With the White House indicating that tactical missile strikes on Syrian chemical weapons depots could come as early as Thursday, everybody from neoconservative hawks to isolationist libertarians to equivocal moralists weighed in on the U.S.’s options. Here is a list—by no means exhaustive—of articles representing the spectrum pros and cons of military intervention.
1. Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: Ten Syria Lessons
Rubin makes the hawk’s case for military intervention, arguing that had the U.S. intervened when chemical weapons were first reported, we would have saved thousands of lives (though she doesn’t quite detail what actions would have produced that result).
The best takeaway is her critique of Obama’s reported plan to strike without any commitment of troops, a movement that would have little impact on Assad’s capabilities while plunging us deeper into the conflict:
“When you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.” Empty words and half-measures have only emboldened Assad, as will a couple of cruise missiles that fail to knock out chemical weapons, don’t do real damage to Assad’s forces and fail to protect civilians. Unfortunately, that is precisely what, according to news reports, the president intends to do. A strike that leaves Assad with his military advantage and does not attempt to destroy chemical weapons will be useless and, worse, convince Assad and others that the downside of using weapons of mass destruction is slight.
4. George Packer, New Yorker: Two Minds on Syria
Packer’s thought experiment elucidates better than anything the intractable gulf between outrage over the deaths in Syria and constructive action to prevent more of them. That Assad has crossed every imaginable line towards his own people may demand a response, but moral justifications don’t gild actions, and there’s no reason to think we’ll be successful—or even helpful—simply because we’re right.
Note that Packer’s dialogue is called “two minds,” suggesting he’s not arguing with someone else, but himself. The complexity of the Syrian civil war and the U.S.’s response to it seems to have scrambled traditional ideological and moral reactions. Packer’s piece is a nimble rejoinder to the simplistic arguments you’ll hear coming from both sides of this debate.
More from Evan McMurry @ Mediate
Posted by Libergirl