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.

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  1. This is what’ll happen if the United States invade Syria:

    1) Lots of Americans and Syrians will die.

    2) Things will either remain shitty, or they’ll get even shittier.

    3) We’ll be held responsible for the ultimate outcome of this conflict, regardless of the magnitude of our actual impact.

    Here’s my judgment:

    Fuck Syria, and fuck intervention. Let them burn themselves and their civilization to ash.

    1. What about the Sudetenland?

      1. What about it?

        1. You gonna let those half-menschen Czechs walk all over the superior race like that?

    2. Who in government is talking about invasion? Everything I’ve heard is about whether we should lob some smart missiles at some military targets. If we do that this is what’ll happen:

      1) Some Syrians will die. Most of them military, but some “civilian”.

      2) The civil war will continue on the ground until it is decided… on the ground.

      3) Eventually Assad will lose and whoever takes his place will quickly forget that the US “helped” at all.

      Fuck Syria, and fuck intervention. Let them burn themselves and their civilization to ash.


      1. I was speculating as to the potential level of involvement we may raise ourselves to should shit go badly. Invasion is always a possibility.

        1. Invasion is always a possibility.

          Yes, I suppose we have ample evidence of that.

          1. Yeah, and that’s what scares me — that we’ll send Americans to bleed and die for another one of our politicians’ worthless crusades.

            1. That IS what they signed up for.

      2. You forgot:

        2a) Obama will have demonstrated that “he means what he says”

        2b) Our “International Standing” will be preserved

        2c) Outside of the next election cycle, no one will give a fuck

        then (3) as you have it.

      3. Syria hasn’t been civilized since the Prophet’s army chased out the Byzantines. Before that, it was reportedly really nice.

    3. 1) Lots of Americans and Syrians will die.

      Americans aren’t going to die. We’re not sending in troops; we’re going to lob in a few cruise missiles and call it done.

      1. I certainly hope you’re right.

        1. I’m with you RPA. The whole “lob some missiles and be done” thing assumes quite a bit.

      2. Yeah, right.

        1. We’ll see shortly – within the week probably.

      3. Probably, but what if that doesn’t work? The Russians are kinda pissed, and might seriously step up military aid to Assad if we get involved.

        1. hopefully bumping up military aid is all they do. Putin could choose to escalate this to be all kinds of serious, if he wants. And he might seriously bet that Obama would shy away from a serious provocation. Putin has gotten the best of Obama enough times now that he might believe in his own invincibility, which is really, really dangerous.

          1. What did Putin do when we hit Libya? Shipped more arms to Syria. There’s a limit to what he can and will do. Obama is limited to non-boots on the ground action because there’s just no way he’s getting the public behind any other type of action.

          2. Wouldn’t that only be dangerous if Obama had the actual balls to do anything about whatever Putin does?

    4. 4) The US will make a brand new enemy. “We have always been at war with Syria.”

  2. I saw something about the target being the Syrian military, not its chemical weapons capability. Which makes the stated justification a little odd to me.

    1. We’re the most powerful nation in the history of the world. Violent, bloody retribution is valid and appropriate — even obligatory — when we’re attacked and suffer directly, but in no other circumstances but those.

      Just leave it totally alone. Pretend Syria doesn’t exist.

      I wish they did that.

      1. What happens if the Syrian government is toppled? More Muslim Brotherhood? The restoration of the Ottoman Empire? A new Russian warm-water port (with a new right of way through several other countries)? What?

        1. My bet’s on Islamists gaining control.

        2. Who knows, ProL, and who cares, a red line has been crossed, you monster!

        3. The restoration of the Ottoman Empire?

          That would make things interesting.

          1. ProL has a secret hankering to be a Janissary.

            1. I, for one, welcome our new castrated overlords.

              1. Jannisaries weren’t eunuchs.

                1. Jannisaries weren’t eunuchs.

                  I recall hearing differently, at least in the early days. Probably just some quasi history from Age of Empires or some shit.

                  1. Initially, they weren’t allowed to marry. They were conscripted from the strongest Christian and Jewish children in the provinces, forcibly converted to Islam, trained brutally and essentially crafted into a fighting force with a fanatical devotion to the Sultan.

                    That was the idea anyway. In practice they turned into yet another praetorian guard. They did to the Ottoman Empire what the Pubsec unions are doing to California.

            2. No, it’s all part of my master plan to restore the Roman Empire.

          2. To be fair to the Turks, the last time the middle east was more or less peaceful was when they were under the Ottoman yoke. Kind of sucked to be Armenian, though.


    2. The chemical weapons were just a tool. In the event of a murder you go after the killer, not the weapon.

      Of course, in murder there are no “red lines” to be crossed. Murder is murder whether it is done with a noose, a gun, a chemical or a nuke.

      In the end this isn’t about who killed whom or how or even why. It’s about asserting authority and using power.

      1. I understand that from a purely military perspective, but that’s assuming we have some other reason to get involved.

        1. Didn’t you hear that we are the world’s police and have a responsibility to stop all injustice, everywhere, at every time no matter what?

          Someone get Warty’s timesuit refitted for John Kerry and John McCain. (I’m assuming they could both fit in it at the same time…)

          1. Would they be getting into it back-to-back, or back-to-front?

            1. Front to front.

              1. Good. That way there’s no penetration so it’s not gay.

                1. We did the “docking” thread over the weekend.

                  1. We did the “docking” thread over the weekend.

                    Why didn’t anyone call me?

        2. We do. This is about politicians demonstrating that they are Important People who must be taken Seriously.

          Next to that, the measly concerns of the participants in the conflict or of any innocent bystanders are a fart in the wind. They were toast the minute the red line was drawn.

  3. I still see no cause to get involved, we don’t need a land border with Isreal.

  4. Or, It’s Always 1938 Somewhere.

    Unless you’re Nick Gilllespie. In which case it’s always Selma 1964 somewhere.

    1. COZMOESS!!!!!

  5. How else is Obama going to accomplish his goal of having the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda take over every country in the Middle East during his term if he doesn’t decapitate their enemies as quickly as possible?

  6. I’m confused about the pictures and alt-text. Are we saying that the proper solution is to send in John Kerry to kill Assad? Because I’d support that option, as long as he wore a helmet cam.

    1. It would be an amusing video, the potentially very short, since I think Assad’s bodyguards can take him.

      1. There wouldn’t be much action. He’d run in the opposite direction as soon as his helicopter dropped him off, and one of our allies would pick him up somewhere in Israel.

        1. +3 Purple Hearts

        2. Does Syria have a big river? He could take a gun boat up it. With his hat.
          And “Terminate with extreme prejudice.”

          1. Every minute Ahmed squats in the desert he gets stronger…

  7. Gotta nuke somethin’.

  8. Maybe we should just give a couple of billion dollars to the pope and let him start another crusade.

    1. Popetein might have been down with that, but Pope Frank seems like a decent enough guy for a pontifex.

      1. They say he’s randomly calling parishioners now. Just to chat, not crank calling like the last guy.

        1. I’m still trying to figure out how the process came up with what is still sounding like a decent guy for the job.

          1. None of the factions could get their guy in so they settled on what they all felt would be a naive candidate who would leave the admin stuff to the Curia. Oops.

  9. A Syrian intervention is an extension of the Iran/U.S. proxy war and should be viewed within that context. Is it in our national self-interest to involve ourselves in the Syrian aspect of the larger conflict? Is it really necessary to contain Iran and Hezzbollah, if that’s our larger goal? Would it be better to use surrogates like the Saudis?

    My guess is Obama will send in some cruise missiles with no boots on the ground and claim victory.

    1. The Clinton doctrine.

      What will the govt say the missiles will be aimed at?

      What will the govt believe the missiles are aimed at?

      What will the missiles actually be aimed at?

      What (and who) will the missiles actually hit?

      What will Putin do in response?

    2. Mission Accomplished?

  10. 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.

    go on …

  11. Too bad Leslie Nielsen is dead, he knew how to take out dictators in the Middle East.

    1. Or LLyod Bridges:

      “We’ll settle this the old Navy way. First guy to die, loses!”

      1. Looked like he picked the wrong week to quit sniffin glue!

  12. We have absolutely no national interests in this war… and that’s what makes it so perfect! Wars with no national interest are just what the proggies love, and they can always count on just enough support from the perennial hawks to make it a glorious bipartisan affair.

  13. Hitler was taller then Mussolini?

    Never would have guessed.

  14. The bipartisan warboners are almost to tumescence. I saw Fox News at the dentist and they were running down the specs on a Tomahawk cruise missile and showing cut-aways and flight videos along with dead kids from the supposed chemical attacks. War porn. Spill a little American blood and the jacking can commence in earnest.

  15. You know who else lobbed a few cruise missiles to distract from affairs at home?

  16. Y’know, if we based our foreign policy on solid ground instead of airy persiflage, life would be SOOOOO much simpler. Say we had a policy of letting foreign governments the hell alone UNLESS they attacked their neighbors, attacked us, or harmed American citizens. And say we went with what everybody knew was fact instead of what the United Nations was willing to admit to in public. We would have landed on Syria like an avalanche way back when they started screwing around with Lebanon, and then left. Maybe we’d have to do it two or three times before the lesson got home. The key, of course would be to not pretend that it was about “justice”, not worry about “nation building”, and accept that most of the third world swine who hate us are going to hate us no matter what.

    1. Say we had a policy of letting foreign governments the hell alone UNLESS they attacked their neighbors, attacked us, or harmed American citizens.


      1. No. Not fixed. It is MUCH easier to persuade a conquest-happy nitwit the FIRST time he attacks a neighbor than it is to wait until he has grabbed a bunch of land and conscripts.

        Lebanon was once a moderately forward-looking society. If we had intervened when its less tolerant Arab neighbors decided to back various fanatic factions, we could have saved ourselves EVER so much trouble.

    2. “Third-world swine” would hate us much less if we quit giving their mullahs/ tribal warlords/ thuggish Communist regimes juicy targets to extirpate their own colossal failings.

      Hahvahd professor and Hoover institute fellow Barry Weingast argues compellingly that first world policing of third world politics effectively insulates the latter from the existential threats necessary for coalescing a governing majority and with it, the institutional trappings of first-world prosperity. I think something can be said for letting the buggers sort it out among themselves rather than quagmiring them and us in, as Weingast puts it, the “violence trap.” Our prerogative for conducting war should be restrained to our own shores.

  17. Is Bombing Syria Necessary to Save “the Future of Civilization”? Or, It’s Always 1938 Somewhere.

    Uh….. no?

  18. Over on the right, however, it’s always the same time: Right after Mussolini invaded Abyssinia

    I can almost hear McCain now, singing ‘Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb bomb Assyria! Bomb, bomb, bomb. Bomb bomb Assyria! Right back to the bronze age!’

    1. “The problem with some of these places is that we go in and bomb them back to the stone age, the locals look around and shout ‘UPGRADE!'” – Some comedian (I forget who)

  19. Speaking of war, any developments on the beer front (directed to the usual suspects)? I got nothing new going and would like to live vicariously.

    1. Nephew brought a six pack of Sierra Nevada Tumbler home with him last night. Nothing revolutionary but it was tasty and ridiculously smooth for a brown ale. The toasted malts did not overwhelm. Nice balance, easily a session beer choice.

      1. I have not tried Tumbler but will pick up a sixer after reading your description. I’ve never made a brown ale and Abita’s Turbo Dog is the only one that comes to mind in that category.

    2. My last pilsner of the season is almost tapped out. Made a hefe, but have been afraid to try it. It smelled like ass going into the keg.

      1. When a batch goes to ass for me, I just distill it down to a white liquor, so it at least wont poison me.

        1. K, Tickle.

          1. I’ve been practicing this week on a set of pony kegs I made last year, that were way too ambitious for the level of brewing competence I had at the time. I’ve learned to try my hand at cloning simpler brews to get better at it. But back to distilling, I have ten gallons of grape juice being fermented into spiced wine (nutmeg, cloves) on my hands. I’ll keep a few bottled, but most of it is going to be distilled into brandy.

            1. Those are some laws I’ve never chosen to break. Mainly a mater of logistics. Building the still that is. I’m not much of a plumber. That and I have no place I could use it without getting unwanted attention. Some day…

              1. Oh, its not illegal here. I forget that it is elsewhere.

                1. Oh, its not illegal here.

                  I live in the freest country in the world. Where do you live?

                  1. North Carolina, state law allows for up to ten gallons of distillation a year for non commercial production.

                    1. North Carolina, state law allows for up to ten gallons of distillation a year for non commercial production

                      Dude, I don’t know who told you that, but they were blowing smoke up your ass.

                      Legal production of any amount of liquor, regardless of if it’s commercial of for personal use, requires federal paperwork. Google it.

                      Be discrete. That’s all I can say.

            2. I’ve got five gallons of blackberry wine waiting to be bottled that would make a killer brandy.

              1. Love black berry wine. These grapes I have on brew remind of black berry, quite tart.

            3. That is awesome. Do you have a coil running between the kegs? I’m wholly unpracticed in distilling. Someday…

              1. I have a tube set up from a pressure cooker through a ice packed plastic tumbler and several inches out of the tumbler spigot hole. It works better than I could have hoped for.

                1. So it’s homemade. That’s good. Because if you purchase a still the seller is required by law to tell the feds who their customers are, without a warrant. Even if the still is for water or essential oils, they’ve got to tell the feds. Then the feds can, again without a warrant, knock on your door and demand to see how you’re using the thing.

      2. Banana clove ass? Because you may have invented a new hefe yeast.

        Speaking of ass beers, Evolution’s Lot 3 was terrible. Hop aroma was shot. The bottle date on the side was June 2013 too. At least the online cust svc rep said it was the bottle date and not the best-by date.

        1. I used Lallemand Danstar Munich Hefeweizen yeast. It’s a dry pack, not a liquid. It smelled really bad. I’ll probably tap it this weekend. Hope I don’t have to dump it.

  20. 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?

    Hahahahahaha! Are you serious?

    I’m pretty sure the American use of force is thoroughly grounded in three things: First is oil, second is the profit of the Military-Industrial Complex, and third is AIPAC (not necessarily in that order).

    The one thing it has nothing to do with is the defense and safety of our citizens. It’s not about defense because we are not being attacked and our citizens aren’t very safe when we send them into middle eastern countries just to come back in body bags.

    The discussion in the media about whether to attack yet another middle eastern country is purely for public consumption and has absolutely nothing to do with the actual reasons for said attack. We won’t know the real story behind this for decades, if ever.

    We little people repeat this same scenario every stinkin’ time we get into a war because we seem to have an intense fascination with repeatedly smacking ourselves in the nuts as hard as we can with a hammer. And then we go out and reelect the same idiots so, in effect, we are “getting what we deserve, good and hard”.

    1. Conspiracy theories are really tiresome.

      1. You’re right. Much better to be naive.

      2. …but not as tiresome as people who wish to shut down discussion of things they find inconvenient by labelling the people who wish to have those discussions as conspiracy theorists.

        1. I think they’re both equally tiresome.

    2. There is a much simpler explanation: People seek power to wield it.

    3. What oil? Syria here, not the Gulf.

      1. I listed three things. Not every situation involves all three things.

        But, Syria is an oil exporter and the threat of war is already impacting the price of oil.

  21. No More Police Actions — Imperialism or Stay Home.

  22. No More Police Actions — Imperialism or Stay Home.

    1. That tells me it’s time to invade Mexico.

      1. I have made that comment many times. America should cover everything from the North Pole down to the South Pole.

    2. Agreed. If we’re not keeping it when we’re done, fuck going.

      We need new wage slaves to prop up Obamacare, anyway, right?

      1. Don’t forget the part where American settlers overwhelmingly outnumber the indigenous population.

      2. We don’t need imperialism. Obamacare is going to be so wonderful that it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world will be begging us to annex them.

  23. If Obama really intended for his red line to deter Assad, he would have directed the statement to him and him alone, instead of making it into a public show. The moment the U.S publicly committed itself to act if chemical weapons were used, chemical weapons became an inevitability. It wasn’t a red line. It was an advertisement telling the parties involved what they had to do to give the U.S. the excuse it needed to step in.

    1. I think I know where you’re going with this. JOOOOOOOOOOOS, amirite?

      1. I would not be surprised – even a little – if we discover at some later date that the chemical attack was launched by one of the rebel groups precisely to justify western intervention.

        I don’t see why Israel would care one way or the other. Because there is one thing I can absolutely, positively guarantee you about the Syrian civil war – no matter who wins it, the government ruling Syria will hate Israel.

        1. There was no “chemical attack”. Certainly not one with military grade chemical weapons or anything close to them at least. That stupid video is as dishonest as that Curveball dickhead was.

      2. No. Israelis. There’s a difference.

        But, to answer your question, I was thinking more about the rebels wanting the U.S. to intervene on their side, but Israel will always be happy to see the U.S. bombing other middle eastern countries. Their position is always strengthened when surrounding countries are weakened.

        Of course, I am speculating as are most people here, because we really know very little of what is going on behind the scenes. I can only say one thing for certain: governments lie and most of what’s being reported is simply what the various governments would like us to think.

        1. Speaking of Israel…

          From The Guardian:

          The bulk of evidence proving the Assad regime’s deployment of chemical weapons ? which would provide legal grounds essential to justify any western military action ? has been provided by Israeli military intelligence, the German magazine Focus has reported.

  24. But the cavalier attitude toward war is stunning, isn’t it, as is the foam-flecked invocation of “civilization.”

    It’s not like they or their friends will be going to fight.

  25. Is it just me or does John Kerry have a lazy eye?

    1. I’d be shocked if that busybody has a lazy anything.

      1. Besides the flaccid, impotent libido for which his raging warboner is ephemeral compensation.

  26. 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.

    Bill Maher? Hmmm, now that’s an idea I can get behind.

  27. Syria is a tar-baby, and if there is one thing my politically incorrect childhood fables taught me, it is that you do not start fights with tar babies.

    Secondly, this is the most sorry excuse for war-mongering I have seen in a while. Bush, to his very limtied credit, at least united the old Clausewitzian trinity of people-state-military for Afghanistan and Iraq. Here, the government is uncertain, the military has advocated against getting involved, and the portion of the populace not too busy discussing Molly Cyrus’ posterior is wholeheartedly against intervention. That does not bode well.

    1. Syria is a tar-baby


    2. I’ve started using the term “sticky trap” to head off accusations of racism that often accompany the use of that other term.

      The whole middle east is basically a sticky trap. Nothing good comes of poking it.

      1. I’m assuming MM isn’t being serious about that.

  28. Are you Syria-ous? Kerry is emitting a lot of gas himself, lol

  29. 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.

    Well, it shouldn’t, but I suspect it would, at least parts of it.

    I recall all the complaints from the worst fringe of the Progressive Left when Hussein was executed, about how “Iraq was secular and had women’s rights before!” … but hey, the President is a Democrat now so maybe they won’t go there for Assad?

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