Noah Millman responds to my last post:

We do need a term for people who are eager to fight without being very clear on whom they want to fight or why. I just don’t want that term to be “hawk.”

This reminded me of an old column from The Economist from long ago in which Paul Wolfowitz was described as a “velociraptor” to capture how much more aggressive he was than ordinary hawks. Using this description, we could say that a “velociraptor” sees threats where they don’t exist, exaggerates the ones that do, and always argues for taking a hard line against all of them. In other words, a fanatic. The trouble is that the fanatic sees enemies everywhere even when they aren’t there. The fanatic perceives Syria to be an enemy because it is allied with Iran, which he also sees as an enemy, and he is distraught by Russia’s relationship with both because Russia, too, is supposedly an enemy or, if you like, “our number one geopolitical foe.” It doesn’t discourage the fanatic that America faces no serious threats from any of them.

While there may be Syria hawks that fit the description of being “the kind of plumed-helmeted Mrs. Jellyby eager to interpose American might between the world’s victims and their victimizers,” most Syria hawks see the conflict as a contest between the U.S. and Iran that the U.S. is supposed to win. The goal is not to “interpose” American power between the warring parties, but to throw the weight of the U.S. behind one side to deliver a knockout blow to the other. Almost all Most Syria hawks are Syria hawks because they are hawkish on Iran, and view the conflict in Syria in those terms. They are very clear on whom they want to fight and why. They also happen to be horribly wrong.

According to Noah’s definition, it makes no sense to speak of Syria hawks because Syria’s government is not our enemy, but for Syria hawks it is just one of many. This is why Syria hawks consider U.S. “action” in Syria to be imperative, and it is why everyone else in the real world wants nothing to do with the conflict.