Elizabeth Warren Offers Fantastic Analysis of Possible U.S. Involvement in Syria

elizabeth-warrenEven before President Obama made his intentions publicly known that he would seek Congressional approval before any sort of U.S. military involvement in Syria, the opinions coming from across this country about what we should do seemed endless.

And I’ve read literally thousands of them.  Most, to be honest, come from people who have their minds made up about our involvement in any war.  They oppose war, or support war, therefore their “minds are made up.”

When it comes to politicians, opinions are mixed.  Ironically, Syria has forced far left Democrats and far right Republicans to finally agree on one thing—we have no business in Syria.  But for the less extreme members of Congress, what we should do is far less definitive.

Then I stumbled upon comments from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and while they’re not complicated or poetic, her thoughts on Syria are probably some of the most logical and thought-out I’ve seen yet:

“What’s important is that we have a plan and a realistic way to execute on that plan.  We need to remember unintended consequences of any action.  Good intentions alone will not help us.  What Assad has done is reprehensible. It violates international law, and it violates the law of humanity.  But it is critically important that before we act that we have a plan, a goal and we have a reasonable way for ensuring that goal.  I think we’re now in a state of flux.”

She emphasizes a plan, something we never had with our war in Iraq.  She clearly states that if we are to get involved in Syria, we must have a clear, precise plan and a strategy to carry out that plan.  Again, after the war in Iraq where the Bush administration clearly had absolutely no plan, this is something I believe all Americans have become jaded about.

But the comments I liked the most were, “Good intentions alone will not help us” and “We need to remember unintended consequences of any action.”

For most outside of those who’ve studied political science, these words are just words that they may or may not agree with.  But her comments speak to something called a “grand strategy.”  The process by which a government or administration formulates a plan now while planning for what may come later.  It’s essentially trying to predict future threats or problems.  It’s something we clearly didn’t have when we started the war in Iraq.  We went in prepared for conventional warfare yet faced something closer to guerrilla war.

Her point about good intentions not being enough is something we should always factor in when it comes to our involvement in any kind of war.  Because at the end of the day, why we went in won’t be as important as what we did.

While our intentions in Syria might be to help the thousands of innocent Syrians that are being slaughtered with bombs and chemical weapons, when it’s all said and done, will our actions be viewed positively or negatively?  Will they be those of a nation trying to stop the genocide of thousands or will they be used as another example of the United States sticking its nose where it didn’t belong?

And while I do feel that most of those who support our involvement in Syria do so with the intention of helping end the atrocities going on in that country, as Ms. Warren said, “Good intentions alone will not help us.”

Which she’s absolutely right about.

If we are to get involved in Syria I believe it’s vital that Congress and the President first outline a clear plan for any involvement and a detailed timetable for our exit once we’ve done what it is that plan outlines.

Because neither of those are things the Bush administration did before we went into Iraq.  They went in carelessly, recklessly and had absolutely no plan following the removal of Saddam Hussein.  Their poor execution resulted in the needless deaths of over 4,000 soldiers in Iraq.

I applaud Senator Warren for her comments.  While she hasn’t yet come out in support or opposition of our possible involvement in Syria, she displays the kind of logical and rational thought I hope every member of Congress uses when determining what they feel we should do.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • doreenwebb

    sounds like she’s taking obama’s word for it that assad did this. just like everyone took george bush’s word. let’s see the proof. there’s lots of stuff on the internet that would indicate that the chemicals were used by the rebels to get us into a war. why don’t we see those stories in the media? where is the balance? syria has a sea port that will connect directly to iraq. the cia has admitted to false flags of this sort before. so……show the proof.

    • jaik

      the conspiracy hypothesists generally base their ideas upon the idea of a Regime Change in Syria (pipeline, ports etc etc), which is beyond the scope of the Proposition for limited strikes being debated by Congress in the first place.

      We can support or oppose the proposition for a Limited Strike without having to resort to attacking ideas which have not been Proposed by the President.

      • Chirpy

        Derp, Same as Iraq. Greated with flowers as liberators but we broke it, then wasted a couple of trillion “fixing” it. No thanks.

      • Terra Gazelle

        Have you bothered to hear what the president said..and not what fools say he said?
        He is not wanting to FIX Syria..only to keep International Law. He is a Law professor you know.

    • BackSeatJesus

      There’s a lot of porn on the internet. Your point?

    • boatkitten

      Assad refuses to sign any chemical weapons treaties. Why do you think that is?

    • Terra Gazelle

      That is silly, there is another route if needed.

  • jaik

    the conspiracy hypothesists generally base their ideas upon the idea of a Regime Change in Syria, which is beyond the scope of the Proposition for limited strikes being debated by Congress in the first place.

    We can support or oppose the proposition for a Limited Strike without having to resort to attacking ideas which have not been Proposed by the President.

  • Walter

    Why does the word “genocide” keep popping up?? There’s no genocide in Syria. No religious or ethnic group is being targeted by the government specifically. Most of the Syrian Army is Sunni. They know who the enemy is and they are executing the plan to save their country from those foreign invaders and domestic terrorists. And as far as a plan is concerned, isn’t there a poetic verse about the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?

    • Nathan

      By your logic, do you also deny the genocide Joseph Stalin perpetuated against his own people?

      • Walter

        Nice use of a straw man argument. Nicely done.

    • PaulScott58

      @Walter: I don’t care how you color it, innocent people being slaughtered is always a very bad thing. Never try to candy coat it. Bad form.

      • Guest

        Genocide can include a specific group within a nation. I think a lot of people forget this detail because many of the “worst” (I’m not quite sure how you would scale levels of genocide <.<) examples have related to race and ethnicity.

      • Walter

        which is why I stated that the killing is not directed at one particular group other than those fighting his forces. I don’t think that constitutes genocide. if it does, every war/civil war is a genocide

      • Walter

        I agree. But there are some who want to take this where it hasn’t gone and really shows no sign of going there. The word Genocide elicits a visceral response and it’s often overused to that end, when there is, in fact, no genocide.

  • jeczaja

    We ignore the fact that the US has no legal justification for “punishing” other nations. We ignore the fact that al Nusra hates our guts and all the other religious minorities in Syria-and have vowed revenge when they come to power. We ignore the fact that US-contracted Stratfor has been doing covert ops in Syria for two years. Who runs Stratfor? Former Blackwater exec. The whole thing stinks to high heaven and Warren aside, congress is full of simpletons.

    • sfwmson

      there is a moral obligation to uphold the conventions that ban the use of these types of weapons. Assad’s handlers will be emboldened to use them again and again to silence any opposition, just like his father before him did. what’s next? Lob a few into Israel? allow his to pal up with Iran? we have alliances and a moral duty. I don’t want it to happen, but that war will happens with or without us if we let him get away with it.

      • strayaway

        Bombing Syrians to punish them for killing each other doesn’t make sense. Alan Grayson pointed out that the US has no business acting as the world’s policeman, judge and executioner. Plans don’t always work. Then what?

      • boatkitten

        Then the US needs to shut down all those military bases all over the world as well as empty every nuclear arsenal. Because if the US refuses to help in times of global crisis, then that role needs to pass over to someone else. Russia perhaps?

      • Terra Gazelle

        We are not going to bomb Syrians. We are hitting military bases, planes control centers that enable Assad to kill his people with gas. It is to Degrade the means of transporting the chemicals.

        It is not to go in and bomb Syria or its people..bvut to rid the Syrian people as much as possible of being gassed by their leader.
        Most of th Syrian people are getting angry and hopeless that we will help not them.

      • strayaway

        You gotta be kidding. Whether bombs are dropped or delivered with million dollar Tomahawk cruise missiles, they are still bombs. Bombing a foreign country is an act of war. Whose drafted sons are going to be blasted into hunks of meat on those air bases? One report claims that about 500 civilians were killed by US drones out of about 2,100 total deaths including 160 children in places like Pakistan. Why will Syria be different? The Syrian civil war wouldn’t even be going on if the US, Saudi Arabia, and other players weren’t supplying the rebels who haven’t proven themselves any more noble than Assad. The big losers will be Americans whose programs will be further sequestered because Tomahawk missiles emptied the Treasury. Even the Pope has come out against this madness.

      • speakoutforscience

        If you are correct, why isn’t the UN supporting action?

      • boatkitten

        Russia. They sell weapons to Syria.

      • Terra Gazelle

        Because Russia and China have votes in the UN..one vote stops it all. They are blocking. Syria uses their oil money to buy weapons from Russia.

    • Terra Gazelle

      Whether Syria signed the Geneva Convention or not..we did. It is international law that using gas is outlawed.

      It is up to the president to decide if it is a security issue or not..and he does.

  • Angel Rivera

    I have absolutely no idea what the US should do in this situation. It seems that we are screwed regardless what we do…

    • Pipercat

      Yep, pretty much…

    • Lilacgypsy

      Your is the best remark I’ve seen..
      You put in two sentences what I have been thinking which is many, many thoughts. We are damned if we do, Damned if we don’t…and what scares me the most is the Repubs jumped on board real quick.

      • DallasJim

        They did jump on that. Makes me wonder who’s zooming who here.

    • Matthew Reece

      When all courses of action are incorrect, logic dictates that inaction is preferable.

      • PaulScott58

        I fear you are correct. Fear because of the ongoing slaughter, from both sides, but much more from Assad.

        Personally, I regret President Ford’s law (?) against assassination of state leaders. When a person of Assad’s character finds himself a permanent target of cruise missiles from the U.S., well, it would only take a couple of those and most of the rest of the tyrants would change their behavior.

        I know, not going to happen. But it would sure work.

      • Matthew Reece

        The real reason that assassinating rulers is frowned upon is that it might give ordinary citizens the idea that assassinating their own rulers is an acceptable thing to do. The ruling elite are not interested in that idea because it threatens their very existence.

      • PaulScott58

        Ordinary citizens do not consider assassinating their rulers unless they are killing thousands of their fellow citizens. There are always crazy people who will do anything, but that’s why we have the Secret Service. The right-wing gun nuts definitely want Obama killed, but even they don’t stand a chance because of his protection.

      • Matthew Reece

        I think that most of the “right-wing gun nuts” aren’t trying to kill Obama because they know it would do no good. Biden would become President and continue the same policies, and the American sheeple might look more favorably upon legislation to centralize gun ownership in the hands of the political elite and their minions.

      • Terra Gazelle

        This president faces assassination everyday. I hope they are not regular citizens…just crazies from the tea party.

      • Pascal

        If you can assassinate our leaders, we can assassinate yours. Not so scary when dealing with Slobodon Milosevich or Assad, a bit more with Castro, or Putin.

      • PaulScott58

        Actually, our leader is not so easy to assassinate. It used to be, but the President of the U.S. is probably the hardest person in the world to kill.

        Most tyrants can be marginalized, but there are some who just won’t listen to reason. Those need to be killed in the least damaging way possible. If you can get a team inside to take him out with minimal collateral damage, that’s best. If not, cruise missiles will do the job.

        Consider how much less damage and cost there would have been if we took this approach with Saddam Hussein.

      • Pascal

        If you can assassinate our leaders, we can assassinate yours. Not so scary when dealing with Slobodon Milosevich or Assad, a bit more with Castro, or Putin.

      • redmjoel

        Inaction is still a course of action, and has as many, if not more, drawbacks than action in this case, if not always.

      • boatkitten

        Assad is one of only a handful of leaders who refuses to sign the chemical weapon convention. This was not the first use of nerve gas in Syria, but it was the largest so far. What if Assad is just waiting to see if he really will be punished for it?
        Would inaction be preferable when later, more gas is launched?

    • matt newman

      We? Are you in Syria? Because we in the US are not screwed, regardless of what we do.

  • Jose Pons

    The U.S. government should keep its MILITARY WAR COMPLEX out of SYRIA, enough is enough. We need to get this Nation on its feet and starting another war for the profitiers is outragous.

    • Terra Gazelle

      So you think that the Republicans would move their hearts to allow the President’s job plan or stopping the sequestration..or doing more on infrastructure if we allow more babies to die? Is that the trade?

      Do you think that has been the case for the last three years of the Republicans b;locking everything…the people in Syria?

  • easytofigureout

    Of course we’re going to bomb something, anything. We have all these bombs and we wont need to buy more from the defense contractors until we find a way to use the ones we have.

    • Chirpy

      Simple but right.

  • Anniveve

    I would support Elizabeth Warren’s run for POTUS in a heartbeat, but the answer provided appears to be perfectly politically correct endorsement of President Obama’s plan. There is no moral wrangling for me on this issue. No wringing of hands or postulating all the possible consequences. Unless the US is in imminent danger – No more American lives at risk. Not one more American dollar spent to bombing Middle Eastern countries.

    • Terra Gazelle

      Might be nice if you knew what the president said..did you bother hearing what he said?


    At this very moment we should be pouring humanitarian help into the camps, and other places, in need of it. We should also let everyone there know it is we who are doing it. We get our best allies by doing good things for them, not by pounding them into submission. Sure as shootin’ there;ll have to be some military intervention, but maybe that should be to help those who’re victims, and not to defeat the ones who we can’t win over anyway.

    • sfwmson

      so we let it go and there is more war and more dead and Assad feel powerful enough to spread his will over country lines? That’ll get our boots on the ground faster that anything we can do. All he has to do is attack Israel and or pal up with Iran and they attack Israel, and we will have to get boots on the ground.

      • Chirpy

        Wont happen. Derp. How many countries have civil war right now? Not a peep. This country just happens to be on the neo-con list, by accident, of course.

      • Terra Gazelle

        Russia has sent Lobbyists to Congress to not vote for the strike. I wonder why?

    • Terra Gazelle

      America has sent 818 million dollars to the Syrian refugees camps this year alone.

      It is the top funder to help the people who have lost all.

  • Mickey Mouse

    This is ridiculous. You say, “While our intentions in Syria might be to help the thousands of innocent
    Syrians that are being slaughtered with bombs and chemical weapons,
    when it’s all said and done, will our actions be viewed positively or
    negatively?” What do you think the US military will be doing dummy? They will be murdering 10s of 1,000s of innocent children, women, men and animals just like they have done before in the name of so-called “humanitarianism and freedom”. In Iraq they used uranium and in Vietnam agent orange, in other words chemical warfare. If you are for the war, do not claim no one will be killed, in addition their complete infrastructure will be demolished where Halliburton will get billions to rebuild. That is fact. Do you ever wonder why we don’t hear anything about Libya anymore? Why not? We supposedly freed the people from a horrible dictator/murderer. What have we done other than blown up people, destroyed infrastructure and created unimaginable suffering. Are we helping anyone? Even Iraq is still torn apart psychologically, physically and economically. War is a disaster.

    • garry lafferty

      Civilian are not the target. And agent orange was to kill vegetation not people, expose the enemy. It nothing like this gas that can kill you in a short time. Agent orange takes much longer years to kill you.

      • Neutral

        Agent Orange’s effects still plague US vets exposed to it initially. In addition, the parts of vietnam that were exposed you still see people with abnormal growths and rampant mutations. Agent Orange has permanently destroyed whatever it touches. So I dont really know what whats worse, dying in an instant or live to know that both you and the next 4 generations of your descendants are royally fucked genetically.

      • Chirpy

        The stated reason for Agent Oarnge vs. the actual effects. Read up, kid.

    • Terra Gazelle

      Libya is doing better that is why. Wow, you say if things are bad we hear..if they are good we should hear..
      When things are good you would not hear about anything. You think that the media would not be screaming from the mountain tops of things were bad in Libya.

      Its just you do not want any thing Obama has done to have turned out.

  • Pam_L

    Elizabeth Warren would make a darn good President. She’s logical, level-headed, and clear-thinking. But since the Democratic candidate will most likely be Hillary Clinton the best we can hope for is the Vice-Presidential nomination for Warren. That would truly be a dream ticket.

  • Ellie

    “she displays the kind of logical and rational thought I hope every member of Congress uses when determining what they feel we should do.”

    Well duh! She’s a highly intelligent academic, of course she is logical and rational.

    However, to expect the same from the rest of congress has to be a joke. A lot of them only read ONE book in their lives, and even that one they only read the parts they were told to read by their religious masters…

    • John Carter

      You must be referring to Atlas Shrugged. There is no evidence anyone in Congress has read the Bible.

  • Helene Napoli

    We should STAY OUT OF IT!!! It’s their war and I fear for my Grandchildren that if we continue to be the “World Police” It’s gonna come back and bite us ~ I say stay home let them figure it out! We have to take stock in our own Country and Get our Stuff together before theirs another Civil War right here!

  • Jenny Lawson

    I am sick of reading about how Bush screwed up. Obama has done so much worse as the POTUS.

    • Dissenter13a

      It’s hard to screw the pooch any more grievously than Bush.

  • Smedley

    Having a plan doesn’t make it right. Plan or no plan, wrong is still wrong.

  • She is not the only one saying this. Not at all. And a plan will not repair or mitigate making the wrong decision from the outset. Excercising military measures within Syria is simply a wrong decision. The two factions at odds there are both morally repugnant and both equally guilty of atrocities.We cannot and should not do anything to benefit either side, and in all reality the best bet is to completely isolate Syria, crush them economically, and then let them deal with their own rubble once they decide that food and electricity is more important than weapons to fight with again.

  • COsborn

    As far as I am concerned…the US can NOT use the excuse of stopping the killing of innocent people as justification of going into yet another war….they gave up that right when they sat back and did nothing as up to a MILLION innocent people were slaughtered in the genocide of Rwanda, Dufur and the Congo….

    • bwanna

      This is the best comment of the subject of what to do with Syria that I have seen yet. You made a VERY good point that can not be ignored.

    • Terra Gazelle

      Ok great so lets have another 100,000,000….
      That was not this president…Not this chaos. And to say well we allow those people to be slaughtered, so lets not help these people.

      Is that how we balance things?

  • Irish_lass

    The slaughter of innocents is taking place around the globe but we stick our noses in only for one reason. We have a strong ally in the middle east and our power and might keeps that nation safe- Israel. What are the consequences of doing nothing ? I would think the consequences are more stable oil prices, less money taken from social programs and safety nets, and a nation seen as taking care of its own house first. That is where I stand. Doing nothing is not immoral; it is prudent. We are broke and cannot afford any actions.

  • nccentrist

    I am no Bush lover or Obama hater. I voted for the latter,
    not the former. Had I lived in MA, I likely would have voted for Warren. That said, I do not find her comments all that illuminating. The notion that military action has unintended consequences is not exactly new.
    One of the most overstated claims about the Bush administration is that
    they did not have a plan about what to do once they invaded Iraq. That is
    categorically untrue. They had a fairly elaborate plan, including how to
    replace the local governments in provinces and hundreds of towns across the country. The problem is that the plan was a bad one, based on inaccurate perception that American personnel would be widely embraced as liberators and that the Iraq people (a cacophony of divergent
    religious and ethnic interests) would uniformly accept the plan. So the question is not “do you have a plan? It’s, “does your plan make sense?” What comes next after the strike? What would it mean if the US president having warned Asssad that the use of chemical weapons would have severe consequences but renders none?

    Political handwringing, too, has unintended consequences. According to this morning’s reports, Assad is spreading the army and weapons among civilian populations (schools and villages), so as to make an effective surgical strike on strategic assets difficult to impossible. As commander in chief, the president is generally given the power to take quick, decisive, and limited action in America’s interest without Congressional vote/approval but a massive action (“war”) either requires it or is politically wise to seek it. The
    most persuasive argument against a strike right now may be that whatever wisdom there may have been to strike early has now been overtaken by events that render it ineffective.

  • bigremo

    Other than a good feeling for doing a good deed and the billions we will spend, what is the gain for America’s involvement? I feel bad for the Syrians, but will they come to our aid militarily, socially, or economically if/when we need it? We killed tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Iraqi civilians, does Syria even want that kind of “help”? We are not the world’s police force nor are we a superhero, the US has limitations and, at present, we are hurting and overextended. I’m sorry, but our people can make much better use of the money we will blow by attacking Syria.

  • Mansour Id-Deen

    Obama has an opportunity during his trip to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg Russia
    to talks one on one this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin to devise a
    solution to the Syrian crises. If President Obama could convenience
    President Putin to get Syrian’s President Bashar Assad, Putin’s chief political
    and military ally, to disclose its’ chemical stock and chemically disarm “by
    destroying all stockpiles of chemical weapons they may hold and any facilities
    which produced them, as well as any chemical weapons they abandoned on the
    territory of other States Parties” with strict United Nation verification, the
    U.S. could call off any military strike. This will be a win-win for all and
    could possibly lead to the beginning of an amenable end to the Syrian conflict.

  • BF44

    Ms. Warren is so smart. How did she get into politics? (Thank goodness she did!)

  • Mike

    It’s all really about the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline!

  • goDawgs

    Her comments are well formed. I am confused though. I thought it was congress that overwhelmingly supported president Bush and the attack on Iraq. Isn’t it current president doing the same thing???

  • Darren Embry

    Seems to me that everything Elizabeth Warren said is actually nothing particularly insightful, just basic common sense that anyone with an IQ above 90 would already know. However, there are an awful lot of idiots, mostly “republicans”, in Congress, and the “republicans” will most likely continue to be chicken-shit trigger-happy war-hawks.

    • Darren Embry

      I am, of course, NOT opposed to her efforts to have everyone be reasonable and cautious.

  • Grant_Devereaux

    Bush did have a plan. To march into Iraq, be greeted as liberators and for the war to be over after a few days. It was not a good plan, but that was there plan.

  • John Carter

    Syria is a mess and I doubt anybody has a *good* plan for fixing it. It is also Iran’s closest ally and wrecking Syria as a power seems to continue American interests in regional domination. Our sleight-of-hand is pointing in various directions … look at Syria rather than our stalemated government, look at politics rather than at military brinksmanship in Syria. Face value is worth just about nothing and all sides involved are incredibly good at propagandistic lying.

  • matt newman

    Since Warren suggests that Assad was the one who used gas she should release her evidence, for it’s the lack of evidence that is a major factor impeding the development of a plan.

  • Chris Blank

    Watch “No End in Sight” AND the extras at the end. They had a plan-and based on what I have seen and heard it would have worked-but they abandoned it for….(insert conspiracy theory here) or incompetence.

  • Edward Baker

    I believe this woman should be a Presidential candidate…smart ,fiscally astute and caring ….Need I say more ?

  • Guest

    Nothing says “good intentions” like lobbing cruise missiles into a country.

  • satta

    The United States government is not omnipotent. Whether it is acting in good faith or under pretext, there are some things that even America cannot do. It would be a benefit to the whole world if America’s hubris was tempered by self-awareness of its own limitations.