Thursday, August 29, 2013

Of Pushy Pundits, Rotten Onions, and Supercops

As the horrors reported from Syria have become the focus of news, both in the U.S. and abroad, we've watched, listened, and read political pundits of many kinds insist that America MUST take military action in Syria. The rumor from many sources is that a temporary bombing campaign may even begin today.

Some pundits don't even seem to care whether unilateral action by the U.S. would be legal. Others have even drawn up maps, as though this were some kind of role-playing game. Still others, like normally humorous and satirical media group The Onion, have put forward pieces that seem less like satire, and more like serious commentary.

In the end, too many pundits both in the U.S. and abroad are anxiously pushing President Obama and the U.S. toward a dangerous political cliff, effectively screaming that SOMEBODY must DO something about Syria NOW, NOW, NOW - meaning that they think America should jump into the quagmire and fix another nation's problems.

This demand for a Supercop - and the inevitable condemnation that would surely come for acting like a Supercop - isn't a new perspective. In fact, we said almost exactly that about two-and-a-half years ago, when many of the same chickenhawk commentators were screaming that America MUST "do something" about Libya.

Over the years, we've found that most chickenhawks have outstanding records of avoiding military service, or really conflict of almost any kind. Think of them as the blowhard at the bar who screams the loudest for his team to kill the other guys, yet he's near even played a game of two-hand touch football himself.

There are advantages in life to having been in a few scraps, including the wisdom to know when to be quiet, and when to be calm and blunt about the truth.

Matthew Duss at The American Prospect was blunt about the truth, saying right at the top of his commentary that the benefits of a U.S. military strike against Syria don't outweigh the costs. Duss also quotes political scientist Jonathan Mercer, for those people who think screaming about America's credibility would be damaged if we don't go into Syria - the international political version of "What will they think of me if they call me chicken and I don't DO something?"

Erik Voeten also has a great round-up of sound punditry at The Monkey Cage that effectively debunks most major arguments about U.S. legal involvement in Syria.

Finally, Aaron David Miller also has a great piece in Foreign Policy that mirrors a discussion we had among our staff earlier this week - that America has limited options, limited interest, and limited reason to get involved in Syria.

In the end, no one knows exactly what President Obama will choose to do, except him. That said, it may be helpful to look at President Obama's actions in similar situations. As we noted multiple times back in 2011, President Obama continues to want to lessen the role of America as worldwide supercop - not increase it.

It's no question that what's happening in Syria is awful. It was awful when it began happening in 2011 - but we don't remember seeing The Onion or most of the other pundits screaming for an instant resolution one way or the other back then.

If having an instant answer to the problem in Syria is SO critically important right at this time for those pundits and critics pushing Obama for action, we've got a great suggestion for them.

You go first this time.

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