Let’s chew President Obama 9/10/2013 speech regarding his advocacy for a US military strike against Syria. The transcript used is from The Washington Post. I will interject my own commentary throughout our President’s text, which begins:
My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria, why it matters and where we go from here.
Here our President is setting two goals for his speech. Does he achieve those goals? In order to do so, there are four unstated tasks to be done, which should be made explicit: (1) explain the selfish national interests at stake, (2) state an objective for our action, (3) explain the relevant principles that will guide our actions, and (4) explain the cause and effect relationship between the recommended actions and the achievement of our objective. How does he do?
Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America’s worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement, but I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening: men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk.
On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits, a crime against humanity and a violation of the laws of war.
There are a few points to breakdown here and in doing so I am focusing on his argument not from a rhetorical perspective, but looking at evidence of the mode of integration (related to yesterday’s post on the DIM Hypothesis; briefly, for mode of integration consider what is, how do you know it, and how do you bring it together or not).
First, we have “The situation profoundly changed…” While I do not want to discount that an event can cause a profound change, see Pearl Harbor and 9/11, I do not see how the Syrian government use of a particular kind of weapon after killing thousands of its own citizens not only in the recent civil war but over decades of racist (pan-Arabist) dictatorship raised to the level of a sudden change. This is akin to the Democrats’ fetish for gun control as if an inanimate object was inherently evil. However, this sudden change claimed by Obama is a disintegrating tactic…that was then, but this is now and all the feelings that direct Obama’s actions are different.
Second, Obama is perceptually bound using both visual and kinesthetic trigger words in an appeal to emotions, which is a rejection of reason and conceptual integration.
Third, Obama appeals to a source of truth beyond objective reality. For Obama, truth is determined by the momentary opinion of “the overwhelming majority of humanity”. Thus, truth is whatever we agree is truth; at this point unstated by Obama, the corollary to this position is that individually truth is unknowable, thus we are dependent upon mass agreement about what we cannot know. Note: do not blame me if Obama and his supporters do not make sense.
This was not always the case. In World War I, American G.I.s were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe. In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them. And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.
A few obscured points from our President’s account: Does the US have stockpiles of chemical weapons plus extensive research and know how about them? Are there other weapons used and/or stockpiled by the US that can kill on a mass scale without distinction between soldiers and infants? Doesn’t the US military train its soldiers in chemical warfare? I do not raise these points to crap all over the US, but to point how that Obama’s points are disintegrated…they do not connect to and integrate with reality.
On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity. No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack, and humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.
Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded.
We know senior figures in Assad’s military machine reviewed the results of the attack and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We’ve also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.
When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory, but these things happened. The facts cannot be denied.
“Wait a minute!” you say, “Obama is talking about knowing and facts, so he cannot be totally disconnected from reality.” Again, do not blame me for his inconsistencies. In his DIM Hypothesis book, Peikoff talks about a middle ground between the Integrating (I) mode and the Misintegrating (M) mode; this middle ground is where our culture currently resides, and our President reflects that. In this middle ground between I and D, Peikoff finds empiricists who compile data and facts from reality but say that such information has to be taken as a given and that we cannot induce these facts into broad abstractions. Notice how when you omit the non-essentials from Obama’s tour of the facts that you can see broader concepts involved, one’s that are inconsistent with Obama’s myopic focus; Obama rejects those broader concepts that even you can see without significant effort.
The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people — to those children — is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security. Let me explain why.
If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons and to use them to attack civilians.
If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran, which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon or to take a more peaceful path.
This is not a world we should accept. This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.
So now, President Obama is finally going to give us the SELFISH reason that we should care based upon America’s interests when he says “…it’s also a danger to our security. Let me explain why.” While this was his opportunity to convince us, he instead demonstrates that profound detachment from reality that I was warning of earlier. I note that this transition to beyond reality happens when Obama goes from facts to conjecture.
Did you see it yourself? For those that did not let me hit some points quickly. “…the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” but they have stopped using them and are now offering to give them up. “If we fail to act…” because our actions against Germany in WWI and Saddam, plus Israel’s bombing of reactors in both Iraq and Syria, taught Syria not to use WMD? “…other tyrants will have no reason to think twice…” like when Libya gave up its WMD programs and the AQ Khan network to the Bush Administration prior to the Obama Administration bombing the Libyan government to termination. “Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield…” like they already did in both Gulf wars and throughout the entire Cold War. “…it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons…” without reference to Syria being a state sponsor of terrorism and host to many terrorist organizations for decades without American action.
Contrary to our President’s conclusion, America has had decades of reasons to destroy Syria (see bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut). During that time, our Secretary of State has been all cuddly with Syria. However, it is only when it comes to acting for others and not for self that the Obama Administration feels compelled to act. This is an altruist’s war in which America is to sacrifice itself in the name of others, but not even for the actual benefit of others.
That’s my judgment as commander-in-chief, but I’m also the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the president acts with the support of Congress, and I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together. This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the president and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.
One more point about the disintegrating mode of our President, note the separation of his role as commander-in-chief and constitutionally bound President. Those are not separate and distinct things, but are an integrated unity. By disintegrating the two, Obama claims a unilateral and causeless privilege to send the troops wherever and to do whatever to whomever he whims. The congressional Democrats of 1973 are rolling in the political graves.
This has been a long post, so I will cut off the section by section review here as I have made the relevant points. However, as an exercise for yourself and for your benefit, follow the link to the full transcript in The Washington Post and chew on the rest of the speech to see what you will find.
In conclusion, beyond the DIM related points, I want to note that not only did our President fail in the two points that he promised to establish at the beginning of the speech, but he also failed on the four additional points that I said should have been made explicitly.