For what is being proposed is no more than an empty gesture. It is that most vacuous, cynical and desperate of political knee-jerk reactions – the need to be seen to be ‘doing something’. Anything. As long as there is absolutely no cost to the political leaders urging such action. At least, no cost that can be unambiguously pinned on them.
The driving force behind this stirring call to arms is apparently Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who is so determined to be seen to be ‘doing something’ that he is urging a clearly reluctant President Obama to do it too.
Obama has reacted in predictable fashion by thoughtfully alerting the enemy in advance to what he is about to do to them, so that everyone involved has the chance to run away before they get hurt. His officials told the New York Times (which was promptly hacked, reportedly by the Syrian regime) that the action under consideration was
‘“limited,” perhaps lasting no more than one or two days. The attacks, which are expected to involve scores of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, would not be focused on chemical weapons storage sites, which would risk an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe and could open up the sites to raids by militants, officials said.
‘The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks… the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets. Perhaps two to three missiles would be aimed at each site…’
and just to make things crystal clear, that it
‘would not accomplish Mr Obama’s repeated demand that Mr Assad step down’.
What kind of Commander-in-Chief publicly announces in advance details and targets of his proposed strike? A Commander-in-Chief who is going to war not to defeat an enemy but, cynically and opportunistically, to win plaudits at home.
Of course, this may all be a bluff to conceal a far deadlier military action against the Assad regime. But given Obama’s past form in leaking sensitive military information, it seems all too likely that this is indeed what is intended.
If so, this proposed strike would seem simply designed to advertise the moral virtue of David Cameron, Barack Obama and any other western leaders involved. It aims to show that, faced with the evidence of an appalling atrocity, these leaders reacted in a principled way. But …read more