Atrios is someone whose views I have apparently diverged from over the last 10 years. Here’s what he says about Syria:
I’m sure this isn’t a never-been-made-before point, but we seem to have this sense that unless the US of A puts on the tights and cape the world will fall apart. The buildings (with people inside) that we knock down in the process can be conveniently ignored.
People do think that and have thought that for a long time. I won’t do an essay on the origins of this idea. But there are also beliefs about the US that can lead to the same result some of the time. Believing (rightly or wrongly) that you’re the only country in the world standing between the USSR and total world domination is one, another is that we are sort of the Super-Britain of the pre WWI balance of power era. The former has the same kind of positive moral judgment, the latter is mostly amoral.
The thing about national myths for those who espouse them is they aren’t always right. The thing about national myths for those who reject them is that they aren’t always wrong. And especially when different national myths can promote the same outcome.
I’m not sure what ideas there are that suggest that intervening in Syria will have a positive effect there. But, say, we have intel on where the Assad regime’s chemical weapons are stored, or even where Assad is. Would using a cruise missile (or, god forbid, a drone) to take them/him out be totally bad?
I, at least, would think that it might break an ugly pattern of ignoring genocide until its over and allowing people to use chemical weapons on civilians. If that’s all we do, then I don’t think the “Pottery Barn” rule applies. Sure, we might break Syria, but Syria is already broken. In this case, stopping this one atrocity from happening might have longer term implications.