On This 9/11, Enough With the Fearmongering

The panic-inducing posturing of American and Syrian leaders has taken on an increasingly farcical tone

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Evan Vucci / AP

President Barack Obama makes a statement about the crisis in Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House on Aug. 31, 2013

It has been said that history tends to repeat itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. This aphorism is worth recalling on the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, as the posturing of the American and Syrian government leaders takes on an increasingly farcical tone.

For the past couple of weeks, the Obama Administration has been attempting, with little success, to sell the idea of an attack on Syria to the American public and its representatives in Congress. The rationale for what Secretary of State John Kerry has promised would be an “unbelievably small, limited kind of effort” — a statement that seems based on the transparently ludicrous premise that acts of war against another nation can go forward on the assumption that they won’t lead to any prolonged unpleasantness — remains deeply unclear.

(MORE: Six Ways Obama Talks About War Without Saying “War”)

The official line from the Obama Administration is that the U.S. armed forces would fire a few missiles and drop a few bombs on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces, in such a manner as to “degrade” their ability to carry out chemical-weapon attacks on their own people, but not so forcefully as to constitute an attempt to shift the balance in the Syrian civil war.

The most charitable thing that can be said for the Administration’s statements is that no one seems to be taking them seriously. Indeed, public and legislative support for what looks like a plan to blow up an “unbelievably small, limited” number of foreigners in order to make a fundamentally symbolic gesture has been so tepid that on Monday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice pulled out the second Bush Administration’s favorite post-9/11 playbook.

Rice warned that chemical weapons in Syria are “a serious threat to our national security,” going so far as to claim that the (alleged) use of such weapons by Assad’s forces in the civil war “threaten our soldiers in the region and even potentially our citizens at home.”

Assad seems more than willing to play along with this fearmongering, complete with comparisons to 9/11-proportion catastrophes, telling interviewer Charlie Rose that if the U.S. military attacks Syria, the American people “should expect everything — not necessarily from the government.” The latter phrase is clearly an allusion to the regime’s allies in Iran and among the militant group Hizballah.

(MORE: Assad Speaks: “Nobody Expected the 11th of September”)

Fortunately, it appears that the American public can no longer be swayed so easily by the kind of panic-inducing rhetoric that led to the Iraq catastrophe in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The idea that whatever chemical weapons the Syrian regime possesses pose a threat to “our citizens at home” is nonsensical on its face. It is a prime example of the abuse of the concept of “weapons of mass destruction” in a transparent attempt to play on public fears for political purposes.

Rice’s comments seem to have gone over like a lead balloon — which may help explain why the Administration now appears to be seizing on the Russian proposal that military action could be averted if the Assad regime turns over its chemical weapons to international forces.

(MORE: Behind Russia’s Sudden Efforts to Solve the Syria Crisis)

Twelve years after 9/11, the American public has grown weary of the cynical exploitation of that tragedy for the purposes of the favored military adventurism of the moment — and not a moment too soon.

3 comments
OliverCatolos
OliverCatolos

The unbreakable manner shows up as an intangible issue beyond

it’s territorial conflict. But the political perspective initiate at

global security controlled factions through diplomacy and

proper call on stabilized allocation of such forces. These could

mean that the right moment should be passed at measurable

turn while doing the best idea for balancing an act of war in

fundamentally symbolic gesture… by upgrading policies on

attempting the gravity of civil war.

The legislative support should take concern on success rather than failure,

to comprehend inevitable arguments that will spark through

an all-out effort on rehabilitating the use of chemical and weapons of mass destruction. Or stop its existence by offering some sanctions and

non-political preparations to improve the national security.

Oliver Catolos

Tanay Rizal

Philippines 

lallen2064
lallen2064

It is interesting how the perspective changes based on being in the White House.  Senator Obama and Senator Biden had grave concerns over going into Iraq.  Were later part of the crowd claiming Bush lied about WMDs and the threat to the USA.  Now President Obama and VP Biden have been arguing essentially the same kind of case for Syria involvement.  With Bush you had US intelligence, German, British and even French intelligence agencies reporting the real possibility of nuclear materials in Iraq and chemical weapons were a documented fact.  Syria is not even that sure of a thing.  

The point really missed by Bush, Obama, Congress and most of the US public is what a commitment to war really means. The USA as a nation, as a people, lack the will to truly finish the job when going to war.  It is evident in Afghanistan and Iraq.   If we are so unwilling, we should not get involved, certainly not in Syria. 

The USA sends its people to these places to fight and die, we expend billions and billions of dollars. Still we are politically unwilling to do what it takes to have a long term victory. In the end our own moral character, sense of fair play, right versus wrong, inhibits us from running completely rough shod over these countries. We fret over civilian casualties, over how POWs are treated, over the collateral damage inflicted. 

In WWI and WWII entire cities were wiped off the map (with enemy combatants, civilians, friendlies included), in single day battles US losses would mount in the thousands (more than all of Afghanistan and Iraq combined). In those wars we did not stop short. Those wars were fought as war, with commitment to victory and they had final outcomes. 

War is a horrible terrible inhumane atrocity against our very souls, but if we decide to engage in war, it must be fought to win. If we are unwilling to do that, then Do Not Go To War. 

Do not even bother lobbing a few missiles at them. In the end, such "limited" actions are even more cowardly and inhumane than doing nothing. 


DanBruce
DanBruce

When I read your comment, "The idea that whatever chemical weapons the Syrian regime possesses pose a threat to 'our citizens at home' is nonsensical on its face," I was reminded of a president sitting in Crawford, Texas, twelve years ago reading a national security briefing and coming to the same conclusion. Seems some of us never learn.