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Saturday, September 7, 2013 - Volume 4, Number 7

Copyright 2013, The Ultrapolis Project.  All Rights Reserved.

A President Attempts Abdication With Syria in the Balance

Will Outsourcing Decision-making Prove Salient or Fatal in Aftermath of Syria?


ALSO IN THIS ISSUE:

        Reader Objects to UWFR Mischaracterization

        Cartoon: Syria Backers Wanted

 

 

Obama Defers, Syria Policy Awaits

What The Lessons of History Tell

 

A Time for One

 

There are times when a slow, deliberative, consultative, methodical, consensus-seeking, and public decision-making process is the wisest and most effective way to arrive at major policy decisions of great importance to the welfare of a people. The passing of a highly transformative new federal law designed to fundamentally overhaul the nation's health care, with massive repercussions that would permanently affect the economy and every single American might have been such a time - except it wasn't.

 

Then, there are times when the mantle of authority must be borne by a single man. When one alone must willingly take on the full weight of responsibility for the pursuit and consequences of a course he has deemed critical to the national interest and the general human welfare which has been entrusted to him - a course for which he has clarity of purpose, and for which he has confidence in the logic and moral soundness of his reasoning. When hostile foreign governments are securing strategic and tactical advantage with every passing day, when lethal enemies are encouraged by the growing success of their patrons and their apparent immunity to American power, when major allies and fledging anti-dictatorial movements are left to wonder of what value is their friendship with and support of the United States and its values, and when every hour brings more death for hundreds of innocents at the hands of mass-murderers who have always been at war with every value and interest of our nation, that is the time for the decisive single-minded certainty of one - except apparently in Syria it won't be - at least not so by any other than one Bashar al-Assad.

 

Rarely has history offered an American administration so many rich opportunities for transforming brutal and unfriendly dictatorships into something better. But it was an accident of history that such a time would be wasted on an American administration so vested in the idea of American non-leadership in world affairs.

 

2001: A Time to Shop

 

Twelve years ago it was another unfortunate accident of history that in time of a terrible trial, our great nation was led by another limited, if well-meaning man. President George W. Bush, when faced with the catastrophic attacks of 2001 in New York City, never comprehended that a successful vision for a secure future required more than a military victory. It called for building and maintaining a sense of citizen investment in the war effort, and not a call "to shop." Moreover, it required careful planning for martial law and studied peace-keeping policies to follow the conquests of Kabul and Baghdad; not a cutting of funding for peace-keeping training prior to the invasions, not a mealy pretense of non-occupation of Iraq that only brought contempt and a quickly organized new Iraqi resistance, and most certainly not a foolhardy assumption of a best-case scenario of being welcome as liberators by all Afghanis and Iraqis.

 

President Bush II will be viewed in distant history as a man that when handed quick and world-startling victories by America's uniquely consequential military power, managed to slowly turn them into draining, slogging quagmires of American foreign policy.

 

From the Jaws of Victory

 

Most people today forget that many Americans and most people around the world doubted that the United States could really topple Saddam Hussein without thousands of American casualties and months of grueling, national confidence-sapping battle. Yet, in three lightning weeks the United States flattened what had just ten years before been the world's 4th largest army, with almost no American casualties. Even hostile editorialists of the West's Left were left in awe. For a few weeks after (and less so for a few months after), few complained about the lack of weapons of mass destruction. Nothing succeeds like success.

 

But hubris, small-mindedness, and the persistent peculiar American desire to befriend and reason with its declared enemies won the day, and almost lost Iraq. The Bush administration planned for victory, but not for nation-building. After the fall of Baghdad, it turned away support from newly converted European powers now wanting in on the win. And, it assumed that merely gestures of goodwill and displays of respect for Iraqi sensitivities would secure the support of the Iraqi people. Instead, the peace-keeping effort was underfunded and undermanned, no effort was made to secure the cities with martial law, and America's enemies quickly realized they had ample room to maneuver and metastasize into a deadly new foe.

 

With Friends Like These

 

Bush had secured Congressional approval for his war on Iraq. Former President Bill Clinton and his lovely wife, the Senatress from New York, assured Americans that President Bush had good evidence for the weapons of mass destruction - as did many senior Democratic Senators and Congressional Representatives privy to classified information, including Ted Kennedy. In the end, none of that protected President Bush from accusations of deceit and blame for the perceived (not entirely accurately) failure in Iraq. (Note that while everyone now says there were "no weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, what is more accurate is that we did not find these weapons. Prior to invasion, military convoys left Iraq and went to Syria undisturbed. Today, we have weapons of mass destruction in use in Syria.)

 

1986: A Time of One

 

On April 14, 1986, President Reagan unleashed an American attack on the sovereign state of Libya, including the residence of its dictator. There was no Congressional approval sought. France, Spain and Italy denied the use of their airspace to the American war planes. Western Europeans abroad and pacifist Leftists and Libertarians at home decried the police action, and were joined in their indignation by the Non-Aligned nations. Political opponents warned of reprisals by Libya, Russia, or China. President Reagan, unfazed, warned that "if necessary, we will do it again."

 

Aside from sporadic or residual activity for another three years, the Gaddafi (Khaddafi, Ghaddafi) regime retreated from the world stage and what had been its highly active sponsorship and training of terrorists and their attacks on innocent civilians. By 1990 and until his fall, Muammar Gaddafi ceased all further terrorist activity, and gradually embarked on a path to re-integration to the international community, eventually even seeking negotiations with the United States. Since then, how often do you hear, even from those that hated Ronald Reagan, denounciation of the attack on Libya, whether it be the lack of Congressional backing, or the "warmongering" engagement of American military power?.

 

Continued column 2 >

 

Ultrapolis World Forecast & Review

Ultrapolis Project ultrapolisproject.com

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Editor: Marco Antonio Roberts

Copy Editor: Michael Alberts

Contributing Editors:

Mark Eastman

Mark Steele

 

contactproject@ultrapolisproject.com

 

 

 

 

 

< From column 1

 

1983: A Time of Error

 

Yet, the same President Reagan just three years earlier had withdrawn peace-keeping U.S. marines from Lebanon after 241 of them were killed by terrorist bombs, in an embarrassing display of admitted impotence by the U.S. The years that followed saw a dramatic rise in the number of terrorist acts against Americans around the world. Between the withdrawal from Lebanon and the attack on Libya less than three years later there were nine major terrorist attacks against the U.S. After the strike on Libya, until the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, six years later (twice the span of time), there was one.

 

1993: A Time of Terror

 

In 1993, President Bill Clinton announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia in the wake of a deadly attack on American forces, and got the approval from Congress. From then on, terrorism against American targets rose again, with five major acts of terrorism for the next eight years (not counting Oklahoma City, which would make it six) culminating in the killing of nearly 3,000 people in New York City in 2001.*

 

* Special note: In a TV broadcast aired in late 1993 in Austin, Texas, on the Head to Head show, the editor of this site predicted that the withdrawal would bring about a rise of attacks against the U.S.

 

In the late summer of 1996, Osama Bin Laden referred to America's withdrawal in his declaration of war against America, published in the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper:

 

But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia where after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American soldiers into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the " heart" of every Muslim and a remedy to the " chests" of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu.

 

We bring to our readers' attention to the fact that Bin Laden did not mention Bosnia as an American defeat to encourage the "Muslim Brethren" in taking arms against the "Infidel" America.

 

1995: One Slowly Re-Asserts

 

About Bosnia. For three years the U.S. stood by while real genocide, the actual killing of people for the sole reason of their ethnic/religious identity took place in the Balkans. The Clinton administration publicly deferred to the United Nations and the Europeans who insisted they would bring the killing to an end. In 1995, after 250,000 people were dead, and with war threatening to spread, the Clinton administration stepped in, without specific Congressional authorization, armed Croatians, and led NATO strikes against the Serbs in Bosnia. Far-Right conservatives and far-Left liberal- progressives warned of massive U.S. casualties, another Vietnam, and protested U.S. policing the world. In weeks the war was over and the killing ceased.

 

In 1998, when the same scenario began to unfold in Kosovo, a tiny country of little strategic value to the U.S., President Clinton was far quicker in his response, not only dispensing with prior Congressional authorization, but by-passing the United Nations approval as well; and thru American military power, quickly secured a peace that has held to this day. Today, no one remembers or wails about President Clinton ignoring the U.N., and the streets of Kosovo bear his name.

 

Time after Time

 

Yes, time after time the same isolationist Rightists and pacifist Leftists raise the same arguments. They were there in World War II when Nazi Germany and Japan were consuming every developed nation outside the U.S. saying exactly the same things. Of course, then they were right about massive casualties.

 

One argument that is somewhat new is the suggestion that China or Russia will retaliate against the U.S. The fear of reprisals certainly should not be dismissed out of hand. But, there is no military action ever that does not risk some kind of reprisal from those attacked. Even a woman attacking her rapist risks failure to escape and worse. But unless President Putin and President Xi have lost their minds, one thing we can say: Russia and China will not attack any U.S. target no matter what President Obama does in Syria, regardless of Mr. Putin's growing open contempt for Mr. Obama (so much for the "reset" of relations that would improve upon Mr. Bush's legacy).

 

About the argument that the U.S. cannot be the world's policeman, that's like saying we don't want to pay taxes but we still want to get benefits and maintain a strong economy. It is idiotic, but many people want that. We either take on this role, or accept a world less hospitable to our interests. Those are the choices, and there are no others.

 

2011: A Time of Rear Action

 

In Libya, President Obama was dragged (almost too late), by U.S. allies into changing facts on the ground that not only served American interests, but also had the moral benefit of freeing millions from a dictatorship. "Leading from behind," the result was a stunted new Libyan state. It is not often that anti-U.S. dictators who have sponsored terrorists to kill Americans, and have routinely violated the human rights of their own people with brutal force, face an open and credible rebellion. Again: just one chance to advance U.S. strategic interests profoundly while also helping liberate people at the same time, and sow new allies, and all at relatively, RELATIVELY, low expense is the historical equivalent of a Straight Flush. It's not 100% foolproof, but it is as good a hand as one can expect to get. Obama has been getting these in spades, and with each one, the President has preferred to fold his cards or hand them off to someone else. A great historical irony, and waste.

 

Continued column 3 >

 

< From column 2

 

The False Cover of Consent

 

Some argue it is wise for the President to seek Congressional approval for action in Syria. It is not. it is an attempt at abdication of responsibility for what comes after. The President could single-handedly swoop down from the sky and place the Syrian dictator in prison, destroy the Syria war machine without spending a dime or risking a life, and the likes of Sean Hannity would still find reason to blast him. "It's all good and well that he single-handedly destroyed the Syrian dictatorship, but why did he not do it yesterday? Why did he wait for Congressional approval and show such weakness? Why he did he arrogantly NOT seek approval? Why was the strike so over-the top and create so much instability? Why was it so muted and leave so much in place?..."

 

The far-Right and far-Left will oppose him, no matter what he does, the public will blame him anyway if all goes badly, and history will judge him solely on success or failure, not on whether he had consensus when victory or catastrophe arrives.

 

Disingenuous Expectations

 

There will never be a time that we will have 100% certainty of all the facts on the ground. There is never a foreign military action that is without risk. People will die. The hapless Carter administration saw that first hand in Iran. The question is which way more people die and which path more likely advances America's long-term security. This is why the President's word is such valuable currency, a true national resource. Its careful use can save lives and keep the peace. But, it must be taken seriously for it to have power. Once that power is lost, it will take a lot of real fighting to get it back. Barack Obama may render his presidency ineffective internationally with his hesitant, plodding, inward-looking, "I'm-not-the-one," foreign-policy.

 

The decision to seek Congressional approval is a dangerous and reckless outsourcing of presidential responsibility in the current situation, when the legal framework is clearly in place for him to take meaningful and consequential action. Willing to risk a 'no' vote, constantly proclaiming the limited nature of whatever we might do, the President now daily telegraphs to all at home and abroad that the strong unifying leadership of one is missing from American foreign policy, as Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the State Department and the Vice-President try to fill in the blanks in a chaotic maelstrom of hearings, public statements, and press conferences.

 

2013: A Time of Reckoning

 

Presidents in the past have successfully changed the view of the country towards supporting a hard battle when the country did not want it. One of the most successful recent examples was set by Bush I in the first Gulf War. The American people had no appetite for war to save a foreign Middle Eastern country from Saddam Hussein. Yet, President Bush the elder articulated the case, convinced the nation, and forged an international alliance that led to one of America's most solid victories. The Kuwaiti people were grateful, as were allies across the Mideast, American prestige rose, and China and the Soviet Union took notice. Nowhere can an American president make more difference than in America's foreign affairs. And, a supremely powerful country that says that only self-interest can be considered when human lives are at stake is a country that deserves no special favor from Providence.

 

On paper, the president's words convey an understanding of what is at stake at a fundamental level in Syria, and we expect him to be eloquent and thoughtfully nuanced in his upcoming address to the nation. And yet, his professed strategy seems disconnected from that understanding, as if he wishes that words alone would do the work (this is a charge the Right often levels at the Left: Saying you care is not the same as caring). Too late, Mr. President. Your words are turning into blanks in every realm.

 

We believe the Congress will at the 11th hour back the president, knowing that the worst of all options is that on top doing nothing, the president is rebuffed and left naked on the world stage. But, it is very close right now. Congress is receiving as of this moment calls at 100 to 1 against supporting Barack Obama, an unusually scary development for anyone thinking of voting to attack Syria. They will be looking for President Obama to provide the cover. Once we see what the President has to say we will then better predict if he will turn Congress in his favor. If the strike is approved, it will be more than the very limited strike the President has been hawking.

 

Rush Limbaugh argues that the President wants Congress to deny his request so that he can avoid the action he does not want to take, and either way, lay the blame for what follows at the feet of Congress. We are not so sure the President's motives are that cynical. What we do believe is that whatever Congress does, the President will not escape responsibility for whatever comes to Syria.

 

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Reader Objects

UWFR Mischaracterized

My Point

 

(RE: Reader Comments, August 9). I was dissatisfied by the "Editor's Note".   I wasn't asking whether it was possible for a person to unlearn a racist or homophobic action or attitude (I had already answered that question in the affirmative).

 

My question was whether someone who was LABELED a Homophobe, or a Racist could change enough to satisfy the people who attached that label, so that they would say "He used to be a Racist, but he is not anymore."    Do they have to be 100% cleansed of all their racism for that to be possible, or can they still remain "a little bit racist", and not qualify for the title "Racist"? Is it possible to be an ex-Sinner?

 

My point was, and is that it's more helpful to address the specific actions or attitudes than to insist on putting people into categories.

 

Kevin M. Bailey

Corsicana, TX


 

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