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Klavan On The Culture

Things That Don’t Matter When Deciding on Syria

September 4th, 2013 - 11:19 am
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Squirrel!

It’s taken me a while to come to an opinion about what the United States should do in Syria. I kept getting distracted by what I’ve now come to think are irrelevancies. There were three of these distractions — I list them because they seem to be distracting other people as well:

1. Barack Obama.

The guy’s a lousy president. His foreign policy has been a disaster, especially in the Middle East. He surrendered the war in Iraq after we’d won it; he doubled down on a war in Afghanistan we could never win; he abandoned the rebels he should’ve supported in Iran and supported the rebels he should’ve ignored in Egypt; his Libyan lead-from-behind adventure has left that country in a shambles. I actually agree with him that he has the authority to attack Syria without congressional approval (Reagan invaded Grenada without Congress, and George H.W. Bush did the same in Panama), and I presume his consultation of Congress has some scuzzy political motive behind it.

But, in this instance, Obama’s incompetence and political calculation are irrelevant. Either it’s right to attack Syria or wrong. Either it serves an American or humanitarian purpose or it doesn’t. We can’t let our dislike of President Me cloud our patriotic judgment.

2. Principle

You don’t kill people on principle. You don’t kill them because you drew a line in the sand and they stepped over it. You don’t kill them because you said you would so now you have to or you’ll lose credibility. You don’t even kill people to make the world a better place — if you did, trust me, I can think of a lot of people I’d've killed three times over by now. You kill people in defense of life and liberty, yours or someone else’s. Whatever you think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 9/11 attacks convinced George W. Bush (and the Congress that was for him before it was against him) that spreading freedom in the Middle East was not just good for Middle Easterners, it was also the best way to keep America safe. Wrong or right, he acted with sound motivation. Without such motivation, we should not commit acts of war.

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Top Rated Comments   
I have a straight-up question I can't get a good answer to from anyone. Why is it the duty or moral obligation of English-speaking Western countries--primarily America and England--to spend blood and treasure to come to the rescue of 7th century throwbacks who murder one another with reckless abandon? Unless we can "Go Roman" like we did in WWII and win in a dominant meaningful way, we should not go to war, period.

We have more oil and gas under our feet if we want it, and can get it elsewhere too, so I don't think this is 1970s and the oil issue is valid any longer. It plays a role, but a much smaller role.

Let the Saudis, or Turks, or Jordanians, or others send their money and sons to deal with this crap. Otherwise we get the same result: We can't use our true military power and "go-Roman" and win, decisively, so we kill people for no lasting gain and build hatred and distrust at 'Western imperial policy." I used to snicker at that argument, but I have come to believe it now.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Concerning point #2: I haven't heard any reasoned explanation of how Syria or the surrounding region will be freer, more peaceful, happier or safer if we intervene. Mostly it sounds like Syria will turn to chaos or will get an even more radical government than Assad's if we intervene.

People do keep mentioning Iran, but if Iran is the problem, why aren't we talking about bombing them rather than some proxy?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"You are an isolationist" is basically the sibling of "You are a racist".
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (60)
All Comments   (60)
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"Bret Stephens — a smart, moral writer whom I admire — has compared them to the Robert Taft Republicans who didn’t want to enter World War II."

Well, if Bret thinks events in Syria are serious enough to cause WW III, then shouldn't we be having a lot more discussion about it first, and maybe try to prevent WW III
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are 3 things that really worry me about this war (and yes, when you bomb another country, it is a war, even if we dont end up losing any of our guys):
1. Who are we fighting FOR. The rebels dont look any better than Assad, and might be worse.
2. We have no allies. Not having the UN I can understand, but we cant even get Nato or any Muslim nations, and worst of all we cant even get the British.
3. What exactly is this operation going to do, it looks like it will be so limited the answer is not much, except irritate people.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Way to go, Andrew. Like a hot knife through butter.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Agree with the analysis except for the part about Paul being an "isolationist". It is simply prudent to avoid foreign engagements when there are no American interests at stake.

We DID have valid reasons to go into Iraq and Afghanistan. No one has shown us yet, a good reason to do ANYTHING in Syria.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have only one question: Is there action we can take to instruct despots and wannabe despots everywhere about the world of hurt that can and will be theirs if they use chemical weapons? If the answer is yes, then by all means, go for it.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
We could send our sons and daughters to die for either side in this war. Regardless, the winner will hate us with an eternal hate. No matter what, Muslims will want to abuse, rape, torture, maim and kill you because you think differently. No amount of American blood will change that.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The wall on which the prophets wrote
Is cracking at the seams.
Upon the instruments of death
The sunlight brightly gleams.
When every man is torn apart
With nightmares and with dreams,
Will no one lay the laurel wreath
When silence drowns the screams.

Between the iron gates of fate,
The seeds of time were sown,
And watered by the deeds of those
Who know and who are known;
Knowledge is a deadly friend
When no one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind I see
Is in the hands of fools.

Confusion will be my epitaph.
As I crawl a cracked and broken path
If we make it we can all sit back
And laugh.
But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I'll be crying.

(From "Epitaph" by Peter Sinfield)
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is of great gratitude to read a writer who expresses exactly the conclusions I came to when Obama began is '09 tour; when O touted the Arab Spring; and I concur with those that use reason and logic when it comes to matters such as these. Including the fact that our President is so incompetent that he honestly believes the lie he's been fed for decades that 1) Republicans are the bad guys, 2) the American people are generally stupid, so they'll believe your lies.. No one on the progressive left has taken into account that in the 2008 election, America was exhausted by the wars and the pure, unadulterated hatemongeriing by progressives and the 98% of media establishment that supports them...we would have voted for the man behind the curtain, sight unseen...and we now have discovered that that is exactly what we did...twice to our and the worlds' peril.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
If Syria were using WMD in an international battle, international intervention would be appropriate. Terrible thing whoever is using the chemical weapons is doing, but since it is an internal struggle, I say keep the internationalists out of it. More people will ultimately die if more people become involved.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Internal Struggle? Syria was a creation of the Western powers at Versailles and crossed tribal borders. Right now it is a fight still between tribes, religions, factions, and contesting factions including Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Christians, Turks, Copts, Iranians, Saudi-backed fundamentalists and other imported foreign insurgents. Like Iraq, and the Mercenary Wars in Italy in the Renaissance and in Germany known as the 30 Years War it is an international war. The fight over Islam, founded 750 years after Christianity is going through its early Reformation stage, the same as Christianity did 750 years ago which was 1250-1350. So it is hardly a civil war.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I love your use of double contraction, "I'd've".
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Seconded. It reminds me of Lewis Carroll's use of wo'n't in lieu of won't. His logic was consistency: if an apostrophe takes the place of one or more letters, then wo(uld) n(o)t requires two of them. My teachers kept telling me I was wrong, and I kept arguing for Carroll regardless.

I wouldn't've done it any other way. ;)
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
One of the reasons I love English: it is almost completely arbitrary. I think it is the ideal language for Conservatism: we don't really follow any rules, we just do it because it more or less works.

;o)
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't like it. Contractions are basically sloppily spoken words in written form, which is unnecessary especially now that few people write in longhand.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
my amendment: ... sloppily spoken words written the way they sound. If we started writing all words the way they sound the whole English language would become incomprehensible.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
an additional amendment: for the true typists of the world, a disappearing group, we appreciate contractions...it help's get it down quick!
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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