When Military Intervention Makes Sense

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REUTERS / Shaam News Network

People gather at a mass burial for the victims purportedly killed during an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla in this handout image dated May 26.

Gideon Rachman at the Financial Times says that “diplomacy is still better than bombs” and that “moral outrage is just the starting point for a decision to intervene.”  He then goes through all the major powers in his piece Tuesday and cites reasons why each one is either holding back or holding things up. It’s one of those great ass-covering op-eds that’s supposed to make you look smart when the intervention does comes and it — gasp! — leads to more death and destruction.

Let me tell you why great powers intervene:  they don’t care about moral outrage and they don’t care about stopping the killing.  Moral outrage is a headline and nothing more, while the killing is either made faster or slower but never really “prevented.”

Great powers intervene when they can.  It’s as simple as that.  Good and bad don’t play into it.

We know Syrian leader Bashar Assad is evil and needs to go, and we want him gone bad.  Russia and China fear other things more.  We can prattle on about Moscow‘s rusty naval facility there, but both capital elites simply fear the precedent — yet again — of a corrupt and evil leadership getting its just rewards.

We, however, shouldn’t fear delivering — much less capitalizing — on that message, because everybody knows that such interventionary precedents means nothing when you’re talking about major nuclear powers.  Both Moscow and Beijing know that.  They just fear that their own publics will get the wrong ideas.

But you know what?  That’s their problem and it always will be.

Our problem — better cast as opportunity — is that Assad is ripe for the regime-changing. Ripe – as in, all it will take is enough arms to enough locals willing to kill and die. Then we get a bad man gone. Israel has a shot at something better – or not. Turkey has a chance to step up and seriously lead, which it will. Iran will lose big-time — yet again in this Sunni-empowering Arab Spring. And yeah, Lebanon will be next up as a result.

The Arab Spring has been a magnificently ordered one-damn-thing-after-another.  You can’t create democratizing waves that unfold any nicer.

We should press the fight and speed the killing in Syria, not because it’s right or because we’re preventing anything.

We should do it because the opportunity has presented itself and we can.

The rest is just op-ed BS.

None of this means President Obama still can’t lead from behind.  It just means he needs to start lighting some fires under the asses of those local powers in line before us — like Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Stated less crudely, that means Obama needs to start wheeling and dealing with such powers, giving them what they want, so we can get them to help get us what we want so clearly. If you’re going to lead from behind, then you have to be able to make such deals.

Make the deals, Mr. President, so the arms flow and the no-fly-zones ensue and NATO actually backs up Turkey for the first time. History will judge us by one measure here: we had the chance to get this evil leader, and we either came through or came up short.

We all know Assad is going down.  Let’s be in on the kill.