Holmes Norton: “It’ll be because of loyalty…” UPDATE

My Image, Rome, 2010

She is not eligible to vote on the matter, but I was right with Eleanor Holmes Norton (Dem-DC), until she said this:

“If [Obama] gets saved at all, I think it’ll be because, it’ll be because of loyalty of Democrats. They just don’t want to see him shamed and humiliated on the national stage.”

So, the citizenry can take this issue seriously, ask serious questions, and fret about things, and offer prayers for the president and congress, and plan on participating in a world Day of Prayer over it, and the lawmakers, they might just…decide to bomb people because they don’t want to see their guy humiliated?

That was so disheartening to read. I can’t get behind the idea that “not making the president look bad” is justification for launching these strikes. Talk about Strange Gods!

I get that Holmes Norton is only projecting a possibility and not justifying it, and I get what Ed Morrissey is saying, here:

But “everybody’s crying out for American leadership, the Turks, the Arabs, and the Europeans. And given the weaknesses of the Europeans, given the vote in the British Parliament, given the fact that NATO ally Turkey is unable to lead – everyone is looking for the United States to lead, and there is no leadership,” said Melhem.

“The United States is AWOL.”

Of all the arguments for intervention in Syria, this is actually the only one with any merit at all. A leadership vacuum is dangerous anywhere, but especially in the Middle East, which is why a policy of talking loudly and carrying a small stick is probably worse than just keeping one’s mouth shut entirely. Melhem tells Tapper that Arab leaders have issues with Obama’s solicitude of Israel, but that’s a complaint they have with every American leader. It’s the other points that Melhem makes that gets to the heart of the lack of leadership — abandoning Mubarak, ignoring a popular revolt against the Iranian mullahs, and the sudden pas de deux around Syrian intervention — and why Arab leaders are worried that the US will abandon them to the Iranian-Syrian axis.

I get it, but (as Ed concludes) I also get that a few missile strikes are not going to change any of those perceptions or ameliorate such profound distrust. It will have to be more. It will have to be bigger. A big ego (and America itself has a big ego, not just Obama) requires a big counterbalance if it is to stave off a big humiliation.

I don’t feel good about this at all. It feels like too much unseriousness mixing with seriousness. It feels hapless and combustible.

As I’ve said repeatedly, I believe Congress will vote to strike. They don’t want to be held responsible for the next chemical-weapons-induced mass-grave pictures. But this feels scary. And please don’t tell me I’m “just a partisan”. I didn’t write a word about Libya. This is different. No one seems to know what is going on, and too much of it seems like face-saving; motives are suspect because of three little words: “a red line.”

Quite an irony, when you think of it. Back in 2003, people in the press talked about the “16 words” that proved Bush’s fecklessness, or his incompetence. Or his, you know, eeeeevilness. I’m not going to call Obama evil. But we are down to three words.

Here is Michael Yon:

Importantly, by saying we have “proof” of war crimes committed by Assad, we are saying we have proof that Assad is a war criminal. Assad knows the likely scenarios from here:

1) Fight to stay in power and prevail.
2) Fight and lose, and be killed on the streets like Gaddafi, hanged like Saddam, or life in prison.

President Obama has ipso facto called President Assad a war criminal. Assad does not need a powerful calculator to figure his odds if he fails to maintain power.

Like I said, my fear is that there will be nothing “small” about this. It will have to be big. And, I fear, bad.

A look at what moral theologians are saying. Only emphasizes how delicate this thing is, and why it ought not be decided recklessly.

Trappist nuns in Syria. Very concerned.

UPDATE: Falling in line

Anchoress is CPAC “Blogger of the Year?” Get OUT!
Editorial: “The World Can’t Afford US Gov’t This Bad for So Long!”
The Worth and the Witness of Women Bloggers
Obama, “showing his shortcomings…”
About Elizabeth Scalia
  • David

    Expecting wisdom from our elected officials seems to be more of a pipe dream everyday. But, the idea of “not making the president look bad” seems to be overriding justification for any action against Syria. McCain and Graham said that yesterday after their meeting with Obama.

    The potential for this turning out bad, very bad is high.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    If everybody expects America to lead, she should ponder if it’s a just war. It ain’t, ergo she should let everybody take a hike.

    That without delving in the political interests that make Syria alleged use of chemical weapons more worthy of a response than Israel doing the same in the Gaza Strip. And because of such inconsistencies and the conflicting information put forth by everybody and America, it’s very imprudent to choose a side in the Syrian civil war when one side is as bad as the other.

  • Ron Turner

    So, riddle me this: If there is another chemical weapons massacre after the “limited strike”, who would be at fault?

  • MeanLizzie

    Why, Congress’ of course. Opposite of last time. :-)

  • Victor

    As a Canadian looking in, there’s not much use giving my Canadian two cents worth except to say at this time until, I start a third blog which that alone is really scary if not simply because sinner vic being the god that he thinks he is will most likely throw a LOT of his quiet spiritual reality bomb words through his 96% cells of my body which this god thinks he owns and that’s not what is needed now.

    Me, myself and i keep telling sinner vic that simply knowing about “IT” won’t cut “IT” and human words alone will not correct “IT” cause only GOD (Good Old Dad) is the only “ONE” who can correct this situation with HIS THOUGHTS in HIS OWN WAY. Did HE not simply create HIS SON by HIS WORD alone? Long story short, if we HIS children fast and pray, why would HE not correct “IT” for all of U>S (usual sinners) because of “The Eternal Love that HE has for all HIS Children?

    Just asking folks!


    God Bless



  • Donna G

    “If everybody expects America to lead” – well no, we don’t. I’m not sure if Americans understand that we really, really don’t see you as the world’s policemen. Your “leadership” has no credibility out here in the world anymore. I fully expect America to make another massive mistake, and just hope I’m wrong for everyone’s sake.

  • Bruce

    Which incident in Gaza are you referring to? If you are talking about white phosphorus, that’s not a chemical weapon, and it is only illegal when used in certain proscribed ways. If you are talking about CS (tear gas), I will leave it to the readers to decide if that is anything like sarin.

    For the record, my employment has meant that I have been exposed to CS on multiple occasions in a training context. It’s painful, but not deadly, or anything like it. It’s far less painful than capsicum spray, which American citizens can purchase for their personal use in some circumstances.

    I’m certainly not defending every action that the IDF has ever undertaken in Gaza, and I’m not questioning your integrity; if I had to guess, I’d venture that you have read the words “gas” in both contexts and made the connection. I understand that. The two situations are, however, very different.

    [Nit picking note 1: both CS and sarin are delivered as aerosols, not gas, but for some reason both are referred to as gas.

    2: some studies have linked CS with long term health problems when "consumed" in large quantities, but this is not the purpose of it, it is not the experience of the vast majority of people exposed to it, and it is not (to my knowledge) proved at this time. I may need correcting on that last point. Of course, none of this makes the indiscriminate use of CS proper, but once again, it is very far from what is credibly alleged in Syria.]

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    She’s right. It would be the end of his presidency if he lost this vote. It would also be the end of American leadership until we got a new president. He better not lose this vote, not because I care about Obama, but because I care about this country and world stability.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    If you have the gall to dismiss WP as not a chemical weapon, ignoring the killing in its stead, you are condoning a war crime.

    I invite you to read its effects on humans, hopefully your stony heart will become soft again: http://bit.ly/14YzfQh

  • MeanLizzie

    I don’t think it’s about having a stony heart — my heart (speaking for myself) is broken for the devastation wrought on people and families due to these weapons. I’m just not sure going in there to make a show of “doing something” — particularly when there are questions about motive — is the correct response. The pope seems to think not.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    But that’s my point, albeit made poorly.

    Yet, it miffs me that to many Americans Israel cannot do wrong, yet when they go out of their way to point the dubious wrongs of other countries in a most biased and hypocritical way.

    Others committing war crimes does not authorize America to wage an unjust war, a criminal war.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    Basically you want to sacrifice the lives of thousands of Syrians for vanity’s sake and other fleeting feelings?

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Ridiculous claim.

  • slainte

    You need to walk through the U.S Veterans’ Cemetery in Pinelawn, Long Island, New York and look at the graves of young innocents buried in an area assigned to the fallen American Soldiers and Marines of Iraq and Afghanistan.
    You should look at the notes from the devastated young wives and small stuffed animals left by orphaned children missing their dads. You should witness the myriad of flowers deposited on those graves year round by families in deep and profound pain. You should see what I saw two years ago in August, a young woman lying fully prostrate, face down, on a grave weeping for her lost love.
    How dare you support any effort to send more young innocent men and women to untimely and undeserved deaths!
    How dare you and how dare Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton!

  • Skay

    Americans voted for incompetence for all the wrong reasons and those of us who did not are not surprised at the outcome.
    We have seen misinformation come out of this administration with a straight face
    and not an eyelash batted.
    I do wonder if the Muslim Brotherhood is waiting to take over in Syria with our help. We saw that happen in Egypt and they certainly were not friendly to Christians.
    I see very little to be positive about and I do not trust what comes out of this administration.

  • MeanLizzie

    ATTN FOLKS: Calls to overthrow the government will be deleted. Pedal that somewhere else, please.

  • Amatorem Veritatis

    Oh my! Another installment of the hit series, Amateur Hour at the White House! The Obama team is walking into a rather obvious trap, assuming you give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not cynically tipping over another domino in a larger strategy of enabling Islamic radicalization of the greater Middle East. I know…perfect paranoia is sometimes indistinguishable from perfect awareness, but only us really paranoid conservatives were predicting the potential breathtaking scope of Obama’s radical agenda back in 2008/2009.

    Anyway…Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Saudi & Qatar Salafists (among many other allied interests) are quite pleased with the prospect of drawing the U.S. into another unwinnable and unresolvable war in the Middle East. And any simple souls who believe this stops after $200 – $300 million in cruise missiles are launched ( with endless obligatory videos of the resultant civilian deaths), is either an Obama partisan or a fool (perhaps a distinction without a difference?).

    As Her Anchoress references above, the end game calculus is clear for those with ears that hear and eyes that see (Michael Yon excerpt). Assad has now officially been declared a war criminal by Obama. He has few options at this stage. Fight on to some fragile stalemate where he retains power, or be captured and executed. Given those options, what are the odds the remaining chemical weapons (many of them Iraqi manufacture under Saddam), are not either used or fall into the hands of radical Jihadi’s…or both? The only possible way the worst case scenario is ameliorated is by committing US military assets to capturing the weapons before their use.

    Those are the real world options. Anything else is either political naïveté or worse. Tell me again why this is a difficult choice?

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Hey lady, I offered my opinion, an opinion that’s shared by a good many intelligent people going back decades, in essence back to WWII. If you have a problem with , take it up with the goverment. But let me turn the tables on you. How are you live in a stable, free and prosperous world built up for you by those men and families who gave so much by their sacrafice. How dare you piss away the accomplishments from their sacrafice by you saying they died for nothing, because that’s what you’re saying.

  • Bruce

    I’m not American, and I don’t condone the illegal use of white phosphorus. But it’s not a chemical weapon, unless you take the position that any weapon that uses a chemical process is a “chemical weapon”, ie. anything but a blade. This is not “gall”, it is fact. I’m happy for you to be a convicted pacifist, that’s very respectable and even honourable, but it doesn’t help to use terms that are not accurate. White phosphorus is not sarin, it’s not in the same class of weapons, and the misuse of white phosphorus is like the misuse of bullets; it’s illegal, but because of the way that it is used, not because of its nature. The use of sarin is illegal because of its very nature.

    I’d love to have a beer with you and discuss why you think that I have a “stony heart”; I think that we’d both part happier than we arrived. I know a little bit about war; perhaps you do, too? I am not a supporter of war in Syria or Gaza or anywhere, but we must be accurate in what we say. If you wish to say, “Israel and Hamas have committed war crimes in Gaza, but Americans overwhelmingly support Israel; why is that?” then we could discuss your assertion. To say that Israel has used chemical weapons in Gaza because of their use of white phosphorus is a confusion of categories.

    I’ve said my piece, and I don’t really want to have a long discussion about this. Be assured, however, that I long for a just peace between Israel and the various Palestinian factions, as I am sure you do as well.

    God love you all.

  • http://rosarynovice.stblogs.com/ Augustine

    Honestly, you’re splitting hairs. The issue in question is not the kind of weapon, but the fact that a war crime was committed in Syria. I pointed out that other war crimes had been committed by friendly nations, minus the moral “red line”. You’re busy with minutiae as if it helped the discussion, but that it accomplishes is to distract it from what it really matters: one’s war crime does not justify another’s war crime, be it the US or Israel or the Hamas.

  • Scott Hebert

    Perhaps, and I see how you thread the needle, but unlike you, I do not think that the loss of American prestige on the world stage is necessarily a bad thing. Regardless of why we _should_ or _should not_ intervene, I do not believe that our government will make the decision on ethical grounds. They will make the decision on political grounds, and I cannot support that.

  • Scott Hebert

    While I do not necessarily want my country to be Globocop, be very careful what you wish for. I think it is high time that countries look to their own defenses and interests in the world instead of expecting the US to do so on their behalf. However, I would say that at least half of those countries that do not want our leadership are not quite ready to (at the least) defend themselves adequately against the kinds of threats they may encounter.

    One of those countries (Japan) is someone that the US must protect, barring a renegotiation of a treaty. I am not aware of another country that has such a special circumstance attached to it.

  • Donna G

    You make an excellent point. If it weren’t for the sacrifice of American sailors in the Pacific
    during World War II my parents may well not have survived childhood. It worries me that the United States has lost its moral leadership and credibility, because the world is poorer for it. But when I consider the actions of your government, past as well as present, I just see questionable motives, intentions and conduct.

  • slainte

    Article 1, Section 8 of the the United States Constitution is unequivocal that only Congress shall have the power to Declare War. This provision ensures, among other things, that innocent young American men and women are not drawn into the sort of “foreign entanglements” universally decried by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. No foreign power including the United Nations has the right to hijack the United States’ military to advance initiatives or interests that are not those of the United States.
    The last war that was declared by Congress in accordance with the United States Constitution was World War II. It was in response to a military offensive attack on American soil, ie., Pearl Harbor
    Since that time, all subsequent military endeavors undertaken by the United States have been at the bequest of the United Nations for reasons best known to that entity. These undertakings were labeled “police actions”, and they were not in response to any offensive against the United States; yet Americans were killed.
    Enough with young innocents dying for vague reasons which our own Congressmen cannot fully define. Visit a national cemetery; look at the war dead; and ask yourself, do you really want this to happen to your children? or your neighbor’s children?
    I am grateful to those who have fought valiantly and heroically. These men and women know that war is hell, and I am certain that they would be the first brave souls to say, No More!

  • ve6

    Prime Minister Harper of Canada has given Pres Obama 100% support for any intervention many times.