How liberals advocate for war

So the case for Congress voting war against Syria is taking the usual turn from the merits of the war itself to how it will affect domestic politics and the elections in 2014 and 2016, and what it means for Israel. These are the topics that our chattering classes really care about. And of course the obligatory comparison with Hitler is brought up because no stampede to war is complete with invoking the latest incarnation of good old Adolph as the enemy.

So we have the usual arguments for war against Syria coming from the usual factions that went to war against Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and … but this time they are joined by the liberal war hawks. The latter are those who oppose wars when Republicans start them and support them when Democrats start them. A portion of this group consist of Obama cultists, those who still cling to the delusion that Obama is a Good Man who hates war and always does the right thing and so we should place our trust in him and never do anything to undermine our Dear Leader.

The arguments used by these to rally support from fellow Democrats are as one might expect. That noted liberal columnist E. J. Dionne captures this mindset, saying:

It was only a matter of time before our polarized politics threatened to destroy a president’s authority and call into question our country’s ability to act in the world. Will Congress let that happen?

The question now is whether Congress really wants to incapacitate the president for three long years. My hunch is that it doesn’t.”

So what does Dionne recommend?

“They will not prevail, however, unless Obama makes an unabashedly moral case on Tuesday explaining why things are different than they were a few months ago while laying out a practical strategy beyond the strikes.” [My italics-MS]

Note that he wants to make a moral case. This is the usual tactic. When the US is accused of doing something wrong, it retreats into highly esoteric legalities to absolve itself of any guilt: Agent Orange is not legally a chemical weapon. Waterboarding is not legally torture. Bombing another country is not legally war. Killing civilians is not legally a war crime. And so on.

But when the law cannot be twisted to serve its needs even by the sophists in the government, then they go into full moral outrage mode: What has been done is morally abominable, so damn the constitution or international law, we must do something, by God, because we are a good people and a good nation that always does the Right Thing. And that something is always to bomb another country.

Dionne ends his disgraceful piece with with a splendid peroration.

If Obama wins this fight, as he must, he should then set about restoring some consensus about the United States’ world role. He has to show how a priority on “nation-building at home” can be squared with our international responsibilities. The seriousness of this crisis should also push Republicans away from reflexive anti-Obamaism, Rush Limbaugh-style talk-show madness, extreme anti-government rhetoric and threats to shut Washington down.

If we want to avoid becoming a second-class nation, we have to stop behaving like one.

Yes, who gives a damn about the Syrians and having their country go through perpetual war? The real issue is how to combat Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans. The question of whether Syria should be bombed comes down to the key question: What is good for Obama?

With liberals like this, who needs conservatives?


  1. says

    Specifically, what do you see being done for Syrians, by us? They are in the midst of a civil war, one side, or maybe both has used chemical weapons. They are working with the Russians to get the chemical weapons out.

    What specifically would you like to see Obama do?

  2. Nathair says

    What specifically would you like to see Obama do?

    For starters I’d like to see Obama refrain from bombing the shit out of another country, refrain from opening yet another front in America’s war-around-Iran. He claims that a diplomatic solution is his preferred method of addressing Syria, I would like to see him actually walk that talk.

  3. says

    I’d like to see something more fully fleshed-out as far as plans than:


    At the very least, nobody should be talking about “regime change” without an idea how to transition to (something) other than anarchy (Somalia, Libya) dictatorship (Afghanistan) or helpless partitioned clusterfuck (Iraq, Kosovo) War of aggression is an incredibly irresponsible thing to engage in, but pointless wars of aggression are even worse; you pretty much are guaranteeing a period of intense unhappiness followed by a resumption of the status ante bellum.

    What would be a practical plan for Syria? How about: “It becomes a new province of Iran”? Oh, no, that would never do. Well, if that would never do, you’d better be talking about how to fix Syria, not destroy it.

    Of course, in the best of all possible worlds, we’d see the US, Russia, Israel, India, China, etc – all suddenly realize that they’ve got WMD — in fact, vastly more than Syria — and begin allowing UN inspectors and scaling back their arsenals. But that’s not going to happen, now that power has thoroughly corrupted them.

  4. colnago80 says

    Apparently, Ranum, the Pennsylvania pissant, is unaware that the Syrians, with assistance from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hizbollah, etc. are doing a pretty good job of destroying Syria without the US bombing anyone. 110,000 dead, probably at least an equal number wounded, 2 million refugees in neighboring countries, and an additional 4 million displaced within Syria would seem to be evidence that all the king’s horses and all the ‘ men won’t be able to put Syria back together again.

    Actually, maybe what’s going on here is that all the talk about Syria is a feint. Maybe Obama and Bibi are using the distraction to plan a bombing campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

  5. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Oh do explain how exactly this could be a feint in a campaign to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities.

  6. colnago80 says

    In football, it’s called a misdirection play. Get Iran all bothered and distracted about a possible action against Syria so they will be unprepared for an attack on them.

  7. says

    For starters I’d like to see Obama refrain from bombing the shit out of another country, refrain from opening yet another front in America’s war-around-Iran.

    Those are things you would like to see him not do. I get that. I am asking about things that you want to see him do.

  8. says

    What would you like to see, shripathi?

    I would like to see us negotiate a political solution that gets the chemical weapons out of it, possibly with the aid of Russia and other countries, and if we cannot, then do nothing.

    We’d all love it if the crisis just went away, or if airstrikes actually solved it. One thing is certain: It will not solve itself on its own until far more have been killed and displaced. My question to Prof. Singham was based on his disapproval of what he believes Obama is going to do: build a case for military strikes.

    I am not convinced that military strikes will be able to eliminate chemical weapons from the picture either, and I think it is likely that it’ll make the situation worse in that more civilians will be killed or affected by any bombings.

    So as much as I hate the idea of this continuing, I have no solution but to say try negotiations, and if they do not work, do nothing. Yes, diplomacy till it works or people refuse to negotiate at which point you stop.

    More of this?


    How about you? It is fair to criticize my uncaring “negotiate but do nothing if negotiations fail” but it’d bear weight if you offered something as an alternative.

    Seriously, we do not want to bomb anyone. I get that. So what do we do?

  9. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Why is this crisis so important that it even calls for the threat of bombing by the United States, when so many other crises of equal or greater magnitude have never called for any sort of response from the US whatsoever?

    And before you respond, read this.

    This reeks of another US manufactured crisis designed to go after someone the US doesn’t like.

  10. sigurd jorsalfar says

    My answer is work through the established channels of international law, and nothing else. There are established norms for dealing with this situation, all of which the US has already ignored.

    It’s not the job of the US to stop every crisis, especially when you consider just how many crises it ignores or even creates. The threat to bomb Syria destroyed US credibility on this and made it obvious that the US interest in this is regime change, not humanitarianism or concern for international norms. The Moonbiot article I cited makes it clear that the US has zero credibility on the issue of international norms anyway, particularly when it comes to chemical weapons and middle eastern countries.

    You need to get out of the mindset that says every crisis that the US threatens to drop bombs over is the crisis you need to be worrying about solving.

  11. says

    You need to get out of the mindset that says every crisis that the US threatens to drop bombs over is the crisis you need to be worrying about solving.

    Huh? That is exactly the most significant kind that we should be worried about. Precisely because they are threatening to drop bombs. Why would we worry about any other kind of crisis where they are not even thinking of intervening let alone dropping bombs?

    Unless of course we dare to care about all crises. But then you say this

    It’s not the job of the US to stop every crisis, especially when you consider just how many crises it ignores or even creates.

    Now that you answered, do you see a material difference between your answer and mine? Because I fail to see it.

  12. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    call into question our country’s ability to act in the world.

    Oh my, Heavens no. Avoid that at all costs. All costs.

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