All In | August 30, 2013
>>> all right. we're back. eli lake, you've been covering state, you've been covering the policy around this question. is there a diplomatic tragedy? is there an alternative to any kind of ending in syria that isn't just the meat grinder of horrific civil war that we've seen for the last several years?
>> well, the administration has been pursuing diplomacy for two years with this. they have promised to deliver the opposition that they are giving some nonlethal aid to and conferences in geneva. they've reached out several times to try to get the russians to support some kind of u.n. security council resolution. they've tried to negotiate on this question. and the russians have chosen to go all in with bashar assad who appears or at least has been accused of launching a horrific mass casualty chemical weapons attack. so it's kind of stunning to think that it's the american side that needs more diplomacy. i think it's the russians and the iranians have supported their ally in this case, and as my colleague, josh rogen reported this week, you know, the white house wouldn't even send the syrian opposition gas masks . so i think you have a -- for a president who's been reluctant to get involved in this and has, i think, heeded the counsel of those who've said that there really is not much the united states can do militarily in syria , and at the same time, i think he's expressed what any president would express, which is that there should be a red line on the use of these chemical weapons . it's not the first alleged incident.
>> here's the problem, eli . it seems to me --
>> it's escalated.
>> it seems to me like the logic we're following here, tom, i want you to respond to this, is something must be done. anyone who looked at the evidence of the attack thought something must be done. this is something, therefore, something must be done. that seems like the question here. the logic is, what happens after the doing of it? what net positive do human -- what reduces misery and increases joy? what reduces human suffering the day after we send a bunch of cruise missiles ?
>> i think part of the --
>> tom, then eli . then we'll come to you, amy.
>> i think part of it is there's also a false assumption the second we start doing this, all other lanes of conversation stop. the diplomacy which has been exhaustive will continue. samantha power will con to push for a resolution at the u.n. and fry desperately to get the russians out of a morally untenable position. we've put a tremendous amount of effort into that. that doesn't stop when there's a strike of some limited capacity proportional to the use of chemical weapons to deter the usage. the idea the second we do this we forget all the other options, this will, as diplomacy often happens based on who feels like they're negotiating from a position of strength. right now assad feels like he's in a position of tremendous strength. after this, potentially that's a different negotiating situation as with the russians . so this isn't going in with one tool all of a sudden. this is using the full range which will include diplomacy, include the international community and hopefully the icc and not look at just one piece.
>> this is the week we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the march on washington and not only dr. king was celebrated, who called the united states the greatest -- when he spoke against the war in vietnam . john lewis , the only surviving speaker from that march, he is 1 of 54 congress members who said in a letter who signed on to a letter with congress member barbara lee and others who said this has to go to congress. you know, there's no serious action a country can take than to attack another country. why shouldn't we have our elected legislators making this decision? and also when you talk about this is just one tool, tom, i think it's very important to say the first tool should be diplomacy. president obama 's going to russia next week. he canceled this meeting with putin to go to moscow to meet with putin . yes, putin is one of the major backers of assad . this is the time to double down and have those meetings. they canceled u.s. diplomats at the hague meeting with russian counterparts. why? this is the time to use all efforts at diplomacy.
>> it goes in both directions. what eli was saying i think is true in the sense john kerry has worked very hard to put this geneva party together, against a lot of resistance. the argument, eli , i think state has made is their approach to meetings are not, you know, are conditional. so if there's actions like you gas 1,400 people, then there are consequences for that diplomatically.
>> well, let me just put it like this.
>> what about going to congress?
>> we completely agree.
>> we know what russia wants. they want assad to win. but we don't know that the americans want the rebels to win because they include factions that include al qaeda . i don't think there's anything really from the russians ' perspective to negotiate. they want assad to win. he's the leader of syria . he should put down the civil war . they don't care how he does it. they'll support him throughout.
>> that support going to be there i think also after whatever, if there is a military strike .
>> and after that.
>> former democratic congressman from virginia, tom perriello , amy good, and eli lake.
>>> coming up, it's reported white house officials are calling one major development over the last 36 hours embarrassing. he'll tell us what it was, next.