Dissents Of The Day III

US Secretary of State Colin Powell holds

The fisking from readers over my Bush-Obama comparison continues:

“But we are going to war despite the fact that ISIS is no more a direct threat to the United States than Saddam was – arguably much less, in fact.”

Really? And exactly how did Saddam threaten the U.S.? I’ll give you the reported attempt to kill George H.W. Bush in 1993, though that was never proven true. But there was no serious threat after that. Saddam did not conduct any public executions of U.S. citizens, and he did not threaten terrorist attacks against the U.S. There was no threat beyond the hysteria promoted by you and the neocons.

If you dismiss ISIS as a threat, you are surely hiding your head in the sand. That does not necessarily mean our incursion is the proper course, but your decision to equate Obama with Bush is more than a little depressing.

Another quote of mine:

“And it’s much smaller than George W Bush’s coalition in 2003.”  

Size matters?  You might want to revisit that Coalition of the Willing list; not a single Arab or Middle Eastern country signed on.  Most of the countries enlisted contributed nothing (if you discount that infantry division from Micronesia).  And most of the rest made a token contribution.  GW Bush‘s coalition was pure PR.  And how many American chits got pushed across the felt to obtain that “coalition”?

Whatever contributions the Gulf States, the Saudis, and Jordanians make, they made their commitment public, and that’s not nothing in this region.  Truth is, Saudi, Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian forces did very little in Gulf War I.  But the public alliance was deemed necessary for legitimacy in the region.

And another:

“I can’t imagine [Obama supporters] downplaying the folly of this if a Republican president were in charge.”

Umm … seriously?

Do you not recall that Congressional Democrats did in fact acquiesce like little lambs when Bush was president, and they also did the same when any Republican launched military action in the past, be it Papa Bush and Panama, Reagan in Lebanon, Grenada, etc?

Another, from our Facebook page:

“This comes perilously close to proving that our democracy doesn’t really have much of a say.”

Not really, does it? I mean, sure, Obama was America’s choice (twice!). But the elected Congressfolk were their constituencies’ choices, too. And in both cases, most people share some of their president’s priorities, but not all, and share some of their congressfolks’ priorities, but not all. This is simply the result of a mixed government, which democracy, flawed as our version may be, has brought us. The democracy does have a say, and it seems to be saying that we elect these people for the promises *we* want them to keep, not the ones *they* want to keep.


“This is an illegal war …”

I’m not in favor of the bombing in Syria, but not for legal reasons.  The Authorization for Use of Military Force (S.J.Res.23) specifically states:

the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Note the specific words “he determines”.  These words delegate to the president all of the power to decide to whom the resolution applies.  No one else needs to agree with his determination, because under the law passed by Congress, the determination is his alone to make.  President Obama has decided it applies to the organizations the US is currently bombing.  Therefore, the action is authorized by Congress, and no further authorization is required.

If Congress wants to rescind or amend the AUMF it has the power to do so, but until then, Congress delegated authority to President Obama, and he is The Decider.

Another piles on further:

“This is an illegal war, chosen by an unaccountable executive branch, based on pure panic about a non-existent threat to the United States, with no achievable end-point.”

I must disagree on almost all counts.

First, Congress has willingly abdicated its war-making responsibilities in this instance, largely for political reasons. For Republicans in Congress, the calculation is particularly crass. By refusing to accept the responsibility of taking the reins on this action, they are free from any responsibility for outcomes – except, of course, for their certain continuing ability to criticize Obama no matter what he does. If he takes no action, he is aiding and abetting our enemies; if he acts strongly, then he was too slow and too timid to act in the first instance.

So, please, spare us the “illegal war” hyperbole – it would be illegal only insofar as Congress wanted to exert its authority, but to the contrary, Congress has willingly waived it.

Second, there has been no rush to war here, no fear-mongering, and most notably, no lying about the cause and purpose of this action – in other words, the antithesis of the snake-oil sales-pitch of the Bush Administration.  You call that a small matter.  I think most rational people would find Obama being honest, forthright, and direct to be a sea-change from the fabrications and evasions of the previous administration.

As for the claim that the threat is “non-existent,” well, I suppose that depends on whether one is willing to abandon any and all responsibility for the mess caused by the Bush invasion of Iraq and walk away entirely.  The problem, of course, is that walking away and doing nothing has consequences – for the Kurds, for Iraqi moderates, and for Iraq’s new government.  Do we turn our back and close our eyes to the slaughter?  Do we abandon the Kurds yet again?  There are no easy solutions, nor any certain outcomes. But doing nothing is neither helpful nor moral.

To paraphrase Colin Powell, we broke it, we bought it.  Obama didn’t choose this mess. He is merely struggling to try to clean up a nearly intractable mess.  So, yeah, targeted air strikes are the worst option … except for everything else.

The rest of the reader dissents here and here.

(Photo: US Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial that he said was the size that could be used to hold anthrax as he addresses the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003. Powell urged the UN Security Council to say “enough” to what he said was Iraq’s 12 years of defiance of international attempts to destroy its chemical and biological weapons. By Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)