President Obama was ready to launch the United States into a new Mideast war in Syria over the Labor Day weekend until the nation’s top general persuaded him that he would be blamed for serious unintended consequences that could arise, according to usually well-informed sources speaking in confidence.
That general is Martin E. Dempsey, left, a career Army officer who became chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2011. He persuaded the president that military implications could escalate beyond the limited boundaries White House civilian advisers had claimed in convincing the president as of late Friday night to move forward with bombing campaign.
That bombing would have been without congressional, NATO, or other significant international military support aside from enthusiasm from France, Syria’s former colonial ruler. The war could potentially escalate to a vastly wider war. The evidence is in the first proposals offered by Obama for congressional authorization after he backed off his go-it-nearly-alone plan. Yet the administration tipped its hand by making its initial request for authority open-ended, creating the possibility of a vastly wider war if Syria or any of its allies retaliated in any way.
The military risks, not the political ones, loomed largest for the president as he reversed course, according to my sources. Nonetheless, Obama sought political and constitutional cover by seeking to share responsibility with congress. Notably, he wants to start a war based on thin evidence and without being able to line-up support even from most of the nations funding rebels in Syria.
The account I received from sources, while impossible to verify in every particular with total certainty, is congruent with what we know of the players and event time line.
Dempsey testified to congress and otherwise warned of risks associated with the military options available to the United States in helping rebels overthrow Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has governed the nation for more than four decades.
Dempsey did not forcefully argue his own view previously before the Labor Day weekend, as far as is known. He preferred to provide cost-benefit options in a more neutral fashion. But the increasing belligerence by Secretary of State John Kerry and more junior civilian members of the White House inner-circle, such as former UN Ambassador Susan Rice and her successor, Samantha Power, apparently persuaded Dempsey to speak more bluntly early in the weekend.
Beyond those dramatic events, readers here should realize other vital factors rarely mentioned in mainstream news accounts, especially in the United States. I’ll summarize these points into three bullet points. Background for the material is an appendix below and in my book, Presidential Puppetry, whose hardcover edition is published this week.
- Most important, our top government officials (including the president) and most famous media pundits who shape our discourse have fewer real-world power than the public might imagine. True, the officials command authority over the military and voting power in congress. And they occasionally act in unpredictable fashion and against long-term career interest. The pundits look important when they pontificate. But they usually know quite well their careers can end quickly. Dynastic power on Wall Street, not Main Street, controls the country, as President Wilson wrote a century ago in his book, The New Freedom. I use the umbrella term “puppet masters” whereas others focus on major parts, such as Wall Street, the Military Industrial Complex — or its more current and powerful successor, the Intelligence Industrial Complex. Whatever the name, these masters of the universe and the government officials they place in office have targeted the Assad family at least since 1984, according to high-level CIA correspondence declassified this summer. That long-term interest — and not the street protests of two years ago, democracy building, or even the massive deaths on Aug. 21 from gas — brought about the current war resolution targeting Assad. He is UK-educated Alawite. He and his wife, Asma, are at right in a photo via Creative Commons. She is a UK-born onetime banker of Sunni descent. They have rallied much of the central part of the country against rebels with a series of recent military victories. The victories endanger well over a billion dollars in foreign spending to overthrow their heavily armed dictatorship, which is ratified by occasional elections and which has attacked no outsiders justifying its overthrow under traditional international law.
- Puppet masters like to work in private to advance their wealth-building and other interests, including dynastic succession and religious advancement. They often work through secret societies. Therefore, the media that they heavily influence rarely mention the keen interest that the Gulf monarchies have in building a natural gas pipeline through Syria to provide natural gas more cheaply to Europe, thus undercutting Russian supply chains. Neither do Russia’s rivals want to focus attention on the willingness of radical Muslims to keep the Arab world largely destabilized, except in those fundamentalist monarchies protected by the United States and cooperating with lucrative deals for all concerned. The monarchies are protecting Israel behind the scenes. The system provides oil and arms deals for well-connected insiders in NATO countries, and poses an ongoing threat to Russia and China by stirring up dissent among minorities within Russia’s borders especially and in such nearby countries as Chechnia, located between Syria and Russia.
- The inherent contradictions and internal rivalries among the puppet master group are providing a rare opportunity in the next 10 days or so for its goals and methods to be exposed in Congress and elsewhere to the American people. Congress is, of course, gerrymandered into set camps and dominated in both parties by the big money interests that sustain the leadership and the major media upon which they rely for voter approval. But the country is so fed up with Mideast wars and economic austerity at home that newer members could take the kind of remedial action exhibited last week in Britain’s Parliament — which shocked Obama and the rest of the West’s neo-conservative and neo-liberal leadership cabal by voting against a military strike against Syria.