Why Is This Our Job?

Questions for Obama on Syria:

First, why does this particular heinous act rise to the level of justifying a military response? More specifically, why did a similarly heinous act by the Egyptian army elicit from Washington only the mildest response? Just weeks ago, Egyptian security forces slaughtered hundreds of Egyptians whose “crime” was to protest a military coup that overthrew a legitimately elected president. Why the double standard?

Second, once U.S. military action against Syria begins, when will it end? What is the political objective? Wrapping the Assad regime on the knuckles is unlikely to persuade it to change its ways. That regime is engaged in a fight for survival. So what exactly does the United States intend to achieve and how much is President Obama willing to spend in lives and treasure to get there? War is a risky business. Is the president willing to commit U.S. forces to what could well become another protracted and costly struggle?

I’ve never been a fan of “let them all kill each other, fuck ’em” glibertarian foreign policy, but somebody should also have to explain what exactly AMERICA gets out of this. Best case scenario is we spend a shitload of money bombing with few if any American lives lost. We’ll kill a bunch more Muslims, whose relatives will all be justifiably pissed at us. Assad will fall, or he won’t, and the bombing will continue, or it won’t, and we’ll be safer and better positioned in the world how?

I’m not applauding the idea of chemical weapons attacks with impunity. I’m asking what exactly our obligation here is, especially given how well it’s been going, our kicking wasps’ nests in the world. If we had a long track record of being able to go into someplace and get people to stop their shit, maybe I’d be less likely to worry, but lately? All we seem to do is get stung and fall down hills.

I’m willing to be persauded on this topic, but only by actual arguments, not impassioned statements about how chemical weapons are terrible, because not a person alive including the person firing them at innocent people disagrees with that.


5 thoughts on “Why Is This Our Job?

  1. Sometimes the glibertarians have another perspective, though.
    They’re all gonna keep killin’ one another until there’s none of ’em left anyhow. Why do we need to get in the middle?
    Seriously. The first time I remember hearing about an attack on an Israeli school, with kids killed by rockets, Walter Cronkite was reading the news at 5:30 and I was, I dunno, three or four. JFK had been buried, but we hadn’t had an election yet between LBJ and Goldwater.
    Egypt. Syria. Lebanon. Hez’b’allah. The Sabra and Shatila camps. Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan (yeah, I remember ’em live on TV) before that, and the six days’ war, and the US Marine Barracks in Beirut, and Reagan sending FB-111s to bomb Khadaffy’s camp, and the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned Ayatollah…

  2. No matter whether the rhetoric is high-flown and noble or Kissingeresque realpolitick, no one is answering the question:
    And what good would it do to indiscriminately blow up hundreds or thousands more people? How does that help anyone besides our munitions manufacturers?
    Oh fuck, I think I just answered my own question. 🙁

  3. I don’t understand the particular umbrage regarding the use of “chemical weapons.” I use quotation marks because, you know, high explosives and ammunition propellants are also chemicals.
    The government and the rebels have been indiscriminately bombing and shelling cities; conventional explosives are WAY more deadly than air-dispersed chemical agents. Yet we still have this 1916-era mentality about how poison gas is somehow just so ungentlemanly that it deserves a special level of outrage. That’s bullshit. Artillery barrages and bombs do terrible, terrible things to human bodies. When you’re suffering and/or dying, you don’t give a shit whether hot steel, concussion trauma, napalm burns, or poison gas did the trick.

  4. Hear, hear, Jude. The Syrian government already has killed, by some estimates, upwards of 100,000 civilians with “conventional” weapons, and we haven’t lifted a finger, militarily speaking. So why now, why us, why at all? Understand that in my dream world, Navy Seals would extricate al-Assad for a by-the-numbers trial at The Hague, followed by the obligatory air dance. But, as we are so often reminded, that ain’t the world we live in.

  5. Lex, but if we march Assad et al before the Hague, that would mean that we consider the Hague as an appropriate international body. So we’d have to honor any requests for Bush/Cheney/et al to appear.
    Remember those two teeny-weeny technicalities from the Dubya years: 1) Military and their contractors in Iraq would be immune from prosecution for any laws they should break in Iraq. 2) The Bush USA does not recognize or consider itself under the jurisdiction of the international court.

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