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Profoundly Unserious

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The magnitude of the Syrian debacle is difficult to absorb. Half a million dead. Millions more refugees. Ancient cities in ruins. The politics of the region and even Europe destabilized. Norms about the use of chemical weapons shattered. Iranian influence extended into the Levant, and Russia’s ability to meddle and inflame exacerbated. Sunni Islamist extremists suppressed only for now, but hundreds of thousands of potential recruits for future jihad waiting in the smashed cities and desolate refugee camps. A much larger regional war brewing and indeed in its early stages. And there is not the slightest evidence of an American policy concept to deal with that.

To be fair, the Trump administration inherited this disaster from the Obama administration, whose inattention, self-deception, and fecklessness permitted this catastrophe to mature. The Trump administration is not the first to boast that it has drawn the poisoned fang of Assad’s chemical weapons. It is not the first to preen about a red line and then walk away from it and pretend that it has not. Nor is it, yet, the first through its evident eagerness to leave the Middle East ready to make things worse. It is not the first administration to insist that the only alternative to what they are doing (and not doing) is an invasion with 150,000 troops, a false choice and profoundly dishonest argument. And like its predecessor, when cornered in a policy debate it is reduced to screaming “Iraq!” and pointing a trembling finger at George W. Bush. The architects of the Obama policy in Syria have nothing to reproach their successors with.

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It is all profoundly unserious, which is why it is altogether fitting that Alex Jones of Infowars fame broke down in tears at the betrayal—as he understood it—of the president ordering a few missiles to fly at Syrian buildings. This is, apparently, a breach of faith in Trump Land. In the place of serious foreign-policy debate we have not theater, but a kind of cartoon show, in which America’s military leaders have voiceovers, but the protagonists most resemble Homer Simpson or Beavis and Butthead. It is altogether pathetic and dispiriting, and will do the suffering people of Syria and American national interest no good at all.


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Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/04/neither-precise-nor-proportionate/558068/

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