Sunday, September 01, 2013


Have you read Mark Steyn's unvarnished take on President Obama's Syria policy?

An Accidental War


I see the Obama “reset” is going so swimmingly that the president is now threatening to go to war against a dictator who gassed his own people. Don’t worry, this isn’t anything like the dictator who gassed his own people that the discredited warmonger Bush spent 2002 and early 2003 staggering ever more punchily around the country inveighing against. The 2003 dictator who gassed his own people was the leader of the Baath Party of Iraq. The 2013 dictator who gassed his own people is the leader of the Baath Party of Syria. Whole other ball of wax. The administration’s ingenious plan is to lose this war in far less time than we usually take.


The BBC footage is grisly; the British media have been far more invested in the Syrian civil war than their U.S. colleagues. But what’s the net effect of all the harrowing human-interest stories? This week, David Cameron recalled Parliament from its summer recess to permit the people’s representatives to express their support for the impending attack. Instead, for the first time since the British defeat at Yorktown in 1782, the House of Commons voted to deny Her Majesty’s Government the use of force. Under the Obama “reset,” even the Coalition of the Willing is unwilling.


The consummate interventionist Robert Kagan wrote in his recent book that the American military “remains unmatched.” It’s unmatched in the sense that the only guy in town with a tennis racket isn’t going to be playing a lot of tennis matches. But the object of war, in Liddell Hart’s famous distillation, is not to destroy the enemy’s tanks (or Russian helicopters) but his will. And on that front America loses, always. The “unmatched” superpower cannot impose its will on Kabul kleptocrats, Pashtun goatherds, Egyptian generals, or Benghazi militia. There is no reason to believe Syria would be an exception to this rule.


Let us stipulate that many of those war-weary masses are ignorant and myopic. But at a certain level they grasp something that their leaders don’t: For a quarter-century, from Kuwait to Kosovo to Kandahar, the civilized world has gone to war only in order to save or liberate Muslims. The Pentagon is little more than central dispatch for the U.S. military’s Muslim Fast Squad. And what do we have to show for it? Liberating Syria isn’t like liberating the Netherlands: In the Middle East, the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy. Yes, those BBC images of schoolchildren with burning flesh are heart-rending. So we’ll get rid of Assad and install the local branch of al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or whatever plucky neophyte democrat makes it to the presidential palace first — and then, instead of napalmed schoolyards, there will be, as in Egypt, burning Christian churches and women raped for going uncovered.


Oh, well. If the British won’t be along for the ride, the French are apparently still in. What was the old gag from a decade ago during those interminable U.N. resolutions with Chirac saying “Non!” every time? Ah, yes: “Going to war without the French is like going hunting without an accordion.”

Ouch. I've found myself at odds with Steyn before, and in this particular article, he makes the acquaintance of "twerking" and sounds like a 90-year-old who overuses a newly discovered slang term in an effort to appear hip and relevant. But the substance of what Steyn is saying is worth paying attention to, as is the general lack of liberal outcry against Obama's move in a situation that mirrors the one Bush was in back in 2003. I was against the Iraq war effort back then; I'm against this effort now.

Steyn's right to note that our military is good with the smackdown, but bad with scoring a true victory, if by "victory" we mean defeating the enemy's mind. The complaint back in 2003 was that we hadn't fleshed out our justifications to the public's satisfaction, and that we had no concrete objectives in mind for the Iraqi people aside from the overthrow of Saddam. Ten years later, are things any different? And if, as Obama promises, this upcoming strike (well telegraphed to the enemy) is only to last a day or so, what damage can we seriously expect to inflict, and what goals are we accomplishing?

UPDATE: Has Mr. Obama found wisdom at the eleventh hour? He suddenly seems willing to run this military effort by Congress first.


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