "its a gas but its not a chemical weapon" classification. Putin's a monster. Started multiple wars, represses own people, and he's only in it to keep his ally alive.

Its more than possible to think use of force is wrong in this case without hugging Putin as a hero, which he's not.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2013


When I agree with someone who has done reprehensible stuff in the past on a particular issue it doesn't mean that I agree with everything they've ever been a party to.

Right? There's a lot of sneering assumption going on here that if you happen to agree that diplomatic solutions should be tried until exhausted in this situation, you've wholeheartedly embraced Putin.

Unless they're using it for a whitewash in the West. In which case, you are helping that whitewash.

Bull. Shit. Who in this thread isn't couching their agreement with some of these specific points and nothing else in a few dozen layers of caveats about how awful Putin is?

Its more than possible to think use of force is wrong in this case without hugging Putin as a hero, which he's not.

Again, who is doing this?
posted by jason_steakums at 8:00 AM on September 12, 2013


Hugging? Get real, that is so facile.
posted by h00py at 8:00 AM on September 12, 2013


> and he's only in it to keep his ally alive.

You need to focus Ironmouth. You're at one with mission-creep. This has never been about killing Assad (I presume you mean).
posted by de at 8:07 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I find it odious that Putin presumes to instruct Americans on what to do in this situation and wag a finger with one hand while he hands Assad weapons/holds off the UN/throttles a GLBT person with the other.

This is not a statement of defense for Obama. He is not perfect, nor is he alone responsible for the numerous decisions that will lead America to war or peace.

I don't care about the content of Putin's words as much as I care about his character and his past actions.
posted by koucha at 8:12 AM on September 12, 2013


Again, who is doing this?

"Amen, Mr Putin. If only we had sane and wise Statesmen like that in our Country ..."

"Putin is going to get a Nobel Peace prize and show Skippy how you actually earn one."

Those two seem the most egregious. Now we can split hairs over whether or not either of them constitute "hugging Putin as a hero," but at the very least it's strange to see Putin getting so much applause for nothing more than some extremely routine PR work in a newspaper that will publish the remarks of any head of state.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:15 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to make sure everyone was thinking "Poo-teen" and not "Poo-tin" when reading this for accuracy's sake. Carry on.
posted by Mooseli at 8:27 AM on September 12, 2013


Just wanted to make sure everyone was thinking "Poo-teen" and not "Poo-tin" when reading this for accuracy's sake. Carry on.

It amuses me to no end that his name is transliterated as Poutine in French.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:32 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My goodness, someone on the world diplomatic stage is not acting in good faith? My god, it's almost like...oh wait, that's basically what diplomacy is and how it has worked for eternity. This hand-wringing over the notion that a diplomatic figure is maybe just saying stuff that sounds good while actually just looking out for ways to advantage his own country is either incredibly naive or incredibly disingenuous.

The fact that Vladimir Putin is not acting in good faith does not change the fact that bombing Syria is an utterly shit idea that is likely to have unpleasant repercussions for both the entire region and us. Nor is he incorrect about the fact that ignoring the U.N. whenever we feel like it absolutely pushes it towards the fate of the League of Nations (something the GOP has explicitly wanted for years, anyhow, I will note) or that our cowboy diplomacy has not worked out well for anybody, most especially including us, as a long-term strategy. (How 'bout that Pakistan eh?) And he's not wrong that the US government seems all-too-willing to completely ignore and/or change the laws anytime those laws get in the way.

I don't like Vladimir Putin; in fact I think he's pretty much a monster. I'm sure as hell not lining up to hug him or demanding he win a Nobel Peace Prize. And he is absolutely saying all of those things for the benefit of his own country's interests and not out of some dispassionate desire for world peace. And in this letter, between all those points, he's added all sorts of complete bullshit, thinly-veiled threats, vague insubstantial hints of good things coming our way if we do what he wants, and basically all the things one expects from a diplomat. None of that makes him incorrect about those points though.

As for me, between the Snowden debacle and this, I just wish Barack Obama could have a sufficiently functional moral compass and enough humility and common sense that he could maybe go the rest of his term without giving Vladimir Putin any more opportunities to score cheap points on him. That doesn't seem like it's asking that much, does it?

We won the Cold War ultimately not because of any armed interventions to stop the spread of Communism (some might say we won in spite of those), or because of any strategic maneuvering or spy games, but because our economic and political systems actually worked better. It's always kind of fascinated me that the reason we won the Cold War was, at the end of the day, the same reason we were fighting the Cold War in the first place - a belief that our way of life was better. Which is to say, out of two sides both trumpeting all manner of propaganda about how their way of life was the best, nay, the only way! - our propaganda turned out to be closer to the truth. We were deluding ourselves less. This is a small thing, certainly, relative to the Cold War - but I look at Obama's speech to us, which is propaganda, pure and simple; and I look at this letter from Putin, which is also propaganda, unquestionably - and I wonder who is closer to the truth, and who is deluding themselves more.
posted by mstokes650 at 9:03 AM on September 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wonder how differently this story would be playing if there weren't a significant contingent of the American media/political establishment absolutely determined to see Obama fail in everything he does regardless of the cost to anyone or anything. If this situation results in a Syria free of WMD without requiring American military intervention, it is an unequivocal win. Somehow, I suspect it will be spun into a tragic failure by the inexperienced Obama. The threads of this narrative are already woven thick in this discussion.
posted by feloniousmonk at 9:11 AM on September 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


"Focusing on the anti-gay stuff is a great way for American exceptionalists to reframe the debate and ignore the more relevant issues."

I'm not an American exceptionalist. I just believe we have a right to act in our national interest, and a duty to sometimes act in the world's interest, in large part because internationalism ultimately fails when you have dictators and totalitarians looking out for each other's interests.

"Putin's plea for caution" is propaganda, just as the Russian media is propaganda, just as RT's stories citing various "false flag" conspiracy theories are a form of state-funded propaganda. If they want to seem credible in the US, apparently all they have to do is concentrate on those Western voices who support their POV and beam it right back at us... but it's still state-sponsored propaganda.

I feel no particular desire to pay attention to it, as it's actually less relevant and credible than the opinion of anyone else on MeFi.

If I were to judge the character of Vladimir Putin vs. President Obama, here is how I would do so:
Vladimir Putin is a de-facto dictator and former KGB operative who uses the power of the state in a top-down manner to benefit his big-money supporters while encouraging the worst in his people, still treated like modern-day serfs.

vs.

President Obama is an elected, term-limited President who enforces the laws of the United States... even if those laws aren't necessarily good ones. He does so not because he necessarily supports them on a personal level, but because he views it as both politically expedient, and, ultimately, politically useful in shifting public opinion in a way that would allow those laws to be either changed or enforced in a different manner. In that sense, he encourages the best in his people who ultimately determine the direction US policy moves towards, even if that means that he has to bear much of the criticism for the policies he largely inherited. He's willing to do that, because it leads towards systemic change.

In that sense, he is very much a power from the bottom up President. He'll be tough on enforcing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"... and if you don't like it, he will wait until after elections and get rid of it. He'll inherit two wars, and if you don't like them, he'll leave one of them and make plans to leave the other shortly after that nation's corrupt president peacefully transfers power to another elected president. He'll use drone strikes -- oftentimes in lieu of larger bombing sortees from the host country or sending in troops -- but if you don't like it, he will tighten enforcement of how they are used in such a way as to sharply reduce both strikes and the potential for civilian casualties. He'll talk tough on Syria with the intent of reducing the risk of WMD attacks on civilians, but if you don't like it, he will gladly negotiate with Putin beforehand, saying that he was deadly serious about attacking Syria, but that if Putin floated a plan for Syria turning over its entire supply of WMDs to an independent entity, he might be willing to back down.

Oh, you didn't get that, did you? Obama, far from being some sort of raving "let's attack anyway" president, completely played Putin and got him to sign off on the complete WMD disarmament of Syria... which is basically an unprecedented major step forward for non-proliferation. What? You thought our President actually *wanted* to attack Syria, and viewed that as his goal?!

So, if Vladimir Putin is pissed and now turns to the op-ed columns to imply that our POTUS is a dangerous, rash warmonger... well, I'd call that sour grapes. Amd bullsh*t. And propaganda. He's just pissed because he was tricked into disarming Syria by a far better chess player.

And if you want to believe Putin's propaganda, just because it agrees with your political point-of-view, well... I'll let you decide what that means.

I would suggest, though, that you examine your president and ask yourselves... when the nation was ready for change, when has President Obama ever completely dug in his heels and said "NO!" Because I assure you, had McCain or Romney been POTUS, the noes would so obviously be US policy that you wouldn't even bother to ask.
posted by markkraft at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


feloniousmonk: "Somehow, I suspect it will be spun into a tragic failure by the inexperienced Obama"

See the comment directly above yours:

mstokes650: "As for me, between the Snowden debacle and this, I just wish Barack Obama could have a sufficiently functional moral compass and enough humility and common sense that he could maybe go the rest of his term without giving Vladimir Putin any more opportunities to score cheap points on him. "

Not picking on you mstokes650, but this is exactly the thing that John Stewart was lampooning the other day. "Putin scores points on Obama" is a bs distraction. This is about less people dieing and not escalating a bad situation. I don't give a crap which "side" comes up with the solution (nation/political party/etc). This is far bigger than that.
posted by Big_B at 9:37 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not an American exceptionalist. I just believe we have a right to act in our national interest, and a duty to sometimes act in the world's interest, in large part because internationalism ultimately fails when you have dictators and totalitarians looking out for each other's interests.

I think that makes you an exceptionalist.

I don't mean to grind my American friends' gears, but fundamentally I'm disappointed about the promise that your President Obama has squandered since 2008, after a half-decade of bloody wars, when he promised "no more wars."

Anyway, although I do not agree with him and think his arguments in his piece are faulty, there may be something to what Timothy Garton Ash says here:

To the many critics and downright enemies of the US in Europe and across the globe, I say only this: if you didn't like that old world in which the US regularly intervened, just see how you like the new one in which it does not.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:39 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh and my pet theory is that the last two weeks was all agreed to in advance between Kerry, Obama, and Putin.

BO: "So here's the plan: We're going to threaten bombing. Then Putty - you need to say "Nyet!". Then Johnny boy over there is going to let slip the "well they could hand everything over" deal. Then you get to say, "Yes, let's do that instead!""
Putin: "This will suffice for my needs. I still get to look tough and you get to look like you could have been the tough guy but backed off."
BO: "Exactly"
Kerry: "But this is going to make me look like an idiot!"
BO: "And?"

/not a screenwriter
posted by Big_B at 9:44 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


> I wonder how differently this story would be playing if there weren't a significant contingent of the American media/political establishment absolutely determined to see Obama fail in everything he does

With all due respect, what's happening is not a US domestic dispute. You get to share Obama with the world and he has far flung sympathisers (and diplomatic encouragement).


> and I wonder who is closer to the truth, and who is deluding themselves more.

And I look to the lack of a clear Coalition of the Willing and the absence of a Congressional vote, truths, and feel like very few of us are that easily deluded these days. No-one's buying what's being said.

All eyes are on Russia. Russia can't afford to disappoint.
China? Very quiet.

It's actions that will speak loudest now, whatever they turn out to be.
Mission-creep comes in many forms.

Bygones need to be bygones while we rid the world of chemical weaponry and then we can get back to killing one another with more civil explosives.
posted by de at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2013


The two biggest stories of the year are Snowden/NSA and Syria. The KGB guy seems to have pwn'd the Americans twice. Although they are not over yet. Still, I think Putin has got like a two touchdown lead with five minutes left in the game. I was surprised when I saw Snowden got papers to live in Moscow and I was stunned when I saw the headline that Putin is negotiating for Syrian chemical weapons disarmament. I hope he pulls it off.
posted by bukvich at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2013


It's kind of astonishing to watch people falling over themselves to gush about Putin's "reasoned diplomacy" compared with Obama's "petulant warmongering", as if diplomacy hasn't always involved a little public saber-rattling combined with behind-closed-doors negotiations, and vice-versa.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:02 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The fact that Vladimir Putin is not acting in good faith does not change the fact that bombing Syria is an utterly shit idea that is likely to have unpleasant repercussions for both the entire region and us.

In the abstract, whatever Vladimir Putin thinks is entirely irrelevant to the question of the efficacy/practicality/morality of Syrian intervention. It's a discussion that can be had without introducing Vladimir Putin at all. But frame the topic as "Vladimir Putin's advice to the US on Syria," as this discussion is framed, and suddenly Putin's motives become a lot more relevant.

We won the Cold War ...

Mm. I think there's a solid case to be made that the US didn't "win" the Cold War in any meaningful sense, that the USSR simply "lost" it for a variety of economic and socio-political reasons. But if the case can be made that the US won the Cold War, then the case likely rests as much or more so on the accelerated military build-up of the Reagan era, as on an American message or idealism that was truer or less delusional. The Cold War is probably not the historical episode an opponent of Syrian intervention wants to reach for.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:04 AM on September 12, 2013


"I think that makes you an exceptionalist. "

No, no it doesn't.

American exceptionalism is the belief that America is "qualitatively different" from other nations. I don't believe we are. I just believe that we're the last superpower standing, and have the ability to use that fact to influence how things play out in this world. Most of this is executed in the form of soft, implied power, however... and, by and large, much of that power is used with the intent of improving things for people around the world.

It should be remembered that the term "American exceptionalism" came into common usage thanks to Stalin and particularly ideological marxists, who used the term as a critique of those in the American Communist Party who felt that America was independent of the Marxist laws of history "thanks to its natural resources, industrial capacity, and absence of rigid class distinctions".

So, if you want to call me an exceptionalist, because I believe the circumstances for America are markedly different than that of other nations, giving it exceptional defensive capabilities while still possessing the ability to decisively strike anywhere with little fear of major repercussions, well... yes, perhaps that's true. Likewise, I don't believe Marx's theories about the inevitability of communism have played out very well in America.

However, if you want to imply that I think that Americans are better or in any way more valuable, I think that's absolutely wrong, and the kind of thing that any decent person wouldn't even attempt to second guess any other person on.
posted by markkraft at 10:05 AM on September 12, 2013


"I'm disappointed about the promise that your President Obama has squandered since 2008, after a half-decade of bloody wars, when he promised "no more wars.""

Which new wars has he gotten our country bogged down in?

Are you particularly upset that he used the threat of air strikes to get Syria to completely disarm its WMDs, in arguably the biggest victory for non-proliferation in the past twenty years or so?
posted by markkraft at 10:09 AM on September 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


> Are you particularly upset that he used the threat of air strikes to get Syria to completely disarm its WMDs

Please. Don't talk too soon. Just feign a bit of humility.
For all our sakes.
posted by de at 10:16 AM on September 12, 2013


"All eyes are on Russia. Russia can't afford to disappoint."

Obama got Russia to commit to floating what appears to be his solution to the problem -- the complete disarmament of Syria's WMDs. He floated this idea at the G2, so Russia isn't offering Obama an "out". He's offering Obama the end-game he suggested in the first place, because he felt that the threat against Syria was credible.

Putin got played by Obama, and he will look like a weak fool-- and Assad like a genocidal thug -- if they try to walk back too far on the promise of complete disarmament, especially when the UN comes forward and says "Yup... the Syrian government gassed their own people."
posted by markkraft at 10:16 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been authoritatively informed that the comment I quoted attributing the Syrian violence to Obama was super dry sarcasm.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:18 AM on September 12, 2013


With all due respect, what's happening is not a US domestic dispute

My basic contention is that if this were a president who did not have one political party and their entire media machine doing everything in their power to bring about his failure and public personal humiliation, this situation could have unfolded differently. It's undeniable that Obama's actions are taking place within the constraints of the same government that is about to hold yet another vote to repeal Obamacare and whose members are brainstorming reasons to start an impeachment in interviews on TV news. You can't ignore the impact of these sorts of petty games on this situation.

Here's the tried and true formula for claiming victory: American military might inspired Russia to broker a deal with Syria whereby American goals are accomplished without having to fire a shot. Peace in our time! Tack on something about how Putin had to write a letter begging for mercy against Syria in the NYT and you've gone above and beyond. (To be extra clear, because this is the internet: I'm not putting this forward as my own personal interpretation of the situation, but this is the United States, claiming victory regardless of the circumstances is something we're really good at.)
posted by feloniousmonk at 10:21 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm disappointed about the promise that your President Obama has squandered since 2008, after a half-decade of bloody wars, when he promised "no more wars.""

That's funny, I saw the guy promise to put more troops in to Afghanistan in the 2008 election.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:22 AM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


American exceptionalism is the belief that America is "qualitatively different" from other nations. I don't believe we are. I just believe that we're the last superpower standing, and have the ability to use that fact to influence how things play out in this world. Most of this is executed in the form of soft, implied power, however... and, by and large, much of that power is used with the intent of improving things for people around the world.

For the rest of us, American exceptionalism is based on the fact that you (and I am talking about you) seem to think you can do anything you want extralegally. Laws and due process apply to the rest of the world, but not to you. Firing cruise missiles at another country is not declaring war.

In regards to Obama not getting bogged down in wars, well he certainly has no problems with drone strikes, and even assassinating American citizens without due process. Is that moral superiority? Give me a break and give your head a shake.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:23 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Libya was a war. And Obama escalated Afghanistan. We are sort of out of Iraq, but apparently that had a lot to do with the government refusing to let us stay.
posted by zipadee at 10:37 AM on September 12, 2013


This is a small thing, certainly, relative to the Cold War - but I look at Obama's speech to us, which is propaganda, pure and simple; and I look at this letter from Putin, which is also propaganda, unquestionably -

which is pretty much why I posted this thing in the first place. It certainly wasn't because I felt the need to share Mr. Putin's profound humanitarianism with the Metafilter community. It just struck me as a hell of an interesting move in what's fast becoming a fascinating chess match (even if I'm not a particular fan of either player -- they are nevertheless masters). Or perhaps some other game/sport analogy is a better fit. Either way a game is being played but, like a motor race experienced in person, we only ever get to see a small part of the overall event -- the rest happening over that hill and around that bend.
posted by philip-random at 10:41 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wall Street Journal update on the ongoning talks in Geneva.
posted by bukvich at 10:43 AM on September 12, 2013


Pure fantasy.

Really? So where do you think the FSA is getting its weapons, training, logistics, and intelligence from? The only thing in this scenario that is pure fantasy is the idea that armed rebellions spring forth fully formed and fully armed.

So Assad is not responsible and Obama is?

No one has argued this. You know its possible that in reality many different individuals and institutions can jointly be responsible for things.

Any citations to back that up?

Numerous citations have been provided in the other threads on this topic, and for some reason you are still acting as though they have not.

But since you ask, and in case anyone else missed it the first several times around, here we go again:

NATO vs. Syria

Syrian rebels say Americans, Britons helped train them in Jordan

NATO and CIA Covertly Arming Syrian Rebels in Order to Weaken Iran

West training Syrian rebels in Jordan

Obama authorizes secret U.S. support for Syrian rebels

Armed Rebels and Middle-Eastern Power Plays: How the U.S. Is Helping to Kill Peace in Syria

Syria Rebels 'Aided By British Intelligence'

The Covert US War Against Syria

NATO Airlifts Libyans to Rebels, Russia Feeds Intel to Syrian Ruler

Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From C.I.A.

Syrian rebels say Turkey is arming and training them

Who’s Turning Syria’s Civil War Into a Jihad?

Leaked emails show US security firm helping Syrian rebels

SYRIA: British Special Forces, CIA and MI6 Supporting Armed Insurgency. NATO Intervention Contemplated

CIA feeding intelligence information to rebel terrorists in Syria

How the U.S. Is Waging Covert War in Syria

The “Liberal Left” Promotes the CIA’s Covert War on Syria

Covert War on Syria: Key to Breaking the Power and Influence of Iran

Syria: Where the Obama Doctrine of Covert War Spectacularly Backfired

C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition

Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms

US Authorizes Financial Support For the Free Syrian Army

Now any non biased observer in full control of their faculties and able to see through the rank propaganda on both sides would conclude that the U.S., Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, Israel, and Iran (and of course the Assad regime and the FSA) all share in the responsibility for the 100,000 dead in Syria. Any person who cannot or will not examine the Syria situation from this perspective is really no better than the talking heads on cable T.V. who's talking points many mefites seem to have excelled at parroting since President Obama's election in 2008. America is not the arch villain in this situation, but rather one of many competing interests that have been meddling in Syria since at least 2006. That does not in any way abrogate the role that the U.S. government has played in destabilizing Syria and plunging it into a bloody civil war. This isn't even taking into consideration the effects that the American slaughter in Iraq had on the Syrian economy and civil society.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:44 AM on September 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Oh and for all the people bringing up Russia's inhuman stance on homosexuals, I would only ask what they are doing to protest and/or do away with the prison industrial complex in this country? You know, the one in which capitalists make billions of dollars every year off the backs of slave labor. The system which imprisons minorities at much higher rates than their representation in larger society. What's that parable or saying Jesus had about planks and specks in eyes?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:54 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which new wars has he gotten our country bogged down in?

It's hard to know when the they are classified and our government and press collude in hiding them from the public eye.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:03 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there's a solid case to be made that the US didn't "win" the Cold War in any meaningful sense, that the USSR simply "lost" it for a variety of economic and socio-political reasons.

This is pretty much exactly where I'm coming from. Those economic and socio-political reasons can be tritely summed up as, "their economic and socio-political setup was inferior to ours". And I'm perfectly comfortable with the formulation that the US didn't "win" so much as "not lose" but that's really a pretty semantic distinction.

My point is that propaganda only gets you so far if the truth doesn't support you, and based on Obama's condescending dog-whistle-filled address he just doesn't give a shit about the truth (or at least, telling Americans the truth), while Putin's propaganda here contains at least some truth mixed in with the BS.

As for the usual "but this is all according to Obama's master plan" angle some commenters have seized on, well, not only is the "but Obama is really playing 11-dimensional chess" angle getting to be kind of a tired refrain but I can't help but wonder, if he's such a master at 11-dimensional chess why can't he come up with a strategy that lets him get what he wants while also appearing to keep the moral high ground and publicly slamming Russia for its (many) failings? Jon Stewart is welcome to disagree all he wants, but letting Russia get to play the role of calm and reasonable mediator while we do our usual cocky hotheaded unilateral militaristic cowboy schtick has real and lasting consequences for international diplomacy. It's really not hard to imagine any number of scenarios coming up in the next few years where we'd wish we had a little more credibility and Russia had a little less.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:06 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


if he's such a master at 11-dimensional chess why can't he come up with a strategy that lets him get what he wants while also appearing to keep the moral high ground and publicly slamming Russia for its (many) failings?

because, in the case of Syria, maybe the only way to get those chemical weapons neutralized is the way it seems to be playing out. America threatens missile attacks (big stick), forces Assad to finally deal with Russia, who he's been trying to shrug off, being his own man and all that.

So you get a bunch of unsavory stuff playing out in the media which is annoying on all manner of levels because these people really are creeps, but meanwhile there's an actual shift in the Syria situation. Assad's been restrained. America won't have to start lobbing missiles. Etc.

Maybe the next move is Russia instituting some kind of regime change, because you can't tell me anybody on planet earth actually likes Assad and his crowd of reptiles.

Who knows?

all apologies to all the real reptiles out there; some of my best friends are snakes
posted by philip-random at 11:27 AM on September 12, 2013


[✓] Syria joins the Chemical Weapons Convention
posted by de at 11:29 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh and for all the people bringing up Russia's inhuman stance on homosexuals, I would only ask what they are doing to protest and/or do away with the prison industrial complex in this country? You know, the one in which capitalists make billions of dollars every year off the backs of slave labor. The system which imprisons minorities at much higher rates than their representation in larger society. What's that parable or saying Jesus had about planks and specks in eyes?

Luckily people are capable of being upset over/outraged by multiple injustices at once. IDK if Jesus had a parable about false equivalencies for minor rhetorical gain but I welcome information to the contrary.
posted by elizardbits at 11:47 AM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm against military strikes in Syria (for mostly practical reasons) but Putin's totally fishing here. (And plenty here are biting.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:48 AM on September 12, 2013


The “Liberal Left” Promotes the CIA’s Covert War on Syria

Gee, you don't see enough of this kind thing these days:
"The open support of the ISO and the European petty-bourgeois “left” for CIA-led wars is a culmination of their evolution as *pro-imperialist bourgeois parties, operating in the periphery of the Democratic Party in the United States or of the social-democratic parties in Europe."
I think he missed a "running dog" in there somewhere, though. (*I'd have put it there.)
posted by octobersurprise at 11:56 AM on September 12, 2013


Luckily people are capable of being upset over/outraged by multiple injustices at once.

I never claimed they weren't, did I? I was merely responding to some peoples comments which seemed to indicate that they were under the impression that the U.S. has some kind of moral high ground concerning the treatment of minorities.

false equivalencies

What's the false equivalence?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:00 PM on September 12, 2013


Oh and for all the people bringing up Russia's inhuman stance on homosexuals, I would only ask what they are doing to protest and/or do away with the prison industrial complex in this country? You know, the one in which capitalists make billions of dollars every year off the backs of slave labor. The system which imprisons minorities at much higher rates than their representation in larger society. What's that parable or saying Jesus had about planks and specks in eyes?

yes, because Russia doesn't have a slave labor system.

also, while I think that private prisons should not exist, they only hold 3.8% of US prisoners. There are not billions being made off of prison workers. Prison work for profit is far less common than it used to be in the 19th century.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:02 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never claimed they weren't, did I? I was merely responding to some peoples comments which seemed to indicate that they were under the impression that the U.S. has some kind of moral high ground concerning the treatment of minorities.

Over Vlad V. Putin? yes. yes we do.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:03 PM on September 12, 2013


> BO: "So here's the plan: We're going to threaten bombing. Then Putty - you need to say "Nyet!". Then Johnny boy
> over there is going to let slip the "well they could hand everything over" deal. Then you get to say, "Yes, let's do that instead!""
> Putin: "This will suffice for my needs. I still get to look tough and you get to look like you could have been the tough guy but backed off."
> BO: "Exactly"
> Kerry: "But this is going to make me look like an idiot!"
> BO: "And?"
>
> /not a screenwriter

But you saved the cat. In fact potentially you saved millions and millions of cats. You have a career!
posted by jfuller at 12:07 PM on September 12, 2013


yes, because Russia doesn't have a slave labor system.

You seem to be under the impression that I am a big fan of Russia. I am not.

I hope everyone notes that when confronted with evidence of U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war they ignore said evidence and fail to retract clearly false statements. Now they want to talk about prisons instead of the real issue. I guess I am responsible for that one anyways since I started the derail, but boy did they jump on that like flies on stink when presented with evidence that the U.S. and others have been jointly responsible for the Syrian Civil War.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:17 PM on September 12, 2013


Over Vlad V. Putin? yes. yes we do.

Eh, if either country has a high ground it's on top of a molehill more than a mountain.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:20 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope everyone notes that when confronted with evidence of U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war they ignore said evidence and fail to retract clearly false statements.

Really? the United States of American is responsible for the Syrian Civil War? Because in the last 2-3 months it gave arms to the rebels? So Alawite/Baath suppression isn't the cause? Because the US has been a bit player in Syria. There is plenty in this world to criticize the US for. Acting as if they are any sort of major cause of that war is plain nuts.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:25 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to continue the derail for one more comment, also note how the massive U.S. prison population apparently isn't even considered, you know because only 3.8% is private. As if the fact that only a small percentage is private makes the whole system somehow less morally despicable. Whether private or not the fact of the matter is that the U.S. imprisons minorities at a much higher rate than their representation in larger society, which speaks to the point I was trying to make in regard to treatment of minorities.

Also a cursory google search will show any interested observer that the prison industrial complex is a multi-billion dollar a year industry regardless of what Ironmouth says about it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:25 PM on September 12, 2013


I hope everyone notes that when confronted with evidence of U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war they ignore said evidence and fail to retract clearly false statements. Now they want to talk about prisons instead of the real issue.

As you first mentioned the prisons, it seems reasonable that people would respond by mentioning them back. That said, the many links are appreciated and I will read them.
posted by Going To Maine at 12:26 PM on September 12, 2013


Because in the last 2-3 months

2011 was only three months ago? I must be experiencing some type of temporal distortion...
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:27 PM on September 12, 2013


evidence of U.S. involvement

the United States of American is responsible for the Syrian Civil War?

posted by Drinky Die at 12:27 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


the United States of American is responsible for the Syrian Civil War?

Yes, yes they are clearly involved. Along with Russia, Israel, Iran, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, and anyone else who has been involved in the "civil" war.

Given so many countries are participating its incredible that people are still referring to it as a "civil" war. It is a proxy war plain and simple and any other definition is a flat out distortion of the truth.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:30 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Syria joins the Chemical Weapons Convention

A good development, but the ink isn't nearly dry. Russia is promising no assignment of blame will be made for previous attacks. Syria is asking the U.S. to stop delivering arms to the opposition. Assad just got a bargaining chip.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:32 PM on September 12, 2013


It is a proxy war plain and simple and any other definition is a flat out distortion of the truth.

is it conceivable that we could reel in the hyperbole a bit here?

I buy that external powers are using what's going in Syria to serve their own ends, because this kind of stuff always happens when nations become unstable. And, of course, there seems to be evidence. But to define what's going in Syria as a proxy war before it's anything else is also distortion, and an insult to those who started the protests (peacefully) in January 2011, as well as a whitewashing of the Assad regime's malevolent response to them.

It's a civil war (so by definition, enormously complicated) in the heart of one of the most complicated places on earth. Please don't suggest otherwise.
posted by philip-random at 12:42 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


> A good development, but

The Geneva talks have just commencing.
Keep the safety lock on.

Given the proportional punitive strikes were aimed at crippling Syria's CW capability maybe negotiations will include the US withdrawing the military threat in an act of good faith once stockpiles are under international control. We'll see.
After the hue and cry it does seem an irrational compromise to allow the War Crime go untried. Also, we'll see.
posted by de at 12:51 PM on September 12, 2013


But to define what's going in Syria as a proxy war before it's anything else is also distortion

No, it's actually not. Without outside funding, training, weapons, logistics, and intelligence the civil war would have never started in the first place or been crushed in short order. The only reason that things have happened as they have is because of outside involvement. Take away that outside involvement and we don't have 100,000 dead civilians. We don't have a good situation mind you, as the Assad regime would still be in power and a democratic protest movement would have been violently crushed (as it was anyways). A lot like the situation in Bahrain where the U.S. bases it's fifth fleet.

as well as a whitewashing of the Assad regime's malevolent response to them.

Who's doing this? Everyone is well aware of the brutality of the Assad regime. But brutal regimes exist the world over and I don't see us threatening to bomb them...i.e. Bahrain or Saudi Arabia.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:55 PM on September 12, 2013


No. Gay or not, the anti-gay stuff is a derail for at least the rest of this century. Currently the international red line is set at chemical warfare on innocents (in excess of 1000 apparently, with video footage preferably), and we're still lumping women right on in there with children.

The world has quite a way to go before anti-gay acts are international moral atrocities.


I don't think anyone is saying the international red line for military intervention in another country should be the passing of anti-gay laws. I certainly wasn't attempting to make this argument when I said "I'm not a derail" upthread.

I think that when someone on the international stage presents themselves as the voice of reason and humanity, that person's own track record should be taken into consideration when evaluating and weighing the sincerity of the message. In this case, what Putin's regime has done to LGBT people stands out as glaring and alarming human rights violation, one that's sparked an international -- though certainly not global -- outcry, and one that many observers have interpreted as a disturbingly fascist form of scapegoating.

What Putin has done to LGBT people obviously has no relevance to the question of whether or not we should bomb Syria. But it is relevant to how we receive and interpret Putin's act of publishing an editorial in the NYT, to how much sincerity we attribute to his rhetoric -- even if we agree with the many of the points he makes.
posted by treepour at 1:10 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


as well as a whitewashing of the Assad regime's malevolent response to them.

Who's doing this?


you are when you suggest that the only reason America etc care about what's going on in Syria is to some further their own interests.

Syria was building its various stockpiles decades ago, with intentions (as I heard it put) of no longer being a typical Mid-East backwater that got shoved and manipulated by greater powers, but becoming one of those powers, of doing some shoving and manipulating of their own. I can't say I've been tracking their progress in this regard over the years, but to hear the Assad regime characterized as a mere plaything of greater interests feels simplistic.
posted by philip-random at 1:12 PM on September 12, 2013


I hope everyone notes that when confronted with evidence of U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war they ignore said evidence ... when presented with evidence that the U.S. and others have been jointly responsible for the Syrian Civil War.

See what you did there? You start with an assertion that there is evidence of US "involvement" in Syria (a surprise to no one, probably conceded by State, even) and wind up concluding that the US is jointly "responsible" for the Syrian War, a conclusion that, to say the least, assumes a lot of facts not in evidence.

Without outside funding, training, weapons, logistics, and intelligence the civil war would have never started in the first place or been crushed in short order.

That isn't what your dude here suggests. According to him, there's a continuing worker's struggle against Assad in addition to the pro-imperialist running dog insurgency. Now, maybe that is a peaceful struggle—worker's struggles being what they are—but it does suggest that the pro-imperialist running dog insurgency isn't the only civil conflict in Syria.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:16 PM on September 12, 2013


Washington Post: Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed, annotated and fact-checked
posted by postel's law at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will give a ride on the lollerskates to anyone who thinks that Putin wrote this himself (just as I would for anyone who thinks Obama writes his own statements or speeches).
posted by klangklangston at 1:36 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth, I think you misread deanklear's post. His larger point is that the people of Syria, hapless and lacking resourcefulness, have no agency. The bloom of violence is not a result of a decades-long conflict between the Alawite government and the oppressed citizens, but rather the actions of a United States President who has been in office for five years and who has been trying to avoid dealing with the situation there in every way possible. You're looking at it from the perspective of a person who seems to understand the history of the country; deanklear is looking at it from the perspective of someone who doesn't, but who wants to score political points.

I was about to post some of the same information as AElfwine Evenstar because if you have read on this subject at all, taking the position that the Obama Administration hasn't been knowingly participating in the destabilization of Syria just isn't possible. Any serious arguments are taking place on how much and how far it has gone, but starting in 2012, the United States starting shipping hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons to the Syrian opposition, and more people started dying. (I also have some links in a post here.)

Here's another quote from the leaked Stratfor emails. Since you are practically accusing me of making things up, I will highlight the important bits for you.
I spent most of the afternoon at the Pentagon with the USAF strategic studies group - guys who spend their time trying to understand and explain to the USAF chief the big picture in areas where they're operating in. It was just myself and four other guys at the Lieutenant Colonel level, including one French and one British representative who are liaising with the US currently out of DC.

They wanted to grill me on the strategic picture on Syria, so after that I got to grill them on the military picture. There is still a very low level of understanding of what is actually at stake in Syria, what's the strategic interest there, the Turkish role, the Iranian role, etc. After a couple hours of talking, they said without saying that SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce missions and training opposition forces. One Air Force intel guy (US) said very carefully that there isn't much of a Free Syrian Army to train right now anyway, but all the operations being done now are being done out of 'prudence.' The way it was put to me was, 'look at this way - the level of information known on Syrian OrBat this month is the best it's been since 2001.' They have been told to prepare contingencies and be ready to act within 2-3 months, but they still stress that this is all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation.

I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea 'hypothetically' is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within. There wouldn't be a need for air cover, and they wouldn't expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in columns anyway.
...

There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn't clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can't just create an NFZ over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD campaign lasting the duration of the war. They dont believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn't reach that very public stage. Theyre also questiioning the skills of the Syrian forces that are operating the country's air defenses currently and how signfiicant the Iranian presence is there. Air Force Intel guy is most obsessed with the challenge of taking out Syria's ballistic missile capabilities and chem weapons. With Israel rgiht there and the regime facing an existential crisis, he sees that as a major complication to any military intervention.
Out in the real world, things are relatively straightforward. Syria is an ally of Iran. Iran and Shia elements are threatening US/Gulf domination of the largest oil reserves on the planet, and wouldn't you know it, deposing the Sunni Ba'athists in Iraq turned out to be the largest foreign policy mistake in modern history. We are still trying to clean up our own mess, not to mention that our interference in Syrian affairs stretches back to 1949. And out of the ashes of Iraq -- now home to most terrorism in the Middle East because America is just brilliant at nation building -- may be a new policy discovered by accident: destabilizing sectarian areas of the middle east for the same reason Britain cut these communities together with state lines.

From the Jerusalem Post:
In his decision to arm Syrian rebels with light weaponry, President Barack Obama may see merit in bleeding Iran, just as Iran bled the US in Iraq, so much so that the American people are simply unwilling to shed any more of their treasure in the Middle East.

Columnist Fareed Zakaria called that consideration a “clever, effective, brutal strategy to bleed America’s enemies” on Sunday, calling other justifications for the decision to provide only light arms “like trying to get a little bit pregnant.”

“The fact that Iran and Hezbollah are sending militias, arms and money into Syria is not a sign of strength. It is a sign that they are worried that the regime might fall,” says Zakaria. “Keeping them engaged and pouring resources into Syria bleeds them. It weakens them substantially.”

But Kenneth Pollack, formerly a CIA intelligence analyst and National Security Council staffer now with the Brookings Institution, said that the US “has no clue” what the Iranians are truly providing, or what those provisions are costing the regime.

“We know that Iranian support is important to Assad, but we couldn’t quantify it, and we don’t know the extent of the support,” Pollack told The Jerusalem Post. “Typically, we find it doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to provide Kalashnikovs and RPGs. The Iranians can provide lots and lots of them, and it’s really not going to affect their bottom line.”
The policy has nothing to do with the welfare of Syrians. It has to do with American interest, as all other American policies do. That's why we are sending hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons and not doctors and hospitals.

So to ask him to back up his statements with citations is largely unfair; his point wasn't to discuss the factual events as they happen to be occurring so much as it was to exaggerate possible motivations as a way to take a stand against American foreign policy. A stand that, let's be honest, is bold, courageous, and novel.

I want to address these types of responses specifically as well. Back in the days of George Bush, it was easy to see what the purpose of American policy was, because the Bush Administration didn't have to make excuses. September 11th provided them with the political power necessary to basically do whatever they wanted, including invading another country on forged evidence. I think it woke a lot of the world up to just how awful our foreign policy was.

In reality, other administrations are not that different. And I'm sure there are a lot of realpolitik proponents who are praising Obama for taking are of these little problems in the Middle East while the executive has basically unlimited power. They see it as the right thing to do -- a "good" politician cleaning up after a "bad" politician. After all, the "opportunity" to take care of Assad probably seemed like a reasonable option. Despite Kerry dining happily with Assad in Damascus just a few months before, whatever they thought they were going to get didn't happen. Or maybe some policy wonk decided that Syria was finally "ripe for plucking," as Eisenhower predicted it would be, some day.

In either case, it was a US decision to train rebels in preparation for the cue to start the rebellion. It was a US decision to start funding opposition movements years before starting in 2006. It was as US decision to freeze diplomatic avenues in 2009. It was a US decision six years before that to start a catastrophic war that strained Syria's resources, and it was also a US decision to do as little as possible about the refugee crisis. It was a US decision to warm to the Assad Regime, at least while they were part of the US coalition against Iraq. It was a US decision back in the 1960s to support the rise of Ba'athism against Nasserism, which unfortunately was the beginning for both Saddam and Hafez Assad. And it was a US decision in 1949 that led to the first coup in Syria. And as Deane Hinton -- one of the CIA planners -- eerily predicted: "I want to go on record as saying that this is the stupidest, most irresponsible action a diplomatic mission like ours could get itself involved in, and that we've started a series of these things that will never end."

100,000 Syrians are dead because the United States escalated the war as part of their policy of regime change in Syria and as part of our larger proxy war with Iran, and Obama's response to the chemical weapons attack is only political cover for another US failure in regime change adventurism. It's true, Obama tried everything to avoid open war in Syria and especially anything with Iran. He's not as colossally stupid or cavalier as some other presidents. But the point remains the same: we're not there because we care about Syrians. We're there because pretending to care about Syrians is currently in the interests of the United States, just as we pretended to care about the mujahideen in Afghanistan, Iraqi dissidents and Kurds (depending on whether or not we were supporting Saddam), Libyans (where things are going swimmingly). We also turn a blind eye to injustice on a regular basis to further American interests: Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, etc. Syrians need our Freedom and Democracy right now... Saudi Arabia needs just a few more decades for the transition. Maybe until the oil runs out and we don't give a damn anymore.

Bottom line is, Obama did not give a speech the other night because his primary concern is the well being of Syrian democracy. He didn't do it because he thinks Assad is a threat. He did it because the war he started -- surprise, surprise -- is getting out of control, and he thought he saw an opportunity to swing the battle against Assad, because that is the policy of the United States. The Obama Administration simply underestimated the grass roots support Assad would experience, because I think they fundamentally misunderstand the situation. They let themselves imagine an Arab Spring where Bush saw the March of Freedom. But if you put yourself in the shoes of a Syrian, you'll understand why Assad has so much support. Syria may be a place sharply lacking in political freedom and full of corruption and murder, but there was a reason Iraqi Christians fled to a Ba'athist country, and that's the same reason many Syrians still support Assad: the only thing worse than living under Assad would be living under the thumb of the United States, and besides Israel, there aren't many secure, somewhat secular, and modern states to live.

Now add to that the fact that the nation trying to "help" run your government has "helped" a few times before in your own country with disastrous results, and recently "helped" your neighbors in Iraq with catastrophic results. And, this same nation, which has been sending arms and mercenaries into your country for at least 20 months, is also telling your dictator -- who recently tortured some terrorism suspects as a favor to this same nation in the same prisons -- that he's killing civilians the wrong way. This is the level of hypocrisy American foreign policy attempts to operate in, and one of the main reasons it regularly produces disaster after disaster.

But hey, that's because I don't understand any history, and I'm only looking to score political points.
posted by deanklear at 2:02 PM on September 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


That's why we have to start bombing. That rug really tied the room together.

This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:40 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Story Behind the Putin Op-Ed Article in The Times

A Times reader, Lawrence DeVine, has a few questions about The Times’s publication of an Op-Ed article in Thursday’s paper by Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia. He asks: “Did he call up the editorial page editor and say, hey, how would you like 800 words on you, us and Syria, I’ll have it in by Wednesday night deadline, no sweat, I’ll take your usual freelance rates?”

posted by chavenet at 3:26 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


[AElfwine/Ironmouth. Cut it out. Now.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:04 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where is the proof that without the US involvement Bashar Al-Assad would have "won" the war and crushed the Arab Spring in Syria. Actual proof, that in Syria, he would have won.

It's not impossible the rebels survive without outside assistance, but so far in the Arab Spring countries that have been willing to kill their way out of their problems have a pretty good chance of success without outside intervention.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:05 PM on September 12, 2013


It's not impossible the rebels survive without outside assistance, but so far in the Arab Spring countries that have been willing to kill their way out of their problems have a pretty good chance of success without outside intervention.

The last time there was an uprising in Syria against the Baath, it lasted for seven years and somewhere between 20,000 and 80,000 civilians were killed. There was zero proxy war, either. It ended in '82 with Homs being wiped out.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:34 PM on September 12, 2013


>See what you did there? You start with an assertion that there is evidence of US "involvement" in Syria (a surprise to no one, probably conceded by State, even) and wind up concluding that the US is jointly "responsible" for the Syrian War, a conclusion that, to say the least, assumes a lot of facts not in evidence.

Ok, well I guess by your standards the U.S. government didn't bear any responsibility for the Nicaraguan Contra War in the 1980's. I just don't understand how a third party can arm, train, fund, provide logistics, provide intelligence, and provide safe haven in neighboring countries for the rebels and not bear some part in the responsibility for the actions of those rebels. Iran and Russian don't get off the hook either. They are just as responsible as the Gulf States and NATO for the clusterfuck that is Syria. Do you not hold Iran and Russia partly to blame for this situation? By your standards Russia bears no responsibility for any chemical attack that may have taken place or will take place in the future by the regime. I would disagree and argue that by providing equipment and precursors the Russian government is partly to blame for any chemical attack and any deaths that may result.

your dude here

A good sign you have nothing substantive to add to the conversation.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 4:38 PM on September 12, 2013


The Arab Spring is not 1982 so I'm not sure what that has to do with my statement.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:49 PM on September 12, 2013


The last time there was an uprising in Syria against the Baath, it lasted for seven years and somewhere between 20,000 and 80,000 civilians were killed. There was zero proxy war, either. It ended in '82 with Homs being wiped out.

I think you mean Hama.

Do you ever provide sources for your claims? Just so we are clear; you are claiming that there there was a sustained armed rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria from 1975-1982? And that the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria was receiving no backing or help from any foreign third party?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:06 PM on September 12, 2013


From The New Yorker: Russians Read Putin's Op-Ed
posted by Westringia F. at 5:21 PM on September 12, 2013


http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_uprising_in_Syria

That's exactly what I'm talking about. And it was not a proxy war. So there is no historical precedent for the idea that the rebels would have been mopped up in short order.

And where is the backing for the claim that the US has been sending arms for years? Everything I've seen says 2-3 months. Others did.

In the end, what is your point? That the Rebels are wrong for trying to free themselves of a one-party dictatorship with no rights?
posted by Ironmouth at 5:25 PM on September 12, 2013


In 1979 a revolution in Iran overthrew the government. So there is no historical precedent to believe that the Green Revolution will not succeed as well. Congratulations, President Mousavi.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:37 PM on September 12, 2013


In the end, what is your point? That the Rebels are wrong for trying to free themselves of a one-party dictatorship with no rights?
Despite a lack of media coverage, state sponsored repression has been going on for the past two years. Skirmishes in villages between groups of youths and the riot police occur almost daily, and while the former burn tires and throw Molotov cocktails, the latter fumigate the villages with tear gas, a tactic so virulent that one NGO accused the Bahrain authorities of "weaponizing toxic chemical agents."

The skirmishes in the villages are symptomatic of over two years of repression by the Bahraini authorities. Peaceful demands for political reform put forward by thousands of Bahrainis in early 2011 have been ignored, and legitimate attempts to protest have been brutally repressed.

Renewed calls for demonstrations on August 14 have prompted the government to initiate a fresh swathe of repressive measures. Bahrain's opposition-less parliament recently passed reactionary laws banning peaceful gatherings in Bahrain's capital city and checkpoints, roadblocks and barbed wire fences have been erected around villages to stop people getting to protests.
Yes, we still believe that the government of Bahrain is a legitimate government with the interests of the Bahrains and-of-course-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-our-multi-billion-dollar-naval-base.

Oh, you mean the Syrian rebels? Well, obviously, that's different.

Let's see if you can guess why using chemical weapons to suppress democratic will is just fine in Bahrain, but not in Syria, or why the Bahraini protests have led to only 125 deaths while Syria has suffered so much more.

Do you think it has anything to do with the United States helping distribute hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons into Syria?
posted by deanklear at 6:20 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems pretty dumb to argue that because we don't support the Bahraini protestors we shouldn't support the Syrian ones. That's the problem with the "Oh, yeah, what about this one?" arguments — you don't want the U.S. to take military action anywhere already, so it's just concern trolling.
posted by klangklangston at 7:30 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


To be clear, most of the weapons going into the Syrian opposition are coming from the Sunni gulf states, and they are being funnelled to terrorist groups. I am 100% sure that the US would prefer that they didn't do that, but they don't really have much say in the matter.
posted by empath at 7:30 PM on September 12, 2013


It seems pretty dumb to argue that because we don't support the Bahraini protestors we shouldn't support the Syrian ones. That's the problem with the "Oh, yeah, what about this one?" arguments — you don't want the U.S. to take military action anywhere already, so it's just concern trolling.

I think it's more that I would prefer that we stop directly supporting dictatorial regimes like Bahrain before we start bombing other dictatorial regimes. One of those options can do just as much good, with much less risk to us.
posted by empath at 7:32 PM on September 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Post-WWII, how many times has the US militarily intervened in another country's civil war? In how many cases was the outcome positive for the people in that country?
posted by empath at 7:38 PM on September 12, 2013


That's exactly what I'm talking about. And it was not a proxy war. So there is no historical precedent for the idea that the rebels would have been mopped up in short order.

So wikipedia is your only knowledge and source of the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Syria. Oh boy. Do you know anyone in Syria? Have you ever been to Syria? Have you ever studied its history? Obviously not.

First of all there was no sustained armed rebellion. Any violence by the Muslim Brotherhood was sporadic and mainly a series of assassinations and sabotage. Not an armed rebellion like we are now seeing. There were limited clashes in Aleppo and Homs in 1980 but the Syrian Army put that attempt at open insurrection down during the same summer it started. This military assault so devastated the Muslim Brotherhood that it was not able to mount another attempt at armed rebellion until 1982 and that attempt was put down in less than a month. That would be the infamous Hama massacre (not Homs and really if you can't even get your city names correct how are we supposed to take you seriously) in February of 1982. Your desperation to prove your political point has led you to use Wikipedia as a primary source which is never a good idea.

Second, you are correct it wasn't a proxy war, and it is specifically because it was not a proxy war that the Assad regime was able to put down the only two attempts at open rebellion in short order. Since the Muslim Brotherhood was not receiving a massive amount of small arms and rpgs from a third party they had no hope of beating the government in a drawn out guerrilla campaign. They had no source of weapons, no source of training or area to safely train in, no logistical supply line, and no foreign funding. The Muslim Brotherhood knew that this was the case which is why it tried to develop ties with neighboring Iraq but ultimately failed. There have also been claims that the Muslim Brotherhood was receiving support from both Jordan and Israel, but I have never seen any substantial evidence to support this opinion.

So you could not be more wrong in your assertions. In fact the Muslim Brotherhood uprising is actually a perfect historical example of the Syrian regime quickly and brutally suppressing peaceful political dissent, and even more rapidly and brutally crushing any attempts at open insurrection.

Just to be clear I am not asserting that there were no armed Muslim Brotherhood cells in Syria during the period between 1977 and 1982 because there were. What I am asserting is that for anyone to draw a comparison to the limited terror campaign they were conducting to the open armed rebellion we are now seeing is ludicrous. The only comparable incident in the whole bloody mess was Hama and as I stated that was put down in less than a month.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:40 PM on September 12, 2013


And where is the backing for the claim that the US has been sending arms for years? Everything I've seen says 2-3 months. Others did.

The U.S. is part of NATO, correct? NATO started airlifting weapons from Libya to Turkey in late 2011. Furthermore NATO member country intelligence agencies and militaries have been aiding the Syrian rebels since this time as well.

Unmarked NATO warplanes are arriving at Turkish military bases close to Iskenderum on the Syrian border, delivering weapons from the late Muammar Gaddafi’s arsenals as well as volunteers from the Libyan Transitional National Council who are experienced in pitting local volunteers against trained soldiers, a skill they acquired confronting Gaddafi’s army. Iskenderum is also the seat of the Free Syrian Army, the armed wing of the Syrian National Council. French and British special forces trainers are on the ground, assisting the Syrian rebels while the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.

You apparently missed the link which contains this quote. It is from and article published in December 2011.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:52 PM on September 12, 2013


In the end, what is your point? That the Rebels are wrong for trying to free themselves of a one-party dictatorship with no rights?

Yes. You got me. This is exactly my point.

This type of bullshit is really getting old. This is a perfect example of participating in bad faith. You know god damn well that this is not my point, and I would ask that as we move forward you please stop.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:57 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Laws and due process apply to the rest of the world, but not to you. Firing cruise missiles at another country is not declaring war."

Other countries most certainly do and have fired ordinance across borders without being legally required to declare war. It happens all over the world, on a semi-regular basis, and is sometimes considered justified.

American citizens without due process.

The War Powers Act requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action, and strictly limits what , how long, and to what extent he can act without seeking a declaration of war.

This is not exactly exceptionalism... or even exceptional. Several other nations have similar powers granted to their leaders. Lots of Prime Ministers, for example, have royal prerogatives previously executed by their royalty. So much so that they can actually declare and conduct a full-scale war as if they were a king.
posted by markkraft at 8:37 PM on September 12, 2013


Stewart Jabs Obama on Syria, Gets Tough with Putin: ‘You Want Us To Go Rocky IV on Your Ass?’
posted by homunculus at 8:58 PM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


WSJ: A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime's chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track, according to American and Middle Eastern officials.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:46 PM on September 12, 2013


[Comment deleted. If you feel like accusing someone here of being responsible for deaths in Syria, rethink that impulse. If you feel like making things personal at all, step away from the thread.]
posted by taz at 10:54 PM on September 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


you know one difference between this debate and the Iraq debate is that tons of people are getting killed/displaced. believe me, I was basically shouting 'no blood for oil' in 2003-on, but with this, it's just stop the killing. I don't care. I was obsessed with due process as an attorney but now, it's like, go Osama Bin Laden-killing on Assad's ass, I don't care. And if then the rebels start massacring civilians on Assad's side, kill some of those people too until they knock it off.

Don't get me wrong, this is just a fantasy. But I'm just so less sympathetic to language about say Obama being a war criminal these days. Yeah, drones bad. But then there's what's happening to Syrian people.

I totally get the real concerns behind bombing Syria. There are good reasons. But the bad reasons are pissing me off. I guess for me the bad reasons are the ones that are isolationist at their core. And those reasons seem to not deal so much with conditions on the ground but questions like who does or does not have the moral high ground and what bad thing the U.S. did when.

Stop massacring people or a bomb gets dropped on you. I may be an awful person for saying that such an edict is not really unappealing to me, but there you go.
posted by angrycat at 8:35 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems pretty dumb to argue that because we don't support the Bahraini protestors we shouldn't support the Syrian ones. That's the problem with the "Oh, yeah, what about this one?" arguments — you don't want the U.S. to take military action anywhere already, so it's just concern trolling.

That would be a dumb argument. The argument I'm making is that the United States actively sold advanced weaponry (including the Humvees featured in the crackdown) to the Bahraini monarchy while Shia communities protested for more democratic access, and while that monarchy was brutalizing protestors. Specifically, the State Department found a way around restrictions by changing the funding method and then purposefully hid the sale and the amount from the public. Because the Obama Administration has nothing to hide.

That would fit in with my other argument that the United States should not send weapons to any weapons to unstable parts of the world. So far, we have failed every single time since 1970 to establish a stable government after our efforts at interference, and that's because we're usually trying to force a minority viewpoint through puppet governments. People tend to dislike being lectured and abused by a foreign power, and their neighbors tend to have an idea about what's going on a few states away.

If you want to call my criticism of shipping hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons to known terrorists "concern trolling", that's one way to rationalize America's role.

I guess the NRA is right. The availability, expense, and lack of responsible regulation has nothing to do with the homicide rate in the United States. Similarly, the coups, invasions, proxy wars, support for dictators, and endless weapons sales performed by the United States in a sea of shifting alliances in the Middle East has absolutely nothing to do with the endless violence there.

You're right. That concern trolling is for the birds. Lying to myself feels so much better.
posted by deanklear at 11:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


UN chief slams Syrian president
Ban Ki-moon says Assad committed "crimes against humanity" while speaking at UN event in New York.
posted by de at 12:25 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of 9/11 for Americans, but it was also the 40th anniversary of the CIA's toppling of a democratically elected government in Chile

“Democratically elected” sounds nice, but the truth is, Allende barely won what was in essence a three way tie, and was certainly not voted in by a majority.

in which the CIA was pivotal in installing Augusto Pinochet

In actual point of fact, the U.S. did not “install” Pinochet. Pinochet was the current head of the military which already had independent plans for a coup that the U.S. then supported.

who killed about the same number of Chileans as people who died in the 9/11 attacks, but also tortured tens of thousands more.

Who were mostly political opponents and communists breaking the law in order to destabilize the takeover, not innocent businesspeople showing up for work one day.

When Americans rely on their own self-appointed moral authority to call others warmongers etc. they are ignoring, willfully or otherwise, that America has been kicking over governments for a long time and that millions of people have died as a result.

Actually, there is a substantial pro-Pinochet segment of the Chilean population to this very day, and Chile is the strongest economy in Latin America arguably completely due to Pinochet’s reforms.
posted by quincunx at 4:35 PM on September 13, 2013


"Who were mostly political opponents and communists breaking the law in order to destabilize the takeover, not innocent businesspeople showing up for work one day."

I know you don't mean to do this, but you know what? That sounds like apologia for torturing thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, and flatly murdering thousands more. Minimizing that by saying that they weren't "innocent businesspeople" (which, WTF like businessmen are the only people who shouldn't be tortured).

I'm pretty sure that you didn't mean to sound like an apologist for Pinochet's crimes against humanity, because that'd be pretty fucking abhorrent, about on the level of saying that many of the people in the Nazi death camps were actively working to destabilize Hitler, so they deserved it.

(And people who would lionize Pinochet for the economy are living in a fantasy where there was no collapse in 1983.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:06 PM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Democracy Now did quite a bit on the Chilean coup this week, btw.
posted by homunculus at 5:10 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that you didn't mean to sound like an apologist for Pinochet's crimes against humanity, because that'd be pretty fucking abhorrent, about on the level of saying that many of the people in the Nazi death camps were actively working to destabilize Hitler, so they deserved it.

Yeah, I expected this, and I probably deserved it. I do think that torture and murder are abhorrent, okay? So rest easy there. But my point is, it is really not directly comparable to 9/11. That was all I was trying to get across, not like, "hey here's a total free pass." But yes, I do think comparing it to 9/11 is totally inappropriate. That's where the "businesspeople" bit came from. Get it?
posted by quincunx at 5:12 PM on September 13, 2013


Random Joe Communist can be just as innocent as random Joe Capitalist at the Trade Center.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:24 PM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


But my point is, it is really not directly comparable to 9/11.

I don't no why you would make that point since no one did such a thing. 1adam12 merely noted that they fell on the same day and segued into a discussion of American's smug sense of moral superiority, exceptionalism, and apparent god given right to bomb anyone that the DOD sees fit. Or in the case of this FPP that the Saudi monarchy sees fit.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:54 PM on September 13, 2013


And if then the rebels start massacring civilians on Assad's side

They already are and have been for some time. Now ask yourself why you didn't know that.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 6:21 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


US Retreats, UN Syria Resolution Won’t Include Military Option

It looks like the U.S. and its allies have finally come back to some semblance of sanity.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:23 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if then the rebels start massacring civilians on Assad's side

They already are and have been for some time. Now ask yourself why you didn't know that.


Can't speak for angrycat but I knew this, and got my information from the so-called "official media". By which I mean, CBC (Canada), BBC and Guardian (UK) for the most part. In fact, this atrocities-being-committed-by-both-sides scenario seems to have been part of this situation for quite some time, and hardly a suppressed truth.
posted by philip-random at 10:01 PM on September 13, 2013


US Retreats, UN Syria Resolution Won’t Include Military Option
Obama has been criticized by people in both parties for what some have called a muddled policy on Syria.
Maybe Obama should ditch the unelected Samantha Power and czar Cass Sunstein. Foreign policy shouldn't be about nudging a desired response across borders to perpetuate war on evil. What are we? A social experiment?
posted by de at 11:03 PM on September 13, 2013


I totally knew about the rebels going from peaceful to eating hearts. It was a silly hypothetical based on me being a Wrathful Queen of the Universe
posted by angrycat at 4:15 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


who killed about the same number of Chileans as people who died in the 9/11 attacks, but also tortured tens of thousands more.

>Who were mostly political opponents and communists breaking the law in order to destabilize the takeover, not innocent businesspeople showing up for work one day.

That's a very weak qualification considering articles 2-4 of the constitution explicitly said that power was exercised according to its provisions and that acts that ran counter to these provisions were void and seditionary.
posted by ersatz at 5:42 AM on September 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


U.S. and Russia Reach Deal to Secure Syria’s Chemical Arms

So that seems like a good thing.
posted by octothorpe at 9:06 AM on September 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


US Retreats, UN Syria Resolution Won’t Include Military Option

It looks like the U.S. and its allies have finally come back to some semblance of sanity.


Russia would have vetoed it. Plus, they got what they wanted, no more chemical weapons. Also, unilateral strikes are not off the table.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:08 PM on September 14, 2013


I don't no why you would make that point since no one did such a thing. 1adam12 merely noted that they fell on the same day and segued into a discussion of American's smug sense of moral superiority, exceptionalism, and apparent god given right to bomb anyone that the DOD sees fit. Or in the case of this FPP that the Saudi monarchy sees fit.


See, this kind of hyperbole is why Mefi really disappoints sometimes. Rightly or wrongly, I interpreted the original post as a transparent attempt to compare Pinochet's crimes with 9/11 in more or less total moral equivalency, with a kind of implied "the U.S. had it coming" undertone that I really can't stand. I think it's frankly kind of hypocritical to dodge that now, when it's not unreasonable at all for me to have interpreted it that way. I mean, you do understand that the U.S. "installing" Pinochet is slanted, purposefully incendiary language that does not totally accurately reflect reality, nor even really *attempt* to reflect reality? That it's a little ridiulous that my use of the word "businesspeople" instantly conjured up mefi's ever-present army of folks ready to turn everything into a commies vs. capitalists fight, and I *literally am compared to a Nazi apologist* and you too this off by claiming in all seriousness that the US is merely some kind of shill for Saudi Arabia in Syria because of America's gluttony for oil or something (I'm taking liberties here, but that's the usual party line, so to speak) and yet you're all arguing in perfect objective good faith? Please. Would it have been better if I'd pointed out that janitors died in 9/11 too? I mean, that would certainly have been more *correct*, since everyone here obviously cares about the complete, factual and total truth so much, and we wouldn't want to be like those reflexively smug "morally superior" and judgemental Americans, now would we? Goodness, no!
posted by quincunx at 2:34 AM on September 15, 2013


> Also, unilateral strikes are not off the table.

Barack Obama/Samantha Power punitive type strikes for 'moral atrocities' are indeed off the Syrian table. You're living in the past if you believe otherwise. They've been bargained away. Maybe after the 2016 election ...

Meanwhile, the Russia-US agreement is unprecedented. It defers to the UNSC. Any non-compliance (with the CWC) on the Assad regime's part is to go via UNSC for Chapter 7 resolution.

The diplomatic accord for the accelerated elimination of Syria's chemical weapons is the agreed alternative to US unilateral strikes if you like. (Holding to the accord equally challenges the dissenting vetos of the past, way more threatening to the Assad regime, I imagine.)

It'll be alright, Ironmouth. Clear your head of clutter. Your thinking is not crisp.
Once these hideous weapons are removed from play civilised peace talks will follow, (and well before 2021, I hasten to add.)
This exercise could revolutionise disposal methods of chemical weapons worldwide.
posted by de at 8:28 AM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree this pulls military intervention off the table so long as Assad hands over chemical weapons when Putin wants. Obama won't violate this agreement. Our next president won't burn all his foreign relations credibility too early in his term either, well unless he's an idiot, always a risk.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:14 AM on September 15, 2013


"Folks here in Washington like to grade on style.... had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, ’cause that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq War...

I’m less concerned about style points, I’m much more concerned about getting the policy right... as a consequence of the steps that we’ve taken over the last two weeks to three weeks, we now have a situation in which Syria has acknowledged it has chemical weapons, has said it’s willing to join the convention on chemical weapons, and Russia... has said that it will pressure Syria to reach that agreement. That’s my goal. And if that goal is achieved, then it sounds to me like we did something right."

- President Barack Obama, today.

In truth, the Russian offer of disarming Syria wasn't strictly a Russian offer. It was a deal that the US and Russia had been seriously negotiating on for weeks before it was announced. The credible threat of an attack on Syria was largely used by President Obama in order to force Russia to pressure Assad to relinquish his WMDs.

State Department records show that John Kerry called Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov 11 times since Assad's gas attack. As early as May, the two politicians were discussing collective efforts to peacefully transition Syria to a new government. Over two weeks ago, before the plan was even offered and before Obama's meeting with Putin at the G20, there were reports that President Obama stalled the efforts for an airstrike, in order to buy time for Kerry and Lavrov to continue with their negotiations.
posted by markkraft at 7:57 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


The need to stall explains a lot of what I saw in real time as both Kerry and Obama bumbling around. I disagree with Obama's foreign policy on a lot of issues but I never saw the execution as so seriously confused and directionless as it appeared for a bit there.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:01 PM on September 15, 2013


I always like to wonder how events such as these would be reported if we didn't have the incessant 24 hour news cycle. This really seems like a great example of a victory that was spun into something more like a defeat for no real reason other than a complete lack of perspective on events. We have no patience anymore. The more connected and "informed" we are, the more impatient we get, and I really think this problem might ultimately be the biggest one we'll face.
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:02 PM on September 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The need to stall explains a lot of what I saw in real time as both Kerry and Obama bumbling around."

Seconds on Nobel Peace Prizes, anyone?!
posted by markkraft at 8:44 PM on September 15, 2013


Maybe if he gets a deal to stop the war instead of just making sure the massacres are done with conventional weapons.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:46 PM on September 15, 2013


"Maybe if he gets a deal to stop the war instead of just making sure the massacres are done with conventional weapons."

(Kerry and Lavrov's) struggle with the Syria issue began in early May. . . The two ministers took a long walk - a favorite Kerry tactic - then huddled with a small group of advisers in a backroom, where they drew up an announcement for a meeting in Geneva aimed at a political transition in Syria. But that conference has yet to be held.

Working on it.
posted by markkraft at 8:52 PM on September 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


In regards to a negotiated peace settlement, here's Kerry speaking with Lavrov on the 13th:

"We both agreed to . . . meet again in New York around the time of the UN General Assembly, around the 28th, in order to see if it is possible then to find a date for (a Syrian peace) conference, much of which will obviously depend on the capacity to have success here. . . on the subject of the chemical weapons.

Both of us . . . are deeply concerned about the death toll and destruction, the acts on both sides, all sides that are creating more and more refugees, more and more of the humanitarian catastrophe. And we are committed to try to work together, beginning with this initiative on the chemical weapons, in hopes that those efforts could pay off and bring peace and stability to a war-torn part of the world."


Obama speaking today:
"I had talked to Mr. Putin a year ago– saying to him– the United States and Russia should work together to deal with these chemical weapons stockpiles, and to work to try to bring about a political transition inside of Syria. . . the situation in Syria right now is untenable. As long as Mr. Assad’s in power, there is gonna be some sort of conflict there, and that we should work together to try to find a way in which the interests of all the parties inside of Syria, the Alawites, the Sunnis, the Christians, that everybody is represented. . . This is not a contest between the United States and Russia. I mean the fact of the matter is– is that– if Russia wants to have some– influence in Syria– post-Assad, that doesn’t hurt our interests."

... and, of course, that link I cited, mentioning that Kerry and Lavrov reached a tentative deal in early May for a Syrian peace treaty based upon "a political transition in Syria".

IOW, it's already been decided, at least from the US side, that there will be a political transition, but that transition will be done in a way that retains and respects Russian interests, post-Assad.
posted by markkraft at 9:40 PM on September 15, 2013


There's also this:

Iran's Rouhani may meet Obama at UN after American president reaches out

First meeting of US and Iranian leaders since 1979 revolution could open way to diplomatic end to Iranian nuclear standoff


Go diplomacy! Go!
posted by Drinky Die at 9:52 PM on September 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seconds on Nobel Peace Prizes, anyone?!

Given that his administration has presided over the massive influx of weapons into Syria, I'm gonna say that this proposition is a fairly disingenuous one. A peacemaker he is not.

That we have now chosen to go the diplomatic route is definitely a good thing, though. Hopefully this will herald a new paradigm for American foreign policy. For that Obama deserves the credit.

That being said I am kind of snickering at how for some people the most important thing to do here is to make sure Obama looks as good as possible. Either way good on him and his administration for reigning in the military industrial complex and at the same time getting Assad to give up his chemical weapons. Now if he could only reign in the Saudis and quit training and aiding the rebels; a large proportion of which are no friends of the U.S.

Syria: nearly half rebel fighters are jihadists or hardline Islamists
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:14 AM on September 16, 2013


the United States actively sold advanced weaponry (including the Humvees featured in the crackdown) to the Bahraini monarchy while Shia communities protested for more democratic access, and while that monarchy was brutalizing protestors.

HRW: Bahrain: Security Forces Detaining Children. Reports of Beatings, Torture Threats in Detention
posted by homunculus at 9:24 AM on September 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Obama and Cameron's inability to muster enough support for a Syrian intervention is making the Iranians feel secure enough that they feel they don't need a nuclear deterrent.
posted by empath at 10:03 AM on September 16, 2013


Iran probably won't go nuclear free until Israel agrees to something similar, and Israel hasn't ratified the CWC or even signed the NPT. Obama renewed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy we provide for Israel so they don't have to submit themselves to any UN or IAEA oversight.
In an interview last week with Israel's Channel 2 media company, Netanyahu spoke of his confidence that Obama's recent remarks on a world free of nuclear weapons would not apply to Israel.

"It was utterly clear from the context of the speech that he was speaking about North Korea and Iran," the Israeli leader said.

"But I want to remind you that in my first meeting with President Obama in Washington I received from him ... an itemised list of the strategic understandings that have existed for many years between Israel and the United States on that issue.

"It was not for naught that I requested, and it was not for naught that I received [that document]."

Although there is no formal record of the understanding - nor have Israeli nor American governments ever publicly acknowledged it - some documents hint at an agreement between the two nations.
posted by deanklear at 2:25 PM on September 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Iran probably won't go nuclear free until Israel agrees to something similar"

Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once declared that nuclear weapons are ‘haram’ -- forbidden.

Iran shouldn't have to be nuclear free. What is needed, however, is more transparency from Iran, to make it clear that they are not developing nuclear weapons. However, there is no evidence that they have a nuclear weapons program at all, and no evidence that they have diverted any of their uranium to use for anything other than peaceful purposes. In fact, they probably are not even able to develop nuclear weapons right now, even if they really wanted to do so.

Iran's new leader is on record as wanting to find some kind of deal with the US in order to end the sanctions and the diplomatic impasse, while still maintaining Iran's basic rights to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. That's what he was promising his people, and I think that's what we should take his word for, at this juncture. There is no proof that Iran is lying or stalling in regards to nuclear matters.

That said, when Israel said in 1997 that Iran would have nuclear weapons within a year, that statement was probably not true.
posted by markkraft at 7:29 PM on September 16, 2013


"I am kind of snickering at how for some people the most important thing to do here is to make sure Obama looks as good as possible"

...by trying to determine his actions as if he were a rational human being, as opposed to say, a POTUS who might say things like "God made me do it."

I understand why you are upset about what you see as U.S. meddling, AElfwine, though I would argue that nothing you've said can't be basically explained through one word: leverage. The US sees chaos in Syria, and wants leverage to influence the outcome in their favor. Ideally, politically... but militarily, if absolutely necessary. The very fact that the weapons they have been sending to Syria lately have been light, locally-sourced Russian knockoffs makes me think that they aren't all that concerned about regime change, as much as having that leverage.

(Curiously enough, the Russians feel the same way and have probably pumped far more weapons into Syria than the US has, but I haven't heard you criticize their actions as vehemently.)
posted by markkraft at 3:47 AM on September 17, 2013


(Curiously enough, the Russians feel the same way and have probably pumped far more weapons into Syria than the US has, but I haven't heard you criticize their actions as vehemently.)

Well I'm not Russian, but if you read above I have several times stated that the Russians are just as responsible as we are.

The US sees chaos in Syria, and wants leverage to influence the outcome in their favor.

We helped to create the chaos. This isn't a small point. The last time there was an armed uprising against the Syrian regime it was put down in less than a month. I stand by my assertion that without NATO and GCC assistance the FSA would have collapsed in short order. Again, not a good situation either as Assad is still in power, but we don't have 100,000 dead Syrians.

The thing is that while its a great development that the Syrians are giving up their CW that does little to stop the carnage on the ground which is only sustainable by the rebels because they get arms, training, logistics, and intelligence from NATO powers. So while Obama talks a nice game he is still enabling the carnage in Syria to continue indefinitely.

At least you, unlike others, are willing to admit that this has nothing to do with the welfare of the Syrian people.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:06 AM on September 17, 2013


Looks like Syria turned over their chemical weapons inventory before the deadline... so far, so good.

China is actually urging not only an expedited destruction of the chemical weapons, but also is pushing for a comprehensive peace treaty, ASAP.
posted by markkraft at 8:07 AM on September 21, 2013


Syrian rebels turn on each other as 'big tent' strategy collapses

Syria Calls for a Ceasefire With Rebels

Islamists’ rise in Syria undercuts Kerry’s claim they play minor role
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2013


Russia to monitor 'all communications' at Winter Olympics in Sochi: Investigation uncovers FSB surveillance system – branded 'Prism on steroids' – to listen to all athletes and visitors
posted by homunculus at 12:22 PM on October 8, 2013


« Older "In comic books, as in the moving image, the frame...  |  After 500 years, the governmen... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments