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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thomas Friedman, "Threaten to Threaten": That Should Have Putin Trembling . . . Not

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled  "Threaten to Threaten" (, would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman is daft enough to assign even a modicum of credibility to Putin's proposal to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control:

"A new situation has been created in the last two days by the Russian offer — embraced by Obama, all of our major allies and China, but still only vaguely accepted by Syria — for Syria to turn over its stockpiles of poison gas to international control. Let’s have no illusion. There’s still a real possibility that the Russians and Syrians are just stalling and will fudge in the end, and even if one or both are serious, there are formidable logistical and political obstacles to securing Syria’s chemical weapons swiftly and completely. Part of me wonders: Has anybody thought this through?

But all of me wants to acknowledge that if a Syrian surrender of poison gas were implemented — still a big if — it would be a good end to this near-term crisis. The global taboo on poison gas would be upheld, and America would not have to get embroiled in a shooting war in Syria.

In that context, I think it is worth Obama and Congress threatening to schedule a vote to endorse Obama’s threat of force — if the Syrians and Russians don’t act in good faith — but not schedule a vote right now. (That was essentially the president’s message in his speech last night.) By 'threatening to threaten,' Obama retains leverage to keep the Syrians and Russians focused on implementing any agreement — but without having to test Congress’s real willingness to let him fulfill that threat. Because, if it failed to pass, the Russians and Syrians would have no incentive to move."

Well, the "new situation" is that the Russians and Syrians have no incentive to move, because they are fully aware that Obama, finally able to climb down from his tree, has no intention of returning there.

Implementation of the surrender of Assad's stockpiles of chemical weapons? The chances are zero. As reported in a Washington Post article entitled "Securing Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal would be formidable task, experts say" ( by Joby Warrick and Loveday Morris:

"As diplomats wrangled over competing plans for securing Syria’s chemical weapons, arms-control experts warned Tuesday of the formidable challenges involved in carrying out such a complex and risky operation in the midst of a raging civil war.

U.N. teams dispatched to Syria for the mission would be attempting something new: finding and safeguarding a long-
hidden arsenal in a country that has long stood outside key international arms-control agreements — all while exposed to crossfire from Syria’s warring factions.

Although the mission might be worth the risks, experts say, it would be costly and time-
consuming, especially if the goal included the physical destruction of what is estimated to be thousands of chemical warheads and rockets as well as hundreds of tons of liquid toxins kept in bulk storage throughout Syria.

'It is doable, and potentially a great idea, but let’s not be naive,' said Jean Pascal Zanders, a Belgian arms-control researcher and writer for the Trench, a blog focusing on weapons of mass destruction. 'If you can get around the legal and logistical questions, securing the stocks might be relatively easy to achieve. But if you add destruction of the munitions, you have to think in terms of years.'"

Or as stated by Friedman's own newspaper in an article entitled "Chemical Disarmament Hard Even in Peacetime" ( by William J. Broad and C. J. Chivers:

"Spread far and wide across Syria, the chemical weapons complex of the fractured state includes factories, bunkers, storage depots and thousands of munitions, all of which would have to be inspected and secured under a diplomatic initiative that President Obama says he is willing to explore.

But monitoring and securing unconventional weapons have proved challenging in places like Iraq, North Korea and Iran — even in peacetime. Syria is bound up in the third year of a bloody civil war, with many of the facilities squarely in battlefields.

'I’m very concerned about the fine print,' said Amy E. Smithson, an expert on chemical weapons at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in California. 'It’s a gargantuan task for the inspectors to mothball production, install padlocks, inventory the bulk agent as well as the munitions. Then a lot of it has to be destroyed — in a war zone.'"

'What I’m saying is, ‘Beware of this deal,’' Dr. Smithson added. 'It’s deceptively attractive.'"

"Deceptively attractive"? Dr. Smithson is being polite. As I already said, it's not going to be implemented.

Nevertheless, Friedman is full of compliments for his beloved president:

"So give Obama credit for standing up for an important principle in a chaotic region. But also give the American people some credit. They’re telling our leaders something important: It’s hard to keep facing down Middle East Hitlers when there are no Churchills on the other side."

Yup, Obama sure as heck stood up to Putin . . . not. More like stand-up comedy (see: Aghast at the prospect of having to do anything at all to effect his "red line," Obama folded at the first opportunity,

Indeed, "It’s hard to keep facing down Middle East Hitlers when there are no Churchills on the other side," particularly when our side is led by Chamberlains community organizers.


  1. The world is so incredibly naive/stupid. Putin is as horrible as Assad--a murderer, a thug, a liar, an obfuscator. Treacherous.

    And Obama is thoroughly the "invertebrate" you called him recently.

  2. Notice to all tyrants:We're ok with torture,genocide-use your guns tanks,bombs,but please,go easy on the gas,or we'll threaten you with an extremely small act,after it get discussed by Congress when they return from recess,after we work on a list of other excuses for inaction,or figure a new way to kick the can down the road.