Action has consequences. So does inaction. With 4 million refugees from Syria pouring into Europe and 8 million more displaced inside the country, what are they saying now — those who warned as recently as 2013 that an American-led intervention could only make things worse? Worse than this?
As Roger Cohen observes, there were in fact various options that at different times might well have done better than doing nothing:
At multiple stages, if Obama could have mustered the will, the belief in American power, there were options. The Syrian aircraft dropping those barrel bombs could have been taken out. A safe area for refugees might have been created. Arming the rebels early and massively might have changed the course of the war. Counterfactuals, of course, don’t carry much weight. We will never know. We only know the facts of the Syrian nightmare now seeping, in various forms, into the West. Syria, broken, will be the rift that keeps on giving.
So what happened? Miscalculation alone in choosing among options can’t explain it.
It comes down to ideology. And by that I mean fantasy. And by that I mean many Americans’ preferred view of themselves as first of all “nice” people. Who would never hurt a fly. But would they stand around and let a situation get worse and worse? They might, such people.
We are dealing with an infantile mindset, ubiquitous on the anti-imperialist left but more broadly widespread nowadays among isolationist liberals in general (the dopey good-natured “politically correct” types one finds on college campuses), that says America never does anything right and can do no good when it intervenes militarily. By the same token, its gentle peace-loving citizens can do no wrong and never bear any responsibility for what happens when their uniquely powerful nation decides, at their behest essentially, not to get involved — and so sits by and lets things happen instead.
But that just isn’t true. It’s a fantasy of purity rooted in an ideology of multiculturalism. Whenever I leave “another culture” alone, I am doing something right (“respecting differences” by doing nothing). Any time I judge — let alone confront — “another culture,” I transgress against the gods of PC and the almighty “Other.”
In point of fact, however, whoever was among those so sure that Obama was right to stay out of Syria (as He is right in all things) after the Commander-in-Chief had French support lined up for action to address the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons (not to mention other missed opportunities) bears some of the responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe that has now ensued in the wake of that fateful decision not to act (or series of non-decisions adding up to inaction).
It is our crisis as well, in other words. And not only because “we” in the West have now clearly got to help “them” in the Arab Middle East, as a purely moral matter.
For as much as today’s Syrian refugees desperately need physical shelter (and it must be provided to them, of course), philosophical refuge is urgently required for minds in the West exposed to decades of poisonous “postmodern” “postcolonial” cultural relativism and nihilism on our college campuses. The toxic stuff has even seeped out from there into society, very much including government.
And so who is going to shoulder that burden? How many billions are we going to allocate to relocate our disoriented souls? Who is going to resettle our intellectually deracinated expats of the heart, mind, and spirit? Those cuddly narcissists who always vote Democrat no matter what the issue (or sometimes Green) and would never dream of supporting military intervention in another country, but can sit back and watch a country (or several) implode in slow-motion — who will save them? Who will save us from them?
Make no mistake, this horrible crisis — so clearly a result of passivity in the face of barbarism — is just one relatively short-term example of what happens when civilization refuses to defend itself over the long term. Blame Obama — this will be his administration’s signature “achievement,” what it will be remembered for. But don’t forget to blame his lockstep knee-jerk and ever so “nice” supporters as well. And their teachers — the ones who for decades have been numbing people’s brains with relaxed “anything goes” nihilism.
When America — and the West; for let’s face it, Europe is no better — looks at Syria it looks in the mirror.