Generals fight the last war. Liberals protest them. The statements of groups on the left regarding Syria are redolent with references to Iraq, Afghanistan and, of course, Vietnam. Not mentioned is the first Gulf War, which promptly ended by diktat of George H.W. Bush, or more to the point Kosovo or Bosnia, two military actions that did what they set out to do. The killing stopped.
What perplexes me is how the calls for Congress to rebuff President Barack Obama are empty of moral outrage. The civil war in Syria has cost more than 110,000 lives. It has produced a humanitarian calamity — well over 2 million refugees. Bashar al-Assad has massacred his own people by conventional means and is accused of using poison gas several times, most recently on Aug. 21, when his military murdered 1,429 people, including more than 400 children.
What do the Nation, liberalism's longtime journal, and others on the left propose to do about all this? Go to the international community. Where is this entity? I suppose it is the United Nations, where not a peep of outrage has come from Russia or China. Both have stymied any attempt to rein in the Assad regime. In 2011, the two even vetoed a Security Council resolution that threatened mere sanctions if Syria didn't stop killing its own people. Syria took heart and stepped up the killing.
Shall we wait and take moral instruction from the likes of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping? Putin, having become an accessory before the fact, may now bring pressure on Syria — a consequence of Obama's threat to use force. The president may finally have gotten Putin's attention.
I pick on the American left because it is liberal and because that suggests empathy, concern and internationalism. The American right is now going through one of its periodic bouts of lunacy, reverting to a comfy isolationism-cum-selfishness that has often characterized it.
(I should note, though, that back in the late 1930s, Norman Thomas, the six-time socialist presidential candidate, supported the isolationist America First movement.)