I find it very interesting that both political parties are pulled in two different directions (and sometimes three) on the issue of Syria.
On the Democratic side, you have the peace movement, the adherents to which believe the use of any military action anywhere is wrong and should never be pursued, even for humanitarian reasons. And then you have the Liberal Do-Gooders, who sometimes want to be the world’s policemen to stop atrocities like what happened in Yugoslavia and the Rwanda in the 1990’s, and what is happening now in Syria. And then you have those Liberal Warhawks who believe, just as most Republicans do, that the military option is generally preferable as the first tool of our foreign policy, not the last resort. The difference between them and the Neocons on the Republican side who believe the same is that Liberal Warhawks are generally followers, scared and scarred into sounding and acting tough on foreign policy through the experience of Vietnam and Republican attacks on “Democratic weakness” that followed.
On the Republican side, you have the aforementioned Neocons, who literally are war pigs. They want to be at war all the time. This is not hyperbole. They wanted to invade Baghdad in 1991. And again in 1998. They truly want the American flag flying over the capitals of all the world, but most importantly, in the Middle East. There is not a war they will not fight, or a fight that they will not turn into a war. They dominate the Republican Party, and they have scared many Democrats into acting the same way as well. This group was born during World War II, got high off American superiority then and during the Cold War, and now believe that if America is not leading the fight and winning a war everywhere, it is losing everywhere.
Making more noise recently is the other force at work in the Republican Party: the libertarians, which I think includes the former isolationists or non-interventionists. I will let Steve Newton take it away:
Let’s assume [the Government] are telling the truth. Let’s assume that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons in a desperate attempt to win its civil war.
Somebody’s got to say it, and it might as well be me.
It’s not the specific morality of a horrible weapon that’s at issue. As the only nation to use atomic weapons, as the nation that used napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam, as the nation that still refuses to abide by international sanctions against cluster bombs, as the nation that employed fuel-air explosives against Iraq in 1991, and as the nation that continues the indiscriminate drone killings of innocent men, women, and children in the hopes that an Al Qaeda target might be standing next to them in Pakistan, Yemen, and across Africa, we’ve precious little room to talk about the morality of weapons.
Besides, why are 1,000 dead people from chemical weapons somehow more significant than the 100,000 Assad has already killed in just this war? Now, suddenly, for the US it is not good enough to be murdered, you have to be murdered by precisely the right weapon for it to matter?
Reality check: the Middle East has already entered the conflagration stage. There is no “Arab Spring.” There is a steady descent back into chaos.
Nor can a utilitarian argument be made for war in Syria.
If we help defeat Assad we can hope for no gratitude (nor any regional stability) from the installation of another Islamist regime in Damascus.
It is past time to instruct (yes, “instruct”–they work for us) Carper, Coons, and Carney not to vote their consciences, but to vote ours.
A vote for war in Syria is to spend the blood of Americans for no great cause, for no great gain, and for a guarantee that more flag-draped coffins will arrive at Dover Air Force Base, about which distraught moms, dads, husbands, wives, and children will sob and ask, “Tell me again, why was this death necessary?”
After reading this, and then reading Markos Moulitsas’ take (which I will post in a second), I am struck about how much they agree with each other. And how much I agree with them as well. Steve Newton, Delaware Libertarian. Markos, the evil Kos of Daily Kos, progressive champion. Myself, perhaps a former Liberal Do-Gooder.
Here is Markos’s post:
I’ve already noted that I don’t care about whether government forces used chemical weapons or not. Bashar al-Assad is a monster who has massacred hundreds of thousands of his own people.
I am persuaded by those who call for intervention to try and stop this mass-murderer.
But I am even more persuaded by those who oppose such intervention.
1. We are overstretched.–I would be very sympathetic to engaging, much like we did over Serbia in the 90s and Libya last year, if we weren’t coming off a decade of perpetual war, at a cost of over a trillion dollars and thousands of (our own) lives lost. Humanitarian gestures take the kind of resources that we simply lack at this time. If America wants to be the world’s humanitarian police, it should stop pissing away money, lives, and goodwill on military adventurism. So absent Iraq and Afghanistan, I would be all-in. But we can’t erase Bush’s legacy. Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed enough.
2. Someone else can step up–Europeans are nervous about an escalated refugee crisis on their doorstep, and they have every reason to be concerned. [...] Now obviously the EU is a cauldron of competing interests masquerading as a “union”, but their inability to manage their own national interests shouldn’t be reason enough for the United States to expend limited resources. If Syria poses a threat to European interests, let Europe handle the situation. It’s not our problem.
3. What about the long term?–If Egypt looks bad today, a post-Assad Syria could be infinitely worse, with Islamists seemingly making up the strongest elements of the opposition, a pro-Western secular Syria is a pipe dream. Heck, an anti-Western secular Syria appears out of reach.[...]
4. And what about the rest of the world?–Syria isn’t the only place where people are dying. The billions we will spend killing people with bombs could be better spent in every other corner of the world in development projects. We, as Americans, get outraged when we spend a few billions in humanitarian aid, yet don’t have the same visceral opposition to even more billions in military ordinance.
I, like Markos, am a liberal do-gooder who has been scarred by the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan and the Neocons. If Al Gore was actually allowed to serve as President after being elected to office in 2000 [;)], and the Iraq War never occurred and a smaller less horrible version of Afghanistan happened (assuming 9/11 still occurred, which would have required some response towards the Taliban), then I would be all for intervening in Syria.
But, as much as I want to forget it, Bush happened. And it’s ironic, for Bush turned me into a liberaltarian on foreign policy, where I am much more likely to support not intervening than I am to support intervening. Because, really, America has done enough. For good or for ill, we have done enough. And I do not give two shits about America leading the world anymore, or us always being #1. If Arabs and Muslims want the atrocities to stop in Syria, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Turkey can work together. If Europe is worried about it, then France and Germany can get off the couch.
Now, John McCain may have a heart attack, but that might just be a good thing. The less Neocons around, the better.