ucker Carlson of Fox News raised the question of whether or not an attempt to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with American forces was a good idea.
Partial transcript as follows:
Leaders on both sides of the aisle in congress, in the media, in our intelligence services and in virtually every think tank in Washington have suddenly aligned tonight on a single point of agreement: America must go to war in Syria immediately. Bashar al Assad cannot continue to lead his country. He must be overthrown. Assad is an evil man, they tell us. His latest crime is a chlorine gas attack, carried out by his forces against a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. Assad’s poison gas suffocated children. Pictures of the aftermath are all over the internet. They’re horrifying. Assad is a monster.
That’s the official story. Almost everyone in power claims to believe it. The push to war in Syria has united politicians from both sides. Lindsey Graham and Howard Dean typically agree on very little. Today, they’re both calling for war in Syria. Graham is demanding massive attacks on the Syrian military. Dean is going ever further. On Twitter, he called the president a “wimp” for merely sending thousands of troops and launching tons of bombs. That’s not enough for Howard Dean, who as you may remember once ran for president as the peace candidate. He wants total war.
Television pundits strongly agree. This morning, the foreign policy team on MSNBC explained that it’s far more important for America troops to fight in Syria than to secure our own border:
ANDREA MITCHELL ON MORNING JOE: There is no question that it is Donald Trump’s challenge. (EDIT) He has to take action. He’s spoke to Macron. What he ought to do is a coordinated action (EDIT) There has to be a comprehensive response
SCARBOROUGH: As Trump leaves to fight his imaginary border war, he’s leaving the real war where we can making a difference and said he’s turning it over to Assad and Iran and to ISIS (EDIT) This is something that Barack Obama wouldn’t even do if confronted with these set of facts
This ought to make you nervous. Universal bipartisan agreement on anything is usually the first sign that something unwise is about to happen, if only because there’s nobody left to ask skeptical questions. And we should be skeptical of this, starting with the poison gas attack itself.
All the geniuses tell us that Assad killed those children. But do they really know that? Of course they don’t. They’re making it up. They have no real idea what happened. Actually, both sides in the Syrian civil war posses chemical weapons. How would Assad benefit from using chlorine gas last weekend? He wouldn’t. Assad’s forces have been winning the war. The administration just announced its plan to pull American troops out of Syria. About the only thing Assad could do to reverse this, and hurt himself, would be to use gas against children. He did it anyway, they tell us. He’s that evil.
Please. Keep in mind, this is the same story they told us last April. Remember that? It was almost exactly a year ago. The new administration announced it was no longer seeking to depose Assad from power. The usual war chorus in Washington started yelping. Days later, Assad supposedly used sarin gas against civilians. Video emerged. We bombed a Syrian airbase in response. At the time, this show asked the obvious question: are we sure Assad really did that? Seems weirdly-timed and counterproductive. Shut up, they explained. Of course we’re sure. What an unpatriotic question.
But of course they were lying. Two months ago, the secretary of defense admitted that, actually, we still have no evidence Assad used sarin gas last year. The story was propaganda, designed to manipulate Americans, just like so much of what they say. We’ve seen this movie before. We know how it ends.
But just for the sake of argument, let’s assume they’re not lying this time. Let’s assume Assad just used chlorine gas against kids. He’s perfectly capable of it by the way. Would that be worth starting a new war over? Overthrowing Assad’s regime would result in chaos. Many thousands would die. We might very likely see genocide of one of the last remaining Christian communities in the Middle East. Some of the dead would be American servicemen. A new war would cost tens of billions dollars, maybe hundreds of billions. Would it make America safer? The region more stable? Let’s see. How did regime change in Iraq and Libya work out?
Doesn’t matter, say our moral leaders on CNN. Atrocities like this can’t be tolerated. OK. But we do tolerate them all they time. There’s a devastating famine killing children Yemen right now, for example. The Saudis are causing it. Should we drop Tomahawks on Riyadh in response? Not until it’s on YouTube apparently. When you conduct foreign policy by viral video, pictures are essential.
In real life, Syria is a highly complicated place. With Assad gone, who would run it? Do we have another strongman to install? Or is our hope that a stable democracy will magically appear in the wake of civil war? And who exactly are these “moderate rebels” you hear so much about, the ones we’re supporting? A lot of them turn out to be Islamist crazies. For instance, the city where the chemical attack just occurred is mostly controlled by the Army of Islam, a radical group that has called for establishing an Islamic state under sharia law in Syria. The group’s founder called for exterminating all Shia Muslims and Alawites from Syria. We’re supposed to wage a new war on their behalf? Why?
In 2013, when the Syrian civil war was still in its early days, one onlooker weighed in on Twitter. Quote, “We should stay the Hell out of Syria. The ‘rebels’ are just as bad as the current regime. What will we get for our lives and billions of dollars? Zero.” In another tweet, he said, quote, “Let the Arab League take care of Syria. Why are these rich Arab countries not paying us for the tremendous cost of such an attack?” And in another, quote, “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict?”
Of course you know who wrote that: Donald Trump. He was right. That’s one of the reasons he got elected. Now the same people who brought you a dying American middle class, undefended American borders and endless pointless wars you can’t find on a map are telling the president he’s got to depose Assad for reasons that are both unclear and dishonest.
It may happen. Before it does, Congress ought to consider a new constitutional amendment. Call it the Lindsay Graham amendment. Here’s what it should say: “Congress shall topple no government until it finishes rebuilding the last government it toppled. And furthermore, talk show generals shall be required to personally visit the battlefield of every war they advocate for.”
That’d have an immediate and positive effect. Let’s hope it passes.