In the “Family Guy” episode, Patriot Games, Stewie, a talking baby with a British accent and homoerotic tendencies lends $50 to his usual sidekick, Brian, a talking dog with a drinking problem and a weakness for intellectually-inclined women who thinks he’s a great writer. When Brian fails to pay, Stewie confronts him as he’s getting out of the shower and goes all goodfella on him, beating him to a pulp with a towel rack rod, and repeatedly dunking his head in the toilet. When Stewie later catches Brian trying to sneak by with a fake mustache after his 5:00 pm deadline for payment has passed, he again pounds him to a bloody pulp, asking him how he could afford a fake mustache but not afford to pay him. The violence eventually subsides, but not until Stewie has kneecapped Brian and beaten him to within a floppy ear of his life. When it is over and all is seemingly forgiven, Stewie tells Brian that he can take one shot to get back at him. The suspense of waiting for Brian’s vengeance drives Stewie crazy, so much so that he takes to beating himself to try to deliver Brian’s revenge for him. Brian does nothing, watching Stewie self-flagellate as severely as he had whipped Brian, until at the end of the episode, he pushes Stewie in front of a passing bus.
Family Guy is an animated situation comedy directed mainly at young males, guys in the fifteen to twenty five year-old demographic. Young males don’t get much of anything in this world. They are so chock full of stupidity inducing testosterone that, outside of violence and ribald humor, they get very few of the subtleties of life. But young males understand that violence is ever and always the ultimate source of power. Young males get that power depends on the capacity to inflict pain and/or induce fear. And they get that the fear of pain often works better than actual pain infliction as an exercise of power, as Stewie discovered when awaiting Brian’s vengeance. The target audience got the humor of the situation because it was caricatured truth, and they knew it.
The US has painted itself in a corner in Syria. The red lines drawn by Obama’s big, fat mouth have, according to him, been breached. The Administration claims that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on its people. Obama didn’t say at the time of his red-lining what he would do if Syria crossed it. Now he’s telegraphed to the world, and most especially, the Syrians, that he intends to lob a few missiles Syria’s way as punishment for their purported use of chemical weapons. In other words, Father Obama has told his unruly children, the Syrians, to go to their rooms and await their spankings for their refusal to abide his wishes. And he’s made clear the spanking won’t be too harsh, just harsh enough that he won’t be mocked behind his back after their imposition.
Obama, having realized what a dreadful mess he made of things with his stupid comment, has now enlisted the support of Congress for his actions. Though he still claims that he needn’t gain Congress’ permission before engaging military action against the Syrian regime, in his magnanimity, he has decided to seek its approval for his proposed action, which he has promised will not involve becoming embroiled in Syria’s civil war, and won’t be directed at regime change, and will not involve American troops on the ground in the country. So the spanking he aims to deliver by dint of a few million dollar missiles hurled at fifty dollar hovels is utterly pointless.
Obama’s only good option is to do what Brian did. He needs to get his unnecessary Congressional authorization and sit on it. And just shut up. Lobbing a few missiles won’t accomplish anything except to show how impotent America is when it comes to imposing its will in the Middle East, as the world already well knows from Iraq and Afghanistan. The missiles will undoubtedly do just as the supposed chemical weapons have done, killing more than a few Syrian noncombatants, and will solidify the world’s perfectly justified view that Americans are lazy and reluctant administrators of empire, not willing to do the grunt work of exercising imperial power, not willing to back up their words with meaningful action.
The Syrian regime does not fear the US. It does not believe that the US has the will to bring Syria to heel. If Obama gets his authorization for military action, and orders some meaningless bomb strikes, their beliefs will have been justified. Far better for Obama to lay low. To walk softly but carry a big stick. If the time comes that the US needs to intervene in Syria to protect its national interests, it is far better that the Syrians be still wondering about our capacity and will to do so, than to prove to them through a few bomb strikes that it presently does not exist.
This whole Syria thing has got history backwards. History is supposed to start as tragedy and end as farce. This began as farce—an American President gets caught running his mouth and finds he needs to save face. It will end in tragedy if America takes some half-assed measures with no objective in mind. Either go full bore, or stay at home. Let the Syrians beat themselves up like Stewie did. And then, if the situation calls for it, push Assad into a bus. The Family Guy demographic gets it, even if the feckless politicians don’t.