The grim morality of our realpolitik stance on Syria
In a creeping sign that Politico-ish news coverage has migrated to the international pages, The New York Times ran several articles over the past week about how the government shutdown, which resulted in President Obama cancelling his trip to Asia, marked a big victory for China. The premise of these pieces is that the United States and China are in some sort of competition for prestige and allies in Asia, and that each step backward by America means a step forward for China. Let's grant that this somewhat simplistic analysis has a grain of truth to it.
Imagine if the Democrats in 2007, having just regained control of the Congress, had decided to go to the mat against the Bush tax cuts. Imagine that they voted repeatedly to repeal them. They tried to delay implementation. They linked repeal to debt ceiling legislation. And while most of them knew better than to shut down the government over marginal tax rates, for a group critical to Nancy Pelosi’s majority, repeal had become a matter of religion.
1. Syria Is Going to Become Al QaedastanOf all the reasons for the international community’s skittishness about ending the regime of Bashar Al Assad, perhaps the biggest is the fear of a fanatical, Al Qaeda–linked government rising in its place. Voices as ideologically disparate as Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov, former Representative Dennis Kucinich, and Senator Ted Cruz have raised this concern.
Helping Washington decode what the Russians are really after.
John Kerry’s accidental diplomacy may have saved President Obama in Washington, but here in Israel, the White House’s indecisiveness of the last few weeks will cast a long shadow. Israel has kept a low profile in the Syrian civil war, launching anonymous strikes periodically to prevent the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, but otherwise keeping mum—and with good reason.
The biggest burden of being president is surely having to make decisions that will lead to people being killed and maimed in war: American soldiers who die decades before their time, innocent civilians in enemy countries, even enemy soldiers who rarely bear any moral responsibility for the decisions that make their countries our enemies.
An attack would be illegal and ineffective. It wouldn't satisfy hawkish critics, either.
The only real choice is between pushing for regime change and not getting involved. He should choose the second one
An intervention in Syria is expected to take over American airwaves any day now, but here on the sun-baked coast of Borneo, all there is to see are the choreographed pleasantries of small-bore diplomacy. Ten American reporters have accompanied U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to the tiny nation of Brunei (anthem: “God Bless the Sultan”), where he is attending a conference of Southeast Asian defense officials, even while back at the Pentagon the wheels of the war machine he commands are beginning to grind in earnest.
Six key questions before an intervention
The Obama administration now wants Congress to approve a military strike against Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons. Why is the administration so bent on intervention? Isn’t it violating international law? What will be the likely impact of an attack? Will it plunge the United States into another war in the Middle East? Or will it have no effect whatsoever on the carnage? Should the U.S. go further and ensure a rebel victory by crippling Bashar al Assad’s regime?