September 14, 2013


The Adults' Debate on Syria : A brief moral and strategic outline (George Weigel, 9/13/.13, National Review)

If the just-war tradition does not, save on the rarest occasions, provide clear answers that virtually everyone will recognize as such, then what does it do? One of the most important things this way of thinking does is to suggest that the discussion of what to do will go off the rails if it begins with means; rather, serious consideration of what to do must begin with ends. Now it is certainly true that, as the cliché has it, the end doesn't justify any means. But as a noted just-war theorist used to say, "If the end doesn't justify the means, what does?" Means detached from ends are not serious, although they may be lethal. A measure of clarity about the morally and politically appropriate end being sought by those who legitimately bear responsibility for the common good -- those who have what we might call moral compétence de guerre -- is thus the absolute prerequisite to considering appropriate means intelligently.

And this is precisely what has been missing from the Obama administration's Syria policy: a strategically and morally defensible definition of the end being sought. Now, the refusal to define the appropriate end -- a Syria (in whatever form) safe for its people, posing no threat to its neighbors, and detached from the evil purposes of both the Iranian regime and various jihadists -- has led to the absurd situation in which the goal of U.S. policy has been reduced to the defense of a "norm," which in this instance is the up-market term for a taboo (albeit a useful taboo). Moreover, it is now proposed, the defense of that useful taboo will be achieved in de facto alliance with Putin's Russia, long one of the chief international obstacles to getting traction on WMD-proliferation issues around the world. 

Furthermore, because the administration cannot bring itself to define a reasonable goal for what every serious analyst knew a half-decade ago was going to be a fractious and potentially explosive Syria, it cannot define morally and strategically appropriate means to respond to Assad's crimes and depredations. The president has lectured that the United States military "doesn't do pinpricks." But the day before the president said this in his recent address to the nation, a senior administration official explained that what we were about to do was like taking away Assad's spoon and forcing the Syrian dictator to eat his Cheerios with a fork.

The end in Syria, as it was in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, etc., is to kill the dictator, remove his regime and let the people govern themselves.  Then it's on to North Korea, one of the Crusade's last remaining objectives.

Posted by at September 14, 2013 7:10 AM

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