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Levin: Kerry’s Statements on Syria ‘Unhelpful’

Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is not happy with John Kerry.

Secretary of State John Kerry, along with other administration officials, has been making statements on the Syria crisis that are “unhelpful” and have muddied President Obama’s case for a strike, according to Democratic Senate Armed Services chairman Carl Levin.President Obama himself is not responsible for the confusion over his Syria policy and the various explanations of how significant the strike he is planning against Bashar al-Assad would be, according to Levin.

War and Peace

How’d Obama Do?

Pool photo by Evan Vucci

Michael Tomasky says the president gave a great speech, but the public still isn’t buying what he’s selling. Meanwhile, David Frum says the president has a split personality, simultaneously calling for military action and giving reasons why we shouldn’t get involved. Who’s right? Read both pieces here.

Obama’s Split PersonalityYou can’t have it both ways. The president called for military action in Syria and also made his case for why we shouldn’t get involved. David Frum breaks down Obama’s speech."Good evening. The topic for tonight's debate is Syria: to intervene or not to intervene? Speaking for the intervention is President Barack Obama, live from the White House. Speaking against—also President Obama, also from the White House.

Obama 1/ Obama 2

The President’s Split Personality

Pool Photo by Evan Vucci

The president called for military action in Syria and expressed why we shouldn’t get involved. David Frum breaks down Obama’s speech.

"Good evening. The topic for tonight's debate is Syria: to intervene or not to intervene? Speaking for the intervention is President Barack Obama, live from the White House. Speaking against—also President Obama, also from the White House. Mr. President, the first question is for you. Is Syria vital to our national security?"President Obama 1: "What happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law, it's also a danger to our security.

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The Dictatorship of Public Opinion

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

President Obama and President Hollande should govern, not be led by polls, when it comes to intervening in Syria.

I don’t know if Barack Obama will get the votes.Nor whether the latest Russian diversion—that Assad place his chemical weapons under international oversight and destroy them—will enable the tyrant at the latest possible moment to avoid strikes.But the sequence that began with the chemical massacre on August 21 has already produced results that, in the long term and regardless of what happens on the ground, may prove catastrophic.We already had democracy through public opinion—what de Tocqueville called the “supremacy of public opinion.

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The UN Can Save Us!

Uncredited/AP

Why the international organization is the best defense against Al Qaeda acquiring chemical weapons. By Bruce Riedel.

The Russian proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under the control of international monitors and then destroy them, raises many difficult questions on implementation. But it offers the best means to ensure Syria’s arsenal of nerve agents do not end up in al Qaeda’s hands.                                               There is precedent for what Moscow is proposing: the post-1991 U.N. regime imposed on Iraq after Operation Desert Storm. U.

My Fellow Americans

Obama's Long Odds

Pool

The president gave a great speech. But the public still isn’t buying what he’s selling—and there’s a good chance Russia will leave him in the cold, writes Michael Tomasky.

This was the best speech Barack Obama has given in a couple of years. (Read the entire text here. It was well-structured, right to the point, and direct; it anticipated the skeptical viewer’s questions and tried to answer them, and it did so persuasively. In places, it even did so powerfully, especially toward the end, where he made specific appeals to his “friends” on the right and the left to try to see this conflict in contexts that traditionally mattered to each side—the “commitment to America’s military might” to the right, and “belief in freedom and dignity for all people” to the left.

Transcript

Obama's Syria Speech

Evan Vucci/AP

'Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough," the president said Tuesday night.

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria, why it matters and where we go from here.Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America’s worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement, but I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Putin’s Power Play on Syria

Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty

Support from Moscow hasn’t usually helped Middle East despots. Until now.

From the early days of the Arab Spring, Russia has systematically backed every dictator over the revolutionary people. Tunisia’s Ali, Egypt’s Mubarak, Yemen’s Saleh, Libya’s Gaddafi, and, of course, Syria’s Assad have all enjoyed staunch support from the Kremlin, which also vigorously opposed any international military intervention.The problem for these Middle Eastern despots was that support from Moscow didn’t actually do much good. Every man on that list, except Assad, was deposed, lynched, or imprisoned.

Spillover

It’s Not All Trash Talk

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Assad said to expect everything. What does that mean? Jamie Dettmer on how Syria’s anxious neighbors may face retaliation for an American attack.

Bashar al-Assad’s warning wasn’t as colorful as Saddam Hussein’s threats to light up the Middle East with the “mother of all battles.” But, with an eye no doubt on spooking a war-weary American public, the Syrian autocrat talked of regional “repercussions” if U.S. military strikes are launched against his country—and Assad’s anxious neighbors, already suffering spillover in the form of refugees and violence from the Syrian civil war, are taking the threat seriously.

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Obama’s Weasel Words

Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty

When the president addresses the nation tonight, it will be a matter of life and death. He shouldn’t pretend otherwise.

Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters yesterday that an “unbelievably small, limited” attack on Syria will prevent Assad from using chemical weapons again and force the regime to the negotiating table.“Unbelievably” is the key word. Kerry probably doesn’t believe this himself—and neither should anyone else. Ever since the Obama administration set out to sell Congress and the public on the idea of a military strike on Syria, it has tried to describe the action with what diplomats call “creative ambiguity.

Enough Already

Syria Wasn’t a False Flag!

Mohamed Abdullah/Reuters

Everyone from Ron Paul to Richard Nixon’s former speechwriter has suggested that the chemical attack in Syria was actually staged by rebels. Jamelle Bouie offers a reality check.

Between survivors’ accounts, photographs of the dead—men, women and children, wrapped in white sheets—and videos showing nerve-gas victims struggling for life, there’s no real question that chemical weapons were used in Syria. And if the available evidence is any indication, Bashar al-Assad’s regime is responsible. U.S. intelligence reports not only that the were rockets launched from government-held territory into rebel-occupied areas, but that intercepted post-attack phone calls show chatter between Syrian officials and a chemical-weapons unit.

Front Lines

Susan Rice’s Second Act

Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

The new national security adviser is again testing out talking points, this time giving an emotional appeal on Syria. It’s an astounding turnabout from Benghazi a year ago, says Eleanor Clift.

In what sounded like a preview of what President Obama will tell the country Tuesday evening from the Oval Office, National Security Adviser Susan Rice laid out in the most unflinching terms the arguments, both substantive and emotional, for why the U.S. must act in Syria, her emphasis underscored in the written version of her speech distributed by the White House. Speaking at the New America Foundation on Monday, she used just about every card available to the administration; her own reaction as a parent to the suffering of the children gassed to death in Syria and the anguish of their parents; the specter of an emboldened Iran and North Korea if the U.

Thoughtful Approach

Obama’s War for Peace

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

‘Peace requires responsibility,’ the president said when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize. He could say those words again Tuesday night about his proposed Syria strike, says Jon Favreau.

Forget the politics. Forget the whip counts. Forget all the overblown theatrics. Forget about what President Obama “has to do” in his speech Tuesday night. What we have to do is listen, think, and then make a decision together, as a nation, about how to respond to a humanitarian atrocity.Most world leaders and U.S. officials of both parties now agree: on Aug. 21, the Syrian government gassed its own people, murdering more than 1,400 men, women, and innocent children in an especially gruesome way.

‘We Shouldn’t Wait’

Syrian Rebels Dis Kerry

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What at first seemed like a gaffe by the secretary of State—that Assad could escape a U.S. strike by handing over his chemical weapons—became U.S. policy by Monday afternoon. But Syria’s opposition is against it, reports Josh Rogin.

The Syrian political opposition is dead set against the brand-new Obama-administration policy to pursue a new diplomatic negotiation with Russia in an effort to avoid a military strike on Syria, saying the delay and possible cancellation of Obama’s strike would only embolden Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.Early Monday morning Washington time, Secretary of State John Kerry responded to a question at a London press conference by saying the Syrian regime might be able to avoid a U.

High Stakes

Russia to Syria: Hand Over Your Weapons

Yuri Kadobnov/AFP/Getty

Show of support for Kerry’s ultimatum.

Progress? Russia has backed Secretary of State John Kerry’s challenge to Syria to put its chemical weapons under international control in order to avoid a U.S. strike—and Syria's foreign minister reportedly "welcomes" the idea. The White House and State Dept., however, are treading cautiously, calling the news a "positive development" but one that doesn't rule out military action. "We've been highly skeptical to date," national security adviser Ben Rhodes told MSNBC. "They have not even declared their chemical weapons stockpiles."

Read it at Politico

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