Amazing," said Cavuto, when it was all over. "It’s in there. It’s worth a read.

In which Fox News asks the question on everyone’s mind: Would a war in Syria match the Biblical description of the End Times?

What I’m curious about is this: How many people in the U.S. are actually excited about the prospect of the End Times and are therefore hoping for a military intervention in Syria because they believe we’re on the cusp of fulfiling a biblical prophecy regarding the end of the world?

Like, who is Fox News appealing to here?

Can we do a survey about that?

# religion # Syria # media

reblogged from Mother Jones magazine on Tumblr

Civil Wars and Unicorns

In response to my post about Madonna’s vision for Syria — namely that the U.S. should stay out “for humanity’s sake,” apparently without considering that 100,000 people have been killed and more than a million displaced —  comes this miraculous vision:

You ask how it can be for Humanity’s Sake?  How many will the indiscriminate bombing kill, maim, and leave without water, electricity, and sewers.  Too many interventionists justify their view with the term “Humanitarian”, without pointing out that they are justifying the opposite.  When Syrians are ready Assad will be gone and not until then.

As I said the other day, in my first post on intervention in Syria, there aren’t a whole lot of good options for ameliorating the ongoing conflict. 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.

Arguing that the civil war will only persist as long as Syrians want it to persist — and thus that no one else really needs to concern themselves with the death toll or the refugees because it’s all a problem of their own making and will work itself out when they’re ready — is like insisting that we can’t see mythical creatures because we just aren’t believing in them enough.

# Syria # politics # unicorns # global affairs # Tumblr # internet

The Best and Brightest

If you thought my post about how there are no good options with regard to Syria, then you probably won’t like these responses … which are so out of left field that they deserve their own post.

This one is my favorite:

SO LET THEM BE HORRIBLE TO EACH OTHER AND JUST

GOD

THERE’S SO MUCH FUCKED UP SHIT GOING ON HERE

If I dropped a fucking chemical bomb on all of the people getting screwed by neo-liberalism and insider trading and the iron triangle and Sallie Mae aka the entire fucking middle class of America

WOULD ANYONE FUCKING CARE YET

But this one is also pretty impressive:

I posted this about Syria, I think its a war for big oil : IF YOU LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES PLEASE CONTACT THE WHITE HOUSE AND ASK HIM NOT TO DO THIS. THIS MIGHT REALLY BE ABOUT A GAS PIPE LINE THAT ASSAD IN SYRIA IS NOT LETTING THE SAUDIS & QUTAR BUILD THROUGH SYRIA. THIS PLANNED PIPE LINE WOULD PROVIDE GAS TO THE EUROPEAN MARKET. RIGHT NOW THE EUROPEAN MARKET GETS MUCH OF ITS GAS FROM THE RUSSIA COMPANY GAZPROM THROUGH IT

There’s also this one, which points out that just minding our own business will probably allow everything to turn out well for the Syrians:

Why should US attack on Syria? Attacking by drones and missiles means more deaths and turning Syria into what US had turned Iraq into. KEEP YOURS HANDS OFF SYRIA. If you had did it for peace, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan would have been a better place but you just destroyed it, better if you mind your own business and keep your eyes away from Syria’s conflicts.

The commonality is, of course, ALL CAPS … which is how you know they’ve been doing a lot of serious thinking about the topic.

There was also this one, about King George’s drones and American terrorists, which I posted last night. And, to go along with it, here’s one final entry into the “Most Careful Thinking About Difficult Problems” contest:

The war is behind the corner! They say gas masks and antidotes were distributed already…it is scary..

It is scary.

# Syria # Tumblr # internet # comedy # sadness

What if King George had a drone? Do you think 96% of Americans don't know they are terrorists?
one60theoperation

Well, this is all very interesting … except WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!

[Saturday nights on Tumblr are amazing, especially after you’ve written a couple of posts about Syria that a bunch of people are reading and sharing.]

# Syria # questions # comedy # Tumblr # internet

Noted international relations scholar Madonna has weighed in on the conflict in Syria … so we no longer need to talk about whether or not the U.S. should intervene in an attempt to halt the bloodshed.
In all seriousness, I so desperately wish I could somehow ask Madonna — and the 66,000+ people who liked this little photo she uploaded to Facebook and the dozens of people whose similar photos keep popping up in my Timeline — to defend the line, “For humanity’s sake.”
The idea that staying out of the Syrian conflict is so obviously good “for humanity” is just as monstrously foolish as the idea that shooting missiles at Syrian targets is so obviously right and good. But Madonna and so many thousands of others are absolutely certain that humanity is obviously best served by sitting idly by while so many people are killed.
But, then, I suppose a complete lack of nuance is pretty much what made Madonna famous in the first place …

Noted international relations scholar Madonna has weighed in on the conflict in Syria … so we no longer need to talk about whether or not the U.S. should intervene in an attempt to halt the bloodshed.

In all seriousness, I so desperately wish I could somehow ask Madonna — and the 66,000+ people who liked this little photo she uploaded to Facebook and the dozens of people whose similar photos keep popping up in my Timeline — to defend the line, “For humanity’s sake.”

The idea that staying out of the Syrian conflict is so obviously good “for humanity” is just as monstrously foolish as the idea that shooting missiles at Syrian targets is so obviously right and good. But Madonna and so many thousands of others are absolutely certain that humanity is obviously best served by sitting idly by while so many people are killed.

But, then, I suppose a complete lack of nuance is pretty much what made Madonna famous in the first place …

# Syria # Facebook # Madonna # music # politics # internet

Thoughts on Syria

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.

# Syria # global affairs # human rights # politics

A bunch of people in my Twitter timeline are either making jokes or retweeting others’ jokes about bombing Syria this morning. You see, people are going to be killed. Some of them will be “bad guys” but some of them won’t be.
Maybe you think it’s necessary or vital to do this. Maybe you think it will prevent the killing of other people. Maybe you’re right about these things and maybe you’re not. Maybe I even agree with you.
But, regardless, this sort of behavior is just gross.

A bunch of people in my Twitter timeline are either making jokes or retweeting others’ jokes about bombing Syria this morning. You see, people are going to be killed. Some of them will be “bad guys” but some of them won’t be.

Maybe you think it’s necessary or vital to do this. Maybe you think it will prevent the killing of other people. Maybe you’re right about these things and maybe you’re not. Maybe I even agree with you.

But, regardless, this sort of behavior is just gross.

# Syria # Twitter # internet # global affairs # politics


"Jaw-dropping aerial photo of the 160,000 Syrians forced to live in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan." - @HalaGorani
 (AFP)

"Jaw-dropping aerial photo of the 160,000 Syrians forced to live in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan." - @HalaGorani

 (AFP)

# Syria # refugees # human rights # Jordan # global affairs # politics

reblogged from

Syria and the Bystander Effect

About a week ago, as people were writing about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, I read a blog post in which the author argued against American intervention and in favor, more broadly, of a moral responsibility not to intervene when others are suffering:

Let us suppose that I see a person being physically assaulted on the sidewalk.  The aggressor appears to be using their fists, but no weapons are visible.  If I see that person being assaulted, and I fail to intervene, am I morally at fault?

This was a question faced early on by common law judges, and the answer they gave was almost universally no.  At common law, there was no duty to rescue, and there are good reasons for this.  First consider that in most cases, I will be ignorant as to the motivation for the assault I’m witnessing.  The person being assaulted may actually be the more “culpable” of the two based on some prior bad act, and I’m simply witnessing some sort of aggression in-kind.  But I have no way of knowing in the moment of initial apprehension.  Second, Intervening may require me to place myself or someone I love in harm’s way, as the aggressor may see fit to visit retribution upon me or my loved ones at a later date for becoming involved in his or her dispute.  It is selfish and reckless of me to place an uninvolved third party potentially at risk based on my desire to rescue the person in front of me from the apparent violent predations of another.  While we can agree that I may place myself at risk to rescue another, I have no moral claim on placing others at risk through my actions.   these considerations mitigate any moral responsibility to intervene I might otherwise have.

But let us suppose that I do intervene to try to save the person being assaulted, but in the process, I only make matters worse.  Perhaps the aggressor, realizing he or she is outnumbered, draws a weapon that he was not using before.  Now, what began as a fistfight has been escalated into a more lethal situation for both the victim and myself.  An aggressor who may have merely seen fit to “beat up” the victim is now rearing to kill them.  Am I morally responsible for that escalation?  Absolutely.

It is certainly possible that my intervention will only be helpful to the victim.  But the difference between our example and official state military intervention is that, as you add more human beings and political interests to the example, the potential for unintended consequences increases.  Furthermore, imagine that the last four or five times I intervened in a sidewalk assault, I ended up doing as much and more harm as I prevented.  That would certainly make non-intervention seem to be a more morally responsible action, even if there’s still a chance that I’m watching a genuinely innocent person get assaulted without just cause.

In other words, because it’s possible that intervention won’t help and might even cause harm, we ought to feel either a) unconcerned or b) good about not attempting to assist those who are suffering.

This is an elaborate defense of being a bystander.

It’s the sort of argument one constructs in order to excuse the sort of non-action that, in other circumstances, most people wouldn’t want to admit. You see someone being assaulted but you don’t want to get involved … so you tell yourself that, if you did get involved, things would probably just end up worse than if you’d left well enough alone. “If I try to stop a simple assault, the victim — who would just be badly beaten — will probably end up being shot. And, hey, maybe the victim in this situation isn’t really even a victim; maybe she’s done something to deserve the assault. I shouldn’t get involved.”

Of course, the author of the blog post wants to suggest that it’s a very different equation because we’re dealing with the American military and we have knowledge that previous interventions were carried out badly. This should, apparently, change the moral calculus … just as it did for the U.S. when extremist Hutus were massacring Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. We’d intervened badly in Somalia, of course, so we decided that we ought not to intervene in Rwanda. If we’re being honest with ourselves, I’m not so sure the Rwandans are grateful that President Clinton recognized the possibility of unintended consequences and decided we weren’t morally required to provide any assistance.

Now I’m equating Rwanda with Syria in this post and I’m not writing some sort of full-throated call for intervention either. I’m just trying to make clear two things:

1. Past actions don’t actually give us any indication of what will happen in the future. It’s quite possible to do something badly nine times and then to do it perfectly the tenth time;

2. We need to stop giving ourselves so many excuses for our desire to turn our backs on people in need. We have a hard enough time pushing ourselves to act on behalf of others as it is.

And, indeed, the blogger knows this. Here’s how he attempts to mitigate what he’s said:

Note that this is not an argument for never intervening to stop a perceived injustice.  This is an argument for not intervening in a perceived injustice when you have prior knowledge and experience which suggests that your intervention will cause at least as much damage as it alleviates.  This is why, say,Oskar Schindler’s interventions on behalf of Jewish victims of the Third Reich, for example, are different than U.S. military intervention in the Middle East.  The moral calculus of humanitarian intervention changes when you have prior knowledge which suggests that your intervention will cause affirmative injuries elsewhere or in the future, even if it appears to alleviate the suffering that is in front of one’s face.

On what basis should Schindler have believed that he would succeed in saving the lives of Jews during the Holocaust? Indeed, on what basis should any of the Righteous Among the Nations have taken action? They didn’t really have any reason to believe that they would succeed in their efforts to rescue Jews and they had every reason to believe that they would be killed if they were discovered. I suppose the blogger’s argument would be that they couldn’t possibly make things worse for the Jews by attempting to rescue them, since they were almost certainly going to be killed by the Nazis one way or the other. This puts the threshold for intervention at cases where things couldn’t possibly get any worse for the victim … which means, happily for us, that we will almost never have to take any risk or exert ourselves in any way for others since we can almost always say to ourselves, “I could conceivably make things worse so, for everyone’s sake (and especially for my own sake), I’d better just stay put.”

Plain and simple, this is nothing more than an excuse to remain a safe, secure, happy, and healthy bystander while others are suffering. It’s not some sort of moral high ground.

# morality # Syria # global affairs # politics # heroism # Rwanda # Holocaust # human rights # Schindler # Clinton


Americans want the U.S. to keep out of Syria conflict: Most Americans do not want the United States to intervene in Syria’s civil war even if the government there uses chemical weapons, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday, in a clear message to the White House as it considers how to respond to the worsening crisis.
Only 10 percent of those surveyed in the online poll said the United States should become involved in the fighting. Sixty-one percent opposed getting involved.
The figure favoring intervention rose to 27 percent when respondents were asked what the United States should do if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. Forty-four percent would be opposed.
“Particularly given Afghanistan and the 10th anniversary of Iraq, there is just not an appetite for intervention,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.
The rebellion against Assad’s government has resulted in 70,000 dead and created more than 1.2 million refugees since it erupted in 2011.
Continue reading about the Syrian civil war and American sentiment.
 Photo: a Syrian boy plays with an AK-47 rifle owned by his father. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

No one should be overly surprised that most Americans want the U.S. to stay out of foreign conflicts, especially given the long shadow of American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. It can be very costly to intervene and there are no guarantees of success (whatever that would mean in the Syrian case).
Interestingly, no one in the article mentions what I take to be an equally long shadow … though one that isn’t cast over lost American lives and resources. That is, of course, the shadow of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the decision by the U.S. to stay as far away from intervention as possible.
I’m not suggesting here that non-intervention in Syria should be considered akin to non-intervention in Rwanda; they’re clearly very different in any number of ways. Nor am I suggesting that Americans necessarily need to throw their support behind the idea of putting soldiers on the ground in Syria. The question asked by the poll seems quite broad, about getting “involved in the fighting” … and there are certainly plenty of ways to do so that that aren’t, as Matthew Duss rightly notes about many of our interventions, “costly, open-ended and strategically questionable military adventures.”
But steering clear of involvement in situations that are clearly human rights catastrophes have what I take to be obvious and terrible costs. When only 27% of Americans polled here think that the use of chemical weapons by the state against its citizens warrants intervention, my sense is that those costs aren’t really being considered all too deeply.
These numbers, taken from the same Reuters article quoted above, back me up:

Many Americans are still oblivious to events in Syria. The poll found that about one-third, or 36 percent, had neither heard nor read anything about the civil war there.
Only 8 percent said they had heard or read a great deal and 19 percent said they had heard or read a “fair amount.”

It’s hard to claim that this position against intervention, then, is some sort of principled stance against military adventurism or a reaction to the Bush administration’s interventions; instead, it seems built on a lack of knowledge about the situation in Syria.

Americans want the U.S. to keep out of Syria conflict: Most Americans do not want the United States to intervene in Syria’s civil war even if the government there uses chemical weapons, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday, in a clear message to the White House as it considers how to respond to the worsening crisis.

Only 10 percent of those surveyed in the online poll said the United States should become involved in the fighting. Sixty-one percent opposed getting involved.

The figure favoring intervention rose to 27 percent when respondents were asked what the United States should do if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. Forty-four percent would be opposed.

“Particularly given Afghanistan and the 10th anniversary of Iraq, there is just not an appetite for intervention,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

The rebellion against Assad’s government has resulted in 70,000 dead and created more than 1.2 million refugees since it erupted in 2011.

Continue reading about the Syrian civil war and American sentiment.

Photo: a Syrian boy plays with an AK-47 rifle owned by his father. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

No one should be overly surprised that most Americans want the U.S. to stay out of foreign conflicts, especially given the long shadow of American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. It can be very costly to intervene and there are no guarantees of success (whatever that would mean in the Syrian case).

Interestingly, no one in the article mentions what I take to be an equally long shadow … though one that isn’t cast over lost American lives and resources. That is, of course, the shadow of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the decision by the U.S. to stay as far away from intervention as possible.

I’m not suggesting here that non-intervention in Syria should be considered akin to non-intervention in Rwanda; they’re clearly very different in any number of ways. Nor am I suggesting that Americans necessarily need to throw their support behind the idea of putting soldiers on the ground in Syria. The question asked by the poll seems quite broad, about getting “involved in the fighting” … and there are certainly plenty of ways to do so that that aren’t, as Matthew Duss rightly notes about many of our interventions, “costly, open-ended and strategically questionable military adventures.”

But steering clear of involvement in situations that are clearly human rights catastrophes have what I take to be obvious and terrible costs. When only 27% of Americans polled here think that the use of chemical weapons by the state against its citizens warrants intervention, my sense is that those costs aren’t really being considered all too deeply.

These numbers, taken from the same Reuters article quoted above, back me up:

Many Americans are still oblivious to events in Syria. The poll found that about one-third, or 36 percent, had neither heard nor read anything about the civil war there.

Only 8 percent said they had heard or read a great deal and 19 percent said they had heard or read a “fair amount.”

It’s hard to claim that this position against intervention, then, is some sort of principled stance against military adventurism or a reaction to the Bush administration’s interventions; instead, it seems built on a lack of knowledge about the situation in Syria.

# Syria # human rights # politics # Rwanda

reblogged from Reuters

I Double Down

A very small group of people, both on their own blogs and in the comments over at the Daily Beast where I was quoted, responded to my previous comedic post about the list of moral exemplars who are condemning Israel to register their unhappiness.

I said, the group that condemned Israel is a pretty good group to be condemned by. I toyed with the idea of saying instead that a good alternate headline would have been, “Syria, Hezbollah condemn Israel for preventing Syria from giving weapons to Hezbollah; Iran condemns Israel because it’s Thursday.”

Specifically, my critics are unhappy with me for suggesting that it was a very bad thing for Israel to prevent a regime that has spent most of its time lately murdering its own people en masse from transferring weapons to Hezbollah.

Why? Because of how disrespectful Israel’s actions are Syria’s sovereignty. Or because of Israel’s own human rights record. Or because Nazis condemned things too, which doesn’t invalidate the badness of the thing being condemned.

I can only imagine that it would be great fun to hang out with these people.

# Israel # Syria # Iran # Hezbollah # comedy # global affairs # internet

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