Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Confederate soldiers slain during their attack on the United States. These men did not fight and die for freedom.

Memorial Day is one time during the year when American civil religion imitates one of my least favorite aspects of the white evangelical Christianity that I was raised in. It takes the kernel of an idea of something right and honorable and spins it into a defensive, sanctimonious, performative ritual -- one which makes sincerity and truth-telling almost impossible.It is a time, in other words, when we say that which we are expected to say, even if -- and perhaps especially if -- we know … [Read more...]

‘Option is not a failure’ and aiding Syrian refugees


"What if [America] got massively more involved in Syria, but in a way that was not military?" Rachel Maddow asked last week. What might that look like? What options are there other than 1. Bomb; and 2. Don't Bomb?"The list of concrete, actual proposals is not all that long," Maddow acknowledged, "but it is growing and it turns out it's growing in a nonpartisan, non-left/right split kind of way. The ideas are coming from everywhere."Maddow highlighted Republican Rep. Chris Smith's call … [Read more...]

On Syria and finding ways to make the world ‘less horrible’


I've only written two posts about the proposed U.S. military strikes against Syria: "Bombing Syria is not a last resort, so bombing Syria is neither just nor justifiable" and "It is happening again."I haven't written more than that for much the same reason Ari Kohen discusses here: The reason I haven’t written anything is because there hasn’t seemed to me to be anything useful to write. The situation is horrible, everyone surely knows it’s horrible, and there doesn’t seem to be anything we c … [Read more...]

It is happening again.


James Fallows: "Before You Conclude That 'Precision' Bombing Makes Sense With Syria ..." 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 … [Read more...]

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 … [Read more...]

Theodicy and foreign policy: The U.S. is not omnipotent


God was finally going to believe in a man both good and strong, but good and strong are still two different men. -- Wislawa Szymborska, "The Century's Decline"Yesterday, National Public Radio's All Things Considered had a segment debating U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war: "Analysts Divided on U.S. Arming Syrian Rebels."The guests were two people I wasn't familiar with: Andrew Tabler, "senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy," and Joshua Landis, "who d … [Read more...]

Smart people saying smart things

Linda J. Bilmes and Shelby Chodos: "Want to stimulate the economy? Let’s hand cash directly to the states" A state-directed recovery initiative would be the quickest, easiest way to reduce unemployment and get the economy moving again. Congress would simply distribute money to the states, based on population and with no strings attached. Each state could use these funds however it chooses, whether by cutting taxes on small business and families, or by investing in education or infrastructure. . … [Read more...]

An island paradise for former dictators

It's nice to get a link from a high-traffic blog like Andrew Sullivan's. Unfortunately, that link goes to what I think is one of my more hare-brained ideas -- a weird scheme to conscript jury duty into service as an employment office.This is, I think, a Bad Idea -- see the comment thread there for a host of reasons why. As I said in the post itself, though, I was mainly hoping it might be the kind of half-baked Bad Idea that might prompt a bit of creative thinking that could, in turn, foster … [Read more...]