The Obama administration based much of their hurried march to war in Syria on the conclusion that the Assad regime was responsible for the attack, and indeed was the only faction with the capability to carry it out. However, a new report based on classified defense intelligence documents directly contradicts those conclusions, in turn questioning the entire rationale for the forestalled military intervention:
The Hersh article is based in part on a four-page secret cable given to a top official at the Defense Intelligence Agency on June 20, one of a group of intelligence community documents allegedly stating that jihadi rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra has the ability to make sarin gas. Sarin is the chemical believed to have been used in the Aug 21 chemical attack in Ghouta that crossed Obama’s “red line” and prompted the administration to push for a strike on Assad’s regime. The story is sourced mainly to intelligence and military officers and consultants.
“When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad,” Hersh writes.
Oh, what a difference a few years make.
In 2009, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize despite barely getting his seat warmed up in the Oval Office. In 2009 current Secretary of State John Kerry called Assad’s Syria “an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.” In 2011, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad as a “reformer.” In 2007, then-candidate Obama attacked President George W. Bush for considering military strikes against Iran’s nuclear capability without the approval of Congress, declaring it a violation of the Constitution.
A few years later Obama attacked Libya without congressional approval, and now seeks that approval to attack Syria, even while maintaining that he does not need it in order to act.
Obama, the anti-war candidate, called Iraq a “rash war” waged for political reasons, even while he acknowledged the brutality of Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq who’d killed tens of thousands of his own people using sarin, mustard, and VX gas, primarily targeted at the Kurds of the northern provinces.
There is no debating that Saddam had launched dozens of such attacks, as well as used WMD against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War. He continually shot missiles at U.S. and Allied warplanes which were enforcing a No-Fly Zone, agreed to under the terms of surrender that allowed him to retain power.
Today is the 10 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. It is a good time reflect on what, if anything, was gained. It is also a time for those of us to learn about what, if anything, can we learn from the mistakes of the war.
I supported the Iraq War when it began. I looked at the evidence leading up to the war and I came to the conclusion, as most Americans did, that the regime of Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that the status quo that was in place after the end of the Gulf War was simply unsustainable. Also, I was also intrigued by the possibility of bringing democracy to the Middle East to combat the appeal and vision of radical Islam. Furthermore, I do believe the Bush Administration sincerely believed that Iraq possessed WMDs. I do not think this was an attempt to steal Iraqi oil or other conspiracy theorist nonsense.
However, I was wrong. I’m enough of a man to look at the evidence that has emerged in 10 years and more importantly the results of the war and acknowledge that I was wrong to support the Iraq War. I do not believe the war has served the interests of the United States. I also believe that the high losses, in both blood and treasure do not justify the results achieved.
With the “fiscal cliff” behind us, it’s important to remember that in less than two months, the Congress will be dealing with another manufactured crisis: The budget cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act known as “sequestration.” The Department of Defense will bear 41% of the prescribed cuts, eliminating an additional $492 billion over 10 years. Although entitlement spending will also be on the table, the initial fight will be over cuts to the Defense budget.
A new study by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation concludes that the defense budget cuts cannot be taken without altering our overall defense strategy, and that “the department should modify defense strategy to fit the new resource constraints and prepare its course of action sooner rather than later.”
The authors highlight three alternative strategies, which anyone interested in this topic should read and consider. An accompanying article by the authors states, “Reductions of the magnitude implied by sequestration—some $500 billion over the coming decade—cannot be accommodated without a re-examination of current defense strategy.”
Before Christmas, amid the drama of the fiscal cliff, and before the horrible shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama announced that our government would recognize the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the country’s people, stating:
“The Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, and is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”
Written by Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
The rumors that President Obama will nominate Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defenseshould be welcomed by anyone frustrated by years of war and foreign meddling, and out-of-control spending at the Pentagon. Which is to say, nearly everyone. I hope the reports are true.
The biggest boosters of the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the Libyan war, and possible war with Syria and Iran, are apoplectic. And they should be. Hagel, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, understands war, and doesn’t take it lightly.
Although the president will obviously make the decisions, I expect that Hagel will generally advise against sending U.S. troops on quixotic nation-building missions. We might even see a resurrection of another Republican SecDef’s criteria for restraining Washington’s interventionist tendencies. At a minimum, Hagel will reflect Colin Powell’s view that “American GIs [are] not toy soldiers to be moved around on some sort of global game board.”
As a libertarian, it has been puzzling to watch how conservatives have reacted to the foreign policy of Barack Obama. In almost every tangible way, Obama’s policies have been a continuation of his predecessor’s. In fact, in some ways he has been even more aggressive - amping up the mission in Afghanistan, involvement in Libya, and increased drone attacks (including against American citizens). Yet the right continues to pretend that the Obama administration has been “weak” on national defense.
This debate has reached an even greater level of absurdity in recent weeks as Obama has used the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing to tout his foreign policy successes. Obama has even attempted to argue that Mitt Romney would not have ordered the killing (more than a bit far-fetched in my humble opinion). Conservatives, on the other hand, have tried to minimize the significance of the event and find any way possible to not give Obama credit for it, when surely they would have praised George W. Bush.
And while military spending has not been cut at all under Obama, conservatives are still arguing that he is somehow short-changing the Pentagon. Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma went as far as to claim Obama is “gutting” the military in recent comments regarding President Obama’s trip to Afghanistan early this week:
“Clearly this trip is campaign-related,” [Inhofe] said. “We’ve seen recently that President Obama has visited college campuses in an attempt to win back the support of that age group since he has lost it over the last three years. Similarly, this trip to Afghanistan is an attempt to shore up his national security credentials, because he has spent the past three years gutting our military.”
On Wednesday, Senator Marco Rubio outlined his vision for American foreign policy in a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington. Suffice to say, it is a vision that will have more appeal to Bill Kristol than to Ron Paul. Rubio calls for more involvement in the world, more foreign aid, and more intervention. After reading Rubio’s speech, it is clear that he has not learned anything from the past decade and the foreign policy mistakes of the Bush43 and Obama Administrations.
Rubio first outlines his globalist agenda:
I always start by reminding people that what happens all over the world is our business. Every aspect of our lives is directly impacted by global events. The security of our cities is connected to the security of small hamlets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Our cost of living, the safety of our food , and the value of the things we invent, make and sell are just a few examples of everyday aspects of our lives that are directly related to events abroad and make it impossible for us to focus only on our issues here are home.
Rubio of course forgets that the 9/11 plot was hatched in the parts of Afghanistan that were under the control of a government, the Taliban.
No foreign policy speech in America would be complete without the prerequisite China bashing:
War is a violent competition between two Governments to determine who will make the laws, levy the taxes, and regulate the behavior of individuals within a given geographic area.
War is ugly. It is brutal. It is about killing others until they submit. There is nothing more serious in the world than the taking of another individual’s life. It is the most grave of businesses. And If you believe in Natural Rights and the Principles of Individualism it should only be conducted as a defensive act against an aggressing Government.
Unfortunately, today like in the past war is looked upon not as a grave business but business as usual for the United States Government.
Today, the United States Government has military personnel on 900 installations around the world and over a trillion dollars of taxpayer money is used to fund the wars overseas and the continued “projection” of military power around the world. This is all done for the production of security for the American people. We are told by the propagandists inside and outside of the United States Government that we are all safer because of the endless war in Afghanistan, the continued military presence in Iraq, and the continued military drone assassinations of individuals deemed “terrorists” across the world. Then are also told that it is our moral imperative to kill warlords like Kony in Uganda, to help oust dictators like Assad in Syria and help kill dictators like Gaddafi in Libya so rebels could take over the reigns of government and bring about democratic reforms (which is usually code word for socialism). We are told that this is in the big scheme of things being done to protect “American Interests” overseas which in turn benefits all of us at home. Which in reality is a lie perpetrated by the government and its allies in the media to benefit itself and the few who profit when it goes to war.
I went into Saturday night’s debate on foreign policy fully expecting to be depressed. Despite the party’s claims that it has learned its lessons from Bush’s mistakes, one area where the GOP is entirely unreformed is in foreign policy. A decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has not deterred the hawks of the party who still see aggressive military action as both viable and even desirable. And yes, the party still wholeheartedly endorses torture.
The torture support is truly baffling from a party that claims to be about morality and traditional values. On issues like abortion and gay marriage, we are told that the federal government needs to have an activist role that extends far beyond strict Constitutional mandates because the issues are so important. On these matters, the moral case is simply so compelling that small-government ideas go out the door. (As an aside, I am not necessarily against state-level action here, but the federal government has NO role.)
Yet when it comes to fighting terrorists, despite the moral weight clearly being on the side of humane treatment and the rule of law, Republicans line up and endorse treatment of prisoners that justified execution when the Japanese did it during World War II. The only explanation I can come up with is that the average Republican voter is so terrified of terrorists that they take a pass on the moral dilemma here. It’s sad to say the least that they have ceded the high ground on this issue, all for the illusion that brutal interrogations make us safer.