Chuck Spinney: Thoughts on Obama’s March to Folly in Syria

03 Environmental Degradation, 04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 07 Other Atrocities, 08 Proliferation, 08 Wild Cards, 09 Terrorism, Corruption, Cultural Intelligence, Government, Idiocy, IO Deeds of War, Media, Military, Peace Intelligence
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

President Obama’s Syria nightmare is becoming increasingly bizarre.  The man who claimed he could distinguish dumb from smart wars is marching headlong into the dumbest one yet, with allies jumping ship left and right.  Consider, please, the following:

(1) NBC just released a poll saying a majority of the American people are opposed to another war in Syria, and 80% are opposed to a war without Congressional authorization.

(2) But Congress is out of session.  Nevertheless Mr. Obama is under pressure to attack before Congress returns from its Labor Day vacation.  Moreover, despite the fact that at least 188 members of Congress have called for a debate and vote on the war question; thus far, Mr. Obama has not indicated he will call Congress into an emergency session.  Yet six years ago, Senator (candidate) Obama told interviewer Charlie Savage on December 20, 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

(3) The nearest counterpart to our Congress, the British Parliament, just voted to pull the plug on Prime Minister David Cameron’s warmongering — and in so doing, the unwritten British Constitution has made a mockery of the written, legalistic US Constitution.  Bottom line: the checks and balances in the UK are working to ensure our closest ally will not partake in our adventure, while those in the United States are being bypassed.

(4) The UN and the Security Council also pulled the plug on approving and supporting a US strike; ditto for the Arab League and Jordan, and our coup-leading friends in Egypt.

(5) The secretary general of NATO, Anders Rasmussen, said NATO will not be part of a strike on Syria.

So who is left in Obama’s increasingly isolated coalition of the willing: France and Israel — two countries with a lot of sordid baggage loading down the Syria Question.  Some readers may never have heard of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, but your can bet most Syrians have.

A reasonable person might ask how an obviously intelligent Mr. Obama could land himself in such a mess?

The proximate cause is clear: Mimicking Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s provocative definition of a red line on Iranian nukes, Mr. Obama recklessly established a red line on chemical weapons in the ongoing increasingly chaotic Syrian civil war.   But the red line made Obama vulnerable to being boxed in by all sorts of false flag operations — and false flags are a recurring reality in the wilderness of mirrors that is Middle Eastern politics.  Ironically, President Assad, who is being blamed for the release of chemical weapons, is about the only player in the game who has nothing to gain from a such an attack.

>While it is too early understand the deeper reasons for Obama’s mad march to war, I submit there is at least one hypothesis that is at least superficially consistent with the behaviour patterns of Obama and his advisors:  Mr. Obama’s (and that of his advisors’) behaviour stems in part from the subtle interactions of at least two psychological factors that shape the Orientation driving the decision making behaviour of their OODA loops.

The first stems from a habitual belief that Mr. Obama — an inveterate deal maker — can control domestic politics by cutting and shaving political differences at home.  But cutting and shaving uses up maneuvering space, and its gradual loss has insensibly salami-sliced him into a corner.  Policy to aid rebels with nonlethal aid then establishing the red line being cases in point; each bought time at the expense of future flexibility.  In effect, Mr. Obama, by his own volition, has slowly become ensnared by the permanent war party in Versailles on the Potomac.  This cutting an shaving is also evident in his conduct of the drone campaign and Afghan War, not to mention his inability to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s bloated budget.

The second factor — a naiveté about the effectiveness of precision weapons — compounds the first in shaping the Orientation of the President and his advisors.   Prior to becoming President, Mr. Obama had no experience in the conduct of military affairs. In effect, the Orientation driving his decision cycle was like a blank sheet to be filled in by “experts.”  His obvious intelligence and lawyerly mind has made him especially vulnerable to pseudo-scientific, logical sounding exhortations of a group-thinking coterie of formal and informal defense advisors.  These officials have a long track record of grossly exaggerating the revolutionary capabilities of precision weapons.  The persuasive power of their exhortations is usually packaged in slick looking power point briefings, hard to fathom computer simulations, glossy contractor advertisements, etc.  The hidden assumptions, excessive technical complexity, and aura of scientific authority surrounding these exhortations, especially when coupled with arrogant notions about the utility of guided bombs in carefully calibrated tit-for-tat political signaling, at once capture the intellect and stroke the political ego of leaders.

Bringing these two strains of though together, habits and naive beliefs — more generally, arrogance and ignorance — have, in effect, worked insidiously to sap Mr. Obama of the initiative in the Syrian Question and have rendered him a passive traveller into a trap of his own making.

If I am right, then in effect, President Obama is now a reactive player struggling to preserve himself in the US march to folly.  A  natural question is who and what pressures are  driving the parade?  Cui bono?

The seasoned Middle Eastern reporter, Robert Fisk, has one theory:

Published on Friday, August 30, 2013 by The Independent/UK

Iran, Not Syria, Is the West’s Real Target

Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West

by Robert Fisk

Read full article.