September 11, 2013

In-House Note: Sanity Check

Andrew Sullivan writes that rhetorical flourishes may have gotten the better of me in my last post. He says that I was "far, far too caustic about the extremely difficult choices Obama had to confront in the past few months and too breezily dismissive of the breach of the chemical weapons taboo." He may well be right. Foreign policy-making is messy. While I stand behind the basic thrust of my commentary across all its content, I have decided to stop commenting on Syria for at least a couple weeks, likely into October. This may help lend a fresher, perhaps revised view. I can't promise I won't tweet on Syria, but there will be no longer pieces for a spell. Please know I frankly do not relish criticizing U.S. foreign policy-making from afar. I do so because--despite it all--I have a deep pride and respect for the United States. I suppose therefore I care, and so try to enunciate my concerns (yes, sometimes too grandiloquently, the perils of my writing style). But I try to call them like I see them, and this Syria effort to date candidly has seemed a grotesque failure to me. That said, it's easy to carp from the sidelines, and I will 'hit pause' and see how matters progress in an effort to be more magnanimous and gain perspective. Thanks for your understanding.

Posted by Gregory at September 11, 2013 07:52 PM | TrackBack (0)

Just don't overcompensate in the other direction - your perspective has gone missing far too long in the past.

Posted by: carcin at September 11, 2013 08:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well, there isn't much to say for a while, in any case. If you and I are wrong, and Putin indeed makes a good faith effort to work with Assad through a disarmament of chemical weapons, and makes real progress in doing so, that will make very happy to be wrong, as I am sure it will for you as well. If, as I suspect, Putin and and Assad are working in bad faith, I will be unhappy to be right.

We'll find out eventually.

Posted by: Will Allen at September 11, 2013 09:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mr. Djerejian, you're talking crazy now. Yeah, your style can be a bit stilted sounding, big deal correct it if you're writing a New York Times op-ed. But for many of us -- like some of us who wear uniforms to defend the United States -- your voice has always been valued and is too often absent. Just keep writing. Andrew Sullivan of all people ought not to convince you otherwise; he can be bizarrely wacky on some topics, and his strange insistence now that Obama played some brilliant chess game to get us to where we are, and his passionate need to defend that wackiness, is going to render anything he has to say on the topic of Syria more or less useless.

Posted by: Kieselguhr Kid at September 11, 2013 10:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

What we will find out Will is how hard it is survey, inspect, and contain or destroy CWs. Again. Both the Americans and the Russians know this from their own painful experience. And we did it, or, are doing it, in peacetime, with relatively sufficient funds, and a relative absence of primal fear motivating us towards deception. There will be much stalling, and much hemming and hawing...but in the end, if the US wants to accept a 'imperfect' a face saver for all concerned, first and foremost the guy in the WH, things will be fine.

As to the question whether this was even a tiny part of some grand or shrewd plan by the me that possibility seems too silly to spend much time considering. I'll leave it to hunters of gold in pony shit.

Regards Kennan Greg, I took your point to be we needed someone one who knew a little bit about the geographical and historical dynamics. Someone who was trained to examine issues in a less emotional manner...than going on about writhing children on the ground as prime evidence of direct attribution. That is the trouble, in my opinion, anyway, with the R2P types....they have to focus on damage and human toll, but less on attribution and solution. They are the 'do something' crowd. But almost always, in the end, it is not their kids that doing the actual "something". And for that alone I hate them...

I don't know why you feel the need to stop writing on this. Yours was a lonely voice. At least in the US. I certainly don't know why it is YOU doing the so called "sanity check".....I'm sorry to see even a tinge of the Maoist self criticism stuff....(written mostly tongue in cheek) but it is your blog, and your decision. Maybe someone else will pick up the Emperor Has No Clothes banner....because he most certainly does NOT have any clothes on. Andrew Sullivan notwithstanding. And really, he, we, have not had any clothes on since 2001. It has been a long and painful slide as we dissipated goodwill and political capital like a sailor on shore leave.

We are to point where a political lightweight/hack like Sen Bob Menendez, he of the paid romp in the Caribbean, speaking of children, can say an op-ed in the Times made him nearly vomit.....because its closing paragraph told Americans we are not "exceptional". Well Bob, I know you are "exceptional"...and I celebrate that good fortune. If we could harness the smoke we blow up our asses we could fly to the moon.

Posted by: jonst at September 12, 2013 07:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

With regard to PUTIN's role in getting Syria to dispose of its chemical weapons:

I may not have the counts of "years" right in the following comments, but think the general GIST of what I'm posting is correct.

There was an interesting show on NPR in the last day or so about the US and Russia's efforts to dispose of their chemical/biological weapons. This has been going on for 15 years, with seemingly good-faith efforts being made by both countries, monitored by Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The US has gotten rid of about 90% of it’s inventory, and the Russians about 75% – but they expect it to take an extra 7-10 years to get rid of the rest. They originally were given 7 years – and both were given extensions.

Imagine trying to undertake even a much smaller effort, in Syria, with a Civil War underway – with “monitors” being sniped at, battles taking place (perhaps nearby), and front lines in flux, etc.

Just moving chemical weapons can be a very dangerous, labor-intensive, and extremely COSTLY process, and doing this in the middle of a war would require a lot of military protection and a measure of coordination between the waring factions. (In the US and Russia, they had to set up disposal facilities near each stockpile, and there was no "enemy" who would make things MORE difficult.)

I’ll be surprised if there is a practical way of actually doing what is being proposed. I suspect this effort will just buy time for both sides to reinforce their other military efforts, working on other fronts using other methods.

I also question whether US air attacks will do much to change things. (It seems almost as though we're acting like parents intent upon spanking a misbehaving child -- when we secretly know that spanking almost never changes behavior, and just makes the kids more adept at avoiding punishment. Spanking the kid, however, does make the parent feel he or she has done something about the problem. Maybe that's what the U.S. effort is all about -- just do something, regardless of the results.

Posted by: Walt Sherrill at September 13, 2013 08:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

First of all, A. Sullivan, like potato chips, is overrated. His over-hyped sexual orientation is the only thing separating him from being an unadulterated snooze. So he's a gay snooze and likely feasts regularly on potato chips. Nor does it matter for comity's sake if he's your blog pal. Pay him no mind.

Secondly, few grounded adults, with the possible exception of those who eat pizza with a fork, use the word breezily. It disrupts the social order. Please cease and desist. Even the lord of language Oscar Wilde decried its application, and he once used, yes, myrrh and cassia to describe tears.

Speaking of tears, please don't disappear. We need your macro-view, even with its breezilies. Besides, no pause, hibernation, or time travel will induce an equanimity in you or in anyone one that could come close to putting a retrospective analytical smiley face on Obama's Syrian kabuki dance. There is too much oil leaking, too much egg on his face, too much of a train wreck. You'd need to age beyond Methuselah to figure out a way to spin our geopolitical footprint in Syria as anything more than primitive and obscene.

What troubles me more isn't even the 11th hour Hail Mary; i.e., Kerry's water cooler diplomacy or the loose lips redux. Better to jaw-jaw than war-war. Hard to believe as it is, I can actually live with the spectre of planet Levant and beyond now relying on the latest three ring circus, with its global assortment of bozos and clowns, to save the day. Team Lavrov, Kerry, Assad and nameless UN inspectors collectively counting, destroying or safeguarding Syria's chemical weapons is not the fox-in-the-hen-house scenario that it appears to be.

What troubles me more is that Obama might be making contact with Dennis Rodman to lead the team, sub rosa, as we speak. Thus, Rome burns all the more as Obama's foreign policy reveals its level 101 imprimatur, as GD goes Buddhist Monk on us, and as the A. Sullivan's of the E-world play hollow tete-a-tete when they ought to be eating pizza with a fork.

Posted by: resh at September 15, 2013 09:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sullivan is hardly one to be commenting on others' rhetorical flourishes. He is one of the blogosphere's top-shelf hysterics.

Your remarks are well-reasoned and sober. Please do not stop on his account! We need *more* voices like yours, not fewer.

Posted by: aravis tarkheena at September 18, 2013 11:55 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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