President Obama has managed to divide the Republican Party beyond his wildest dreams although he may not have done it on purpose. The topic is the announced intervention in Syria.
The libertarian branch of the Republican Party is now comprised to a surprising degree of closet pacifists. Many others hold to a heartless, amoral position to the effect that short of a direct attack on the US proper, this country should take no military action anywhere, anytime. They are, for practical purposes, the Pearl Harbor party. The idea does not strike them as objectionable that the US had allowed its armed forces to be on par with Romania’s by the time Pearl Harbor happened. Reminder: That was years after Hitler had conquered most of Europe and Japan much of Asia.
I think about both Rep. groups that the depth of their convictions does not compensate for the absurdity of their position in the real world, our real world.
Personally, I think on Syria about the same as Samantha Power, Obama’s new Ambassador to the UN who said recently, “The alternative [to military intervention -JD] is to give the green light to outrages that will threaten our security and haunt our conscience – outrages that will eventually compel us to use force anyway down the line at far greater risk and cost to our citizens.” (Reported in WSJ 9/7-8 13)
Of course, there are many Republicans who support a serious but limited military intervention in Syria on combined grounds. First, the basic morality of this country requires it. In World War Two, we could have stopped the genocide of the Jews or slowed it to a crawl. We did not because there was a strong but vague reluctance to “get involved.” Later, we let thousands of people in Bosnia be massacred without lifting a finger. We stood by the massacre in Rwanda when a handful of slow warplanes would have made all the difference. (Yes, I think that saving a few hundreds of thousands would have mattered although other hundreds of thousands would still have been slaughtered with bricks and cane knives.)
There is also a sort of fatalism on the right that responds well to the knee-jerk pre-teen horror of (only American) violence on the left. There is a widespread belief that the US is temperamentally unable to conduct a limited war act without bungling it or making the situation worse it was supposed to remedy. (Truth in advertising: I think that the US intervention in Iraq and the botched occupation of that country was morally more acceptable than the alternative of continued Saddamite obscenity of mass gassings and mass graves.)
Yet the Kosovo intervention, under the Clinton administration, was only fourteen years ago. Somehow, it’s forgotten.
There was no American interest, vital or otherwise at stake in or near Kosovo.
US had no UN approval, because of Russian obstructionism (surprise!). Russia was also supplying arms on the ground to the Yugoslavs.
It was done within a NATO framework. NATO is supposed to be a purely defensive international organization. No member country had been attacked or harmed or threatened by Yugoslavia, the country against which the intervention took place. The NATO legal legitimacy was thus non-existent. (It just felt good to have the Germans on our side.)
There were no US troops on the ground. The bombing from the air lasted fifteen months.
It probably caused about 2,000 victims, the same number as a bad week in Syria today.
A year after the air campaign cease, the Yugoslavs themselves got rid o their tyrant Milosevich who had tried to expel hundreds of thousands of ethnics in the winter.
I don’t quite know how many Americans died in this intervention, possibly not one.
Note: The New York Times had a piece a couple of days ago to the effect that “Syria is not Kosovo.” Of course not, one air bubble in the brook is not the same as the one next to it. The NWT maintains a reputation for profundity by discoursing on the unlikeliness of similar objects. Poofs!
And by the way, a French military intervention in Mali just ended with a legitimate, contested and fair election. Didn’t get on our radar screen either.
The fact that Republicans openly mistrust President Obama does not help the cause for intervention. By and large, they don’t think he is capable to do anything right. After all, he was not even able to satisfy his most ardent voters. Take Guantanamo, for one. By the way, African-American unemployment grew disproportionately under this first “black president.” After all, he is a personally incompetent would-be implementer of an incompetent ideological plan, a plan that has failed wherever it has been tried, in any one of its avatars (broadly defined”statism”).
It does not help President Obama’s credibility that he does not know English very well, even for a foreign student: “A shot across the bow” is a mere warning to stop what you are doing, to change course. It’s not supposed to inflict any damage at all; it’s intended to not sink the ship. No wonder most of his voters are confused.
Of course, I don’t think the approval of a cannibal-ridden UN assembly of presidents-for-life or the gangster-dominated Security Council constitute a source of moral legitimacy for any American-dominated military action (or for any American action, in fact). There is already an international convention forbidding the use of chemical weapons anyway. The US does not need more of a legal fig leaf to do the obvious.
There is the worry that undermining or removing Assad would give victory to our Al Quaida enemies. I suspect this an overwrought worry. And a part of me wonders whey our military couldn’t kill two birds with one stone. Anyone who claims to be connected to Al Qaida is ipso facto our enemy. I don’t know why we can’t have a plane for them too. One plane, two planes, ten planes, twenty planes; hang for a lamb, hang for a sheep! If Obama did anything like this, anything so rational and so ballsy, I would begin to feel admiration for him, at last.
In the meantime, right is right, Obama or not. The Russians are watching, the Iranians are watching. Our false Arab friends in the Middle East are watching too. Even the savage, deadly North Korean buffoons are watching. I don’t know any Syrians at the moment but I would bet that many Syrian parents are hoping the US will stop Assad from gassing their kids. Instinctively, they know that no one else will do it.
Worst case scenario: One orthodox libertarian is on record on this blog offering a bet that Assad and/or his military is innocent of using chemical weapons on fellow Syrians. So, what if it turns out that we have every pacifist’s wet dream: a repeat on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction fiasco of bad intelligence? I say: small deal; Assad is responsible for a hundred thousand dead and millions of refugees, all the old fashioned way, with bombing and the occasional napalming of civilians.
The dictator of Yugoslavia had done less to earn our tangible curse.
PS Yes, it feels a little strange to be lined up with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Reid, and that old (French ) fake John Kerry. It’s not worse though than being allied with Stalin against Hitler.