WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

More pushback than Obama Administration expected on Syria?

From one perspective, it seems inevitable, a fait accompli: President Obama will order airstrikes in Syria, with or without the backing of the United Nations, with or without the full backing of NATO, with or without the support of the Arab League, with or without the support of a majority of the members of Congress or the American people. (Although some observers thought President Obama may have stepped back from the brink, during his interview on PBS.)

On our talk shows, it doesn't seem to matter if a caller is a self-described conservative, liberal, libertarian. Everybody questions, and most people OPPOSE this particular intervention.

I've been following U.S. military interventions since Vietnam. I don't EVER recall such across-the-board opposition BEFORE the start of an intervention.

(President Ford might have gotten it, had he ordered U.S. military intervention on behalf of the UNITA rebels in Angola - against Cuba - so soon after Vietnam! The Tunney-Clark Amendment cleared a Democratic majority Congress, forbidding it.)

Did the Administration miscalculate? Indeed, many Americans ARE consumed with the coming Labor Day holiday, back-to-school, etc. Perhaps this Administration figures it can conduct a LIMITED aerial bombardment and this intervention will be past-tense by the time members of Congress reconvene. (The Administration has given no sign it will seek Congressional approval. Quite to the contrary.)

What if something goes wrong?

Now, I want to share with you the contents of an e-mail an American journalist just sent me. This journalist has covered the Middle-East for decades. He can't convey some of this in his "straight" reporting, but this is how the situation looks to him:

"I just think this (U.S. military action against the Assad regime) is illegal, without U.N. Security Council approval, and it makes a mockery of our own democracy. The U.S. has been making a fuss about supporting democracy in the Arab world, and it can't even abide by it in our own country and hold a debate in Congress. While I hate Assad's guts, and would love to see him gone, this smacks of the Gulf of Tonkin, and the false pretexts used to get us involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The evidence smells fishy, and the body count numbers were wildly exaggerated, leading me to believe that there was some intent to play on the public's sympathy.

Worse still, all the noises coming out of Iran indicate that Khamenei is not going to hesitate to retaliate. He's an even bigger bastard than Assad, and he has ballistic missiles. Ipso facto, this whole thing could morph into a regional war, if not worse. How can Obama possibly NOT allow debate on this? It looks like he's trying to slip it under the radar over Labor Day when no one is paying attention, since U.S. public opinion is overwhelmingly against this..."

From POLITICO.com:

"Five Questions for Barack Obama on Syria"...


Posted at 8:36am on August 29, 2013 by Allan Loudell

<- Back to all Allan Loudell posts

Comments on this post:

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 3:04pm

Syria & Iran plan cyber attacks on the U.S. (in addition to their promises of missiles in Israel) if Obama goes "forward" on plans to strike Syria. The Syrians have already launched a cyber attack on the NY Times this week...

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 3:38pm
And we know it's true because the Moonies say so.

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 7:31pm
Thanks for that inside note. If anything is consistent with the Obama administration in the past, the decision will be made on what facts are available. The decision will be sound.

All of us arguing either for war or against war don't know the facts. I've listened to enough commentary on this to realize if you are prone to go to war, you think the facts point to the necessity of war. If you are however against war, you see the same facts as pointing to NOT going into a campaign...

No one, and I mean no one a hundred years ago, back in 1913, foresaw the damage WWI would wreak. They assumed they were going into very limited engagements.

As I've mentioned, the global psychology is very similar to how it was back then. Where those who are crazy, stay in power, and therefore force other nations to have to deal with them... (I feel sorry for the North Korean's former lover.)

What Obama needs to realize, and in Washington, where no one realizes anything, is that, even if he feels justified bolstering his red line threat, if no one else shares his confidence, he can't win. He has to succeed magnificently in Syria just to break even, stay consistent with the status quo, just to keep the good wind he has now.

Germany didn't back down, didn't say aw shucks this is stupid, screw you guys, we aren't doing it, and 37 million causalities came about.

Obama is today's Kaiser Wilhelm.

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 7:52pm
Just saw Britain's House of Commons voted down 285-272 any future military action on Syria. David Cameron is apparently stunned right now...

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 7:54pm
His statement... "It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not passed a motion, it is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the government will act accordingly."

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 29, 2013 10:10pm
I heard that too Kavips. The big question is will Obama wait for the Congress to vote on it? Probably not, unfortunately. From what I read & hear on the radio, most Americans, like the British, do not want the U.S. to get involved either. Wouldn't be great if the Prez & Congress actually listened to the people this one time?

This is a civil war, let them fight it out among themselves. We're outsiders; they don't want us there taking sides in their internal fight. We are NOT the the World's police.

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 5:40am
Newsmax sent me a poll asking whether we should strike Syria and whether the President should get Congressional approval. The results to both questions are really lopsided:


Fri, Aug 30, 2013 7:01pm
I don't think I've seen a poll that lopsided in a long time. That is one big lopsidedness.

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 7:26pm
kavips: Another point too, is that Newsmax as a conservative publication is visited mostly by conservatives, so it appears 99% of conservatives are against intervention and for Congressional approval.

Personally, I don't know what the answer is, but if Obama backs out, I won't hold it against him.

Fri, Aug 30, 2013 11:42pm
I'm probably the only regular here who likes to read Breitbart's site so I thought I would share an interesting article over there comparing the Vietnam War (from it's early stages to fullblown quagmire) and Syria. If one can remove the hate for Andrew Breitbart and read with an open mind...you just may learn something. (I know I learn from several Left-leaning sites in addition to the Right-leaners)


Mike from Delaware
Sat, Aug 31, 2013 9:55am
EarlGrey: An interesting approach to a commentary. It was written as if the long dead author Marcel Proust was the observer. Here are some clips from the article.

"Hi, it’s me, Marcel Proust, and I’m here today to talk about Barack Obama and the forthcoming Syrian War. Maybe I have a useful perspective based on my reading of history—and my writing of psychological fantasies.

Yes, it’s true, I died in Paris back in 1922, but in my own neurotic way, I still linger in human consciousness. My novel, Remembrance of Things Past, captures the wistful and elegiac tone we all feel as we look back on our own lives. At least the title does capture it: I’m not sure if anyone has actually read all seven volumes, all 4,000 pages. Sigh. At least the book is still in print!"........

"Meanwhile, on August 28, as I was perusing The Los Angeles Times, I saw this argent quote—oops, I mean, money quote: A top US official is quoted as saying that the White House was planning military strikes “just muscular enough not to get mocked”—but not so “muscular” as to bring in the Iranians or the Russians. These things are hard to calibrate, but the Obama people seem to be giving it a go.

In addition, the same official said of the White House planners, “They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic.”

It’s worth pausing over, and parsing, those words for a moment. Consider: “just muscular enough not to get mocked.” And “just enough to be more than symbolic.” What sort of war is this going to be? What sort of victory are the Americans expecting?

By comparison, even the famous Obama administration quote about Libya in 2011, “leading from behind,” sounds positively Napoleonic.

Assuming that the air strikes do come, they will come well advertised—and thus, by the Syrians, well prepared for. Surely the Damascus regime will have found time to swap out a nerve gas stockpile somewhere with, say, an orphanage. And so if a US cruise missile hits, the media will be summoned to videotape weeping mothers, dead babies, and charred teddy bears. Mon Dieu! Even if the Americans don’t hit the orphanage, maybe the Syrians will do it themselves—just to blame Uncle Sam." .......

"In 1960, the year before Kennedy took office, American servicemen in South Vietnam numbered less than a thousand. By the time JFK died, in 1963, the figure had soared to around 16,000. In terms of percentage increase of escalation, Kennedy’s escalation dwarfed that of his successor, Lyndon Johnson. Poor LBJ: He thought he had no choice but to keep going; he thought he was simply keeping faith with the commitment that JFK had made.

Yet Kennedy loyalists like to say that the Lancelot of Camelot would have pulled US troops out after the 1964 election. But even the likelihood of that gutless move—JFK fans having thus conceded that if their man lived he would have cynically played presidential politics with American lives—is belied. How so? Because, in fact, that LBJ kept on JFK’s top war advisers when he succeeded to the Oval Office. It was JFK advisers who got the US “surge” going in 1965. That’s right, it was the Kennedy holdovers—the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, and the National Security Adviser—who planned and escalated the war under Johnson.

Yet just because the war grew bigger—and deeper into the quagmire—that does not mean those same advisers thought the war was winnable. Instead, they chose to keep their thoughts well hidden from the public; they didn’t want to resign in protest and lose their prestige and their limos, and so they just went along with the flow—the flow they had created. Now that’s the sort of inner psychological drama I loved to write about."...........

"But here’s where it gets really rich: if you study the deliberations of the Kennedy/Johnson team as they teetered into a big commitment to Vietnam—the first units of combat Marines going ashore on March 8, 1965—you see language that eerily foreshadows the language of the Obama team today. That is, “not get mocked,” “symbolic,” all that. But of course, nobody had explained those optics—only objectives to the Marines hitting the beach. Those poor Leathernecks—they thought they were fighting to win.

Here, for example, is a memo from National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, writing on February 7, 1965. As the national security team pondered the tit-for-tat nature of the early stages of the war, Bundy tried to put an intellectual framework around the effort. We can see that Bundy wasn’t overly optimistic that it would work—but that was okay:

We cannot assert that a policy of sustained reprisal will succeed in changing the course of the contest in Vietnam. It may fail, and we cannot estimate the odds of success with any accuracy they may be somewhere between 25% and 75%. What we can say is that even if it fails, the policy will be worth it. At a minimum it will damp down the charge that we did not do all that we could have done, and this charge will be important in many countries, including our own.

A month later, here’s another memo from Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton, writing on March 10, 1965. He says we have to lose some American lives to prove that we’re serious—once again, even if we don’t win:

It is essential--however badly SEA [South East Asia] may go over the next 2 - 4 years - that US emerge as a "good doctor." We must have kept promises, been tough, taken risks, gotten bloodied, and hurt the enemy very badly."......

"As we have seen by now, the Kennedy-Johnson team didn’t have a plan for victory; indeed, they didn’t particularly think they could win. They just kept those thoughts to themselves as the American commitment—and the Killed in Action—mounted and mounted.

Defense Secretary McNamara finally unburdened himself of his own early-on pessimism in his 1996 memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. That sure is a Proustian title, isn’t it? "............

"So, Yanks, take your President’s word for it. Don’t worry if he bypasses anything so fussy and—what’s that old word? ah yes, “Constitutional,” how quaint!—as Congressional advise and consent. Go ahead: serve as the air force for Al Qaeda in Syria. Look for those “moderate” Syrian rebels. Tell the 9-11 families that the goal of achieving Obama’s objectives in Syria required us to team up with—yes, the Bin Laden types. And team up, too, with the Benghazi killers.".........

That gives you the gist of what the writer was saying [it's a long article, but worth the read]. To read the entire article click on the link below.

Some interesting back ground of folks in the Kennedy administration and their thoughts.

Bottom line is in spite of the length and the "flowery" part where the long deceased Marcel Proust references some of his books, it's an interesting approach to presenting a commentary.

I agree with the premise, we should NOT go to Syria. At the very least, Obama should wait for Congressional approval, as the British PM did with Parliament [which said NO and he's following their decision]. So the Prez should wait for the Congress to say yea or nea and then follow their decision. He's not a King, and definitely NOT the Messiah. He was elected to serve all the people of the United States and from the polling data I've seen 81% of Americans do NOT want the US to go to Syria. So that's not just GOP, but DEMS and Independents.

What Obama wants is some fast quick thing, like Papa Bush had with Desert Storm I. A victory, low loss of life, in and out in weeks. Obama won't get that and will end up getting us into another long drawn out war that will sap even more of our resources [as we borrow money to fight another war] as the body bags pile up at Dover AFB. What a lousy way to end his Presidency.

I understand that DEMS hate to be painted as the "weak military party", a left over thing from Viet Nam, but getting us into a war just to save face is a poor reason to get people on both sides killed and to spend Trillions of dollars we don't have.

Another side to this is the Russians have at least one military base inside Syria. So if we start bombing Syria aren't we in effect attacking Russia? No wonder the Russians have moved two of their air craft carriers to the region. Seems like the Russians see Syria as part of their turf. Maybe we should let them handle this situation. Seems like the prudent thing to do, in my opinion.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 10:26am
Did you know that this is the first time since the 1780's that the British Parliament voted against going to war?

Mike from Delaware
Sat, Aug 31, 2013 11:51am
So maybe the British and more importantly, their Parliament has learned something. If only our Congress AND President would.

Sat, Aug 31, 2013 3:26pm
Mr. Pizza. I think we got our answer. Punt it to Congress. let the arguments be made for and against it and those people who will lose their jobs back home, make them accountable for the vote. Although the President has the authority to commit a strike without Congressional approval (it was solidified in hte Bush years) the Constitution pointed to congress as being the one to make such a decision.

And Congress shall.

Sat, Aug 31, 2013 10:12pm
MikeFromDelaware: I've informed the Breitbart website of your use of copyrighted material from their site, apparently without permission. Maybe they'll sue the operator of this website.
As someone who keeps claiming to be a media professional, you should know better.

Add your comment:
Attention: In an attempt to promote a level of civility and personal responsibility in blog discussions, we now require you to be a member of the WDEL Members Only Group in order to post a comment. Your Members Only Group username and password are required to process your post.

You can join the WDEL Members Only Group for free by clicking here.
If you are already a member but have forgotten your username or password, please click here.

Please register your post with your WDEL Members Only Group username and password below.

Copyright © 2014, Delmarva Broadcasting Company. All Rights Reserved.   Terms of Use.
WDEL Statement of Equal Employment Opportunity and Outreach