Yes, I have been hitting the Syria issue pretty hard this week, and until the war drums stop pounding, I don’t plan to let up. It angers me that there are so many things broken here at home and yet our ostensibly populist president is shifting the country’s focus away from the domestic turmoil at home and onto a crisis in the Middle East. It’s dejavu all over again, except it’s especially galling because we just fucking did this. We literally just ran headlong into a country in the Middle East over fears of weapons of mass destruction. We literally just spent a decade fighting in a region where the differences between our enemies and allies weren’t all that starkly drawn. And what’s worse is that we seem ready to do all that all over again, but this time with the added bonus of possibly handing chemical weapons over to a group in bed with al Qaeda — the very group we’ve spent trillions of dollars and untold volumes of our civil liberties to pursue across the globe.
Very clearly I am against unilateral military action in Syria. That seems to be like the most idiotic version of “rinse and repeat” I’ve been exposed to. What irks me though is that many on both sides of the aisle have started trotting out the “isolationist” rhetoric. I lost count of how many times Secretary of State John Kerry used the words “isolation,” “isolationist,” and “isolationism” in describing those of us who are experiencing a bit of mild trepidation at the thought of another military campaign in the middle east. The implication of course is that those of us who are trying to pull up on the brake handle on this monorail of death are just scared little sissies who don’t want to act like strong people in the face of terror. The deeper implication is that we’re the assholes not wanting to step in and stop the Holocaust, and that is where I start to feel my brain melt through my eyes.
I cannot say this enough — Syria under Assad and Germany under Hitler are comparable in very limited ways. Yes, both dictators have shown a cruel indifference to human life. Yes, both have shown themselves all too willing to attack their own people. But that’s basically where the comparisons end. Assad is not expanding his empire outward. Assad is not rounding up people by the trainload and taking them to death camps. Assad is a brutal, blood-thirsty asshole who should be removed from office, but he is not Hitler and frankly it degrades the impact and meaning of the Second World War to compare a piss-ant like Assad to the true embodiment of evil that Adolf Hitler was.
Frankly, I don’t care who I offend by pointing out that Assad isn’t Hitler II or even Hitler Light. He might be rightly classified as “Hitler Ice” or “Hitler Dry,” but honestly the fewer comparisons to shitty domestic beer I can put in these screeds the better. The point is that just like Hussein wasn’t Hitler, neither is Assad. I understand the world community’s reluctance to let another Holocaust fire back up under our noses, but if it wasn’t the fear of another Hitler, it was the fear of global communism that kept us dumping money into the DoD. Then when the Cold War ran its course we got ourselves a shiny new War on Terror to keep us distracted.
I am not an isolationist. I see the honor in the sacrifice that the entire world made in stopping Hitler’s march of evil. I am not an isolationist. I see that there are times that bad men force us to do terrible things. I am not an isolationist. I just do not believe that acting unilaterally as if we were handed God’s gavel and appointed the world’s adjudicators is beneficial anymore. It doesn’t make me an isolationist to demand to see more evidence. It doesn’t make me an isolationist to demand a clear game plan and exit strategy. It doesn’t make me an isolationist to point out that we have no national interest in going into Syria unless creating more radicals to attack us later is in our national interests.
I am not a fucking isolationist — I’m a realist. And reality dictates that Syria is a clusterfuck we’re best staying out of for now. Were the United Nations, NATO, or any other group of countries made of more than just us, France and Saudi Arabia behind the effort, you’d not hear much more than a quiet lament from me about the lack of peace in the world. The truth is I see the wisdom in wanting to keep men like Assad out of power, but we cannot keep ramming our heads against the wall in an attempt to cram our version of democracy down every Middle Eastern country’s throats. The fact remains that we’re not that good at maintaining our own governance here at home, so why should we try to give it to anyone else?
Red lines be damned. The only message not bombing Syria sends to the rest of the world is that we’re growing up. The only message that prudence sends the rest of the world is that we acknowledge our responsibilities as the world’s greatest superpower to be wise in how we bring down the terribly strong force that responds to our beck and call. These are the messages we should be sending. The only message we’ll be sending our enemies by waiting for more countries to jump in is “A whole bunch of us are coming for you now, asshole.” It doesn’t project weakness to call on your friends for help, in fact it displays even more clearly the power and influence we have as a nation when we do actually build international coalitions. There was a time when our Commander in Chief knew all of this.
…but that was before he was the Commander in Chief.