For 20 years now we have seen this pattern:
- Something terrible happens somewhere — and what is happening in Syria is not just terrible but atrocious in the literal meaning of that term.
- Americans naturally feel we must “do something.”
- The easiest something to do involves bombers, drones, and cruise missiles, all of which are promised to be precise and to keep our forces and people at a safe remove from the battle zone.
- In the absence of a draft, with no threat that taxes will go up to cover war costs, and with the reality that modern presidents are hamstrung in domestic policy but have enormous latitude in national security, the normal democratic checks on waging war don’t work.
- We “do something,” with bombs and drones, and then deal with blowback and consequences “no one could have foreseen.”
Only ten years after the disastrous “what could go wrong?” / “something must be done!” rush to war in Iraq, you would have thought these cautions would not need restatement. They do. In the face of evil we should do something, except when the something would likely make a bad situation worse.