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Broadening Our Minds

Has it occurred to anyone that Bill Kristol is extremely aware of the role he plays in public life, and that he calls for military action against Burma not because he is a war-mad kook but because he wants to broaden our sense of what we can realistically accomplish there? ~Reihan

I have to say that it had not occurred to me, but let’s consider the idea.  First of all, would military action of any kind accomplish anything except to exacerbate and worsen the situation for the people of Burma?  I don’t think so.  Second of all, does this sound like the voice of someone concerned about “broadening our sense” of what can be realistically accomplished:

But given our weak history of pressuring China on anything, and the number of excuses there will be for not making this a priority, no one should hold his breath waiting for real consequences to follow for China [bold mine-DL].

This takes for granted that “real consequences” ought to follow for China, as if China is the pupeteer and the junta its easily controlled toy.  Those who have real expertise in the area claim that this is incorrect, and that Beijing does not have the kind of control that Sinophobes attribute to the Chinese government.  Given Kristol’s longstanding enthusiasm for antagonising China, I suppose I can’t say that I am surprised, but how does hoping vaguely for threatening China with undefined “consequences” broaden anything good?

Kristol continues:

Couldn’t we tell the generals who are ordering and the soldiers who are carrying out this crackdown that they are being watched, that their names are being recorded — and that the day will come when there will be plenty of evidence to hold them personally accountable for their deeds?

Yes, we could, but Kristol knows as well as I do that this would be so much bluster unless Washington were prepared to carry out the kind of intervention needed to apprehend those officers.  The “day will come,” no doubt, when they are held accountable–it will be Judgement Day, but likely no sooner.  Such an intervention makes absolutely no sense from the perspective of American interests, but Kristol knows that, too. 

Kristol concludes:

Couldn’t the Bush administration do more to give that just God a helping hand?

The impiety of this sentence speaks for itself.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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