An appeal to Congress

 

             If President Obama’s idea of a fast and furious missile assault on the Assad regime was to have any chance of working it was best done quickly, in the heat of anger at the chemical weapon massacre.

             Some might say revenge is a dish best served cold. In this case I disagree. I think in these circumstances revenge is a dish best cancelled. It would have been more understandable  if it had been done immediately after the chemical weapon incident. US missiles could have hit more military targets more easily. Hot revenge is more passionate and maybe more forgivable than cold calculation.  It would still have left open the three crucial issues of proof, legality, and the consequences.

             Now Assad has had many days to hide and disperse his military high command, to replicate or shift computer and communication systems, and to place strategic military hardware in inaccessible places or close to those no-one should wish to harm. Anyone bent on revenge should not have too much of the Hamlet about him.  A possible military action later this week or next still faces those very same big issues  that the President doubtless agonised about, leading to his delay.

              We still do not have incontrovertible proof of who was to blame. The UN still refuses to give legal cover to a military strike, so the legality rests on arguing that a strike will prevent a future atrocity. The US still cannot be sure  how the regime and others will respond to a missile campaign, and cannot know just how much weaponry to let off to change the dictator’s actions without allowing a worse regime to take over.

              In yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph I set out in an open letter why I think the US Congress should refuse to vote for military engagement.  If the motion seeks approval for the use of  force they should vote it down. Those of us who oppose the use of force by the UK are not appeasers, people wishing to turn our backs on the world. We are realists, who recognise that sometimes venting fury with missiles from a distance cannot remodel a dictatorship or ensure smooth transition to a working liberal democracy in a country as heavily armed and as divided as Syria.

               The case against military action is that a limited volley of firepower is unlikely to make the position better, and could make it worse. Those who think the use of force is essential have a duty to tell the rest of us in general terms what is their military aim, how they think they carry it out, and why Syria will be  a happier place afterwards. Bombs and missiles kill people and destroy buildings and equipment. The aim, I thought, was to protect the lives of more Syrians. The weapons would have to be very selective to kill just those  who intensify the massacres, and to create all of a sudden a political dynamic in this war torn country that could assert peace.  Where the west before has wanted to support or create democracy, in Afghanistan, it has had to expend much blood and treasure with many troops on the ground, fighting to impose and uphold freedoms that otherwise people would not enjoy. Why should Syria be any easier?

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54 Comments

  1. peter davies
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Correct not to mention mission creep – getting sucked into something much bigger and longer lasting than intended – its the last thing the world needs right now

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    I think at the bottom of all this is the casual assumption that America is stronger than tiny Syria.

    What bothers me a lot is that Syria is actually in league with Iran and after that Russia. The parallels with 1914 are very creepy. I mean, come on, let’s go in and teach this little state of Serbia/Syria a lesson! They deserve it. The honour of the Habsburgs/USA is at stake! If we do nothing, we, Austria-Hungary/the West, will cease to be a world power!

  3. Gary
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    People who vote for missile strikes are completely irresponsible, this could start thermonuclear war , and without hyperbole, the end of the world.

    • Duyfken
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      … but never knowingly understated.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      It crossed my mind that our MPs may have accidentally averted WW3.

      I say “accidentally” because the vote could very easily have gone the other way, and the government only lost through a combination of misjudgements by the party leaders – Miliband misjudging the best way to extract maximum party political advantage from the issue, and Cameron misjudging the extent of opposition among the Tory MPs.

      Certainly we have little grounds to preen ourselves about this as “an example of democracy in action” and “the system working as it should”, because if MPs had truly represented the views of their constituents then the government would have been defeated not by just 13 votes but by a large majority.

      And we keep hearing about the possibility of a second vote, with some newspapers helpfully paving the way, for reasons best known to their editors, and today with the Telegraph even counting up individual MPs to see how the government might win it without the support of the Labour party:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10295090/Tory-MPs-could-give-go-ahead-to-military-action-in-a-second-vote.html

      The same in the US; from the opinion polls, if congressmen truly represented the views of the majority of their constituents there would be no chance of Obama being authorised to launch missiles into Syria.

      Reply MR Cameron did not underestimate Conservative opposition to the use of force. He relied on Mr Miliband’s support. As soon as he knew this was no longer available he changed his motion, told us he did want to hear from the UN weapons Inspectors, and assured us in the new motion there would be need to a second vote before any military action.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted September 10, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

        I doubt that Miliband actually wanted to defeat the government; a show of opposition, but followed by the government just winning the vote.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      So far, so good – on the nuclear war front. I grew up in a country where 4 minute warnings were regularly tested – where, as kids, we watched the CND march from Aldermaston on its way to London – where the Cuban missile crisis really did make it look like the end of the world was nigh.

      Fortunately, at some point in the mid to late 1980s, scientists actually managed to convince politicians that even a limited nuclear war was a zero sum game. That the nuclear winter that would follow would do a pretty good job of wiping out anyone who survived the bombs and radiation. That, in short, there would be no winner.

      So, no, there is not going to be a nuclear war because of Syria. No-one is that nuts or anywhere near that nuts.

  4. Richard1
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    It is both extraordinary and worrying that our Govt has not been able to set out clearly for the public what the war aims would be, with some idea how they will be achieved. The one thing they should be doing though is seeking indictment of Assad and his henchmen for crimes against humanity, and pursuing countries which support Them to assist in bringing them to justice.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      If you’re going to start handing out indictments for crimes against humanity then I’m afraid you’ll be kept pretty busy, and you’ll have to include those responsible for this atrocity in Iraq, as reported by Christopher Booker yesterday:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10293773/We-wring-our-hands-over-Syria-but-not-the-massacre-of-52-Iranians.html

      “We wring our hands over Syria, but not the massacre of 52 Iranians”

      “Neither the British Foreign Office nor the US State Department has raised a cheep of protest over the part played by the UN”

      “Last Sunday, while the eyes of the world were on the brouhaha that had followed the killing of 1,400 Syrians with poison gas, rather less attention was paid to an incident in neighbouring Iraq, where hundreds of Iraqi and Iranian troops burst into the remains of the once-neat little desert town of Ashraf to murder 52 unarmed Iranian dissidents in cold blood – many of them were handcuffed and shot in the back of the head.

      (etc further quotes from Telegraph)
      Note that this occurred not in Iran but in Iraq, a country where much blood was shed during our prolonged efforts to create a democracy based on the rule of law and human rights and all the other usual malarkey, and which has supposedly now been successfully pacified.

    • GrahamC
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      Did you mean to include the ‘rebels’ in your actions they are not that cuddly either ? We know how unsuccessful the West have been in sorting them out over the last 10 year.

    • John Eustace
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Absolutely right Richard1.
      If someone is suspected of committing murder we send the police to arrest them. We don’t bomb their neighbourhood.
      Semi-random violence is not the rule of law. And all wars are chaotic once they get started.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Tricky to indict someone without producing evidence.

      • Richard1
        Posted September 9, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        If there’s evidence enough to start a war there’s evidence to charge the perpetrators personally.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Revenge for revenge sake rarely gets anyone anywhere, and usually results in an escalation of any conflict.

    The answer is really with the UN, but so often this proves unfit for purpose.

    Getting mixed up in any sort of Civil war will always complicate matters, as more and more outsiders (very often with their own agenda) get involved to confuse the original situation even further.

    Afgahnistan.
    We go in, and our hope is for not a shot to be fired !
    12 years later !

    • Hope
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Parliament told Cameron they did not want to be involved in force used against Syria. Cameron said he got it. In contrast Cameron signed the statement at the end of the G20 summit supporting the US. Clearly he did not get it and as usual you cannot believe a word he says. Today Osborne gives support to HS2 the EU project to link all main cities across the EU superstate. No, the”posh” boys do not get it, they are arrogant and do not listen. I, along with many many others, cannot wait until 2015.

  6. zorro
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    John, all very reasonable and sensible comments which you would want our politicians to be considering. Hague was rowing back fast on the Marr show yesterday. You wouldn’t believe that he had been so gung ho the previous week.

    Things are changing. People, in general, are not prepared to accept what (western) governments say at face value. People have access to different types of media and are not reliant on the state broadcaster for their world view.

    If you want to know what this war is about….listen to John Kerry. Certain middle eastern countries are prepared to fund the whole military spend for attacks against Syria. He who pays the piper calls the tune……

    zorro

  7. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    The whole thing for me whether immediately after the killings or a few weeks post assault is too calculated. A solicitor advised me in the middle of troubles not to write letters and send then without looking again at what I wrote at a later stage. I still maintain this is the best method to deal with retribution which should in fact be signified as justice. We are also though, as you quite rightly mention, open to miscalculation due to removal of hardware and a chance to allow manoeuvre, yet surely when an original attack of CW was undertaken these possibilities would be taken into consideration from an organised, intelligent regime. The other side of the coin is that it will allow people to disperse and get out of the way of immediate danger which is something those killed were not allowed.
    I believe that this attack was the one that broke the camels back as previously there had been many others of a similar nature. It smacks of a regime allowing certain factions to get away with it rather than directly using the weapons themselves and to underline this , Assad continues to deny the use against his own people.
    As the congress gather today, I hope they will consider all positions and possibilities rather than a black/ white situation. SKY news this am show women with plaques, the writing saying that Obama is killing us. I hope he will think about this in this move against Syria whether it is a diplomatic show of power or whether an impending bombing is intended with prior thought being given to the removal of peoples.
    I wonder whether these refugees’ just walking in the sand’ out of harms way are saying that Assad should have done something to stop the attacks and from this stance the US are saying that in not stopping the attacks they are themselves responsible.

  8. Nina Andreeva
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I wonder why Obama is determined to blow things up and risk civilian lives at the sametime? Why is he not considering the use of graphite bombs, as were used against Milosevic in Serbia? Using that sort of weapon he can deliver a message to Assad telling him who is boss and what sort behaviour is permissible by simply disrupting the electricity supply. Just think of the chaos that happens when the lights go out e.g. NYC in 1977

  9. Leslie Singleton
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    If we cannot put boots on the ground (though not so clear to me why not if the cause is just, admittedly a big if), we shouldn’t fall back on lobbing bloody great missiles in from a very safe distance, which I would find dishonourable. Being reminded of America’s Agent Orange (highly “Chemical”?) in Vietnam makes very uncomfortable reading.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      If you want boots on the ground, by all means put your boots on and off you go.

      But don’t encourage anyone to send the young lads I know in the army off to their deaths.

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Mike–Very melodramatic I’m sure. What is ridiculous is that the assessment on boots is based almost entirely not so much on Iraq but on the drip drip of bad news from Afghanistan. Just because boots or anything else in Afghanistan was crazy (especially with our and the Russians’ experience there) that does not make boots wrong in all future cases, else why have an army? If the answer is Defence of the Realm I cannot see that what we might be threatened with today would be prevented by soldiers.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      Obama cannot send in the troops because McCain the protagonist of changing regimes in the ME and North Africa says, strangely enough, that if he does the Senate will start impeachment proceedings against him. So hence its “precision” bombing with videos of dismembered civilians from the Syrian propaganda ministry to follow

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/09/06/mccain-obama-would-face-impeachment-if-he-puts-boots-on-the-ground-in-syria/

      Despite all the money spent and blood lost in Iraq the Americans still cannot seem to get it that regime change does not work in your favour. Iraq has declared it wants no American bombs on Damascus

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraq-joins-iran-in-opposing-us-led-military-strike-in-syria/2013/09/08/9187c1f6-18b8-11e3-8685-5021e0c41964_story.html

  10. Roger Farmer
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    By destroying the Assad regime ,if only in part, you pave the way for an Islamic fundamentalist regime to replace it. I have a lot of sympathy for the Putin point of view. I doubt he wishes to encourage repeat performances in his adjacent states.
    Talk of democracy in Arab states is a myth. Look what happened in Egypt. The fundamentalists got voted in and then failed to govern for the benefit of the country as a whole. In a democracy, getting voted in means you act for all the population.
    After our involvement in Libya the result is far from tranquillity. Iraq is yet another shining example, all we achieved was to allow a religious civil war. A pound to a penny this is what awaits Afghanistan when we get out.
    To Cameron and Haigh I would say that whoever ignores the lessons of history has every chance of repeating the same mistakes.
    Isolate Syria by all means from their European and USA bank accounts, but don’t expect it to be wholly effective because they have Russia and China on their side. The most effective thing these two loose cannons could do would be to get behind Jordan and Lebanon with a large slice of our overseas aid budget by not funding African dictators.

  11. Douglas Carter
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Notwithstanding the findings by German intelligence in recent hours indicating marginal causal evidence disassociating Assad from the chemical attack of some weeks ago, the British and American findings which essentially use a version of the phrase ‘most likely’ pertaining to Assad’s fingerprints on the attack is probably a reasonable one.

    However, sadly, in the case of the UK Government, Hannan elsewhere puts a different light angle on the matter – some form of action against Assad has been in the negotiating stage for some time prior to recent events on the ground. The public utterances by the main central players prior to the vote lost on August 29 represented the usual text-book phrases of administrations who had already made the decision to commit to action. It seems to the outside observer that any such vote intervening prior to the assaults had hither to been looked upon as essentially academic.

    Certainly Putin’s hand is forced into intervention if Assad is threatened. I see escalation as essentially inevitable, rather than a distant possibility. And of course escalation gives a further opportunity for the UK to leap ‘afore looking. ….’We were not part of the original attack, but now ‘X’ has happened, we cannot stand idly by and fail our most important allies and oldest friends’… ..(etc ed)

    However, given the extreme likelihood of escalation and the development of a much wider, longer-lasting campaign, and the wholly unpredictable nature of events proceeding from it, a competent nation would be dusting off reserve equipment and investing in replacement ordnance stocks as an insurance against political failure. It would be interesting to ask of Mr. Osborne whether he’s been in receipt of a request for the funding of such, and whether he has given Treasury approval to those (quite reasonable) requests?

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Not just the Germans either who say the evidence does not point to Assad. Check out the Russian Foreign Ministry website. In essence they say the sarin samples are of a “home-brew” variety like the type the Aum Shinreko cult used on the Tokyo underground, not the sort stuff an army would use. The shell fragments also come from something that Syrian army does not use either.

      If the Americans have the (evidence ed) just release it and play it to the world.

  12. zorro
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget the ‘rebels’ in your war crime indictment……What a lovely bunch they are….

    zorro

  13. Bert Young
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I do not understand why the USA believes it should be the moral leader of the world ; some of its record is shameful and we have been very unwise to follow them in the past . Viet Nam is the stand-out item , Iraq , Afghanistan are other examples . I have close relatives in the USA and many previous business links – relationships that should prompt me to give my immediate support ; I cannot do that . I accept that we are in their economic pockets and we cannot turn our backs on the dangers of losing economic ties , however , if the belief exists that we will always give them a “blind” go-ahead come-what-may leader role , I would rather be poor and get used to humble pie

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      You do not need to go into the past to see American hypocrisy over upholding international law. Right now Guantanamo Bay it still open for business and there is still nothing to stop the American government taking anyone whom they consider to be a “terrorist” , and against their will, sending them there or to another part of their gulag of prisons around the world to be “rendered”

  14. Denis Cooper
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, JR, the FT is saying today that the government should withdraw the “lobbying bill” and that:

    “Campaign measures should be decoupled from the lobbying proposals and considered independently”.

    That would mean that what is now Part 2 of the Bill would become a separate Bill rather than being included in the present “composite” Bill.

    I refer to it as a “composite” Bill because it arbitrarily lumps together unrelated sets of provisions, which in the absence of any necessary linkage between them could be dealt with in separate Bills, and for the sake of clarity and avoidance of confusion in public debate they should be dealt with in separate Bills.

    (I avoid the adjective “hybrid”, because that already has a different meaning.)

    One example of a “composite” Bill which could and should have been broken down into three separate Bills is the European Union Act 2011:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/12/contents

    Part 1 was about the procedural requirements for approval of EU treaty changes in the future – the so-called “referendum lock” legislation – while Part 2 was slipped in to quietly approve an already agreed EU treaty change so that it could evade the new procedural requirements, and Part 3 was about the status of EU law – the so-called “sovereignty” legislation; none of those three Parts in any depended on or related to another Part, so why did the government lump them together in one “composite” Bill, except with the deliberate intention of confusing and misleading the public?

  15. Chris
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    I applaud your action, Mr Redwood. Could you comment on the veracity of all the speculation in the Press and quotes from Hague and others with regard to having another vote? I would be hugely concerned if another vote were ordered to try to get Parliament to change its mind. It seems to be the tactic that the EU uses – if you get a vote from national parliaments/referenda that the EU doesn’t not like, you simply make the people vote again and again, applying further pressures, until you obtain the answer you want. What contempt this displays for democracy, and of the LibLabCon Parties I would never have expected the Conservative Party to apparently entertain the idea of this.

    Reply Ther PM has ruled otu another vote. There would b e no point unless and until Mr Miliband and most Labour MPs changed their minds and wanted to uae force – the 3 front benches together could win such a vote.

  16. Peter Stroud
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    The BBC is certainly a flag carrier for moderate Moslems, and has, in the past, been on the side of the Syrian rebels. But this is changing.. Recent reports by Jeremy Bowen, the long standing Middle East correspondent, tell us that fanatical Islamists have all but taken over the revolt. He reported that Christians are being forced to convert to Islam at gun point; and churches being destroyed. What will the multi cultural Syrians gain if US action escalates and drives Assad out, and the Islamists take over? How will the Kurds, Druze and secularists be treated? It seems that Obama does not appreciate the danger of getting it wrong. Unfortunately neither does our PM or Foreign Secretary.

    • Bazman
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

      I’m Brian and so is my wife.

  17. English Pensioner
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t understand the US objective. They seemed to have some idea of “punishing” Assad for using chemical weapons, but not actually intervening in the fighting or killing him. Its not a football match where you send a man off if he fouls an opponent, but leave the captain still on the field, but the proposal seems very similar
    Reading reports in the media, I’m becoming less and less convinced that Assad’s opponents are any better, indeed they may be worse – today we read that they have forced a whole Christian village to convert to Islam. At least Assad ran a secular state which allowed Christians to live in peace

  18. Neil Craig
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    This was the case during Suez. Had Britain moved against Egypt immediately the canal was nationalised we would have had the support of the US & most of the world. Instead we covered all the bases by setting up a conspiracy with France and Israel to ensure overwhelming power and went in months late, after the original issue was cold & the Egyptians had proven perfectly capable to running the canal.

  19. lifelogic
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    As you say:- “The case against military action is that a limited volley of firepower is unlikely to make the position better, and could make it worse.

    Indeed and it probably would do. Let us hope the will of parliament and public opinion will prevail rather than the needs of politicians to be seen doing something.

    • Bazman
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Just do nothing? There’s a surprise. Does it apply to banking?

      • lifelogic
        Posted September 10, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

        Do nothing unless you are sure you can do good.

        In banking much of the harm was done by governments underwriting bank deposits and putting too many barriers to entry thus restricting banking competition.

        • Bazman
          Posted September 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

          No lack of competition for mortgages at the peak of the boom, As for underwriting bank deposits was the costumer supposed to take the hit personally for banking incompetence? How were they to tell which was a god or bad bank? Even the credit agencies did not know. The Libor scandal? Customers fault? They were writing of debt as they sold it and carrying out dodgy deals in a shadow banking system with no risk to themselves. Have think as your stance is not sensible, logical and is absurd. Though no doubt you will fail to change your brainwashed views.

  20. Andy Baxter
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Wholeheartedly agree with your comments and sentiments;

    However,

    Members of Congress are being given the full propaganda treatment just like Westminster was (and no doubt some behind the scenes ‘whipping’) based on assumptions, and probably some deceit and lies as well.

    Despite the dubious legality and lack of concrete evidence for military action, and even if those could be demonstrated beyond doubt.

    It all comes back to;

    Military action taken
    Effects it generates
    Outcomes that will result

    Neither here in the UK nor in the USA can our so called leaders provide any coherent answer to such simple fundamental questions.

    politics of the playground, immature, irresponsible but unfortunately cannot be dismissed whilst such people as Cameron, Hague and Obama have at their disposal such formidable weaponry and the ability to disregard the Constitutional will of Parliament or Congress.

  21. JimS
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention therefore their use internally is not illegal.

    Article 2 of the UN Charter prohibits members from interfering in the internal affairs of member states or acts of aggression against a member state.

    Who polices the ‘policemen’?

  22. David Cee
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Absolutely spot on and explains clearly and logically the case against military action.

    I wonder (hopefully) if Obama actually realises the futility and risks of military action, and will find a 3rd way or a way out.

  23. Ed
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see you are not supporting more violence. We could learn from collective experience here.

  24. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    The only type of missile assault that would work is one that threatens Assad himself. Certainly, when President Reagan ordered an assault against Gaddafi’s palace, Gaddafi then modified his behaviour – terrorist attacks on American personnel stationed in Europe stopped. However, Reagan was acting to defend his own people; that would not be the case with an assault by Obama.

  25. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    John – There have been times during his administration when President Obama has ordered drone strikes to kill high ranking terrorists and then claim that tactic to be both a triumph and justifiable.

    Do you think he might order a drone strike with Assad’s name on it if he does not carry the vote in Congress?

    • Bob
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      @Glenn Vaughan

      We’re still waiting to see the incontrovertible evidence that Assad was responsible. It would appear that Assad had much less to gain than the so called “opposition”.

      (Obama) will need more than Facebook video clips to justify bumping off heads of state.

    • zorro
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      He has only been able to justify the drone strikes because these people supposedly represented a clear and present danger to the USA through their terrorist intentions. He cannot justify that in the case of Assad.

      zorro

  26. cosmic
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t altogether fast and furious anyway, because the means to deliver it had been put in place well in advance. However, I see what you mean about the difference between taking an action of this sort, apparently in the heat of the moment and doing it after weeks of deliberation.

    This appears more to do with Obama saving face over his red line statement then sizing up to deliver the attack and backing down, than America looking ridiculous, or punishing Assad or any of the other reasons which have been trotted out.

    It’s never been convincingly argued what the missile attack was supposed to achieve or shown that any thought had been put into the consequences; it was a signal to Assad. Regime change, we were told, was not an objective. Either we are being lied to, or our leaders are vain and naive; neither is a sound basis for a hostile and potentially very dangerous military action.

  27. Gary
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Russia playing chess and playing a blinder. Now Russia and Syria say all Syria’s chemical weapons can be immediately placed under international supervision. Now we find out what America’s true intentions are. Their entire case is built on chemical weapons.

    • Bazman
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      You trust Russian and Syrian gangsters to do the right thing? Have a think Gary why so many rich Russians are in London and why the City fawns over them. Then get back to us…

    • zorro
      Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      That is the art of politics……Unlike Kerry who said that Assad had one week to hand over his entire stock of chemical weapons to avoid a military attack, but also said that he had no expectation that the Syrian leader would comply……Kerry went on to say that the USA was planning an ‘unbelievably small’ attack on Syria……Are they for real?

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/us-syria-chemical-weapons-attack-john-kerry

      zorro

  28. lojolondon
    Posted September 9, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Hi John,

    The UK voting against action in Syria has left Obama in a position where he can no longer shortcut the process and has to go to Congress if he wants to keep his foolish threats. The good news (that you will never see in our mainstream media!) is that there is every sign Congress will do as parliament did, and reflect the views of their voters – a very pleasing sign that maybe democracy is coming back to our government.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/infographics/2013-09-06/obama-seeks-congressional-vote-on-syria-strike.html

  29. R.T.G.
    Posted September 12, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    JR, you said “The aim, I thought, was to protect the lives of more Syrians”.

    The following contains excerpts from the transcript from an hour long speech by Wesley Clark (Honorary KBE) to Commonwealth Club of California on 3rd October 2007.

    It is quite likely that the contents of this speech (and his books) are known by the governments of the various countries mentioned. Do you think they, or their sponsors, are under any illusion that US foreign strategy regarding the Middle East has really changed since the beginning of this century?

    “…My job was to integrate military thinking with diplomatic and political strategy. So I was the guy who took the military strategic plans and went across the Potomac River everyday to the White House meetings and had a staff of 300 officers to help me and we did everything from all geographic areas to space, arms export policy, international treaty and negotiations and the UN….. the fifth of April 1994 was my first day…”

    “…And what happened in 9/11 is we didn’t have a strategy, we didn’t have bipartisan agreement, we didn’t have American understanding of it and we had instead a policy coup in this country, a coup, a policy coup. Some hardnosed people took over the direction of American policy and they never bothered to inform the rest of us…”

    “…I went back there to see Donald Rumsfeld, I had worked for him as a White House fellow in the 1970s,..” “…he said, I just want to tell you he said, no body is going to tell where or when we can bomb, no body…”

    “…an officer from the Joint Staff called me into his office and said, I would want you to know, he said, sir, we are going to attack Iraq. And I said, why? He said, we don’t know…I said, will they tie Saddam to 9/11? …no he said but I guess, its they don’t know to do about terrorism and so the they think but they can attack states and they want to look strong its all, I guess they think if they take down a state, it will intimidate the terrorists and you know what its like that old saying, it said, if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem has to be a nail. Well I walked out of there pretty upset and then we attacked Afghanistan. I was pretty happy about that, we should have. And then I came back to the Pentagon about six weeks later, I saw the same officer, I said why why haven’t we attacked Iraq? We are sill going to attack Iraq, he said, oh sir he says, its worse than that, he pulled up a piece of paper of his desk, he said, I just got this memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office, it says we are going to attack and destroy the governments in in seven countries in five years. We are going to start with Iraq and then we are going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran seven countries in five years. I said, is that a classified memo? He said, yes sir…”

    “…a 1991 meeting I had with Paul Wolfowitz you know, in 2001 he was Deputy Secretary of Defense, but in 1991 he was the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, it’s the number three position of the Pentagon…”

    “…one thing we did learn, he said, we learned that we can use our military in the region in the Middle East and the Soviets wont stop us. He said, and we have got about five or ten years to clean up those all Soviet client regimes; Syria, Iran, Iraq, – before the next great super power comes on to challenge us…”

    “…This country was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup, Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld and you could name a half dozen other collaborators from the project for a new American century. They wanted at us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control. It went back to those comments in 1991…”

    “…that’s why we are failing in Iraq, because Iran and Syria know about the plan. All you have to do is read the the Weekly Standard and Bill Kristol and he blabber mouthed it out all over the world, Richard, the same way.

    They could hardly wait to finish Iraq, so they could move in to Syria…”

    “…We need a real American strategy. And to get that strategy, its about who we are as Americans. Are we dividers or uniters, bullies or people who outreach and make friends? Do we fear others or do we welcome others? Do we build fences around America or build bridges to invite others into see us? Who are we as a nation? I think we are open. I think we are a nation of immigrants. I think we are a nation of incredible energy, courage, stamina, endurance don’t ever sell America short. I want you to read my book. I want you to figure out who we are as Americans and I want you to help me open up this debate into a true dialogue about America’s future,..”

    Reply I have not found a copy of the text of this speech so am unable to verify it.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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