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.
- Rice’s speech: distilled fear mongering
- 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
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?
… 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.
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:
- Inciting fear of inflation in our minds for political gain (we are easily led), 28 February 2011
- Danger, America! Wet your pants in fear of China!, 4 June 2013
(b) Posts about Syria:
- The Syrian dominos, Tom Hayden, 25 October 2012
- Some questions as we march to war in Syria, 17 June 2013
- The first question to ask about our war with Syria has nothing to do with Syria, 28 August 2013
- Q&A on the extraordinary aspects of the Syrian War, 4 September 2013
- What could go wrong if we attack Syria?, 5 September 2013
- The debate about Syria reminds us that a cat can laugh at the King, but the King has the power., 9 September 2013