If you think you know what President Obama should do or not do in response to the Syria crisis, read George Packer‘s excellent take.
Wonk Wire: This means war?
“Before American fugitive Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow in June — an arrival that Russian officials have said caught them by surprise — he spent several days living at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong,” the Washington Post reports.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians was a “moral obscenity,” delivering the clearest indication yet that the Obama administration is preparing to attack President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Said Kerry: “Make no mistake: President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”
New York Times: “Kerry’s remarks, in a prepared statement he read at the State Department, reinforced the administration’s toughening stance on the Syria conflict, which is now well into its third year, and he suggested it was moving closer to a military response in consultation with America’s allies.”
Edward Luttwak: “It would be disastrous if President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to
emerge victorious after fully suppressing the rebellion and restoring
its control over the entire country… But a rebel victory would also be
extremely dangerous for the United States and for many of its allies in
Europe and the Middle East. That’s because extremist groups, some
identified with Al Qaeda, have become the most effective fighting force
“There’s never been more pressure for President Barack Obama do
something about Syria. And there’s never been less consensus on what he
could do, or should do.”
“U.S. intelligence officials bugged the United Nations headquarters in
New York, according to a report from a German publication. Operatives
from the National Security Agency were able to decode the UN’s encrypted
e-mail system and hack into the organization’s closed video
teleconferencing system to track communications by UN members, the
report by Der Spiegel said.”
Wonk Wire: How the NSA bugged the United Nations.
Jeffrey Goldberg looks at U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, published a decade ago, for clues on her views about the problems in Syria.
“I pulled the book off the shelf last night, and was reminded that it is brilliant, a carefully written, deeply researched indictment of American indifference in the face of atrocity. And I realized that the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria must be driving Power mad with frustration — frustration, of course, with Bashar al-Assad’s killer regime and frustration with the international community (so-called), in particular the Russians, who will do almost anything to protect the regime from censure, but also frustration with those in the administration who have spent the past two years looking for ways to distance the U.S. from the horror.”
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria’s government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed.
Key findings: About 60% surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria’s civil war, while just 9% thought President Obama should act.
First Read: “The likely chemical attack in Syria, seen as the worst in the world in possibly two decades, and the coming release of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak from house arrest this morning, begs the question of whether the Arab Spring is over – and whether the autocrats and dictators have won.”
“Complicating matters is that there are no good options in either country, and there is no consensus on what Obama should do… The Middle East continues to be bad choices between standing up for ideals versus a form of stability that might not always live up to democratic ideals. And the U.S.’s No. 1 ally in the Middle East is Israel, and, for now, they are in the stability first camp. They are quietly relieved the military is in charge of Egypt and when it comes to Assad, there are plenty inside that country that are of the mindset, better to have the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”
The United States “has ‘strong indications’ the Syrian government employed chemical weapons in a series of attacks Wednesday in the suburbs of Damascus, in what would amount to a serious escalation in poison-gas use in the conflict,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Washington Post editorial: “The United States should be using its own resources to determine, as quickly as possible, whether the opposition’s reports of large-scale use of gas against civilians are accurate. If they are, Mr. Obama should order direct U.S. retaliation against the Syrian military forces responsible and adopt a plan to protect civilians in southern Syria with a no-fly zone.”
“The U.S. government has decided privately to act as if the military
takeover of Egypt was a coup, temporarily suspending most forms of
military aid, despite deciding not to announce publicly a coup
determination one way or the other, according to a leading U.S. senator…. The office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the head of the
appropriations state and foreign-operations subcommittee, [said] Monday
that military aid to Egypt has been temporarily cut off.”
A new Pew Research poll finds that 51% of Americans think aid to Egypt should be cut off and 50% think President Obama’s response has not been tough enough.
New York Post: “Five years after Caroline Kennedy refused to release financial information during her bid to take over Hillary Clinton’s US Senate seat, newly filed documents reveal a personal fortune that could be as high as $500 million.”
Kennedy had to file disclosure documents for her nominated role as Ambassador to Japan.
Bob Kerrey is in talks to be the latest former senator to get a post at the State Department, Politico reports.
Said Kerrey: “I’ve had conversations with them about taking on a project.”
Kerrey wouldn’t discuss what the “project” would be, but stressed that the position wouldn’t be full-time.
Secretary of State John Kerry “has filled the top rungs of the State Department with numerous advisers from his 30-year political career in Massachusetts,” the Boston Globe reports.
“Secretaries of state have always had leeway to name their own top officials, but Kerry, like Hillary Rodham Clinton before him, is one of the few politicians to hold the top diplomatic post in modern times. That gives him a deep network of loyal political supporters and experts to take on leadership positions.”
“While enlisting many familiar faces from policy circles, Kerry has also frequently promoted from the career ranks of the Foreign Service and elevated more women to senior posts, according to his supporters in the department.”
President Obama denied he has poor relations with Vladimir Putin after canceling their Moscow talks, but said the Russian president can sometimes appear “like a bored kid in the back of the classroom,” Reuters reports.
Said Obama: “I know the press likes to focus on body language, and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is that when we’re in conversations together, oftentimes it’s very productive.”
Newt Gingrich told the Washington Times that the United States’ ability to “export democracy” needs to be reevaluated and that “alternative strategies” should be considered.
Said Gingrich: “I am a neoconservative. But at some point, even if you are a neoconservative, you need to take deep breath to ask if our strategies in Middle East have succeeded. It may be that our capacity to export democracy is a lot more limited than we thought.”
President Obama will nominate Caroline Kennedy as ambassador to Japan, the AP reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “gave his clearest signal yet that he will not let a dispute over the fate of former U.S. spy contractor Edward Snowden derail relations with the United States,” Reuters reports.
Said Putin: “Bilateral relations, in my opinion, are far more important than squabbles about the activities of the secret services.”
He added: “We warned Mr Snowden that any action by him that could cause damage to Russian-American relations is unacceptable for us.”
First Read: “As the news out of Egypt gets worse — 42 were killed and 322 were injured after the Egyptian military fired on Muslim Brotherhood supporters — one thing is certain: Expect the Obama administration will take a more hands-on approach to dealing with the political unrest there. This includes creating incentives for Egypt to get this right this time, getting Morsi released from his house arrest, having a more inclusive government, and propping up governing institutions. The White House realizes that if you can’t get a country like Egypt right, then it seems impossible to get stability in more problematic Middle East countries such as Syria.”
“If there was a regret from the last round of Egyptian unrest, it was the decision to stay more hands off during the transition to democracy. As involved as the president was in helping escort Mubarak out of office, there was a hesitancy — understandable to many — of being very involved with the new government. After all, American involvement is a double-edged sword in these countries; no one can be successful in Egypt if they are seen as an American puppet. But at the same time, the Obama administration now realizes it needs to use its influence more than it did the last time. And make no mistake, the U.S. does have influence here; it’s just not clear how to use it. But it all starts with getting Morsi released.”
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Goddard spent more than a decade as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he was a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won - Now What? (Scribner, 1998), a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties. In addition, Goddard's essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University. He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.
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