On the anniversary of the terrorist attack against out democratic society by religious fanatics, the American political class liquified. It did so, led by our president, by using the slightest pretext to avoid the difficult matter of punishing a fascist dictator for massacring civilians with forbidden weapons. It’s bad for our collective soul. It will prove to be bad for our own security in the not-long run.
Most members of our political class appear to want to accomplish two things. First, they wish to forget that even if Assad delivered 100% of his chemical weapons, such delivery does not constitute the punishment promised and deserved. Let bygones be bygones, they say – 1,400 murdered by chemical weapons on one day; 100,000 by other means elsewhere, and who is counting?
And, in the immortal words of the former Secretary of State on another topic, “What difference does it make?”
Second they want to pretend that they don’t know what goes on in the yard of every tough school in the world. Bullies will try to pull off worse and worse brutalities until they become intimidated. The unopposed brutalities of one bully encourage others to go further. Some who had the potential but never acted on it will be encouraged by the impunity of others to become bullies themselves. The world is such a tough schoolyard, with bullies and potential bullies everywhere. Only, our schoolyard bullies don’t steal milk money, they massacre women and children from the air.
Many opponents of a military intervention in Syria (IN Syria) just pretend to be legalists. The legalists among opponents of a strike on Assad habitually demand international law promulgated by morally repulsive organizations such as the United Nations. This is just fig leaf however for their mindless, irresponsible pacifism. The fact is, they refuse to lift a finger when an existing international agreement – which should have force of law according to their own beliefs – is violated. Laws are behavior norms implemented by force. Anything less is a wish or a prayer to God; it’s not a law.
Our political class, apparently led by a president happy to escape the consequences of his own lack of foresight, pretends to believe that Assad is not a liar and that President Putin of Russia will tell the truth, just this time, for once. Yet, there is not one among them who would trust Putin to guard their bike for five minutes; there is not one who would not double lock his door if he saw Assad coming down the street.
Yet, yes, I am of those who think that the president of the United States must not go to war without some sort of congressional approval. President Obama is doing the right thing, the constitutional thing, in this respect. I also think his 9/10/13 speech was quite dignified given the trouble into which he put himself. But the damage was already done. A great deal, but an unknown deal, of the repugnance among conservatives to back the president on Syria comes from the fact that they don’t believe in his ability to conduct such important business. This lack of confidence did not emerge yesterday. Everyone with a brain must have noticed that he has not even fulfilled the very first promise he made his supporters (and which conservatives hated). That was to close Guantanamo prison.
All the same, I have to go way back in my memory to see such a hard, deliberate act of collective self-delusion as our political class timidity toward doing the morally and strategically obvious in this case. Shame on us!