Last weekend I was on Iranian TV being asked about the meeting in Tehran at which the presidents of Iran and Russia had refused to agree with the President of Turkey to stop bombing people in Syria. I said Iran and Russia were wrong.
I also said that nobody involved, least of all the United States, was right.
Not only would the United States and the world be infinitely better off if in response to 9/11 the U.S. government had done nothing at all, as Jon Schwartz tweets each year, but Syria would be dramatically better off if just about any outside force had never gotten in or now got out.
Here’s my 5-step plan for Syria:
- Get the bloody hell out and stay out. Why should Kosovo and Czechia and the Slovak Republic have the right to decide their fate, but Crimea and Diego Garcia and Okinawa — and Syria — not? The whim of the U.S. military should not be decisive in such matters. Stop trying to save Syria from the Syrians by killing Syrians. Enough. Do not come back.
- Stop the simpletonism. Opposing U.S. crimes has nothing whatsoever to do with defending the crimes of Syria or Russia or Iran or Saudi Arabia or any other national or non-state government — and vice versa. The enemy of your exaggerated party line is probably necessary to the process of ending the mass slaughter.
- Stop falling for propaganda. There is nothing legal, moral, or in any way practical about launching or escalating a war because someone else used a particular type of weapon, or because you pretended someone else used a particular type of weapon. The question of whether or not the weapon was used by the designated enemy is completely and utterly irrelevant to the question of whether to engage in the supreme international crime and the greatest immorality yet developed. Unproven and even ludicrous claims are very, very tempting to critique. I am almost utterly powerless to stop you, or even to get you to understand my desire to stop you. But in so doing, you are accepting a dangerous framing of the debate in which the justifiability of mass-murder supposedly hangs on disputed facts. It does not — not ever. Nor does Congress have any power to legalize a crime.
- Support real solutions. The U.S. government should not “do nothing,” even though that would be a dramatic improvement. It should, after completely removing every armed representative of itself from Syria and the entire region, and ceasing to export weapons, apologize, join the International Criminal Court rather than attacking it (even while trying to claim that Syrian crimes need addressing), join all the world’s major human rights treaties, spread democracy by developing one at home in the United States, and pay unprecedented but, in comparison to military expenditures, small reparations to Syria and surrounding nations with no strings attached.
- Remember 2013. Remember that popular pressure prevented a massive bombing campaign of Syria. Remember that this was done with non-partisan popular sentiment while the U.S. President favored bombing people for their own good as acts of philanthropy. If that could be done then, surely now during the open-barbarism of the Trump-sewer-twitter era we can block a new attack on Syria pre-announced as being based on the very same excuse as 5 years ago. Powerlessness is in the eye of the conceder.