Eric has a post up over at SOTSOGM debating, point-by-point, the President’s Tuesday night speech laying out the, er, “case” for air strikes in Syria. I don’t agree with all of it, but I definitely agree with this point:
“Think of the children” ought to be an impeachable offense. This is a naked appeal to visceral sentimentality when the problem is a cold and ugly matter of the limits of American power and the boundaries of American commitment, even leaving aside the ugly fact that we fail to think of the children all the fucking time. But even if we were as holy as we would like to be, we cannot count every fallen sparrow and never could: we do not have the means or the will to prevent every brutal and unnecessary death in the world, whether we’re talking about the deaths of eight-year-olds or eighty-year-olds . . . .
[A]re we really so precious, now, that we’re going to decide whether to go to war by playing the game of setting values on lives like this? How many dead adults equal a single dead child? Clearly, from what the President has said and this nation has done so far, the ratio must be in the thousands-to-one. Do we make distinctions based on whose children have been murdered, or where those children were when they died? We apparently draw distinctions from whether they’ve been gassed or exploded. This is a shitty game: no one comes out ahead by playing it, we do not get a rationale for war from it, only an exposure of just what rotten sophists we really are.
Meanwhile, the New York Times has chosen to publish an op-ed by Vladimir fucking Putin counseling the United States not to go to war alone, but to stand by and respect international law.
We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.
For God’s sake, Times editors. I know that in the realm of pure logic it’s the message, not the messenger, that matters. But political decisions are not made in the realm of pure logic — rhetoric and presentation matter. Apart from the normative matter of not giving a megaphone to murderous sociopaths, even if they are heads of state, Putin’s call to peace has all the human warmth of an ancient god’s whispered invitation into the featureless, unlit abyss. Of course Putin is a fan of diplomacy; his cold, slithering form of ambassadorship has forged him alliances with such human rights luminaries as Ahmedinijad, Chavez, and Qaddafi. And on the other hand, he’s perfectly willing to use force to resolve messy civil wars when it suits him.
That said, the actual humans who drafted this for him (I assume skinless, eyeless slaves kept alive by black magic in a freezing netherworld) make some pretty good points.