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America, A Nation Of Polemophiles

Good morning, America:

Our extremely status-conscious president has learned what it takes to get back into the good graces of the DC establishment: bomb somebody. Even hawkish Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has been one of Trump’s most strident critics for a long time, now says Trump has Reaganesque instincts. [2] Here’s a must-read column by Damon Linker on DC’s war madness [3]. Excerpt:

The past week has been an immensely clarifying — and profoundly demoralizing — one in American politics. It has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the country’s foreign policy establishment [4], along with its leading center-right and center-left politicians and pundits [5], are hopelessly, perhaps irredeemably, deluded about the role of the United States in the world.

From the start of the 2016 Republican primaries on down through Donald Trump’s surprise electoral college victory, the transition, and the opening months of his administration, members of this foreign policy establishment and these leading politicians and pundits have been united in expressing dismay and alarm about Trump’s lack of temperamental and intellectual fitness to serve as commander-in-chief. Yet the moment Trump gave the order to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase used in a chemical weapons attack a few days earlier, all was forgotten and forgiven. Finally Trump became president [6]! Finally he put Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his place [7]! Finally the U.S. showed it had moved beyond former President Barack Obama’s reluctance [8] to use military force!

It’s hard to know where to begin in formulating a response to this outpouring of delight at the thought of Trump giving the order to launch a barrage of deadly weapons at a sovereign nation over 5,000 miles from American shores. But let’s start with absolute basics: Launching even one missile at another country is not, as we euphemistically like to presume, a “military action,” a “military operation,” or even a “humanitarian intervention.” It is an act of war. Full stop. That many countries in the world, including Syria, are far too weak to consider launching a retaliatory counter-attack against the United States for such a bombardment is utterly irrelevant. How would a more powerful country — China, for example — respond if we fired even one cruise missile at its territory? How, for that matter, would we respond if China fired just one at us?

More:

Every country in the world thinks well of itself. But we’re the only country in the world that expects every other country to defer to our self-evident wonderfulness — apparently even when Trump is launching the missiles.

Read the whole thing.  [3]Linker’s discussion of an alternative history of the US Civil War, involving a powerful overseas nation who involved itself militarily in that conflict, is a useful exercise.

A new CBS News poll shows that a strong majority (57 percent) of Americans support the Syrian air strikes, [9] though most Americans don’t think the US should become more involved militarily in Syria. I suppose one should be grateful for small things, but it seems like it wouldn’t be all that difficult to whip the American people up into a frenzy for more war. About half the people polled (48 percent) want more US military involvement, either troops on the ground (18 percent) or airstrikes alone (30 percent). Only 41 percent say they favor either diplomacy exclusively, or no involvement at all. (Presumably the other 11 percent had no opinion).

Are we really a nation of polemophiles? Do we love war so much that we are ready to rejoin the fray in Syria? Because now that we’ve hit the Syrians, we invite them or their allies to hit us back. This is on us.

Pat Buchanan is sounding the alarm: [10]

We have no vital national interest in Syria’s civil war. It is those doing the fighting who have causes they deem worth dying for.

For ISIS, it is the dream of a caliphate. For al-Qaeda, it is about driving the Crusaders out of the Dar al Islam. For the Turks, it is, as always, about the Kurds.

For Assad, this war is about his survival and that of his regime. For Putin, it is about Russia remaining a great power and not losing its last naval base in the Med. For Iran, this is about preserving a land bridge to its Shiite ally Hezbollah. For Hezbollah it is about not being cut off from the Shiite world and isolated in Lebanon.

Because all have vital interests in Syria, all have invested more blood in this conflict than have we. And they are not going to give up their gains or goals in Syria and yield to the Americans without a fight.

And if we go to war in Syria, what would we be fighting for?

A New World Order? Democracy? Separation of mosque and state? Diversity? Free speech for Muslim heretics? LGBT rights?

We are still fighting the war we started for no good reason back in 2003 — and we still have an appetite for fighting in that fever swamp of tribal and religious hatred? Haven’t we done enough to the Middle East?

Are you aware that President Trump has decided to conceal from the American people the numbers of US troops he’s dispatching henceforth to Syria and Iraq? So we won’t even know how more deeply the Commander-in-Chief is embedding us in another nation’s hellacious civil war.

Damon Linker is right: this is madness. We have no business in Syria. And yes, North Korea is a big, big problem, with no obvious solutions — but the one thing the US should not do is have its president talk like a cowboy on Twitter.

91 Comments (Open | Close)

91 Comments To "America, A Nation Of Polemophiles"

#1 Comment By Selvar On April 11, 2017 @ 5:11 pm

Trump just figured out that he can receive the praise and adulation he desperately wants by starting wars. When people said that Trump did not have the temperament to be president, this is precisely the sort of thing they had in mind. Maybe Clinton would have been worse, but this is why I voted for Gary Johnson.

#2 Comment By Polichinello On April 11, 2017 @ 5:25 pm

I’m all for a more restrained foreign policy, and unlike some writers….ahem…I opposed the Iraq War.

However, if Trump says screw it, you’re on your own, there will be consequences. Asad, and others, will basically have a green light to eliminate inconvenient populations–or assuming he won’t go THAT far, use shortcuts, like chemical weapons to end the war and maintain his peace.

Like it or not, we are going to have to wait for things to somewhat stabilize before we can withdraw. The best time to have done that was back in the 90s, when the Soviet Union collapsed. However, that time has passed and previous administrations (Democratic and Republican) have built up commitments that we can’t easily walk away from.

Think of India. The British under Atlee wanted out, so they agree to a hasty division of India, and it wound up costing hundreds of thousands of lives.

#3 Comment By Agnikan On April 11, 2017 @ 5:47 pm

“Damon Linker is right: this is madness.”

No. This is Sparta.

#4 Comment By Tunbridge Wells On April 11, 2017 @ 7:02 pm

We don’t necessarily love war when people come back home in body bags, but we love to zap bad guys when we think it costs us nothing, neither dollars nor the risk of reprisal. This will continue as long as we’re the only country that can realistically zap bad guys with drones and missiles on the other side of the world from the comfort of a NoVa office with a bank of screens.

#5 Comment By Alex J. Coleman On April 11, 2017 @ 7:08 pm

Whom the gods destroy, they first make mad. The American Empire will soon fall. Let us hope that the fall will be akin to the setting of the British sun rather than the fall of Rome.

#6 Comment By catbird On April 11, 2017 @ 7:33 pm

A funnier version of the same thing:
[img]https://thenib.com/a-whole-new-war?t=recent[/img]

#7 Comment By Anne On April 11, 2017 @ 7:33 pm

Trump had clearly been trying everything he could think of to deflect from all those investigations into his and his campaign’s ties to Russia when Putin’s ally Assad suddenly decided to launch a sarin attack that left innocent civilians, including babies, writhing on TV screens around the world. Could that possibly have been what it first appeared? If not, even I can’t imagine Trump being a conscious collaborator in such a horrific act for personal gain. Yet whoever planned it could not have given Trump a better tool for not only deflecting attention away from his Russian connections, but appearing as if he were attacking Putin as well.

Of course, when he acted, Trump followed his usual MO by doing so impulsively and unilaterally without policy, plan or input from allies in either Europe or the Middle East. In other words, he acted just as anyone who had been following him for months or years as closely as, say, former KGB analysts might expect. It’s not as if he put some new Trump doctrine, much less a real strategy, into effect. One attack, and Assad was left in place with whatever WMD he may retain in place, and all Putin had to do was warn the US never to do it again. He even managed to use the words “fake news” in a public statement, thus appearing to be tough on Trump, not in any way in cohoots with him or his campaign, never mind what the CIA or FBI may have discovered re Russian hacking or Trump-Putin connections to the oligarchy, aka Russian mafia. He’s undoubtedly hoping fewer, if any, will be paying attention now that Trump showed force, as Putin (and Trump) believes is all it takes to convince “the people” you’re their leader.

It IS surprising how many Americans accepted the bombing, especially considering how, back in 2013, when Assad had launched an even more blatant attack on civilians with chemical weapons and the entire free world seemed willing to back us up, Obama was prevented from acting by both Congress and an angry public that included none other than Donald J. Trump. If you compare the polls from then and now, you see that the Americans who changed their minds this time around were virtually all Republicans and Independents. So now even war and acts of war have become partisan.

#8 Comment By kijunshi On April 11, 2017 @ 8:04 pm

Within a year, I’d bet sad-yet-realistic money on an ISIS terrorist attack within our borders with multiple victims. The Syrian conflict is their stated reason for the terror attacks in Europe, no?

#9 Comment By blimbax On April 11, 2017 @ 9:20 pm

Are we really a nation of polemophiles? Do we love war so much that we are ready to rejoin the fray in Syria?

Yes, it is demoralizing. It is also instructive. It does not take too much imagination to remember other nations, other people, who were whipped up into a frenzy by their political leaders and elites and media. And we might ask, “how could they follow such leaders, how could they acquiesce in such barbarism?” With the implication being that “we” would never behave like the way they did.

The statistics you cite show how we are not so exceptional when compared to some of those other nations, some of those other people; we are just as easily led to a place whose darkness most of us won’t discern until long afterwards.

#10 Comment By David Paul On April 11, 2017 @ 11:01 pm

It’s not madness, it’s the US Permanent War Economy that’s been around since WWII.
All the talk about human rights, making the world safe for democracy, etc. is just propaganda (AKA lies) to manipulate mass support for the Permanent War Economy.
Not to mention that playing global policeman stabilizes world markets, the actual purpose of the US military in addition to rallying support for the troops.
The GOP is especially big on militarism for this economic business reason. Dems make a token show of oppositional effort to downsize militarism, but mostly just go along with the GOP jingoism.
Those who know the truth don’t get sucked into manipulative jingoistic political propaganda, didn’t get sucked in, and won’t get sucked in.
Those who identify with conservative politics do get sucked in, did get sucked in, and will continue to get sucked in.

#11 Comment By JKSKSx On April 11, 2017 @ 11:08 pm

@Kevin,

You misunderstand the Russian position. There are 20 million muslims in Russia. Russia is bordered by a number of ‘stans. There are enough people from the former soviet union fighting on the side of the jihadis in the middle east.

Right now the muslims in Russia see themselves as Russian first, muslim second. The last thing Putin or any other Russian leader wants is to have this change. The last thing they want is any of the ex-soviet people coming back into Russia and the ex-soviet republics and spreading their horrible ideology.

There is a damn good reason for the Russians to want to see the secularists win, whether assad or not.

#12 Comment By Mitchell On April 11, 2017 @ 11:14 pm

Nassim Taleb posted a very interesting story about Syria that many might have missed:
[11]

#13 Comment By Lllurker On April 11, 2017 @ 11:15 pm

I agree that our politics has a serious warmongering problem, but IMO this particular attack is completely unrelated to that problem.

Assad dropped chemical weapons on civilians, so the US bloodied his nose by destroying 20 of his most prized assets. This is what a perfectly calibrated response looks like: we used the right weapons, we hit the right targets, and we got the right result. (And as a bonus the destruction of the aircraft has also raised the cost of war for Putin.)

Like most everyone else I am concerned that this will go to Trumps head and now he’ll start looking for more opportunities to bomb things, but that doesn’t somehow diminish the fact that this attack was both warranted and successfully executed

#14 Comment By Wes On April 11, 2017 @ 11:20 pm

“Adamant says:
April 11, 2017 at 11:29 am
If there is one place on planet earth where caution and prudence should take precedence over ‘sending a message’ its the Korean Peninsula. Trumps 11 predecessors managed not to screw this one up.”

Well, one of them allowed Kim Jong Crazy Ass to get a nuke.

#15 Comment By German_reader On April 11, 2017 @ 11:52 pm

@John S:
“What about prevention of genocide and other crimes against humanity?”

There is no genocide going on in Syria. Assad’s regime is brutal, may well have been responsible for the gas attack and probably wants to expel Sunnis seen as disloyal from some areas (not that this is unique, Iraqi government troops and militias, and even the West’s darlings, the Kurds in Syria and Iraq are doing similar things). But no genocide.
However, if Assad’s regime is overthrown and Islamists take over, there will be plenty of massacres and it might well be all over for Syria’s various minority groups. We have already seen this happen in Iraq, the Iraqi Christian community and other minorities like the Mandaeans have largely been expelled from that country in the wake of the 2003 invasion. The US did nothing to prevent this, and will do nothing to prevent the same happening in Syria. You will wash your hands of this, pretend it wasn’t all totally predictable and cease to care once Syria is no longer top news on CNN.
And if you’re such a great humanitarian, you might start by lobbying your representatives for withdrawing US support from Saudi-Arabia’s bombing and starvation campaign against Yemen.

#16 Comment By Noah172 On April 12, 2017 @ 12:16 am

kijunshi wrote:

Within a year, I’d bet sad-yet-realistic money on an ISIS terrorist attack within our borders with multiple victims

Ever heard of Garland, Texas, Merced, California, San Bernadino, Orlando, St. Cloud, or Ohio State?

#17 Comment By Noah172 On April 12, 2017 @ 12:41 am

Polichinello wrote:

However, if Trump says screw it, you’re on your own, there will be consequences. Asad, and others, will basically have a green light to eliminate inconvenient populations

He doesn’t have the manpower or military might for that. He leads a minority regime which commands the loyalty, some of it grudging, of, say, a fifth of Syrians, and his team, while winning (thanks to heavy external aid), is bloodied and exhausted. Moreover, he is trying to regain control over the whole country, not merely fortify an Alawistan on the coast, so even mass expulsion of Sunnis isn’t feasible.

Like it or not, we are going to have to wait for things to somewhat stabilize before we can withdraw

We can provide logistical help to Kurds or any other non-jihadi local actor (Jordan, etc.) who has a direct interest in the conflict, let them and the Russians do the dirty work, save for spec ops strikes on terrorist targets who have actually attacked Americans (such as the Bin Laden lieutenant we droned a few weeks ago near Idlib). We shouldn’t have the hundreds of troops there now, let alone more, engaged in ground combat, nor play umpire over who is fighting too dirty.

Think of India. The British under Atlee wanted out, so they agree to a hasty division of India, and it wound up costing hundreds of thousands of lives

Not British, which is what mattered to the people who elected Attlee.

(And what was the alternative? A “united” Subcontinent?)

#18 Comment By blimbax On April 12, 2017 @ 2:12 am

It distresses me that, without there having been a proper investigation, many readers of the American Conservative seem to take it for granted that Assad used chemical weapons in 2013 and again just the other day. For instance:

Elijah says: “Assad is detestable, and his use of chemical weapons unconscionable, but this is not our fight.”

Adam Palma says: “It was a right and just action that avenged innocents and showed the world — friend and foe alike — that the leader of the free world is back.”

Zach S. says: “What I think needs to be differentiated in this case is – 1) sending a message (i.e., that using chemical weapons is not okay and will not be tolerated,”

Polichinello says: “Asad, and others, will basically have a green light to eliminate inconvenient populations–or assuming he won’t go THAT far, use shortcuts, like chemical weapons to end the war and maintain his peace.”

Anne says: “. . . back in 2013, [ ] Assad had launched an even more blatant attack on civilians with chemical weapons.”

Lllurker says: “Assad dropped chemical weapons on civilians, so the US bloodied his nose by destroying 20 of his most prized assets.”

Regarding the alleged chemical weapons use in 2013, it seems that particular act has been dropped from the NY Times’ list of Syrian atrocities. See, for example, Robert Parry’s article at [12] . And then take a look at Ray McGovern’s piece at [13] . Look also at the articles linked in both pieces, especially [14], discussing how the NY Times backed away from its earlier claims concerning the 2013 chemical attack, and especially at Seymour Hersh’s article at [15] . and the report both Seymour and, eventually but sotto voce, the NY Times cited: [16] , by an MIT professor and a former U.N. weapons inspector.

There is a solid basis for skepticism concerning the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syria in 2013.

There is also a solid basis for skepticism concerning the allegation of recent use. See, for example, Larry Wilkerson’s comments, at [17] . As many people have pointed out now, it is not so certain that Syria used chemical weapons recently:

[18]
[19]
[20]

Really folks, haven’t we learned the lessons of Iraq and Lybia? Can’t we get the evidence first? Bomb first and investigate later, or bomb first and don’t bother to investigate, is a dangerous approach.

Post Script: By the way, “Polemophile” is good, I like it. In the Greek it’s Polemoharis, one who gets joy from war. See,
[21]

#19 Comment By Traveler On April 12, 2017 @ 2:53 am

“Wrong read on Trump. This has nothing to do nothing to do with being status conscious. It was a right and just action that avenged innocents and showed the world — friend and foe alike — that the leader of the free world is back.”

“Avenged innocents”. Hmmm. Forgive my cynicism but aren’t there plenty of other innocents to be avenged in one form or another in your own backyard?

Anyway, how does bombing Syria become an item on the MAGA docket of things-to-do exactly? Unless of course MAGA was never really supposed to have domestic concerns as its primary focus.

#20 Comment By GregoryJ On April 12, 2017 @ 4:14 am

As usual, Mr. Buchanan is right on the money. I feel as if the politics of America has passed me so far by, I am no longer able to have any connection with it. Watching Brian Williams and the MSM praise the “beautiful” visuals of the attack, sickened me. I do believe Mr. Putin is an autocrat and Mr. Assad has used chemical weapons, but as harsh a reality as that is, I prefer them to Islamic terrorists or communism. Neither of them should be our enemies, but when every foreign leader opposed to American hegemony is a “Hitler” and every lack of armed response become a “Munich” we are fated to perpetual war with country after country.

#21 Comment By JonF On April 12, 2017 @ 6:12 am

Re: Well, one of them allowed Kim Jong Crazy Ass to get a nuke.

And that could have been prevented how? You seem to have the US president confused with the Lord God.

#22 Comment By JonF On April 12, 2017 @ 6:15 am

Re: Ever heard of Garland, Texas, Merced, California, San Bernadino, Orlando, St. Cloud, or Ohio State?

None of them the work of ISIS. Most were the work of lone nut cases with delusions of grandeur just like the Sandy Hook school shooting or Aurora CO movie theater shooting.

#23 Comment By David Paul On April 12, 2017 @ 8:58 am

Too many Americans prefer too many black and white simplistic explanations like – “Assad dropped chemical weapons on civilians, so the US bloodied his nose by destroying 20 of his most prized assets.”
The truth – “The US decision to support Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia in their ill-conceived plan to overthrow the Assad regime was primarily a function of the primordial interest of the US Permanent War State in its regional alliances.”
[22]

#24 Comment By Polichinello On April 12, 2017 @ 9:19 am

Noah172 wrote:

He [Assad] doesn’t have the manpower or military might for that.

Which is why a shortcut like chemical or biological weapons are all the more attractive, especially if they don’t carry a cost. We also have to consider actors beyond this conflict or this region.

We can provide logistical help to Kurds or any other non-jihadi local actor (Jordan, etc.) who has a direct interest in the conflict, let them and the Russians do the dirty work…

THAT has been our policy. We were content to tolerate Assad winning his civil war. Unfortunately, he or one of his underlings wanted to wrap things up quicker and thought they saw a shortcut, and thus violated the ONE agreement that had kept them out of the cookpot, the ONE agreement that kept the U.S. (for the most part) out of direct involvement. Like some demented fairy tale they just HAD to use chemical weapons. We could not ignore that and maintain credibility. So we gave them a smack.

Hey, I even get why. It’s not pleasant having to go block-by-block eliminating a bunch of jihad johnnies looking for their 72 virgins, so why not save the time and trouble and gas them. Win-win, right? Except for the civilians who WILL be killed in this sort of attack with no pretense of trying to minimize their casualty rate.

Not British, which is what mattered to the people who elected Attlee.

How many Americans were killed in the Tomahawk attack? At any rate, countries cannot walk away from or allow agreements to lapse without future ramifications.

(And what was the alternative? A “united” Subcontinent?)

A division was in the cards, but it could have been managed more gradually. Pakistan and Bangladesh shouldn’t not have been crammed into one country as well.

#25 Comment By Kevin On April 12, 2017 @ 9:46 am

“You misunderstand the Russian position. There are 20 million muslims in Russia. Russia is bordered by a number of ‘stans. There are enough people from the former soviet union fighting on the side of the jihadis in the middle east.

Right now the muslims in Russia see themselves as Russian first, muslim second. The last thing Putin or any other Russian leader wants is to have this change. The last thing they want is any of the ex-soviet people coming back into Russia and the ex-soviet republics and spreading their horrible ideology”

Fighting them there so that we don’t have to fight them here was a dumb idea when it was Americans in Iraq, and it is no smarter for Russians in Syria.

#26 Comment By Kevin On April 12, 2017 @ 9:57 am

“And that could have been prevented how? You seem to have the US president confused with the Lord God.”

Historical experience tells us that there are only 3 ways to stop a country with sufficient scientific knowledge from obtaining nukes, or disposing of nukes it already has.
1. International agreements (W. Germany in the 1950s, Iran, for now at least,Qaddafi, and the NoKos agreed to suspend their program briefly in the 1990s- but probably cheated).
2. Regime change (South Africa).
3. Bombing (Iraq in the early 1980s).

The problem with North Korea is that the regime is far too powerful to attempt to change, it has enough deterrent to make bombing impractical, and given all that transpired since the 1990s, it has very few reasons to agree to give up its weapons voluntarily.

#27 Comment By Kevin On April 12, 2017 @ 10:07 am

“But — and I say this as a Southerner — a foreign power joining the U.S. Civil War on behalf of the Union might have simultaneously done justice and saved a lot of those 600,000 American lives.

The only two relevant powers: France and the UK, were pondering intervention on the side of the confederacy. It’s not that they liked slavery all that much, but a confederate victory would have been an enormous strategic coup for them.

#28 Comment By Noah172 On April 12, 2017 @ 10:25 am

JonF wrote:

None of them the work of ISIS

ISIS calls on believers in its ideology to commit lone wolf attacks. ISIS also embraced at least of most these attacks, which it does not do for attacks from fans of rival groups, such as Al Qaeda (e.g., the Afghan in Elizabeth, NJ, who set of bombs in Manhattan and New Jersey last September and was more AQ in his sympathies).

#29 Comment By Noah172 On April 12, 2017 @ 10:47 am

Polichinello wrote:

THAT has been our policy. We were content to tolerate Assad winning his civil war

We’ve been arming (non-ISIS) jihadis, which is why I specified helping non-jihadis. We’ve also been tolerating Gulf and Turkish support of jihadi rebels. Sanctions for Russia over irrelevant Crimea, but no sanctions for countries subsidizing Al Qaeda? And we help them bomb the Houthis, enemies of Al Qaeda and no threat to us?

We could not ignore that and maintain credibility. So we gave them a smack

– Presumes Assad’s guilt.

– Even assuming his guilt, an immediate US unilateral strike, without Congressional authorization, even though we were not attacked, was not the only option. Trump could have tried to arrange a response with partners: get Jordan or a NATO country or (Allah forbid) Saudi to hit Assad’s airfield. Again, even stipulating that enforcing the ban on chem attacks militarily is worthwhile, why must America always be the cop?

Except for the civilians who WILL be killed in this sort of attack with no pretense of trying to minimize their casualty rate

Versus all the civilian massacres with conventional weapons? War is dirty, civil war is dirty, the Muslim world is dirty.

How many Americans were killed in the Tomahawk attack?

Your comment implied that Attlee should have maintained a British military presence in India to ease the transition, which would have meant British casualties when the Hindus and Muslims inevitably clashed. Shooting long-range missiles into India wasn’t an option at the time, and would have been useless had it been.

#30 Comment By Lllurker On April 12, 2017 @ 11:55 am

@blimbax

“There is also a solid basis for skepticism concerning the allegation of recent use. See, for example, Larry Wilkerson’s comments …”

It’s possible I have him mixed up with someone else, but I believe I have seen Wilkerson in an earlier interview or two, maybe a couple of years back, where he said some pretty outlandish things. As in not the sort of things you expect to hear from a credible source.

#31 Comment By Lllurker On April 12, 2017 @ 12:30 pm

@david Paul
“Too many Americans prefer too many black and white simplistic explanations like – “Assad dropped chemical weapons on civilians, so the US bloodied his nose by destroying 20 of his most prized assets.”

Assad’s use of Sarin gas _made_ this into a “black & white simplistic issue.”

The chemical warfare ban that grew out of WW1 is one of the more important bans on the planet. To my knowledge it represents the very first time that mankind actually decided to eliminate a weapon of war. And it has held pretty well, at least at the battlefield level. (If not so much at the manufacturing level.)

Even with the exceptions, such as the Iran/Iraq war, close to a century later the ban is still taken very seriously. IMO in the larger, long-term scheme of things, punishing those who ignore the chemical ban should be done whenever possible. Demonstrating success with this very old ban builds credibility that can enable future attempts to better corral things like land mines and nukes and whatever other nastiness is on the horizon. If we do our share, on our watch, to strengthen agreements of this nature, hopefully in some future generation our descendants may even find it possible to eliminate some of the larger conventional munitions.

#32 Comment By David J. White On April 12, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

“But — and I say this as a Southerner — a foreign power joining the U.S. Civil War on behalf of the Union might have simultaneously done justice and saved a lot of those 600,000 American lives.

The only two relevant powers: France and the UK, were pondering intervention on the side of the confederacy. It’s not that they liked slavery all that much, but a confederate victory would have been an enormous strategic coup for them.

Things got tense between the US and Britain over the Trent affair, and could have escalated more than they did. Imagine what the Civil War might have become had the Union suddenly had to fight a two-front war, the Confederacy on one side and the British, in Canada, on the other. I think Harry Turtledove explores this scenario in one of his alternate history novels.

#33 Comment By JonF On April 12, 2017 @ 1:07 pm

Re: ISIS calls on believers in its ideology to commit lone wolf attacks.

Irrelevant. I repeat: ISIS had nothing to do with those attacks in any substantive sense. Compare the Orlando Pulse massacre to 9-11, which was organized, financed and overseen directly by Al Qaeda. Your logic is similar to the manner in which people in 1995 blamed the “Michigan Militia” and even congressional Republicans for Tim McVeigh’s bombing of the OKC federal building.

#34 Comment By Kevin On April 12, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

“Irrelevant. I repeat: ISIS had nothing to do with those attacks in any substantive sense. Compare the Orlando Pulse massacre to 9-11, which was organized, financed and overseen directly by Al Qaeda. Your logic is similar to the manner in which people in 1995 blamed the “Michigan Militia” and even congressional Republicans for Tim McVeigh’s bombing of the OKC federal building.


It’s a bit more complicated, as ISIS actively promotes acts of martyrdom online, via videos, online fatwas, sermons, etc. The militias didn’t have anything like that mechanism.

#35 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 12, 2017 @ 2:45 pm

I am so amazed at the preponderance of both left and right commentators who have somewhat different reasons for doing exactly the same thing – that is, using American military violence to overthrow and establish regimes over other peoples.

That’s why I must be neither conservative nor liberal. Looking around my own neighborhood, state and country, I see little that proves sufficient wisdom to rule as despots over the rest of the world, when we can’t even do right by our own people. But maybe that’s the reason. War is a welcoming distraction, where our impotence can be masked by the destructive metric of killing and blowing things up, rather than the seemingly impossible constructive practice of creating an environment that meets the needs of its own neighbors.

#36 Comment By connecticut farmer On April 12, 2017 @ 3:32 pm

Buchanan is right. And, in this instance at least, so is Damon Linker.

And by the way, how do we really KNOW Assad ordered the bombing?

#37 Comment By Polichinello On April 12, 2017 @ 5:06 pm

Friendly reminder of who’s on the other side:
[23]

#38 Comment By Polichinello On April 12, 2017 @ 5:11 pm

Noah 172 wrote:

– Presumes Assad’s guilt.

If anybody would have been happy to believe it’s a hoax, it would be Trump. Events may prove different, but given this admission against interest, Assad’s government look good for this.

Even assuming his guilt, an immediate US unilateral strike, without Congressional authorization, even though we were not attacked, was not the only option. Trump could have tried to arrange a response with partners: get Jordan or a NATO country or (Allah forbid) Saudi to hit Assad’s airfield. Again, even stipulating that enforcing the ban on chem attacks militarily is worthwhile, why must America always be the cop?

Presidents have been able to conduct these limited strikes after consultation with Congressional leaders. No one seriously questions the legality of this strike.

As for why us? Well, we arbitrated the agreement with the Russians and the Syrians. That puts us on the line. I don’t like it, but we can’t just walk away from agreements at our convenience and expect to not see this from others.

#39 Comment By Fran Macadam On April 12, 2017 @ 9:13 pm

“If anybody would have been happy to believe it’s a hoax, it would be Trump. Events may prove different, but given this admission against interest, Assad’s government look good for this.”

So a Trump tweet based on psychoanalytic projection is proof?

Hell, you can gin up any excuse you want for any belief with that low a bar for the unimportance of actual facts.

It’s akin to saying we suspect Russia would like to do us in, so that’s proof they must have. Logic to the winds in post truth America.

#40 Comment By Noah172 On April 12, 2017 @ 9:25 pm

No one seriously questions the legality of this strike

Any number of members of Congress (most notably Rand Paul) and commentators in the public have questioned the legality of this strike. Some of these critics (say, Senators Kaine and Sanders, Representative Ellison) actually approve of attacking Assad, but just want Trump to follow a proper process. Not enough people are questioning the wisdom of this attack, but that is a separate criticism from Trump’s flouting of process.

Previous Presidents have launched attacks without specific Congressional authorization in response to direct attacks on or imminent threats to Americans (Carter with the attempted hostage rescue in Iran, Reagan with Qaddafi, Bush 41 with Noriega): that is a reponse whose legality nobody seriously questions. Previous Presidents have also launched plenty of attacks without authorization and without a direct attack or imminent threat, but, for one, they were wrong, too, and, for another, they had their critics, too.

#41 Comment By the half-life of quid pro quo On April 12, 2017 @ 9:39 pm

@Polichinello : “How many Americans were killed in the Tomahawk attack?”

We don’t know yet. Because the number of Americans eventually killed as a result of that strike could unfold over a long time. Generations even.

What we do know with ironclad certainty is that when you kill people over there, other people over there eventually come over here and kill you.

Which is why we shouldn’t be over there, and why we shouldn’t let them come over here.