Over the past week or so, a whole bunch of people have asked me when I’m going to write something about President Obama’s proposed intervention in Syria. I suppose the answer is, “Right now.” But what I’m going to write probably isn’t what those people have been expecting.
The reason I haven’t written anything is because there hasn’t seemed to me to be anything useful to write. The situation is horrible, everyone surely knows it’s horrible, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do to make it less horrible.
I’m frustrated by all the people who insist they’re staking out some sort of moral position by demanding the U.S. do nothing that involves the military and I’m frustrated by all the people who insist they’re staking out some sort of moral position by demanding the U.S. do something that involves the military. The situation isn’t likely to be improved by getting involved or by not getting involved … and, either way, a lot of people have been and will continue to be killed. Those who see intervention or non-intervention as something clear cut and obvious seem to care much more about their preferred policy than they do about the humanitarian disaster on the ground.
If it seemed clear that U.S. intervention in Syria would lead to a good result for the people of Syria in the long term, I’d support it. I suspect anyone who has read this blog with any regularity knows this. But — given the country’s history, demography, and geography; the make-up of the rebel forces; and the results of other recent U.S. interventions — that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
And if it seemed clear that the people of Syria would be able to get a good result in the long term without any sort of intervention, then I’d feel better about arguing for the U.S. to stay out things. But — given the death toll of the past two years; the mass exodus of refugees; and the clear willingness of the government and the rebels to flaunt the most basic human rights norms — that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
In short, the situation is horrible, everyone surely knows it’s horrible, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do to make it less horrible.