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This afternoon I went out for something to eat.  As I left the Italian restaurant I'd been in, I saw a small cluster of people on the other side of the street holding up peace signs and various messages about Syria.

An older man in his 50s who had just finished eating moved past me.  After seeing the demonstrators, he fumed for a moment, wriggling his bushy mustache from side to side. He yelled, "Idiots!  It's because we have guys over there that we are free."

I looked at him stunned for a moment.  "In Syria," I said.

He turned to look at me.  "Yeah.  You know, over there."

"And if we didn't have guys there, you think they would conquer the United States?"

He had a blank look on his face.

"Do you know where Syria is?  And do you think we have troops occupying it?"

I think it may have dawned on him at that moment that we hadn't invaded Syria yet, but I"m not certain.  "Well, it's close to Iraq," he said.

"That's true, they border Iraq.  If we didn't have troops in Iraq, would Syria be conquering us now?"

He just stared at me.

"Maybe you thought they meant Afghanistan.  If we didn't have troops in Afghanistan, would they enslave us?"

I could see that he had slowly become more certain I was screwing with him as the conversation went on.  He finally made up his mind that I was, and took a step closer to me.  "Fuck you!"  He said it with authority, then took a step back.

"Thanks.  This has been the most intellectual conversation I've had with a conservative in years."

I think he was considered hitting me for a moment.  Then he noticed that I'm six feet tall and 230 pounds, and that I don't have the vaguely mushy demeanor of your average liberal.  So instead he turned around and walked away.  

By doing this, he demonstrated more common sense then Bush Jr.'s entire staff.  I feel we should elect him to some sort of position of importance.  If only Obama's crew had that sort of intelligence, we would be so much better off.

Now many would probably say that the anecdotal evidence of one idiot mouthing off on a street corner is hardly representative of America.

I disagree.  I think the best way to really take the pulse of this nation is to listen to idiots mouthing off on street corners, because that's the sort of country we are now.

A little while ago we were informed that chemical weapons were used in Syria.  It elicited a nearly Pavlovian response on the part of the media.  We are, after all the United States, and clearly we have the supereme moral authority which allows us to intervene anywhere in the world.

If we should launch missiles, fire cannots, deploy drones, or perform air strikes on strategic positions, I'm sure that idiots all over America will rejoice.  I'm also certain that the people we kill will actually look very much like the people killed by the fascist in charge of the country, and it won't really be much less of a tragedy then the other deaths.  I can almost garantee you that the architects of the previous act will not be killed.  Some who die will be soldiers who may serve only out of fear, or a desire to eat.  Statistically speaking, it's very likely that others will be killed who are civilians and entirely innocent.

Will doing this cause the Syrian president to resign?  Not a chance.  The start of a civil war didn't prompt him to quit, and neither will this.  He does not care how many die.

Will doing so strengthen the position of some sort of rebel group we trust?  Incredibly unlikely.  At this time we don't have strong ties with any group in Syria, and there is no clear single opposition group in charge.

So what will it accomplish?

It will expend some of the munitions we haven't dropped on Iraq or Afghanistan, which will help make some military contractors a lot of money.

Here's my suggestion as to what we should do.

Resist the impulse to shoot anyone, just this once.  Then, pull the troops out of Afghanistan.  The country will collapse and the Taliban will take over, but that was always going to be true.  Russia couldn't control Afghanistan, and neither can we.  Getting involved in land wars in Asia is really never a good idea.

After that, close our monster embassy in Iran, fire the contractors, and pull the troops out of Iraq.  (Yes, we do still have troops in Iraq.  They are shot less often now, but they are there.)  Moqtadan al-Sadr, one of the guys who ordered the deaths of many of our troops during the Iraq War will continue to be one of the most powerful people in Iraq, just like he was before we pulled the troops.

Then, cut our military budget in half.  After we do that, we will still have the biggest military in the world.  

Then take the savings and spend it to rehire teachers, rebuild some of our crumbling bridges, and put our scientists back to work.  Do that, and maybe our economy will get better.

I do not wish to cut our "defense" budget in half for that reason, though fixing our economy would be nice.  Actually, I want to slash what should realistically be called our offense budget in half for a very different reason.  If our offense budget isn't quite so large, it may prompt us to attack other countries less often.  We seem to be addicted to this sort of thing.

We won't, of course.  Instead we will launch an attack.  Having committed to an attack, it will then be that much easier to convince people to put "boots on the ground."  And then we will be on our way to yet another armed conflict overseas, waged at a time when medical, education, and even food stamp budgets are being stripped.  

As I write this, a guy I know who suffers from schizophrenia hasn't seen his doctor in six months.  Perhaps we could start talking about issues like that?.  They also got rid of the service that would allow him to get to the hospital without taking a bus.  It would have been a blessing, since his livers barely function.  

I'm not sure if you guys have noticed, but people are dying here in the United States too, and it would be easier to solve that problem.  If death is what you want, you don't need to go to Syria for that, we can watch it happen right here in America.

The problem of course, is that my solution wouldn't make a very good action movie, which is why Americans have difficulty getting behind it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I went to a protest but it was poorly (7+ / 0-)

    attended. And one of them was a dittohead and kept spouting Limbaughs themes. He was a strange one to have there, but nonetheless it signals that we have come a bridge too far when a dittohead figures enough is enough.

    Hi NSA. I am doing constitutionally protected stuff - like free speech. Too bad you are not!

    by glitterscale on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 06:08:23 PM PDT

  •  It's not up to the public (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fat old man
    •  You mean it's not up to Americans? (10+ / 0-)

      The people who will have to die, kill Syrians, pay for this war? The people to whom this government and country belongs? You mean it's not up to them?

      Well, you and I fundamentally disagree. As citizens, this is our country and it will be our war and it is our responsibility.

      The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. --John F. Kennedy

      by CenPhx on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 08:08:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  the public of what country? (3+ / 0-)

      If you were living in a dictatorship, one could understand your sentiment.

      The President called our military, "his military" yesterday, so if you agree with that and you think of it as the King's Army, and not the citizens of this country, wouldn't you feel more comfortable living in a banana republic?

      "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?" David Crosby

      by allenjo on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 09:21:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ha! Right on. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    allenjo, i dunno, Sunspots

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    by Bisbonian on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 07:26:53 PM PDT

  •  So the whole world can use chemical weapons with (0+ / 0-)

    impunity now, is that what you are saying?  That's the message we'll be sending if we don't enforce the rules that we, the human race, have collectively agreed upon.

    •  That's nice staging. (7+ / 0-)

      What your saying is that anybody, anywhere does something wrong, we have the responsiblity and the power to stop them.  

      We don't have either.  We can blow up anything, but we can't necessarily change governments into what we want.  If we intervene over there and went in guns blazing, even if we changed the government, past experience teaches us it will be worse.

      By the way, welcome to neocon land.  Your using their logic now.

      Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

      by martianexpatriate on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 07:44:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Incidentally, if we have collectively agreed on (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CenPhx, fly, allenjo, Australian2, Sunspots

        these rules, then we should attack Israel next.  They used phosphorous rounds on Palestinians repeatedly, according to the reports I've read.

        I don't know whether its true, but so long as we are the world's cop but I suppose next we need to convene a trial and sit in judgement of Israel?

        Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

        by martianexpatriate on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 07:48:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wouldn't be opposed to that (0+ / 0-)

          though there's a far cry between white phosphorous and mustard gas, which is what assad is rumored to have used.

          Praxis: Bold as Love

          by VelvetElvis on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 07:51:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Ok... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chantedor

            I'll get us ready for that court we should convene as word's cop to determine that.  After we deal with Israel, it's time for us to judge some countries in Africa, and I have no doubt that there will be new criminals in the next few years.

            I'm sure we can go from one corner of the world, shooting one person after another until the end of tine, or at least until the budget runs out.  It will make you feel like a really big man, but I doubt the victims will feel any better off.  In the end, you may find that even the Syrians.

            I don't agree with you about the gas incidentally.  Phosphorous rounds set buildings on fire and tend to murder hundreds of people rather then dozens.  Slowly cooking to death in a burning building is not really so much better then being gassed in some cases, but it's a better headline I suppose.

            Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

            by martianexpatriate on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 08:02:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  UN report will not be out for at least 10 days (4+ / 0-)

            so what was used is only a rumor, as you say. But why spread rumors when we will know soon enough?

            "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?" David Crosby

            by allenjo on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 09:26:48 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  How am I a neocon for wanting punishment for war (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jan4insight

        crimes?

        I hail from the far left and have met many people who will go to great lengths to excuse the atrocities committed by Mao and Stalin, all in the name of ideology.   I'm getting the same vibe off a lot of people here who are looking for any excuse they can find to not hold Assad accountable.

        Praxis: Bold as Love

        by VelvetElvis on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 07:55:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are using the logic of a neocon. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Australian2, chantedor, Sunspots

          I'm not namecalling, I've grown to recognize this tactic because I see it from neocons almost constantly.

          If an injustice occurs, we must deal with it, and we have the power and ability to go into someone else's country and deal with it.  Time and time again, when we have done this we've left a broken country that suffered more under our protection then it did under the dictator it was previously under, but none of that history matters.  Examples would be Iraq, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

          This never works out and I am sick to death of it.  If someone wants to propose en embargo, economic means, negotiation, or maybe a joint action of nations, I'd consider it.  

          We must stop playing god.  If you haven't figured that out  with our recent history, then I doubt you ever will.

          Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

          by martianexpatriate on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 08:31:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I agree about a joint action (0+ / 0-)

            I'm presuming that depending on what the UN inspectors find, more parties will come forward in support.

            I never said I supported a unilateral action or the whole unitary executive thing.  

            Praxis: Bold as Love

            by VelvetElvis on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 09:16:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  So does that mean you are willing to enlist (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chantedor

      if the airstrikes don't work and a ground invasion is necessary?  Or will you just let a bunch of 18 year olds get drafted instead?

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 09:45:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The rules we, the human race, have collectively (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sunspots

      agreed on are clear that the President requires approval from both Congress and the UN before acting, so you are good with that, right?

      They are clear that the Iraq war was an illegal war and that many members of his administration should be arrested and tried for war crimes.  You are good with that, right?

      They are clear that many members of Congress committed a war crime by approving the AUMF.  You are good with that, right?

      They are clear that many U.S. soldiers participating in that illegal war are war criminals because following orders is no defense.  

      You are good with all of that, right?  Just checking.

      My clear impression was that the Navy intended us to know our obligations under the Hague Conventions of 1889 and 1907, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Nuremberg Conventions. These Conventions have legal standing as US law due to their having been ratified by our Senate.

      If the war is acknowledged as illegal that means admitting that everyone who participates in it, plans it, or orders it is a war criminal.

      This is what the Nuremburg Conventions demand. One cannot be excused from illegal acts simply because one was ordered to commit those acts. We are all moral beings, even in the military, and as such have a legal and moral obligation to refuse to participate in War Crimes. And yet tens of thousands of military personal, not to mention the entire military command up to the president, are by definition War Criminals.  Common Dreams

      Principle VI

      The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

       (a) Crimes against peace:
         (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;

         (ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i). Nuremberg Principles

      Waging a war of aggression is a crime under customary international law and refers to any war not out of self-defense or sanctioned by Article 51 of the UN Charter.

      The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which followed World War II, called the waging of aggressive war "essentially an evil thing...to initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." War of aggression

      On 16 September 2004, Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, said of the invasion, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view, from the Charter point of view, it was illegal." Iraq War
      The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law. Nuremberg Principles
      •  I have not, nor has my country, agreed to (0+ / 0-)

        go out and enforce every ruling of the Hague.  I do not, nor would I, nor I will agree, to the idea that every time a mysterious atrocity happens in a far corner of the globe, it is our job to go attack.

        I think the Hague should look into crimes.  I think we should look into them too.  I do not think that at this point, we have a lcear understanding what happened.

        I'm not okay with much of anything you said in your post.  There is a far distance between saying somebody committed a war of aggression and saying that we are then ready to go mobilize over it.  We never agreed to that, and you need to get your head together.

        You are good with all that right?  Just checking.

        Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

        by martianexpatriate on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 12:59:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think that we are violently agreeing. (0+ / 0-)
          I do not, nor would I, nor I will agree, to the idea that every time a mysterious atrocity happens in a far corner of the globe, it is our job to go attack.
          Agreed.
          There is a far distance between saying somebody committed a war of aggression and saying that we are then ready to go mobilize over it.
          Agreed.  And the "somebody" that commited a war of aggression that I am referring to is the United States.

          I was replying to VelvetElvis, upthread.

  •  I believe Obama is doing the right thing by... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, highacidity

    ...leaving it to Congress.

    Syria is a roll of the dice.  The situation on the ground there is as complex as it can get.  Any military action can have unexpected consequences in Syria and the whole region.

    When only the French (who used to be the imperial power there) are willing to go along (?) one has to stop and think.

    I believe Obama tells the truth when he accuses the Assad regime of using chemical weapons and I believe this is as bad as a war crime gets.  But do we benefit by acting unilaterally with only the French, who considered Syria a a vassal state, on our side?

    If we can get Turkey, The Arab League, the UN or even NATO to go along I may change my mind.  Right now I don't think it makes sense to go to war with Assad.  Arming even more the rebels we support because they are not Al Qaeda or Iran sympathizers does make sense.

    But all this is too complex for me and too complex and I consider myself fairly well informed (in great part by hanging out here).  Your "friend"at the Italian restaurant is obviously an uninformed true believer.  Hopelessly misguided.  But even among many informed people I cannot find much consensus.  Obama has sold me on the crime committed but he hasn't sold me on  the action to take.  Let's see what Congress does even though many are about as informed as your "friend".

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 07:54:28 PM PDT

    •  It will be to Americans benefit to stand down & (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, chantedor, Sunspots

      and allow France to act unilaterally.

      Why does it always have to be the US?

      That the US has created that dependency by always stepping to the forefront as the global police only shows that it is time we stop it.

      It is time to allow other countries to take over, for them to stop depending on Americans to always lead, to carry the load, to finance the actions.

      But do we benefit by acting unilaterally with only the French, who considered Syria a a vassal state, on our side?

      "Who are these men who really run this land? And why do they run it with such a thoughtless hand?" David Crosby

      by allenjo on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 09:38:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If we were respecting our social contract (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, Sunspots

      and the law (ha!), it's not up to Obama in the first place. Congress has the power to declare war or not to, period.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 11:17:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You got to meet one of the 9%'ers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    truong son traveler, highacidity

    I haven't had the (mis)fortune yet.

    Before we point fingers at President Obama, we ought to point them at ourselves.

    by Sucker Politics on Sat Aug 31, 2013 at 09:33:27 PM PDT

  •  We should stop saying "No more Rwandas" (0+ / 0-)

    And stop saying "No more Bosnias".
    Or "No more Cambodias."
    Or "No more Guernicas."
    Hell, let's drop "No more Holocausts." Tell the Israelis they should say, "Well, MAYBE again."
    We never really do anything about these things anyway. So why the fuck do we say "No more ___"?  

    Ash-sha'b yurid isqat an-nizam!

    by fourthcornerman on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 12:34:12 AM PDT

    •  Speaking as one of the guys who got in a uniform (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      i dunno

      and went...

      The world is a more complicated place than you think it is.  We can do things about these things, but most of our military occupations, almost all of them in fact, did more evil then good.  And no matter of crap posts like that will change that.

      Doing something because you think it is necessary does not make the action less damaging, and we have gotten way, way too damned arrogant.

      Incidentally, sometimes we do, do things like that.  Sometimes they are effective, even when it  doesn't involve shooting anybody.  Building schools and roads helps.  Negotiating does sometimes help, especially if you keep doing it over a period of twenty years.

      Once the bomb has dropped, it's hard to do much about it.  If we'd done something useful twenty years ago, it might never have come to this.

      Ignorance more frequently begets confidence then knowledge. Charles Darwin

      by martianexpatriate on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 01:02:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree with you 100% (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sunspots

    militarism IS our problem.

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Riane Eisler

    by noofsh on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 04:23:25 AM PDT

  •  If the US foreign policy establishment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sunspots

    were really concerned about the welfare of Syrian non-combatants, it would be taking steps to end this horrific civil war. It would not be firing long range missiles at Assad in a futile gesture of protest.

    The Assad government will not fall anytime soon. That is an unfortunate fact. The carnage will continue until all the outside players (including the USA) stop playing geopolitics with Syrian blood.

    Picture a big round table, seating representatives from the USA, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Russia, Iran, FSA, and Assad. If they could stop snarling at each other long enough to consider the sorry plight of the Syrian people... then and only then would there be a chance for peace. For reasonable compromise.

    Unfortunately our noble leaders in Washington D.C. have no such intention. Much easier, and more politic, to throw a few missiles at the problem.

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