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Assad vs. Kerry

Vahid Salemi/AP

The Syrian president denied using chemical weapons and hinted that he would retaliate against a U.S. strike. Plus, see Sec. Kerry’s counterpoints and a graphic video of the alleged attack released by the Senate.

Assad: No Evidence of Chemical Weapons  In his only on-camera interview since President Obama called for Congress to authorize military intervention in Syria, Bashar al-Assad told CBS’s Charlie Rose that there is “not a single shred of evidence” that his regime used chemical weapons. The Syrian president also compared Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertions to “the big lie that Colin Powell said” about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction before the U.

War Games

Iran, Assad, and Obama’s Quagmire

Jessica Gow/Scanpix, via Reuters

If the president wants to convince Americans that Syria is not a prelude to a bigger war, he needs to explain his strategy for avoiding one with Iran.

Over the next 48 hours, President Obama will tell Americans—again and again—that Syria is not Iraq. Fair enough. But there are lessons nonetheless. One of them is this: be careful who you go to war with.Randolph Bourne made the point almost a century ago after his former colleagues at The New Republic insisted that by entering World War I, America could promote democracy at home and abroad. “In every community it was the least liberal and least democratic elements among whom the preparedness and later the war sentiment was found,” Bourne retorted.

Clueless

Obama Has No Syria Strategy

Ricardo Garcia Vilanova/AFP/Getty

As President Obama waits for the Congressional verdict on military action in Syria, David Frum asks if the White House even has a plan?

"Congress wants this to pass. They just don't want to vote for it." On NBC's "Meet the Press" yesterday, former Democratic Representative Jane Harman astutely summed up President Obama's political dilemma. She could have added: the president himself has made this dilemma much worse.Think about the incentives facing a wavering member of Congress.His or her phone lines are burning up 8-1, 9-1, or more, against intervention.

Interactive

Tracking the Syria Vote

Congress is expected to vote this week on whether to authorize the use of force in Syria. As things stand, it’s not looking good for Obama, though the president has launched a full-court press to get the votes he needs. Below, the current stances of a handful of lawmakers and other key figures, based in part on their public statements.

Higher Calling

The Reluctant Salesman

AP (3); Getty (4)

For a president with rhetorical skills, Obama’s challenge on Tuesday is to convince us that the madness in Syria must end now. If he can move the nation, he can move Congress, writes Eleanor Clift.

A president’s prestige is generally not committed to anything unless the outcome is assured. Not since President Obama’s quixotic trip to Copenhagen in 2009 to secure the Olympics for Chicago has there been anything quite so seat-of-the-pants as the White House’s push for congressional support to back the use of force in Syria. In the grand scheme, of course, a rebuff from the Olympic Committee after flying on Air Force One to Europe was a minor embarrassment compared with what President Obama faces should the Senate and the House vote down his request for a resolution of force after his administration’s full court press over the past week.

Syrian Rebels

They Aren’t All Jihadis

Abo Al-Nur Sadk/AFP/Getty

Despite the rise of al Qaeda–linked groups, a new study finds some original pro-democracy protesters are still on the field in Syria. Christopher Dickey on why there’s some hope the democratic opposition can win.

If the rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria are murderous executioners, members of al Qaeda, and crazed barbarians who cut out the hearts of their enemies and eat them, then it’s obvious that the United States has no business supporting them. And, let’s not kid ourselves, some of the fighters do fit those descriptions. There are plenty of Syrian snuff films to prove the point.But unfortunately for those who want to use the evils of the rebels as an excuse to walk away from the evils of the regime, a new study published by the respected Arab Reform Initiative in Paris makes a detailed and often compelling argument that, despite the odds, many “pro-democracy” forces remain in the field.

Truth and Consequences

When Liberals Enable Tyrants

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Can a liberal oppose tyranny and support military intervention at the same time? Hell yes. Six reasons why Congress must authorize an attack on Syria now.

What is liberalism supposed to be about on the world stage? What values and goals do American liberals wish to promote around the world? I’m pretty certain most would say free democratic societies; full political rights for ethnic minorities; equal rights for women and, with any luck, gay people; a free press; an independent judiciary; and so forth. And, where those cannot be achieved, at least a base-level opposition to tyranny, reaction, religious fundamentalism, and so on.

Strike Now

Syria’s Strange Bedfellows

Getty (2)

As the president urges Congress to act in Syria, he’s won an unlikely ally: Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of a war Obama once deeply opposed. An interview with Eli Lake.

As President Barack Obama makes the case for airstrikes in Syria, one of his chief tasks is to persuade Congress and the American people that this is not another Iraq. He has an unusual ally in this effort: Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of Defense for George W. Bush and one of the chief architects of the 2003 Iraq War.“People are saying this is not Iraq, and it's correct,” Wolfowitz tells The Daily Beast. “We are not talking about sending American troops in to change a regime.

No Road to Damascus

Rise of the Antiwar Libertarians

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Rand Paul and Justin Amash have principles that trump party politics. That’s exactly why they are the best hope to stop an American war on Syria.

If you’re among the majority of war-weary Americans who oppose any sort of military intervention in Syria, thank libertarian Republican lawmakers Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.If the House and Senate vote against authorizing war next week, the efforts by these two guys will have been instrumental. Indeed, their outspoken, principled pushback is part of the reason that President Barack Obama—the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner—hasn’t already pursued some sort of strike “just muscular enough not to get mocked” by the world while not inciting retaliation by Bashar al-Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran.

Syria

Kerry vs. Kerry

AP (2)

It may be hard to equate John Kerry now with the same man in 2004 and 1971. But we should expect political loyalty and personal feelings to evolve with time. By Jamelle Bouie.

It’s hard to square the John Kerry of 2013 with the John Kerry of 1971. Then, as a young Vietnam War veteran, Kerry pressed lawmakers on how they could ask a man to be the “last man to die for a mistake.” Now, as secretary of State, he’s pressing for American intervention in Syria, in response to Bashar al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. His mantra to skeptical lawmakers amounts to “trust us,” something that’s prompted at least one senator—Rand Paul of Kentucky—to ask his own question, “How can you [Kerry] ask a man to be the first one to die for a mistake?”Kerry’s current stance is also a shift from where he was in 2004, when he campaigned against George W.

SYRIA’S DEFECTORS

Get Me Out of This War

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Fear of a U.S. strike is causing a new wave of defections from Assad’s army, rebels and analysts say. Mike Giglio on how the threat of a U.S. attack is hurting Assad on its own.

The Syrian Army corporal had entertained thoughts of defecting for a long time. He was just an office worker at his base in the southern province of Daraa, never firing his military-issued rifle or pistol. Like all rank-and-file soldiers, though, he was under close watch. Bolting the army—which could see him imprisoned or killed—didn’t seem worth the risk. But that changed when news came that America might attack. The corporal’s superiors tried to dismiss the threat as “just some kind of bullshit,” but they seemed rattled.

Not This Time

Iraq Hawks’ Flip-Flop

Getty (2)

They couldn’t wait to invade Iraq. Now they don’t want to go near Syria.

For the first time since the Iraq War in 2002, Congress is debating military action in the Middle East. But this time around, the resistance is palpable—most notably from the very Republicans who supported President Bush in the run-up to Iraq. Their reasons for opposing intervention in Syria differ. Some are scarred by what they see as mistakes made in Iraq. Others seem to be motivated by Obama himself, and the urge to oppose him at any cost.

Definitions

This Is War

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Kerry says that the president is not asking anyone to go to war. That makes sense, if war is only what happens when other nations kill Americans, writes Peter Beinart.

If you want to know why so many non-Americans hate American foreign policy, simply do this: read the following statement by Secretary of State John Kerry from today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria:“We don’t want to go to war in Syria either. It is not what we are here to ask. The president is not asking you to go to war.”Then imagine that your country is the one being bombed.On its face, Kerry’s statement is incoherent. “War,” wrote Carl von Clausewitz, “is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale.

Dumbed Down

Which Side Are You On?

Every writer, celebrity, and citizen with a Twitter account is taking a stand on the Syrian intervention. Michael Moynihan says no one is too ignorant to pick a side.

In 1937, the poets Stephen Spender and W.H. Auden assisted in publishing the pamphlet Authors Take Sides on the Spanish Civil War, a collection of literary opinions—including those of Cyril Connolly, T.S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and George Bernard Shaw—on the civil war consuming Spain. “It is,” they declared grandly, “impossible any longer to take no side.”The writers surveyed offered a broad uniformity of opinion—fascist golpista Francisco Franco must be defeated!—with a few notable dissents.

Up to Speed

Washington’s Prewar Politicking

Mark Wilson/Getty

As Obama’s war cabinet takes its case for strikes against Assad to the House of Representatives, Eli Lake breaks down the political wrangling so far, from the Joint Chiefs chairman to Rand Paul stealing the show.

The president’s top general, top diplomat, and secretary of Defense on Wednesday will take the case for Syrian airstrikes to the House of Representatives, where they are likely to face a much tougher crowd than the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While the Senate appears to have the votes to pass the resolution, the Republican-controlled House is still very much a toss-up.Here’s what you need to know to get up to speed as the president’s war cabinet makes the case for intervention in Syria.

Plus

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