Re: Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?

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Hilarious. So it's not so much that competent men are more likely to become leaders than equally competent women; it's that both are being swamped by the tide of incompetent men sweeping (from right to left) into the boardroom. There is, in fact, a Dumb Broad Gap.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:38 AM
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I was hoping that this post would contain pointers and helpful tips.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:46 AM
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Sigh... I agree with the article that getting picked for a leadership position often requires personality traits (e.g., arrogance, narcissism, selfish ambition) that aren't good for managing the people under you. But I also have a cynical belief that a leader with those traits may do better at interacting with people even higher up, and in some situations this is the more important part of their job. I'm aware that this makes me sound like a patriarchal shithead; but I've definitely seen situations where this argument seemed to be true.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:09 AM
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I want a neat idea that I can coast on for thirty years, but that isn't good enough somebody tries to make me lead anything.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:13 AM
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Those traits, besides not being good for managing individuals, are presumably also not good for running entire companies.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:14 AM
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There was a quote that I think describes how a lot of subtle discrimination works:

One male leader said, "We write the job descriptions -- the list of capabilities -- for our ideal candidates. We know that the men will nominate themselves even if they don't meet all the requirements; the women would hold back. Now we look for the capabilities that are needed in the role, not some unrealistic ideal. We have hired more women in these roles, and our quality has not suffered in the least."

If you have objective standards that are reasonable on their face, that get applied straightforwardly to most candidates, but are relaxed for members of favored groups, everything that happens to the disfavored candidates looks fair, and it's hard to complain about any particular decision. But it does lead to a Dumb Broad Gap.

It's sort of the same thing as middle-class white kids getting away with minor criminal activity without getting sucked into the system; there's a fair chance that the black kid with a felony conviction actually did what he's charged with doing, the injustice is that a white kid who did exactly the same thing is much likelier to get away with it and go on to have a nice life as a CPA.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:14 AM
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3 appears to be arguing that it's OK to hire psychopaths rather than effective managers because they're good at shmoozing with the psychopaths who are already in post. This sounds like a good definition of a vicious circle. How do you break it?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:21 AM
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6 -- I would say, again, that the real injustice there isn't that the white kid skates, but that the black kid doesn't.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:24 AM
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Leadership is partly dealing with the people outside the organization (funders, major customers, banks) and partly dealing with people and resources inside the organization.

Overconfidence coupled with observational skills is usually good for the outward-facing part of the job. Overconfidence often looks like narcissism in men, I'm sure there's an equally glib characterization for overconfident women. Maybe the ladies here could put together an ad-hoc working group to choose an adjective.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:25 AM
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8: I thought that was just swimming.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:27 AM
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Leadership is pissing on the right shoes at the right time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:28 AM
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7. Radical transparency-- post everything, the meeting minutes, the budgets, the error logs.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:28 AM
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Overconfidence often looks like narcissism in men, I'm sure there's an equally glib characterization for overconfident women.

Youth? Really, the asymmetry in the genders means that overconfidence is most brash when it heightens the gender stereotype. So the counterpart for women would be the supercharged PYT. She doesn't exactly carry the same power that the narcissistc CEO does.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:28 AM
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13. Maybe. I was actually thinking of Angela Merkel or Meg Whitman. Also procedural liberalism.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:32 AM
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They're idiots despite their gender.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:33 AM
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Overconfidence often looks like narcissism in men, I'm sure there's an equally glib characterization for overconfident women.

What, people are disinclined to see women as narcissists?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:39 AM
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7: This sounds like a good definition of a vicious circle. How do you break it?

Top-down intervention? Replace the CEO and one level of management? (Actually, I have no idea.)


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:44 AM
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9: 'bitch', typically, isn't it?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:44 AM
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WMYBSALL?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:49 AM
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Damn. Cala beat me to it. I call it the Pushover/Bitch dilemma. Women in leadership positions simply can't win. If a male coworker gets what he wants from her, she's a Pushover. If he doesn't, she's a Bitch. In neither case does she get credit for anything.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:51 AM
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The dean of academic affairs at Heebie U is the most wonderfully competent person I've ever worked for. I love her so much. She's also a workaholic who is constantly researching and writing up options and probably doing everyone's work for them. But she's gloriously organized and on top of everything and has very sound judgment.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:54 AM
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When I was considering a job, I met someone who knew the CEO a bit and asked his opinion of her. "A bitch," he said. I'm glad I decided to disregard that - she's forceful but principled, capable, and great to work with.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:54 AM
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Anyone know anything about whether this is less of a problem in worker-owned co-ops? (Legitimate question! I'd hope so, but on the other hand you know how I feel about elections.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:56 AM
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Also, isn't "manipulative" the female counterpart to male overconfidence?


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:59 AM
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14: I don't know anything about Whitman, but Merkel is absolutely not seen as overconfident/ball-busting. I don't know if there's something specifically German about how her leadership plays with the public, but people here seem to have a great deal of respect for her and how she operates.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:59 AM
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Competent people are often the most incompetent people of all.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:00 AM
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Also, isn't "manipulative" the female counterpart to male overconfidence?

They don't seem particularly parallel to me. Can you expand on how you think they are counterparts to one another?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:01 AM
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I don't think that 9 and 18 are accurate, any more than I think that every guy who disagrees with me is a dick. Bitch is just a generic sex-specific noun. Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Dilma Rousseff are other powerful women who do not exude swagger.

To 16, the lady narcissists that I know are into personal rather than organizational clout.

To 20, there are lots of women in leadership positions who are in fact winning.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:01 AM
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27 is great.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:04 AM
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To 16, the lady narcissists that I know are into personal rather than organizational clout.

Okay, but what's that got to do with the question of whether overconfidence reading as narcissism is a thing that happens particularly to guys? (I'm also not entirely clear on what either point has to do with the cost of fish.)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:05 AM
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I don't think that 9 and 18 are accurate, any more than I think that every guy who disagrees with me is a dick.

In cases of friction with a man (LHF), there are lots of stereotypical categories to put him into. With a woman, "bitch" is the primary and dominant one. As such. I'm sure you don't do that yourself, and yes, it's slowly changing, but it's still embedded in the culture.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:12 AM
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27: I think "manipulative" works off a female stereotype of being good at building personal relationships with coworkers, in the same way that "overconfident" works off a male stereotype of being good at making decisions and exercising authority. So they're definitely not the same thing, but they're both used to undermine people in the same way.


Posted by: torrey pine | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:13 AM
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20: I've never given any credit to any leader. Because I'm a feminist.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:14 AM
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32: Ah, I see. Interesting.

I guess I think overconfidence is more genuinely a common feature of people hired into upper-level management positions. I was also focusing on the fact that that it's a very different kind of quality than being manipulative. The latter describes a habit or approach to interaction that might be undesirable, while the former is a feature of one's self assessment and how it does or does not accurately reflect one's actual competence -- so it's more directly tied to whether the people in positions of power "deserve" to be there. But of course it's also true (as discussed above) that overconfidence is a useful trait to have if you want to negotiate successfully, etc., so it's not as simple a relationship as it might at first appear.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:20 AM
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Speaking of incompetent men in senior positions, I used to favor putting Richard Cohen out to pasture, but now I'm ready to have him taken out back and shot.



Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:27 AM
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No one's mentioned monster? (Here's an archival discussion by the coldly rational Unfoggedtariat of the 2008 Dem primary season.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:49 AM
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When a man calls a woman in power a bitch, in my experience he usually means: "She's ambitious and doesn't spend her time flattering me."


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:49 AM
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Some things never change: 37's 12 -> 35.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:53 AM
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there's a profile in academics of the very charismatic senior professor who had a really neat idea thirty years ago and has been coasting on it ever since, and believes himself to be more talented and insightful than anyone else

I literally cannot think of a single example.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:56 AM
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And in case anyone had any doubts, Emerson was right, long before most people realized it:

It looks as though Obama really believes his kumbayah "bring us together" centrism, which means that he will end up marginalizing and working against anyone whose message requires moving left or fighting for an issue against opposition.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:58 AM
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I actually don't know anyone in pure math that fits that profile. Math ed, OTOH...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 11:59 AM
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and yet I still have doubts. what explains it?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:01 PM
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31: I'm not endorsing it as accurate, but I'm pretty sure there's a relatively famous Connie Chung thing about just between you and me with H.R Clinton being called "a bitch."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:13 PM
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When I was considering a job, I met someone who knew the CEO a bit and asked his opinion of her. "A bitch," he said. I'm glad I decided to disregard that - she's forceful but principled, capable, and great to work with.

I suspect that people who hang around unfogged, while not uniformly feminist, do have a higher than average appreciation for women who are argumentative and/or state positions forcefully and clearly.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:16 PM
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23: My experience with worker co-ops is that it's not so much incompetence rising but malfeasance being ignored/explained away. I know of two collective businesses that failed because of long-term embezzlement by collective members, and others where people's bad attitude/laziness/other poor work habits were allowed to go on and on, seriously damaging the organization even though everybody knew exactly where the problem was.

The difference, I think, in traditional hierarchies, is that the people at the top can fire anyone below them who is behaving badly, or annoyingly. Not that there aren't still similar problems, but the solution is a lot simpler and less time-consuming than kicking someone out of a collective.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:25 PM
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46: Only Nixon can go to China, only a radical anarcho-syndicalist can say that cooperatives would be more successful if the workers got a good kick in the pants from the boss, like they would in a free market system.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:29 PM
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46, 47: If Natilo doesn't watch it, the syndics will not let him return to Anarres from Urras.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:36 PM
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More bad bosses.

Once again, life imitates The Onion.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:40 PM
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My boyfriend's dad, who had a certifiably awesome/famous idea ~45 years ago, did a lot of great follow up work for about 15 years afterwards, during which time he got tenure, but then he had kids and decided he didn't want to be THE BIG GUY, so he committed himself to teaching (and he's really into it) and being an awesome Dad and doing servicy type research stuff (sitting on comnittees and reviews and and being people's joint advisor if they want to do work in another dept.) and he leaves all the big grant stuff to the young un's and approaches his "research" as the fun stuff scientific thinking he gets to do on his own, quietly, for a couple of days a week. So his official output has been *relatively* low, but it's also purely his and up to his personal standard of quality and only about what he's interested in. As far as I can tell, everyone wins b/c of this decision of his to take the less conventional path: he's happy and beloved, his undergrads get a great surprise when they realize who it is who's hanging out in the lab to help them with their projects or who's teaching their quirky freshmen seminar, grad students get apolitical , objective, detached advice from him, his kids have grown into great people who are incredibly close to him, their mother was able to get her Ph.D. after they were born and become a successful professor in her own right, the grants and commissions and articles he review get really good attention, and all the young people who are working on his field get a chance to shine on their own. And his institution still gets to keep his name on the fancy lists and have fundraisers where people are charmed by his fame. It strikes me as one of the wisest academic decisions I've ever heard of. Obviously most academics don't have this freedom, but I know a lot of people who did and were totally blind to the option.


Posted by: S | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 12:59 PM
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His University loses money. Successful grant applications bring overhead costs to the institution.

It's a better life for him and for his family, but the intangible benefits to his institution come at a tangible cost to it.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 1:08 PM
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Won't somebody think of the giant, gaping bureaucratic maw?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 1:11 PM
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It's a better life for him and for his family, but the intangible benefits to his institution come at a tangible cost to it.

I've been told that a good portion of grants actually wind up costing the university money, even given the apparently rapacious overhead rates.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:24 PM
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I've been told that a given car was priced below invoice and that he'd have to get a manager to give me a floor mat.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:34 PM
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51: God forbid a university professor teach and help others do research. He should be fired.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:34 PM
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50, 52, and the OP:

My business school had a nicely practical approach to this problem that one of my professors for a human resources-ish class (labor economics, I think) mentioned offhandedly...

They were concerned about the number of "elder statesmen" professors who were quite happily occupying tenure positions with no particular desire to retire, and that this was starting to limit their hiring of new PhDs with promising research. When the school admin talked to some of their management professors about this issue, it was pointed out that the older profs did not particularly need the pay nor did much teaching, but mostly loved being in the environment, advising on some research, and generally having a way to stick around in the field and keep working a bit.

So when the business school built a new building, they just added a ridiculous number of offices, so that they could offer professors the chance to stay on as emeritus and keep an office as long as they want, just so long as they give up the tenure position. Seemed to work pretty well.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:37 PM
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48: In The Dispossessed, I would be the syndic on the rocketport team who gets killed by the mob right at the beginning.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:45 PM
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||

I did just ask my Syrian colleague about whether he thought we should intervene, and he said yes, and that 90% of Syrians think we should intervene, and I got a big lecture about the brutality of the situation and how I couldn't relate. (I don't mean to trivialize what he's said; I can't imagine the stress he's experiencing.)

He did also go on about the Russian troops massacring villages indiscriminately. I knew Russia was supplying weapons, but I didn't actually know there were physical Russian troops on the ground.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:54 PM
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I'm familiar with grant overhead and also the relevant quantities; in his case at least he definitely has not lost them money.


Posted by: S | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:57 PM
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56: My father helped implement a similar system (at a government lab) to give senior researchers "emeritus" status and offices/labs/resources, but no salary. In my field, "emeritus" status as an academic means you are no longer allowed to take grad students, although you may hire postdocs as long as they're self-funded. It seemed mostly to exist as a way to push someone out of active (or not so active) research. The other, quicker way was to make them a dean.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:57 PM
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I'm not claiming that 51 is a good state of affairs, just saying that there's more to the assessment than what's mentioned in 50.

To 53, OK, that's interesting to hear, if pretty puzzling. It would be great if Universities published their finances transparently so that questions like this could be answered. I'm kind of dubious, since nobody forces money-losing decisions on the University in general, and since the decision to stop supporting some kinds of grants would be basically invisible to all but the affected profs.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 2:57 PM
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It would be great if Universities published their finances transparently

Good luck with that. There was the recent Chronicle table of funding numbers that claimed my institution doesn't spend any of its own money on research. I have no idea what that means.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:03 PM
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59. That's great, it sounds like a good situation. In my limited experience, the conflict over resources starts with lab space and extends to shared equipment, compounded by bad administration.

If he's not using his own lab space, he's effectively emeritus. If he is using lab space and the accounting really works out as you say, that's a really effective couple of days a week.

Not meaning to pick a fight or to defend University accounting.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:07 PM
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||

He did also go on about the Russian troops massacring villages indiscriminately. I knew Russia was supplying weapons, but I didn't actually know there were physical Russian troops on the ground.

And now you do?

One Long Read About Syria

Another Long Read

|>


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:07 PM
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To clarify: besides the fundraisy payoff of having generations of alumni who have fond memories of getting real mentorship from a famous person, the disinterested mentorship he's provided younger faculty has helped them get much bigger and more grants than he would ever have gotten in his own field.


Posted by: S | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:10 PM
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Also my real point was that while not everyone can do what he did, a few people can and they almost never do, and there's a strong status component to the biases in such choices. He's probably 1/30 people I know of whose youthful accomplishments were so unquestionably stellar it was a perfetly good choice, but I can't imagine the others even considering it.


Posted by: S | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:23 PM
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Is anyone paying attention to the forthcoming Syria vote? I don't understand John Kerry's insistence that a resolution get pushed through before the supposed evidence of sarin gas can actually be analyzed. Given that Kerry has admitted making a similar mistake when he thought he had "proof" in Iraq, I can't understand how he would, in good faith, push for a resolution without testing.

Is something going on here that I don't know about?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:29 PM
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oh, looks like bob is paying attention.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:30 PM
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And now you do?

Yes?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:46 PM
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Bob's second link is especially worth reading. I was behind him in '04, but John Kerry is full of shit, should have had no place in this administration, and should be afforded zero credibility.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:55 PM
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I'm really keyed up over that conversation; I really don't like confrontation, even though that barely was. But the amount of seething emotion sent me reeling, even though of course he's grappling with that kind of intensity.

At the same time, he kept comparing it to stopping Hitler. I don't think he sees it as a civil war.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 3:56 PM
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At the same time, he kept comparing it to stopping Hitler. I don't think he sees it as a civil war.

Does this refer to Kerry?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:03 PM
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I think heebie is saying she just had an awkward conversation with John Kerry, who is surprisingly intense.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:19 PM
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I don't think it's any surprise that John Kerry is intense. The man is trying to stop Hitler. Plus, have you seen his eyebrows? They're very expressive.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:22 PM
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ok, I'm going to take a nap.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:24 PM
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No kidding, I've never had much time for Kerry -- though of course I supported him, holding my nose, in '04, because I'm Democratic sheeple -- but it's really amazing to see him peddling this line of bullshit. It's Munich! We must act now! Now! It's like there's some of kind of complex, made up of powerful sectors of American society, pushing the nation toward perpetual war.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:25 PM
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By the time text wakes up, Assad will be in the Sudetenland. Peace in our time, my ass.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:27 PM
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72: I can't see that you would have anything more important at stake than your relationship with your colleague, so you might as well find your truth there.
Your best move is probably a supportive lack of skepticism, if it helps relieve your friend.

Just watch out if he starts talking about the Lincoln Brigades...

PS:There are young Japanese men fighting for the rebels, just for a couple weeks for the thrills and then back home.

That's the kind of place Syria has become, the kind of war it is.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:28 PM
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79.1 and .2 are quite right. I didn't exactly volunteer the full force of my opinion, but I should have given my opinion a much wider berth. There's absolutely nothing academic to say when someone's family is being slaughtered.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 4:35 PM
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OT: Ecce hippies: "There's also Freelee the Banana Girl."


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 5:08 PM
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Whenever a politician or pundit goes Godwin s/he should be asked if he would support a full scale invasion and occupation and the increase in US military forces necessary for that. No 'if it implodes' It's Hitler right now, next thing you know Assad will have conquered Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 5:15 PM
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81: Those people must poop all the time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 5:17 PM
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In Germany my falafel guy was an Iraqi Kurd who was a big W fan.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 5:22 PM
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I have an Afghan friend who when he graduated from university in 1981 decided to take up arms against the Soviets. He doesn't think now that that was the right decision. Actually came to that conclusion in the 90s, as he's not a Taliban guy.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 5:38 PM
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83: I'm sure they'd be happy to tell you about it.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 5:42 PM
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82: Not to mention confiscatory income taxes and government controlling 90% of the GDP or whatever it was.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 6:01 PM
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Kerry's seemingly increasing hysteria is, shall we say, concerning. It's true that Syrian people are freaked out in the extreme, and deeply angry -- frankly, I'd like someone to just take Assad out -- but given the ...

Oh, I actually can't finish. The evidence Kerry is carrying on about hasn't been presented (it's classified); we're to believe it; we've been conned before; this really seems a job for behind-the-scenes operatives to broker various arrangements with competing parties and factions -- like the ones described in bob's links in 64 -- in order to try to clear the field somewhat.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:10 PM
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I would think it seems like a job for congress not to authorize military action when there is no national security interest at stake, even if nasty weapons were used by somebody in another country's civil war.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:36 PM
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I can't believe I'm arguing about this with actual intelligent people over at the other place. People who seem to think the thing can really be contained to a few pinpoint strikes. I hope to be proven wrong, but 'that's all Obama really wants to do' just isn't very comforting.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:40 PM
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Kerry has said that he wants to go beyond that anyway.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:47 PM
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90: I've been watching Hilzoy rend her garments about Syria for days now. In the end, her argument seems to boil down to, "I trust Obama not to do anything too stupid." Well, okay then.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:51 PM
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Whatever happened to the idea that you don't invade another country for a purely domestic issue, at least absent a Security Council resolution? I'm not a big believer in expansive international law but one of the things it does seem to stand for, quite usefully, is that you can't just go around invading other countries that don't pose a threat to you because you don't like what's going on in them internally (at least unless the UN collectively agrees you can).


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:55 PM
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Is anyone, other than John McCain, talking about an invasion?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:56 PM
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"Invade" should be "attack" there. Or maybe "bomb."


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 7:59 PM
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94: There was Kerry's weird "thinking out loud" thing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 8:00 PM
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The point of 93 is that international law rule seems at least equally important as whatever the fuck we're bombing Syria over. Maybe Russia can bomb Texas, I'm sure there are some violations of international human rights law going on there.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 8:08 PM
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I can't believe people are seriously considering bombing Syria when we haven't even bombed Fukushima yet! Totally irresponsible.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 8:10 PM
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Maybe we should build an ice wall in Syria.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 8:13 PM
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98 raises an important point. Looking back, it's pretty clear that the decision not to bomb Fukushima -- for the tuna! -- was the Marco Polo Bridge incident.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 8:17 PM
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"I trust Obama not to do anything too stupid."

Everyone forgets the guy won a peace prize. That means if he's going to wage, he can wage only peace.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 8:47 PM
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I'm not necessarily against a small scale short air campaign. The way I see it at worst it does nothing, at best it deters any new chemical weapon attacks. The problem is that the way folks are talking, there seems to be a risk that the US slides into ever increasing escalation. And if this were analogous to Kosovo or Bosnia I'd be supportive of that, but it isn't. We don't have a coherent semi-palatable opposition force able to just take over.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 8:57 PM
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Whatever happened to the idea that you don't invade another country for a purely domestic issue, at least absent a Security Council resolution?

It's still around, and it's just as much a norm as it always has been, i.e. not much of one. In the Cold War it was about the evil Communists/counterrevolutionaries (who often were rather nasty, but not always and their opponents were often worse, but not always), since then it's been about evil [anti-Western] dictators who kill their own citizens.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:03 PM
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at worst it does nothing

I think you may be ignoring a few worst-case scenarios.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:09 PM
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102: Amazing how it is assumed that our targets don't get a vote on when the skirmish is over, and when and where and how it is fought.

Halford: that you can't just go around invading other countries that don't pose a threat to you because you don't like what's going on in them internally

So the US is the immoral aggressor, violating int'l law. Does this mean a counterattack by Syria against the US, certainly asymmetrical in form because they are unable to match the US in a aerial dogfight or whatever, would be morally justifiable?

And if a counterattack by Syria would not be justifiable, then who the fuck is responsible for stopping this Imperial arrogant shit?

And this time, after the blowback, would liberals and very serious centrists finally be able to understand who is responsible, and why in some sense, average Americans are not innocent bystanders?

Would they then sue for peace and stop the machine, or demand vengeance?

89,90:Where is this "other place?" I need to get morally uplifted by hilzoy, let Mother Superior explain it all to me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:18 PM
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102: We don't have a coherent semi-palatable opposition force able to just take over.

Who is this motherfucking goddamn "we" you speak of? I thought you were Polish or something.

Look like just anybody can jump on board the Imperial Lovetrain.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:21 PM
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I don't want to be too graphic, but construction of the imperial lovetrain is a core value of Halfordismo.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:24 PM
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107: Sort of a human centipede thing, or what?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:26 PM
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106 Good that you haven't forgotten Poland.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:29 PM
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The way I see it at worst it does nothing

This has already been called out, but it should be called out again. Anyone care to explain it?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:40 PM
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Assuming no escalation on the part of the US if we don't achieve our objectives then what happens?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 9:58 PM
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We kill people who die of death.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:02 PM
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Then we bombed a bunch of Syrians for no reason. Do you foresee a bombing campaign with no casualties?

Imagine that you are in the midst of a civil war and someone you don't know very well, who has very little at stake in your affair, butts his head in, dropping bombs on what he believes to be facilities which hold weapons. Then he decides he's had enough. Do you think you'd hold a grudge? That is the sort of behavior that boosts Al Qaida membership. It's incredibly stupid and cowardly.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:02 PM
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or what fake accent said.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:03 PM
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In addition to 112 and 113, all kinds of crazy shit could happen in response to an unsuccessful bombing campaign even if the US doesn't escalate (which doesn't actually seem like a reasonable assumption to me, but whatever). Maybe Assad gasses some more people (because why not?). Maybe some of the other countries that are watching Syria carefully and feel that the course of events there is important to their interests (Iran, Israel, Russia, etc.) decide to intervene more forcefully themselves. And so forth.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:11 PM
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As opposed to not bombing? The people we would bomb are certainly not going to join al Qaeda. The FSA who do support us bombing are if anything more likely to move towards al Qaeda if we don't bomb. The al Qaeda types who mostly don't want us bombing already are what they are.

You can make a similar argument that if we don't intervene an escalation of foreign intervention is more likely.

Yes we will kill people, and maybe we will reduce the future number of dead civilians.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:24 PM
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116: Sure, but we were talking about worst-case scenarios, and the one if we bomb is not "nothing happens" but "things get much worse." This is also the worst-case scenario if we don't bomb.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:33 PM
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And maybe we'll start a world war. As teo says, Israel* is keen to use whatever whirlwind the US sows in the region as a pretext for escalating hostilities with Iran. And from there? Profit!

* Or, if you're feeling charitable, the Netanyahu administration.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:34 PM
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118 to 116.3.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:35 PM
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118: Right. Despite all the talk of Munich, I still think the most appropriate historical parallel is 1914 rather than 1939.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:37 PM
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Maybe Assad gasses some more people (because why not?).
This is the likeliest way I see that the US gets drawn in beyond a few ineffectual pinpoint strikes.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:43 PM
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Our precious credibility.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:45 PM
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I still think the most appropriate historical parallel is 1914 rather than 1939.

So, total war between the US and its treaty allies plus a few minor countries on the one side and Russia, China and some of their minor allies on the other? That's about as reasonable as the Munich stuff.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:52 PM
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123: I don't think that's a likely outcome. But it wasn't the only possible outcome then, either.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:53 PM
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Anyway, it's looking pretty likely at this point that Obama gets Congressional approval to bomb, so I guess we'll see how it goes.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 3-13 10:54 PM
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WW1 is a better analogy than WW2, but still a wildly implausible one. A plausible bad outcome is that this leads to Al Queda or somebody equally malevolent coming out on top.

I think in general people spend too much time worrying about extreme outcomes, and more time worrying about the median outcomes, which are what usually happens. Here the median outcome is that the US kills some people, and achieves nothing worthwhile.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:21 AM
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Being very literally right in the middle of an international move, I'm not following this news very carefully, but I would say that while there may be non-trivial parallels with the Iraq mess, from outside the US at least things look very different. No one is really sure how to react, but there is a real sense that someone should maybe do something, and if the US wants to bomb.., well, that might not be a terrible thing. Compare that to anti-bombing marches, wide-spread international protests, etc when bombing Iraq was being debated... Ah what a mess.


Posted by: parodie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 1:17 AM
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Bob's second link is especially worth reading.

bob's second link contains two glaring errors of fact that I spotted on the first read through and that no one setting themselves up as a regional expert has any business making. But then again, he does admit that he gets his information from the CIA.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 1:25 AM
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128: Well James Fallows has lost a lot of credibility with me, let me tell you

Thanks expert ajay, I don't even have to ask for details.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:02 AM
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On CW use in Iraq in the 1920s and in Yemen in the 1960s.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:24 AM
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Is it still Arab Spring?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:55 AM
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131: absolutely. But it's phase 2: just as with the Prague Spring, it includes a 20-year period of defeat and repression.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:08 AM
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132:it includes a 20-year period of defeat and repression.

From the above linked Atlantic article, this hit me like a 2x4:

Syria has been convulsed by civil war since climate change came to Syria with a vengeance. Drought devastated the country from 2006 to 2011. Rainfall in most of the country fell below eight inches (20 cm) a year, the absolute minimum needed to sustain un-irrigated farming. Desperate for water, farmers began to tap aquifers with tens of thousands of new well. But, as they did, the water table quickly dropped to a level below which their pumps could lift it.

In some areas, all agriculture ceased. In others crop failures reached 75%. And generally as much as 85% of livestock died of thirst or hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Syria's farmers gave up, abandoned their farms and fled to the cities and towns in search of almost non-existent jobs and severely short food supplies. Outside observers including UN experts estimated that between 2 and 3 million of Syria's 10 million rural inhabitants were reduced to "extreme poverty."

I keep telling y'all we don't have twenty years. It is going pear-shaped now.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:14 AM
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It is going pear-shaped now.

Stop staring at my ass.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:53 AM
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Pear-shaped better than apple-shaped says the man with apple-shaped tendencies.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:10 AM
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Boy, looking for a link for 135 turned into an object lesson in the gender in presentations of body shape. The results of this search for example--pear-shaped vs. apple-shaped as a health issue would certainly apply as much if not more to men as to women. And yet.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:13 AM
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I got a big lecture about the brutality of the situation and how I couldn't relate.

This is right, of course. I don't presume to argue with Cuban immigrants about communism.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:34 AM
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Speaking of, Castro committed suicide. But not the Cuba one. The Cleveland one.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:37 AM
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I'm actually pretty relieved to hear parodie's take in 127, because I'm much more on the fence than everyone here and keep assuming I must be missing something major.

I keep getting hung up on the fact that when people are being slaughtered, and will continue to be slaughtered for the forseeable future, then what they need is a hail mary. For all the (huge, incontrovertible) problems of a bombing campaign, it seems like the only hail mary that there is. And that the people of Syria see it as a hail mary, not as unwanted meddling.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:42 AM
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Being very literally right in the middle of an international move

Also, we either have two commenters in the middle of an international move independently, or we have a married couple that I didn't realize were married to each other. I think it's the former...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:43 AM
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people are being slaughtered, and will continue to be slaughtered for the forseeable future, then what they need is a hail mary

Yggles correctly identified this as a variant of the syllogism made famous by Yes, Minister: "Something must be done. This is something. Therefore we must do this."


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:26 AM
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Sure, but that alone doesn't invalidate it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:32 AM
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And it should be: "Something must be done. This is something the only thing that people in power will consider. Therefore we must do this."

If you find it sufficiently compelling that something must be done, then you warily support the targeted bombings.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:34 AM
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Alternately: Something must be done. Now convince me that we are the most appropriate people to do whatever it is.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:41 AM
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Name a thing that will be done by someone else, and I'll support them over us.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:43 AM
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Russia will send arms, at least.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:44 AM
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The people we would bomb are certainly not going to join al Qaeda.

One is put in mind of the cartoon appearing at the beginning of Toward Perpetual Peace.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:46 AM
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146: And troops.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:48 AM
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I'm opposed to bombing Syria on the extremely primitive grounds that I'm opposed to any military action unless I've seen some extremely convincing evidence that it will be likely to make the affected people better off (when you net everything out -- whatever people are killed will be balanced by more lives saved, so on), and I haven't seen anything like that.

The only thing that gives me any pause at all is that intervening in Libya seems to have been pretty harmless, and might have sped up the end of the intense conflict, although I'm not sure at all of the facts there. Someone who wanted to talk me into Syria would probably have to convince me (a) that Libya wasn't just harmless, it was awesomely successful from a humanitarian point of view and (b) Syria would be just like Libya. And I can't see anyone actually convincing me of the second half of that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:49 AM
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And it should be: "Something must be done. This is something the only thing that people in power will consider. Therefore we must do this."

That doesn't improve the quality of the syllogism.

It should be given a snappy name, like medievals gave their syllogisms.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:50 AM
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149.2: Wait, what? BENGHAZI!!!!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:52 AM
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Syria is going to get much worse, I think. The only reason I've heard for why Assad used chemical weapons that makes any sense is that they were used to curtail or stop any move toward peace by making his supporters fear retribution if the rebels win. This was probably successful.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:54 AM
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To me, an extremely important fact* is that the Syrian people desperately want a targeted bombing intervention.

*Obviously I don't know this for sure, but my teetering support is contingent on it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:57 AM
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150: Sir Humphrey's Fallacy?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:59 AM
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153.1: Which Syrian people? Where do you get that information? Everything I've read says some people support it and some people are terrified of it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:59 AM
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146: Let me hippie punch for a second with anecdata from my twitter stream: Some saying things such as, "Who could have imagined Putin being on the peace side of things?" Now that there is some top-notch American Foreign Policy* Derangement Syndrome.

Which admittedly sucks. but come the fuck on.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:00 AM
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Maybe the UN could pay Israel to do it?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:00 AM
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153: I do believe "the Syrian people" without further qualification no longer functions as a well-defined signifier.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:01 AM
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158: Oops, I mean what essear said in 155.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:02 AM
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153: This seems like the kind of thing that you can't possibly base your thinking on, because you can't know it from here. The Iraqi people were going to greet us with cries of "Democracy, Whisky, Sexy!" remember? Anything you hear about Syrian public opinion, you have no way of judging the validity of.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:03 AM
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158: Civil wars are like that. One thing I remember from Poli Sci days is that the U.S. public is particularly set against taking intervention in a civil war. I forget why.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:03 AM
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The only thing that gives me any pause at all is that intervening in Libya seems to have been pretty harmless, and might have sped up the end of the intense conflict

That's the thing, though. In the case of Libya, the Obama administration decided that a rebel victory was the preferred outcome, and bombing was a plausible means of furthering that goal. They have signally declined to endorse a rebel takeover of Syria, for sound reasons. This is underscored by the reports that the administration specifically instructed the military to select targets that were not likely to topple the regime or turn the tide of the civil war.

Revealingly, the administration has failed to articulate any mechanism by which bombing would ameliorate the humanitarian crisis; indeed, they explicitly disclaim any concrete humanitarian aims, preferring to frame the mission as punishment for a violation of international norms.

So if the goal is to minimize suffering of civilians, bombing gets you deep into "This is something" territory.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:04 AM
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I'm still not clear at all on why (some subset of) foreigners want us to do something is a sufficient justification for military action, absent some threat to our country, an ally, or at the very least the approval of the UN.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:05 AM
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I've talked briefly with 2 Syrians years ago, and with a bunch of Lebanese. So, Not an expert here, but definitely Lebanon and I think also Syria are much less unified than North African countries-- religious identity is everything in Lebanon, and seems to be in Syria as well. There's even less of an "average citizen" there than in Yugoslavia. HG, is your colleague Christian, Sunni, Kurdish, or Alawite?

Also, Russia has missiles and heavy weapons just as the US does.

Taking refugees and resettling them in the US makes a lot of sense. Bombing with no effective US ally inside Syria doesn't.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:06 AM
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155. If I lived in a neighbourhood near any government buildings or military installations I'd be against it. If I lived a comfortable middle class existence well away from the fighting I might be for it. If I was in Al Qaeda I'd think all my Christmases had come at once.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:09 AM
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153.1: Which Syrian people? Where do you get that information? Everything I've read says some people support it and some people are terrified of it.

Honestly, just my colleague throwing out that 90% of Syrian people very much want intervention, and going on about it for a little bit. (Am I well informed myself? No.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:10 AM
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I read somewhere, long ago, that U.S. Middle East policy is a lot easier to take, if not approve, if one reads it as a suite of actions (talking, bribing, cajoling, threatening, occasionally bombing) taken against the danger that Israel feel a need for speed to use its nuclear weapons.

I'm not sure that's entirely accurate but the Syria debate has brought it back to mind and now I'm very depressed.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:10 AM
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HG, is your colleague Christian, Sunni, Kurdish, or Alawite?

Sunni, I believe.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:12 AM
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That's that group that will probably do best post-Assad.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:13 AM
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And aren't they the bulk of the population?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:15 AM
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Yep. The current government is Alawites mostly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:16 AM
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So why is it preposterous that the bulk of the Syrian population supports targeted bombings?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:18 AM
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Wait, what? BENGHAZI!!!! Mali.

The Libyan bombing wasn't harmless. The media just stopped covering it.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/natos-humanitarian-war-on-libya-prelude-to-a-humanitarian-disaster/5347894

http://rt.com/news/libya-gaddafi-fall-anniversary-981/


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:18 AM
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The only thing that gives me any pause at all is that intervening in Libya seems to have been pretty harmless, and might have sped up the end of the intense conflict, although I'm not sure at all of the facts there.

Libyan Ex-Spy Chief's Daughter Kidnapped

He added that the convoy had been due to take Senussi's daughter, in her early 20s, to the airport to join her family when the attack took place outside Ain Zara prison in the Tripoli suburbs.

"It is the shared responsibility of the government, of the thwar (former rebels who fought Gaddafi) and the international community to find this girl," he added, calling on those who kidnapped Senussi to return her without delay.

Rights group Amnesty International highlighted the kidnapping as an example of Libya's "dysfunctional" judicial system.

Rebels Seize Libyan Oilfields ...Guardian

With the government forced to import fuel to keep power stations running and queues growing at petrol stations, the prime minister, Ali Zaidan, has repeatedly threatened to send troops to retake striking ports.

But the leader of rebels blockading ports in Cyrenaica, home to the bulk of Libya's oil, said such a move would be tantamount to a "declaration of war".

Ibrahim Ali Jathran, commander of troops who have defected to seize the terminals, warned his soldiers would fight back. "We will resist," he said.

Jathran insisted the strike was in reaction to what he said was a seizure of power - and oil revenues - by the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli.

"The Brotherhood has hijacked the state and parliament. It has infiltrated the oil ministry with armed groups," he said.

Egypt's MB Enters Syria Conflict June 6 Reuters, old irrelevant news?

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech his men would battle on in Syria against what he called a threat from the United States, Israel and "takfiri" - hardline Sunnis.

In another mark of how high sectarian feeling is running, Friday's televised sermon for weekly prayers at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca included an outspoken personal attack on Assad - a tyrant whose troops he said had raped women, killed children and destroyed homes over the past two years.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:19 AM
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It's Always Sunni in Homs would make a very bad TV show.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:21 AM
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156: This is true. A memory I suppressed from the runup to the Iraq war was how fucking stupid the most vocal left-wing anti-war commenters were. I have to keep reminding myself that a dumb argument for a position is not actually an argument for the opposite position.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:22 AM
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176: I knew a guy who visited Iraq on a peace mission prior to the first invasion. He's lucky he didn't wind up impressed into service as a human shield.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:24 AM
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170. Yes, Arab Sunnis about 60% of Syrian people. The French papers seem optimistic about most of these folks, certain that they'll do a great job running the country.

Except for those insurgents who keep killing French-supported insurgents. Not those guys, they won't do such a great job running the country. Or pieces of it, the Skype connection went down.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:24 AM
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"Commentators Fail to Agree on Best Method to Unshit Bed."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:28 AM
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[redacted]. Leadership and competence are just two totally different skills. Assuming they are aligned is an artifact of hierarchical promotion systems in large organizations, where you are 'supposed to' promote good (i.e. competent) managers. But the skill of getting people to follow you and the skill of figuring out the right thing to do are not at all the same thing and its somewhat coincidental when they are instantiated in the same person.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 8:36 AM
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Over the course of the conflict I've found the European papers I read more or less regularly (Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, The Guardian, and Gazeta Wyborcza) to be quite a bit more into a black and white good noble freedom fighters vs. evil tyrant than the US stuff I read. This started changing a bit around half a year ago but it's still there to an extent.

On a related note, maybe we will finally see the end of the post Iraq War runup meme of the French as non-interventionist semi-pacifist? I got this from both pro and anti war people, not all but way too many.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 9:24 AM
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180

So wait, what were the wrong reasons to oppose attacking Iraq? We've already discussed the sovereignty argument, were there many other ones? It seems to me that most anti-war people, most of the time, were saying some version of "attacking Iraq won't solve the problem (international Muslim terrorism), and may even worsen it; the magnitude of suffering this will cause the Iraqi people isn't justified by any claimed benefit; whoever replaces Hussein may be nearly as bad; the cost to the US in money and soldiers' lives will be much higher than predicted; and this war will tend to destabilize the region further, likely prompting more wars in the future." The situation in Syria is obviously not exactly analogous, but most of the arguments still hold true.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 9:54 AM
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Not those guys, they won't do such a great job running the country.

I'm not saying it won't be an utter clusterfuck when it comes time for them to build a government and not oppress the losing side. I also emphatically don't want us involved in that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 9:56 AM
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I don't actually see how Syria is analogous whatsoever.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 9:57 AM
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162: indeed, they explicitly disclaim any concrete humanitarian aims

This has puzzled me somewhat: where's Samantha Power in all this? She's head champion for humanitarian intervention, and if rumor is correct, she, Susan Rice, and Hilary Clinton were driving factors in convincing of the need to bomb Libya.

Susan Rice, as now-National Security Advisor, is presumably whispering in Obama's ear to similar effect regarding Syria. Clinton is keeping her mouth shut - thankfully, to my mind. But Samantha Power? Is she supposed to remain silent given her new status as ambassador to the UN?

The humanitarian case seems to me to be more powerful than the !chemical weapons! one.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 9:59 AM
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Did the cannibalism thing end up being a hoax?

I asked Hil why, if all the President is going to do is fire some cruise missiles, he's asking Congress for an authorization that would include an invasion, should he decide he wants one. I have not received a satisfactory answer.

I think 1914 is a pretty unlikely worst case scenario here, but the idea that there's nothing worse that can happen other than some completely innocent people get killed for absolutely nothing is deranged. Just because we don't want to tip the balance in the civil war (as the Syrians hoping for intervention want from us) doesn't mean we can find that perfect spot where it's enough force to make Assad think twice about using CW but not enough to make a difference in the balance of power. Who has that kind of confidence in our military planning staff?

Deterrence is in the mind of the opponent, so you have to think about what Assad was doing and why. People who aren't making a good faith effort to do that aren't making good faith effort to find the deterrence point.



Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:06 AM
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184: Well, you can quibble about what an ideal Iraq analogue would look like, but basically we're in the same position as we were then: The US government is lying; the military-industrial complex wants a war; there's no substantive evidence that a war would help anyone; and there's plenty of reason to suspect, based on past events, that this would indeed become a huge clusterfuck and even more gigantic humanitarian crisis. So how is that very different from Iraq? Or Vietnam?

This is just another action in the ongoing Oil Wars.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:06 AM
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182 Agreed. Not that there weren't idiots around - you'd hear the occasional 'Saddam our hero' types, but they were a small minority. And the proportion of Truthers among the pro-war side was much higher than on the anti-war one.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:07 AM
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So how is that very different from Iraq?

Are you kidding? There was no ongoing war in Iraq. There was not (at that particular time) an ongoing slaughter of civilians.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:08 AM
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181 -- don't be silly. That stereotype, however ridiculous, is built around some kind of vague perception of the French as Euroweenies/the land of romance, shopping, and effeminacy that is totally impervious to reality. No matter how many times France sends troops to its former colonies no one forgets Pepe LePew/the Simpsons.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:08 AM
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Clinton is keeping her mouth shut

Not anymore.

(Technically, it was a spokesperson's words and not Hillary's, but either way she's on the record now.)


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:09 AM
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I'm not saying it won't be an utter clusterfuck when it comes time for them to build a government and not oppress the losing side. I also emphatically don't want us involved in that.

Yet you feel it necessary to assist them materially in moving from the present clusterfuck to the clusterfuck to come?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:12 AM
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This is just another action in the ongoing Oil Wars.

Ok, that's silly. This is the result of on the one hand 'shit's really bad, we need to do _something_' and 'Assad, bad guy, and not our bad guy, he must be punished'.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:13 AM
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192: Yes!? Clusterfuck in Syria means people are being slaughtered. Clusterfuck in Egypt means things are awful, but not on the same order of humanitarian crisis. If it can be moved to Egypt-like, then that is a clear win.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:17 AM
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Of course there was an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Putting aside the Sadaam regime itself, there were millions of excess deaths as a result of the UN sanctions.

And bombing a few chemical-weapons related targets to make a symbolic point will do absolutely zero to help the humanitarian crisis, and a broader scale involvement is a terrible idea for a bunch of othe reasons. Which is why using armed conflict to solve problems that don't represent a clear threat to us or to the international system is generally a terrible idea.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:17 AM
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http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-04/senators-to-vote-on-approval-for-u-s-strikes-on-syria.html

OK, I see that Congress is already limiting the AUMF. Good.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:22 AM
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Anyway, see 153. Iraqis didn't exactly want our help.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:22 AM
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194. People are being slaughtered in the CAR also. Guatemala, which the US controls, is in not-so great shape right now. Similarly El Salvador, the US could maybe stop exporting hard-core criminals there as an easy first step. Haiti is a living hell.

Human suffering is a commodity. If anyone in the US cared about that, both refugee policies and foreign aid would look really different.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:24 AM
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Except that a lot of them did. The Kurds overwhelmingly supported the US attack and quite a lot of Shiites did as well.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:24 AM
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Nonsense. The Shia majority was probably happy to see us take out their oppressor. But again I don't see why our military should get deployed into war based on hypothetical assumed majority votes in other countries.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:25 AM
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192: Yes!? Clusterfuck in Syria means people are being slaughtered.

So find policies to make life easier for refugees. Why do you think bombing is going to help anything?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:25 AM
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Something like 1% of the Syrians killed in the conflict so far have been killed by CW. I don't know why, HG, you think success of our actual limited mission -- and no more CW use is exactly how success is to be measured -- meets your goals or those of your colleague.

This is why I think the pressure to expand the scope of our involvement will be difficult to contain.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:25 AM
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Look, I'm not going to start defending the US. We have atrocious policies all over the place. I don't think we ought to be the world's police. We cause many more deaths and suffering than we prevent. If we start playing "But we're hypocrites! What about X, Y, and Z that we in fact caused!" then I'm going to entirely agree.

Serious question: should we have intervened in Rwanda?

I'm absolutely not saying Syria is Rwanda. I just want to know is that qualified as sufficiently awful humanitarian crisis that targeted bombing might have been preferable to doing nothing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:30 AM
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Honestly, I don't think it's likely that bombing will help. I think it's a hail mary.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:32 AM
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143, 145: And it should be: "Something must be done. This is something the only thing that people in power will consider. Therefore we must do this."

Name a thing that will be done by someone else, and I'll support them over us.

Picking up on this late, but it seems pretty likely that people in power are indeed doing any number of other things -- covertly, or if not in utter secrecy, very quietly, under the radar of the mainstream press.

The lack of information average US citizens are suffering under makes it impossible to come up with a fully informed judgment: basing a judgment just on what you've been told is fair enough in a sense (what else can you do?), but accepting at face value that bombing is the only thing anyone can think to do seems naive.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:38 AM
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204: Speculative bombardment has serious drawbacks as a tool of foreign policy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:39 AM
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Also my Iraqi colleague did not seem particularly upset by the Iraq war. I admit that some of this is just reacting to the emotional proximity. We're a surprisingly middle Eastern math department for how small we are.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:39 AM
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Serious question: should we have intervened in Rwanda?

I don't think we should have.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:39 AM
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I'm absolutely not saying Syria is Rwanda. I just want to know is that qualified as sufficiently awful humanitarian crisis that targeted bombing might have been preferable to doing nothing.

I'll go out on a limb and say that not bombing Rwanda was the right call, even with benefit of hindsight.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:41 AM
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"average US citizens" should be "average citizens worldwide". It's not as though French citizens are privy to more information about, oh, covert arms transfers, behind-the-scenes intelligence sharing, and the whole suite of actions Flippanter mentions in 167.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:41 AM
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208: Really? That's a very hard line against intervention.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:41 AM
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But again I don't see why our military should get deployed into war based on hypothetical assumed majority votes in other countries.

I agree, but it isn't irrelevant. And in any case I wasn't saying that this made the Iraq war a good idea, just that, contra Heebie, plenty of Iraqis did want our 'help'.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:42 AM
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I'll go out on a limb and say that not bombing Rwanda was the right call, even with benefit of hindsight.

But it wasn't just not bombing. It was pulling out UN troops already there.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:44 AM
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But it wasn't just not bombing.

I was responding to heebie's question. The distinction between "intervening" (general) and "targeted bombing" (specific) is significant to the debate at hand.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:49 AM
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211 -- I wasn't hearing a good Powell Doctrine case at the time, and while it's certainly possible to spin out a scenario that stops 20 years of brutal war in its tracks right at the beginning, you're still left with a situation where people have fought for 20 years because the issues are real to them, and those same issues will always matter more to the people there than they would to us.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:51 AM
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Right, and I was actually asking about targeted bombing, hypothetically, in Rwanda. But I am also curious to open it up to other interventions people would have been okay with.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:51 AM
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208, 209 That position would be an absolute disqualifying one for me when choosing who to vote for in a primary and when deciding whether to volunteer in a general election for any federal level position. I came pretty close to abstaining on the presidential line in 1996 because of it.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:52 AM
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214, 216: I'd missed that. I don't think Rwanda had anything to bomb that would have made a difference.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:52 AM
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218: Maybe the radio towers. That's something that could have been a good target to bomb since that's how the genocide got down to the street level.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:54 AM
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215 There's this minor difference between a nasty on off civil war and systematic extermination of a civilian population. The only cases where I wouldn't support US intervention in that scenario, including large scale troop deployments, would be against Russia, China, or India and even there I'd want a long term cut off of all trade plus strong secondary sanctions.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:58 AM
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215: I don't think you needed to solve the issues to have had some effect on ameliorating the genocide.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:58 AM
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219 Yeah, that's what I was thinking, but then there's no reason to think that they wouldn't have found another way to spread the word. In fact, I'd say that it's certain they would have done.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 10:58 AM
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220 -- Are you prepared to intervene on the side of the Alawites when Assad is overthrown?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:02 AM
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Serious question: should we have intervened in Rwanda?

God no.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:06 AM
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223 Yes. And I am quite worried that in the event of a rebel victory we will need to. Though I would be ok with one limited to creating an Alawite or Alawite/Christian de facto state along the coast.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:07 AM
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Plus the idea that we couldn't have done much in Rwanda is crazy. There was a large Tutsi army that was already winning the war. Providing them with tactical air support would have sped things up considerably.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:09 AM
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http://jacobinmag.com/2013/09/good-wars-real-or-imagined/

Our political debates engender a habit of mistaking the simple moral impermissibility of great crimes for simplicity in the events that lead to them. This is always and only a mistake. The Rwandan conflict was at heart a tribal conflict, and there were Hutus and there were Tutsis, and the former were the people who we would have been killing, and they constituted a large majority of Rwanda's people. The Tutsis, we can assume, would have behaved like essentially every other winning party in every other civil conflict of the past century, and would almost certainly have engaged in a campaign of violent reprisals against the defeated Hutus. The restoration by force of Tutsis to power would have been yet another in a long history of Western imperial powers installing a minority people into government to dominate the majority. Then there's the uncomfortable reality that the proximate causes of the conflict, civil war and assassination, are not the stuff of long-term stability.

More than anything, there is the lesson that Americans across parties simply refuse to learn, the lesson of our own fallibility. "Should" still implies "can," and we have every reason to doubt "can." The last decade of history should have taught us no lesson more forcefully or completely than that good will is no guarantee of good deeds, that war is unpredictable and intervention fickle, that overwhelming military superiority is essentially worthless when it comes to securing peace. Every conversation I have ever had about a hypothetical humanitarian intervention has assumed that it would have been successful in keeping Hutus from slaughtering Tutsis. I simply cannot understand this kind of confidence. We had over a hundred thousand troops in Iraq, the "legitimacy" of Congressional approval, an investment of hundreds of billions of dollars, and the willingness to sacrifice thousands of American lives. Yet the warring factions of Iraq killed each other in the hundreds of thousands, ethnically cleansed the country, destroyed its infrastructure, sent refugees out in vast waves, and generally caused the nation to descend into a lawless hell. Today, ten years after the invasion, Iraq suffers from a corrupt and unaccountable government and daily spasms of terrible violence, so common that they barely make the newspapers here. And yet we are always to believe that American good will and military power would have ensured the prevention of atrocity in Rwanda. As always, the burden of proof rests on those who are skeptical of military power, no matter how much history we have on our side.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:11 AM
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225, 226 -- I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree on whether the US should be going around the world picking sides in civil wars, making sure our side wins, and then protecting our side should the other side go for a rematch.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:15 AM
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I would be ok with one limited to creating an Alawite or Alawite/Christian de facto state along the coast.

Western powers drawing boundaries around the world has tended to produce shitty outcomes historically. Syria is going to be a psychotically violent basket case for the next decade. Anybody wanting to step into that charnel house is using wildly different IR math than I am.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:19 AM
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Honestly, I don't think it's likely that bombing will help. I think it's a hail mary.

Doesn't "hail mary" imply it has, say, a 95% chance of not changing the situation, a 5% change of improving it, and no other possible outcome?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:25 AM
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I know, deep down, I'm wrong about intervention, but it still feels sometimes that being knee-jerk anti-intervention is a little cold.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:26 AM
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The Tutsis, we can assume, would have behaved like essentially every other winning party in every other civil conflict of the past century, and would almost certainly have engaged in a campaign of violent reprisals against the defeated Hutus.

Except they did win in the end and they didn't engage in any campaign even remotely close to the Hutu genocide.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:29 AM
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227 You have got to be fucking kidding me. Last I checked there were plenty of live Sunnis in Iraq and live Hutus in Rwanda. That article bears the same relation to reality as the idea that clearly the Iraq War was a wonderful thing because Iraq immediately became a flourishing peaceful liberal democracy. The net result of an intervention in Rwanda would have been an authoritarian minority regime, yes. I.e. the same thing that happened anyways, except with hundreds of thousands fewer dead people.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:32 AM
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231: being knee-jerk anti-intervention is a little cold

I'm not sure anyone here is being knee-jerk anti-intervention.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:34 AM
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except with hundreds of thousands fewer dead people

It has not been my observation that adding weaponry to civil wars lowers the death count.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:38 AM
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231: It's just such an unreliable, ineffective way of helping people. Feel cold because we're not spending as much money as a bombing campaign would cost on, say, finally eliminating polio. Or whatever.

Your 143 is the reasoning that would make a humanitarian support the campaign, but it's really bad reasoning.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:41 AM
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Breaking! (just kidding - I see this news has been out throughout the day)

I was surprised to hear just now that Putin claims he might OK intervention at the UN Sec. Council:

He said he "doesn't exclude" backing the use of force against Syria at the United Nations if there is objective evidence proving that Assad's regime used chemical weapons against its people.

This might be just a tease, but taking it at its face, it changes the dynamic quite a bit.

It occurs to me: what would Cameron do in a UN Security Council vote now, if, say, Russia came on board? I'm afraid I haven't even followed the nature of China's resistance.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:41 AM
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except with hundreds of thousands fewer dead people

You mean hundreds of thousands more potential al Qaeda members, I assume.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:41 AM
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234: Not dropping bombs on other countries who haven't attacked us *should* be the reflexive policy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:42 AM
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I'm curious, who here thinks that the anti-apartheid sanctions were a bad idea? Ancient tribal conflict, check. Poor history of sanctions having positive effects. Nasty history of Western interference in Africa, check. Risk that if the apartheid regime collapsed there would be bloody revenge and a humanitarian catastrophe, check.

The arguments made in the latter part of this thread are making me more pro-intervention in Syria, just like when I read uneconstructed Iraq war hawks explaining why we need to launch a massive intervention I get the reverse effect.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:46 AM
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I don't think knee jerk is fair. I've been in favor of interventions that I would guess the distinguished gentleman from North Carolina has opposed, and would expect the situation goes the other way on others. These things always have to be considered on their own -- but the default has to be not using our military to shoot people, or rain death on them from the skies. And the burden of accounting for the known unknowns and unknown unknowns has to be on the proponents of using force.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:53 AM
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Simply bombing the radio station in Rwanda would have cut the legs out from the organization of the genocide. It would not have ended it, but the radio was a significant source of coordination for the gangs of murderers. It would have been a minimal intervention and would have killed maybe a dozen people. Rwanda is the one case where a limited military intervention had a clear promise of making a positive difference.

Rwanda is a bad example for comparison to Syria because there is no analogous strike of half a dozen cruise missiles that would save many tens of thousands of lives.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:55 AM
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teraz, I'm gathering that you're speaking solely to a "Bomb or not? Yes or no?" question. It seems to me that intervention can take many, many more forms.

I'm in favor of intervention, but I'm not convinced that the only form of it available to us is a bombing campaign (now known as "pinpoint strikes"), nor am I convinced that that's the best form of it available to us.

I have the impression from the Obama administration that they (may) feel that they've tried everything else, and this is what they think they need to do now. I can't bring myself to accept their judgment on that, yet.

I don't claim to be objectively right, by the way -- maybe they really have tried everything else -- this is just a sketch of my take on the matter. I don't like to think this puts me in a knee-jerk anti-intervention camp.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:57 AM
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The arguments made in the latter part of this thread are making me more pro-intervention in Syria

I suppose it's fortunate, then, that the discussions here have, as ever, zero real-world consequences.

Kidding aside, will you explain to me, in a sentence or two (or even three or four!) what you hope intervention will accomplish in Syria? I ask because I understand what heebie is saying -- atrocities are atrocious, and she has a personal, albeit tenuous, connection to the suffering, so she finds it hard to be cold and calculating in this case -- but I can't figure out what you're advocating and why.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 11:59 AM
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Also, whatever the fuck happened to the analogy ban?


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:01 PM
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I suppose it's fortunate, then, that the discussions here have, as ever, zero real-world consequences.

Fortunately for the makers of Drambuie, that's not exactly true.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:02 PM
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238 The Hutu would have joined al Qaeda en masse?

It has not been my observation that adding weaponry to civil wars lowers the death count.

Except when it does. Either when peace is imposed by outsiders or when one side wins.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:04 PM
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Years from now, the renaissance of the Rusty Nail will be hard to explain for people who don't rtfu.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:05 PM
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244 In the case of Syria right now, possibly prevent the use of chemical weapons on populated civilian areas becoming a regretful but normal part of war along the lines of mass shelling and bombing.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:08 PM
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249: okay, thanks. That seems like the most reasonable rationale for intervention to me. I just don't think the potential downside (which, again, isn't "nothing") is worth the potential upside (upholding international norms that don't seem to exist, even for the United States, as norms).


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:17 PM
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I saw something on the telly last night -- maybe on Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" -- mentioning that the US has currently developed missiles whose tips bear ... napalm.

Having spent 10 minutes trying to find a reference for this, I'm coming up short.

Is this true?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:32 PM
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upholding international norms that don't seem to exist, even for the United States, as norms

IANAIL, but isn't this from Obama misleading as a matter of international law?

What's the purpose of the international system that we've built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?

Syria isn't a signatory. Is it subject to the treaty anyway? Fun fact: Israel also has not ratified the treaty.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 12:35 PM
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It's worth asking why this shouldn't be referred to the International Criminal Court, as well: aren't they the arbiters of war crimes?

Oh, but the US isn't a member.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 1:12 PM
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251: Napalm is an incendiary though, not a poison gas. Much less dangerous that a missile with a high explosive warhead, it would seem, at least in most cases.

Are you sure it wasn't white phosphorous? That's been controversially used by the Israelis as a chemical weapon, rather than as a flare, its intended purpose.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 1:16 PM
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254: I don't know -- I thought napalm was named. The difference between that and a poison gas seems negligible to me. Or maybe I just remember badly what it did in Vietnam. Or maybe I just can't take the US seriously when it pontificates about the proper and improper use of various weapons. Depleted uranium ain't no joke, even though it's not a poison gas.

And the US still declines to fully join the ICC, because it doesn't want to be prosecutable under its jurisdiction.

The US is not standing proud in these matters.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 1:38 PM
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but it still feels sometimes that being knee-jerk anti-intervention is a little cold

I don't think anyone here lacks compassion, for the record.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 1:49 PM
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Also, the new AUMF proposal regarding Syria which just passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been revised by its members to make regime change a goal. Committee Democrats were chiefly responsible for the approval, even though the amended version was the work of John McCain.

This is going splendidly. The full Senate now gets to vote on this version of the AUMF. Pinpoint strikes? not so much.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 1:56 PM
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252: There are other sources of international law besides treaties. I don't know much about this particular subject but I take it there's a decent argument that a prohibition on chemical weapons is a non-derogable norm of customary international law. (The Red Cross, for example, apparently believes that's the case, pace 250.) Syria as a non-signatory isn't subject to the CW Convention itself, but if that treaty reflects a fundamental norm, Syria would still be subject* to that norm. Of course, no idea if that's what Obama had in mind with that statement, but it's not necessarily misleading as a matter of international law.

*Given the nature of international law in general--and customary international law in particular--that should probably get some serious scare quotes.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:16 PM
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255: It appears from Wikipedia the US is signatory to a convention banning the use of napalm on civilians, but not a further protocol banning all uses.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:24 PM
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Never mind, I was misreading - Obama has signed Protocol 3 on incendiaries, which prohibits use of incendiaries on civilians, military targets within civilian concentrations, or forests.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:30 PM
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Hooray.


Posted by: Opinionated Smokey the Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:32 PM
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How is being knee-jerk "we don't invade or bomb other countries unless they're threatening us or our allies" a bad thing? Actually as I said above that's a far more important and longstanding principle of international law than the chemical weapons ban, which by the way makes all of this clearly "illegal" (in that int'l law sense).

I actually think the Iraq War was more justified (though still clearly a terrible idea) since there was some (very weak but still) evidence that Sadaam was developing a nuclear weapon and that this would be a grave strategic threat to the US and international order. Here, if we don't intervene the most likely result is that Assad loses anyway and gets killed in a violent revolution, the second most likely outcome being that he wins and gets a reputation as a pariah dictator. All the talk of "messaging" and "precedent" is just so much bullshit in my view. Also once we start down this road the most likely outcome is further intervention and pressure for intervention.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:34 PM
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atrocities are atrocious, and she has a personal, albeit tenuous, connection to the suffering, so she finds it hard to be cold and calculating in this case

Also, I'm seriously not claiming this tragedy as my own, in any sense. I'm just saying I am partly operating from sentimentality/emotionality. Also being knee-jerk anti-bombing is fine.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:43 PM
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heebie, my feeling is that the US's military ability is a blunt weapon, a hammer: sure, we can scare people pretty seriously with the threat of its use, and we can scare and hurt people far worse with its actual use, but I don't think we're very good at using it with a light touch. In part because the entire world freaks out when we deploy, and take steps of their own.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:50 PM
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Or, takes steps of its own. (noun-verb confusion there)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:51 PM
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240 is one of the dumber arguments I've ever seen on this issue. There's a fundamental difference between using economic coercion and military force that's pretty basic to international relations and has been since about forever. No, economic sanctions and bombing people are not the same things.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 2:58 PM
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I keep getting hung up on the fact that when people are being slaughtered, and will continue to be slaughtered for the forseeable future, then what they need is a hail mary.

The problem here is that we don't actually know who was responsible for the sarin gas, if sarin gas was used. I'm not sure what Assad would gain from gassing the suburbs. He knows that there are unfriendly nations whose militaries -- or individuals within them -- would like an excuse to enter his conflict. Why would he then put sarin gas on rockets and deliver it to his suburbs? Is he a cartoon villain?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:03 PM
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254.2 Are you sure it wasn't white phosphorous? That's been controversially used by the Israelis as a chemical weapon, rather than as a flare, its intended purpose.

Also by the US.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:04 PM
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heebie, my feeling is that the US's military ability is a blunt weapon, a hammer: sure, we can scare people pretty seriously with the threat of its use, and we can scare and hurt people far worse with its actual use, but I don't think we're very good at using it with a light touch.

My feeling is that the military is our hammer, and we think everything looks like a nail, and so we just can't resist hammering away whether it's helpful or not. (Almost always not.)

Given that we can't resist hammering at every goddamn thing we see, it's sort of galling when we don't intervene militarily in humanitarian crises, because it gives the impression we just don't care very much. We're willing to use our military to (attempt to) effect regime change halfway across the globe, but not to (attempt to) stop genocide?

The fact that we shouldn't be using our military so much for any purposes and that our efforts may in both cases be useless if not counterproductive is beside the point. Yes, sure, military action just makes things worse. But it's what we do.

(This sort of just restates 143, I know.)


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:08 PM
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I find this thread really frustrating to read, but not in a way that makes me want to try to engage with it.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:12 PM
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economic sanctions and bombing people are not the same things

I'd have opposed bombing Pretoria as well.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:21 PM
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woops, was typing in the wrong thread. if you are a republican house member, what would be the advantage in voting to authorize the military strikes? most tea-partiers are anti-interventionist and would be happy to have actually stopped obama from doing something this time. profit.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:27 PM
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if the tea party successfully blocked a new war, I would join them. then you'd all need to find me your birth certificates.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:29 PM
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and they could make some more tv movies about John Kerry if they like. everyone wins.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:32 PM
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266 is sort of hypocritical, when you responded earlier saying that Iraq was also amidst a humanitarian crisis, from the sanctions, akin to syria's.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:33 PM
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263: for what it's worth, I didn't understand you to be claiming someone else's suffering as in any way your own.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:35 PM
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most tea-partiers are anti-interventionist

What's your evidence? They haven't done much in Congress, and this poll from June 2011 has 42% of Tea Party supporters supporting immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, compared to 56% of the full sample.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:38 PM
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First link should have been to here.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:39 PM
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I suppose my evidence would be that I have actually spoken with people who actually prefer a smaller government, and they were universally against the War in Iraq. Their comeback was always that Democrats had also voted for it.

But I guess if I had a poll on a narrow and tangential issue that I would feel more confident about my hunch.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:44 PM
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It's also basically incoherent to favor a small government and an interventionist military strategy. I think most people understand this.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:46 PM
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Godwin is certainly taking a beating. From a near-parodic Politico story* which I don't have the energy to link (I think I'm kind of where 270 is).

Graham has been careful to distance himself from Obama, calling on the president to "up his game" and charging that Syria is "the most mismanaged situation I've ever seen since World War II when they were trying to to control the Nazis."

*Freaking headline: "Syria stance unlikely to hurt Lindsey Graham in 2014." Syrians as collateral damage from internal US political posturing. Another slogan to paint on a missile: "This is not likely to hurt me in 2014 -- Lindsey Graham."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:51 PM
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Is incoherence really a problem for core Republican voters? I mean, I think you're right about the philosophy behind the literal tea party groups, but I wouldn't be surprised if the broader group of angry-white-guy-voters is both knee-jerk anti-tax and knee-jerk pro-any-war-against-Muslims.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:51 PM
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280: If they thought about it more than they are likely to think about it.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:51 PM
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It's also basically incoherent to favor a small government and an interventionist military strategy. I think most people understand this.

Most Republicans and Tea Partiers have different ideas about what is coherent than you do.

My experience is that simplicity, repetition and volume are frequently their measure of coherence.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:59 PM
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282: incoherence is only not a problem when you have something personally at stake. most people will tie themselves in knots in order not to admit that they were wrong. but in blocking Obama, the tea-partiers get to be right to have voted against Obama, or at least to feel right in having done so. If anything, a defeat in the house would be ego-supportive for them. In that position, I think they are likely to see the incoherence of a vote authorizing military action.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 3:59 PM
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Core Republican voters (who now call themselves "tea party supporters") that I know believe we should do twice as much to "defend our national interests", which in their mind is the one true purpose of government and is the aim of every military intervention, and they believe that we could afford to do that if only we would stop spending so much money on poor people, etc.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:00 PM
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Most Republicans and Tea Partiers have different ideas about what is coherent than you do.

I think most people can spot a basic logical contradiction. When it goes against interest, they try very hard not to.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:01 PM
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285: Then their coherent position is anti-Obamaism, not anti-interventionism.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:01 PM
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286: Then I would guess that your core Republican friends are either incapable of finding a pie chart illustrating the federal budget, or are full of shit. I also guess that not all tea partiers are full of shit.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:02 PM
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285.last: Sure, afterwards they will justify it by, "Come see the incoherence inherent in the system," but the actual vote won't have one freaking to do with incoherence, rather that they are 11-dimensional dicks.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:03 PM
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I also guess that not all tea partiers are full of shit.

Yes they are.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:04 PM
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Then their coherent position is anti-Obamaism, not anti-interventionism.

No, their coherent position would be desiring to reduce the federal budget. Its application, in this instance, would be supported by their emotional position of anti-Obamaism.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:04 PM
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But we all repeat ourselves.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:04 PM
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290: Even if they are 11-dimensional dicks, they are probably 11-dimensional dicks who want to win elections and need something good to tell their constituents about the term. Stopping Obama from doing something stupid -- which in this case actually is stupid -- is exactly what they need.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:06 PM
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290.1 -> 294


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:09 PM
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Sorry, JP, I don't get it. You're saying that their votes will be motivated by an expected political gain, rather than a desire for a coherent ideology? Yes, I agree, which is what makes it better.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:12 PM
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275 -- not really. I don't think anyone would claim that economic means of coercion aren't serious -- they very often can be. But there's a traditional and firm line between acts of economic coercion (which are, after all, still acts of coercion) and acts of military force that involve affirmatively killing people. FDR's economic embargo of Japan had some pretty serious effects on Japan's economy. That doesn't mean that it was the equivalent of Pearl Harbor. Similarly, refusing to buy from South African countries is not the same as bombing Pretoria.

The point about Iraq is simply that (given the existence of the sanctions) there was an argument that a simple invasion was a more humanitarian policy. I remember Dsquared and others making that argument at the time. It didn't seem like a very good argument then or now.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:17 PM
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I also guess that not all tea partiers are full of shit.

"Not all"? Ok. I'm sure there are some tea partiers who are not full of shit. But I'm also sure it's triflingly few of them and none of them who are in any position of influence, so that's sort of irrelevant.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:22 PM
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298: I don't know any tea partiers who are in any position of influence. But I know that people who are in positions of influence typically desire to stay in those positions, and I think that defeating Obama on this issue would be a smart way to go about doing that.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:30 PM
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I also should have been clearer that I think your friends -- who I am assuming don't live in regions where the tea party is an actual viable alternative -- are full of shit.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:34 PM
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Okay, so we're dropping the "most tea-partiers are anti-interventionist" statement entirely? So, let's then restate 272:

woops, was typing in the wrong thread. if you are a republican house member, what would be the advantage in voting to authorize the military strikes? most tea-partiers are anti-interventionist and would be happy to have actually stopped obama from doing something this time. profit.

Um, yeah, "if Obama is for it then I'm against it" has been their animating strategy for the last few years, so that's certainly nothing new. Why are they (maybe) dropping that now? I don't know--maybe they just love war that much...?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:36 PM
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I have no idea what 300 means.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:37 PM
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based on 301, 302 is not surprising. most tea-partiers hate obama for a variety of reasons -- some of them are racists -- and want a smaller government so that they can pay less taxes. they don't particularly want to bomb middle eastern countries. they have nothing to gain from that. most tea-partiers are anti-interventionist. your friends are probably not actual tea-partiers, and are full of shit.

I have no idea whether the elected members of the house who identify as tea partiers are full of shit as well. They probably are, as they have found their way into the house of representatives. But, in finding their way into the house of representatives, they probably understand that voting in such a way that both (1) coheres with their professed ideology, and (2) makes Obama look bad will help them get reelected. Whether they actually care about being coherent is something that I don't care about.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:45 PM
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Here are the "15 Non-negotiable Core Beliefs" from the "About Us" page at teaparty.org:

1. Illegal aliens are here illegally.
2. Pro-domestic employment is indispensable.
3. A strong military is essential.
4. Special interests must be eliminated.
5. Gun ownership is sacred.
6. Government must be downsized.
7. The national budget must be balanced.
8. Deficit spending must end.
9. Bailout and stimulus plans are illegal.
10. Reducing personal income taxes is a must.
11. Reducing business income taxes is mandatory.
12. Political offices must be available to average citizens.
13. Intrusive government must be stopped.
14. English as our core language is required.
15. Traditional family values are encouraged.

I would draw your attention specifically to #3, although really, more generally, does this strike you as set of "core beliefs" for a group that pays a lot of heed to coherence? How many of them do you think have a concrete grasp of what exactly it would mean, in terms of government services, to simultaneously accomplish 3, 7, 8, 10, and 11? Do you think they even understand that 7 and 8 are repeating each other? Does 4 mean anything comprehensible at all?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 4:59 PM
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Thank you for doing that research, urple. I do not think that item 3 necessitates bombing Syria. You will have to work a little harder to make that logical connection apparent.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:03 PM
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Also, I'm not quite sure what point you're trying to make, urple. You don't think that it would be a smart political move for house republicans to vote against authorizing military action? You think that a vote against military strikes is going to hurt the house republicans in their next elections?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:05 PM
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Ever since text went plumb off the deep end that one time, I can never be quite sure when he is being deliberately obtuse for trolling purposes, and when he is being simply and unintentionally obtuse.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:19 PM
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307: I've gone plumb off the deep end more than once. But I will take choice (b), obtuse. Explain to me how a vote against bombing Syria is going to hurt a tea partier in his or her next election. Is there a fear of facing a primary challenge from someone with an otherwise identical ideology, but who wanted to give Obama the power to bomb people?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:27 PM
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I'm against intervention, but I think that position (at least as I hold it) does have an element of coldness to it, as Heebie said in 231. I don't believe that the U.S. should be an imperial power. I don't believe in an interventionist U.S. foreign policy. Over time, that policy has caused massive civilian deaths, and I think it's become destabilizing today if it wasn't before. It is certainly theoretically possible that in some specific case U.S. intervention might end up saving lives. Syria might end up being that case, who knows? The current situation in Syria strikes me as very different than Iraq -- there was no ongoing civil war or massacre of civilians in Iraq, and if your goal in 2003 was actually improving human well-being in Iraq it was relatively simple to figure out peaceful policies to do so. Syria is a huge mess. It is hard to see how you make the situation worse for Syrians (although we may well come up with a way). But intervention would be bad for America and the world, by embroiling us still further as an imperial power in the Middle East.

Really, if you believe that military intervention is necessary in some cases to prevent civilian suffering, you should be working on a practical international process for a consensus military intervention accompanied by procedures to rehabilitate civil government that aren't a cloak for one nation to pursue its hidden and overt agendas.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:39 PM
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To be honest, I'm with text, but I don't believe that the Tea Party is motivated by an ideology more coherent than "If Obama or the Democrats want it, it's evil." Vote against bombing Syria, and come up with the after-hoc-something-else-hoc later. It's not like bombing Syria is going to be such a huge success that they're not going to be able to find something they didn't like and claim it as a reason.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:42 PM
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Explain to me how a vote against bombing Syria is going to hurt a tea partier in his or her next election.

It could be a hard decision. The tea partier has to assume that every voting issue in the Republican primary will be based on nonsensical propaganda funded by outside lobbying groups. Yes, it is generally good to follow a 100% policy of voting against whatever you think Obama wants, so you don't get accused of standing with the US President in a time of war, which is by definition an act of treason.

On the other hand, maybe Obama continues to be perceived as anti-bombing and very reluctant to bomb... in that case people might forget what side of the issue is the anti-Obama side, and then you are vulnerable to accusations that you weren't militaristic and murderous enough, and/or that you love Muslims and hate Syria's oppressed Christian minority who was begging for bombing raids.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:51 PM
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Further to 311, Rand Paul is currently putting forward the position that Bashar Assad loves Christians and to bomb him is to declare jihad, but again, things might change as inevitably Christians get oppressed whether or not we do anything.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:55 PM
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My point is not that voting against bombing Syria would be politically damaging for a member of the tea party. My point is that, if Obama wasn't even considering bombing Syria, the tea party would still be Obama's most vocal critics, only they would be talking about his spinlessly letting a ruthless dictator use chemical weapons in violation of international treaties without any fear of reprisal. Their opposition is to Obama, it's not a principled opposition to military intervention, much less a desire to maintain logical consistency.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:59 PM
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It is true though that in bombing Assad's facilities --wherever those actually are, as we don't know -- we would be helping the insurgents, many of whom are muslim extremists. This I gathered from Bob's second link.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 5:59 PM
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Explain to me how a vote against bombing Syria is going to hurt a tea partier in his or her next election.

I was referring not to that, but to the assertion that the Tea Party adheres to non-intervention out of devotion to intellectual coherence.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:03 PM
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313: I guess my point is that I don't care. You may be right that most of the tea party house members are completely full of shit and simply make up their positions as they go along. But I tend to think that few politicians are ideologically pure. And I think that most of the tea party voting populace actually just wants smaller government, and might be a little bit racist. But it doesn't really matter. Either way, the Republicans would be smart to vote against authorizing military action.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:03 PM
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315: oh.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:04 PM
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Either way, the Republicans would be smart to vote against authorizing military action.

This I agree with, for much the same reasons Cala cites.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:19 PM
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Explain to me how a vote against bombing Syria is going to hurt a tea partier in his or her next election.

Well a vote for bombing Syria might really hurt in the next election if Syria does have the top Soviet anti-ship missiles, sinks a carrier group, 5 destroyers and the amphibious troopship along with the loss of 20k sailors.

Then Obama decides he has had enough and pulls back...

Or

Obama goes total war on Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah and reinstitutes the draft along with sugar, coffee, and gas rationing...

I am not that much a pessimist, unless believing accepting a certain radical uncertainty when the first punch hits the face, wait, when bombs start flying...

...so I don't know what a smart vote on Syria would be, since I can't see the future.

I ain't smart, just cynical, skeptical, and a little bit evil, and would vote "Hell no" from the depths of my ice cold heart because I just don't feel like voting to kill people. I don't haveta.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:20 PM
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Although I guess I voted to kill folk last November.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:23 PM
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Or let me put it another way...

...if we do lose ships and sailors and go total war the people who voted against the bombing won't look that great..."told you so" don't play in a nation with bloodlust.

...which was part of the motivation in Fall 2002.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:26 PM
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I dunno, "told you so" did pretty well in 2008.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 6:54 PM
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Just to be weird and creepy, I am going to adopt the British practice of referring to people as "pet" at the end of sentences, pet.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:32 PM
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302: I have no idea what 300 means

THIS IS SPARTAAAAAAA!!!!!!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:35 PM
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Thank you. I waiting for that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 7:55 PM
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I don't believe in an interventionist U.S. foreign policy.

But I know, darling, that you do.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 9:38 PM
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326++


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09- 4-13 9:54 PM
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Well a vote for bombing Syria might really hurt in the next election if Syria does have the top Soviet anti-ship missiles, sinks a carrier group, 5 destroyers and the amphibious troopship along with the loss of 20k sailors.

Then Obama decides he has had enough and pulls back...

Or Obama goes total war on Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah and reinstitutes the draft along with sugar, coffee, and gas rationing...

hmm, another keeper for the Predictions of Bob.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 1:29 AM
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That's been controversially used by the Israelis as a chemical weapon, rather than as a flare, its intended purpose.

WP shells are to produce smoke, not illumination. You don't make flares out of white phosphorus because when a soldier says "Hey, I can't see the enemy because it's dark" the response he is hoping for is not "Well, that's OK, just a second while I SHOWER YOU WITH PARTICLES OF A HELLISH SUBSTANCE THAT WILL BURN UNQUENCHABLY THROUGH YOUR FLESH". He's hoping you'll say "OK, I'll send up a big firework on a parachute."

Standard smoke grenades work by spraying WP around and creating a blanket of smoke. WP is great for clearing bunkers and confined spaces as well. Though you shouldn't really use it for that, of course, because it's wrong.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 2:06 AM
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People who think bombing Syria would be a bad idea: Three denominations of Syrian Christians edition.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 2:22 AM
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Just to be weird and creepy, I am going to adopt the British practice of referring to people as "pet" at the end of sentences, pet.

Geordie rather than generally British.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 4:47 AM
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Scottish equivalent, although only used by women, would be 'hen'.

'Gonnae gie's a couple ae they bridies, hen?'


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 4:56 AM
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http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hen#Scots

Says there it's only used _for_ women, but I'm pretty sure it's also used _for_ children [or people much younger than the speaker], but almost exclusively _by_ women.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 5:02 AM
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326: well done


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 5:27 AM
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330: The Christians, though, are at least somewhat aligned with Assad.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 5:44 AM
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316: this has nothing to do with Syria. Anytime Obama is taking the wrong position on anything, Republican opposition to his position would happily marry political expedience with actual rightness. E.g., they could oppose his surveillance activities, and they would be right, and they could certainly sell it as opposition to creeping government tyranny. (Why don't they?) They could oppose all his overseas military activity, and they would be right, and they could certainly sell it as a desire to srhink government. (Why don't they?) Etc.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 5:55 AM
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335: yes, but that doesn't make their opinions any less valid. Lots of Syrians are aligned with Assad. The Christians are aligned with him for good reason: they think the alternative to Assad is a religious government by which they would be treated very badly. This is what's happened to Christians in various other countries in the region, eg Turkey, Iraq, Egypt. Assad's an Alawite and they're regarded as a bit heretical by a lot of orthodox Muslims, especially the Sunni, so he's managed to keep in power by running a coalition of minorities including Christians, Alawites, Druse (IIRC) and Shia.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 5:56 AM
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I always think of Alawites as being the Muslim equivalent of Mormons. Or maybe that's Druse.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 5:59 AM
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329: Here's what WP says about WP:

White phosphorus is a material made from a common allotrope of the chemical element phosphorus that is used in smoke, tracer, illumination and incendiary munitions.

But almost all of their examples are neither smoke nor illumination munitions, but rather incendiary.

331: Interesting. I was vaguely familiar with the term, and then I heard Dara O'Briain use it in his routine.

332: I almost put "or hen", but I was less sure about whether any non-Scottish people would say it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:02 AM
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Well, I've never heard of WP being used in illumination rounds, but I suppose it's possible. By far the most common use is smoke, though -either screening or markers.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:16 AM
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339. Dara would probably shiv you if you called him British.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:18 AM
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337: All true, of course. And since I agree with the position of Syrian Christians on bombing, I suppose I am objectively pro-Assad.

Nobody's hands are clean in situations like this. It's depressing.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:49 AM
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My hands got such a bad rash that I have to take prednisone and an antibiotic.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:52 AM
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341: Well, that was the thing, it was in the context of being in England, and speaking as the English do.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:58 AM
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Or another implement starting with shi-.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 7:05 AM
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"Willy Peter, make you a believer."

.Well a vote for bombing Syria might really hurt in the next election if Syria does have the top Soviet anti-ship missiles, sinks a carrier group, 5 destroyers and the amphibious troopship along with the loss of 20k sailors.
...and then Assad finds five dollars.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 7:08 AM
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bob, ever the optimist, has ignored the possibility that a hasty US intervention in Syria might open the gate for the return to earth of Gozer the Destructor.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 7:12 AM
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339: That is a poorly written, ambiguous sentence.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 7:26 AM
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(I have just phoned my senators to ask them to oppose the use of force in Syria. Man, does that feel pointless and ineffective.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:14 AM
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349: I don't know how urple feels about it, but it's very weird to have one of our awful senators espousing that already, though with his typical disturbing rationale.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:18 AM
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I'm starting to wonder if the (alleged) international norm against the use of chemical weapons is counterproductive. The tendency to equate chemicals with nukes as "WMD" seems to lure the U.S. into situations it otherwise might have the sense to avoid.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:29 AM
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338 - The Alawites are a secretive sect of Islam that have some theological quirks that mean that they aren't universally accepted as Islamic by mainstream Islamic scholars, while the Druze are an Abrahamic religion descended from Islam that believes in reincarnation and doesn't accept Muhammad as God's final prophet. You can choose how to violate the analogy ban.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:36 AM
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349: No it is looking like Congress, especially the House, will vote no.

And then will Obama attack anyway? I really don't know.

Was this the plan from the start, to reaffirm (it has happened before) the precedent that the President is the sole decider-in-chief? To send a message to Cameron?

To make some really really grateful friends in the Gulf States, so as to monetize Obama's ex-Presidency?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:38 AM
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351 is a pretty good point. Though I think the primary driving force at the moment for our involvement isn't a rational analysis of anything but just war fever. Red line! Credibility must be maintained! It's depressing because it feels like we've all been here before but I guess war fever really is just that powerful.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:39 AM
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Or will Obama attack to flip off the Democratic Base, depressing turnout and ensuring Republicans win big the Senate in 2014 (Grand Bargain at last!), and everything in 2016?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:43 AM
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Honestly it's the Syrian Christians' fault for whatever happens to them because of their tragic insistence on the uniformly divine nature of Christ and their rejection of the Council o Chalcedon.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:43 AM
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This has little or nothing to do with chemical weapons.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:45 AM
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356 was supposed to be "Opinionated Emperor Heraclius" but he isn't very adept at typing on his IPhone.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:46 AM
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Or will Obama attack to flip off the Democratic Base, depressing turnout and ensuring Republicans win big the Senate in 2014 (Grand Bargain at last!), and everything in 2016?

Yeah. Because, remember, two years ago you were SO CONVINCED that Obama was engineering another recession so he could switch parties, run as a Republican and win.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:52 AM
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Five-Alarm Firebagger Alert!

Putin Calls Kerry a Liar;Iran Warns

Tom Engelhardt's long piece has been getting around;even linked at LGM

And Obama will bring up Wallenberg in meetings with Putin? WTF? Most frosty relations with Russia in decades?

No, no, not at all like 1914


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:53 AM
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Obama was engineering another recession so he could switch parties, run as a Republican and win.

His base was so compliant it wasn't necessary.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:55 AM
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McManus's predictions cannot fail -- they can only be failed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:00 AM
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It is, indeed, nothing like 1914, because the interlocking systems of alliances that characterised 1914 Europe don't exist any more. NATO is the only one. Iran and Russia are under no obligation to fight on Syria's side. The US is under no obligation to fight on Israel's side. (No previous armed attack on Israel has led to the US getting involved in a war on Israel's side. The only slight exception would be 1991, and the US was already involved then.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:01 AM
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I'm getting tired of the phrase "no boots on the ground" so I'm going to assume it means the seekrit plan is to send US soldiers swooping in on hoverboards.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:06 AM
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I fear that the penultimate sentence of 363 no longer holds for a future attack.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:07 AM
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167: Was this it?

http://etherealland.com/cheiftainofseir/2006/04/11/on-the-fear-of-matches/


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:10 AM
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349: Man, does that feel pointless and ineffective

But now that you've written a blog comment about it, Total Empowerment!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:21 AM
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I'll be under my bed now. Have someone call me when all the world's problems are fixed.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:23 AM
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363:Relieved to know we are protected by the lack of treaties.

And the powers hit the trenches because of the treaty obligations?

I thought it was big swinging dicks.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:29 AM
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Tighty-whities weren't even invented yet.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:32 AM
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And the powers hit the trenches because of the treaty obligations?

A lot of them, yeah. Germany supported Austria because of the Triple Alliance. Germany attacked France because of France's pre-existing treaty with Russia. Britain entered the war because of a pre-existing treaty commitment to defend Belgium. (Russia didn't have a formal treaty with Serbia but had made statements of public support for their fellow Slavs.)

Without those treaties, Austria wouldn't have been sure of German support and so wouldn't have risked war against Russia by going to war against Serbia.

Come on, bob, this is elementary stuff.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:37 AM
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Whatever happens it's sure to be good new for John McCain.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:43 AM
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+s


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:44 AM
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I'm getting tired of the phrase "no boots on the ground" so I'm going to assume it means the seekrit plan is to send US soldiers swooping in on hoverboards.

The real secret plan is to send the troops in wearing Birkenstocks.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:47 AM
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Since this seems to be the designated warmongering thread, I just discovered that the mission to capture Aidid in Somalia back in 1993 was code named "Operation Gothic Serpent".

With a name like that no wonder it ended in disaster.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 9:58 AM
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Well, it was the early 90s. Goth was in. The strikes on Syria are probably going to be Operation Furious Twerk or something.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:00 AM
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Ezra builds a column around the well-known d2 line.

All I could think was, "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance." Longtime blogosphere obsessives will remember that line. Daniel Davies wrote it in 2004, in a justly famous blog post about the Iraq War


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:02 AM
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376: They've not yet reached the glory of "Frequent Wind," the evacuation of the Saigon Embassy.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:04 AM
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376: I'm holding out for Operation Emo.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:05 AM
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Operation Here Comes The Drop


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:06 AM
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I wonder what Steven Den Beste thinks about Syria?


Posted by: Longtime blogosphere obsessives | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:07 AM
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Uh oh. My understanding is that if you say S/t/e/v/e/n D/e/n B/e/s/t/e three times without google-proofing, he appears.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:09 AM
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The UK seems to be glorying in choosing increasingly weird and obscure codenames. Falklands was Op Corporate, which, fair enough. Gulf 1 was Granby, after an 18th century nobleman and general with a lot of pubs named after him (whose descendants still own Belvoir Castle, wonderfully pronounced "Beaver"). But Afghan was "Veritas" and then "Herrick". Iraq was "Telic" (purposeful, with a clear objective in sight). Libya was "Ellamy", an obscure word for the note E in a four-note chord which appears in a seventeenth century poem and basically nowhere else.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:10 AM
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And then there are six more years of war.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:11 AM
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I hadn't known that there are loads of Japanese chemical weapons still in China that they abandoned in 1945 and have recently assumed responsibility for destroying.

Ideally, aren't operation names supposed to not give clues to the nature of the action?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:13 AM
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384 -> 382.

383.last: Wound my heart with monotonous languor.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:14 AM
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385.last: Apparently not always: Pig Bristle (1946) Australia -- Unusual Australian operation to fly pig bristles needed to manufacture paint brushes out of China during the country's civil war.

The Wikipedia list of named operations continues to grow.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:18 AM
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Operation Restore Credibility


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:23 AM
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alright gang, I'm going to say Tom Hilde three times into a mirror.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:24 AM
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are you ready?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:24 AM
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Tom Hilde.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:25 AM
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Tom Hilde.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:25 AM
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Tom Hilde.

Something about information systems and abortion.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:26 AM
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388 is perfect.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:32 AM
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383: With such a rich literary tradition to draw on, you'd think they would get more creative.

Operation Mansfield Park
Operation Septimus Harding
Operation Banquo's Ghost


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:35 AM
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Banquo's Ghost is pencilled in for the English occupation of Scotland if they vote for independence. Danish ground forces will be deployed.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:40 AM
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387: Well, I imagine in a lot of cases generals who fancy themselves Pattons reborn will succumb to the temptation to make the name excitingly meaningful.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:44 AM
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395: And instead we get things like Operation Market Garden.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:45 AM
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The Dutch are just too dull for anything better.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:47 AM
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Of course, the Siegfried Line was no joke to cross. The Roy Line turned out to be vulnerable to assault by a single cat.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:54 AM
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When you have a $700B/year military you're going to shoot it. Refractory period on the order of a few years.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:55 AM
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400: And you made fun of my Airplane! joke?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:55 AM
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Too soon?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 10:56 AM
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Nice act, what do call yourselves?

The United States of America.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 11:00 AM
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The authorizationWar With Iran ...pdf

(a) A
AUTHORIZATION

.--The President is authorized,

subject to subsection (b), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and specified manner against legitimate military targets in Syria, only to--

(1) respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Government of Syria in the conflict in Syria;

(2) deter Syria's use of such weapons in order
to protect the national security interests of the
United States and to protect United States allies
and partners against the use of such weapons
;

a non-exclusive "and" is it called

Just in case you thought it was about "chemical weapons", which is the phrase used in most of the document


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 11:14 AM
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...use the Armed Forces of the United States as the President determines to be necessary and appropriate in a limited and specified manner against legitimate military targets in Syria

Is it too late to lobby for it to be named Operation Unfogged?


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 11:17 AM
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Well, that's fr lawyers, I spose. Separability?

--The President is authorized,

subject to subsection (b), to use...

(1) respond to the use...

(2) deter Syria's use of such weapons... (Which is probably enough)

and to play nine games of Go

Do the preceding clauses completely determine the last clause (the games of Go must be played in Syria,etc) or is it an independent clause?

In any case, this AUMF can be truthfully quoted as saying "the President is authorized to protect United States allies and partners against the use of such weapons [of mass destruction]"

Which is why it was changed from "chemical weapons"

If Assad has nukes, somebody should tell us.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 12:09 PM
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Assad couldn't possibly have nukes without which our intelligence agencies would know exactly where they are. Somehow I think Tom Hilde's information theory plays into this.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 12:34 PM
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Funny, that blog seems to have been taken down. And Mr. Hilde -- if it's the same guy -- wound up getting a professorship and writing about torture, which is not at all what I would have expected from him.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 12:51 PM
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My suggestions:

Operation Starlight Express
Operation Wizard Cocksucker
Operation International Norms


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 1:19 PM
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Operation Wry Cooter


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 1:27 PM
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Operation Schmoperation


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 1:41 PM
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Operation You're The Doctor


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 2:06 PM
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They really need to code name something Operation Petticoat in order to properly honor the movie/TV series.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 2:08 PM
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conjunction junction, what's your function?


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 2:23 PM
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The local police just finished Operation Pork Chop, which seems like a cruel name since the main suspect was a very fat man who is nicknamed "Porky."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 4:46 PM
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No one knows whether you're telling a lie or the truth, Hammer.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 5:01 PM
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Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is because I read it in the newspaper.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:12 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 6:24 PM
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||

Sharknado has a 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 7:52 PM
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404 is so sharply funny.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 09- 5-13 8:07 PM
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The post title doesn't quite fit to the tune of "Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows?" and it's starting to annoy me.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 09- 6-13 1:27 AM
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Maybe try 'House of the Rising Sun'?


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 09- 6-13 5:09 AM
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Oh noes, if I bury this down here no one will read it.

Syria House Whip Count and Analysis by Hamsher

Pat Lang says House don't matter

I am told by current intelligence officials that President Obama intends to bomb Syria in the coming days--with or without Congressional approval. With the whip count in the House of Representatives looking worse and worse for the war party, the White House is pressing Harry Reid to rush the Senate vote, perhaps as early as Monday evening, Sept. 9, the day that the Congress returns to Washington and the debate is scheduled to begin. If Obama can get a Senate majority, sources close to the White House say that he will order strikes before the House can get started. Perhaps this is why Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is saying that a House vote is unlikely before the week of Sept. 16, given that passions are running so high on the issue. The reality is that opposition in the House is growing and the chance of a "yes" vote from the GOP-led lower chamber is well below 50 percent.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 09- 6-13 7:08 AM
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Oh, I was thinking of Paul Deignan, the information theorizer. He's still around.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 6-13 7:53 AM
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I hate to say it, because the man's a willfully obscurantist self publicist, but I think he's got it right this time.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 09- 6-13 9:14 AM
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I'm starting to think that entire Deignan blog is a parody created by B Phd for laughs. If so, the doctor got one over on us, can't be denied.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 09- 6-13 12:48 PM
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