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article imageOp-Ed: Obama flying high with the hawks McCain and Graham

By Ken Hanly     Sep 2, 2013 in Politics
Washington - Obama has for some time talked as if his strike against Syria would be limited, that it was not intended to produce regime change and would not draw the US further into the civil war.
Recently, Obama affirming his view that the action would be limited. said: And if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about - but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this, that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term, and may have a positive impact on our national security over the long term and may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians.
The metaphor of "a shot across the bow" is interesting and appropriate only as a propaganda tool. A shot across the bow kills no one and does not even cause damage. It is a warning shot. Maybe what Obama should do is send a Cruise missile with no warhead somewhere near Damascus just to show what the US could do if Assad does not stop using the weapons. Neither McCain nor Graham were impressed by this idea of a limited perhaps precision strike. Both said: "We cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield."
Yet after meeting with Obama and being briefed the two changed their tune: While saying that a vote against authorization of a strike would be "catastrophic," McCain and Graham also said the goal of military action shouldn't be to punish Bashar al-Assad, but to remove him from power.
As I have thought all along, the real goal of any retaliation will be regime change through significantly reducing the power of Assad's military. The tactic is basically the same as with Libya. Claim that you are doing one thing protecting the people and then use that excuse to degrade the armed forces of Libya to ensure regime change. Here the rationale of punishing Assad will be used to justify degrading Assad's military forces to ensure that regime change will happen more quickly and that the balance of the battle will switch in favor of the rebels.
The resolution that Obama sent to Congress has very little of the tailored and limited response talked about earlier. It leaves Obama with more or less a blank check as long as he uses the appropriate terms as a reason for whatever he decides to do. Obviously, he convinced McCain and Graham that he would be degrading the armed forces of Assad not just delivering a short term limited blow meant to discourage any future use of chemical weapons. The text of the resolution Obama sent to Congress reads in part as follows: Whereas, the objective of the United States' use of military force in connection with this authorization should be to deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade the potential for, future uses of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction;
Whereas, the conflict in Syria will only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement, and Congress calls on all parties to the conflict in Syria to participate urgently and constructively in the Geneva process
The first clause allows scope for degrading the military forces of Assad no doubt by destroying their command and control capabilities and I would expect that there would be an attempt to neutralize defense systems so as to make any later incursion safe as happened in Libya as a first step to "protect the people". Note the clause about resolving the issue through a political settlement. This is simply decorative, as Obama has just cancelled a meeting with Putin to discuss arranging a conference on the issue. The actual authorization section is also quite wide in scope: SEC. ___ AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES
(a) Authorization. -- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in connection with the use of chemical weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in the conflict in Syria in order to --
1) prevent or deter the use or proliferation (including the transfer to terrorist groups or other state or non-state actors), within, to or from Syria, of any weapons of mass destruction, including chemical or biological weapons or components of or materials used in such weapons; or
(2) protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.
After a two and a half hour classified briefing Patrick Leahy chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee said: " I know it will be amended by Senate". He said that motion as it was, was too open ended. The briefing was conducted by White House officials, the State Department, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California issued statements strongly supporting the resolution. We will see if members of Congress are willing to trim the wings of the hawks or even ground them.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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