“We Got an A.P.D. on Syria and Chemical Weapons”

If you were President of the United States, how would you respond to chemical weapons used in a foreign country upon citizens? If your government used chemical weapons on you; would you want external actors to come in and remove the users of chemical weapons (take ’em to the Hague were s/he’ll rot in a stalled trial). What else would you expect them to do? I specialize in American Political Development (culture, thought, theory, institutions)–called APD. Here’s what I think…

Given the situation in Syria, if I was a citizen of Syria and fellow citizens suffered chemical weapons: (1) an external actor should intervene and win; (2) the citizens of the invaded country would (a) seek redress for crimes, (b) form a new government (i.e. Parliament), (3) external intervening actor brings baggage: the people require assistance for civil, economic and political  growth.

In short, when liberals (i.e. capitalism and democracy, e.g., Hartz) win a war; the liberals require liberal assimilation. Providing manifest routes to freedom in social, economic and political life is demanded–and demanding. To be sure, capitalism needs expanding markets in order to better efficiency, economies of scale, and reach new customers. Indeed, we love capitalism because we choose to buy goods–the way you spend your money reflects your voice.

I am interested in voice range of, personally, my President. Is my President in a Choral (and if so, then hopefully the lead!)?

Does President Obama go to war with Syria via authoritarianism, liberalism, or republicanism? What’s standard invasion practice for those languages? What would those languages structurally and culturally do? I’ll try to answer these in reverse order.

Authoritarianism does not require capitalism, democracy, or a common good mentality. What is good for the leadership is good for the country. If a faction controls all power and all agency, then the people are not effectively dominant without revolution. If President Obama thought invasion of Syria would be good for America, he would invade and tell the people later. We don’t need a public opinion survey for what the Syrian people want–we know what they need.

Liberalism does not allow authoritarianism, requires capitalism and democracy, and hopes for the common good. Lots of for-profits, and lots of free and fair elections. The President may invade a country without congressional approval–but the President institutionally knows that the people might rally against his or her party in the next election. To invade externally very well could mean a complete loss of power internally (howdy Max Weber). On the other hand, do a majority of the people in Syria want U.S. to invade? De facto, capitalism very much desires the people’s liberation!

Republicanism hates authoritarianism, thinks capitalism must be regulated (rapacious capitalism well controlled), puts a lot of power in the hands of the people, and strives to achieve a better common good/society. This is in both by structure and culture. We would expect a lot of citizens to actively argue for and/or against the invasion of Syria. Debate would be deep (though it could be quick). Congressional approval would certainly be needed.

Here’s part of President Obama’s speech about invading Syria: NPR Transcript: President Obama Turns To Congress On Syria (August 31, 2013).

(1)…Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.

Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order.

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.

Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.

(2)…Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it’s about who we are as a country. I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments. We do what we say. And we lead with the belief that right makes might — not the other way around.

We all know there are no easy options. But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate. I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons. And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together.

I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.

Thanks very much.

I think Part 1 was a liberal response. He knows that the congressional 2014 election will be instrumental in forming a legacy. If the imminent Syrian War goes very well–Obama will take credit as Commander-in-Chief. If Congress approves, both parties are on the hook, so Obama is protected from partisan politics on this particular issue.

I think Part 2 was a republican response. Obama, by acknowledging crossed lines in a common good, and asking to be called into service by the Congress, is very republican. Recall Hamilton’s Federalist 69! Obama respected Hamilton’s dissimilitude: the dissimilarities between what the new U.S. President could be militarily against (albeit an exaggerated) the authoritarian King George!

Finally, this was worth the read for Syrian reactions to Obama’s speech: Obama’s Decision to Seek Approval First Lengthens Suspense of Attack


“It is just so clear — they are playing us like puppets, but they all want him to stay,” she said, referring to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. “Obama is full of talk. He’s so weak and useless.”

For another Homs resident, Abu Bassam, 31, the only possible response was black humor.

“Man, I wish Bush was the president,” he said. “He would have reacted right away. He may have invaded Cyprus or Jordan instead of Syria by mistake, but you know he would have done something at least.”


4 thoughts on ““We Got an A.P.D. on Syria and Chemical Weapons”

  1. If I were president and if I were going to respond to such heinous acts, I probably would have responded well before the 100,000 that already had died prior to the use of the chemical weapons… If only we the public could have a trustworthy news source to truly know the extent of what’s going on over in Syria. I personally find it hard to believe that a man who killed has many of his own citizens already would go through all this trouble to use chemical weapons to kill a mere (yeah, I know) 1500 people. I would have expected tens of thousands dead.

    I’m not sure what the world expects from a country like the USA. I think it’s been spelled out pretty clear that unless there are interests that benefit American imperialism, we wont do much a thing for your “issue” or “cause” outside of govt cheese and blankets. With the threats from Iran, Russia and our company credit card China, I just don’t see how this administration could see how this can be beneficial for our citizens at our current state. And now that our international friends have bowed out of the picture, I really think the president is trying to save face here putting Congress on “the hook”.

    Whatever happens, I got my popcorn ready.

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