“Let’s Bomb Syria” Version 2 Is Working; Why Did Version 1 Fail?

Polls taken almost exactly one year apart show a remarkable reversal in US opinion regarding the prospect of air strikes on Syria. Last year, in a poll conducted September 6-8, (pdf) there were a number of questions regarding action in Syria. By a margin of 59% to 39%, Americans overwhelmingly said they thought Congress should not pass the then pending resolution authorizing “military action for 60 to 90 days” that also banned use of US troops in a combat role. Further, 55% of those polled stated that even if Congress passed the resolution, they opposed US air strikes in Syria while only 43% favored them. In the hypothetical of no Congressional authorization, opposition to the air strikes rose to 71% with only 27% favoring them. Just one year later, those numbers have reversed. In a poll conducted September 4-7, 65% of Americans now say they support expanding US air strikes against the Sunni insurgents into Syria, while only 28% oppose them. Checking the crosstabs, support for the strikes jumps to 74% for Republicans but still is 60% for Democrats.

So why is this year’s Drum-Up-War week working, when last year’s failed?

Despite the heinous nature of last year’s sarin attack, it seems to me that most Americans did a good job of recognizing that what is underway in Syria is a civil war in which the US has no vital interest other than humanitarian concern for widespread death and displacement of citizens. Having failed to paint Bashar al-Assad as an evil-doer on the level of Saddam Hussein (or perhaps after Americans rejected such an obvious campaign to do so) Obama and his fellow war hawks now consider ISIS “the focus of evil in the modern world“.

The beheading of US journalists in Syria got huge play in the press. And yet, if we drill down a bit, the rate of journalists being killed in Syria is going down from its peak in 2012.

Somehow, Obama’s war gang has managed to convince ordinary Americans that ISIS represents a real threat to the US. That same poll that favors attacks on ISIS in Syria found that a staggering 91% of Americans find ISIS to be a serious threat to the US (59% said “very serious” and 31% said “somewhat serious”). Sadly, there is no reality behind this fear on the part of Americans. Even Time, in doing its best to support the hysteria, winds up undercutting the concept in a story today. In a piece creatively titled “Understanding the ISIS Threat to Americans at Home“, we learn:

On the one hand, Attorney General Eric Holder has said western fighters joining ISIS and returning home radicalized are the national security danger he worries about most. “We are seeing, I would say, an alarming rise in the number of American and European Union nationals who have been going to Syria to help extremist groups,” Holder told TIME last month. “This represents a grave threat to our security,” he said.

But in a thorough presentation on Sept. 3 at the Brookings Institution, outgoing director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen, presented a less scary picture. ISIS has no cells in the U.S., Olsen said, “full stop.” Further, Olsen said, “we have no credible information” that the group “is planning to attack the U.S.” ISIS, Olsen said “is not al Qaeda pre-9/11.”

At most, the article concludes, quoting Obama in his “exclusive” with Chuck Todd, he needed “to launch air strikes to ensure that towns like Erbil were not overrun, critical infrastructure, like the Mosul Dam was protected, and that we were able to engage in key humanitarian assistance programs that have saved thousands of lives.”

The links Holder is hyping about ISIS and AQAP simply do not exist:

Holder says the danger comes from the combination of westerners joining ISIS and the expert bomb-makers working for the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). It is not clear what if any evidence exists of such collaboration yet. On the one hand, AQAP has issued statements in support of ISIS, and both groups are active in Syria and Iraq; on the other, al Qaeda and ISIS split in the last year after a debate over tactics and territory.

Several senior administration officials tell TIME they have seen no evidence of direct contact between individual members of AQAP and ISIS.

In the end, the article concludes, Obama’s war team has deduced that we must attack ISIS because at some point in the future, they will turn their sights on us. Never mind that in this case, attacking ISIS in Syria winds up helping Assad, whom we wanted to attack last year:

Jane Harman, the president of the Woodrow Wilson Center, said that while the Assad government was a major topic of discussion, she and other participants told Mr. Obama that he could order military action in Syria without fear of helping Mr. Assad, since ISIS was occupying ungoverned territory that his forces were unlikely to reconquer.

I guess that Harman and Obama know that Assad won’t be able to reconquer those once ISIS is gone because of the bang-up job we will do training and equipping our famousmoderate” rebels, but hey, what could go wrong on any of this?

In the end, though, the apparent support for this version of strikes on Syria seems to me to have come about because of the shift in focus on the “enemy” from a president oppressing the citizens of his country to an international terror group that we must fear and that represents true evil. As far as the average American is concerned, meddling in another country’s civil war is out of bounds, but when it comes to protecting the homeland against evil-doers, anything goes.

And it doesn’t even need Congressional approval.

 

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

13 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    Version 1 failed because it didn’t have the benefit of dawn-to-dusk beheading discussions on CNN and other media.

    The beheading of US journalists in Syria got huge play in the press.

    That’s all it takes. First the memo from State to the media on what it expects, then comes the coverage with various interviews all oriented toward what State calls “Public Diplomacy” and what we call propaganda, now using using beheading as a hot button.
    .
    Voila, like magic, ISIS is the new threat to USA, which requires endless threats to fuel corporate-welfare “security” expenditures.

    • jo6pac says:

      That was my thought also and remembering back in the day when George the lesser needed to scare the sheeple and crazy ben louden would pop up.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    Regarding “true evil,” the people who actually live in the Middle East fear the US and Israel most of all, polls show. That includes Iraq, where they don’t want US troops because of bitter memories of a brutal occupation.

  3. lefty665 says:

    Curious that we are comfortable with waging war in a sovereign nation with which we are not at war. Is this the predictable consequence of our uncontested unconstitutional acts in Libya? Is there hope that Assad will resist our aggression against ISIL in his country so we can attack him? Would that make it a twofer? WTF?

    • Don Bacon says:

      President Assad is too savvy to counter the US, also Israel. Besides, he would enjoy the spectacle of the US bombing his enemies. The US has tricked itself into supporting its enemy, again, as when it converted Iraq into an Iran ally. Stupid is as stupid does.
      .
      Enjoy watching Obama twisting slowly in the wind tonight.

      • lefty665 says:

        Think he will be announcing bombings of the folks who are funding ISIL too, namely the Saudis and Omanis, or will it just be bombing Assad’s immediate enemies in Syria?
        .
        Twisting in the wind in step with Cheney sounds about right. What a cluster fuck. Anything to keep a lid on criticism through early November.
        .
        Funny, Duhbya looked more like Forrest Gump, but as you observe, stupid is as stupid does. Not much difference among the 3 of them.

  4. MountVernonCannibisFarms says:

    this gets the camels nose back under the tent .
    they can arm the ‘good’ rebels , restart the the insurgency , and collaterally damage assad
    cleaning up the mess THEY MADE .

  5. Don Bacon says:

    Perhaps we could get the wonderful folks in US ally Saudi Arabia to help out? After all, the Gulf War — AKA Iraq 1.0 — benefited them.
    Oops — Fox News:

    Dozens of Christians arrested at a prayer meeting in Saudi Arabia need America’s help, according to a key lawmaker who is pressing the State Department on their behalf.

    Some 28 people were rounded up Friday by hard-line Islamists from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the home of an Indian national in the eastern Saudi city of Khafji, and their current situation is unknown, according to human rights advocates.

  6. ArizonaBumblebeeper says:

    What we are witnessing at the present time is the tragic conclusion to the Obama presidency. He came into the presidency as the result of a financial crisis and disillusionment with the conduct of the so-called Global War on Terror. Had he been up to the task, he would have been remembered as a great man. However, for reasons I don’t totally comprehend, he lost his nerve (or maybe he just conned us as some have suggested). He didn’t close Guantanamo; he didn’t prosecute the Wall Street Criminals or the torturers; and he didn’t stop the generals from wasting blood and treasure on a hopeless war in Afghanistan. On the contrary, he doubled down on NSA surveillance and became hostile to journalists and whistle-blowers. If that isn’t enough, he played billiards rather than visit the border during the recent immigration crisis, partied with Vernon Jordan at Martha Vineyards instead of visiting Ferguson during its recent racial troubles, and played a game of golf after viewing a video of journalist being beheaded by ISIS. Now. he plans to get the country involved in a protracted struggle with Islamic extremists which will conveniently end only after he has left the presidency. Some have suggested Obama was only a stand-in, a person with no power, who was only elected president to give the appearance of racial progress in America while the deep state continued to call all the shots. The sad part of this story is that his tragedy is our tragedy. Once again, America is going to march off to war without a clear understanding of what the hell it’s getting into.

    • Don Bacon says:

      Had [Obama] been up to the task, he would have been remembered as a great man.
      And if I had wings I could fly.
      .
      Black Agenda Report, May 7, 2008

      Running to the Right: Barack Obama and the DLC Strategy
      .
      DLC endorsement is the gold standard of political reliability for Wall Street, Big Energy, Big Pharma, insurance, the airlines and more. Though candidates normally undergo extensive questioning and interviews before DLC endorsement, Obama insisted the blessing of these corporate special interests had been bestowed on him without these formalities and without his advance knowledge, and formally disassociated himself from the DLC. But like Hillary Clinton, and every front running Democrat since Michale Dukakis in 1988, Barack Obama’s campaign has adopted the classic right wing DLC strategy.
      [snip]
      When he does speak, it won’t be good news. Republicans are sure to escalate their demands, insisting that Barack Obama denounce a list of black and progressive organizations, activities, beliefs and individuals to retain his share of their base. And as long as Obama is wedded to the DLC strategy, he will eagerly comply.
      .
      If there was an actual mass-based progressive movement in the US, operating on the ground and independent of political parties and campaigns, it might have a prayer of holding Barack Obama accountable. But there isn’t.

  7. TarheelDem says:

    What is different this year is that Vicky Nuland succeeded in preoccupying Vladimier Putin so that he couldn’t send two battleships into the Mediterranean to force the US to stand down. And the Republicans switched from wanting a President to go it alone to wanting to let him do anything he wanted and sitting back and carping. Finally, the UK House of Commons has not put a stop to the march to war.

    Apparently degrading US military equipment was not enough to get a bump up in DoD funds in the emergency post-election budget session this year.

    Also there are a whole lot of interests wanting to put a stop to the US rapprochement with Iran that was beginning last year.

    • Don Bacon says:

      I appreciate and value your usual fresh outlooks, but this one deserves some thought.
      Also there are a whole lot of interests wanting to put a stop to the US rapprochement with Iran that was beginning last year.
      1. The US is, at least in effect, cooperating with Iran against ISIS.
      2. Ditto with Syria, if the US attacks ISIS in Syria. (arming Syria rebels means arming ISIS, it’s obvious).
      3. The existence of ISIS puts a dent in the “Iran is world leader in exporting terrorism” which was never true anyhow.

  8. David Walters says:

    Although I’m decidedly against U.S. interventions anywhere and at any time, I see a very considerable difference between at least the targets in Syria which the Administration intends to bomb now and those they intended to bomb then. Now, it’s ISIS, a non-state without the backing of the Russians. Then, it was Syria, a sovereign state (if that concept has meaning anymore) which was backed by Russia.

    That distinction isn’t lost on Americans.

    LF

Comments are closed.