Oh, let me count the ways Syria is much like the one we finally extricated ourselves from in Iraq, but where the arguments of the hawks are even less persuasive.
Bush was faulted for his failure to exhaust diplomatic options. “Give the inspectors time to act.” “Don’t be a cowboy!” And all the rest.
Has diplomacy of any kind been given any serious try in Syria? There have been some noises and condemnations, but that’s about it. Of course, in both cases, this may merely reveal the limits of diplomacy, but what have we offered Syria? What have we tried? And, indeed, why should we offer them anything as they’re putting down a terrorist rebellion?
Yes, they should do so in as humane a way as possible that avoids harm to civilians. But are we so sure they’re not given the technical constraints they operate under? We know for a fact the rebels are massacring prisoners, priests, and all the rest. But I guess the rules of war are looked at one-sidedly, as usual. And I remain unconvinced that these chemical weapons were not used by the rebels in the modern-day equivalent of Germans dressed as Polish soldiers attacking the Danzig radio tower (the Nazi pretext to invade Poland).
We were told about Iraq that they “had not attacked us” and that their violations of numerous treaties and the like was irrelevant. Here, no attack either. Just a nasty internal conflict between two very rough-hewn groups.
We were told that Iraq was all about oil. Syria doesn’t have much oil, but the rebels are supported by the Saudis among others. Oh well, only Bush cared about oil. Obama wants instead to switch us all to solar power. And Bush’s constant paeans to democracy, which he sincerely believed to a fault, counted for nothing, even when they led to a pro-Iranian Shia-led state in Iraq.
We were told about the number who died each day, the military industrial complex, Western arrogance, and the general evils of war. Not too many peeps about that this time. No million man marches down Manhattan with Michael Moore and Jimmy Carter leading the way. The anti-war movement has exposed itself as a completely partisan sham.
And we were told that Iraq was a huge distraction from the main war on al Qaeda and the war on terror. Well, in that criticism, the critics had a pretty good point. And the continuing slogfest in Afghanistan is Exhibit A. But in Syria, by contrast, we are not only distracting ourselves from the war on terror–in which Obama has declared all-but-victory–but aiding the forces of terror who are fighting the Sunni-Shia conflict that has always existed in parallel with the anti-westernism of both Sunni and Shia extremists in the Middle East. We are acting as some critics have said as al Qaeda’s air force. Far from distracting ourselves in the war on terror, we’re switching sides!
Indeed, the Ba’athists under Saddam and Assad, along with the Nasserite forces in Egypt, in other words, the broadly defined modernizing, secular, nationalist forces in all these countries would make much better partners and are natural allies against Islamic extremism. Now in the case of Saddam we dealt with a paranoid madman with Iran to his East. He was probably hard to bring around or corral and needed to go. Yes, we should have picked a western-educated Sunni general to replace him. But in the case of Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere, we have alienated the very secular nationalists with whom we could most easily find common cause. And we’ve done so to help Islamic theocrats pervert democracy in order ultimately to destroy both democracy and freedom and any semblance of normal life. . . . without obtaining an ally or anything at all in return.
We were told in Iraq we had no exit strategy. Of course, in Syria, we don’t even have an entrance strategy. We are not even self-consciously trying to pick a side and win, nor to impose a democratic regime or an international protectorate. Just an old-fashioned punitive air-raid against a country that has done nothing to us, while it fights our common enemies, on the basis of dubious intelligence that has not been explained, vetted, or otherwise subject to scrutiny. They said Bush lied about WMDs. Obama has barely done us the courtesy of trying to sell us some believable bullshit.
And this would all be quite a bit less ironic if the two guys running the show, Kerry and Obama, had not been so vociferously against the Iraq War, comparing its stupidity to their own silver-tongued diplomatic skill, native sense of American limits, and opposition to, in Obama’s words, “dumb wars.”
Obama said, in his famous 2002 speech, “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. . . . That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.”
Would that it were so! What else but politics of the most base kind explains Obama’s cavalier imposition of red lines, this self-fulfliling stupidity that we must supposedly follow through to rescue his foolish overextension of American credibility? This is throwing good money after bad, in addition to the credibility that comes from recognizing when one has made a mistake. This war is unwise and unjust. It has no justification in either national interest, moral principle, or the sanction of international law. It finds us few friends. It is a crazy escapade that makes no attempt to reconcile itself from the tragic lessons of Iraq, as well as our more recent tragic meddling in Libya and Egypt.
In other words, it is a dumb war, dumber than all the dumb wars we have ever fought, from Kosovo to Libya, and arguably Iraq itself. It is also more than that. It is vain and puerile and presumptuous, as Obama’s very formulation of “opposition to dumb wars” implies. It is a reflection of Obama’s lack of character and seriousness, his cowardly avoidance of responsibility, and all around failure to understand how anything in the world works. And, at the same times, it exposes the moral and intellectual poverty of our foreign policy establishment, whose moral compass is so distorted by the Holocaust, that they cannot distinguish between a true crisis of world historical proportions that also implicates our national interests, and one of the inevitable and inevitably brutal civil wars that have for so long defined the lives of those in the Third World.