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Liberal war hawks spread their wings

Let the bodies hit the floor.

It’s just amazing to watch liberals fall head-over-heels in love with the sort of cowboy unilateral military strike they used to fulminate against.  Almost every left-wing columnist in the land has torn away their dove costumes to reveal a bloodthirsty war hawk who just can’t wait to kill them some Syrians.  Nothing can be allowed to stand in the way of their righteous fury.

To hell with the Constitution, Congress, and even the “global test” they spent half of 2004 defending when now-Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned it.  Weapons free, damn the torpedoes, lock and load, bombs away!  Set phasers to “charbroil,” Mr. Sulu!  What the heck is our magnificent lightworker President waiting for?  Faster, pussycat, kill, kill!

“Bomb Syria, even if it is illegal!” howls Ian Hurd at the New York Times:

There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law. Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to do just that on Monday, when he said of the use of chemical weapons, ??This international norm cannot be violated without consequences.? His use of the word ??norm,? instead of ??law,? is telling.

It sure is, Mr. Hurd!  Especially to anyone who remembers a single word John Kerry said during his 2004 presidential campaign!  Happily for Democrats, they can rely on a healthy degree of amnesia from their supporters.  They can barely remember what Barack Obama said ten days ago, never mind what John Kerry was talking about almost ten years ago.

Strangely, Hurd proceeds to invest most of his column inches in reviewing all the laws and treaties Syria is not subject to, culminating in this little “global test,” to borrow a phrase from our now-bloodthirsty Secretary of State:

Arguably, the key legal obligation of nations in the post-1945 world is adherence to theUnited Nations Charter. It demands that states refrain ??from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.? The use of force is permitted when authorized by the Security Council or for self-defense (and countries like Jordan and Turkey are considering this route to justify joining an anti-Assad coalition) ?? but not purely on humanitarian grounds.

All righty then.  What was the point of this column, again?  Oh, that’s right: screw both domestic and international law – the Savior of Mankind wants to kill enough people to look “just muscular enough not to get mocked,” as one Administration official put it, so let the bodies hit the floor:

But if the White House takes international law seriously ?? as the State Department does ?? it cannot try to have it both ways. It must either argue that an ??illegal but legitimate? intervention is better than doing nothing, or assert that international law has changed ?? strategies that I call ??constructive noncompliance.? In the case of Syria, I vote for the latter.

Since Russia and China won??t help, Mr. Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don??t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria.

This would be popular in many quarters, and I believe it??s the right thing to do. But if the American government accepts that the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society, it must be clear that this represents a new legal path.

Got that?  If you take the law seriously, you’ve got to break it.  That’s how Obama’s benevolent despotism works in domestic affairs, right?  He’s fond of declaring that all sorts of laws have “evolved” into whatever would maximize his power.  New “legal paths” are getting blazed all over the place.  The start date for the ObamaCare employer mandate has been pushed back; the date of some Syrian funerals can be moved up.

Nicholas Kristof is a more straightforward political hack, confessing that he’s cool with unilateral military action when Democrats do it:

More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed. At the rate the killings have accelerated, Syria could even approach a Rwanda-size death toll by the time Obama steps down.

I tend to be wary of the military toolbox, and I strongly opposed the Iraq war and the Afghan ??surge.? But in conjunction with diplomacy, military force can save lives. We saw that in Bosnia and Kosovo under Bill Clinton (who appears to favor a more forceful American approach in Syria), and we saw that just this year in Mali.

We’ve got to bomb Syria because the slaughter of innocents might end up being almost as bad as the African bloodbath our previous Democrat colossus of a Chief Executive did nothing about!  Even though it will be a meaningless gesture:

Granted, there??s a legitimate question about whether a day or two of missile strikes against Syria (seemingly the most likely scenario) will deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons. We can??t be sure, but to me that seems plausible.

Chemical weapons are of only marginal use, simply one more way to terrorize and demoralize opponents. President Assad has carefully calibrated his actions over the last few years, testing the domestic and international response before escalating.

At first he merely arrested protesters. Then his forces began firing on them. Next his soldiers swept hostile neighborhoods. Then the Syrian Army began firing rockets and mortars at rebel positions. Assad moved on to indiscriminate bombing. Then his army apparently used chemical weapons in small attacks. Finally, his army appears to have undertaken a major assault with nerve gas.

We??ve been the frog in the beaker.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner, and nobody puts Barack in the beaker.

I hate to rain on Kristof’s war parade, but it looks like doubts about the Assad regime’s culpability for the chem weapons strike are starting to creep in.  Things are looking a bit less slam-dunky.  Assad is still ultimately accountable if he permitted or encouraged the WMD deployment, rather than directly ordering it – the orders may have come from rogue Syrian army commanders, or even Iranians fighting on the regime’s behalf – but the justification for message missile attacks is more strained, especially if we’re talking about Barack the Slayer violating what remains of U.S. law to launch those missiles.  I don’t think the intelligence community has entirely ruled out the possibility of a false-flag operation by one of the more ruthless rebel factions, either, although intercepts of Syrian army chatter argue against it.

Mark Thompson at Time says we might as well get used to unilateral military action, at least when a Democrat is in office, because there are all sorts of loopholes they can fly cruise missiles through:

Over the weekend, the White House declared that there is ??very little doubt? that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad??s forces used chemical weapons against his own people.

For better or worse, there??s also very little doubt that President Obama??should he choose to do so??can retaliate against Syrian targets for their use without approval from the American people, or their elected representatives in Congress.

Just like he did in Libya two years ago.

For Americans brought up to believe only Congress can declare??and pay for??war, it??s worth noting that such legal niceties have loopholes big enough to fly cruise missiles through.

Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post is ready to gamble American treasure and Syrian lives on his touching faith that Barack Obama is right, and “history and the people are wrong:”

If it is true that the regime killed hundreds of civilians with nerve gas in a Damascus suburblast week ?? and Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Monday that the use of chemical weapons is ??undeniable? ?? then Obama has no choice. Such use cannot be tolerated, and any government or group that employs chemical weapons must be made to suffer real consequences. Obama should uphold this principle by destroying some of Assad??s military assets with cruise missiles.

I say this despite my belief that Obama has been right to keep the United States out of the Syrian civil war. It is not easy to watch such suffering and destruction ?? more than 100,000 people killed, millions displaced, cities pounded into rubble ?? and do nothing. Now I believe we are obliged to hit Assad. But then what?

I’m sure he said exactly the same thing when Saddam Hussein was farting poison gas all over his least favorite parts of Iraq, and Republicans were in the White House.  Saddam dispensed many times the volume of chemical weapons that Bashar Assad stands accused of employing.  Robinson was all in favor of taking Saddam out, wasn’t he?  We won’t be taking Assad out, though, or even degrading his war-fighting capability enough to tip the civil war to the rebels.  We’ll just be blowing a few people up to send a message.  And isn’t “then what?” a rather important question, given years of media demands for an “exit strategy” from Iraq?

So just relax and enjoy our Nobel Peace Prize-winning President’s third war of choice.  The dove costumes will come back on as soon as there’s a Republican in the White House.  The anti-war movement will regain its mojo too, but for right now the poor dears are just tired as all get-out, and they’re broke, and of course DEMOCRAT IN THE WHITE HOUSE.  Buzzfeed checks in with the dispirited leadership of this suddenly flaccid movement:

Activists who turned out thousands of protesters during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq say they??ve been unable to effectively organize or raise money since the end of the Bush years, and that newer causes like drones have seized the space on the left once occupied by opposition to conventional warfare. And some acknowledge that the energy has leaked out of the movement because a Democrat is now in office. Though some groups have organized online petitions and some real-life protests, the antiwar crowd that was on fire before the war in Iraq has made hardly a dent in the conversation surrounding Syria.

??Well, the most incredibly depressing thing was that most of the groups that existed before don??t exist anymore,? said Medea Benjamin, the founder of Code Pink. ??That??s the number one problem, is that the antiwar movement is a shadow of its former self under the Bush years.?

Benjamin pointed to groups like United for Peace and Justice, a Communist Party-connected group, as examples: ??They??re down to a couple of volunteers,? she said.

Code Pink itself, despite being one of the most visible protest groups in the U.S. today, has felt the pinch.

??Even Code Pink, which had 300 local groups, just has a tiny portion still functioning,? Benjamin said. ??So when something like this happens, we don??t have the infrastructure to rally people.?

Rest assured, they’re all “angry and pissed about what seems to be an imminent attack,” as Kevin Martin of Peace Action put it.  But they’re not going to do anything about it, because Obama.  I look forward to a tsunami of articles in 2017 about their amazing rebirth under a Republican president.  Journalists will swoon over the incredible surge in membership, funding, and activity by the formerly moribund anti-war Left.  I’ll put down a donut bet right now that fawning editorial writers will invoke the phoenix more often than Harry Potter.

A lot of people are wasting a lot of ink on the ludicrous pretense that their support for Obama’s attack on Syria is anything other than a manifestation of their unquestioning support for Barack Obama.  He looks like a fool for rambling about “red lines” in Syria, and then making a profoundly embarrassing attempt to say he was really talking about the U.N. talking about red lines.  We can’t have that, so it’s dying time at the Thunderdome.

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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