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Friday, April 07, 2017

It is feckless not to bomb.

What is wanted is a more feckfull foreign policy, full of bombs.


jimf said...

> Ah, the incomparable frisson of the early hours of a
> new war!
Brian Williams Calls Images of US Missile Launch 'Beautiful'
APRIL 7, 2017

Brian Williams is facing online criticism for waxing poetic
about what he called "beautiful pictures" of U.S. missiles
launching during an attack on a Syrian air base.

Video released by the military shows Tomahawk missiles targeted
for a Syrian airfield launching from the decks of U.S. warships
in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday.

During his MSNBC program, "The 11th Hour," late Thursday night,
Williams said the "beautiful pictures at night" tempted him to
quote a line from a Leonard Cohen song:
"I am guided by the beauty of our weapons."
He went on to call the images "beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments."

Williams was quickly mocked and criticized on Twitter for the remarks,
with some users suggesting they were insensitive to the realities of war. . .
. . . Williams, who grew up in Middletown [NJ] and was famously
dismissed from "NBC Nightly News" after he was suspended for
six months in 2015 for his "misremembered" account of his
experiences during the Iraq War (he said he had conflated
his memories of the time), is raising eyebrows once again. . .

First we take Manhattan. Then we take Berlin.

jimf said...

> "I am guided by the beauty of our weapons."
The Long Road to Trump’s War
APRIL 10, 2017

We now know how many cruise missiles it takes to turn you
from pariah to respected member of the American
foreign policy establishment: 59 — the number President Trump
fired on a Syrian government airfield on Thursday.
“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States,”
the CNN host Fareed Zakaria gushed. . .

In the coming weeks, we’ll have a long debate over where America
is headed in the Middle East. But the question that historians
will ask, decades from now, is how those 15 years of flailing
failed to teach us anything. . .

Americans understood Vietnam to be a grievous defeat that required
fresh thinking. In the 1970s, they set out on a long reckoning
with its consequences, pioneering the promotion of human rights
and asserting congressional control over war powers.

No remotely comparable reckoning has followed the Iraq war. . .

Mr. Obama, of course, opposed the war, a stance that propelled
his rise to power. But like most critics, he laid blame for
the war on George W. Bush’s administration and its supposedly
abnormal arrogance. . .

So when Mr. Obama took office, he and most of his supporters acted
as though the change at the top had put the problem to rest. . .

The Obama years produced a paradox: Opposition to the Iraq war
broadened, but it did not deepen. By 2014, a record low 18 percent
of Americans judged it worth the costs, according to a
CBS News/New York Times poll. Yet no antiwar politics followed. . .

Which is why, in 2015, Mr. Trump could run a second antiwar campaign,
tapping into the reservoir of confusion, anger and grief over Iraq.
In Bush-friendly, pro-military South Carolina, Mr. Trump blasted
the war as possibly the “worst decision” in American history.
“We have destabilized the Middle East,” he said, and caused the
rise of the Islamic State and conflicts in Libya and Syria. . . — proof
that voters could trust him as commander in chief and ignore the
chorus of national security experts who deemed him unfit.

The proof was faulty. . . America’s great mistake was to confuse
his political calculation with wisdom.

Now, having intensified American military involvement in Iraq,
Syria and Yemen, Mr. Trump may wind up repeating his predecessor’s
pattern of anti-Iraq-war campaigning and perpetual-war governing. . .

jimf said...

> . . .guided by the beauty. . .
War as Political Weapon
Charles M. Blow
APRIL 10, 2017

Donald Trump has turned his back on pretty much everything he
has ever said about United States military involvement in Syria. . .

“It is in this vital national security interest of the
United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of
deadly chemical weapons.”

This has echoes of the George W. Bush warning about Saddam Hussein’s
“weapons of mass destruction,” a lie that led us into a near
decade-long war.

Not to be indelicate here, but atrocities happen in the world all
the time (and have happened on an even larger scale before in Syria).
Humans are capable of unimaginable cruelty. Sometimes the
victims die quickly and are made visible by media for the world
to see. Other times, they die in slow motion, out of sight and
out of mind. Sometimes banned weapons are used;
sometimes conventional weapons; sometimes, neglect,
isolation and starvation.

And the world in general, and America in particular, has a way
of being wishy-washy about which atrocities deserve responses
and which ones don’t. These decisions can be capricious at best
and calculated camouflages for ulterior motives at worst.

Acts of war can. . . distract attention, quell acrimony,
increase appetite for military spending and give a boost to
sagging approval ratings.

This “rally-around-the-flag” (or “rally”) effect is well documented
by pollsters. . .

It’s easy to sell the heroism of a humanitarian mission or the fear
of terror or the two in tandem, as Trump attempted in this case.

The temptation to unleash America’s massive war machine is seductive
and also addictive. Put that power in the hands of a man like Trump,
who operates more on impulse and intuition than intellect, and the
world should shiver.

The problem comes when the initial glow dims and darkness descends. . .

Market Watch reported last week, “It could cost about
$60 million to replace the cruise missiles that the U.S. military
rained on Syrian targets Thursday night,” but Fortune reported
that shares of weapons manufacturers, as soon as they began
trading Friday, were “collectively gaining nearly $5 billion
in market value.”

War is a business, a lucrative one. . .

[W]e take down a bad leader in some poor country. In theory,
this helps the citizens of that country. But. . . it often creates
a vacuum where one bad man can be replaced by even worse men.

We. . . then. . . have to make an impossible choice: stay
and try to fix what we broke or abandon it and watch our nightmares multiply.

Nobility of the crusade is consumed by the quagmire.

[W]e would all do well to temper the self-congratulatory war speeches
and thrusting of pom-poms of our politicians and pundits. . .

As righteous as we may feel about punishing Assad, Syria is a
hornet’s nest of forces hostile to America: Assad, Russia, and Iran
on one flank and ISIS on another. You can’t afflict one faction
without assisting the other. In this way, Syria is a nearly unwinnable state.

We’ve been down this road before. Just over the horizon is a hill:
Steep and greased with political motives, military ambitions,
American blood and squandered treasury. . .

jimf said...

> Not to be indelicate here. . .
Publicity Stunts Aren’t Policy
Paul Krugman
APRIL 10, 2017

. . .

[S]howy actions that win a news cycle or two are no substitute
for actual, coherent policies. Indeed, their main lasting effect
can be to squander a government’s credibility. Which brings us to
last week’s missile strike on Syria.

The attack instantly transformed news coverage of the Trump administration.
Suddenly stories about infighting and dysfunction were replaced with
screaming headlines about the president’s toughness and footage of
Tomahawk launches. . .

No doubt the Assad forces took some real losses, but there’s
no reason to believe that a one-time action will have any effect
on the course of Syria’s civil war.

In fact, if last week’s action was the end of the story, the eventual
effect may well be to strengthen the Assad regime — Look, they
stood up to a superpower! — and weaken American credibility.
To achieve any lasting result, Mr. Trump would have to get involved
on a sustained basis in Syria.

Doing what, you ask? Well, that’s the big question — and the lack
of good answers to that question is the reason President Barack Obama
decided not to start something nobody knew how to finish.

No, we haven’t learned that Mr. Trump is an effective leader.
Ordering the U.S. military to fire off some missiles is easy.
Doing so in a way that actually serves American interests is the
hard part. . .

Just days before the strike, the Trump administration seemed to
be signaling lack of interest in Syrian regime change.

What changed? The images of poison-gas victims were horrible, but
Syria has been an incredible horror story for years. Is Mr. Trump
making life-and-death national security decisions based on TV coverage?

One thing is certain: The media reaction to the Syria strike showed
that many pundits and news organizations have learned nothing from
past failures.

Mr. Trump may like to claim that the media are biased against him,
but the truth is that they’ve bent over backward in his favor.
They want to seem balanced, even when there is no balance; they have
been desperate for excuses to ignore the dubious circumstances of
his election and his erratic behavior in office, and start treating
him as a normal president.

You may recall how, a month and a half ago, pundits eagerly declared
that Mr. Trump “became the president of the United States today” because
he managed to read a speech off a teleprompter without going off script.
Then he started tweeting again.

One might have expected that experience to serve as a lesson.
But no: The U.S. fired off some missiles, and once again
Mr. Trump “became president.”. . . The Trump administration now knows
that it can always crowd out reporting about its scandals and failures
by bombing someone. . .

Works every time!