Friday, September 06, 2013

Professional Left Podcast #196a

"I must stand with anybody that stands right, stand with him while he is right and part with him when he goes wrong."

-- Abraham Lincoln

Da' money goes here:


zombie rotten mcdonald said...


I missed the West Wing in the first go-round, and decided to binge-watch it from Netflix this week while doing a bit of work; and the "A Proportional Response" storyline also seemed very pertinent to me; I considered adding it in one of the appropriate comment threads, but here you go beating me to the punch, so well played sir.

jim said...

A WW heretics' dissent: in a post-Nixon world Sorkin's heroic McDonaldizing of the POTUS catastrophically fails to parse with his alleged liberal leanings. It's a logic gap that would daunt Evel Knievel. The Watergate transcripts removed all doubt as to how the sausage gets made at the top; Americans got a long detailed look at just how puke-ugly the office is in reality - a series that had the stones to tell THAT true story would make West Wing look very inane indeed. One might even argue that the fact that WW was (& remains) hugely popular in the US has both explained & influenced the schizoid devolution of US political culture.

Notwithstanding that, the scene where Bartlett pwns the God Lady with her own Scriptures is AWESOME.

Damian, Pink No More said...

Hey, DG, I resemble that bar-fight remark!

Anonymous said...

A minor quibble. There are weapons cable of destroying chemical weapons, biological as well. So conducting a strike on a target doesn't always mean you blow everything up into the air.

While I do share the worry expressed in the podcast that chemicals might be released, this risk can be mitigated. When striking a target you have a slew of options, and each one has it's own advantages and draw backs. Incendiary weapons (one of which is the white phosphorus constantly complained about, which is a pretty shitty one outside of it's ability to act as a smoke screen, thermite is far better) are actually pretty damn good at neutralizing this sort of thing. Thermobaric munitions also fill this role.*

While WP would not be suitable, a fair amount of incendiary and thermobaric weapons* burn hot enough to incinerate any chemical or biological agents they encounter.

That confuses many civilians, but it works along the same lines as blowing up IEDs with c4 or just hitting them with thermite. You blow the munitions/explosives before they can detonate, or burn them so fast they can't. Just here your blowing it up and then incinerating everything all in one go.

So, it's entirely doable to blow up a suspected chemical site with a munition that will destroy all the sarin, and the risk of it escaping is low enough it's an option.

Now, of course nothing is always that simple. These weapons aren't really "cruise missiles", you're talking about munitions you get from air strikes now. It's also a huge no-no (and tad bit of banned) to lob incendiaries at humans unless there is another goal. IE hitting a building with an incendiary or using phosphor to obscure a view, totally OK even if you kill people. Just using it to kill people not so good. So you don't see this class of weapon used as much as straight up booms. Thermobarics also aren't nearly as good as incendiarys at burning stuff away (it's doing a half assed job) and are extremely tempermental to weather.

For these reasons to use the type of munitions that would destroy chemical stocks, you're talking about an munition that comes from an air craft, and often some sort of special operations or intelligence team on the ground to verify the target, las it, and check after. We don't count this as "boots on the ground" as it falls into the sort of classified shit we don't talk about or admit, but that's the general process.

Which is all to say it's completely possible to blast a chemcial weapons site to hell and back and destroy all the sarin before it spreads. We know how to do this, we have the tools, no problem. However it's not a TLAM phoning it in type of deal, it's a no bullshit air strike and all that entails.

I'm still quasi optimistic about all of this because of my time in the Navy. People forget we conduct strike ops all the fucking time and it almost never makes the news. I don't want to get involved, I spent my time in the military and was on instant recall through 2008, and spent part of that recall time as a defense contractor. It's not that I had a front row seat to this, it's that I played a role and it's my friends that get killed. On the other hand, I've seen this sort of thing be conducted in a way that worked flawlessly, all objectives were achieved, and even without collateral damage.

Things went to shit when Bush took over. Then it all went to hell. So while I don't agree with Obama, I know it can be done, we know how to do it, it's more a less an issue of politics and our civilian leadership.

At the end of the day it's one of the reasons I voted for Obama. I wanted to vote for someone who will use the weapons and power we have intelligently.

blackdaug said...

Here is the thing. You answer you own objection’s to this course of action several times during this discussion, which is admirable….
The argument that intervening would be “stupid, ill conceived, do more harm than good..etc..”
can actually be summed up in the one very real world and recent analogy that everyone seems to be strangely avoiding… which is Libya.
It is fairly amazing to observe every mention of the possible outcomes here, ignore the ones that have actually succeeded.
Another point: While the world, the internet; blogville may have recently discovered “problems” with Syria, due to the President’s decision to finally intervene, there is another perspective to be considered especially when it comes to the: “ill conceived” part.
Picture if you will: For the last two years or more, you have had in your daily in-box, details of the indiscriminate mayhem that is going on in Syria.
From the collateral civilian casualties inflicted by Assad when attacking the various forces allied against him, to the video of a member of one of those forces, actually consuming a fallen Assad’s soldier’s heart (yes that happened).
You are of course, familiar with the various regional players, and their seeming ability to ignore the atrocities being committed on both sides, and are loath to intervene yourself, but when questioned about the situation, cannot rule out intervention given the possible even more deplorable conduct that may eventually come to pass. You have your advisers map out possible responses to the escalating crisis, knowing full well that you can count on little support, domestically or internationally.
Now you have over 100,000 dead, over a million displaced, and a humanitarian disaster of epic proportions unfolding…..and Assad crosses a line that you think even the most craven players will see as intolerable.
One of the options you and your advisers have come up with, after two years of planning, should Assad finally cross that line, is to do exactly what was done in Libya.
Strike his military; degrade his assets to a level where he can no longer wage war on his own population, and at the very least the killing is slowed down, at most reduced to a more even battle between Assad and the forces trying to remove him. At home, everyone is clamoring for "more details" and "exit strategies" but revealing much more is just a stupid gift to Assad, that you cannot afford to give.
This isn’t some scratched together punitive exercise to punish Assad for using chemical weapons.
This isn’t George Bush.
Not only can we do this, but more importantly, what will happen if we don't?

Anonymous said...


Not only can we do this, but more importantly, what will happen if we don't?

If I had to wager, not a fucking thing, to us.

Let's get real, do you think any country is bat shit crazy enough to unless chemical weapons on US troops or American soil? They'd be wiped off the face of the earth. Our track record on nation building is pretty damn horrible, our track record on turn shit into rubble is pretty fucking impressive. It's not even the two nuclear bombs, that was a mail box prank compared to some of the bombing campaigns we did in that same war.

Had we not tried to "nation build" in Iraq and Afghanistan (which was an idiotic idea) the result of 9/11 would have just been "turned two nations into rubble because we could".

Any arguments about "dangers to us" have to be couched in very complex regional stability and economic issues. Because nobody is lunatic enough to gas a NATO member, Russia, China, or anyone who counts. They'd be glassed and they know it.

blackdaug said...

What are you talking about?
My comment was directed toward the discussion on the podcast, and had nothing to do with any kind of "retaliation" by Syria against us.
"Let's get real, do you think any country is bat shit crazy enough to unless chemical weapons on US troops or American soil? They'd be wiped off the face of the earth."
No shit? Really? Wow you are just a fountain of common fucking knowledge are you not...
There are a few more implications for not interceding than worrying about Syria retaliating against us.....which literally nobody has done.
For instance, it tells Assad that he can escalate the carnage against his own people at will, without fear of outside interference.
He may decide chemical weapons are not doing the job, and start using biologicals..
It also green lights every other future paranoid dictator who can manufacture a few tons of Sarin...that our President will not be interfering with their plans to hold power at all costs.
It erodes our credibility, and sets a new low bar for what constitutes intolerable conduct by leaders against their own populations and others.
"Not only can we do this, but more importantly, what will happen if we don't?"
Those are few of the things I was referring to...but thanks again for the un-asked for condescending lesson in the obvious.