Syria War Drums: Do Liberals Enable Tyrants? I Reject The Premise

On The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky explains to us liberals who oppose military action in Syria, how we are enabling the tyrants of the world. His article reads like an extension of the warmongering coming from Secretary of State John Kerry. The entire premise of the piece is predicated on the idea that we inherently know how the dictators and tyrants of the world will respond absent U.S. action. But we don’t actually “know” this.

Tomasky is engaging in the typical drum beat of war. We are told of all the possible horrible outcomes of not waging war. We are told we are focusing too much on the negatives of war and not the negatives of inaction. But it’s really simple. You want war? Okay, then you need to make your case for war based on the facts as we know them, not speculation of what “could” happen in another country, at some possible later date. Since Tomasky’s argument for war is largely based on this speculation, and because war should always be a last resort (if at all), I reject the entire premise.

And let’s be truthful, this premise is really a cloak masking the real argument, that America must not look weak, that America’s perception must remain that of a strong nation, responding with great fury and military might in every corner of the world. But last time I checked, our leaders (and the pundits who support them to a fault) have a horrible track record when it comes to predicting outcomes of wars and “limited” military strikes. The only thing we do know for sure is that our predictions are often wrong, and these “tyrants” are some of the least predictable souls inhabiting the planet.

Tomasky says if the United States does not act, it will embolden Assad. I gotta tell ya, seems to me that ship has sailed. As dictators go, being emboldened is a prerequisite for the job. A non-emboldened dictator will not hold onto that position long, and a U.S. military strike is not going to change that power equation. A ruthless Middle East leader who has killed 100,000 of his own people is not going to be swayed to temper his demeanor because of an act of reciprocal aggression by the West. Unless we plan to take out Bashar al-Assad, which so far is not on the table, you can toss your “emboldened” argument out the window.

Tomasky says we will radicalize the rebels with our inaction. Did you see the video of a rebel eating a human heart? How much more radicalized can one get? He also says a lack of U.S. action will be a “win for Hezbollah,” and uses more “embolden” logic. I must say, we Americans are mighty high on ourselves, thinking everyone around the globe plans their actions only after careful consideration of what the U.S. may or may not do.

At this point I’m not even going to bother to refute his “Strengthen Iran in Iraq,” “Blow to Israel,” or “Nuclear -Trigger Happy Iran” arguments because they are simply the same fish swimming in a different pond. All of these arguments are rooted in the original faulty premise, that America needs to act to maintain some balance of power, to keep rogue nations and factions in line, pretending we have a serious influence over their day-to-day actions.

Tomasky does have a moment of clarity near the end of his piece, saying, “Yes, an American attack might escalate matters. But it also might not.” Well there you go. I guess we should authorize a military strike right now!

Yes, the United States of America is the world’s lone super-power, but that power has a lot more to do with our wealth and our military than it does with changing hearts and minds. Thrusting American military prowess upon a country as a “teachable moment” for the rest of the region is a strategy the U.S. has deployed for much of the last century in the Middle East. What exactly have we achieved as a result? You can’t force dictators or a people to join the 21st century by using 20th century tactics. It doesn’t work. It would be nice if we could one day learn that.


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