Quick, Measured, and Decisive

 

War is hell, and whenever the weapons of war are used, even in a measured and deliberate way, it is frightening and worrisome. People die, which is tragic enough. Beyond that, we can never be sure what will follow, and whether the situation will escalate.

Not everyone in the world shares our values. There are men with enormous power for whom the deaths of innocent civilians — even citizens of their own countries — mean little. There are cruel and despotic tyrants, men whose ambitions are all-consuming and who are willing to use any means to achieve their ends.

In an act of civilized self-defense, most of the world’s nations have agreed to prohibit the use of certain kinds of weapons, those generally known as “weapons of mass destruction.” These include atomic, biological, and chemical weapons.

We believe that the government of Syria deployed such a weapon a few days ago, when dozens of people were killed by poison gas in an attack believed to have been launched by the Syrian government against a community it considered hostile to its interests. The dead include men, women, and children.

If we believe — and I do — that it is prudent to prohibit the use of weapons of mass destruction, then it logically follows that there should be consequences, costs, for those who choose to use them. It would be nice if the United Nations could be counted on to impose such costs, but it is a feckless and corrupt organization. Beyond that, Russia, an ally of Syria, has veto power on the UN Security Council and can prevent any effective UN response to Syria.

The United States is the world’s premier military power and the most effective guardian of global peace and security in history. We, together with our allies France and the United Kingdom, responded to Syria’s use of poison gas in a measured and effective way, destroying three government facilities believed to be crucial to Syria’s WMD programs. This is precisely the kind of targeted, limited, but serious response that I think is appropriate in these circumstances. It increases the cost of using WMDs while avoiding embroiling us in a large-scale military venture into a war-torn and unstable region.

I think those concerned about a Russian reprisal are concerned unnecessarily: Russia is in some sense already a rogue state, but unlikely to take significant military action to defend the right of an international pariah to use chemical weapons against its own people. I expect diplomatic outrage, but little more.

And, for the second time since his election, I applaud President Trump for quick, measured, and decisive military action.

Published in Foreign Policy
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There are 44 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Member

    Henry Racette: Not everyone in the world shares our values. There are men with enormous power for whom the deaths of innocent civilians — even citizens of their own countries — mean little.

    They’re known as pro-choice.

    • #1
    • April 15, 2018 at 3:18 pm
    • 7 likes
  2. Contributor

    I agree, Henry. The key is the use of chemical weapons. I feel odd saying that, because killing in any form is killing and is terrible. But this is a line drawn that I can live with.

    • #2
    • April 15, 2018 at 3:55 pm
    • 3 likes
  3. Inactive

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs? 

    • #3
    • April 15, 2018 at 4:50 pm
    • Like
  4. Inactive

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump. 

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    • #4
    • April 15, 2018 at 4:55 pm
    • Like
  5. Thatcher

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    It is easier to run from a fire that you can see rather than a gas that you can’t.

    • #5
    • April 15, 2018 at 5:07 pm
    • Like
  6. Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    One difference is that poison gas is relatively easy to deliver in effective quantities against a modern city, whereas to effectively burn a modern city would, I think, require a substantial and sustained bombing campaign. The incendiary horrors of World War II were achieved by heavy incendiary bombing of cities composed primarily of flammable wooden structures. If a modern military were to attempt such an attack now, we might well treat it like a WMD attack — and that would probably be appropriate — but I don’t think we’re likely to see that outside of the context of an actual war.

    However, if you’d like to make an argument for adding incendiary bombs to the list of WMDs we proscribe, I’d probably go along with that.

    • #6
    • April 15, 2018 at 5:19 pm
    • 2 likes
  7. Inactive

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    It is easier to run from a fire that you can see rather than a gas that you can’t.

    So that’s it? The targets have a sporting chance? I kinda doubt that. But okay: why is poison gas worse than gathering people into a ravine or ditch and then shooting them? Is it the children? Like, it’s okay to shoot military aged men en masse? 

    This isn’t an argument against the strike we just did on Syria. I’m just trying to figure out why “chemical weapons” seem so much worse than bullets or bombs. 

    • #7
    • April 15, 2018 at 5:19 pm
    • Like
  8. Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    Jamie, I don’t know if he actually did require Congressional approval. I certainly wouldn’t take his word for it. I do hope he went through appropriate channels: while I support a muscular and even aggressive U.S. foreign policy, I always want us to follow our own laws.

    • #8
    • April 15, 2018 at 5:20 pm
    • Like
  9. Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    It is easier to run from a fire that you can see rather than a gas that you can’t.

    So that’s it? The targets have a sporting chance? I kinda doubt that. But okay: why is poison gas worse than gathering people into a ravine or ditch and then shooting them? Is it the children? Like, it’s okay to shoot military aged men en masse?

    This isn’t an argument against the strike we just did on Syria. I’m just trying to figure out why “chemical weapons” seem so much worse than bullets or bombs.

    Hypatia: “So that’s it? The targets have a sporting chance?”

    That’s a little flippant, perhaps. No, not “a sporting chance.” It’s a question of how many can be killed and how fast and how easily and how little protection they can secure.

    Hypatia: “why is poison gas worse than gathering people into a ravine or ditch and then shooting them”

    Worse? They’re both horrible. But, again, it’s hard to gather thousands of people and shoot them individually: when people do, we usually call it genocide and we start talking about intervention. But WMDs make it easy to kill thousands, or tens of thousands, quickly and before anyone can intervene. It isn’t a matter of which is the greater moral atrocity, but rather which represents the greater danger of sudden, widespread, indiscriminate, mass killing.

    Hypatia: “I’m just trying to figure out why “chemical weapons” seem so much worse than bullets or bombs.”

    I understand. And of course I’m not defending bullets or bombs. I’m just saying that the process of killing people is quite different if you’re using bullets and bombs, than if you’re using chemical or nuclear or biological weapons. It’s easier to do the latter, it can happen faster, it’s almost impossible to prevent once it’s started, it’s horribly indiscriminate, and it’s cheap. Those are the reasons we try to discourage the use of this class of weaponry.

    • #9
    • April 15, 2018 at 5:27 pm
    • 2 likes
  10. Inactive

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    Jamie, I don’t know if he actually did require Congressional approval. I certainly wouldn’t take his word for it. I do hope he went through appropriate channels: while I support a muscular and even aggressive U.S. foreign policy, I always want us to follow our own laws.

    I don’t think muscular foreign policy and getting congressional authorization is mutually exclusive. 

    • #10
    • April 15, 2018 at 5:47 pm
    • Like
  11. Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    One difference is that poison gas is relatively easy to deliver in effective quantities against a modern city, whereas to effectively burn a modern city would, I think, require a substantial and sustained bombing campaign.

    Not really. Chemical weapons require a very high concentration that is difficult to deliver and subject to the vagaries of wind and temperature. Persistent agents (nerve or blister) require physical contact with the skin/eyes/nasal passages. Non persistent agents (gases such as chlorine and phosgene) tend to disperse quickly, though they will pool in low lying areas because the molecules are heavier than air.

    Note, all the usage of chemical weapons since WW 1 has been as a terror weapon against civilians. Further, chemical weapons are just as dangerous to the people involved in the loading and delivery. Bombs and artillery munitions are fused at time of use and include safety features. At the level Syria is operating at, their munitions are likely loaded with chemical agent by hand or with 1980s era Soviet equipment. 

    • #11
    • April 15, 2018 at 6:09 pm
    • 3 likes
  12. Member

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    It is easier to run from a fire that you can see rather than a gas that you can’t.

    So that’s it? The targets have a sporting chance? I kinda doubt that. But okay: why is poison gas worse than gathering people into a ravine or ditch and then shooting them? Is it the children? Like, it’s okay to shoot military aged men en masse?

    This isn’t an argument against the strike we just did on Syria. I’m just trying to figure out why “chemical weapons” seem so much worse than bullets or bombs.

    It’s a revulsion that dates back to WW1. To the victim, there’s no difference, but to the bystanders there’s still a specially horrible character. On some moral plane, there’s a degree of illogic at work.

    • #12
    • April 15, 2018 at 6:17 pm
    • Like
  13. Contributor
    Henry Racette Post author

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    Jamie, I don’t know if he actually did require Congressional approval. I certainly wouldn’t take his word for it. I do hope he went through appropriate channels: while I support a muscular and even aggressive U.S. foreign policy, I always want us to follow our own laws.

    I don’t think muscular foreign policy and getting congressional authorization is mutually exclusive.

    I agree, Jamie — but nor am I certain that getting congressional authorization is Constitutionally mandated. (The fact that presidents have often used military force without getting congressional approval makes me suspect that Congress isn’t certain of that fact either.)

    • #13
    • April 15, 2018 at 6:23 pm
    • Like
  14. Inactive

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    Jamie, I don’t know if he actually did require Congressional approval. I certainly wouldn’t take his word for it. I do hope he went through appropriate channels: while I support a muscular and even aggressive U.S. foreign policy, I always want us to follow our own laws.

    I don’t think muscular foreign policy and getting congressional authorization is mutually exclusive.

    I agree, Jamie — but nor am I certain that getting congressional authorization is Constitutionally mandated. (The fact that presidents have often used military force without getting congressional approval makes me suspect that Congress isn’t certain of that fact either.)

    I think it demonstrates that congress are cowards. As with most policy since 1950 they would rather abdicate responsibility than guard their own powers. 

    • #14
    • April 15, 2018 at 7:24 pm
    • Like
  15. Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    the process of killing people is quite different if you’re using bullets and bombs, than if you’re using chemical or nuclear or biological weapons… to do the latter…is cheap.”

    By that logic, if the price per death of bombs dropped to a lower value than that of chemical weapons, that would be a factor in favor of banning bombs, and allowing chemical weapons.

    Perhaps so, but it gives me pause.

     

    • #15
    • April 15, 2018 at 7:32 pm
    • Like
  16. Member

    Henry Racette: And, for the second time since his election, I applaud President Trump for quick, measured, and decisive military action.

    I certainly agree with this, Hank, despise my skepticism of this man (Trump) in general. I just wonder if it is enough to deter this from happening again? Men like Assad must eventually be purged from the face of the earth.

    • #16
    • April 16, 2018 at 4:06 am
    • Like
  17. Inactive

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    the process of killing people is quite different if you’re using bullets and bombs, than if you’re using chemical or nuclear or biological weapons… to do the latter…is cheap.”

    By that logic, if the price per death of bombs dropped to a lower value than that of chemical weapons, that would be a factor in favor of banning bombs, and allowing chemical weapons.

    Perhaps so, but it gives me pause.

    Getting closer….Chemical weapons are too easy. The killers don’t have to risk their own lives. Of course that’s true with bombing now, too, but we don’t think of it that way cuz we still have the image of the “brave pilot” . And “cheap”; we think killing should cost the killer.

    Contrary to what the author of the OP said, I am not being flippant . I have the same revulsion to this silent but deadly massacre as everybody else in our culture does. I’m trying o analyze why, though. 

    • #17
    • April 16, 2018 at 5:32 am
    • Like
  18. Member

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    That this question needs to be asked is a clear demonstration of how decadent the West has become since 1914.

    • #18
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:00 am
    • 1 like
  19. Coolidge

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    Jamie, I don’t know if he actually did require Congressional approval. I certainly wouldn’t take his word for it. I do hope he went through appropriate channels: while I support a muscular and even aggressive U.S. foreign policy, I always want us to follow our own laws.

    I don’t think muscular foreign policy and getting congressional authorization is mutually exclusive.

    I agree, Jamie — but nor am I certain that getting congressional authorization is Constitutionally mandated. (The fact that presidents have often used military force without getting congressional approval makes me suspect that Congress isn’t certain of that fact either.)

    I think it demonstrates that congress are cowards. As with most policy since 1950 they would rather abdicate responsibility than guard their own powers.

    I would agree with you, but the horse left the barn when Obama bombed Libya without even post facto congressional approval. That he paid no consequence pretty much killed off requiring congressional authorization for such adventures. Had Obama been impeached over Libya then I’d be recommending the same for Trump, but you can’t have 2 standards.

    • #19
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:14 am
    • Like
  20. Member

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    @jamielockett, I’m just not all that impressed with the tweeted opinions of that noted Constitutional scholar Donald Trump. Cruz is a different story. He knows the Constitution. But the piece you cite has nothing to do with whether Congressional authorization is necessary for a missile strike. Obama explicitly referred the issue of a Syria strike to Congress in 2013. Cruz’s piece “explained” why he voted no. In my opinion, Obama referred the matter to Congress because Obama is a coward and he wanted cover for his decision to back away from what he himself had identified as a “red line.” In my opinion, Cruz voted no for political reasons. None of this has any bearing on whether Congressional authorization is required for every military action taken by the Commander in Chief. I don’t believe it is. And, for what it’s worth, Obama took several military actions without seeking Congressional approval. So, for that matter, did Ronald Reagan.

    Jamie, you have repeatedly made the argument that military action (any military action, or just this one?) “requires” Congressional approval. Please, make your case. Where is this “requirement”? In the Constitution? I don’t think so. Is it the War Powers Act? I don’t think this particular strike even violated the War Powers Act, but I also think that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional in the first place. But please, make your argument. I have great respect for you, and your argument deserves a better footing than “Donald Trump tweeted it so it must be right.”

    • #20
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:16 am
    • 1 like
  21. Inactive

    HankMorgan (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    Jamie, I don’t know if he actually did require Congressional approval. I certainly wouldn’t take his word for it. I do hope he went through appropriate channels: while I support a muscular and even aggressive U.S. foreign policy, I always want us to follow our own laws.

    I don’t think muscular foreign policy and getting congressional authorization is mutually exclusive.

    I agree, Jamie — but nor am I certain that getting congressional authorization is Constitutionally mandated. (The fact that presidents have often used military force without getting congressional approval makes me suspect that Congress isn’t certain of that fact either.)

    I think it demonstrates that congress are cowards. As with most policy since 1950 they would rather abdicate responsibility than guard their own powers.

    I would agree with you, but the horse left the barn when Obama bombed Libya without even post facto congressional approval. That he paid no consequence pretty much killed off requiring congressional authorization for such adventures. Had Obama been impeached over Libya then I’d be recommending the same for Trump, but you can’t have 2 standards.

    And I’m in favor of reviving the standard. This is not some petty political game of tit for tat. This is war. 

    • #21
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:16 am
    • Like
  22. Inactive

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    @jamielockett, I’m just not all that impressed with the tweeted opinions of that noted Constitutional scholar Donald Trump. Cruz is a different story. He knows the Constitution. But the piece you cite has nothing to do with whether Congressional authorization is necessary for a missile strike. Obama explicitly referred the issue of a Syria strike to Congress in 2013. Cruz’s piece “explained” why he voted no. In my opinion, Obama referred the matter to Congress because Obama is a coward and he wanted cover for his decision to back away from what he himself had identified as a “red line.” In my opinion, Cruz voted no for political reasons. None of this has any bearing on whether Congressional authorization is required for every military action taken by the Commander in Chief. I don’t believe it is. And, for what it’s worth, Obama took several military actions without seeking Congressional approval. So, for that matter, did Ronald Reagan.

    Jamie, you have repeatedly made the argument that military action (any military action, or just this one?) “requires” Congressional approval. Please, make your case. Where is this “requirement”? In the Constitution? I don’t think so. Is it the War Powers Act? I don’t think this particular strike even violated the War Powers Act, but I also think that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional in the first place. But please, make your argument. I have great respect for you, and your argument deserves a better footing than “Donald Trump tweeted it so it must be right.”

    Barring a defensive and necessarily reactionary action by our armed forces the President is required to obtain a declaration of war from Congress prior to military action against a foreign state. The constitution is clear on this: Congress has the power to commit us to war, the President commands them once committed.

    • #22
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:20 am
    • Like
  23. Coolidge

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    the process of killing people is quite different if you’re using bullets and bombs, than if you’re using chemical or nuclear or biological weapons… to do the latter…is cheap.”

    By that logic, if the price per death of bombs dropped to a lower value than that of chemical weapons, that would be a factor in favor of banning bombs, and allowing chemical weapons.

    Perhaps so, but it gives me pause.

    Getting closer….Chemical weapons are too easy. The killers don’t have to risk their own lives. Of course that’s true with bombing now, too, but we don’t think of it that way cuz we still have the image of the “brave pilot” . And “cheap”; we think killing should cost the killer.

    Contrary to what the author of the OP said, I am not being flippant . I have the same revulsion to this silent but deadly massacre as everybody else in our culture does. I’m trying o analyze why, though.

    I think it is because of how effective chem/bio/nuke weapons are at wholesale killing of civilians while not being particularly good at precision elimination of military targets (more so for chem/bio).

    Also, they trigger our disgust reflexes with the horrific way they kill — probably because of deep seated evolutionary instincts to avoid contagions. In comparison, shrapnel would not trigger our disgust reflexes in the same way.

    • #23
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:22 am
    • 1 like
  24. Member

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    @jamielockett, I’m just not all that impressed with the tweeted opinions of that noted Constitutional scholar Donald Trump. Cruz is a different story. He knows the Constitution. But the piece you cite has nothing to do with whether Congressional authorization is necessary for a missile strike. Obama explicitly referred the issue of a Syria strike to Congress in 2013. Cruz’s piece “explained” why he voted no. In my opinion, Obama referred the matter to Congress because Obama is a coward and he wanted cover for his decision to back away from what he himself had identified as a “red line.” In my opinion, Cruz voted no for political reasons. None of this has any bearing on whether Congressional authorization is required for every military action taken by the Commander in Chief. I don’t believe it is. And, for what it’s worth, Obama took several military actions without seeking Congressional approval. So, for that matter, did Ronald Reagan.

    Jamie, you have repeatedly made the argument that military action (any military action, or just this one?) “requires” Congressional approval. Please, make your case. Where is this “requirement”? In the Constitution? I don’t think so. Is it the War Powers Act? I don’t think this particular strike even violated the War Powers Act, but I also think that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional in the first place. But please, make your argument. I have great respect for you, and your argument deserves a better footing than “Donald Trump tweeted it so it must be right.”

    Barring a defensive and necessarily reactionary action by our armed forces the President is required to obtain a declaration of war from Congress prior to military action against a foreign state. The constitution is clear on this: Congress has the power to commit us to war, the President commands them once committed.

    The last time Congress issued a declaration of war under the Constitution was June 5, 1942. I seem to recall a few military conflicts involving America troops since then. The precedent for US military action without a Congressional declaration of war is so well established that I think the burden is on you to explain why it should suddenly be resurrected for this particular missile strike.

    • #24
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:26 am
    • 2 likes
  25. Inactive

    Joe P (View Comment):

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    That this question needs to be asked is a clear demonstration of how decadent the West has become since 1914.

    I don’t think that. The contrasting attitude toward different methods of killing is related to some fundamental core of Western civilization and its culture, long before 1914.

    Maybe it’s like, “only God should be able to deal out invisible mass destruction” a la Sennacherib, the “Assyrian {who } came down like a wolf on the fold”–and whose entire host, men and horses, lay dead the next morning:

    “The Angel of Death had gone by in the blast

    And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed.

    And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword

    Had withered like snow in the Breath of the LORD.”

    — Byron, The Destruction of Sennacherib ( from memory) 

    • #25
    • April 16, 2018 at 6:56 am
    • Like
  26. Member

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    By that logic, if the price per death of bombs dropped to a lower value than that of chemical weapons, that would be a factor in favor of banning bombs, and allowing chemical weapons.

    Perhaps so, but it gives me pause.

    Getting closer….Chemical weapons are too easy.

    I would have only been “getting closer” if I had said “that would imply…” instead of what I did say, “a factor…”. I limited my reply to one of his points.

    The killers don’t have to risk their own lives. Of course that’s true with bombing now, too, but we don’t think of it that way cuz we still have the image of the “brave pilot” . And “cheap”; we think killing should cost the killer.

    Exactly.

    Contrary to what the author of the OP said, I am not being flippant . I have the same revulsion to this silent but deadly massacre as everybody else in our culture does. I’m trying o analyze why, though.

    Me too. That is why I said only that it “gives me pause”. I support a policy of dropping one kind of bomb to kill people who use a different kind, as long as we know the consequences, what we are doing to human beings, our next step, and why we are doing it in terms of immutable principles.

    Right now, I don’t see any logical argument for our military strategy in Syria. There is a war of insurrection on: the rebel factions each have a political objective, the government has an opposing objective.

    So what is our political objective? What is our military intent?

    Well, we don’t want to go to war, but we do want to go to war. As long as we don’t suffer any casualties, but if there are, then we don’t want to go to war. We want to be in a war where only the bad guys suffer casualties.

    We want to change the pace of the war, but we don’t want it to go on longer but we do want it to go on longer if it means the currently winning side uses less powerful weapons, but we don’t want to be held accountable for it going on longer and resulting in more civilian deaths and destruction.

    We want one of the factions to achieve its political war objective, but we don’t know exactly which one, or what that objective is (who will rule when this ruler is gone? and what will be the security conditions–war or peace, what kind of war, between whom?) but we don’t want anyone to ask us what objective we do support because we only want to change the outcome but not be held accountable for the outcome. If the outcome of our making war is bad, then we want to say we are now against that outcome, but still not take responsibility for it.

    • #26
    • April 16, 2018 at 7:06 am
    • Like
  27. Coolidge

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    HankMorgan (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    Jamie, I don’t know if he actually did require Congressional approval. I certainly wouldn’t take his word for it. I do hope he went through appropriate channels: while I support a muscular and even aggressive U.S. foreign policy, I always want us to follow our own laws.

    I don’t think muscular foreign policy and getting congressional authorization is mutually exclusive.

    I agree, Jamie — but nor am I certain that getting congressional authorization is Constitutionally mandated. (The fact that presidents have often used military force without getting congressional approval makes me suspect that Congress isn’t certain of that fact either.)

    I think it demonstrates that congress are cowards. As with most policy since 1950 they would rather abdicate responsibility than guard their own powers.

    I would agree with you, but the horse left the barn when Obama bombed Libya without even post facto congressional approval. That he paid no consequence pretty much killed off requiring congressional authorization for such adventures. Had Obama been impeached over Libya then I’d be recommending the same for Trump, but you can’t have 2 standards.

    And I’m in favor of reviving the standard. This is not some petty political game of tit for tat. This is war.

    The only remedy congress has is impeachment, which is certainly being played as a petty political game of tit for tat.

    Really, the problem is congress tacitly approving these types of strikes without being willing to put themselves on the line politically. I’d bet you anything that if you could talk with congress off record the Syria/Libya strikes would have cleared 60% approval easily. The cowards won’t go on record with a vote and then they can’t impeach when the president can call them on giving him the green light in private.

    • #27
    • April 16, 2018 at 7:16 am
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  28. Member

    Hypatia (View Comment):

    Why is poison gas worse than incendiary bombs?

    I don’t know that it is, but I don’t think that’s the right question. The real question is whether there should be such a thing as “rules of war” at all. People will die in wars. Does that mean anything goes? No rules? No limits on weaponry? Deliberately target civilians? Abandon the Geneva Conventions? Torture? No limits?

    If there are to be any limits, and I think there should, then the ban on the use of chemical weapons is certainly one of them. They have been banned since 1925, and the current Chemical Weapons Convention has 192 signatories (including Syria). Perhaps one can make the case that such weapons should be allowed in war, but a lot of people who are a lot smarter and more experienced in warfare than me think they shouldn’t. In any event, that is the existing policy of the United States, which Trump inherited. If that is our policy and our treaty obligation, then we should follow it.

    • #28
    • April 16, 2018 at 7:21 am
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  29. Inactive

    @markcamp, there are two threads going on here: mine, and everybody else’s. I’m just musing about why we deplore chemical warfare more than , ah, “conventional” warfare. ( I dunno, if it’s a “convention” how bad can it be, really?) 

    So to pick up the other thread: does what we’ve done ultimately make much sense? Leaving political leanings totally out of it, I’d say: let the conflict play out till one side wins decisively: then we have a party in a position to deal. Evidently we can’t stop the killing, we’re only drawing out the suffering. And, if the real issue is that this is a proxy war..I don’t know, maybe deal with it exclusively at that level? 

    Dont we have any hackers or operatives who can intercept and expose the flow of material s or money from Russia and Iran to Assad? But: other than Russia s long standing historical involvement with Iran, what is Russia’s ultimate goal? 

    Whats the alternative to Assad? 

    Im sure of one thing: if Obama had never uttered the words “red line”, we wouldn’t have taken this action. From that very two syllable phrase stems the entire “looking weak” meme. Some action had  to be taken to restore American credibility. The reaction to the strike a year ago was largely positive, but does it seem to have had any effect? Was there something diffferent Trump,coulda done? He’s already sanctioning Russia and Iran up,the wazoo.

    • #29
    • April 16, 2018 at 7:45 am
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  30. Inactive

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Still requires congressional authorization. Just ask Sen Cruz and Donald Trump.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/ted-cruz-why-ill-vote-no-on-syria-strike/2013/09/09/34750cde-1972-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html?utm_term=.a2932b7cdb61

    @jamielockett, I’m just not all that impressed with the tweeted opinions of that noted Constitutional scholar Donald Trump. Cruz is a different story. He knows the Constitution. But the piece you cite has nothing to do with whether Congressional authorization is necessary for a missile strike. Obama explicitly referred the issue of a Syria strike to Congress in 2013. Cruz’s piece “explained” why he voted no. In my opinion, Obama referred the matter to Congress because Obama is a coward and he wanted cover for his decision to back away from what he himself had identified as a “red line.” In my opinion, Cruz voted no for political reasons. None of this has any bearing on whether Congressional authorization is required for every military action taken by the Commander in Chief. I don’t believe it is. And, for what it’s worth, Obama took several military actions without seeking Congressional approval. So, for that matter, did Ronald Reagan.

    Jamie, you have repeatedly made the argument that military action (any military action, or just this one?) “requires” Congressional approval. Please, make your case. Where is this “requirement”? In the Constitution? I don’t think so. Is it the War Powers Act? I don’t think this particular strike even violated the War Powers Act, but I also think that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional in the first place. But please, make your argument. I have great respect for you, and your argument deserves a better footing than “Donald Trump tweeted it so it must be right.”

    Barring a defensive and necessarily reactionary action by our armed forces the President is required to obtain a declaration of war from Congress prior to military action against a foreign state. The constitution is clear on this: Congress has the power to commit us to war, the President commands them once committed.

    The last time Congress issued a declaration of war under the Constitution was June 5, 1942. I seem to recall a few military conflicts involving America troops since then. The precedent for US military action without a Congressional declaration of war is so well established that I think the burden is on you to explain why it should suddenly be resurrected for this particular missile strike.

    Right and since 1942 we have fallen further and further from the constitutional requirements. You’re saying that 76 years of constitutional defiance requires no justification. I’m saying that the 166 years that preceded it are justification enough.

    • #30
    • April 16, 2018 at 7:55 am
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