Bombs away over Syria

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  • 08/21/2022

I'm all in favor of doing something about ISIS, but as the bombs fall over Syria, may I ask: How many unilateral bombing campaigns does a left-wing President get to launch before the Nobel committee has to consider taking his Peace Prize away?

Follow-up question: shouldn't we formally erase the parts of the Constitution that have been informally repealed by President Obama?  There's no point in leaving all that stuff about war-making powers for Congress on the books, it it's null and void.  If it only applies to Republicans, let's have a Constitutional Convention and get that formally written into the documents.  At the very least, after Obama flagrantly violated it multiple times, shouldn't the War Powers Act be burned to ashes in a formal ceremony of some sort?  It's long past time for our Ruling Class to start being honest with the American people about which laws still restrain the power of government, particularly the executive branch.

There's no legal reason for Operation Make Syria Just Like Yemen to be conducted in defiance of the American system.  There are plenty of political reasons, including the reluctance of many in Congress - Democrat and Republican alike - to get their fingerprints on the war plans if they don't have to.  To be brutally frank, one of the major reasons for having laws that bind the powers of government is to thwart the political ambitions of our representatives and officials.  Greg Sargent at the Washington Post zings both the White House for failing to follow the rules, and congressional Republicans for letting him do it because they can use the issue against Democrats in the midterm elections..  He's right on both counts:

The Obama administration has not made an even remotely credible case for undertaking this escalation without Congressional authorization, and Congress??? refusal to hold a vote on it remains an outrageous abdication of responsibility. One also hopes the administration???s claims about terror threats are subjected to intense scrutiny. But we aren???t going to get any serious Congressional debate about any of this until after the election.

However, one place all of this will be debated is in the context of the Senate races. Republicans have cheerfully suggested to the press that the politics of national security will again shower them with political riches, and they are running multiple ads replete with the grainy terror footage they used to such great effect back in 2002 and 2004, which is to say, at least a decade ago.

But anyway, off we go, bombing the enemies of the dictator Barack Obama wanted to bomb last year.  At least somebody in Syria is getting bombed, and there's no question these characters deserve it.  Islamic State thugs look great as while silhouettes on computer-enhanced gun camera video.  The reason I dubbed it "Operation Make Syria Just Like Yemen" is that President Obama himself described it that way in his big "I do so have a strategy" speech a couple of weeks ago.  "This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL, wherever they exist, using our air power," the President declared.  "And our support for partner's forces on the ground.  This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years."

As we get rolling in Syria, should we check and see how that successful strategy in Yemen is looking today, taking a peek ahead at the endgame for Obama's not-war against the non-Islamic Islamic State?

Yoikes!  Forget I asked.  NPR had an interesting discussion about Obama's "Yemen model" between host Robert Siegel and author Gregory Johnsen, who wrote a book on the subject, the day after Obama spoke:

JOHNSEN: Yeah, so what the president referred to last night is a campaign that the U.S. has been waging, really, since late 2009. The problem, however, is that in Yemen at least, the U.S. has confused killing with winning. So when the U.S. started this campaign in 2009, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group in Yemen, numbered about 200 or 300 individuals. Now we're four years into a bombing campaign, and instead of al-Qaida getting smaller, the group's actually getting bigger. So it's at least three to four times what it was when the U.S. started bombing.

SIEGEL: You relate a sequence of events in the new epilogue to your book that happened last December - al-Qaida attacked a hospital. People there saw security footage on television of a massacre of ordinary Yemenites. And it cost al-Qaida much in the way of public tolerance. Then, a few days later, the U.S. staged a drone attack that mistakenly hit a wedding convoy and everything was back to the way it was, I gather.

JOHNSEN: Yeah, this is a problem that the U.S. has had in Yemen. So really one of the fundamental truths of a war like this is that the side that kills the most civilians loses. Al-Qaida carried out a bloody assault on a hospital and for days, people in Yemen were up in arms. People were talking about what a horror, what a menace al-Qaida was. Then, only a few days later, the U.S. carried out a drone strike that seemed to be based on faulty intelligence. And instead of killing the target, the U.S. actually hit several cars that were in a wedding convoy. And just like that, all of the goodwill that the U.S. had garnered by al-Qaida making its mistake was lost. The difference in this is that al-Qaida apologized for the hospital attack. The U.S. never apologized for the wedding attack. And in fact, it continues to this day to say that it was a clean strike and that only terrorists were killed - a claim that no Yemini believes.

As Johnsen went on to observe, ISIS is a far stronger military opponent than al-Qaeda in Yemen ever was, and the conflict will be more intense, so the dangers of inflicting collateral damage are even greater.  On the other hand, the Syrian people have been brutalized by so many different forces that it's hard to say which side will have killed the most civilians by the time the dust settles.  (Spoiler: a lot of people both within and without Syria will blame the United States, no matter what the final body count looks like.)

Also, if we apply the Yemen Model to Syria, wouldn't the legitimate government we're strengthening and using as a partner against the terrorists be... Bashar Assad, the brutal dictator Obama said absolutely had to be thrown out of Damascus?  The Administration is tiptoeing around the chlorine-spewing elephant in the room, having notified the Syrian government of the impending airstrikes, while refusing to seek Assad's active cooperation in the campaign.  That got the Administration's efforts denounced by Vladimir Putin, of all people.  The foreign policy genius of Barack Obama got us to a place where Vladimir Putin is accurately invoking international law to denounce the territorial violation of a sovereign state.  At least he didn't rub it in by issuing his statement from an unmarked Russian military transport parked in eastern Ukraine.

Fox News has the after-action report for the first wave of bombings in Syria:

The United States, joined by five Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against the Islamic State and another militant group in Syria Monday night ??? marking the first U.S. military intervention in Syria since the start of that country???s civil war in 2011.

U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement released early Tuesday that 14 Islamic State targets were hit, including the group's fighters, training camps, headquarters and command-and-control facilities, and armed vehicles. The operation involved a combination of fighter jets, bombers, Predator drones and Tomahawk missiles launched from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

"We believe we hit, largely, everything we were aiming at," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told Fox News.

The strikes "destroyed or damaged" multiple targets, according to the U.S. military, which reported "all aircraft safely exited the strike areas."

What did the "five Arab allies" do?  One of them wasn't Yemen, was it?  Because they seem like they've got their hands full at the moment.  (Fortunately, we are told later in the article that the five Arab super-powers who joined in the action were Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.  How many bombs did Qatar drop on the Islamic State they've been financing up until now?)

We also dropped some bombs on ISIS' rivals, who are also scumbags.  That should make Bashar Assad very happy.  He's a scumbag too.

The mission was not limited to hitting Islamic State positions. Centcom said that U.S. aircraft also struck eight targets associated with another terrorist group called the Khorasan Group, made of up Al Qaeda veterans. Those strikes, near the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, targeted training camps, a munitions production facility, a communication building and command-and-control facilities.

Centcom said the Khorasan Group was involved in "imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests."

The Khorasan Group?  What's their deal?  ABC News introduces us to our new bombing target, which sounds very much in need of some laser-guided attention:

The Khorasan Group - consisting of about 50 or so hardened fighters of mixed past and current jihadi affiliations - has been holed up in Aleppo, Syria under the protection of al Qaeda's official wing in the country, Jabhat al-Nusra, developing cutting edge weapons of terror with the help of al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate to strike Western civilian aviation targets, according to a half-dozen officials with knowledge of the group who spoke to ABC News.

The U.S. - acting alone rather than with Arab coalition partners such as in the ISIS strikes - undertook at least eight strikes on the Khorasan Group's hideouts Monday night in the Aleppo area west of the ISIS strongholds in Raqqa, which were hammered in the sudden air offensive, U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, said in a statement.

The strikes on the Khorasan Group were made "to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans... who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations," Centcom said.

The relatively tiny group's potential threat to the U.S. homeland stemming from experiments with next-generation undetectable bombs - consisting of non-metallic components - made the massive airstrikes critically urgent to thwart a clear and present danger, several officials told ABC News.

"They are taking the knowledge of [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] AQAP's master bombmaker and experimenting with their own designs for undetectable IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices]," one senior counterterrorism official recently told ABC News regarding the Khorasan Group's threat.

Over the past year, the U.S. and European allies have tightened up airline security measures because of intelligence that terrorists were making new, nearly-undetectable improvised explosive devices within toothpaste tubes or with clothing dipped in liquid explosives, as ABC News has reported since mid-2013.

This is the part of the world Barack Obama blew off as no big deal during his idiotic 2012 re-election campaign, when he was strutting around and boasting that he had al-Qaeda "decimated and on the run" after personally killing Osama bin Laden in a swordfight.  How comforting to think the man who got everything wrong for the last six years is still running the show.  In fact, he's supposedly going to exercise tight personal control over the bombing targets, just like LBJ in Vietnam.  That worked out so well last time.  Here's what the Wall Street Journal said about that last week:

Through tight control over airstrikes in Syria and limits on U.S. action in Iraq, Mr. Obama is closely managing the new war in the Middle East in a way he hasn't done with previous conflicts, such as the troop surge in Afghanistan announced in 2009 or the last years of the Iraq war before the 2011 U.S. pullout.

In Iraq, Mr. Obama had delegated day-to-day management to Vice President Joe Biden.

By demanding the Pentagon gets his signoff on any strikes in Syria, Mr. Obama can better ensure the operation remain focused on his main goal for that part of the campaign: weakening the militants' hold on territory in neighboring Iraq.

Sounds great!  Except on Day One of the operation in Syria, we're already bombing somebody other than the "militants" who "hold territory in neighboring Iraq."  Actually, to judge from what the Pentagon told ABC News, the other guys we took out - the toothpaste-bombing rivals of ISIS - might have been a more urgent target than the caliphate.

By the way, how much is all this going to cost?  Don't ask.  From The Hill:

The White House does not have an estimate on how much the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will cost.

Pressed on that point Monday, press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn't give a ballpark figure for how much the administration expected military operations to cost.

???I don???t have an estimate on that,??? Earnest said. ???I know that we???re interested in having an open dialogue with Congress to ensure that our military has the resources necessary to carry out the mission that the president has laid out.???

So far, the administration has relied on the Overseas Contingency Operations budget to pay for operations against the terrorist group. The White House had previously requested a cut in that pool ??? from $85 billion to $58.6 billion ??? for the next fiscal year, but lawmakers decided instead to keep funding at current levels in the temporary budget measure passed last week.

The White House also indicated it would seek funding for the effort against ISIS from international partners. So far, more than 40 countries have said they would support a coalition effort against the terror network.

???One way that countries can participate in this coalition and contribute to the broader effort is financially, to support the broader international community???s efforts to take the fight to [ISIS],??? Earnest said.

Remember how the Left mocked the Bush Administration for saying that coalition partners would help defray the costs of war?  How they made fun of Bush when he talked up the international coalition he assembled?  To this very day, the average Obama supporter will shriek like a parakeet about the cost of the Iraq war if you mention Obama's monster deficits.  Now they all get to spin on a dime and sing the praises of a unilateral war with an open-ended price tag, backed by a sham coalition.  It's pretty obvious that something had to be done about the terrorist threat Barack Obama misjudged so completely, but of course his loyal followers won't want to discuss the string of failures that backed us into this corner.  Fortunately for the President, a lot of those loyal followers have bylines.

Update: The Administration really needs to work on its messaging, because right now it sounds like they're blowing a fierce kazoo of war...

Update: While President Obama boasts of his great coalition, the only "partner" who has actually made a military contribution in Iraq has been publicly fretting that bombing Syria without the express permission of its government might be illegal, just as Vladimir Putin says.  "We're very concerned with aspects of international law," mused French president Francois Hollande last week.  "We've been called in by the Iraqis; we're not called on in Syria."