51 people in the US State Department who apparently call themselves “diplomats” have decided that enough’s enough with this diplomacy shit:
More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.
Now, you could argue that, having conclusively demonstrated that they no longer have any faith in their own chosen profession, these 51 people should probably find another calling, but I’d rather focus on how weaksauce this “sharply critical” memo actually is:
The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for “a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”
Assad has shown a willingness to kill as many Syrians as it takes to maintain his hold on power, because he (not without reason; see Gaddafi, Muammar) believes that holding on to power is literally a matter of life and death…and you think “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons” is going to make him back down? If you’re going to put your name to a document calling for the United States to engage in yet another war of choice, at least have the guts to call for a real war, not this “pretend it’s not really war” stuff.
I wonder if any of these 51 mid-level diplomats are veterans of the “we’ll be greeted as liberators” Bush administration. Those guys had a tendency to advocate for the use of force without considering all the ramifications, and just assuming that the rest of the world will knuckle under to America’s wishes so long as we wave our big stick around violently enough. It never works that way, but True Believers don’t let a thing like being wrong all the time cloud their judgment.
And don’t pretend that the rest of us are naive enough to believe that these strikes would only be intended to “undergird” the diplomatic process. Remember when US and NATO airstrikes in Libya were only supposed to prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe, and then we kept going until Gaddafi was dead? SO DOES EVERYBODY ELSE. Missions creep, inevitably. Let’s be honest about that for a change.
In what may be the irony of ironies, the negotiators are champing at the bit for war, while the folks who are in charge of doing America’s war-making are the ones urging President Obama to hold back:
While there are no widely recognized names, higher-level State Department officials are known to share their concerns. Mr. Kerry himself has pushed for stronger American action against Syria, in part to force a diplomatic solution on Mr. Assad. The president has resisted such pressure, and has been backed up by his military commanders, who have raised questions about what would happen in the event that Mr. Assad was forced from power — a scenario that the draft memo does not address.
Me, I think your problems start even before Assad is removed. Specifically, where’s Russia supposed to be while all this judicious bombing is going on? They have a well-vested interest at this point in seeing Assad remain in power or, at least, in seeing that he is succeeded by a government amenable to Russian interests. Are they going to just shrug it off if the US decides to start targeting Assad? Just within the last day, Russian aircraft struck Syrian rebels working with the US, despite US requests that they stop. What if Russian anti-aircraft batteries and/or combat aircraft won’t stand down in the face of these hypothetical US airstrikes? Is the United States prepared to go to war with Russia over this? Because maybe Moscow wouldn’t escalate things once we’ve started striking their Man in Damascus, but the possibility should be factored in to the decision-making. Are these 51 diplomats prepared to go to war with Russia? Apparently not:
The State Department officials insisted in their memo that they were not “advocating for a slippery slope that ends in a military confrontation with Russia,” but rather a credible threat of military action to keep Mr. Assad in line.
Cool. If I eat two meatball hoagies for dinner tonight, I’m not advocating for a slippery slope that ends with me being unable to fit into any of my clothes, but rather a credible threat of military action against the waistline of my jeans. I’m not sure I can make the latter without triggering the former, but hey, let’s give it a shot. You lose 100% of the wars you never start, am I right?