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Susan Rice’s speech tells us harsh truths about ourselves

10 September 2013

Summary: Today’s speech by Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, deserves attention. If we look, in it we can see the answers to many important questions about America. Our reaction to it — and Obama’s challenges to us about Syria — will tells us much about ourselves.

This worked for Truman, and for every President since him:

“Mr. President, if that’s what you want there is only one way to get it. That is to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the country.”
— Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s advice to Truman about how to start the Cold War. On 12 March 1947 Truman did exactly that. From Put yourself in Marshall’s place, James P. Warburg (1948); in 1941 Warburg helped develop our wartime propaganda programs.

Homer Simpson

How Susan Rice sees us

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Contents

  1. Rice’s speech: distilled fear mongering
  2. Conclusions
  3. For More Information

(1) Rice’s speech: distilled fear mongering

Speech by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice
Given at the New America Foundation, 9 September 2013

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Excerpts

There is no denying what happened on August 21. … There is no doubt about who is responsible for this attack. …

We must take it on faith, despite their long history of lies, since the government has released little evidence. Many experts find the evidence described quite questionable.

Assad’s escalating use of chemical weapons threatens the national security of the United States.

She repeats this, without explaining how — except in the vague terms.

And the likelihood that, left unchecked, Assad will continue to use these weapons again and again takes the Syrian conflict to an entirely new level —- by terrorizing civilians, creating even greater refugee flows, …

Possible, but not logical. What did the alleged strike at Ghouta accomplish for Assad? Nothing but trouble. Why repeat it?

Fear by Van Gogh

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… and raising the risk that deadly chemicals would spill across borders into neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Obviously, the use of chemical weapons also directly threatens our closest ally in the region, Israel, where people once again have readied gas masks. Every time chemical weapons are moved, unloaded, and used on the battlefield, it raises the likelihood that these weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists active in Syria, including Assad’s ally Hezbollah and al Qaeda affiliates.

A victory by the insurgents, with strong participation by al Qaeda and other jihadist, will do this even more effectively. Hurting Assad without helping the insurgents is impossible.

That prospect puts Americans at risk of chemical attacks targeted at our soldiers and diplomats in the region and even potentially our citizens at home.

That’s quite a string of hypotheticals. Terrorists capture chemical weapons. Use them to attack the US. It’s the kind of nightmare that can be used — has been used — to justify the most specious policies.

Equally, every attack serves to unravel the long-established commitment of nations to renounce chemical weapons use.

As does our support for the world’s top violator of treaties about WMD: Israel, and its nukes.

… Failing to respond makes our allies and partners in the region tempting targets of Assad’s future attacks.

Here Rice goes wild. In the middle of closely fought civil war, Assad will attack its neighbors? Will he invade the US next?

Failing to respond increases the risk of violence and instability as citizens across the Middle East and North Africa continue to struggle for their universal rights. Failing to respond brings us closer to the day when terrorists might gain and use chemical weapons against Americans abroad and at home.

Rice uses the “make them wet their pants in fear” form of persuasion. Reason not required.

Failing to respond damages the international principle reflected in two multilateral treaties and basic human decency that such weapons must never again be used anywhere in the world.

Now she crosses into fiction

  • The 1925 Geneva Protocol (see Wikipedia) does not prohibit internal use of chemical weapons, or use against nations not party to the treaty.
  • Syria has not signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, and hence is not bound by it.
  • Neither authorizes the US to act as enforcer, as neither the UN nor the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has found Syria guilty of using chemical weapons.

Moreover, failing to respond to this brazen attack could indicate that the United States is not prepared to use the full range of tools necessary to keep our nation secure.

How many nations must we attack in order to convince every nation that we’re willing to use the “full range of tools”? The CIA has overthrown many governments (preferably elected ones). We have invaded many nations, bombing some severely. We have attacked many more. Nobody can count how many we have killed. Yet our war mongers tell us that it is never enough.

Other global hotspots might flare up if belligerents believe the United States cannot be counted on to enforce the most basic and widely accepted international norms.

We must violate the UN Charter in order to defend international norms. Perhaps Rich no longer realizes how mad this is.

The reason President Obama decided to pursue limited strikes is that we and others have already exhausted a host of other measures aimed at changing Assad’s calculus and his willingness to use chemical weapons.

Russia has quickly and easily proven this false.

(2) Conclusions

Rice talks about Syria. But her speech is really about us.

  • What America stands for, how we related to the world, how our government relates to its citizens, and how we make decisions.
  • The obvious conclusion is that Rice believes us to be fools. Incapable of reasoning, needing manipulation by exaggeration and emotion.
  • She confidently assumes we will take her assertions on faith, and ignore the many experts who doubt that Assad — or perhaps even government forces — conducted the attack.
  • History suggests that she is correct on both counts. Will we prove her wrong?
  • We will again be citizens when we jeer and mock such speeches, demonstrating the confidence and judgement of a people capable of governing themselves.

(3) For More Information

(a) Leading us by our fears:

(b) Posts about Syria:

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Fear dark, use light

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 September 2013 5:50 am

    Very good one, FM
    Concurrently I had watched this Video of Ms. Rice and had fwd it to friends with the same observations (not as well written, of course, but full of incredulity)
    Remarkable to witness this willful display of manipulative lying and distortion.

    Thx,
    Breton

    Like

  2. Demeter permalink
    10 September 2013 11:44 am

    The rhetoric has gone beyond alarming straight into silly.

    John Kerry really put his foot in it, though.

    He flips off a sarcastic scenario, and everyone takes him up on it: Russia, Syria, Eurozone….anyone with brains and a sense of history. Meanwhile, President Oblivious is flogging his doomed war game, and nobody is buying.

    Either this is failing one’s way to success, or there really is 11th dimensional chess being played here.

    What they don’t get, these would-be warmongers, is that the Boomers are Peaceniks, from birth. After the horrors of WW2 we are born to peace, by experiences of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and more, we are schooled to oppose war, and we raised our children the same way. Some of those children are raising THEIR children to peace now. I think we outnumber the warmongers handily. (Maybe THAT’S why they hate the Boomers and revile us at every turn. Have you noticed how EVERY crisis, no matter how far-fetched, is OUR fault?)

    It ain’t ever going back to the gung-ho days of imperialism.

    Ain’t gonna study war no more, Ain’t gonna study war…

    Like

  3. 10 September 2013 12:55 pm

    There’s only one real problem with this post that I can find. Israel is not signatory to any treaties regarding nuclear weapons and, hence, is not in violation of anything. Just because you’re an anti-Semite doesn’t excuse using lies or mistakes.

    I’ll also note that Syria is also not signatory to any WMD treaties regarding chemical weapons. They even removed themselves from the Geneva Convention in the 1980s. Hence, they too are not in violation of any treaties or laws.

    Like

    • Buzz Killington permalink
      10 September 2013 2:16 pm

      I *think* that’s the point (but maybe worded poorly): We make that claim about Syria, but not Israel, even though it applies to both.

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 2:22 pm

      Agreed. Our support for Israel’s increasingly outlaw-like behavior is the great blind spot of US grand strategy. It poisons much of what we do, closes off much that we could do.

      But it is beyond discussion in America. Much like our refusal to acknowledge the Chinese government for 2 decades.

      Like

    • Buzz Killington permalink
      10 September 2013 2:41 pm

      Sorry FM, I’m still a little unclear after that.

      If you *are* saying that Israel is in violation of treaties, can you clarify which ones? Or are you just saying they are violating the “international principle reflected in” them, in the same way Syria (supposedly) has?

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 2:50 pm

      The latter — Israel did not sign the nuke treaty, Syria did not sign the Chem Weapons treaty, we did sign the UN Charter. Etc…

      Like

    • Buzz Killington permalink
      10 September 2013 3:15 pm

      Ok, gotcha… I suspect that jonolan saw the same ambiguity as I did, but interpreted it differently (defensively).

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 5:02 pm

      International principle? Please! The only international principle that has been common is the idea that nations’ sovereignty no longer matter and that many governments are willing to apply treaty restrictions to nations that aren’t signatory to them.

      As for a defense reaction to antisemitism – Yeah, it’s a recurring blight upon the moral character of America and needs to be eradicated.

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 7:02 pm

      Jonolan,

      I cannot say you are wrong.

      But people have long dreamed of abetter world. Each step of the way they have been told that change is not possible, and things must always stay as they have been. Slavery is a fixed part of society. The role of women is a fixed part of society.

      We have proved them wrong, that progress is possible.

      The founders of the post-WW2 era had a dream of a better world in terms of relations between nations. America’s leaders have forsaken it, but it still lives in minds of any of the world’s people’s. I believe you are premature to write it off after only 70 years.

      Cynicism always sounds wise, but is often as false as Panglossian optimism.

      Like

    • Buzz Killington permalink
      10 September 2013 5:16 pm

      Curious: is it possible to be critical of Israel without being either Jewish, or an anti-Semite?

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 6:56 pm

      Yes, of course.

      But calling names is the first defense by supporters of Israel’s aggressive policies towards Palestine. Ask Stephen Walt (Prof international affairs, Harvard) and John Mearsheimer (Prof Pol Sci, U Chicago), coauthors of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”. Quite a mild book, received with a flood of invective.

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 9:18 pm

      Ah, yes; the myth of Palestine and Palestinians. All they are, in reality, is hate-filled Muslim terrorists who want to exterminate the Jews…and your kind sides with them and claims that we’re wrong for keeping them at bay.

      Tell me this – when has Israel conquered territories through a war of aggression? Tell me also when have these “Palestinians” ever accepted the existence of Israel?

      You claim the Jews are outlaws, but they’re only fighting for their survival and the survival of the Arab Christians and other non-Muslims that have fled to Israel from the surrounding Muslim states to avoid genocide.

      And ask yourself this – If the Jews were as bad as you claim, why do they merely contain their enemy instead of annihilating them?

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 9:26 pm

      “And ask yourself this – If the Jews were as bad as you claim, why do they merely contain their enemy instead of annihilating them?”

      That is a ridiculous over the top reply, not even close to responding to what I have said. Nor are you comments even remotely matching what is happening over there.

      If you want top pursue this line, please do it on one of the posts about Israel. It is tangential to this post, which is about Syria.

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 10:35 pm

      You and Buzz took the thread in this direction, Fabius. But I’ll leave. It’s easier for all if I do.

      Like

    • 10 September 2013 10:43 pm

      Yes, we did bring it up, and your response was quite appropriate.

      But it is too compex to handle in a thread about Syria. There are other posts about Israel which you might find of interest

      Like

  4. Buzz Killington permalink
    10 September 2013 2:08 pm

    FM, I think you missed a blockquote around:

    “Failing to respond damages the international principle reflected in two multilateral treaties and basic human decency that such weapons must never again be used anywhere in the world.”

    Like

    • 10 September 2013 2:13 pm

      Fixed! Thanks for catching that. I am using my ancient backup PC until my main one is fixed.

      Like

  5. Mikyo permalink
    10 September 2013 8:30 pm

    Bad news for congress. Congress had been free to attack the President from both flanks. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays it said that he did not do enough. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it said that he did too much. Now it will have to make a choice. Uh-oh.

    Like

  6. 11 September 2013 5:03 am

    Think Obama could use a kickstarter campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-sdO6pwVHQ

    Like

  7. Finn permalink
    11 September 2013 11:59 pm

    If the Americans are coming to the conclusion that they are not the policemen of the world it is fine with me.

    The free world needs America to play its role. The problem is that America has violated a lot of international laws and has trough these actions probably lost the moral right to comment on what anybody is doing. America is in many places not any longer seen as a moral leader. America has to change its approach if they want to play that role again. The times before Bush Jr. is far away. An America, which has lost its moral rights are no better than Putin’s Russia or China. An America, which use drones to kill people they see as a threat to their country anywhere they find them. An America where the government spies on their own people as well as their friends. An America which doesn’t recognize the International Court of Justice in Hague. Only American courts and they are even preventing people they capture to be tried for their own courts. Is this a description of a country which can expect to be seen as a moral leader?

    The situation in Syria can be compared to the situation in Bosnia in the 90th. What happened there was bad. Europe was observing the events for a long time before going in lead by America. What to day is happening in Syria is really bad and Europe is also today just observing. I don’t believe that an American military strike will improve the situation.

    Kerry’s comment has started something, which might create a solution to the chemical weapons issue. The only people who can stop the war in Syria is the Syrian people. Their problem is that foreign forces has entered the country under the cover of supporting the opposition. This has brought most people in a situation where they can choose between a dictator or a society, which they might not want. It is probably also a fact that the supporters of the dictator have no other choice than to fight to the end, because they belong to minorities who run the risk of being victims of genocides in case of that the dictator falls. So any support to the Syrians has to take this into account. A solution has to allow for some sort of state which is capable of securing peoples security. The solution is not just to bring the dictator down. It has to be done in a way, which prevents extremists getting unjustified influence.

    The answer to this can not be military strikes with missiles. It is not a combat task. It might be a task of a strong “police force”, which has to be accepted of the majority of the Syrian people. Without acceptance such an operation can’t become successful. If the Syrians are not prepared to accept help they are on their own. It is hard, however a fact.

    Like

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  1. Syria… one last one I swear | Spread An Idea
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