Syria, pro and con

John, Steve and Paul address the Obama administration’s impending attack on unspecified Syrian targets in the adjacent post. Bret Stephens (pro) and Victor Davis Hanson (con) take positions that provide illumination by contrast. Both Stephens and Hanson are persuasive, each in his own way, though I give Hanson the edge in light of what Obama seems to have on offer.

The New York Times reports that John Kerry has become the administration’s chief advocate of an attack. He is a spokesman with a past that compromises him.

In 1971 Kerry retailed false claims of war crimes against the United States in Vietnam. I heard Kerry in person at Dartmouth in the spring of 1971 and bought his act completely. I don’t forgive myself, but I do plead ignorance as an excuse. Kerry knew better. He didn’t have any excuse.

More recently, of course, Kerry also voted to authorize our war against Saddam Hussein before he took it back in pursuit of higher office. Peter Baker and Michael Gordon touch on the, ah, complications implicit in Kerry’s current role:

That Mr. Kerry is the administration’s most prominent hawk is the latest turn in his central involvement in American military affairs over four decades. He came to national attention as a Vietnam War hero who became an antiwar activist, asking Congress in 1971, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” In 2003, he supported the war against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — a “brutal, murderous dictator,” as he put it at the time — only to turn against what he called the “catastrophic choice” as the war went south and he ran for president against George W. Bush in 2004.

Baker and Gordon don’t even allude to Kerry’s (apparently now discarded) “global test.” As I say, complications.

While Stephens and Hanson is each persuasive in his own way, John Kerry is not. Kerry avers: “The primary question is no longer, ‘What do we know?’ The question is what are we – we collectively – what are we in the world going to do about it?”

Answer: “The world” is going to do nothing. If the United States is going to do something, it better be geared to advancing the national interest of the United States. Mr. Kerry, what have you got along that line?

UPDATE: Elizabeth O’Bagy’s Wall Street Journal column “On the front lines of Syria’s civil war” adds some valuable reportage to the analysis.

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