President Obama Adopts the Bush Doctrine in Threatening Force Against Syria
President Obama emerged from his campaign bunker to face the press, and he issued what the NYT seems to think is a pretty serious military threat against Syria.
“We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Mr. Obama said in response to questions at an impromptu news conference at the White House. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”
“That would change my calculus,” he added. “That would change my equation.”
The president said the Pentagon was drafting a range of contingency plans, working with American allies in the region, including Israel and Turkey. He expressed little confidence that the Syrian government could keep its weapons stockpile under lock and key, given the widespread strife in the country.
The Pentagon contingency plans include worst-case scenarios that would require tens of thousands of American troops, two senior United States officials said on Monday. The officials, who declined to specify precisely how many troops might be needed, emphasized that the plans were the kind of worst-case contingency options that the Pentagon routinely draws up in crises, and that no American deployments were imminent.
“The problem is that the material is so dispersed,” said an expert who has been consulted by the administration. While the intelligence about the stockpiles is sketchy — there are widely varying estimates of how much material Mr. Assad has amassed, and where it is stored — American estimates indicate there could be as many as two dozen sites around the country.
I think the policy basis for the U.S. to use military force here is pretty sound. But then again, the threat of spreading WMDs, and the rights of the U.S. and other nations to invade to prevent the spread of WMDs, was the primary policy and legal justification for the invasion of Iraq. The right of a nation to take action against the spread of WMDs, even if they are not being directly used to threaten it, is a key part of the Bush Doctrine.
It is fascinating, and telling, that there is no concern in President Obama’s comments, or in the article, about the tenuous international legal basis for such an action against Syria. Certainly, there would be no UNSC authorization in this case. And yet I doubt there will be much grousing about legality in the NYT or Washington Post if there was an intervention in Syria. Which suggests that there might be an emerging bipartisan consensus here in the US in favor of the international legality of the Bush Doctrine. Wow!