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.