Sunday, May 17, 2015

Not Doing Stupid Stuff?

Let's recall the triumph of Obama-era smart diplomacy that the Kerry-Lavrov Syrian chemical weapons agreement proved to be.

Assad has used chlorine gas in his war since that agreement. He has kept facilities. And he has kept chemical weapons he should have given up.

Do read this all, but this is the best part:

Over a more than 40-year period, most of Syria’s old chemical stocks of precursors became worthless for military purposes, but still toxic. The Syrians never bothered to invest in capabilities to denature the toxins, so they just piled up. We essentially have played the role of hazmat garbage collectors, paying out of our own pocket to get rid of all this useless stuff—hundreds of tons of it—but leaving the newer and better materials off the books and in regime hands (possibly now in Latakia province). The result is that while the effort marginally reduces the danger of Islamist crazies getting their hands on the precursors, it has absolutely zero effect on the Syrian chemical war order of battle.

Yeah, who could have seen any problems with this agreement? Garfinkle was right to warn about the agreement. Few enough did.

Surely not the worst Secretary of State in living memory or his boss--who would surely be the best secretary of state if you asked him, eh?

This, as Garfinkle writes, is what we got from our smart diplomacy that eschews doing stupid stuff:

On several occasions the President and his Secretary of State lauded the achievements of the chemical weapons deal with Syria, via Russia. It suited them to do so because it has tended to erase, or at least to blur, the unnerving memory of the infamous “non-strike” event in Syria. It allows the narrative that the threat to use force, even in “an incredibly small” way, to recall Kerry’s madcap remark at the time, resulted in a diplomatic achievement via arms control with real security policy benefits. It did not. It resulted in the U.S. government’s backing down on account of being successfully lied to and hoodwinked by a small cabal of weaker parties; the only security policy benefits accrued to our enemies.

It's not the stupid stuff this administration does that unnerves me as much as it is their absolute certitude that they are the smart guys in the room.

But I'm sure we'll do much better when it comes to Iran's nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities. Right?

As an aside, I've long regretted that I didn't note (or perhaps I've forgotten that I did) that in regard to Iraq under Saddam, large stockpiles of chemical weapons were counter-productive since they deteriorated too rapidly to store for long.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq would make the chemical agents and fill shells shortly before use. In reality, to have a chemical weapons capability, Saddam needed the ability to produce chemical weapons with the need for only a small stockpile to bridge the gap between immediate need and production starting.