Wednesday, September 04, 2013

It's About Regime Change

I spent some time yesterday watching the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the Syrian issue, and my first thought is to wonder why we keep electing idiots to public office. Probably because only idiots run for public office. Anyone with a grain of sense doesn’t want the job.

One thing that struck me was that there is a strong undercurrent of “regime change” in the administration’s position, no matter how much they try to deny it. Kerry and Hagel both spoke repeatedly of “leveling the playing field,” of “degrading Assad’s overall capability,” and of the goal of removing Assad from power. They admitted that the Syrian air bases would be a target, because airplanes can be used to deliver chemical weapons.

Such has not been the case so far, but destroying air bases would certainly affect the balance of power in the civil war. That is supposedly not the goal of this intervention, but regime change was supposedly not the goal of intervention in Libya, either, until it was. While the purpose of this strike is supposedly about punishing the use of chemical weapons, Kerry and Hagel did a lot of talking about the goal of removing Assad from office and achieving a negotiated settlement of the civil war.

I seldom agree with anything Rand Paul says, but he came up with a few points that rather make sense. The first was to ask that Obama commit to being bound by the Congressional legislation. If, he says, Obama is reserving the right to attack Syria even if Congress votes not to allow him to do so, then Obama is making a farce of the Congress and of the legislative process, and the whole thing is a joke. Kerry had no real answer for that; a lot of words, but no real answer.

Paul’s second issue was to point out that Assad has acted very irrationally by using chemical weapons, so if we make a “punitive strike,” why do we assume that he will respond to that in a logical manner? How do we know, he asks, that the strike will not merely make him angry and cause him to use them again?

Kerry got very huffy at that point, pounded on the table and retorted that, “I can guarantee you, guarantee you sir, that he absolutely will use them again if we don’t strike.” (emphasis Kerry's) It was dramatic, but it didn’t seem to me that he answered Paul’s question.

Paul didn’t think so either, because he merely repeated his question, and added a few more uncertainties. How, he wanted to know, do we know that Russia will do nothing? How do we know that Iran and Hezbollah will do nothing? How do we know that Israel will not be attacked? He suggested that we are creating a great many risks with this “punishment” of Assad with no assurance that it will even do what we intend for it to do.

Make no mistake, this is about “regime change” and the outcome is highly uncertain.

1 comment:

bruce said...

Good Questions and no answers, because logically, with uncertainty = he can't..

Airfields, command & control centers, troops and transport concentrations, materiel depots (except of course, actual chemical stockpiles) are all legitimate targets. If Assad just happens to be in one of those C&C, oopsie...

And there will be boots on the ground if an aircrew gets shot down.

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