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11 September 2013


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Thought experiment: When was the last time (or any time) that any analyst on American TV stated that Iran, Syria, or Russia had the right to defend themselves?

Charles I

Assad was as cool as a cucumber, and anybody watching should wish their reps were as candid, and when not, as patiently cordial when explaining how the real world works.


Mr. Sale, I applaud you.


By insulting someone, instead of engaging in a dialogue, you are effectively cutting off potential negotiations and/or bargaining with that person, and in so doing, prospects of a diplomatic outcome. It sets up the next stage of interaction as a forceful confrontation, since the bridges to nonviolent (figurative or literal) recourse will have been burned. I suppose it offers reassurance to your supporters who are counting on you to slay their enemy that, in the end, that you will slay them because you've set yourself up with no other choice. If so, though, its reward would in form only of fool's gold if you commit yourself, at great expense to yourself, to slay those who are not your own enemies, for those who are not truly your friends... (as if such thing as "enemies" or "friends" exist in the int'l arena)

While I myself often fall guilty to this, the spread of such ill-mannered language in domestic politics is even more alarming, since the option of "slaying" one's enemies is not really a viable one in that arena. Are modern politicians so short of credibility that they can only resort to bad-mouthing their political adversaries to reassure their backers?

The beaver

From Matthew Lee from ICP-UN journo


"The day after US President Barack Obama's Oval Office speech on Syria, the Permanent Five members of the Security Council met. But where?

At the Russian Mission, Inner City Press followed and found out: and from 4:10 to 4:45, when Ambassadors Power, Araud and Lyall Grant walked out, refusing comment."

So the Russians are holding all the cards???


...that's what makes us "exceptional"


Yes, Assad is a good performer. That doesn't make him any less a thug. Nor does the fact that we tolerate others of his ilk. He is, to be fair, an unlucky thug, because he did not have the US support and reserves of wealth to resolve things quietly and cleanly. He is also an incompetent thug, because he believed that his thuggery would have the same effect as in his father's day, whereas this time, it provoked a widespread popular detonation. If he were not a thug, he would have tried, in the early days, every option other than force to resolve the Syrian crisis. The hallmark of the thug is the immediate resort to intimidation and force.

Indeed, the fact that he is a thug does not entail that it would helpful to anyone for us to attempt to depose him. Nor does it absolve the other thugs, with their varying agendas, who have participated in the destruction of Syria. But if use of the term 'thug' may be undiplomatic and inconvenient, it is not inaccurate.


Not an analyst, but Ron Paul in a prez debate. Didn't say it approvingly, but was take out of context and ridiculed (natch). He was, of course, not the most credible person to make the case...

Edward Amame

It happens all the time. Sometimes the monsters are real. Sometimes not so real. Examples: Saddam Hussein, UBL, Hugo Chavéz, Castro, Karadžić, Ahmadinejad, etc. Outrage sells, so the press pushes it, and then our fearless leaders step in to "do something" in response.


Reporting or a propaganda operation? See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/11/world/middleeast/Syria-An-Unlikely-Evolution.html?_r=1&

Note that our Propaganda Organs have been working hard today to fashion a story about the Obama Administration's floating the chemical weapons deal since last year.

Strangely, there are no quotes from Lavrov in this article. So, (1) this is true and shows Obama wanted a deal despite Russian "intransigence" last year or (2) it's a CYA story spun to make the Administration look competent.

How to tell?

William R. Cumming

Assuming that the Freedom to Assemble guaranteed by the 1st Amendment is determined to be a threat to the state and somehow turns to riot and or civil disorder how many Americans in the governing circles or outside are familiar with current plans to involve the military in the suppression of such incidents? As late as the 90's the DoD planning for such an event had the title GARDEN Plot!

The issue has never been the preservation of the state, but rather the preservation of the Constitution. Yet Congress never has held oversight on these plans and issues even as suppression of internal dissidents has become the primary reason for militarizing the internal control mechanisms of the state.
Thanks Richard for another reminder of the importance of words.


Me too. Another effing phenomenal article reflecting the superior thinking power of Richard Sale. Brilliant. Compassionate. Insightful. Dead on the money. It's so nice to read smart stuff.

One thing: Newsmax joined that foray with an inaccuracy, as is to be expiated. What Paul said, which is in the article, "'If Assad is responsible he deserves death for this,' Paul told Fox News Channel after the Tuesday night speech."

Those Ifs. Always ignored.



By your definition of thuggishness were not George III and Lord North thugs? they quickly resorted to force to try to solve their American problem. How about Lincoln? He and his minions ripped the South to pieces. Were they not thugs as well? pl


Off topic:

Putin NY Times OP-ED contribution


Babak Makkinejad

"Extremism in the Cause of Abolition is no vice and moderation in the pursuit of Peace is no virtue."


I don't mean to pick on you Kieran, but I think this an important point.

Calling someone a thug, or labeling them as evil? That's a lazy rhetorical device. It's a way to write off your target without trying to understand them.

How can you negotiate with a man you don't understand? How can you write a brief about a man who've reduced to a simple thug? What can you possibly add?

Medicine Man

Mr. Sale:

Astute observations all, in my opinion.

I have long held the opinion that Charlie Rose's ilk are all paid media flacks who simply transmit and elaborate on the messages they are instructed to by their paymasters. It is not an outlandish notion, given how much of the corporate media is owned by a handful of wealthy people. The obvious utility of this operation is that undesirable information can simply be banished from public discussion.

Recently a far more disturbing thought occurred to me. It is entirely possible that Rose and his fellows are not simply bought men (and women). They may in fact sincerely believe their own propaganda. They exist in a closed environment, associate mostly with one another, and re-transmit one another's talking points. The group think of the Washington media is visible on almost any topic, as they home in on one or two competing, "accepted" view points and then move on with barely a look back as the 24-hour news cycle rolls on.

Personally, I hope they are just well compensated professional liars, because if what we are watching isn't theatre then it is disturbingly Orwellian.

Phil Cattar

Completely agree.My paternal grandfather was born and raised 40 miles or less from the Asad family mountain vllage.I was raised in a very large extended family of Lebanese-Syrians.I have studied and watched the Levant for over 50 years.This does not make me a middle east expert but everything I have heard,read,seen and observed in that time points to the Asad family being thugs............as you wrote "The hallmark of the thug is the immediate resort to intimidation and force".This describes the Asads.Everyone seems to have forgot that the the UN investigation of the assassination of the PM of Lebanon,Harriri, was leading to Syria when this revolution broke out.The Asad family could not intimidate Harriri just like years before they could not intimidate Kamal Jumblatt.So they killed leaders of another country.Forty years is enough for a family to rule a country by force and intimidation.It is very possible that Bashar did not make the call on the gassing.It might have been his brother...............It is time for the Asad family to go...............


One might say the Assad left Great Britain to return to the wrong place, Syria (between Israel and Iran) at the wrong time (Saudi and Qatar Royal Sheiks finance the opening of a new front in the Sunni Wahhabi Jihad). Also, Israel will rue the release of the hounds of war on their northeast border with Syria rather than an accommodating Baathist thug. But this does not explain the USA’s behavior. Clearly it is assisting in the explosion of ethnic tensions in the last two years. Military contractors see profits in a new war i.e. Frederick W. Kagan’s op-ed "A weak strike on Syria is better than none"


On this 12th anniversary of 9/11; besides profiteering, shredding of the Constitution and government agitprop; the greatest failing of the Bush/Obama governance is the lack of a strategic vision. The drone wars are antiseptic updating of the Vietnam body counts. They serve no purpose other than assure that young men of attacked families and tribes will gladly embark on a Jihad against Christians/Shiites/Alawites/Kurds/Jews from Mali to the Philippines. At some point when overwhelmed by the costs and futility, the USA will end its wars for profit and quarantine failed states. The imprisonment of a thousand pirates has ended piracy off the shores of Somalia.


He may be cleverer than many of his compatriots and morally no worse, but he has been vicious to his people and on the Rose show he seemed oddly indifferent to their present plight. Yes, it's his misfortune to be Putin's brute and not ours, nor does he deserve the Hitler-du-jour treatment he's getting from the US government and press, but he's a nasty bit of business all the same.

Bill H

One might also ask if the governments, local ones presumably, but perhaps not, who dispersed Occupy Wall Street were thugs. Probably not, since they didn't actually kill anyone, but one could hardly call them benevolent.


" Were they not thugs as well? "

Nah, 'leaders', strong ones, who held together the nation in times of secession.

Assad instead is trying to hold together the country at a time when it is breaking apart, with an opposition funded, supported and armed by foreign powers, and with salaried foreign fighter joining or outright taking over the opposition.

Mr. Sale did well to put the Hama massacre into context. The Muslim Brotherhood, as indicated by their actions, were not nice people, and their idea of protest was to cut the throats of Alawites instead of a web 3.0 protests. The beheading videos suggest to me the Islamists haven't much changed their preferences.

Assad the Elder cracked down on Hama brutally, but he didn't do sio because that particular morning he had that bloodthirst. To claim otherwise is writing a cartoon history of Syria.

Come to think of it, Sountern secession to me implies that to the Southerners Lincoln was not their president. They had their own president.


Enjoyed your essay...and for the most part, agree with it. But why in the world do think Eugene Robinson "should know better"? He has been a major player, enabler, of the kind of culture I take it you condemn. He is a moron talking head who views all the world through a sophomoric, DC, partisan 'good guy bad guy who is winning who is losing' lens. Whether the subject is Syria or where to order pizza, the dynamics are the same. Who is looking 'strong'? Who is looking 'weak', who gets the promotion, who does not.


But Americans think "Rule of Law" is some outworn Republican Party campaign slogan - or else has something to do with Swat Teams.


jonst: Putin continues to put the boot in. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24067370

It's sad when a Russian strongman lectures us about our hypocrisy--and yet I find myself agreeing with the Russian. Sad, indeed.

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