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On Syria, the War on Terror, and the Loss of Souls

“What I don’t understand about Democrats and liberals is, why do they hate America more than they hate the Iraqi terrorists?”

I glanced over at the person in my passenger seat who had just said this, and started to laugh; I thought he was joking.  A quick look at his face, however, made me swallow the guffaw.  His expression was a perfect storm of intense concern and fury.  It was late 2002, and I was speeding down the freeway to Salem, Oregon with a newly hired salesperson to meet with a potential client.  Just as surely and quickly as we were making our way to Oregon’s capital city, our country was bulleting itself toward the inevitable invasion of Iraq.

The gentleman sitting next to me was something of an anomaly of a sales hire for us, in as much as he was older than I was by a couple of decades.  The concept of what my company was trying to accomplish was so radically different from our competitors that we found it best to hire people green enough that they didn’t at first understand just how outside the proverbial box we really were.  We had made an exception with this person, however, because his resume was just too good to pass up.  We rationalized our decision by noting that the “teaching old dogs” headaches we were buying would be offset by his track record of being able to connect with people.

I asked if he was serious, and he was happy to double down.  America was at the threshold of its own destruction, he declared.  The primary reason for the impending cataclysm was turncoats liberals and registered Democrats who would rather take the side of terrorists than the nation that had given them the freedoms they obviously took for granted.

Today, more than a decade later, it’s hard to put into words just how bizarre this rant sounded at the time.  Aside from the rather astounding lack of empathy one needs to get from “I don’t think we should invade Iraq” to “I want America destroyed because I like the terrorists better,” the argument required an almost unworldly lack of knowledge about the political landscape.  Democrats and liberals had not been fighting the tides of war; they were largely diving into the surf with boogie boards in hand.   The previous vote to invade Afghanistan received a total of three nays from the House and Senate combined.  Republicans had a minority in the Senate and too few votes in the House,  but the nod to green-light Bush’s decade-long Iraqathon would still garner nearly three quarters of the votes available.  And full disclosure: I, too, supported the invasion after the mushroom-cloud shaped testimony given by Rice, Powell and Rumsfeld.

At that moment, my number one concern about my new-hire’s comments was that we had wasted time and money hiring the wrong person to represent out company.  (And, as if wanting to confirm my suspicion as soon as possible, the guy actually said something similar to the person we went to Salem to meet.  He did so without having any idea what the prospect’s party affiliation was before he opted to cram his own foot into his idiot maw.)   Back then, I’d have happily paid you $100 to make sure I never heard such a moronic response to a war drum as I heard from that guy.  Now, more than ten years later, I find myself in a place I never thought I’d be.  Now I’d give anything to hear people saying stupid things, ignorant things, vapid things, frustrating things – really, anything at all – about the lead up to yet another seemingly inevitable war.  Because here’s the thing that truly frightens me about the slow but steady build up to bombing Syria:

No one actually cares.

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That no one cares is, of course, a wee bit of an exaggeration.  There are a few: Policy wonks care, of course, because it’s the kind of thing policy wonks care about. (Though I suspect they don’t care about it nearly as much as they do, say, immigration reform.)  There will be certain businesses that stand to gain by another conflict, and I’m sure the executives and employees of those enterprises are paying close attention to where we’re headed.  Bloggers, of course, are always looking for something to write about, so you’ll see Syria mentioned on the political websites.  (But at about a 1-to-10 ratio, I’m betting, of the degree to which they write about Edward Snowden, Rand Paul or Ted Cruz.)  Lastly and most importantly, there is that tiny percentage of working class families whose sons and daughters are in some branch of the military that will put them in harm’s way.

Other than that, though, I’m pretty sure the “no one” stands.

When I add up the number of people I have talked to over the past month who have mentioned Syria – in any way – I come up with a number that I bet is pretty close to the number that you would come up were you to do the same.  (Residents of Washington DC excluded, because Washington DC is a tad fetishistic about whatever Important People in Washington DC do or say.)  I’m excluding blogs here, I should note.  I’m talking more about dinners and beers with friends, chats with grocery clerks and baristas, all of the various people I chat about any manner of things (especially politics) when I sit in my favorite coffee shop in the morning.  The bartender who makes my martini while I’m bellied up, of the others at that same bar who strike up conversations about anything and everything.  Those people.  If I add up every single person that has mentioned Syria in any way, the grand total come to:

Zero.

I’ve never actually experienced this before.  There have been a hell of a lot of lead-ups to skirmishes big and small in my adult life, and for every single one there have been discussions dogged and passionate alike.  In the past in my hometown of Portland, whenever the beating drums of war were even hinted at people would gather on corners and bridges during rush hours, holding comically toothless signs that happily urged motorists to “Honk For Peace!”  Over time, though, their numbers have grown smaller.  I remember thinking during the lead up to Libya, “Boy, it seems like we’re getting close to a place where no one cares at all whether or not we’re going to war.  I wonder if we’ll ever get to a place where no on really does?”

The answer to that question appears to be yes.

This, then, may be the final and greatest tragedy of the never-ending War on Terror:  When war is the natural and ever-present state of things, war itself becomes passé.  Sure, things in Syria may or may not be bad, but so what?  Were we to invade Syria on Friday, it would make things so different from Thursday how, exactly?  Same old, same old, really.  Besides, have you been watching the final episodes of Breaking Bad?  Isn’t the way Vince Gilligan continues to create tension even though we know what’s going to happen to Walt amazing?

The biggest cries over the War on Terror have been over the loss of liberties, but sprinkled throughout the dissenters have also been those that have warned that our new way of life might come with a far bigger price tag: our very souls.

When I look at our collective indifference to Syria, I worry that we may have already paid that debt in full.

 

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140 thoughts on “On Syria, the War on Terror, and the Loss of Souls

  1. Look at the bright side: Syria is finally topping Miley Cyrus on Twitter.

    More seriously, I think a lot of the lack of discussion is that there are a lot fewer people with the Rage of Certainty as last time. Some supporters of the Iraq War are humbled (ahem, such as myself), and another (probably larger) contingent doesn’t have the energy to blast off on a war that is being started by an ideological opponent. Likewise, I think it’s hard for people who spent years and years decrying the Iraq War to get really bellicose here. Especially when it’s being ushered by their favored candidate.

    I am not sure that people are thinking about it less. They’re talking about it less, but I think a lot of that is fewer people talking without thinking.

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  2. Well what can people do besides those toothless signs? Should we stage a coup against Congress?

    I was against the War in Iraq. Interestingly I was living in Japan during the 2002 buildup and my non-American roommates were more for invasion than me. I am now largely convinced that military intervention in Syria is the wrong choice along with most Americans.

    Yet this seems to be one area where the political classes/parties can do as they please without any damage for a variety of reason. The overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to military action in Syria but it seems like the elites are completely ignoring this. Why does public opinion have so little sway when it comes to military matters? This is a serious and sincere question. This seems to be an area where the political classes think they can and should go against the popular will and they will eventually be awarded by being right. Is everyone still scared of being Nevile Chamberlain at Munich? Or the America Firsters who would let the Nazis be? Do they all want to be Churchill/FDR?

    I suppose one thing we can do is vote for politicians that would oppose the war or vote out those that supported it in primaries. The problem here is real-politic. My libertarian friends say I should vote against Pelosi (I don’t know where Pelosi stands on invasion) and vote for a Rand Paul/Libertarian kind of guy. The problem is that I find 90 percent of Rand Paul’s politics to be noxious and wrong. I largely agree with Nancy Peolsi even if I disagree with her strongly military stuff. I’m a welfare state kind of guy. Not a libertarian night-watchman state kind of guy. So yes I guess I will forgive my Democratic representatives for voting for military intervention in Syria if the alternative is a congress filled with people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

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    • It’s really, really hard to run a successful primary challenge of a sitting politician–you have to raise money without much hope of success, and garner votes without most voters having the benefit of a party label to use in making their decision. Aside from the true political junkies, most people just aren’t equipped to know which candidate in a Congressional primary is a better fit for what they believe. This of course creates a self-reinforcing cycle; as more primary challengers lose, new ones find it harder to raise money and have a tougher time getting their message out to voters. It’s a tough problem–I’m not even sure how you’d go about solving it. The GOP has managed it to some degree, but only through an unprecedentedly coordinated effort by movement conservatives, and even there they grumble a lot. Maybe a multiparty system would work better, but at this point you’re in fantasyland.

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      • As a former New Yorker, I have been following the Democratic primary for Mayor. De Blasio is going through an unexpected surge and this has a lot of people excited because he is seen as a real liberal of the old school.

        Articles I’ve read suggested a lot of his new support comes from “white liberals”. Middle class and upper-middle class professionals who do well but still feel like they are getting priced out of Bloomberg’s New York. Quinn is not doing as well because she is seen as Bloomberg 3.0 and a lot of people are burned on that. Some of de Blasio’s policy platforms include a tax on income over 500,000 dollars a year to pay for universal pre-K. There is a feeling that de Blasio can make NYC more affordable for all.

        Basically I concur about primaries and for the Democratic Party it seems to take an open seat for it to produce real difference and excitement.

        The big issue is that I am simply not a libertarian or a paleocon. I’m not voting for a Rand Paul type just because he or she opposed military action in Syria because said type is going to support a lot of policies that I find appalling like the gutting of social spending. Now if you could get me more Ron Wyden’s that would be interesting.

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      • There is also a theory that the lack of a draft makes military adventurism more popular as policy because fewer Americans feel any sort of direct or indirect pain from a war. I’m personally doubtful because politicians with conscript armies could get plenty happy about military interventionalism. Third Republic France and America between the end of WWII and the end of the draft are good examples of miltary adventurism with conscript armies.

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      • Will,

        He is an exception. Most of the people I’ve seen argue for universal conscription including non-politicians have been on the right-wing.

        George’s normal Georginess not excepting.

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      • Rangel isn’t the aberration you seem to think he is. Virtually nobody, right or left, actually supports reinstituting the draft. But among the support there is, I have found more of it on the left precisely for the reason Lee mentioned: the belief that if everybody had to send their children to war, there would be less war because there would be less support for war.

        I think Shazbot has made that argument here, in fact. I’m not sure he’s the only one.

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      • Greg, is anyone saying Rangel is war-happy? We’re specifically talking about draft-as-a-deterrent-to-war here. Lee brought it up in that context, and ND argued that supporters of the draft are neocons. Rangel’s support for a draft is quite relevant here.

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      • Will- But then the reasons for talking about conscription are very different so its a poor or irrelevant comparison. In either case no one is trying to seriously implement conscription. The military doesn’t wants millions of troops, they are to expensive and a volunteer force has many advantages in morale and motivation. Is anybody actually putting together a bill or even a decent spreadsheet regarding it?

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      • Vietnam ended because of, among other things, Opposition To The Draft. I think that the argument goes that the only wars that Congress will be willing to authorize will be wars that are supported by 50%+1 of the voters in 50%+1 of the districts.

        Which means that we’d have had support for Afghanistan and Iraq and probably wouldn’t have it for Syria.

        Oh, the irony.

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      • Greg, rationale has nothing to do with this conversation. That Rangel’s motivations are not war-lust doesn’t matter and indeed is exactly what I am saying. Lee said that some people support the draft because of war-aversion. NewDealer said that the draft is mostly supported by neocons. George and I pointed to a leading proponent not being a neocon.

        We did not say that Rangel supports the draft because of warlust. Nor did we suggest that there is significant support for the draft on the left. Only that there is support precisely along the lines that Lee was talking about.

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      • On the subject of a draft, it seems worth noting that the professional officer corps that run the US military aren’t in favor of one. They have — at civilian direction — restructured the military to fight a particular type of war well: use the technology advantage to win quickly and then withdraw. The Army is not prepared for an occupation, which was made clear in Iraq and Afghanistan by the need to draw heavily on National Guard and Army Reserve troops.

        There are limits to what such a military can accomplish. In Syria, the one thing that they can do is to reduce both sides to relatively small arms. An air campaign with smart munitions and satellite and drone intelligence for targeting can remove Assad’s airplanes, tanks, and artillery from the field (there will be collateral damage, of course). No one gets anything bigger than mortars and human-carried weapons. Who wins after that? Almost certainly the rebels, who will simply have many more bodies to throw into the fight. Will the rebels commit atrocities of their own? At least IMO, the answer is again, almost certainly, as there will be no one to stop them.

        The only reason for reestablishing a broad draft is because you intend to do more occupations in the future.

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      • Yeah, the main reasons – right or left – to support a draft have little to do with military objective. It’s more culture-shaping. Either (from the left) an effort to have society have a greater stake in our military action or (from the right, mostly) instill or satisfy a sense of duty or nationalism in the public (a “buy-in” for lack of a better term).

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      • The draft is good for society. It binds us more closely together by ensuring we all have shared sacrifice for our country. Therefore, you, son, have a duty to go get your ass shot off, lose both legs and your genitals, and be in daily pain the rest of your life, or, hell, just die on the battfield with your torso blown open and your guts strewn around your cold body, so the rest of us can benefit from that shared sacrifice. So here’s your draft number, kid.

        Yeah, I can’t figure out why that progressive argument for the draft didn’t fly.

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      • The only reason to have a draft is if you actually have a pressing national need for more people in your military. If that’s not the case, it’s bad for the military and bad for society and completely unjustified on liberty grounds.

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      • A counter-point to that view might be that a professional* military is a lot like having a domestic mercenary force on retainer. It nullifies much of the moral qualms about sending them hither and yon to fight and die since that’s exactly what they signed up for, right? War-making shouldn’t be a business or a career.

        * We like to use the term “all-volunteer” but volunteers aren’t normally paid–think of the retiree that donates some time each week at the hospital–so I don’t see how it applies to the current situation.

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      • I might add that a positive rationale for compulsory military service is very similar to the original rationale behind a militia vs. a standing army as favored by the Founders.While the militia idea didn’t really work out so well; poor training and discipline, lots of desertions, etc., perhaps a hybrid model along the lines of Israel or Switzerland (as I understand them) might be ideal.

        It would ensure that practically all able-bodied adults had at least the basic training so a necessary mobilization wouldn’t start from absolute scratch, while retaining the corporate memory of the smaller professional cadre and the political resistance to war inherent in being “called up” for duty.

        Unjustified on liberty grounds? Perhaps, but so then is jury duty. Maybe it isn’t all about liberty in the final analysis.

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      • Rod, I’d also add that if national defense is a justified role of the state, citizens are confronted with choices about how to best realize that state of affairs: professional, paid mercenary forces; standing armies comprised of paid “volunteers”; a milita-type model which utilizes a draft to train able-bodied folks to actually engage in the legitimate exercise of national defense; and so on.

        The draft can certainly be opposed on liberty grounds, but national defense is a legitimate and perhaps necessary role of government. So the liberty argument can cut both ways, it seems to me.

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      • I suspect that if the country actually needs defending, getting enough voluntary soldiers won’t be a problem. And if you can’t get enough volunteers, then you probably shouldn’t be going to war (and if in fact you should, then you need to do a better job of explaining why).

        The one argument that does give me cause is the concern about a permanent mercenary force. But I think that can be, and mostly is at present, handled structurally. Most service members serve only a few year, and even the officer rank get successively thinned out as you move up in the ranks. Oddly, the generous retirement deal–full retirement after 20 years, iirc–probably helps prevent this mercenar fear by encouraging people to get out while they’re still young and vigorous, and turn their attention to other, non-military–affairs, whether business or civic.

        But that’s not to say the fear is ungrounded or that the U.S. has no problems with military folk who see themselves as separate from and superior to the civilian masses, and plenty of civilians who share and promote that view.

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      • Jeez, you guys are talking about a volunteer army like it’s a bad thing.
        I fear the roboticized army. The one where we might never have an American on the front lines. They’re building prototypes now, folks (like, actual news reports, not pulling this out of “military research” stuck under three levels of secrecy). The future? It’s getting closer by the minute.

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      • Of course, a lot of people who leave the military don’t turn their attention entirely away from military affairs, which does raise concerns about mercenary effects of a standing army. But I don’t really see how that’s determined very much by the absence or presence of a draft. A draft doesn’t get rid of a standing army. Unless you’re going to stop seeking volunteers and outlaw military careers, you’re going to have constituencies whose interests are bound up in the military and military affairs (and military spending and contracting). And unless you just get rid of the standing army you’re going to have the standing army. A draft doesn’t get rid of the standing army; it’s just a means of growing whatever army you have (or raising one if you’re starting without) for when you need to do that.

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      • I think the best possible mid term between a draft and a ‘all volunteer’ army would be if all the sons and daughters of members of congress were forced to be enlisted as long as their fathers and mothers were serving their terms.

        That way, in a very simple change, it would guarantee that the congress would only approve military action if the reasons were good enough to get their own sons and daughters KIA.

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    • The Conor F’s of the world seem to be saying that liberals should be more supportive of Rand Paul while ignoring or not dealing with the fact that Rand Paul supports a lot of policies that liberals disagree with strongly.

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      • I come from a different perspective than Conor’s. Ultimately, it’s a question of the US political system. How do you see the Red/Blue divide resolving itself. Should I not worry because the Red is becoming purple and if I wait long enough the people that I have a problem with will die off and Alabama will become heaven?

        The attraction of Paul, more the elder, is that he advocates a federalism that would allow a path for blue states to go on their own. California would be able to afford all of the programs that it cherishes if it weren’t feeding tax dollars to states that don’t even appreciate the programs you’re paying for. Better to keep the money, skip the debate and take care of your own.

        I’m still interested in hearing what you ordered for dinner and whether a month long waiting line was worth it.

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      • Cascadian,

        Dinner was very good. I got the chicken and it was excellent. I rarely order chicken at restaurants (except friend chicken). We also shared the burata, porcini mushrooms, and sardine chips.

        A month goes by pretty quickly so it was worth the wait. Now if you said six months to a year, probably not as much.

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      • Cascadian,

        I suppose that for many issues there is no problem with federalism but for many other issues I think there is a huge problem with federalism. I don’t think you should have differences in civil rights law. California and New York have very liberal civil rights laws. SF and NYC more so. I don’t think transgendered or gay people should be forced to move from Alabama to get California or New York levels of protection.

        Same with the death penalty, it is a universal wrong. Not an issue that can be left to federalism.

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      • Rod as in Dreher?

        I think that there is a sizable group of people who are single or bi issue voters. This makes finding political candidates to support easier. You just need them to support one or two issues. If you can about multiple issues, the balance gets harder and the questions tougher. Do I vote for the candidate I think is pro-Israel (I am pro-Israel) or the candidate who would end the Drug War (I would end the Drug War) if they are different candidates.

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      • Ugh, just lost the post. Ultimately, I find limiting social norms and protections in my region to allow a gay person to live in Alabama is as compelling as limiting the resources for our State educational structure so that people can live in otherwise uninsurable locations… hurricane and tornado areas.

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      • Not to be overtly hostile, but what you’re advocating seems to be a slightly broader version of FYIGM–that as long as gay rights/abortion rights/whatever are OK in major cities than nobody in SF has any reason to care about abortion rights in Alabama. I reject that notion.

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      • No worries. I accept that it’s a provocative position. I have reason to care about education for women in Afghanistan that doesn’t mean that I need to negotiate on blasphemy in order to rectify their problem. Apart from a historic connection, I find it increasingly difficult to justify negotiating with an intransigent population and foreign culture that I feel no connection to. Why should I give up on food stamps for a population that actively doesn’t want universal health care that I’m going to end up paying for? It’s gotten too absurd fighting for things for parts of the country that have no interest in them at the expense of programs and infrastructure that my own region needs.

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      • Trumwill:

        It’s very similar to the argument Rod made about Libertarians and the Drug War: You didn’t forsake the other issues on the basis of this one, so you carry blame for this one.

        EXACTLY! And I think it’s precisely why people like Murali are so down on democracy as a mechanism for instituting policy. Hell, I’m down on it too for those reasons. I just don’t think there’s a better mechanism out there.

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      • Since you all are talking about me, yeah, it’s sort of like that. And sort of not.

        Any political party or candidate or affiliational identity will carry with it a smorgasbord of positions on different issues. We all have our own priorities and weighting factors. Inevitably we’re going to choose our “sides” based on those priorities and weightings and, as a consequence, end up, as a practical matter, lending tacit support to causes and positions that we don’t, in fact, support. Unless you happen to be the odd duck whose policy preferences just happen to line up 100% with the platform of a particular party or candidate, we all end up doing this. And that’s okay.

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      • I don’t think burden shifting for moral blame works very well here.

        Rod is right about how politics work. For every libertarian like like Jaybird who jumps up and down about the NSA and Drug War, there is probably a libertarian that is very willing to vote Republican for the right economic policies.

        Being an adult involves compromise.

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    • You’ve asked and answered your own question. Politicians know that there’s no price to pay for supporting war, because voters value other things more.

      I’ve chosen to deal with this myself by simply not voting for politicians who do things that I find immoral. I’ve no allusions that this will change anything, but the simple act of withdrawing from the whole re team-blue team farce has done wonders for my mental health.

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    • I don’t think you can necessarily assume that in cases of legit national defense volunteers will be sufficient. For instance, I think we can agree that WWII was a clear-cut case of national defense, but millions of men were drafted during the war–200,000 per month were inducted during the 1942-1944 period according to Wikipedia. Which isn’t to say I favor a draft–I certainly don’t at the current moment. But if the Martians invade, I might feel differently.

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    • While the militia idea didn’t really work out so well; poor training and discipline, lots of desertions, etc., perhaps a hybrid model along the lines of Israel or Switzerland (as I understand them) might be ideal.

      I might be more supportive if the probable use of the US military were kept as close to home as those of Israel and Switzerland. There’s the possibility of domestic use, since a universal service requirement would produce enough bodies that the National Guard would no longer be necessary. But the probability is overwhelming that if draftees were actually deployed for military purposes, it would be half-way across the world, in an aggressive role, without any declaration of war.

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  3. I haven’t had much to say not because I do not care, but because I have no earthly idea what the right answer is.

    I am inclined to be opposed to military intervention for a whole host of reasons. But I also respect the counter-argument that there is something unique about crossing the line to use chemical weapons, and that intervention is justifiable or even necessary. And I don’t know nearly enough about the relevant considerations to feel confident in my own opinion.

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    • Even if we grant arguendo that there’s value in enforcing international norms against chemical weapons (or peacekeeping more broadly), I’m far from convinced that the US is the right entity to enforce these norms, especially unilaterally-or-nearly-so. If we were to slash our military budget and dedicate even a share of the savings to humanitarian aid, we’d probably do a lot more good; and if a norm needs to be enforced militarily, then we should build more effective international institutions rather than just acting on our own. Both of these are long-term solutions to a short-term problem, but I’m uncomfortable just trusting that the US will be a good international citizen.

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      • Dan –

        You say “…and if a norm needs to be enforced militarily, then we should build more effective international institutions rather than just acting on our own.”

        I agree with the general idea that the U.S. should act on its own, but I don’t know that ineffective international institutions are to blame here. Russia has single-handedly taken the UN out of play and the UK parliament has done the same with NATO. I don’t know how any international institution can overcome a situation like this one where there is so little consensus on the right course to take.

        I share your concern with the US in this enforcement role, but this strikes as a case where they asked for volunteers and everyone else in the line stepped back.

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      • I don’t know how any international institution can overcome a situation like this one where there is so little consensus on the right course to take.

        Is there actually a lack of consensus? I mean, sure, Obama wants to drop bombs and perhaps the leadership of a few of our allies, but isn’t pretty much everyone else opposed?

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      • Stillwater –

        I was thinking less the range of opinions on the efficacy of dropping bombs on a dictator who has nowhere to go but down in flames, than the counter-argument on the unique heinousness of using chemical weapons and the potential risks that might stem from letting such an action slide.

        I’d agree that very few in the international community want to get their hands dirty in this particularly messy civil war, but I don’t think that position extends to a widely held belief that the Syrian president should be able to gas his enemies (and his own people) with impunity. I’d prefer the US not intervene, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hope for a special section in hell reserved especially for Assad and pray that some force in the world might send him there as soon as possible.

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      • Well, keep in mind that based on the evidence presented so far, we have no idea if Assad had anything to do with the attack, and quite a bit of logic says he didn’t. The French “evidence” is that they don’t think the rebels could possibly have had the capacity to carry out something like that yet… therefore it must’ve been Assad.

        Well, that doesn’t logically follow. If the rebels didn’t do it, it indicates that someone on Assad’s side of the war probably did it, but his regime is embattled, fragmented, and desperate. Armies can actually do tremendously big things without pestering the national leader, who in this case is an eye-doctor with probably no particular skills to offer. In fact, if he’s particularly pathetic as a steely-eyed war commander, generals would make a point of not risking his inane vetoes on their brilliant schemes. Better to do and apologize later than beg permission and get turned down.

        From what I’ve seen, there’s nothing to rule out the possibility that the absolutely pointless and self-defeating chemical attack was carried out precisely with the idea of getting us to bump off Assad for being an ineffectual war leader whose gumming up the works.

        Things have gotten so bad in Syria that people are cutting deals left and right, for weapons, supplies, and everything else. Many large Christian communities were given permission to run their own militia forces, given government arms for their own protection and told that they were on their own. A lot of other communities have undoubtedly done the same.

        I’m sure some of them have used their many personal contacts to say something like, “Well, the RPG’s and machine guns are nice, but what would make us feel really safe is some chemical weapons. I used to be attached to the XX brigade and we know all about how to use them. What would it take to kick some of those loose?” *wink wink*

        Both sides feel they’re in an existential battle of survival, and that it’s victory or death. The further away victory is, and the closer death seems, the more everyone becomes willing to do really crazy, unofficial things. People stop caring about procedure and focus on survival at any cost. They start doing bizarre, desperate things.

        Think of Nazi Germany in late 1944 and 1945. The closer they came to the end, the more they’d improvise, ignore orders, loot their own stockpiles, and shift to a mindset of every man for himself. Others would just quit holding back and make desperate suicidal attacks, kill their own families, or drown themselves in rivers. And they were some of the most disciplined, anal-retentive, law abiding people on Earth.

        All we seem to really know about the Syrian attack is that someone who is probably on Assad’s side in the war used chemical weapons, and Assad is nominally in charge of his side of the war. This is taking place in a country where everyone is desperate, six million are displaced, atrocities occur daily, and chemical weapons are stockpiled all over the place. Somebody is going to get pissed off or frightened enough to use them. That someone was high up enough to coordinate their use into a barrage, but not high up enough to back that barrage up with any form of combined arms, assault, communications blackout, or much of anything else. Assad could’ve done all those things, had he been behind the attack.

        But we’re not really trying to figure out who that somebody was, we’re trying to topple Assad. If we do, all those chemical weapons will fall into the hands of whoever. Alawites, Christians, Druze, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra, various Iraqi groups, etc. If limiting the risk of chemical weapons on civilians is the actual goal, it would almost make more sense to side with Assad and make sure he purges the country of the 1,200 rebel groups opposing him, and then decapitate him and his regime, rolling in and collecting such weapons kind of like they were Nazi V-2 rockets.

        Or it would make sense to put a whole lot of forces in to oppose him, but more importantly displace all those random rebel groups. But if we do that, we are again creating a situation where people up to their eyeballs in chemical munitions will think they’re in a situation of victory or death.

        Syria is bleeding from a thousand wounds. It doesn’t need escalation, it needs de-escalation. If we could figure out how to make both sides (aside from random rebel war tourists and jihadists) feel more secure, less vulnerable to attack, less in need of new offensives (possibly by making any offensive attempts rather futile by offering to retake any territories attacked by either side), some of the bleeding might slow. I’m somewhat doubtful that approach would work, however, because Assad’s side feels they need to control all of Syria to feel secure.

        What perhaps disturbs me most is that we really only started talking up intervention when Assad’s side won some major victories, throw the rebels back on their heals in several areas. So we’re wanting to give a lot of aid and support to the side that started losing. But that side includes large numbers of very bad actors like Al Qaeda and Al Nusra, and they like to make horrifying videos of executing their victims. I’ve watched them kill Christian priests and bishops both by decapitation and a bullet to the back of the head, execution style.

        They’re not going to ease up as they start to win, they’re going to get bolder. So obviously, at some point, we’re going to start helping their opponents resist such attacks. To do that we’re going to start helping the Syrian government side, or people aligned with the Syrian government side. We’ll just be pouring gasoline on a raging fire, trying to make sure nobody gets hurt by making sure they fight to the last man.

        And the brilliant people getting us into all this? John Kerry and Assad are almost frequent dining companions. Chuck Hegel, not one to engage his mouth unless his mind has thunk a thought, has hardly said a coherent word. John McCain, pushing for ground intervention, sat through the debate playing video poker on his iPhone. These idiots would’ve felt right at home in 1914.

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  4. I care. I want us not to get involved. Let us stipulated that he is the equivalent of Saddam Hussein.

    The last time we invaded a country to depose Saddam Hussein even though he hadn’t attacked us first, it cost us a trillion dollars and two generations’ worth of hard-won international goodwill, thousands if not tens of thousands of lives and gifted hundreds of thousands of soldiers with maimings and PTSD, transformed our internal politics into an unworkable hash, and tied up our culture for ten years.

    Back in 2002, I was in favor of the war and it took me a long time before allowed myself to meet the terrible reality that it had, in fact, been a gross mistake all along. I’m not going to make that mistake again.

    Why aren’t I raising more of a stink about it? Because I feel powerless and disenfrancised. There isn’t anything I can do to stop it. My tax dollars and I are just along for the ride, but no one in a position of authority is in the least bit interested in what I, or anyone else apparently, has to say about it. “We’re going to war again, with or without the Brits.” And that’s it, served up fait accompli. “Hey, it all worked out just fine in Libya, dinnit?”

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    • Back in 2002, I was in favor of the war and it took me a long time before allowed myself to meet the terrible reality that it had, in fact, been a gross mistake all along. I’m not going to make that mistake again.

      Why aren’t I raising more of a stink about it? Because I feel powerless and disenfrancised.

      You didn’t feel powerless and disenfranchised back in ’02, apparently. So what, exactly, has changed that makes you feel powerless and disenfranchised now?

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  5. Well, even discussions about Iraq pretty much stopped in 2007 when it dropped out of the press (almost a 90% drop in stories), which didn’t want the 2008 election to be focused on national security, an area where the Republican candidate might have an advantage over a freshman Senator from Illinois. It’s not that the public is war weary, it’s that the wars largely disappeared from the media.

    What your salesman was reflecting was the rather common conclusion that a lot of “anti-war” sentiment is really just a hatred of American Republicans and support for various flavors of “authentic”, indigenous, anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, left-wing radicalisms. FDR’s bitterest opponents were on the left, such Father Cochran who preached Zionist conspiracies and accused FDR of being in bed with Jewish industrialists and selling out to corporations. Lend Lease was opposed by the left which viewed it just as a way for war-mongering, giant, US arms companies and capitalist investors to reap huge profits fighting socialist reformers in Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union.

    When Hitler attacked Stalin, they decided to support the victim and Germany went from being the leading banner of progressive socialism to the uber-capitalist oppressor state – overnight. Then Japan attacked, and the anti-war left screamed that we were going to war in the Pacific for the interests of Royal Dutch Shell. (The “No War for Oil!” slogan goes back to WW-II, and was also used for Korea and Vietnam).

    Then in Korea we were fighting off the communist hordes, and it was easy for anti-war folks to portray us as propping up a right-wing military dictatorship. Vietnam was reprise two, supporting right-wing Presidents, juntas, or generals against authentic communist nationalists and social reformers. Throughout most of the Cold War, most of our interventions were usually against communist insurgents and rebels, and the list is pretty long. We never once had a left-wing Democrat President try to take us to war against someplace like Switzerland, Chile, or South Korea.

    Notice the pattern. Since almost all the US wars and interventions, by historical accident, happened to be America or Britain fighting left-wing or communist regimes or revolutionary movements, you could think you’re against WAR and really just against right-wing rich white capitalists thrashing authentic brown left-wing socialist progressives of some flavor or another. Wars whose optics fit this model would therefore garner the strongest opposition and stir up the greatest “anti-war” sentiment, and wars that don’t fit this model would hardly twitch the “care-o-meter.”

    Throwing the Spanish out of Cuba? Don’t care. They’re right wing Europeans.
    Fighting Castro? If Kennedy is in charge, okay. Ike, Nixon, Reagan, no way!

    Panama? Eh, Noriega is a US trained dictator. Toss him in jail and be done with it.
    Nicaragua? Sandinistas? Stop the war! Impeach Reagan, dang it!

    They didn’t protest the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands, they protested a right-wing British Prime Minister doing something about it.

    They didn’t protest Clinton hitting the Iraqi dictator with cruise missiles, they protested George HW Bush’s war for oil and George W Bush’s war for oil (both of which could fit their narrative). They didn’t even really protest Clinton’s bombing campaign in Yugoslavia. They didn’t really protest removing Kaddafi from Libya, because Obama was doing it and Kaddafi was an oil rich dictator, whereas Saddam was being overthrown by rich capitalist Republicans who wanted to steal his people’s oil.

    There’s a common thread through all the big, organized protests that doesn’t match up with opposition to war, missile strikes, or anything else. It matches up to opposition to rich capitalists doing the bidding of corporations to crush poor, authentic, left-wing people of color and take their stuff.

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    • “We never once had a left-wing Democrat President try to take us to war against someplace like Switzerland, Chile, or South Korea.”

      Damn those sneaky Swiss! With their scissors, and tweezers, chocolate and finely crafted cuckoo clocks!

      *shakes my fist in rage*

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    • Not many people realize this, but Germany never attacked Switzerland because they were afraid of the Swiss. Hitler demanded his generals draw up invasion plans three times because he utterly despised them as stinking quasi-Jewish capitalists, but his generals always came back and said it would be a blood bath, and that although Germany would of course win, they would lose an enormous number of troops and not only not gain anything, but the Swiss would blow all the railroad tunnels that connected Germany to Italy the moment the first German boot crossed their border.

      Very early in the war the Swiss noticed that the German success was based on rapidly invading a country, at which point the shocked victim country’s government would within weeks tell its citizens and armed forces to surrender. So the Swiss government began very publicly broadcasting that if any of their citizens or soldiers were ever told by the Swiss government to surrender, they were to ignore all further orders from the government and fight to the death.

      As an aside, both Germany and the US heavily pressured the Swiss to allow troops to move through their country. The Swiss wouldn’t allow it. They would allow Germany to ship supplies to Italy via Swiss railroads, but all the German troops had to go around. The US was similarly stymied after taking northern Italy and then not being able to use it as another front against Germany because Switzerland was in the way.

      In WW-I the Germans angrily asked the Swiss ambassador what his country’s million militiamen would do when confronted by two-million mighty German soldiers. His reply was simply, “Shoot twice.” The western front’s entrenchments stretched from the ocean to the Swiss border, where they just stopped.

      Part of the reason almost everyone leaves them alone is that they remember what Swiss pike formations and mercenary units used to do to all their opponents. All of Europe hated and feared the Swiss because they almost always won handily and didn’t take prisoners, even noble ones, and their formations would fight to the last man. So aside from Napoleon, nobody tried to mess with them.

      There was a recent flap where the Swiss government was going to make all the Swiss buy their own crate of assault rifle ammunition for home storage, which every Swiss has to own so they can fight their way to their assigned rally point in the event of an invasion. Part of the interesting discussions were whether you were killing the enemy purely as a private citizen on the way to the rally point, or whether you were acting on the government’s behalf because you were trying to get to the rally point. Is it the government’s role to subsidize your combat expenses before you’ve actually mustered?

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      • The Swiss were pretty friendly to the Germans during ww2. They were a convient spot to transit spies through and served a lot of financial purposes. The Swiss banks didn’t hold millions in money stolen from Jews by accident. The Swiss were allowed to be freeish because they were complaint and not worth taking. Like the German leadership were really terrified of the Swiss when they were willing to take on the USSR. snicker.

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      • They were not terrified of the Swiss, but they weren’t going to wrestle with them, either. It was a postage stamp country with too many trained riflemen and too many mountains to shoot from, and absolutely no resources worth taking. In contrast, the Soviet Union was made up of sub-human Slavic peoples who sat on some of the best agricultural land in Eurasia. While the Swiss were trading with the Germans, they were making precision aircraft instruments for the Allies, which we used for bombing Germany. Both sides knew the Swiss were trading heavily with the other side, and neither side was going to take them on about it.

        During the war the Swiss flew a mix of German and Allied fighters, from Me-109’s, FW-190’s, to P-51 Mustangs. If it ventured over Switzerland, it became part of the Swiss Air Force, and the pilots got to hang out there until 1944 or 1945.

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      • Germany never attacked Switzerland because they were afraid of the Swiss

        Also
        They were not terrified of the Swiss

        They were precisely as scared as necessary to save the hypothesis, and not one bit more!

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      • Reading is better than not knowing.

        Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in WW-II

        I have it in hardback.

        Kim, nobody in Europe thought much of the Greek army or Greek fighting spirit. During the colonial period a lot of military romantics read the Iliad and dreamed of renewing the ancient fighting spirit of the Spartans, thinking they’d bring in the latest weapons, teach the Greeks some modern tactics, and give the Turks and others what for. They all gave up in disgust.

        As it turns out, the Greeks were no longer inclined to stoically watch all the comrades get cut down like they were in ancient times. They take death way too seriously, grieving and wailing and making a big display. The colonial officers officers came up with their typical colonial conclusions, that maybe Christianity had ruined the Greeks, or maybe the best fighters had all died in combat long centuries ago, before they managed to reproduce, etc.

        The Swiss, on the other hand, were still considered to be armed lunatics who thought killing enemy soldiers, even if they all died doing it, even if they were outnumbered a hundred to one, is just something a person did. Never retreat, never surrender, and die fighting. The Nazis could identify with that very well, and their illusions of racial superiority didn’t apply because the Swiss were Germans. So they knew if they invaded Switzerland, the country wouldn’t just roll over, and they’d have an actual fight on their hands against Swiss dug into prepared mountain positions stocked with supplies.

        The German generals staff war gamed it many times, and though they always won (their armored forces and paratroops could take the valleys, though the losses were heavy and constant), the games always predicted horrendous casualties and long, drawn out fighting.

        So although Hitler kept demanding they come up with a plan to take Switzerland, which he utterly despised, they kept saying it was foolish and would drain too many men from other fronts, while Germany would gain absolutely nothing from the effort.

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  6. “Germany went from being the leading banner of progressive socialism to the uber-capitalist oppressor state”
    Impressive pile of crap….really far out man. Its really sweet how you try to shoe horn every bit of history into your preferred ideological narrative. Whenever anybody tries to do that it leads to butchering history.

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    • And he even wrote Democrat instead of Democratic!*

      I marvel at how Art and George can continue to do this.

      *I know it is supposed to be an insult/pejorative to say or write Democrat Party instead of Democratic Party but I’ve never been able to determine why.

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    • Um, in case you’ve never gone back and look at what was written in the 1930’s, Germany was touted as a socialist model that had beaten the depression through government spending and made socialism work for the people, breaking up exploitive capitalist bankers and industrial cartels, creating a minimum wage, youth programs, mandatory paid vacations, worker representation on the factory floor, and government involvement in business decisions. They were also deeply involved in national health care, trying to improve the genetic fitness and health of all Germans. Their only opposition was the communists, who didn’t think they went far enough to the left, and the old, landed aristocracy that thought they were a bunch of barking, lower-class idiots, which they were. They preached against the evils of exploitive Anglo American capitalism and imperialism, and how Jewish fat cats on Wall Street were like tics sucking the life-blood from the working classes around the world.

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      • So close to actual facts geogie, so close. Nazi G was never socialist, the big business companies all did fine( ever hear of Krupp??). The rich folk in the US and England were just ducky with the Nazi’s ( prescott bush, etc). They would not have curled with actual commies or socialist. They like that Hitler put down the socialist in his country, who were very much his opposition and were very happy he was an enemy of the real commies in the USSR. The Prussians certainly thought many of the Nazi’s were uncouth lower class rabel, but they went along with them just fine. Protip; when big business and old landed gentry are fine with a government, it isn’t socialist. Umm yeah they hated Jews, yeah G, Germany and the Jews had some issues that really weren’t about economic. It was in all the papers.

        You know if you aren’t trying to twist every bit of history into your own ideological view, you can actually make some good points. This isn’t one of those times.

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      • George– seems like you’ve relied a little too heavily on the Jonah Goldberg school of ahistorical interpretation where all kinds of vastly differing social and political movements can be subsumed into a single simple category that makes history’s dots easy to connect. In Goldberg’s case, it’s “liberal fascism.” If only history were that tidy.

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      • Okay, so admittedly you haven’t ever read anything written during the period, by anyone on any side, despite the fact that the Nazis were famous for talking endlessly about what they believed.

        Krupp was a model of efficient labor, and how Germans could unite, with government, management, and workers all joining hands to produce national socialist industrial miracles, freed of the pernicious schemes of bankers and Jewish capitalists who were trying to exploit everyone and wring the German people dry. The people who opposed Hitler, and tried to assassinate him, were the old landed aristocrats, who as generals despised him as a blithering windbag idiot. The working class was enthralled.

        Hitler won over the industrial concerns and investors the same way the Fascists did, by using their influence over the workers to promise and end to labor unrest, and offering even more influence for those that cooperated with government. Why should the workers have to seize the means of production when their government could just step in and make sure everyone is happy? In a socialist state, why should any worker have to go on strike?

        The aftermath of Lenin’s takeover of the Soviet Union was regarded as a disaster by the European socialists, and it took Stalin forever to address the damage. Both Hitler and Mussolini said the mistake was dispossessing and executing the business owners, who after all were really just workers with management positions who possessed essential skills in knowing how to run the organs of essential industry.

        The Nazis described the mistake as killing the brain before the other organs had learned what to do, and it was a mistake that national socialism wouldn’t repeat. In time, working as one, the national socialist states wouldn’t really have industrialists, but during the transition to socialism they were an essential part of the strength of the German people as long as they worked hand-in-hand with government, moving Germany and the world forward.

        There are tons of Nazi propaganda archives on the web. I suggest you read them.

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      • Just out of curiosity, is it even possible that the Nazis were right about, say, nationalized health care while being wrong about, say, wanting to exterminate the Jewish people?

        It strikes me as odd that people act as if it was the socialism that made the Nazis evil. It wasn’t. It was the genocide.

        If the Nazis hadn’t committed themselves to genocide and exterminating the Jewish people and all that jazz, I doubt anyone would say, “Hitler is still history’s greatest monster! Did you hear his speeches on health care?!?!”

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      • No, nationalized health care and genocide are pretty much indistinguishable, except for minor details. You can actually lower health care expenses with genocide. ^_^

        Actually the Nazi fascination with genetics was just an odd coincidence, I think. It was an idea circulating around, and they latched onto it as part of their conspiratorial worldview. It did match up with much of the Marxist teachings about class and race (Marx also argued that the slavs were primitives who would never get over capitalism, similar to Jewish traits) which formed a lot of the basis of Hitler’s thinking.

        It’s important to realize that Fascism and Nazism both drew heavily from Marxist revisionists who were wrestling with errors in Marx’s predictions about class warfare, starting in the late 1890’s. The masses weren’t rising up as he predicted, and continued their willingness to fight for king and country instead of their own class and interests. Both later movements put enormous stock in the idea that Marx underestimated how much the masses are moved by national symbols, myths, and dynamic leaders, so they both put enormous emphasis in over-the-top pomp and show. Drawing from other currents at the time, both put a lot of emphasis on futurism and modernism.

        One huge difference was that Fascism was wildly anti-racist, while Nazism was racist in the extreme.

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      • If the Nazis hadn’t committed themselves to genocide and exterminating the Jewish people and all that jazz, I doubt anyone would say, “Hitler is still history’s greatest monster! Did you hear his speeches on health care?!?!”

        Oh, yeah. That.

        If the Nazis had confined themselves to cleaning up Weimar Germany’s corrupt and ineffective governmental institutions, and getting the economy into shape, they might have done all sorts of good things and be worthy of praise. But of course, they didn’t confine themselves to a domestic reform agenda. They did embark on a campaign of military conquest and internal genocide.

        It’s silly to say that Nazis were liberals because they said they wanted to use the government to improve health care for German people … and sillier still to say that people today who want to use the government to improve health care for American people are Nazis today.

        The Nazis championed low inflation, too. Must I today advocate an inflationary monetary policy to avoid being tarred with Hitler’s brush?

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      • “No, nationalized health care and genocide are pretty much indistinguishable, except for minor details.”

        I don’t think you actually think that. As such, I kindly request you not make such inflammatory statements, wherein you essentially say that supporters of nationalized health care are also supporters of genocide.

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      • Well, one American Democrat touring along the Rhine in 1937 wrote “Very beautiful, because there are many castles along the route. The towns are all charming which shows that the Nordic races appear to be definitely superior to their Latin counterparts. The Germans are really too good – that’s why people conspire against them – they do it to protect themselves.” Two weeks earlier he wrote “I have come to the conclusion that fascism is right for Germany and Italy.” After the war, touring the Eagle’s Nest, he wrote “Anyone who has visited these places can imagine how in a few years, Hitler will emerge from the hate that now surrounds him and come to be regarded as one of the most significant figures ever to have lived.” I guess it takes a while to shake off an initial infatuation. Sadly, that tourist was assassinated in Dallas by a communist named Lee Harvey Oswald.

        For the Nazi perspective, Google the Calvin College propaganda archive. They have this speech by Herman Goering in 1933 which addresses nationalism and socialism question directly, saying in part:

        Only he who emphasizes German socialism is truly national. He who refuses to speak of socialism, who believes in socialism only in the Marxist sense, or to whom the word “socialism” has an unpleasant ring, has not understood the deepest meaning of nationalism. He has not understood that one can only be a nationalist when one sees social problems openly and clearly. And on the other hand, one can only be a socialist when he clearly sees that nationalism must triumph to protect the living space of a people from outside forces.

        Just as nationalism protects a people from outside forces, so socialism serves a people’s domestic needs.

        [snip]

        Our movement seized the concept of socialism from the cowardly Marxists, and tore the concept of nationalism from the cowardly bourgeois parties, throwing both into the melting pot of our worldview, and producing a clear synthesis: German national Socialism. That provided the foundation for the rebuilding of our people. Thus this revolution was National Socialist.

        As I said, they spent over a decade screaming their beliefs from the rafters, putting them on billboards, and shoving them down people’s throats. Kind of hard to miss it, unless of course you only learned about them from what was written later by academics who leaned more than a bit to the left, in which case their driving purpose was something about wearing snazzy boots, marching a lot, and killing people, just because they liked to do that kind of thing.

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      • Also, George, you know this is the internet, right? You know it took me less than a minute to find the sentence you left out of the Kennedy quote (from Kennedy at 20):

        “I have come to the conclusion that fascism is right for Germany and Italy. What are the evils of fascism compared to communism?

        Can we get better trolls, please?

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      • Chris, the Nazis produced tons of propaganda to explain their world view. The only source the Germans who joined the Nazi party would have on that world view is Nazi propaganda, which is how the Nazis recruited all their members.

        If you ignore what all the Nazis said to the German people, including what they said amongst one another, you might as well posit that the Nazis were actually Hindus trying to get people to protect elephants, or perhaps the last remnants of the Knights Templar who worshipped UFOs.

        So instead of believing what Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Ley, and all the other Nazis wrote for over a decade about what Nazis actually believe (And they made absolutely no bones about what they thought of Jews, capitalists, or inferior races. They were not holding back.), you prefer to believe what Miss Marple your third grade teacher told you about what Nazis believed, which she heard from her third grade teacher, Mrs Tizzenbaum.

        I think I’ll trust the Nazis statements about what they believed, and the reams of documentation we uncovered after the war, than a third hand source from grade school.

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      • I take it you’ve never read anything about the Kennedy family’s history, either.

        Well, FDR had to personally threaten the political futures of all the Kennedy kids to stop their dad’s very public support of Hitler. JFK’s elder brother was really over the top. It’s all really famous. Use Google.

        They also tried to marry their sister off to Joe McCarthy, one of their closest friends.

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      • Georgie, try wrapping your head around what the idea of socialism means. The Germans didn’t practice economic socialism. They were nationalists and fervent racists and also massively communitarian. The People, at least as they defined it, were above all. The Race was where it was at.

        Do you really think capitalists didn’t have a wee bit of stinky reputation in the 30’s???? Do you have a guess why?? But in practice the Nazi’s were fine with capitalists as long as they were German. Get it. They hated Jews and foreign capitalists who they felt had screwed them over.

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      • So, in a propaganda speech delivered to workers immediately after the Nazi takeover, Goering promotes Naziism as pro-worker, and you think this is deep? Seriously, your knowledge of this is as deep as the knowledge of WWI you’ve displayed about these parts, which is to say, you haven’t even gotten your toes wet.

        And you left out the part of that speech where he even attacks the Social Democrats. National Socialism wasn’t socialism, it was one-party authoritarianism designed not on the idea of class conflict, but on the idea of cross-class unity through nationalism, with ideas and programs to bring both the wealthy and the workers on board, at least at the start when Hitler and his minions were still consolidating their power. I know it’s hard for people like you, who see things in such black and white, us vs. them terms, to see the word “socialism” and not think, “Oh look, Hitler was a socialist!” but man, it’s time you stopped getting your history from right wing website and read some actual books.

        I remember, before these “the Nazis were socialists!” debates popped up on the internet, there were “The Nazis were atheists!” debates all over the internet, and they suffered from the same flaw: the Nazis courted the religious, rejected the religious, got into weird occultism, and so on. It was a mish mash of ideologies designed to ultimately promote one ideology: militant German nationalism, with its attendant anti-Semitism, anti-Slavism, and designs on Eurasian dominance.

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      • I know JFK’s father was pro-Fascism, but that doesn’t mean the quote is real. If you trace the quote, you’ll find that it comes from a single, seemingly non-existent book that is supposedly quoting previous undiscovered diary entries. But figuring that out would take more than 2 minutes of Googling to support a point you, after those 2 minutes, clearly realized was unsupportable.

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      • Greg, how many long direct quotes from Nazis would you like me to cite where they explain exactly their views on socialism and capitalism? I can go for months, because they never shut up about it.

        How about this? “We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions.” – Adolf Hitler.

        See how easy that was?

        As Hitler said, every Nazi must understand Marx, which is the foundation. What Marx got wrong, in the Nazi view, was that it wasn’t just a struggle between classes, it was a struggle between races. Marx touched on that several times, but didn’t put enough emphasis on it.

        Anyway, the Nazis were not opposed to capital, they were opposed to the concept of people living off it and not contributing to the betterment of the nation. That includes even German bankers. As one poster put it, “The maintenance of a rotten industrial system has nothing to do with nationalism. I can love Germany and hate capitalism.

        Mussolini’s later take on Marxism, having been raised as a communist and having worked as a communist labor organizer and agitator/propagandist before taking jobs as editor of a string of Italian socialist party newspapers, was that it wasn’t a struggle between classes but between exploitive Anglo/American capitalist nations and oppressed working class nations like Italy. His view was that the capitalists had been using race to try and divide the working class nations, making it easier to control and oppress their masses.

        His real insight was that Marxist class warfare might work great in a country like Russia, where there were ruling class aristocrats whose offspring would one day rule over the offspring of serfs, but the concept utterly failed in Italy where almost everyone worked in their family business, one day inheriting it. It’s pretty hard to convince voters that they should murder their parents and take over the family store. So he tweaked the Marxism and socialism he knew (he’d been stiffed out of the leadership position of the Italian Socialist Party), combined them with futurism and anarcho-syndicalism, and then added some nationalism and militarism which, as serious Marxist revisionist academics and theoreticians had been arguing, was necessary to lead the masses.

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      • So, in a propaganda speech delivered to workers immediately after the Nazi takeover, Goering promotes Naziism as pro-worker, and you think this is deep?

        Umm…. So you seem to think that the Nazis all quit giving speeches as soon as they took over. How odd…

        I’m pretty sure I’ve read more than that. In fact, I’m pretty sure I not only read not only the entire archive at Calvin, but reams of other sources, including many really thick biographies of just about everyone involved. I even read almost all of Erwin Rommel’s personal letters. Perhaps I just like history and economics, or perhaps it’s because my cousin was executed for war crimes at Nuremberg and I look just like him. Who knows?

        I ran across one of the more interesting insights into Hitler’s fundamental flaw in a book by the officer in charge of German defenses at D-Day, who later was captured by the Soviets. He said prior to the war, just after the successful occupation of the Sudetenland, he and his friends were in a ski lodge talking about Hitler (and enjoying an American thing called “popcorn” for the first time), and the caretaker of the lodge, a WW-I veteran, just shook his head and said Hitler would lead them all to doom. They asked why he thought such a thing, and he said, “Hitler is a gambler, and gamblers always gamble till they lose.”

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      • We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions

        Another apocryphal quote. You’re on a roll, dude.

        I love that you threw a bunch of words together there at the end of your last comment, too. “Anarcho-syndicalism,” heh… and this is rich: “and then added some nationalism and militarism.” I promise I won’t make fun of you anymore tonight, but man, that was a good one. I can’t say that I’ve seen someone use two fake quotes in separate comments in one conversation before. You’re raising the bar, George. Raising the bar.

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      • So Chris, you think I just made up the word “anarcho-syndicalism.” Zowie.

        I have to ask, are you still in high school?

        Mussolini is a fascinating character. You should read some biographies of him. He was thrown out of an elementary school for punching a girl in the face at a water fountain and laughing about it, and stabbing another boy with a knife in the hallway.

        I bet you didn’t even know that he had a string of Jewish girlfriends, or was the editor (boss) for Antonio Gramsci (I think at Avanti!, but possibly Popolo d’Italia). Gramsci was the founder of the Italian communist party and is famous for his cultural hegemony theory, which is still popular in places like Berkeley.

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  7. “The biggest cries over the War on Terror have been over the loss of liberties, but sprinkled throughout the dissenters have also been those that have warned that our new way of life might come with a far bigger price tag: our very souls.

    When I look at our collective indifference to Syria, I worry that we may have already paid that debt in full.”

    Tod:

    You are being overly dramatic here. A much simpler explanation is that people care more when the US is attacked, a la 9/11, or they face the threat of being sent to war themselves, a la Vietnam. Blaming the lack of interest on the war on terror seems to be quite a stretch.

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    • Well, it might well be over dramatic. (Certainly it was pushing it at the very least.) But I disagree with you overall point.

      In my adult life, there have actually been more [insert whatever euphemism for war or military action you wish here] prior to 9/11 than before.* And I’d be hard pressed to think that any which were actions people thought put them in jeopardy of being conscripted, or which people reacted to feeling that they has been attacked.

      All of these provoked a lot of discussion and heated opinion by people in the middle of their everyday lives, both for and against, in a way Syria just doesn’t.

      *I’m just spitballing off the top of my head here, but examples include the first Gulf War, Libya with Reagan, Libya with Bush I, pretty much each central American country not name Belize at least once, the Congo, Panama, the Philippines, Bolivia, the Virgin Islands, Somalia, Yugoslavia/Bosnia, Liberia, Albania, Iran on multiple occasions, etc. etc.

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  8. “This, then, may be the final and greatest tragedy of the never-ending War on Terror: When war is the natural and ever-present state of things, war itself becomes passé.”

    Indeed. Reminds me of the comments on Borderland Beat, where the commentariat yawns at the monotonous parade of decapitation videos by Mexican narco gangs. It’s tough to keep people interested these days.

    As said above, though, part of the explanation is fatigue. Our government and our populace have lost all ability to solve problems and take action, unless we’re talking about sending other people somewhere to kill foreigners (or the occasional American citizen). Once that’s on the menu, it’s like there’s no off switch. I can’t really blame anyone for wanting to stop beating their head against that wall. It does feel better when you stop.

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  9. Like Glyph, my first thought was, “We’ve always been at ear with EastAsia.” We’ve been at war in the Middle East so long now it all blurs together. Car bombs in Lebanon, missile strikes in Libya, a war in Kuwait followed by a long seige of Iraq followed by an invasion of Afghanistan followed by an invasion of Iraq followed by a no fly zone in Libya followed by whatever’s in tomorrow’s newspaper, and the next tomorrow’s paper, and the next’s, and so on. It’s all dull noise to us now.

    Growing up in the Midwest I used to wonder how people in California cope with the constant threat of earthquakes. My wife, who grew up there, thought that a weird notion, and wondered how people in the Midwest coped with the threat of tornados, a notion that bemuses me. We both wonder how Floridians cope with the threat of hurricanes, but our Florida friend just shrugs it off. We deal with these on-going terrors by not thinking about them, because to do so drains joy and energy out of our life.

    I’ve been trying to write a post about getting involved in Syria, and I’m finding it difficult. It just sickens me to put that much thought into it, so it remains unfinished. I have a friend whose family work for the government and are being held hostage by it so they cannot defect. He knows I know, but we don’t talk about it. How many times can he tell me he’s worried sick for them? How many times can I tell him how sorry I am before we just can’t take it anymore? So every day I say hi, smile as much as I can, and this great horror hangs there between us, unmentioned, as the situation continues to degrade.

    That’s how people get through life. By ignoring the never-ending threats on a daily basis, and building as normal a life as we can in their shadow.

    Maybe that’s what losing one’s soul is. I can’t say I know how to answer such a question.

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    • I turned 7 years old a couple weeks after the Arab-Israeli Six-day War was fought. For my whole life there’s been nothing but wars and rumors of war and threats of war and peace conferences to try to prevent another war over there.

      Frankly, I’m just exhausted by the whole gd mess. I simply don’t have the emotional energy to care a hell of a lot one way or the other over who’s killing who over there or why or how. I’m not anti-Israeli or pro-Israeli; anti-Arab or pro-Arab; anti-Palestinian or pro-Palestinian. I’m anti-war but no one over there seems to give a shit what I think.

      I sorely wish the Jews had found somewhere else to settle in 1948. I wish the U.S. had offered them a chunk of land for that purpose but FDR–and the country–was too anti-Semitic then to do that.

      And I sorely wish there wasn’t any oil over there so we could mostly ignore them like we do most of Africa.

      I haven’t lost my soul; I just spend my remaining emotional energy worrying about the things and people I can actually do something about and who might appreciate my efforts a little.

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      • Thanks for the correction, ND. Yes, I meant Truman. And I know that the current conflict in Syria is entirely inter-Arab, but can you deny that a big part of why the U.S. gives a crap is because it’s next door to Israel?

        I understand how this can be a sensitive issue for you and I want to stress that I’m neither anti-Semetic or Anti-Israeli. And I don’t deny at all that Jews really, really need a homeland. And I also can’t deny that historically Palestine would seem to fill that bill. BUT, path dependencies and all that. It was always destined to be a very contentious move and was it really worth all the violence that’s ensued?

        I can only repeat what I said earlier: I’m just exhausted and don’t give a crap anymore. I don’t really care that much who’s fighting who over there or why or how. It’s been going on for as long as I can remember and I have no doubt that it will continue long after I’m mouldering in my grave. It’s just part of the background noise anymore.

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      • Rod, several issues. First, the fatalities of the Syrian Civil War have exceeded the deaths of Arabs and Jews in the Arab-Jewish/Israeli conflict since 1920. People talk a lot about the mass violence of the Israeli-Arab conflict but when you look at it from a statistical point of view, its on the lower end of post-WWII ethnic conflicts in terms of fatalities.

        The other issue is where would Jews be without the Jewish state and the answer is probably not in a good place over all. Without Israel, hundreds of thousands or maybe a million more Jews would stuck under the Communist nations in Eastern Europe and those states were very anti-Semitic as evidenced by the USSR. The million plus Jews in the Middle East would also be living under a state of persecution. Its not like the Arab states have great track records with minority rights as proved by the treatment of Christians in the various Middle East states besides Lebanon. There were also a series of anti-Jewish riots through out the Middle East before Israel declared independence in 1948. At best they could expect a sort of benign neglect. At worse, outright persecution.

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      • The other more serious issues is that the Muslim world in general and the Arabs in particular decided repeatedly on wars of elimination against Israel rather than accepting the facts on the ground. Rather than except the UN partition plan, the nascent Arab states decided to invade. Rather than accept defeat a proper peace deal after their defeat in the 1948 War, they only gave Israel an armistice. Israel took the Jews kicked out of the Arab countries and made them citizens. The Arab nations deliberately have kept the Palestinians in perpetual refugee status rather than absorb them into their body politic. This is the only reason why we have a Palestinian refugee problem today but we don’t have a Jewish refugee problem or a perpetual refugee problem caused by the partition of India.

        After the Six-Day War, the Arab League famously issued the Three Nos declaration against Israel. I could go on with this but the basic point is that the Arab and Muslim polities have basically decided that the only acceptable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is no Israel from the get go. They have lots of allies in the West, some on this very blog. Even in the two states that made peace with Israel, most would still prefer no Israel.

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      • The story is a bit more complex than the usual story of how the Arab States won’t accept the existence of Israel. Nobody likes the lines on the ground, drawn as they were by the Europeans. They’re completely unworkable. Nor do they like their Strong Man leaders, not even the Israelis.

        Truth is, most of the harangue about Israel is sublimated rage at their own inability to form up proper nations, capable of producing goods and services and some semblance of pluralistic democracy. Israel is the saddest nation I know. As surely as the Arab nations are wracked by dissent and religious intolerance, Israel is pushed around by a core of ultra-orthodox maniacs and lost in an ethos of the Jewish State. Tribalism is the curse of the world. Even here in the USA, we are not immune. Our politicians grow ever more divided, preaching to the faithful, damning the heretics.

        That which is taken by force must be held by force. Oil is a curse: it has become a great engine of evil, empowering despots, corrupting everyone involved. Everyone wants the oil, the world grows ever more dependent upon it. I knew Nigeria before and after oil. It’s worse now than ever.

        There’s no hope for either the Arabs or the Israelis, not while everyone remains slaves to the dream. When the oil and gas is gone, and that will happen soon enough, the dream will continue. For we are composed of tribes, all of us, Jews, Arabs, Americans. All of us. Nobody’s immune. We might wish it were otherwise, that mankind would be enlightened, that we would see ourselves in each other, that we might see in the suffering of others our own suffering.

        But that is the stuff of sages and prophets and most of them are murdered for saying such things. The dream of a Jewish State has become a nightmare. None rest easy there, everyone is on his guard. A world of high concrete barriers and not of picket fences, they made it, let them live in the prisons they have built for themselves, locked from within. We might wish to liberate them from their Strong Man oppressors, from their religious zealots. Those prison gates and sally ports are locked from within. They are their own jailers. They must liberate themselves. We cannot do it for them.

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      • blaise,
        Britain killed the real dream, of a Middle east as counterweight to Russia and the West at the same time.
        You call Israel sad, I see it as a dream defiled, perverted and warped beyond recognition.

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      • I’ll never quite understand you, Kim. The British and French did what they always did, in the only way they knew to do it. Israel was created by fiat, by the West, with no consideration for what the people on the ground actually wanted and needed.

        I won’t stand for all this Israel-bashing. It’s simplistic, it’s wrong and it’s just stupid. The Arabs are responsible for the predicament in which they find themselves and for all the West’s meddling and dutch uncle-ing and furnishing of conference tables in Madrid and Geneva and Camp David, we cannot bring about any peace. The Arabs themselves must first have nations worth believing in.

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      • BlaiseP, do you know what your even talking about? It reflects absolutely nothing about recent developments in Israel at all. The Ultra-Orthodox have suffered their biggest electoral defeat ever and are not part of the cabinet. The Israeli government is moving to integrate them into maintstream Israeli life whether they like it or not.

        Netanyahu isn’t the strong man that people depict him as. He actually uses less force in his dealings with the Palestinians than most of the post-Oslo Prime Ministers of Israel and I’m including his term as PM in the 1990s. He responds to democratic pressures unlike all other leaders in the region. I’m really tired of people making blanket pronouncemnts on Israel without knowing much about it.

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      • Come on, Lee. The West Bank settlements are continuing to be built. Spare me all that orc talk about not knowing what I’m talking about. The Haredim are every bit as troubling as the Islamists and for the same reasons — and we both know it.

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      • I could go on with this but the basic point is that the Arab and Muslim polities have basically decided that the only acceptable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is no Israel from the get go.

        You obviously know more about that history (and the current events surrounding it) than I do. But I strongly suspect that those who hold the power in Israel’s neighboring countries kind of depend on using Israel as a foil to to refocus what otherwise might be internal opposition. In that sense, they might “need” Israel there to be a scapegoat.

        Even if I’m right, the only reason it can serve as a scapegoat is the widespread eliminationist position among people in the neighboring countries, although I also suspect that “widespread” doesn’t necessarily mean “strong majority.” (It could mean that, but I think we have to be wary before ascribing motivations to large groups of people. But that history is not my history, and again, I know too little of it.)

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      • , I don’t understand why you wrote, “The other issue is where would Jews be without the Jewish state and the answer is probably not in a good place over all. ” What part of, “And I don’t deny at all that Jews really, really need a homeland. And I also can’t deny that historically Palestine would seem to fill that bill.” do you not understand? I just feel that it would be a lot better for everyone if that homeland were somewhere else, that’s all.

        Look, let’s be honest about some history here. After the horrors of the Holocaust the world’s powers felt enormous sympathy for the Jewish people and recognized their need for a homeland. But sympathy isn’t the same things as affection and Jewish homeland meant “Somewhere… not here… maybe over there!” Essentially, it was the mother of all NIMBY problems. That really sucks but that’s the reality.

        And so they looked at Palestine and decided to solve the mother of all NIMBY problems by creating the mother of all refugee problems. What the hell? It’s all just brown people anyway.

        Did the Jews create the Palestinian problem? Not really. That was more England and France and the U.N. Are the Palestinians to blame? Hardly, unless you want to stipulate that the Jews were to blame for originally getting kicked out of Palestine in the first place. The Arab states? They didn’t cause the problem either so why is it their responsibility to fix it?

        Yeah, the Arab states could really show a little more charity toward the Palestinians and accept some refugees. Just like the Jews could stand to show a bit more charity toward a displaced people, you know… just like the Jews were a displaced people for so long.

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  10. i didn’t read all the comments so perhaps i’m bringing up something already mentioned. It strikes me the majoritarian blah about Syria because the volume on the Global War on Terrorism has just closed too many ears, overexposure is the same majoritarian blah on the War on Drugs. You can’t fight a “war” for decades and not lower the passions of those who have no dog in the fight.

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  11. The lack of Syria mentions in general conversation is also something noticeable in the UK. Other comments here mentioned if its “drones and cruise missiles” then its perceived as other peoples problems and I tend to agree with this. It’s only when the lives of troops are put on the line that people start to sit up and take notice. The problem is the use of cruise missiles can easily escalate to greater involvement.

    With Syria no one can really identify who the baddest guy is. Getting rid of Assad is not the end of the problem, just the start of a messier one. It appears to be a civil war with some dubious people on all sides who all have their own agendas. That’s why sending a few cruise missiles is a really bad idea. A good idea is to get a political settlement. Not easy but better than killing random people. It may actually give the moderates a chance as well.

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    • Per usual, the Onion captures the essence of this confusion/fatigue:

      DAMASCUS—The target of a future U.S. drone strike aimed at taking out anti-American extremists strongly urged swift U.S. military intervention in Syria, sources confirmed Thursday. “President Obama and American forces must step in and help us overthrow Assad,” said the radical Islamist who will be the object of what will one day be an intense and lengthy manhunt by the CIA and whose death will reportedly be hailed as a major strategic victory by counterterrorism officials. “There needs to be a new regime in Syria immediately.” At press time, a non-target of a future drone strike, currently indistinguishable from the target of one, was saying the same thing.

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  12. Last Thursday, when I went to pick up my wife in downtown Chicago, there was a small-ish group of people protesting the possibility of a US strike against Syria. By my rough estimate, there were only about 100 or so people, maybe less. So there’s some concern.

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    • Given the timescale on which this run-up is happening, (or has so far… who knows how long it’s actually going to end up being before actions is taken, if it is…) and the scale of the action proposed, I think the level of resistance and protest has actually not been so insignificant as some have suggested.

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    • I checked some anarchist news sources (Indy media, mostly a mix of anarchists, Maoists, anarcho-syndicalists, and whatever else the cat vomitted up) which is where a lot of the anti-war protest plans and announcements were during the Iraq War. Just about the only things being discussed are some upcoming climate change, anti-fracking, pro-Bradley Manning and Trayvon Martin protests, and ironically a story about a celebrating the 10th anniversary of protesting the Iraq War. So not a twitch, aside from a couple of obscure articles like this one

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