The Government of Syria turned nerve gas loose on it’s own citizens. The death toll is supposed to be 2000 or so. Nerve gas has been banned by the international laws of war for 100 years because it is cruel and inhumane.
Bombs, bullets, flamethrowers, and nukes are fine, by the way.
And before someone emphasizes the horrific manner of death by nerve gas, permit me to remind them that some not-uncommon pulmonary medical conditions lead to deaths which are more than comparable and much more drawn out.
The President wants to attack Syria. The matter is currently before Congress.
Since allegiances in the Middle East are shifting sands as much as any desert there, it’s hard to figure out who would benefit from the attack and who would suffer (other than the people standing under the bombs.)
The Administration makes two very broad claims. First, using nerve gas is so bad and such an affront to humanity, this constitutes ample justification for military action. Second, attacking Syria would promote some sort of American interests, including demonstrating that the United States won’t back down from a fight.
We can understand the first point fairly well. Gas was used in the First World War, and was perceived by front-line soldiers as particularly gruesome. Gas (particularly pulmonary agents such as chlorine) also caused grievous permanent disability to those it did not kill outright.
On the other hand, the international laws of war don’t say anything about certain equivalents to these “weapons of mass destruction.” Military inventories are chock full of fuel-air explosives, cluster bombs and nuclear warheads. Not to mention lots of bullets. Efficiently employed, these can cause death on a scale that would make the Syrians green with envy. So the difference escapes me.
How bombing Syria promotes American interests is a political question. There are some religious overtones centered on the continued health of the State of Israel. Some Christians believe that prophecy requires that the State of Israel be hale and hearty when Jesus Christ returns in glory. The justification there escapes me, too. Saying that we can thwart the the plans of Almighty God by a silly little war seems a bit of a stretch and maybe even a touch blasphemous.
My friends who just chortled about me condemning blasphemy need to stifle their mirth.
The best argument that bombing Syria is in the interests of the United States is that if we don’t follow through on our moral outrage over the gas attacks in Syria, then we’re a paper tiger and a bunch of pansies. We will show weakness and lack of resolve and everybody knows that if the United States shows lack of resolve, the Bad Nations will not fear us as much. That would disrupt the Pax Americana. I’ll leave it for another day to discuss if America has been awfully successful in the “Pax” thing in the last 50 years.
If we do assume that maintaining American power and influence requires that United States forces intervene in foreign atrocities, then we must conclude that the United States hasn’t done a real good job of that.
The ongoing war in Darfur, Sudan, has seen 200,000 deaths, but the Red, White & Blue is conspicuously absent. In addition to rape and pillage, starvation is used as a weapon of war there, which seems fairly inhumane to me. When the bombers fly to Damascus, are we going to let a few make a detour to kick some Sudanese ass?
In the first seven years of this millennium, fighting in the Congo killed 60,000 people. Why did we miss that?
30,000 died in the 2011 Libyan revolt.
In 100 days in 1994, 800,000 people in Rwanda were killed, mostly by being beaten, hacked to death or raped brutally. The U.S. gave the wrongdoers a really stern talking-to.
Heck, the Associated Press says that since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, there have been 93,000 killings there. Why are we giving that first 93,000 a pass? Did they die happy or commit suicide?
There are some reasons to support the Syrian intervention. After all, it’s the military people who get the shit end of the stick and who are taking all the chances. Since you and I personally won’t be at risk, sounding all John Wayne-ish has a certain panache, don’t you think?
And it will only be pilots at risk. The Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense promise “no boots on the ground,” no introduction of American troops into Syria. And that promise/prediction has worked so well in the past. OK, with exceptions, but somebody had to try to do in Afghanistan what the British and the Russians failed to do. And Vietnam? Nah, that’s too easy.
But in this time of budget shortfalls, I think we can get the best bang for the buck by attacking somebody other than Syria. Let’s face it, if we need to kick ass to keep the peace, does it really matter whose ass? And in picking another target, we can better protect American interests.
I think we will agree that preventing the smuggling and distribution of dangerous drugs, together with all of the brutality that goes with the drug trade, is strongly in the American national interest.
We have so many bombs ready to go and so many aircraft gassed up, we might as well aim them at those directly causing harm right here within the borders of the United States. There are several good candidates, but the country that stands head-and-shoulders above the others as offensive to American National Interests is our target:
[I’m greatly disappointed with the state of education in America and with the quality of political discourse. There will be somebody reading this who is dumb enough to take the “bomb Mexico” suggestion seriously. For those, I’d say go read Dilbert or something, but I doubt if they’d understand that, either. For the record, this poor scribe is using a bit of irony with a touch of reductio ad absurdum to make his own political point.]
The Mexican Government is nowhere near as corrupt as is commonly believed. On the other hand, the Mexican drug cartels are every bit as violent and brutal as depicted. The butcher’s bill for the drug wars in Mexico for the last five years is 47,500. The cartels kill victims in inventive ways and leave decapitated bodies scattered around.
There are identifiable drug cartel strongholds in Mexico. They are a lot closer to American vengeance than Syria is from carriers in the Mediterranean or Red Sea. Moreover, even “boots on the ground” wouldn’t be nearly as risky, since Northern Mexico is so close to Texas. Every flapping gum in the Great Marble Whorehouse on Capital Hill says that the border is very porous. It has to be porous both ways.
So, in sum, if we are going to violate someone’s sovereignty, shouldn’t we get some direct benefits out of the deal?
But we don’t.
We (taxpayers) subsidize unevenly and unilaterally enforcing international morality. And we aren’t very good at it. And the American citizens most harmed are the military people who have to implement presidential and congressional directives. This is not “waving the bloody shirt.” If you have ever been up close and personal with overwhelming traumatic injuries, you might think twice before taking a political action that will guarantee that we see more of them.
Targeting Mexico rather than Syria is so obvious that I wonder why it’s not on the table.
Oh, you know me, I do have a hypothesis. It’s impossible to prove objectively because we cannot “measure” motivation and intent.
If we take the “Big Stick” and go to thumping Syria, the Americans personally endangered are the military people and, hey, they signed up for it. It’s not like Syria can invade the United States. So by just spending money, you and I can be all courageous and self-righteous - and SAFE - by urging attacks on Syria.
On the other hand, Mexico is close to home. If we start dropping cluster bombs on deserving criminals, their survivors will take a fierce revenge. All gloves will come off, and the terror will be brought into the United States. It’s fine to be courageous, but not if it’s going to hurt us.
Bravery is OK, but let's not get all dangerous about it.