Thursday, August 29, 2013

All Few Signs Point To GO

Trey Smith

What I'd like is if news accounts on pressure to intervene in Syria made it clear that the "growing calls ... for forceful action" aren't coming from the people, or Congressional majorities, or an expert consensus. The pressure is being applied by a tiny, insular elite that mostly lives in Washington, D.C., and isn't bothered by the idea of committing America to military action that most Americans oppose. Nor are they bothered by the president launching a war of choice without Congressional approval, even though Obama declared as a candidate that such a step would be illegal. Some of them haven't even thought through the implications of the pressure they're applying.

Why is their pro-war pressure legitimized as the prevailing story line, despite the fact that they hold a minority position, even as pressure against intervention -- that is to say, the majority position -- is all but ignored? Consider a variation on the "pressure" story that isn't written, though it would be accurate:
President Obama Faces Mounting Pressure to Stay Out of Syria

With his credibility seen increasingly on the line, President Barack Obama today faced growing calls at home and abroad to stay out of the conflict in Syria, despite the presence of chemical weapons and his former declarations that their use would be a red line.

Various Syria experts warned that intervention could touch off a regional conflict, do more to harm than help Syrian civilians, and draw the United States into a more costly, protracted war than anyone wants. Anti-war group Code Pink used their Facebook page to organize a rally against missile strikes. A subset of conservatives warned that intervening on the side of rebels could empower Islamist extremists. Deficit hawks argued that America can't afford costly military strikes at this time in a conflict with little relation to our national interests, and Obama's 2007 statements about the illegality of a president going to war without Congress absent an immediate threat to American security risks making him look like a hypocrite if he unilaterally intervenes. An inability to get UN approval would also arguably make the conflict illegal under international law. And Obama's Nobel Peace Prize would seem to hem him in further.
A story like that would never be written. The political press unconsciously treats hawkish positions as if they're more serious and legitimate, in part because they've thoughtlessly bought into the frame that experts can control geopolitics.
~ from How an Insular Beltway Elite Makes Wars of Choice More Likely by Conor Friedersdorf ~
If not for British lawmakers, the attack against the Syrian government might already be underway. Just as in the US, it is the British executive that is so gung-ho. Move away from the Prime Minister's office and there are A LOT of people who question this strategy.

Here in the US, as Friedersdorf makes clear, there only is small minority that favors any type of military attack on Syria and yet that seems to be the de facto decision. While I think that most rational people would agree that a president shouldn't lead simply by what opinion polls indicate, a president should take into account the democratic will when it overwhelming takes a position. In this case, almost every sector of American society is against the launching of a military attack.

But we no longer live in an actual democracy. More and more, the Executive Branch does whatever the hell it wants to. And so, I won't be surprised at all to learn that the small minority gets what it wants: a military action.

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