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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
Number of posts: 24,690

Journal Archives

Pew poll out. Opposition to air strikes grows: 63% to 28% against.

Republicans, in particular, have turned against Syrian airstrikes. A week ago, Republicans were divided about evenly: 35% favored and 40% opposed military airstrikes in response to the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Today, Republicans oppose airstrikes by an overwhelming 70% to 21% margin, with 51% saying they are strongly opposed.

Despite Obama’s efforts to raise support for military action, Democrats continue to oppose airstrikes. Currently, 53% of Democrats oppose military airstrikes against Syria while 35% support them; the margin is little changed from a week ago (29% favored, 48% opposed).

The public thinks that the United States must do something to register its disapproval of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Six-in-ten agree that the U.S. must act to show that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. However, even among those who express this view just 42% favor U.S. airstrikes against Syria while 51% are opposed.

A narrow majority of the public (54%) says the U.S. has a moral obligation to stop the violence against civilians. But an even higher percentage (75%) says that U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to make things in the Middle East worse. And just 39% say the U.S. will lose credibility around the world if it does not act in Syria.


Swedish prime minister on climate, trade and Syria.

We have had a very constructive meeting. There are many reasons why the relationship between the United States and Sweden is special. Many Swedes emigrated to the United States at the end of the 19th century and somewhere around 4 million Americans today claim Swedish heritage. Business ties flourish between our two countries. Sweden is, in fact, one of the largest investors per capita in the U.S., and we have considerable American investments in Sweden. The United States is the most important foreign employer in our country.

The United States and Sweden also share ambitions when it comes to the opening of global trade flows. Trade has laid the foundation of Sweden’s wealth and prosperity. Around 50 percent of our GDP comes from exports, and Sweden strongly support open trade regimes and, in particular, free trade agreements now being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. This will not only bring more jobs and growth to both our continents, it will also strengthen our political and economic partnership.

We have also discussed climate change and its consequences. It represents one of the most important challenges to our societies. Sweden has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since 1990, while GDP at the same time has increased by 60 percent. So there is no contradiction between economic growth and the protection of environment.

We have discussed a few foreign policy issues as well -- the most topical, of course, being the situation in Syria. Sweden condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria in the strongest possible terms. It’s a clear violation of international law. Those responsible should be held accountable. Sweden believes that serious matters concerning international peace and security should be handled by the United Nations. But I also understand the potential consequences of letting a violation like this go unanswered. In the long term, I know that we both agree that the situation in Syria needs a political solution.


An incredible 70% of Sweden's workforce is unionized. Their income equality is among the best in the world (gini of 23). Trade is about 85% of their GDP (about 25% in the US).

Sweden is a great example of a highly unionized, high wage progressive country that trades a lot and has a trade surplus.

Juan Cole: A US attack on Syria will Prolong the War

The struggle in Syria began peacefully in spring of 2011, but after about half a year it turned violent when the regime deployed tanks and other heavy munitions against the protesters. Some of the latter took up weapons and turned to violence in revenge. Thereafter the struggle spiraled into a civil war, in which the regime showed itself perfectly willing to attack civilian city quarters and kill indiscriminately. The struggle has killed over 100,000 persons. As the regime became ever more brutal, the rebel fighters were increasingly radicalized. Now, among the more important groups is Jabhat al-Nusra or the Succor Front, a radical al-Qaeda affiliate.

President Obama’s plan to bomb Syria with cruise missiles will do nothing to hasten the end of the conflict. Instead, it will likely prolong it.

The best solution for Syria would be if President Bashar al-Assad steps down and the Baath Party gave up its dictatorial tactics. At the same time, the rebels would have to forewswear al-Qaeda-type extremism.

By striking Syria, Obama has all but guaranteed that a negotiated solution becomes impossible for years to come. In the absence of serious negotiations, the civil war will continue and likely get worse. The US should give serious thought to what the likely actual (as opposed to ideal) reaction in Syria will be to the landing of a few cruise missiles. The anti-regime elements will celebrate, convinced that it will all be over quickly if the US gets involved. The last thing they will want will be to negotiate with the regime.


So Syrians (and other Arabs and Muslims) do not know that a secular (if brutal) dictator is the best

they can hope for?


In the US we understand that "stability" ("law and order" is better for them (and for us?) than is democracy.


Democrats leaned more towards democracy over stability than did republicans, but a majority of Democrats still favored stability as our main policy goal in the Middle East.

There was a bigger partisan difference with regards to changes brought about by the Arab Spring would lead to "lasting improvements" in the lives of the people there. Republicans were very negative on the Arab Spring by more than 4-1. Democrats were much more split - 45% negative, 37% positive. Lastly, republicans thought the Arab Spring was bad for the US by almost another 4-1 margin. Again, Democrats were more split with 21% believing it was bad for the US, while 16% thought it was good.

At least most folks in the Middle East will not be disappointed when the US supports stability (dictators) for them rather than democracy. They expect little else from us.

Juan Cole: Assad troops got the mixture wrong

US intelligence agencies released an intercept on Wednesday showing that after the attack, a ministry of defense official made outraged inquiries from a local commander as to what in the world he had done.

The intercept would be consistent with local Baath chem warfare units routinely mixing a little deadly sarin gas into crowd control gas, killing small numbers of rebels with each deployment, but in this case making an error and getting the mix wrong.
Thus, around a thousand were killed instead of dozens. British intelligence seems to have come to a similar conclusion

The intercept does not prove that Bashar al-Assad knew about or ordered the chemical weapons attack. It does not, however, disprove that the Baath regime has a systematic policy of low level use of chemical weapons. It does put paid to the crackpot conspiracy theory, advanced by the regime and the Russians, that the rebels gassed themselves.

President Obama has probably boxed himself into rather uselessly tossing a couple of cruise missiles onto Damascus next week. For a thoughtful man he often seems to lock himself into undesirable courses of action by ill-considered and hasty public remarks. But whatever he does, it seems clear that it won’t have the kind of multilateral framework he prefers, and he’ll have to cowboy it.


This is a Cole post from before Obama's referral of the issue to congress.

Sen. Sanders did not say, "The Syrians did something wrong?" He said the Syrians did something wrong

“The use of chemical weapons by the Assad dictatorship is inhumane and a violation of international law. ... I look forward to the Senate debate that will be taking place in the very near future.”

I trust Sen. Sanders decide against intervention, not because the Assad dictatorship is innocent but because intervention will make things even worse.
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