The President's Message on Syria

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

President Barack Obama meets with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham in the Oval Office to discuss Syria, Sept. 2, 2013. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice is at left. (The White House/flickr)

Fred Kaplan, War Stories columnist for Slate, author of The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War, and Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, talks about last night's Presidential address and the chance of a developing compromise.


Comments [28]

Diane L Mc

Great analysis. No matter what Obama says, Kaplan "feels" that Obama wants to do the right thing.

Sep. 11 2013 02:50 PM
Diane L McNamara

Kaplan refers to John Kerry as an adviser to the President. Sacrificial lamb would more accurately describe his current position.

Sep. 11 2013 02:44 PM

As gary from queens rightly points out, Saddam Hussein did use poison gas on more than one occasion. In 1987 he gassed Iraqi troops with sarin, killing over 20,000 & injuring 1000s more. Prez Reagan not only didn't protest, he gave tacit if not overt approval by warning Saddam that "an Iranian victory is unacceptable," despite the US signing the Geneva Protocol in 1975 banning chem weapons in war. (See last week's Foreign Policy mag). When no country protested or punished Saddam, he went on to use sarin again to murder over 5,000 Iraqi Kurds... I'm against a US military attack on Syria, which would kill yet more innocents and commit us to a certain quagmire. But SOMETHING must be done to prevent Assad (or whoever) from using poison gas again. The Russian solution is the best possible outcome, and Obama deserves praise for bringing it about – purposely or not -- by threatening force & then allowing time for diplomacy. That it came from Russia lets Syria save face – the key to good diplomacy!

Sep. 11 2013 12:37 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ The Truth from Becky

If you notice I did respond directly to his post so what are you talking about? As for "Word battle"... in a battle of wits you are practically unarmed, that much is clear. Please continue speaking, poorly, for all black people and Denzel Washington or whomever else your deluded mind can come up with, it is hilarious.

Sep. 11 2013 11:47 AM

@MC - With us means "in favor of".

I don't see flip-flops on BHO's part. He's been resolute that chem weapons are not to be used. Others are seeking to pick winners and losers. BHO's has a preference but I don't see that preference guiding every decision.

Sep. 11 2013 11:39 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Tony from Northport

There is no real proof the Assad regime is responsible for the alleged gas attack though there is some proof that that sarin was used. It comes down to this:

Assad is a bad guy but what follows him could very well be worse. If we're going to get rid of him it has to be all hands on deck, rule of law the whole way, Congress + the UN signed off. That is success no matter what happens. Anything less will fail to manage the situation and will probably be a bigger mess than Iraq or Afghanistan combined consider the players include Hezbollah, Israel, Iran and Russia. So far so good I'd say.

Sep. 11 2013 11:38 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan


"The Turks, Israelis and French are with us on a strike."

Really? What does "with us" mean, LOL. Provide one piece of proof in the last few days that Turkey or France actually committed to COMBAT without a UN resolution.

The Israelis!!???? Attack Syria!!?? Guffaw.

C'mon, Sparky, defending Barry's dizzying flip-flops is making you look ridiculous.

Sep. 11 2013 11:30 AM
The Truth from Becky

Mr Bad, I find it very interesting how you won't address chuzzledummy but you will word battle with me to the end!AND is that you using cliche's and Denzel Washington quotes today?? Right.

Anyways I see the President's dilemma clearly, I support his decision, I just think it should have been done sooner.

Sep. 11 2013 11:30 AM

@RUCB. France, Germany and Isreal all have cruise missiles, as do GB although they evidently don't want to get involved.

Sep. 11 2013 11:22 AM
Tony from Northport

Mike from Manhattan:

1) How much proof do you need? There's plenty...

2) What???

Sep. 11 2013 11:19 AM
Mick from Inwood

Two days ago a BBC interview with an expert on Syria who claimed that the "moderates" in Syria are moderate only in comparison to other actors in the Syrian opposition and their positions would seem radical to anyone in the west. If this is accurate, the diplomatic removal of WMAs from Syria might be seen as necessary to make it SAFE to support any Syrian opposition group, overtly or covertly...That Obama feels he needs to get rid of the potential of export of gas weapons to terrorist groups before Syria devolves into chaos.

Sep. 11 2013 11:17 AM
gary from queens


Saddam wasn't killing his people at the time Bush was president?! Saddam was systematically killing off the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, by draining their water supplies. And his oppression of Khurds and Shia sects added to the total mortalities in the thousands each year, leading up to Bush's intervention.

Debate the intervention if you wish, but dont misstate historical facts

Sep. 11 2013 11:16 AM
Michael Levy

1) Nothing new in Obama's speech. The American public doesn't want to be lied to again. While the results of the chemical weapons are horrible and it's very likely the Assad regime did it, we are still waiting for some proofs that they did. Until then, I and many Americans aren't going to change their mind on no intervention.
2) RE: chemical weapons. Once again, politicians and medias (WNYC included!) are not being fully honest in this discussion. It would be nice to be reminded that Israel did sign the Convention against chemical warfare but didn't ratify it.
Mike, Manhattan

Sep. 11 2013 11:14 AM

@David -

Why us?

We've got the Cruise missile inventory to do significant damage without exposing pilots to danger.

Sep. 11 2013 11:12 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I've been wondering if it would be possible to destroy the routes from the weapons depots (chemical & conventional) & the sites the weapons would be launched from. Do we have enough info on their locations? Could this be done accurately enough from offshore? Could it be done in a way & at a time that would minimize the risk of killing people?

Sep. 11 2013 11:07 AM
Tony from Canarsie

My overall reaction to the President's speech is that once again he showed that he's the most mature adult in the room.

Sep. 11 2013 11:06 AM

Why is it that one of the other countries that support military intervention can't strike and the US remain in a support role? Why does the US have to be the one using our resources. I think most Americans would stand behind a strke if we didn't again suffer the costs.

Sep. 11 2013 11:05 AM


"LOL, this FOOL took us there in the first place!!!

Then, when not a SINGLE other country agreed to join in his stupid scheme...."

There you go again, cutting the cloth to suit your argument and making stuff up. The Turks, Israelis and French are with us on a strike.

Did you listen to Assad's rhetoric during his Charlie Rose interview? He used the word 'cleansed' rather than 'pacify' or 'defeat'. He doesn't even think that those that oppose him are human. I have little doubt that his side used chemicals to kill 1,400 people but I still see the need for proof.

Your opposition to Obama's efforts to end the use of chemical weapons makes no sense.

Sep. 11 2013 11:05 AM
Tony from Northport

Does Russia benefit from eradicating chemical weapons from Syria? Seeing as how they supply $4Bn in weapons to Syria, won't this move force Assad into the market for even more weapons?

Sep. 11 2013 11:04 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Israel" isn't saying anything. Different factions in democratic Israel say different things, just as in America.

Sep. 11 2013 11:00 AM

If the world had gotten its sh*t together and given Saddam a bloody nose over his use of chem weapons in 1980...

The principle is that you don't use chem weapons on people. IF you do use them, it displays a fundamental disregard of your opponent's humanity. You are treating them like bugs.

Like it or not the threat of US force (which would destabilize Assad) has stopped further gas attacks and made the Russian take-over of the Syrian chem weapons stockpiles feasible.

Does anyone really see a problem with that?

Sep. 11 2013 10:59 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

I support Obama in what he is trying to do here, in trying to walk the tightrope between direct intervention and just trying to get rid of the chemical weapons. There are no friends of America in Syria no matter which way it goes. Like a mob war. Only innocent victims caught in between.

Sep. 11 2013 10:58 AM
Sarah from UES

What is Israel saying about this and what implications does that have with congress?

Sep. 11 2013 10:56 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

I love how everyone in mainstream media is using chess metaphors while talking like childish jingos with baby balls that got rustled because there isn't enough bloody carnage to go around yet. But to quote the great Denzel Washington "this sh*t is chess it ain't checkers". You have the opening, middle and endgame. This is not the end game.

Sep. 11 2013 10:35 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

The only thing Putin has done is seal Assad's fate. Obama is giving Assad plenty or rope to hang himself with. Syria is not going anywhere, neither is Assad, one slip and the noose will tighten but with UN approval (which was lacking)for a US strike. Wait and see before gloating, this agreement is not in the bag yet and the US will not agree to anything that removes the threat of force in the pending UN resolution. No force = no resolution. Putin can propose all he likes, the US will impose conditions and terms or no deal. Wait and see.

Sep. 11 2013 10:01 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Mr. Bad: "he should be applauded for walking us back from the brink" NONSENSE.

LOL, this FOOL took us there in the first place!!!

Then, when not a SINGLE other country agreed to join in his stupid scheme....
when the polling showed 80% of the population opposed it.....
and when he knew he would be stopped in Congress and never get a vote....

instead of acting like a man and saying, OK, I was wrong ....

he elevates Putin, the GAY BASHER, into kingmaker status.

Sep. 11 2013 09:37 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

Obama can't win for losing on this one. The bloodthirsty, rabid mainstream media portays a peacemaker as "weak and vacillating" because he doesn't drop bombs first and let somebody else deal with the consequences. Bravo. Obama is, on this one issue, proceeding thoughtfully and with care, he should be applauded for walking us back from the brink and Putin did not "score" on us, If anything it is the opposite, and the only people who are really upset are the Saudi's, Turks, Israeli's and Qatari's i.e. the real war coalition. If they want Assad out so bad let them do it themselves.

Sep. 11 2013 08:57 AM

Obama's speech was as clear as mud. I don't support US intervention in Syria, but I would prefer not to see Obama debating himself in public.

Sep. 11 2013 07:54 AM

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