Welcome   |   Login   |   Sign Up   |

SYRIA/ Moralistic political theater

Assad bears full responsibility for using chemical weapons, but will the success of the opposition, which consists mostly of Islamist groups, better the Syrian situation? By SCOTT DODGE

John Kerry (Infophoto) John Kerry (Infophoto)

I had the misfortune this afternoon (September 3, ed) to watch and listen to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Syria. Before the committee were Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin Dempsey. Of these three, the only one whose remarks and answers were coherent was Gen. Dempsey. No case could really be made as to why we should attack Syria apart from standing up to the tyrant Bashir Assad who crossed an administration-imposed "red line" by using chemical weapons on his own people.

But the concern expressed by those senators not deprived of their critical faculties for political reasons was, What would such an attack mean for the people of Syria, who are fleeing and flooding as refugees into neighboring countries at an alarming rate, or, even more, for those who have not fled? What would this mean for the U.S., whose stated intention is dislodging Assad, but according to Kerry and Hagel, not by means of this military strike, which, they seemed to insist, would be done for purely moral reasons, as punishment and with the hope of inflicting damage on Syria's command and control infrastructure, thus preventing future use of such weapons?

According to some open sources, like Juan Cole, writing on the blog "Informed Consent," the decision to employ these weapons may not have flowed through the national chain-of-command, but were likely made by a local commander with access to these weapons. We're certainly not planning to destroy chemical weapons with kinetic strikes.

The same case Kerry and Hagel were trying to make was made in the British House of Commons last week by Prime Minister David Cameron, only more forcefully and more eloquently than the self-contradictory bumblings that passed for making an argument today at the U.S. Capitol. Commenting on Cameron's case, which he lost, the Parliament refusing to give the go-ahead for a strike, Peter Hitchens, who nobody can accuse of being a soft leftist, writing about these "moral" arguments, said, "these days, our moral worth is not judged by such things as constancy and trust close to home, but by our noisy readiness to bomb people for their own good." He went on to note that "[t]he moral bomber is one of the scourges of our age. He gets it into his head that he is so good that he is allowed to kill people (accidentally of course) in a noble cause."