Is Bombing Syria Necessary to Save "the Future of Civilization"? Or, It's Always 1938 Somewhere.


Earlier today, Matt Welch took the temperature of liberal hawks who desperately want to attack Syria because "this time it's different."

Over on the right, however, it's always the same time: Right after Mussolini invaded Abyssinia and right before the Munich pact was signed. Here's conservative hawk Bret Stephens writing in the Wall Street Journal:

The world can ill-afford a reprise of the 1930s, when the barbarians were given free rein by a West that had lost its will to enforce global order. Yes, a Tomahawk aimed at Assad could miss, just as the missiles aimed at Saddam did. But there's also a chance it could hit and hasten the end of the civil war. And there's both a moral and deterrent value in putting Bashar and Maher on the same list that once contained the names of bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki.

There will be other occasions to consider the narrow question of Syria's future. What's at stake now is the future of civilization, and whether the word still has any meaning.

Read the whole thing here.

I don't doubt Stephens desire to kill Bashar Assad; indeed, the world would not weep a single tear over that tyrant's death, or the demise of his regime. But the cavalier attitude toward war is stunning, isn't it, as is the foam-flecked invocation of "civilization."

Indeed, if the best case for a U.S. war with Syria is that "the future of civilization" is at stake, it's clear that pro-war forces have no argument other than overheated rhetoric. The simple fact is that Syria's civil war (and that's what we're facing here) is not the test case for civilization, Western or otherwise.

Here is a question for hawks on the right and the left: Should American use of force be grounded in a clear and vital U.S. interest rooted in the defense and safety of our citizens or not? If it should, what is the case for bombing or invading Syria?

Such a question is likely moot, alas. As James Joyner at Outside the Beltway notes, John Kerry's speech about "moral obscenity" is as close to a declaration of war as a diplomat can come without uttering the precise words. As that comes to pass, it's worth reading Joyner—a military vet and associate professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College—when he writes about "Limited Strikes, Limited Utility, Unlimited Fallout."

If you thought George W. Bush's foreign policy and defense teams had no idea of what they were doing in Iraq (both by invading and then fucking up the occupation), we are in an even worse situation now.