Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Sensible Things Andrew Sullivan Says

All it took was the prospect of another stupid war for me to say something nice about Mr. Sullivan:
So now we are treated to the argument from “credibility”. Enough with the arguments about credibility! The United States would benefit by nothing more than accepting the fact that we do not have the power to control that region and shouldn’t die trying. Our credibility is threatened not when we stay out of other people’s civil wars, but when we make threats we cannot enforce. I am emphatically not dismissing the Rubicon of chemical weapons, and am as appalled by their use as anyone. But if we cannot resolve the question without entering another full-scale, open-ended war on the basis of murky intelligence about WMDs, then we should resign ourselves to not resolving the question. Repeat after me: American power is much more limited than our elites still want to believe.

Our choice right now is between enabling Assad to stay in power and murder and gas more innocents or entering an unknowable conflict with no clear goals and no vital national interest at stake. If we do the latter, we will prove either that we bombed Assad and he survived or that we bombed Assad and we got al Nusra in charge of the chemical arsenal. If we are truly worried about the spread of Assad’s chemical weapons, we should ensure he keeps a tight lid on them and prevails in the civil war. That’s the goddawful truth we want to avoid and Obama thinks he can elide. He cannot. Get your Niebuhr back out, Mr President.

It is, of course, a vast tragedy that innocent Syrians – men, women and children – are being slaughtered and shelled and now gassed in a deep, sectarian conflict that feeds on cycles of revenge. I understand the moral impulse to try to stop it. I am not blind to the evil in Assad’s mafia family, just as I wasn’t blind to the foul stench of mass murder among the Saddam clan. I also understand the prudential reasons for trying to live up to the red line Obama so foolishly drew. But I learned from Iraq that establishing the evil of a foreign dictator does not mean we should go to war with him.
We are powerful but we are not gods, and whether you're the President of the United States or just some poor bastard trapped between two, brutal, warring factions, to look to the United States as if it were Olympus -- as if we had the foresight and accuracy to drop lightening bolts on Syria in just the right way at just the right moment -- is incredibly unhealthy.  

I have tremendous respect for Secretary Of State John Kerry, whom I have watched since he first ran for Congress in Lowell a long time ago. I believe he is everything about an American politician that most people think John McCain is. That said, he can't outdistance his own past no matter how fast he tap-dances. Yesterday, he got in a terrible wrangle with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he was asked to come up with a scenario by which he could envision American ground troops in Syria, and he actually came up with one, causing a lot of the people on the committee to scream. Soon, though, he was back to the comforting, administration-approved fiction that making war in Syria with cruise missile strikes is somehow not the same as making war in Syria with the American infantry. That, somehow, doing the former is not making war in a place.

This is not a tenable position, and Kerry has to know it. On April 22, 1971, John Kerry appeared before this same committee of the United States Senate and demonstrated quite convincingly that this is not a tenable position.
We veterans can only look with amazement on the fact that this country has been unable to see there is absolutely no difference between ground troops and a helicopter crew, and yet people have accepted a differentiation fed them by the administration. No ground troops are in Laos, so it is all right to kill Laotians by remote control. But believe me the helicopter crews fill the same body bags and they wreak the same kind of damage on the Vietnamese and Laotian countryside as anybody else and the President is talking about allowing this to go on for many years to come. One can only ask if we will really be satisfied only when the troops march into Hanoi.
There are real, man-made disasters-in-waiting that our power could prevent or ameliorate, and there are real, man-made obstacles to addressing those looming catastrophes over which we can, if we choose, exercise much greater control.   But so far, the battles over things like voting rights, women's health, global warming, decent education and good jobs have been fought in a series of grinding, frustrating skirmishes, in which Republican governors and statehouses and talk-radio hosts ignore all collateral issues and remain on the offensive by staying highly focused on their long-term objectives --
Georgia Republican Brags About Sabotaging Obamacare as Governor Gets Paid by Health Care Industry 
September 4, 2013
By Allen Clifton

It comes as no surprise to liberals when we hear about efforts by conservatives to do whatever they can to sabotage the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), but it’s rare when we see one of them admit to doing so.

Sure, it’s obvious with the lies they perpetuate, the myths they spread and their seemingly endless campaigns of misinformation that they will do whatever they can to impede the progress of the law.

Well, Georgia Republican Ralph Hudgens, who serves as Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner, openly admitted that his state was doing all it could to “obstruct Obamacare.”
-- while their allies in Washington -- content with trench warfare at the state-level as long as the momentum continues to move in their direction -- continue to pour sand into the gears of the federal government.

Because face it, when it comes to getting people's attention, no amount of warning about the debt ceiling or vaginal probes can match the primeval magic of a call to war.  And no matter how limited or targeted the results may be, the unilateral decision to bomb another country for the purpose of inflicting harm on the government of that country is an act of war.

We have real problems, and while some of those real problems will begin to slowly get better as we gradually pry crazy people the hell away from the levers of power, so far no one has made a compelling case that any of those real problems are going to be in any way mitigated with a barrage of cruise missiles.  


Anonymous said...

I'll give credit to Sullivan for learning something from his pre-Iraq war hysteria.

-- Nonny Mouse

Anonymous said...

When in history have crazy people not held levers of power?

Overclock speedy said...

During my life?

I'd say the Reagan administration wasn't "crazy". Criminal, evil, regressive, sure. It pandered to crazy people, but it wasn't really lunatic.

Poppy Bush wasn't crazy at all. You can get upset about his CIA history and rail against the evils of the state, but he was sane, competent, and did a reasonable job.

Clinton wasn't crazy, the congress went full lunatic during his administration, but him and his administration weren't crazy. Manipulative, assholes, triangulating sure, but not crazy.

Bush had a crazy administration, and the Republicans went nuts.

Obama's administration isn't crazy, the congress sure as fuck is.

I'd say it varies. This is hard for people who have never worked in a "public" organization to fathom, but the majority of people aren't power mad psychopaths. The vast majority are just working stiffs.

There's a part of the Republican party that's been getting high on their own supply. They've been turning progressively more batshit crazy and pants-on-head retarded. But it's only been a recent development that they've grabbed enough of the reins of power within their own party.

Plus a lot of the "crazy" by people in power is an act to get votes. Ted Cruz isn't crazy, but he sure as hell pretends to be.

Compound F said...

Huzzah! Let's face it: Obama's is yet another sketchy "WMD" argument filled with hypocrisy.

To that I would add Larison:

To the extent that the “Pax Americana” has genuinely been a stabilizing force in the world since the end of the Cold War, it has been that way when the U.S. acts in concert with international institutions, and usually this has not taken the form of launching illegal military attacks against other states. The conceit that the U.S. can enforce international norms while blatantly violating international law seems clever, but it falls apart upon scrutiny. Even if the U.S. succeeds in reinforcing a particular norm through the use of force, it does so at the expenses of a commitment that is usually far more central to preserving international stability than the norm in question. When the norm becomes little more than a pretext for waging a war, obviously this undermines the norm at the same time. Thus the U.S. is reduced to making the claim that it is acting on behalf of “the world” when the vast majority of countries reject what it is doing. It is also not lost on Americans that maintaining “Pax Americana” has seemed to mean near-constant warfare for America.

The U.S. track record on promoting international stability in the last 15 years in particular is poor. As we saw in the case of Libya, even when the U.S. has international authorization its wars of choice can contribute to greater regional instability, and the decisions to attack Yugoslavia and Iraq in violation of international law had their own significant destabilizing effects as well. The expansion of U.S.-led security structures is often held up as an example of how the U.S. contributes to international stability, yet the efforts to expand NATO deeper into the former Soviet Union contributed to the tensions between Russia and Georgia that led to the August 2008 war. One of the problems with attributing “stabilizing power” to U.S. preeminence in the world is that the U.S. has repeatedly used its preeminent position in the last 15-25 years in ways that erode and in some cases directly attack international stability and peace. The fact that the maintenance of the “Pax Americana” has become frequently associated with waging unnecessary and sometimes extremely destructive wars makes its promise of preserving international stability seem hollow and self-serving. This is why it isn’t reassuring to opponents when this seems to be the best argument that one can make in defense of the proposed attack on Syria.

And to that I would also like to reinforce what Sullivan mentioned:

If we are truly worried about the spread of Assad’s chemical weapons, we should ensure he keeps a tight lid on them and prevails in the civil war.

Which precisely the opposite of supporting Al Qaeda-associated rebels, which we've been doing.

Assad is winning the civil war against the insurgency we are backing. Sit tight and let him win.

But it's complicated when the Saudis and Israelis want Assad gone, innit?

The "right" thing to do is utterly clear: stay the fuck out of their civil war, as opposed to fomenting it, and going all in on R2P2 issues.

I'll just stop there.

Anonymous said...

I'll just stop there.

Good idea.