Streetwise Professor

April 26, 2013

Does Obama Read SWP? He Is Studying Calculus.

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 10:07 pm

This morning, in a post on Syria, chemical weapons, and how Obama would react to reports that Assad had used them, I asked “Will Obama Study Calculus?”   Apparently, based on remarks he made after I posted, the answer is yes!:

OBAMA: The Use Of Chemical Weapons In Syria Will ‘Change My Calculus’

“To use weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line in terms of international norms and laws,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office, according to a White House pool report.

“That’s going to be a game changer.”

Asked whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had crossed a “red line” by using chemical weapons, however, Obama hedged carefully:

“Knowing that there’s chemical weapons in Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used or how they were used. We ourselves will be putting a lot of resources on this,” he said, according to the pool report.  “A line has been crossed when we are seeing tens of thousands killed by the regime.”

“For the Syrian Government to use chemical weapons on its people will change my calculus,” Obama added. “This is not an on and off switch, it’s an on going challenge that all of us have to work with.”

Earlier Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney also took steps to hedge the administration’s claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against the opposition.

“We are continuing to work to build on the assessments made by the intelligence community, that the degrees of confidence here are varying, that this is not an airtight case,” Carney told reporters.

Note the use of use of the word “hedge” twice: who knew Obama was so into risk management?

He also said:

“Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community,” the president said. “And we ourselves are going to be putting a lot of resources into focusing on this.”

Leading from behind.  Again. And talk about lawyerly caviling (which I did in this morning’s post)-his remarks are about as perfect an example of political circumlocution as you’re ever likely to see.  All in all, playing to the form I predicted in the morning.

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  1. Assad an Iran have known for years that the US is bluffing. At this point this is about fooling the American populace.

    Comment by aaa — April 26, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

  2. AAA stole Vlad’s thunder. SWP needs to let Obama ‘be clear.’

    Comment by ObamaPutin — April 27, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

  3. 1. Based on the lessons from the Iraq aggression, we know that the CIA knows nothing about WMDs in Arab countries.

    2. Based on the lessons from the Iraq aggression, we know that the CIA and the US government intentionally lies about WMDs in Arab countries and their “movements”. Who can forget that Powell speech to the UN in which he shocked the world by unabashedly telling at least two lies per sentence. Among these intentional lies were stories about Saddam “moving WMDs around”.

    3. Even if our government suddenly started telling the truth and Assad had indeed used “che, mical weapons” (aka tear gas) on 10 or even 20 of his citizens, why are we talking about how much such internal use of chemicals can be tolerated by the US and not, say, Brazil, France or India? Who died and appointed the US government as the official policeman, prosecutor, judge and the mass executioner in Syria?

    Look, I admit to being biased when it comes to Syria. I . I just ask to to fear and hate Sunni Islamic extremists and terrorists, and I also hate to see Syrian Christians being exterminated, so I am not a fan of the Syrian “freedom fighters”. But i am not asking others to hate islamic extremism. I just ask the US government to become neutral and stay away.

    Is this too much to ask? Where in the US Constitution does it say that we must control the internal affairs of EVERY country on Earth? Can’t we restrict our government to invading no more than, say, five Muslim and two Latin American countries per decade?

    Or, alternatively, to wasting no more money on warmongering until we become less insolvent than Cyprus?

    Gross government debt as % of GDP

    Cyprus 87.26%
    United States 107.18%

    Comment by Vlad Rutenburg — April 28, 2013 @ 6:10 am

  4. But Vlad, warmongering based on lies about wmd is a Good Thing in the SWP-verse!!

    It helps him and his ‘amen chorus’ feel all Jacksonian and stuff.

    Comment by wanderer — April 28, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  5. Instead of wasting his time on making fun of my name, I wish SWP answered the natural questions that all my posts rasie:

    1. What does he see wrong with the libertarian philosophy?

    2. What does he see wrong with the libertarian view that huge government overspending doe snot lead to anything good other than the Greatest Depression?

    3. What does he see wrong with the libertarian view that wars are not a good thing, and neither is military interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and neither is lying to one’s own public and to the rest of the world?

    Comment by Vladislav Rutenburg — April 28, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  6. @Vladislav. Lighten up, FFS.

    Re your questions. There are many varieties of libertarian, so your question 1 is impossible to answer. I have strong libertarian tendencies, but as my 2011 piece “What’s My Name?” indicate there are varieties of Libertarianism that give me serious problems. And you’re crazy if you think that I’m somehow a supporter of huge government spending, or regulation, or whatever. No one could read this blog and think that I am.

    Consider me a mix of Friedman and Hayek.

    Re #3, here’s where I’m something of a Libertarian apostate. Wars are not a good thing, but there can be things worse than war.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — April 28, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

  7. As a libertarian, I am truly scared for the future of this country. When I came here as a child in 1974, it was a peace-loving fairly libertarian society that I loved. It is now sliding into the abyss of dictatorship and treating its citizens as morons.

    Powell’s speech about Iraqi “Weapon of Mass Destruction” in 2003 was just a first salvo. Today our government any explosive device – even a crude bomb made by retarded teenagers at home out of a fireworks kit – is officially classified a “Weapon of Mass Destruction”:

    Boston Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Charged With Using Weapon of Mass Destruction

    Accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction. The charges came after the White House decided against treating Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant.

    What it means is that the USA has officially stated in that any country in possession of at least one grenade is guilty of WMDs. Since every country – even Andorra – has a grenade or two, the US government has removed the final obstacle to the automation of the process of waging wars against the rest of the world. If the Bush administration was making do with only 2 wars at a time, Obama and the future administrations will be able to attack and destroy 4, 5, 6 countries at a time, all under the guise of fighting WMDs.

    Of course, in the case of Syria, the accusation is not the use of grenades, but the use of tear gas, which is a “chemical weapon of mass destruction”. They also use onions, which can soon be classified as a chemical weapon as well. Not to mention beans and hummus…

    Comment by Vladislav Rutenburg — April 29, 2013 @ 3:34 am

  8. Sorry for the numerous word omissions above.

    Comment by Vladislav Rutenburg — April 29, 2013 @ 3:46 am

  9. I was right! Here is what I just found:

    Why the Boston Marathon bombs are considered ‘weapons of mass destruction’ Nukes, pressure cookers, and everything in between are WMDs, according to the government

    By law, a WMD can be “any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas,” including bombs, grenades, and mines, regardless of their blast potential.

    In other words, Food Network chefs like Rachael Ray deserve to be tried for using WMDs on three different cooked-up counts:

    1. pressure cookers
    2. pomme-grenades
    3. food that destroys your stomach and taste buds

    Which is exactly what Anthony Bourdaine has been saying for years.

    Comment by Vladislav Rutenburg — April 29, 2013 @ 3:56 am

  10. Who died and appointed the US government as the official policeman, prosecutor, judge and the mass executioner in Syria?

    Nobody, but in the case of Iraq, the whole world did.

    As PJ O’Rourke pointed out, when Saddam invaded Kuwait, nobody called Sweden. Following his invasion of Kuwait, his tanks headed to Saudi Arabia, and it was likely the American mobilisation of forces to the border which prevented him taking over the Saudi oilfields. It can fairly safely be said that from that point on, the entire world subcontracted the security of the world’s major oil supply to the USA: the French and Russians repeatedly voted in the UN for the US-enforced sanctions on Iraq to remain, whilst with breathtaking cynicism simultaneously started doing deals with Iraq for the development of its oilfields. They knew what they were doing: keep the USA tied up in Saudi Arabia where it was detested (Bin Laden’s overwhelming opposition to the US was due to their presence on Saudi soil, his other gripes were very much secondary) and ensure that it is kept out of any future Iraqi oilfield developments. For a decade, the entire world was quite happy for this to go on: the US paying to protect the ME oildfields whilst everyone else criticises and enjoys the benefits of the US efforts for free.

    The suddenly, Bush comes along and says “Fuck it, we’re not doing this any more.” And tackles the source of the problem, Saddam Hussein. Sure, the WMD thing was bollocks (I don’t think they knew, or anyone knew, whether or not he had them. But the insistence that he did was bullshit). But they needed to go through that route to secure the UN backing. For all those people (and their were many) who complained about the Americans’ unilateral action, few stopped to consider that they had handed over sole responsibility for the ME oilfields to the US a decade before. The time for complaining about “America alone” was when it was alone and paying blood and treasure for everyone else’s benefit. My take on it is that Bush knew the US could never tackle any crisis elsewhere (Iran, Korea, etc.) whilst Saddam was still in power and able to roll his tanks into Saudi as soon as the Americans were occupied elsewhere, and that the situation of troops in Saudi was generating serious problems for both the Saudi government and the USA, and after a decade enough was enough. Facts bear out this belief: the US army moved to Qatar following the Iraq War, and for all those who thought Saddam was no longer a threat I point to the Kuwaitis who launched a colossal spending spree to upgrade its oilfields in June 2003. I moved to Kuwait a month later to take part in that upgrade, and heard from dozens of people that they lived in fear of Saddam invading again, which is why they waited a decade until he was safely removed from power before spending any money on in-country infrastructure. It is easy for people sat in New York and London to confidentally declare that Saddam was no longer a threat, less so for the Kuwaitis sitting right next door and with the last invasion still fresh in their minds.

    The entire world suffered a massive collective failure over the Iraq War: the world should never have made the protection of the ME oilfields solely a US responsibility, but as usual that’s what they did. Personally, I think the US should just pack up and go home from most parts of the world, which (and how everyone has forgotten this!) is the isolationist platform on which Bush ran for president. I still remember the howls of outrage that this cowboy didn’t understand the world and was going to abandon his responsibilities abroad (I particularly remember the Germans criticising him, fearing closure of wealth-bringing US bases there). But truth is, the world cannot afford to let the ME oilfields stop producing, and regardless of any proclaimed policy, when push comes to shove the US will end up protecting them. I think the Chinese knew this: they are 100% reliant on the ME oilfields, and are quite happy to allow the US to protect them on their behalf. Which is why, despite a few squeaks for the crowd, the Chinese appeared not to care less when the US booted Saddam out. The last thing they want is for the US to withdraw from the ME and the responsibility passing to them.

    I honestly wish Bush had stood up and said “Right, we’re the only ones committing blood and treasure to protecting these oilfields, so we’re gonna do it my way. If you fuckers don’t like it, then feel free to start pitching in as of Monday, and if by Friday you’re all still talking about it and not doing much else, then we’re going in. And by the way, we’re pulling out of Germany, Korea, and all the other places where it’s high fucking time you learned to take care of yourselves, especially if every time I turn up I see dickheads protesting about my policies.”

    Comment by Tim Newman — April 29, 2013 @ 3:57 am

  11. Well said Tim

    Comment by Andrew — April 29, 2013 @ 7:30 am

  12. Also, as far as the “Who died and appointed the US government as the official policeman, prosecutor, judge and the mass executioner in Syria?” there actually is an answer: the British Empire died, and Winston Churchill appointed us World’s Policeman as a consequence of World War II (since he foresaw the death of Britannia and that someone would need to take over the role).

    And also, +1 to Tim.

    Comment by Armed with Inkstick — April 29, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

  13. Tim, thanks so much for your comment. It’s especially refreshing to hear it from a Brit. Most everything you hear out of the UK these days is just a bunch of pissing on the U.S.

    Comment by Howard Roark — April 29, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

  14. Most everything you hear out of the UK these days is just a bunch of pissing on the U.S.

    I know what you mean, I was a staunch supporter of the US for years (ever since I learned about what the Soviet Union represented) and often ploughed a lonely furrow defending the US on web forums, especially during the Iraq War and the Bush years (I still think history will judge Dubya more kindly than people realise).

    Where I got *seriously* pissed off with the US was during the Macondo disaster, when a large part of the country resorted to Brit bashing on a level which would suggest we’d not been your staunch ally for 60-odd years. I understand it wasn’t the whole country, but the Brit bashing was far too widespread for my liking, and included far more than the usual suspects. What pissed me off more than anything was that the British did not resort to Yank-bashing when Occidental killed 167 of our citizens on Piper Alpha, and bad though Macondo was, the reaction and name-calling was uncalled for. My desire to defend the US diminished somewhat after that. And the more I read about your justice system, the more that desire diminshes (e.g. when I read about Brits being extradicted from the UK to answer online gambling charges in the US).

    I still make a point of having a friendly chat with any US serviceman I meet though, and thank them for doing a good job. I meet a lot at airports and places, they’re always slightly surprised to hear it from a Brit!

    Comment by Tim Newman — April 29, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

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