Summary: After 13 years of wars that failed at great cost in money and blood, our hawks urge that we start yet another war — in Syria. But we have learned. Some have found the courage to name our warmongers. This experience has been dearly bought, and might yet prove insufficient. Further lessons might prove even more expensive.
“Don’t Fight in Iraq and Ignore Syria“, Anne-Marie Slaughter, op-ed in the New York Times, 17 June 2014 — That she sings this is unsurprising. That so many still listen is sad, an astonishing Failure To Learn.
For the last two years, many people in the foreign policy community, myself included, have argued repeatedly for the use of force in Syria — to no avail. We have been pilloried as warmongers and targeted, by none other than President Obama, as people who do not understand that force is not the solution to every question. A wiser course, he argued at West Point, is to use force only in defense of America’s vital interests. …
Slaughter is a foreign policy insider , served under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as director of policy planning at the State Department (2009–11), and is now CEO of the New America Foundation (bio here). She was one of the major advocates of our disastrous intervention in Libya.
On the other hand after 13 years of futile war there is progress. Acknowledging the obvious truth is the first step to reconnecting with reality: “A Warmonger By Any Other Name“, Daniel Larison, The American Conservative, 18 June 2014 — Opening:
It’s a little strange that Slaughter opens with these lines.
- She has been a consistent supporter of using force in foreign conflicts, which is how she has earned a reputation for always being in favor of military action.
- Not only has she supported intervention time after time, but she has been an outspoken and vocal advocate for these views.
- She is notable among Syria hawks for having made some of the most outlandish arguments in favor of bombing Syria.
No doubt she has argued for more aggressive policies because she believes them to be preferable to the status quo or any other alternatives, but that is exactly why she doesn’t get to complain when critics point out the problems with her consistent hawkishness and advocacy for military action. Slaughter is one of the liberal hawks that made a point of celebrating the Libyan war as a success and as vindication for their interventionist instincts. As far as I know, she has never faced up to the negative consequences of the Libyan war on Libya or the surrounding region, nor has she applied any of the lessons that might have been learned from the Libyan intervention to her arguments on Syria.
When someone is a consistent and vocal proponent of U.S. military action in response to new conflicts and crises, and when that person has no record of publicly opposing military action before it begins, it is fair to say that this person routinely tries to sell the public on war.
This is what a warmonger does, and that is why these people are reasonably called by that name.
Another benefit of 13 years of failed wars, logical and factual rebuttals quickly follow. Such as “Bombing!“, Robert Farley (Asst Prof Diplomacy, U KY; bio here), Lawyers, Guns, and Money, 19 June 2014 — Excerpt:
One of the reasons (I presume) that the Obama administration was so reluctant to bomb Syria was that it was difficult to sort out how a brief, or even moderate, bombing campaign might bring the conflict to a close. As we discovered in Libya, it’s impossible to bomb for humanitarian purposes; if you’re going to engage, you need to decide who you want to win and push for it.
In Syria, the state was considerably more robust, the opposition more fractured, and the nastiest elements of the resistance more powerful than in Libya, meaning that it would be harder to win and the fruits of victory would be more ambiguous. I suppose this is why Slaughter has determined to rely on the Credibility Fairy, suggesting that bombing would have resolved everything from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea to Jose Fernandez’ Tommy John surgery.
For a deeper analysis see “Will Obama Listen to Slaughter and Power?“, Bob Dreyfuss, The Nation, 18 June 2014. It took several years to get this depth of rebuttals to our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Update: also see “Saying No to the Warmongers” by Jeffrey D. Sachs (Prof Columbia.
Now we’ll see if the American people have learned anything from our failed wars.
For More Information
(b) Other posts about warmongers:
- Why we fight, 30 December 2013
- What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?,
10 March 2011.
- A warmonger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya, 22 March 2011
- Our geopolitical experts, like Max Boot, lead America into the dark, 21 January 2013
- America’s hawks sing a song of national decline, 4 March 2014
(c) Posts about the war in Syria:
- The Syrian dominos, Tom Hayden, 25 October 2012
- Some questions as we march to war in Syria, 17 June 2013
- The first question to ask about our war with Syria has nothing to do with Syria, 28 August 2013
- Q&A on the extraordinary aspects of the Syrian War, 4 September 2013
- What could go wrong if we attack Syria?, 5 September 2013
- The debate about Syria reminds us that a cat can laugh at the King, but the King has the power., 9 September 2013
- Susan Rice’s speech tells us harsh truths about ourselves, 10 September 2013