Bombing Syria is not a last resort, so bombing Syria is neither just nor justifiable

Last resort means exactly that. It means the final, only remaining course of action after every other possibility has been attempted and has failed.

Lethal violence is only ever justifiable as a last resort. This is a moral principle, because people get killed in war — and not just the “bad guys” or the enemy, but allies, noncombatants, innocents and children. There are no moral shortcuts when those are the stakes.

But this isn’t only a moral principle. It’s about prudence as much as ethics. It’s practical, because military force is a blunt instrument that tends to create new problems and unforeseen consequences. It’s an astonishingly expensive, rarely effective measure that only a fool would employ if there were any possibility or any hope of some other resort.

The U.S. is a long way from it’s last resort in responding to the ongoing butchery in Syria.

A lack of imagination about other possibilities doesn’t justify the claim that such possibilities have all been exhausted, or that they have all been tried and failed. That’s particularly true when such a lack of imagination is deliberate.

What would convince me that military action against Syria is justifiable as a last resort? Show me a press conference outside of the Albert Einstein Institution in Cambridge, Mass., with Gene Sharp standing at a podium, flanked by the joint chiefs of staff, the president and the secretary of defense. “There’s no other reasonable option,” Sharp says. “This would be the most effective, wisest approach. The best remaining option for the people of Syria.”

Show me that and I’ll accept that this is a last resort.

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  • Jessica_R

    I am in no way informed enough to give an opinion on this, but still, I think if we could have provided any actual assistance it was at least a year ago, and now all we’ll be doing is getting in yet another complete fucking mess in the Middle East. USA USA!

  • Ben English

    I agree in principle, but at this point, I can’t see how else we can respond. We said the red line would be the use of chemical weapons; chemical weapons were used. What else is there with any shot of success short of military intervention? This is not like Iraq where we never found WMDs; WMDs are there, they’ve been used on innocent people, and they may be used again.

    If there is some other way to solve this, I’d love to hear it.

  • Shay Guy

    Should we even be talking about a “red line” with just war theory and the principle of last resort?

  • Ben English

    Hell if I know. I really don’t have a clue.

    I tend to see the ‘last resort’ as sort of a red herring because, hell, it’s not like *we* have to worry about Assad, right? We can sit back and let him gas the place all he wants. It would be a morally heinous thing to do, but it’s not like he attacked America, right? Our people (who aren’t in Syria) aren’t in danger.

    Nobody would go for that. Is bombing them a mistake? Probably. Is it the least morally heinous mistake we can make? Possibly. All I can ask at this point is who the fuck would want the job of President of the US in a world like this one?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    If Syria actually had any oil, Obama would have authorized a full-on invasion posthaste. Can’t let brown people possibly control their own oil.

  • Ben English

    Yes, Obama is well known for his hatred and mistrust of people with brown skin.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    He’s still a product of a country whose unofficial policy is “the oil? anywhere? Is ours.”

  • Turcano

    Or perhaps the opposite.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    So are you denying that at one point oil companies were already picking and choosing what zones of Iraq they’d go after for oil post-war?

    Oil companies don’t give a damn about low oil prices. For them, high corporate profits from high oil prices are a boon.

  • Turcano

    I don’t recall denying anything, but the information in your link doesn’t really change anything; controlling an oil field lets you decide how much (or little) oil comes out of that oil field.

  • heckblazer

    Syria does have oil, and before the civil war broke out the US annually imported 3,403 thousand barrels of oil products from there. Our main oil source is still Canada, which alone supplies almost a third of all imports, followed in order by Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Venezuela. Those last three countries notably have oil industries dominated by state-owned companies.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    And in Canada, we’re subject to NAFTA (signed by our foolish leaders -_- ) which has a provision most Canadians don’t know or like to think about: we are not permitted, under that treaty, to prioritize domestic use over international shipments. This means that potentially, my country would have to subject itself to oil shortages to satisfy American consumption levels.

  • Mary

    Yikes! That’s not right! And that is coming from an ethnocentric American ;)

  • heckblazer

    Your Parliament disagrees with that assessment. But then they would, wouldn’t they :).

    “Contrary to some claims, NAFTA does not commit Canada to exporting a certain share of its energy supply to the United States regardless of Canadian needs. Canadian producers sell without restriction on the open market.

    “The only significant limitation NAFTA places on Canada is that it prevents the Canadian government from implementing policies that interfere with the normal functioning of energy markets in North America. Provided they have the demand and can pay the price, Canadian consumers could conceivably buy 100% of all energy produced in the country without violating NAFTA.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    And right there’s the key. Prices in Canada have to follow world prices which means, like I said, we cannot prioritize domestic use by preferentially giving ourselves lower prices for oil or gasoline.

    Furthermore. the political party in power in 2006 was the same as in 1994 when NAFTA was signed. For them to concede that they locked Canada into a potential quagmire in the energy sector would have been politically damaging.

    I misremembered the federal election date. However, the federal Conservatives are even more pro-business than the federal Liberals and have a vested interest in “proving” that their aping of American tax and subsidy policies is a good idea for Canada.

    EDIT: Also, one last thing?

    “Article 605 outlines the conditions under which Canada can restrict energy exports. It can do so only if all of the following conditions apply:
    exports as a percentage of total Canadian supply do not fall;”

    That’s also the lock-in. The Parliamentary committee may deny the effect of that lock-in, but it’s there.

  • Alix

    (Ten days late… Stupid internet.)

    Nobody would go for that.

    Frankly? I would. But I am decidedly non-interventionist.

    Thing is, there’s always a good pretext for war if you look hard enough – or even if you aren’t really looking, as in this case. Maybe this sounds awful, but I really think there’s far more long-term danger in promoting the idea of the U.S. or any state as itself the entity that gets to determine what’s right and wrong in the world, especially when that’s coupled with interventions – like war – into another state’s matters. It creates this sense that we can go in and restructure other states at whim, as long as we can coat our bullying in righteousness. That’s … dangerous.

    Honest to God, isn’t this kind of intervention what the UN is supposedly for?

  • Derek

    We don’t have to kill lots of people just because the president made a bad bluff. Which do you think is a worse mistake – needlessly killing innocents, or not following through on your ultimatums?

  • Ben English

    It depends on the stakes of those ultimatums. That’s why it’s a moral conundrum and not question with an obvious answer.

  • Derek

    The question, though, is weather this is a good faith reason to reluctantly endorse this course of action, or whether it is simply a convenient excuse that can be easily repeated to justify whatever military adventure the hawks want to point us toward. After all, all it takes to make deliberately endangering innocents reasonable and justified by this standard is for a leader to ill-advisedly (or even with malice and ill-will) make a threat.

  • Hexep

    When it’s ultimatums given by the highest of state organs, the former. During the Korean War, Russia’s ultimatum towards China saved the lives of tens of millions of people; America’s ultimatum towards Taiwan has been a guarantee of their security.

    There’s a reason that oathbreaking is one of the most grievous of sins, and is a sin whether or not it’s justified. When you give your word – especially when you represent your whole people – it’s something to be taken very, very seriously. If such a promise is breached, it damages the value of all future such promises.

    Do I like it? Not here, and seldom elsewhere. But some things are above the lives of ordinary individuals.

  • Derek

    Nothing is above the lives of ordinary individuals. When war is justified, it is only justifiable in terms of the lives of ordinary individuals.

  • Daniel

    “But some things are above the lives of ordinary individuals.”
    That’s an extremely dangerous way of thinking. Is there a certain quantity of “ordinary individuals” lives that equates to one of those things? If you kill enough people is the principle matched, so the killing can then stop? In other words if Obama can enforce the ultimatum for the loss of less than, say, 10 000 lives will that mean that the principle is still “above the lives of ordinary individuals”?

  • Hexep

    I would put the price on about 30 million people, which is a good estimate of how many will die over the course of five years if North Korea invades South Korea. Seeing as that promise – that if the United States says that it will ruin your day if you don’t do something – is one of the major factors that keeps them from doing that.

  • Derek

    North Korea’s expectation that the U.S. would ‘ruin their day’ is based entirely on our direct engagement with and material interest in South Korea. It is not at all based on their belief that they can take the U.S. at it’s word (something which no rational international actor would believe at this point).

    So while there can be strategic value in showing that you’ll keep your word, it applies only to an idealized version of the U.S., not the actual one whose credibility as a threat doesn’t depend on the unfounded assumption that we keep our word.

    Indeed, why isn’t the ineffectiveness of Obama’s ‘red line’ posturing, even in the wake of our willingness to double-down in our disastrous Iraq intervention, strong evidence against the long term strategic value of such threats?

  • Hexep

    Why indeed? I suppose you’ve got me; I don’t really have an answer for that.

    So what should be done about these things?

  • Daniel

    And so the far fewer people that will die in Syria as a result of military action- that’s an o.k price to maintain the validity of a threat?

  • Hexep

    I didn’t say I was happy about it.

    I shouldn’t even have taken a stance on this, honestly; I’m a foreigner and it’s none of my business. As always, America will figure something out.

  • Daniel

    I’m not American either- but the UK government is getting puffed up about military intervention too. I want something done about Syria, but I can’t imagine what good military intervention would actually do. I think the governments calling for armed intervention are doing so because it’s the immediate reaction rather than because it’s the best one.

  • Daniel

    But who do you bomb? It’s a civil war fought street to street- how do you intervene and only kill “the enemy”? I admit I have no idea what would work to stop it, but I’m not sure how military action would help either.

  • Ben English

    I don’t know how (or IF) it would either. I’m in the same boat as you there. I just think ‘is it the last resort?’ is not a helpful question to ask in the circumstances: world powers looking at a foreign civil war that doesn’t involve them directly and considering whether they should intervene. The question should be, “Do we have an obligation, or even a right, to do something?” And if so, what?

    It’s tempting to point out parallels to Iraq, but though there are quite a few, Iraq was still very different. You had a dictator solidly in power, no ongoing civil war, the fear of weapons of mass destruction that turned out not to actually be there, and a hostility towards weapon inspectors making it look like he had something to hide. There was an illusory ‘last resort’ scenario that can’t possibly manifest in Syria today.

    There are many (many many many many) good reasons that I’m not endorsing an attack on Syria, but I feel that the last resort principle isn’t applicable here.

  • John Alexander Harman

    The U.S. could probably cripple the Syrian Air Force without causing too much collateral damage; bombing combat aircraft in their hangers and blowing holes in air base runways to keep them from operating isn’t likely to kill anywhere near as many civilians as those aircraft do when they attack rebel positions (or suspected rebel positions) in heavily populated areas with unguided bombs and rockets. Rocket and artillery batteries like the ones that apparently delivered the nerve gas could also potentially be targeted from the air without much risk of civilian casualties, depending on where they’re located. Not saying we should or shouldn’t do so, just answering your particular questions.

  • Kitten_Pile

    And then a Lt. Col. on Fox (family member with FGS) says that the casualties don’t matter because YOU GUYS Hezbollah and Al’Qaeda are totally killing each other! So its cool if we just sit back and watch thousands of civilians die horribly, doing nothing. This is a complicated international relations issue, on dozens of fronts, but goddamn if there aren’t some cold bastards on that side of it.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    There were some people who had the same reasoning about the Yugoslav wars: “Let the Serbs and Croats battle it out with the Muslims”

    Never mind that Bosnian Muslims are and were largely secular because of years of Tito’s insistence on a secular Yugoslavia.

  • TheBrett

    The real issue at stake is whether or not chemical weapons usage is actually a red-line that will prompt some sort of military response by member states of the international community, even if it’s mostly useless air strikes.

    If it’s not, then Syria won’t be the last regime to use chemical weapons to put down violent insurrection. It also inevitably brings up speculation about the other categories of “weapons of mass destruction.” Will a biological attack bring intervention down the line, for example?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    This reminds me of this scene from Team America:

  • heckblazer

    I agree that keeping chemical weapons taboo is valuable, and I don’t think the US has any non-military options that will stop Assad from using them again. The problem is that I’m not too sure we have any military options that will work either. Assad’s options are either he wins the war and lives or he loses the war and dies, and that situation gives him no good reason to accept any constraints on the battlefield. An attack might deter countries from using chemical weapons, but then again it might not.

    My general opinion of the conflict is that the one good thing about the rebels is that they’re trying to overthrow the butcher Assad, and the one good thing about Assad is that he’s keeping the crazed fundamentalists out of power. My every instinct screams that is a situation to absolutely avoid, and with the likely benefit is “We might deter someone kinda maybe?” I’d go with inaction. I’d add that doing nothing is goddamn hard when civilians are murdered with poison, but sometimes trying a rescueis worse than standing around watching.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    Prepare for unforeseen consequences.

  • Random_Lurker

    I don’t endorse a military strike, nor witholding one. I’m not sufficiently informed to have a meaningful opinion. But with out foreign relations being what they are, there could be many, many more lives then just Syrian and American ones on the line with this decision. I just hope, whatever decision is made, that this time it’s based on accurate information.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Two things.

    1: It’s not a question of going to war or not. There’s already a war in Syria. The question is whether the US should get involved. Given the political and economic consequences, that’s a major question.

    2: Given we’d presumably be intervening on behalf of the rebels, has anyone paused to ask their opinion? If the US didn’t outright side with the rebels, then it’d just be a third faction to add to the mess, and personally, I think that’s about the worst possible option.

    What else is there with any shot of success short of military intervention? This is not like Iraq where we never found WMDs; WMDs are there, they’ve been used on innocent people, and they may be used again.

    Ideally, any action regarding WMD would not be done by the United States alone. A very limited campaign against chemical weapon sites alone *might* be politically feasible. But it shouldn’t be done unilaterally.

    I can only hope that if an intervention *does* happen, we don’t fuck it up this time…

  • AnonaMiss

    If you mean to ask their opinion on whether the US should enter the war, they’ve been courting foreign countries, including the US, for support for a long time now. Since before the rebellion became radicalized.

  • Nick Gotts

    There’s are common assumptions here that we know this was a chemical weapons attack, and that we know who did it: the Syrian regime. Neither is justified. It does seem clear that a large number of people have been poisoned, but that’s all. Here, via the BBC, are three experts expressing doubts about what toxin was involved:

    Experts have expressed several reservations about what exactly the video footage shows and which weapons could have been used.

    “At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the people
    that are helping them are without any protective clothing and without
    any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the Finnish
    Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    “In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

    Dr Zanders had doubts about claims that a nerve agent was used.

    “I have not seen anybody applying nerve agent antidotes,” he wrote in a blog post. “Nor do medical staff and other people appear to suffer from secondary exposure while carrying or treating victims.”

    Meanwhile Prof Kekule said the symptoms did not fit with
    typical chemical weapons use as the victims did not appear to be
    suffering pain or irritation to their eyes, nose and mouth.

    “Some or perhaps all patients are briefly decontaminated with
    water or water and detergent in the video. The water is spilled over
    the chest, but (at least in the video) not over the face and eyes.”

    The main area involved, in east Damascus (reports from a second area seem less clear) is agricultural. It’s thus quite possible drums of pesticide and herbicide were stored there. Could shelling have vapourised the contents and caused the deaths? I don’t know; does anyone commenting here? Supposing it was a deliberate chemical attack, we don’t know who did it. The US government is claiming it does, but why should we believe it? It seems an irrational as well as an evil action if the Syrian regime did it, as it appears to be winning the struggle around Damascus, and this increases the probability of foreign intervention. Quite apart from the rebels, the Assad regime has plenty of enemies: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, the USA itself, other western states, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, and factions in Iraq and Lebanon.

  • Mary

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have been very concerned that we might take unwarranted action without knowing the full story. And even if it was a chemical attack we don’t know for sure who did it! The last thing we need is to kill innocent people and give the muslims more of a reason to hate us!

    Edit: I went to the blog of the person they quoted and he has updated his opinion as new footage has been available. This is response to someone else who had pointed out the new footage:

    “Thank you for your comment. When I wrote my posting yesterday morning I had seen only one case of convulsion in the footage I looked at. By early evening I saw other footage of higher quality with several outward symptoms that indicate possible exposure to organophosphorus compounds, to which sarin and VX belong. In press interviews I have adjusted my comments accordingly”

    Unfortunately the BBC apparently used his comments not knowing that he had changed his mind It may have been the fault of the doctor because he did not update his origional post to reflect the new information. He only updated in the comments section. .

  • heckblazer

    Here is Doctor’s Without Borders’ press release on the incident, which may answer those questions. Some excerpts [emphasis is added]:

    Three hospitals in Syria’s Damascus governorate that are supported by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have reported to MSF that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013. Of those patients, 355 reportedly died.
    . . .
    Patients were treated using MSF-supplied atropine, a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms. MSF is now trying to replenish the facilities’ empty stocks and provide additional medical supplies and guidance.

    “MSF can neither scientifically confirm the cause of these symptoms nor establish who is responsible for the attack,” said Dr. Janssens. “However, the reported symptoms of the patients, in addition to the epidemiological pattern of the events—characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers—strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent.”
    . . .

  • Mary

    Yes I just updated my response to reflect that also from a different source.

  • heckblazer

    Good to know :).

    If I’m reading the MSF release correctly, the casualties reported only counts people who made it to a hospital. If that is the case and there are similar numbers who couldn’t get to one, in my lay opinion it would unlikely in the extreme to be anything other than a massive pesticide plant explosion or chemical weapons attack.

  • Nick Gotts

    Thanks for that – I hadn’t seen it. However, given that MSF itself says it can’t scientifically confirm the cause of the symptoms, it still seems best to wait for more information before concluding that this was a chemical weapons attack – let alone, who did it if it was. UN investigators took samples from one area on Monday, and are intending to take more; but what we see is a build-up to an attack on the Assad regime before their results come out. Why? This is all too reminiscent of Iraq in 2003, when Hans Blix’s team were begging for time to complete their work. The targets will still be there in a week or a month. (I can’t believe they would target chemical weapons stocks, assuming they know where they are, as this would itself risk releasing poison gas.)

    Note also that many agricultural pesticides are organophosphorus compounds.

  • Mary

    I do agree that caution is still needed. I have read that UN inspecters were ALREADY THERE when this alleged attack happened. So why would they risk a chemical attack under those circumstances? Right now I can’t remember where I read that so I don’t know if the source is reliable or not.

  • Laurent Weppe

    The “Last resort” rule works when it is about whether or not one should Start a war: in Syria, the question is morally and practically moot since war has already been going on for two years and killed over 100.000 people: most of them noncombating civilians, innocents and children.

    And while intervention leads to many unforseen complications, pulling a Pilate will have some forseable consequences: if western powers remain inactive in the ongoing conflict, the two likeliest possibilities are:

    One: the rebellion wins thanks to salafist’s money, logistical support and cannon fodder. victorious and without anyone strong enough to challenge them, the fundies take over and one murderous dictatorship is replaced by another, which will inevitably follow the same nihilistic pattern and eventually turn its weapons against its subjects.

    Two: Bashar el-Assad wins: the rebellion is crushed, tens of thousands more civilians are slaughtered pour l’exemple, and the regime’s blackmail can work for one more generation… And 20 years from now, the children of today’s rebels will revolt once again, except this time they’ll have a revenge to exact and will probably decide from the get go that the Alawites and all other communities accused of siding with the Assad dynasty deserve to be exterminated.

    Now that doesn’t mean that the US & Europe should jump in guns blazing and directly use their overwhelmingly destructive armies: I’ve never believed in the “chirurgical strikes” con job our rulers use to give us good conscience, but keeping up this fake neutrality charade is neither a moral nor practical thing to do.

  • fraser

    Why is it a fake neutrality? We have two sides, both fairly nasty–why do we have to pick one?
    To put it another way, what makes you think any of this will change if we get involved? It’s not like our sitting on Iraq for a decade made any of their political/religious issues disappear or stopped people from killing each other when they left. If we go in because We Have To Do Something we can end up with a horrible government in power and even more hate in the area for us.
    Plus it’s not like our defense budget needs another war to suck away taxpayer’s money. And yes, I do think that’s a reasonable reason not to go in.

  • Laurent Weppe

    We have two sides, both fairly nasty–why do we have to pick one?

    This is false: there are three sides in the Syrian conflict, not two: one is the Assad dynasty, one is the rebellion which started when soldiers of the Syrian army refused to use their weapons against protesters, and the last one is the islamist nebulae.

    The fundies pretend to be fighting against tyranny, while the Assad regime pretends to be fighting against muslim fundamentalism: both claims are lies: the Assad regime is currently slaughtering thousands of its own subject in order to frighten the survivors into craven submission so it can continue its wretched, parasitic existence, and the fundies are not trying to demolish the existing tyranny but to wrestle its control from its current masters to take their place and become the next wretched, parasitic lords of Syria.

    Putting the secular rebels in the same bag as the fundies only helps the two unquestionably untrustworthy groups by giving credence to their main self-justificating lies.


    It’s not like our sitting on Iraq for a decade made any of their political/religious issues disappear

    Your sitting on Iraq: my country wisely did not involve itself in this neo-colonial war built on a hefty dose of daddy issues and racist propaganda.

    But the thing is, Iraq is a perfect exemple of what happens when the world lets a despot crush a rebellion: the Iraqi rised againt the regime in 1991 after the Gulf War, and Western powers, which already had troops on the ground in Iraq at the time did not help them: they let the troops loyal to Saddam Hussein slaughter civilians by tens of thousands.

    When the US and its lackeys came back in Iraq in 2003 under the pretense of looking for fictional WMD and caused the collapse of the regime, many Iraqis had a score to settle and that’s why the sectarian violences erupted: it would have been infinitely wiser for the Western Powers to support the Iraqi rebellion of 1991, then to demands to the victorious rebels indebted to us to not take advantage of their victory to exact revenge upon the regime’s underlings.

  • P J Evans

    The source of the funding for at least some of the rebels is Saudi Arabia.
    The Saudis and the Israelis are supplying information to the US government.
    Who benefits if the US gets involved? Saudi Arabia (and Israel, which has a neighbor knocked out).

    I expect people in government to be able to get that far, but I don’t think they’re even trying.

  • Michael Pullmann

    I’m not suggesting that the US do this, or even that the US *can* do this, but: What would happen if somebody just walked up to Assad and shot him in the head?

  • LoneWolf343

    People tend to get twitchy when we’re talking about actual assassinations, and it doesn’t preclude the possibility that someone even crazier would take his place.

  • themunck

    As LoneWolf343 mentioned, a successor would take over. I suppose there might be some fragmentation when his factions fights with itself over who should take charge, but someone would take over eventually. Assad isn’t some dark god ruling over his minions with nothing but personal charm, after all.

  • John Alexander Harman

    Hafez Assad might have at least born some resemblance to the “dark god ruling over his minions with nothing but personal charm” fantasy of a dictator; most of what I’ve read about Bashar Assad suggests that he’s a fairly ineffectual figurehead for a coterie of generals and government ministers who actually run the country.

  • LoneWolf343

    I would say that if Syria is using chemical weapons, then a military solution very much should be on the table. Part of the reason why chemical weapons are banned because there is a small problem of them not staying local. The use of chemical weapons means it is a regional issue, not merely an internal one.

  • aunursa

    I can safely predict that the U.S. will take no military action against Syria without congressional approval. A well-known constitutional expert agrees with me…
    “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
    – A former law professor and future Nobel Peace Prize laureate, 2007

  • Invisible Neutrino


    You actually think the Constitution means anything when the Fourth Amendment has been trampled over repeatedly in the name of the Drug War and the War on Terror, on top of which the Reconstruction Amendments are regularly blown a raspberry at by Republicans who think black people are all just whiners and complainers.

    You’re precious.

  • aunursa

    I regret that I don’t understand how your comment applies to my point, which, had you read carefully, you would have realized was not really about the U.S. Constitution.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    The President doesn’t have to consult Congress for up to 90 days. It’s even in the War Powers Act.

  • aunursa

    “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation… [The president can only act unilaterally] in instances of self-defense.”
    -Former constitutional law professor, 2007

    “The only logical conclusion is that the framers intended to grant to Congress the power to initiate all hostilities, even limited wars.”
    Uncle Joe, 1998

    “The consequences of war — intended or otherwise — can be so profound and complicated that our founding fathers vested in Congress, not the president, the power to initiate war, except to repel an imminent attack on the United States or its citizens.”
    -Uncle Joe, 2007

  • AnonaMiss

    I’m pretty sure Aunursa is being sardonic. Given that he just quoted Obama on the limits of the power of the presidency.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Mmmm. Fair point.

  • LL

    They have to kill the innocent people to save them, Fred. C’mon …

  • Andrew Cutler

    I think there’s a nuance here that keeps getting missed – particularly when comparisons to the Iraq invasion were made, and that’s that there’s already a ‘war’ of some sort going on in Syria.

    The case could be made, that intervention in Syria could alleviate certain pressures and ultimately prevent more bloodshed, suffering and atrocity than it causes, simply because the bloodshed, suffering and atrocity in Syria is already immense, and the potential that intervention could put an end to the war sooner must be considered.

    The same case could (probably) not have been made with Iraq. In that situation, war was made where there was not war before. In such a situation, it is almost implausible that intervention would result in a net decrease in suffering.

    Basically, what I’m getting is that it unacceptable to start wars, but it’s acceptable to end them.