As you should know by now, the US is seriously contemplating taking military action against Syria, ostensibly for it having used chemical weapons against its own people. But nobody really knows whether chemical weapons have been used, and if so, by whom. It is far more likely that the Syrian opposition, ragtag bunch that it is, would have staged the purported chemical weapon attack on August 26th that is the subject of all the consternation. The 26th was a day or so after the Syrian government allowed a UN inspection team into the country so that it could prove it wasn’t using chemical weapons. Given that the US had already drawn a “red line” in the sand (not sure how that metaphor works, but it’s theirs, not mine) against Syrian use of chemical weapons, wouldn’t it be far more beneficial to the opposition to make it appear that the Syrian government is using the weapons, than it would be for the government to actually use them, particularly while the UN inspection team was in the country?
Given that we don’t really know whether the weapons have been used, the headline over at the Wall Street Journal struck me as an absurd bit of yellow journalism, US Fears Aleppo Is Next for Chemical Weapons Strike. I wonder, who is Pulitzer to Rupert Murdoch’s Hearst? The assumption pregnant in the headline marking Aleppo as “next” is that it has been conclusively proved there has been a first chemical weapons strike. There is no such proof. The UN inspection team is not even through inspecting, never mind reporting on its findings. And even were there proof, there would be no way to ascertain which of the antagonists were responsible.
So, the US (and its erstwhile allies–the US is like a bully in a playground whose friends exhort him to beat up an enemy) is preparing to punish Syria for killing its people with chemical weapons by the vehicle of killing Syria’s people with conventional bombs. As awful as dying by chemical poisoning must be, is it any less awful than dying by having one’s bodily integrity shredded to unrecognizable bits by flying shards of hot shrapnel? Dead is dead, by chemical, conventional, or other means. All bombs and artillery shells are weapons of mass destruction. Guns are weapons of directed destruction. Bombs arent’.
In addition to the headline of the WSJ article, check out this whopper embedded within it:
The administration is still debating the precise objective of the military strike, according to officials.
If you have no experience in the military, stop and think about that for a moment. For anyone who has actually served in the military, you are exempt from thinking about it because you already know–there is no way to win at anything without which the objective is known, which is as much a matter of semantics and logic as it is a matter of military strategy and logistics.
The neo-con dunderheads at the WSJ Review and Outlook are also agitating for war (the other article was on the home page), but complain of the Administration’s loose lips in letting everyone know the strategy. And then explain the strategy in the same piece, while complaining that it isn’t enough.
The WSJ Review and Outlook page (in effect, their editorial board) is to US military interventions in the affairs of foreign countries as Paul Krugman is to government interventions in the affairs of the domestic economy: They’ve never seen an intervention they didn’t like. Their only objection, like Krugman’s on government interventions in economic matters, is that they are never quite robust enough.
Get this little tidbit from the R & O article:
“Factors weighing into the timing of any action include a desire to get it done before the president leaves for Russia next week,” reports CNN, citing a “senior administration official.”
Can’t you hear the exchange in White House quarters, “Michelle, what’s my schedule look like next week? A trip to Russia? Okay, I’ll make sure to have the lawn mowed and mail forwarded and the Syrians bombed before we leave.”
Killing people has become an abstract, surreal thing for Americans. We don’t really get what it’s like to spend every waking moment in abject fear; to see friends, relatives and neighbors slaughtered like so many pigs, except in a far more brutal manner (either chemical or conventional bombs; or guns or knives or bats, whatever) than any farm animal meets its fate. For us, war and wholesale slaughter is something that only occasionally touches us through our window boxes to the world, and that, only if we care to allow it.
It is not at all clear that anyone, including the Syrian people who we will purport to be protecting, would gain by the US getting involved enough to express its disdain at the use of chemical weapons. It seems a rather pointless exercise. What is so taboo about chemical weapons that 70,000 or so Syrian deaths by conventional means hasn’t implicated the need for US involvement?
Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad, who Bret Stephens of the WSJ decreed should be targeted for assassination by our military intervention, observed quite poignantly that the US has not, since Vietnam, successfully achieved its political ends through military means. Assad’s right. And there is no reason to think this time would be different, so Assad most definitely must go.