In my judgment, military action against Syria would be both a moral and political failing – which means, of course, it is likely to happen. I’ll be surprised if we haven’t begun air strikes by the end of the month (which, of course, in Orwellian fashion, our leaders steadfastly refuse to call an act of war, even though someone flying planes into three of our buildings is manifestly an act of war).

My fear is that the decision will largely be made as a result of electoral calculation and, mainly, by the demands of the military-industrial complex, which, be assured, has a distinct interest in bombing Syria. The Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard McKeon (R-CA) is busy making it clear that the Syria “crisis” is a fine opportunity to undo the effects of sequestration.

“My concern is the readiness of our troops, not just on this [Syria] mission, but on the next one and the next one,” McKeon told the Free Beacon, adding that the debate over the use of force on Syria is “the best chance we have since this mess started” to reverse the cuts known as sequestration.

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

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Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.


  1. I hope you are wrong, but this means the dirty deed is even more likely to occur. If it does, however, the resulting turmoil will be another blow to the neoconservatives’ already diminished political capital. At least we can find solace in that prospect.

  2. There are good moral arguments for not allowing use of chemical weapons to pass without a stern response. But, that horse is long since out of the barn, and there are also good pragmatic arguments for not expecting that anything we do is going to put the fear of God or even of the USA into the next megalomaniac who wants to use chemical weapons.

    There are good arguments for building up a militarily strong non-jihadi Syrian opposition, but that horse has left the barn as well, and we didn’t have the stomach for it after the debacle of Iraq and overstaying in Afghanistan.

    I read that a senator from Connecticut candidly remarked that constituents are clearly opposed, but his office is under terrific pressure from non-constituents who insist he should vote to support a mission.

    When all options are morally and logistically bad, and fraught with a plethora of unintended consequences, its probably best to do nothing.

    But, if Assad falls, and al Qaeda is about to get their hands on his chemical weapons stockpile, we may need to launch a very risky and bloody mission to seize control of, and neutralize, the whole supply.

    No good answers to this one.

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