Saturday, April 08, 2017

An Unbelievably One-Off, Limited Kind of Effort

Walter Russell Mead asks (tip to Instapundit) whether our deliberate avoidance of striking Sarin gas storage sites in the strike on Syria's air base, as McMaster stated, shows that President Obama knew about them:

Question: Did Obama administration know such depots existed, concealing that knowledge to avoid admitting Putin played BHO like a violin?

Good question.

I suspect that Obama learned lessons from the Syria deal to craft the Iran deal in ways that would avoid such unpleasant discoveries:

[The Obama administration argued that since] we wouldn't let Iranian nutballs into any of our nuclear facilities with no notice, it would be totally unfair to insist that we can visit any [Iranian] facility at any time to make sure the nutballs are obeying the deal.

So we've established the Schultz Doctrine to make sure we can't discover Iranian violations of even a weak deal[.]

One more question about the cruise missile strike given this administration description:

[A] U.S. defense official described the strike as a “one-off” and Tillerson said it does not signal a change in their policy toward Syria.

Is there a difference in saying this is just a "one-off" and promising that a potential strike would be "unbelievably small" as Kerry once promised?

While the strike was both legal and morally justified, despite left-wing outrage, will it do any good?

Assad thinks not:

New airstrikes have targeted a town in northwest Syria that was hit by a deadly chemical attack earlier this week, activists said.

Assad clearly has many more non-chemical weapons means of killing people. Assad is the real weapon of mass destruction and should be treated as such.

As an aside, numerous idiotic or dishonest (embrace the healing power of "and?") replies to that Tweet in the first link show one reason I don't do Twitter and don't do comments.

UPDATE: Well, that's different:

Defeating Islamic State, pushing Iranian influence out of Syria, and the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are priorities for Washington, [American ambassador to the UN] Haley said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” which will air in full on Sunday.

We shall see. In early April it seemed like we were willing to work with Assad in the Raqqa assault:

At some point during the final assault, U.S. and Kurd forces might stand aside and allow forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to make the final push and seize the city. Some analysts suspect that's being considered by war planners in the Pentagon and President Donald Trump's advisers.

Might Trump "judge Assad the best of a sorry lot of choices, and take the plunge to join forces with Damascus?" queried analyst Thanassis Cambanis during a roundtable discussion organized last month on the future of the conflict on Syria by The Century Foundation, a U.S. policy research institute.

So standing aside to let Assad move in is out now, I assume.

To be fair, officially it was the Obama administration's policy that Assad had to step down. We just didn't do anything about it.

And Assad wasn't--and isn't--cooperative:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said there is no "option except victory" in the country's civil war in an interview published on Thursday, saying the government could not reach "results" with opposition groups that attended recent peace talks.

So what does this new "priority" mean?

UPDATE: Turkey doesn't want it to be a one-off:

Turkey called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's immediate ouster on Friday, voicing support for a U.S. missile strike on one of his air bases and saying the creation of safe zones to protect civilians was now more important than ever.

This common goal would pry Turkey away from their Russia infatuation.

Turkey may yet walk away from the West based on Erdogan's authoritarian ambitions. But perhaps close US-Turkish cooperation on Syria will help us restrain Erdogan's domestic policies.