I am not a pacifist. But on a practical level, I might as well be. The truth is that pretty much no country ever goes war because of any just cause. As we’ve seen very clearly here in the United States, wars are sold as surely though less explicitly as toothpaste and laundry detergent. This morning, I caught the last bit of Andrea Mitchell Reports. It was not as bad as Sunday’s Weekend with Alex Witt segment with Alan Grayson. None the less, on MSNBC—remember: the liberal network—the onus is on those who don’t want to go to war. War advocates are just given softball questions while anti-war advocates are tapped on all sides as though the reporters are looking for cracks.
Meanwhile, serious journalist who I normally agree with find themselves conflicted on the Syria question. Ed Kilgore at Political Animal says he is trying to sort out his own views. To some extent, I understand that. If it is true that the Assad government is using chemical weapons, it’s terrible. But this gets to a point I made a couple months back, On Being an Asshole and Possibly Right. There are so many tragedies going on at any given time. I’m skeptical when authorities tell me I should worry about this tragedy. I don’t think I’m wrong to believe that they have other reasons for bring it up.
And look: the United States has hardly been pure when it comes to chemical weapons. We did, for example, help Iraq use chemical weapons against Iran. And what about our widespread use of cluster bombs? One thing is certain, if Assad were an ally, we wouldn’t be talking about this. It would hardly have made a bleep on the news and government officials would have assured us that it was accidental, a rebel plot, or never happened at all.
What really bugs me is that people as brilliant and insightful as Paul Waldman at The American Prospect falls for this stuff. He wrote, Syria Turns into a Political Story, about why everyone wants to talk about this as a political story rather than a tragic story of civil war. But he pushes the “no good options” canard. And he says something that is flat out wrong, “Assad killed 100,000 Syrians quite adequately with guns and bombs before everybody got really mad about the 1,400 he killed with poison gas.” I agree with the point that he’s making. But Assad did not kill 100,000 Syrians. I don’t question that Assad is a despot, but these deaths are due to a civil war. As I reported yesterday, roughly half of the deaths have been Assad’s own forces.
So I’m not a pacifist. But my gut instinct, when someone presents evidence in favor of another “bloody good war,” is to call bullshit. Can’t we all just admit that the only reason we are talking about this is that Obama blew it by defining a “red line”? Everything follows from that. All the people who want to attack Syria have their own reasons. But MSNBC is pushing this war for that one reason: Obama made a mistake and now we have to kill Syrians so he doesn’t look weak. That is as purely evil as anything we see in politics.