Killing Syrians For Ukraine (II)
Robert Golan-Vilella also rejects Slaughter’s terrible proposal for what the U.S. should do about Syria and Ukraine:
At a basic level, she is proposing to go to war with one country in order to send a message to the leadership of another one. This is reckless, dangerous stuff. Slaughter also supports striking Syria on its own merits (and has for some time), but what’s important is that the argument she makes here doesn’t even require one to believe that doing so would have any beneficial effects in Syria at all. It could even have negative effects for Syria and the Middle East, as long as they were outweighed by the positive effects in Russia and Ukraine. The end result is to lower the bar for what constitutes an acceptable justification for war to the point where the bar almost no longer exists. And whatever your personal views on Syria or Ukraine might be, that is not an outcome anyone should endorse.
There’s no question that Slaughter’s proposal is appalling, but it is unfortunately just an extension of the “credibility” arguments that Syria hawks were making when the Ukraine crisis escalated in late February and early March. Back then, the standard hawkish complaint was that the “failure” to bomb to Syria had “emboldened” Putin to seize Crimea. This was and is nonsense, but Slaughter has simply taken this terrible argument to its logical conclusion: if bombing Syria supposedly would have deterred Putin in the past, then bombing Syria now should deter him in the future. The carping about the Syria-Ukraine connection a few weeks ago was just opportunistic second-guessing and a lame attempt by Syria hawks to claim vindication after their total defeat in the debate over military action last fall. As far as I know, Slaughter was the first person to take this lousy idea as a prescription for what the U.S. should do in the future. The new argument is wrong for all the same reasons that the old was, but it is set apart by the degree of its recklessness. I suspect that even many Syria hawks would recoil from the idea of attacking Assad’s forces just to “send a message” to a third party, but they wouldn’t disagree with the argument in principle.
It reflects a common error that hawks endorse all the time, which is that U.S. military action–or the threat of it–will demonstrate “resolve” to other states. Hawks routinely mistake their preoccupation with demonstrating “resolve” with other governments’ fixation on the same, but other governments almost always regard these demonstrations as provocations rather than deterrents. Slaughter has simply articulated an extreme version of the same ridiculous argument that most interventionists and hawks make almost every day about “resolve” and U.S. action in the world. Her proposal is reckless and dangerous, but then so are theirs.