Beating the Drums for Intervention with Syria


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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33 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    “No one at The New York Times or the Weekly Standard will be parachuting into Damascus, or standing at attention aboard the USS Gravely as it fires Tomahawk missiles into Syria.”

    No one on any political side advocating military action in Syria is willing to put their ass on the line and do that. That’s why they are all cowards and worth of no respect. If it’s that important get your ass to Syria and join the rebels. Oh, but then you’d be joining a terrorist organization and would be subject to drone attacks….Report

    • Avatar Crprod in reply to Damon says:

      If any of those worthies from the WS, NYT, etc actually took part in a conflict, that would be a most serious violation of the neo-conservative mission statement which is “Let’s you and him fight.”Report

  2. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    Do you have any idea why so much of the media supports war when so much of the public opposes it?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Who in the public opposes it? I mean, specifically what demographic groups. How much influence do those groups have on the media?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        In that vein, what is the nature of the opposition that is there?

        It strikes me as being vague and shallow. If (perhaps “when”) we start lobbing missiles and the only American soldier casualties we have are forklift related? I don’t see much more than a huge collective shrug before we go back to discussing whether this is good for the Republicans in 2016 or good for the Democrats.Report

    • Avatar Rod Engelsman in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      Do you have any idea why so much of the media supports war when so much of the public opposes it?

      War’s great for circulation numbers and page hits.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Rod Engelsman says:

        Lord, I wish it were that simple. I suspect that it’s more that journalists spend more time talking with Professional Politicians than they spend with anyone else (“anyone else” can give their opinion via opinion poll).

        They’re talking to everyone they know… on the left, we have Obama and Hillary, on the right we have Kristol and Krauthammer. The full spectrum.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Vikram Bath says:

      The right-wing media supports intervention for a few reasons:

      * They’re reflexively in favor of bombing brown people, especially Muslims.
      * They continually confuse “Enemies of unfriendly regimes” with “pro-Americans”; witness all the blather written assuming that Iran’s Green Movement wanted our help to overthrow the Islamic government and institute a Western regime. (But we refused. Thanks, Obama.)
      * As a corollary, they get to call Obama weak for exercising even elementary caution about the use of force.
      * They’re too dense to realize what would happen to the few people in Syria they do care about (the Christians) if the rebels won.

      The mass media is, as always, the voice of official Washington, which is different from being strictly liberal. The Washington media wanted Clinton punished severely for sleeping with a consenting adult female, because it offended their idea of what’s seemly. Liberals thought the impeachment was one of the stupidest, sorriest spectacles we’ve ever seen, and were in no way surprised when the same people who insisted that perjury is a hugh crime later called Scooter Libby’s conviction a witch-hunt. After all, they had had no problem with Clarence Thomas claiming under oath that he’d never discussed Roe v Wade with anyone.

      At any rate, official Washington is full of Very Serious People who believe in surgical strikes and counter-insurgency in the way that slightly more sensible people believe in clutch hitting, and the official media reflects this.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Man I’m totally convinced. If the Weekly Standard is advocating for it with that slate of “experts” (since when is Turdblossom a fishing foreign policy expert?!?!) then Obama should run, not walk, away from intervention.Report

  4. In all honesty, I’m surprisingly ambivalent about the Administration’s apparent plans here, provided they don’t do much more than lob a couple of cruise missiles at some pre-disclosed targets. Am I thrilled with the idea? No. But on the list ill-conceived American military interventions, something like that would rank extraordinarily low in my book.

    The risks caused by something of that nature are, on the whole, fairly low – it’s not going to topple Assad, it won’t threaten many, if any, civilians, provided that the targets are pre-disclosed, as appears to be the plan. Simply put, it doesn’t have the potential for much in the way of the unintended consequences (or in many instances, perfectly intended consequences) that usually make me opposed to military interventions.

    I also kind of see the logic behind it, particularly from a realpolitik standpoint. It strikes me as correct, as Luttwak argues, that no matter who wins, the US’ interests lose, but that stalemate means that several enemies of the US and its allies are fighting each other, which is helpful to American interests.

    The heavy use of chemical weapons against civilian populations, without any international consequences, wholly upsets that stalemate in favor of Assad (and thus by implication Hezbollah and Iran). Acting to limit (though not terminate) that use helps to restore the stalemate.

    If the result of those actions is also to marginally discourage the combatants from indiscriminately targeting civilian populations, then so much the better; regardless, at this point, things are so bad on the ground that there’s not much we can do that will make things worse for those civilians. There’s also the slight possibility that doing so will discourage other regimes from using chemical weapons in the future.

    Yes, these are both probably somewhat slim possibilities, but given the relatively low risk involved with the plans as announced to this point, they’re possibilities that can’t be so easily dismissed as unworthy of any significant weight whatsoever. Essentially, it’s a low risk/low reward proposition from a humanitarian standpoint, but with a definite national interest at stake.

    None of this means I support intervention, mind you, just that I don’t view the Administration’s plans here as being particularly worthy of outrage, particularly when compared to the moral outrageousness of the chemical weapons attack in the first place.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      Man, that’s a sobering comment Mark. I don’t have any predisposed feelings one way or the other on this, and this comment make me more inclined to refrain from outrage. And inrage.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Mark Thompson says:

      no matter who wins, the US’ interests lose, but that stalemate means that several enemies of the US and its allies are fighting each other, which is helpful to American interests.

      If America’s interests are served by ensuring the continuing deaths of civilians and a continuing flow of refugees to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, maybe we should re-evaluate our interests.Report

  5. Avatar George Turner says:

    I think it’s important that we strike at Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles, with advanced notice, so that he’s forced to disperse them. That will allow his regime much greater deniability regarding any future use of chemical weapons, while also making it easier for Al Nusra and Al Qaeda to get their hands on lots of nerve gas. It’s a win-win for both sides, and that’s the kind of thing that makes people like America. We help.Report

  6. Avatar Kim says:

    “In its efforts to pressure Iran the U.S. Navy is very likely to try and prevent Iranian oil tankers from passing through the Straits of Hormuz on their way to refineries in India, given that Iran lacks adequate facilities to refine its own oil.

    If that were to happen, it is almost certain that Iran would move to block the strategic straits by sending its fleet of ultra-rapid watercraft to sink one or two oil tankers and in the process block the world’s busiest oil route, from where more than half of the world’s consumption of oil, transit. The result could be an immediate shortage of oil on the world markets. Prices at the pump would skyrocket and some industries would be forced to close. ”

    … quoting from

    Let’s have some merry fun, without the war, shall we?Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Kim says:

      Sorta a “madman across the water” approach to things? Maybe. But if Iran did what you’re suggesting there really would be a war. Or well, an Authorization of the Use of Military Force, which is indistinguishable from war. Not to mention that doing so would effectively amount to Iran shooting itself in das boot.

      Do you really think Iranian leadership is that crazy?Report

  7. Avatar trizzlor says:

    Let’s keep in mind that no pundit advocating against the intervention is living under threat of Assad’s chemical weapons either; and that somehow does not invalidate their position on the matter.Report

  8. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    You’re knocking it out of the park with these, Ethan. Agnostic god bless you.

    It doesn’t matter if the President shouldn’t have committed the U.S. to war with Syria, he already promised he would and people who make promises “best follow through.”

    Shades of Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant.”Report

  9. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Not to be too pithy about it, but it’s not as though the people making the critiques that really it’s not our business if Assad decides using Sarin is a great idea are going to be suffering consequences from not doing anything about that, either.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      If we fire a few cruise missiles at military targets, resulting in some clear destruction, but no real damage to the regime’s ability to continue to wage war against the rebels, and they use chemical weapons again, what do we do then?

      Lobbing some warheads from a hundred miles away in the midst of a brutal civil war doesn’t, by itself seem like a big deal, even a staunch anti-war type like myself. I mean, I don’t like it, but I’m not going to don my protest hat over it, if that’s all it is. But what if it doesn’t have the desired effect, which, given how brutal this civil war is (if you don’t believe me, take a trip over to the asshole of the internet, LiveLeak, and see for yourself), and what the stakes are for the regime, seems like a very real possibility? What’s the next step? A bombing campaign? Given how fluid and intertwined the lines are, and the fact that those lines are in the middle of cities, that seems like a really bad idea (bad enough to make me don that hat). And what if we shoot some missiles, they use chemical weapons again, and we don’t do anything more than shoot some cruise missiles again? What happens in the next brutal civil war involving a regime with chemical weapons (or the ability to acquire them) and nothing to lose because losing the war means losing everything? Are they going to be deterred by a stern warning and maybe a few cruise missiles that don’t really do any damage to their ability to wage war, knowing that we aren’t going to back it up with real military action?Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

        We’ve given non-military financial aid, then we helped try to get the various rebel groups more organized, then stepped it up to CIA training rebel fighters, and now we’re talking about lobbing cruise missiles. There might be a trendline in all that.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I suppose there is, but I’m not willing to extrapolate beyond the current range of values.

        I imagine a serious bombing campaign of the sort we saw in Afghanistan in ’01 and ’02 would probably put an end to the war more swiftly than it’s likely to end at its current pace, but are we really willing to commit to that? Particularly since, given where this war is being fought, a bombing campaign means civilian casualties, and probably lots of them. And wouldn’t we likely need special forces and CIA on the ground in some numbers in order to direct bombing attacks, ala Afghanistan in ’01 and ’02? That’s going to make things messy for us, eh? Particularly when the rebels, who have so far shown little if any mercy for regime supporters, start doin’ what they’ve been doin’, but on a larger scale, as the regime retreats, but now with us on the ground watching them do it.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris says:

        The administration seems to be driven by a combination of short term thinking and a desire to do something* without getting too deeply involved. That’s a good recipe for increasing incremental involvement. I’m not saying it will happen, just that the particular circumstances make it morelikely than it might otherwise be.

        *The idea that “punishing” Assas with some cruise missile strikes is “doing something” in any meaningful sense is ridiculous. The man is in a fight for survival–he’s not going to suddenly play nice because the threat level has further increased.Report

  10. Avatar George Turner says:

    Well, fortunately Obama can’t take action without Congressional approval since the US isn’t directly threatened.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to George Turner says:


      Oh, that’s funny, George.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

        I know that this is a silly, silly question but isn’t the AUMF narrow enough that it can be reasonably argued that this is not covered?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

        Do we need to repost the list of all the times the U.S. has bombed somebody since 1945 without a declared war?Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Patrick says:

        It’s true though. It’s the considered opinion of a Constitutional law professor.

        The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. — B. Obama, apparently no relation to the US President.

        If he does strike without authorization, Joe Biden says it’s grounds for impeachment.

        On the other hand, since Congress really didn’t have any skin in the game, why should they even be consulted? They’re not the ones running around threatening countries about red lines, having their bluff get called, and having to strike foreign leaders with cruise missiles to save face. If they’re no more involved in the situation than Belgium’s parliament, why should they have any more say than Belgium?

        But the strike isn’t going to be serious, unless there is an unfortunate targeting accident. The LA Times says this:

        One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia.

        “They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said.

        Well, that statement has “President Sissy Pants” all over it.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Patrick says:

        I really wish Obama would be principled enough to send it to congress for congressional approval. They’d attach a repeal of Obamacare to is and pass it, then it’d die in the Senate and we’d end up doing nothing.Report