Friday, August 30, 2013

Catch of the Day

The first thing to understand about the “special” relationship is that it doesn’t exist in the real world...

Somehow the alliance–which had nothing to do with attacking anyone–survived [Vietnam and Suez]. It will suffer no real damage from one vote on Syria.
Yup. There are good reasons for the US and UK to be close allies -- otherwise they wouldn't be! But that doesn' t mean they must always agree.

Indeed: to the extent that their behavior, as opposed to basic interests, have anything to do with keeping the alliance strong, surely they're better off disagreeing when their interests diverge.

I'll slip in one more point here...I don't want to overly minimize the importance of US military action. If what's expected now takes place, people are going to die in Syria. And to the extent that the action does or doesn't deter future use of chemical weapons? Sure, that's important. There's also the very real risk of something going wrong; as much as I've harped on Barack Obama's willingness to accept losses and walk away instead of getting stuck in quagmires, there's always the chance that this time is different. Not to mention the possibility that what the US does will have unexpected terrible consequences for Syria, and the region.

And yet...I do get the sense that a lot of people out there are treating this as an opportunity to re-argue the invasion of Iraq. As far as we know there's nothing even remotely similar to that going on here.

Look, again, I don't mean to dismiss this. Yes, missile strikes are a capital letter Act of War -- how could they not be? But to say that the US is Going to War just doesn't really capture what's been proposed. At least, what is apparently being proposed. As far as I can see, and keeping in mind all those potential downsides, the stakes here are actually fairly low here. At least for the US.

At any rate: nice catch!


  1. You're spot on. The case for bombing the Syrian regime is way stronger than the case for bombing Saddam was - neither presented an imminent threat the US, but at least a Syria attack could surely be justified on humanitarian grounds.

    At least.... until the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses made unnecessary war unpalatable to the public on any grounds.

  2. Too early to say.

    If this is Obama and Kerry buying into simplistic and rash liberal hawk/neo-con tropes about "credibility," giving in to Washington-centric love of a good rip-roaring global adventure, then they're well on their way to starting an ineluctable process of escalation. Their foreign policy vision -- as articulated in this week's speeches -- is cruder than many Obama supporters heretofore imagined. The risks are high indeed.

    If this is Obama and Kerry cleverly placating the hawks with a dollop of thrilling aggression, but truly committed to letting it stop at that, then we're OK.

    If this is Obama and Kerry actually thinking that they are working to effectively but illegally uphold a norm, then their naiveté is worrying.

    So maybe many left-liberal pundits are prematurely hyperventilating, and should just be saying "too early to say." But isn't all they can do at this point to throw a fit so that Obama doesn't get too complacent?

  3. The stakes of war are always potentially high. And for that reason Obama and Kerry should steer clear of Syria


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