Obama Fails to Make the Case for War in Syria

The U.S. should only go to war when we are attacked.

Some things you just (SET ITAL) have (END ITAL) to do, in spite of great uncertainty.

Launching missiles at Syria isn't one of them.

Many pundits talk about going to war as if all we have to do is make up our minds about what "ought" to happen -- who the bad guys are -- and the rest is just details. If we decide we must punish a tyrant, let the military worry about how to get it done.

We ought to worry more about details.

Everyone agrees there are huge "known unknowns" in Syria -- we barely know the composition of the rebel movement we're supposed to aid -- but we should be more concerned about "unknown unknowns," to borrow former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's phrase.

Remember the confidence with which he and other Bush administration officials described their plans to remake Iraq? Dick Cheney said, "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." The Wall Street Journal beat the drums for war for a year. I read that Iraq was full of repressed democratic activists just waiting for Saddam to be overthrown.

Pundits also argued that once the authoritarian ruler was gone, Iraq would blossom into a showcase of peace and democracy that would inspire transformation throughout the region. I wanted to believe it. Once they had a choice, why wouldn't they pursue our way of life? It's clearly better!

Instead, we've spent more than a decade fighting feuding factions that most Americans have never heard of -- and still can't name.

When pro-war pundits did admit to uncertainty about what would happen in Iraq, it was often to stoke fear about what would happen if we (SET ITAL) didn't (END ITAL) intervene. Saddam might use chemical weapons! Saddam might get nukes! Well, maybe.

I'm glad Saddam is gone, and Iraqis are better off. But the masses yearning to breathe free turned out to include more troublemakers than we expected.

I don't trust John Kerry, but I'll accept his claim that Syria's leaders probably used chemical weapons to kill 1,400 people. Horrible.

But are we going to enforce a "red line" to tell dictators that if they murder their people, they better use conventional weapons?

Even if that's the goal, our options are limited. Maybe we'll:

--Lob a few cruise missiles, like Bill Clinton did in Sudan.

--Hit Assad's compound, killing hundreds of innocents, without killing Assad.

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  • anon||

    I don't trust John Kerry, but I'll accept his claim that Syria's leaders probably used chemical weapons to kill 1,400 people. Horrible.

    Oh yeah, way more horrible than the 94000 hacked/shot/burned/eaten/whatever by other means.

  • anon||

    Given what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, there are worse things than leaving murderous Russian-backed governments in place.

    Honestly, as long as they aren't murdering US Citizens (something our own president is guilty of), I don't think there's anything worse than involving ourselves with said Russian backed governments in any way whatsoever.

  • Irish||

    Noah Berlatsky writing at the Atlantic writes one of the dumbest fucking articles that I have ever read. Basically, if you're a conservative or libertarian and are opposed to violent military intervention, it's because you're a neoconfederate racist.

    Given this history, the libertarian, anti-government thread of conservative isolationism starts to look more than a little repulsive. The liberal, federalist interventionists, like Wilson and FDR and LBJ, want to intervene on behalf of various non-white folks. The anti-interventionists (like, say, John Calhoun or Charles Lindbergh or David Duke) don't want to, because intervening on behalf of non-white folks is dangerous federal overreach.

    Wilson was a crazed racist who loved Birth of a Nation and segregated the Civil Service, FDR didn't want to 'intervene on behalf of non-whites,' we were just attacked, and I'll be damned if I can figure out how LBJ bumbling into Vietnam was meant to help non-whites.

    I couldn't figure out where I'd seen Noah Berlatsky's name before, so I googled him and found this article that he recently wrote for Reason. Honestly, where does Reason find some of these people?

  • anon||

    Basically, if you're a conservative or libertarian and are opposed to violent military intervention, it's because you're a neoconfederate racist.

    The funniest thing is that even if I were a neoconfederate racist, it'd have absolutely no impact on the validity of the arguments for not bombing the shit out of some assholes halfway across the world that nobody gives a fuck about.

  • Irish||

    Oh my God, this quote is even worse. He acknowledges that there have been instances of racist interventionists too, and follows it up by saying:

    So I'm left with two bad choices. I can advocate for the ugly tradition of American anti-imperialism. Or I can advocate for the ugly tradition of American intervention. On the one hand, insular nativism; on the other hand, racially tinged imperialism. And, on both hands, lots of blood.

    Why do progs see everything as somehow a part of a 'larger narrative?' If you're in favor of or opposed to Syrian intervention for reasons totally unrelated to racism, then you are neither a part of America's interventionist racial narrative or America's non-interventionist racial narrative. That's because there is no such narrative, just people who made choices at some point in time and only seem to form a narrative in retrospect.

  • Doctor Whom||

    To the progs, everything is racially tinged. If all you have is a hammer....

  • Jake W||

    To the progs, everything is a narrative. I didn't even start hearing this word until we elected The Decider.

  • Calidissident||

    When did Wilson intervene on behalf of non-whites? Our intervention in WWI was to help the French and the British. Is he talking about the expedition into Mexico to look for Pancho Villa? I would hardly call them intervening on their behalf. Our intervention into WWII was because we were attacked, FDR didn't intervene because he wanted to help the Chinese or Southeast Asians. And there was a lot more pressure prior to Dec 7th to intervene in Europe than Asia. And he's seriously praising LBJ's war in Vietnam as a shining example of virtuous intervention to help non-whites?

    And does this idiot even know what Syrians look like? A lot of them look pretty similar to Bashar Assad, and I wouldn't call him brown

  • Brett L||

    Wilson did resegregate the Army to pretty effectively keep blacks out of fighting untis in WWI.

  • John C. Randolph||

    So, he saved black men from wasting their lives in a war that was none of their business! That's more than Obama's done.

    -jcr

  • Brett L||

    Re-reading it, Its just a mismash of historical facts. He later goes on to admit that Wilson was a vile racist who tried to impose a surveillance state. I'm not sure what his point is. Its like the SWPL case for it being okay to disagree with our black President.

  • Loki||

    Holy shit. This motherfucker is so stupid I'm genuinely surprised that he has enough brain cells rattling around in his skull to remember to breathe. And I kind of wish he didn't.

  • Goldwin Smith||

    Honestly, where does Reason find some of these people?

    Cocktail parties?

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Wilson

    The man who segregated the previously desegregated federal government, refused to let black people into Princeton, and informed a young Ho Chi Minh to expect no help from the US in Vietnam's struggle for freedom from France because freedom is only for white people?

    FDR


    The man who caged thousands of Japanese-Americans for the crime of Japanese ancestry. And refused to invite Jesse Owens to the White House, though he did invite all of the white members of the US Olympic team.

    LBJ

    "I'll have those n*ggers voting Democratic for the next 200 years."
    -Lyndon Baines Johnson

    What a collection of tolerant, rational men we should look up to.

  • Goldwin Smith||

    What a collection of tolerant, rational men we should look up to.

    They also didn't lie us into war.

  • Number 2||

    John Calhoun a non-interventionist? What is this idiot talking about?

  • Tman||

    My wild card in this whole mess is the IDF. Unlike President Not My Fault, they will attack wherever they want if they think chemical weapons are moving towards Lebanon or the Golan Heights via Hezbollah.

    I get the feeling they were waiting to see if the Nobel Prize Winner would be serious about disarming Assad, but now that they know he's not they will respond accordingly. Hezbollah would be launching chemical weapons at Israel yesterday if they could get a hold of them.

  • UnCivilServant||

    I say we need to invade France and restore our old allies - the Bourbon Monarchy. They helped us out in our time of need and we left them to languish in the shadow of the guillotine.

  • Anomalous||

    They probably have still learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

  • OldMexican||

    Defense should mean defense. Unless we are attacked, we shouldn't go to war.


    Isolationist!

    Oh, and racist!

  • bassjoe||

    Renaming the Department of War was one of the greatest bits of Orwellian tricks ever applied to the US Government. Though I guess Social Security is also up there.

  • bassjoe||

    But if we go to war only when attacked, how are we supposed to buy tanks and whatnot from our defense contractors?

  • Libertarius||

    It is not the fault (or the conspiracy) of defense contractors that they are paid by the government. Blaming businessmen for the disasters of statism is an attempt to reverse the law of causality, and to evade the source of the disasters (hence the leftoids' rabid insistence that it's all the Koch brothers' fault).

  • James Anderson Merritt||

    The leftoids are addicted to blaming the Koch brothers; it energizes them. In other words, they are completely high on Koch.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Too bad, at least for now for the "violence and aggression by the USA solves everything" crowd Obama, Rice, Powers, Clinton, McCain, Graham, Kerry, Pelosi, King, Feinstein, Reid, etc etc. They will have to put the war boners back in their trousers, at least for now.

    Tomorrow will present new opportunities for the War Bitches.

  • josh||

    more and more i'm seeing establishment types describing opposition to the war as being based on war fatigue, lack of faith in obama, politics, or whatever. a sizeable portion was, and is based on there being no there, there. that's getting lost, and that's vitally important for future conflicts too.

  • Web Design Quote||

    there is no reason to make a war in syria. God bless them!

  • Web Design Quote||

    There is no one can stop the War that going to be more serious in Syria. God bless them!

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