Anti-strike arguments were not just anti-strike

There are those like John McCain who want to blow up everything, everywhere, all the time. And while McCain seems reliable in that regard, he certainly can’t lead his party on this or much of anything, so in the end, he’s just another senator who goes on Sunday talk shows all the time.

This site has been talking about Syria for a long, long time. Since the beginning, I’ve never really said I had a solution. Everyone who has been an expert for the last two weeks has been repeatedly sounding a few key themes:

  • Intervention will make it worse
  • There’s no evidence anything will happen
  • We aren’t the world’s policeman
  • This is just like Iraq

But these arguments are mostly not just against using military force, they are against caring at all. They are sounding the isolationist note that is always part of the American music, which is now a “good old days” fantasy pure and simple. The idea that any kind of intervention will only make things worse involves the same measure of foresight that is denied to people who say it will when neither side can ever be sure.

The argument that there’s no evidence, which showed up on lefty and righty sites at the same time, is simply false. Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and if you’re not into do-gooder NGOs, the French and US governments all believe there is evidence. Did Doctors Without Borders say there were nukes in Iraq? I don’t think so. Evidence alone is not proof, and what constitutes “proof” varies between people.

What’s interesting and well documented is that government-sponsored atrocities seem to require more than the normal measure of proof. To this day, there seems to be a “some say” aspect to the Armenian genocide. It wasn’t really until the US Army marched into Germany that people started to accept the reports coming from refugees about the death camps. It wasn’t until after the fact that people like Noam Chomsky, supposedly a champion of human rights, stopped dismissing the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge as fantasies reported at “third or fourth hand.”

All of these arguments were present in the days when the press was first reporting about Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and, yes, when Saddam gassed the Kurds. They are also eerily similar to the denial, evidence manipulation, and basic nonchalance ascribed to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq after our invasion of the place.

In the end, despite the press narrative, I think we’re going to look back and just see the results (if they stand): Syria gives up its chemical weapons, the US didn’t fire a shot, and the Syrians can get back to their civil war which, according to both right and left, no one can do anything about.

That sounds like pretty effective foreign policy to me. Yet, somehow, this is all the same as Iraq where the threat of force was really just a promise and no amount of evidence that there as no WMD in Iraq was ever going to stop Bush’s vendetta war fueled by America’s bloodlust at the time.

The left should take solace in the fact that the polls showed people against the military use, that they were skeptical of it. That wasn’t the case 11 years ago. Have we learned? Not enough, but some things.

 

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