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The World’s Most Pernicious Analogy Strikes Again

[ 336 ] September 3, 2013 |

Crank senators:

Senator Angry Grampy and Senator Huckleberry, the presiding geopolitical thinkers in the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, over today to discuss Syria, and to give them the opportunity to stand on the White House lawn afterwards and call him a dithering dilettante whom they will support if he stops his dithering and his dilettanting and give them the Great Big Boom Boom in Syria that they want. You could tell it was serious because Angry Grampy said that, if Syria didn’t matter now, then “Czechoslovakia” didn’t matter in the 1930s, nor did “Abyssynia,” also in the 1930s, and he was not immediately set upon by hordes of angry historians.

Hack pundits:

World War II began 74 years ago Sunday when German troops invaded Poland. The invasion conclusively discredited the concept of “appeasement” as a foreign policy for, well, the next 74 years. But if the U.S. Congress opposes authorization of the military mission to Syria that President Obama has now handed off to it, and if Obama uses that as an excuse to back further away from enforcement of his “red line,” the “A” word will likely come to dominate the international debate once again.

And Barack Obama, who in his first term was known as the vanquisher of Osama bin Laden, could come out of his second looking more like Neville Chamberlain.

And worst of all, the Secretary of State:

Secretary of State John Kerry told House Democrats that the United States faced a “Munich moment” in deciding whether to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

In a 70-minute conference call on Monday afternoon, Kerry derided Syrian President Bashar Assad as a “two-bit dictator” who will “continue to act with impunity,” and he urged lawmakers to back President Barack Obama’s plan for “limited, narrow” strikes against the Assad regime, Democratic sources on the call said.

Here’s the thing: for this to be a “Munich moment,” Assad would have to, you know, have both the desire and capacity to conquer most of the region. Since in fact it’s far from obvious that Assad will even be able to maintain power in his own country — let alone have the ability to overrun the Middle East — Assad isn’t a new Hitler and whatever he does Obama won’t be Chamberlain. And in this particular case the analogy goes beyond stupidity to being self-refuting — if Assad poses a threat comparable to Hitler in 1938, why only “limited” “surgical” airstrikes? Really, let’s leave these dumb analogies to fourth-tier winger bloggers, please.

I conclude by noting that I happen to have Winston Churchill right here and he thinks it’s dumb to think of Munich as the guide to all future foreign policy questions involving dictators.

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  1. Ronan says:

    I think they need to start upping the ante here, Munich moments are small cheese at this stage. What we need is a step up, some phrase to signify that we are (literally) on the brink of the apocalypse. Its not 1939 we’re living through the End of Days.

  2. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    So pernicious it has an extra “o” for ominousness and oblivion.

  3. Scott, did you mean “analogy?”

    Or, did you forget a letter, and wanted to create a new word – “analology?”

    Because with the assholes you quoted, THAT would be perfect!

  4. DocAmazing says:

    Abyssinia
    In all the old familiar places…

  5. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    Especially giving the yawning differences between this particular crisis and 1938, it’s hard not to conclude that anyone shouting “Munich” in this instance is either terminally lazy or simply without any good arguments about, you know, the actual potential benefit of military action in Syria. Or probably both.

    • GoDeep says:

      This is as much abt Iran as it is abt Syria. What good is it to sanction Iran, promote Anti-Proliferation treaties, and tell them not to develop nukes so long as you let their proxy, Syria, use WMD after you tell them–repeatedly–not to?

      Unlike Neville Chamberlain, Barack Obama recognizes that credibility is priceless. Give ppl an inch & they’ll take a mile.

      • Anonymous says:

        If we really care about violating the chemical weapons norms we would be prosecuting Rumsfeld and the other members of the Reagan administration that assisted Saddam Hussein in using those weapons.

        But we don’t. This is just more imperialism in the Muslim world, and a natural gas pipeline.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          …because the only reason not to prosecute the previous Presidential administration is a lack of concern about chemical warfare.

          No no, it’s all about “imperialism in the Muslim world,” which didn’t exist for two years, then suddenly popped into John Kerry’s head when the Assad regime launched a massive chemical warfare attack.

          • Anonymous says:

            They’ve got a cover to do it now. It’s all about playing The Great Game with Russia.

          • J. Otto Pohl says:

            Where did the Muslim world go for two years? Did they all convert in violation of sharia and then convert back? I am pretty sure my wife didn’t get the original order to convert and remained a Muslim for the whole two years. ;-) The emoticon is special bonus for my Irish readers.

          • cpinva says:

            “No no, it’s all about “imperialism in the Muslim world,” which didn’t exist for two years, then suddenly popped into John Kerry’s head when the Assad regime launched a massive chemical warfare attack.”

            clearly, you have idea what constitutes “massive chemical warfare”. “massive chemical warfare” is dropping 1,000′s of artillery shells, filled with chlorine/mustard gas, along a front a hundred miles wide, killing/wounding 1,000′s. the last time “massive chemical warfare” happened, was on the western front, in wwI. by comparison, the chemical attack in Syria barely constituted a drop in the bucket.

          • wengler says:

            The Obama administration hadn’t been trafficking weapons to one side and laying out ‘red lines’ two years ago. They’ve determined that they can’t let Assad put down the rebellion without it being chalked up as a loss.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              …except that Assad was losing. The FSA was moving in on Damascus in a semi-circle south of the city, and about to overrun his brother’s 4th Armored – Armored, think about that – Division, causing them to launch the gas attack.

              I’m afraid your information, based on events in Homs, hundreds of miles away from the site, is a few weeks out of date.

              • Ed says:

                Assad is holding his own. If he were actually losing, the opposition leaders (most of them safely abroad) would not be so agitated at Obama’s a)failure to act immediately and b)the possibility that his strikes will not win the war for them. Kerry, apparently, has been quick to offer reassurances. I would be most curious to know more about what he’s reassuring them about.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  The war isn’t close to over, no; I didn’t claim it was.

                  But the momentum Assad had a month ago has been reversed.

              • wengler says:

                Perhaps you have access to the secret evidence that everyone but ordinary people get, but there is nothing I have seen that has shown that the government was about to lose Damascus.

      • Pseudonym says:

        Chemical weapons and nuclear weapons are both considered weapons of mass destruction, but that does not make them equivalent.

  6. DocAmazing says:

    Also: Funny to bring up Churchill when the subject is poison gas attacks in the Middle East…

  7. Ben says:

    And yet some still think it’s silly to invoke the lessons of Iraq here.

  8. Anonymous says:

    But if the U.S. Congress opposes authorization of the military mission to Syria that President Obama has now handed off to it, and if Obama uses that as an excuse to back further away from enforcement of his “red line”

    So apparently following the separation of powers specified in the constitution is now an “excuse”. In practice, it’s true, but it’s a pretty sad state of affairs. We don’t even have an AUMF for the administration to pretend covers Syria.

  9. Icarus Wright says:

    Dear Mr Secretary,

    Fuck you.

  10. rea says:

    It would be appeasement if Assad were to say, “Give me X or there will be more gas attacks,” and we gave him X. Nobody is suggesting giving Assad as much as the time of day.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      The appeasement angle is dumb. Assad isn’t asking for anything.

      But the other half of the Munich analogy – the presence of an opportunity to stop a major threat to world security, or to miss that opportunity – fits perfectly.

      Chemical warfare is either going to make a comeback as an element of modern war and international security policy, or it isn’t.

      • Anonymous says:

        If we really cared about “upholding norms” about chemical weapons we’d prosecute Don Rumsfeld.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Norms shnorms. I’m worried about the actual weapons.

          • Anonymous says:

            We only seem to be worried about the weapons when they’re used by people that happen to be our enemies. Funny, that, huh?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Who’s this “we” business? You and your hero Ronald Reagan?

              I remember laughing at people who argued that Saddam’s chemical weapons attack in 1988 was relevant to whether to launch a war in 2003.

              Now it’s yet another decade later.

              • Anonymous says:

                “we” our country and its hypocrisy.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Like the way a Republican administration tried to privatize Social Security, and then a Democratic administration expanded Medicare.

                  What hypocrisy! “We” totally reversed “ourselves.”

                • 1980s Moron says:

                  How DARE we lecture South Africa on Apartheid. Why, only 25 years ago we had Jim Crow! Leave SA alone, this is just more American hypocrisy.

          • rea says:

            It did not make a comeback when both sides used it in the Iran/Iraq war.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Every violation makes further violations more likely. If this was the first case, it wouldn’t be as much of a threat.

              Also, Saddam’s chemical weapons program was destroyed three years later and his ability to restart it contained by international action. The threat was addressed and eliminated, albeit too late.

              • Anonymous says:

                So when do we destroy our stockpiles of depleted uranium and white phosphorous?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  When they are put on any of the chemical weapons schedules, trolly.

                • Anna in PDX says:

                  I was reading the Wikipedia entry on the Chemical Weapons Convention, and we have actually destroyed more than 2/3 of our chemical weapons, but missed our own deadline of finishing the job by 2012. Probably there are complicating factors. I hope they will all be destroyed in the next few years.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  The thing is, if it is just about what weapons are on the chemical weapons schedules, it isn’t a moral issue at all, because there is no moral distinction between scheduled chemical weapons and other deadly weapons.

                  Part of the problem here is that hawks shift rationales constantly. “It’s about the rule of law” until you point out that they don’t favor consistent application of the rule of law. Then it becomes “a moral issue” until you point out that there’s no particularly persuasive moral distinctions here.

      • Joe says:

        OTOH, WWII led to the UN, where a community of nations enforced such norms, not the U.S. and whomever they can get on their side.

      • Manny Kant says:

        What evidence is there that a) a limited bombing campaign against Assad would actually deter Assad, much less anyone else, from using chemical weapons in the future, or that b) limiting our response in this particular case of the use of chemical weapons to economic sanctions will lead to chemical warfare making a comeback as an element of modern war and international security policy?

        I’m also going to suggest that, if anything, the general lack of use of chemical weapons over the past 90 years mostly shows that chemical weapons aren’t particularly useful.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Actually, the general lack of use of chemicals weapons over the last 90 years answers your second question, because rather than being a result of their lack of usefulness, it was the result of an intervention (in that case diplomatic) that interrupted the well-understood historical dynamic of arms races and the need for a deterrence-in-kind.

          • SIS says:

            Except of course for the largest and most visible use of them in 90 years, that by Iraq, which was not only hardly denounced, but aided and abetted by the US.

            • Rick says:

              It gets worse. Th US says it’s opposed to human trafficking , but “we” had slavery for nearly 100 years! What hypocrisy! Therefor the US has no moral high ground on the issue.

              See how dumb this line of thinking is?

              • Manny Kant says:

                The point is that chemical weapons were used 30 years ago, and even though nobody really objected at the time, it did not lead to giant chemical weapons arms races.

                • Manny Kant says:

                  We went to war with Iraq because it invaded Kuwait and proceeded to not use chemical weapons. Nor did it use chemical weapons during the Gulf War. That, after then defeating Iraq, the international community then took steps against Saddam’s chemical weapons stockpile does not demonstrate that he was punished for using chemical weapons. And I don’t see why another state actor would think that this example would qualify as a warning that you’ll get punished by the international community for having chemical weapons. Saddam was punished by the international community for invading another sovereign state. The punishment, among other things, involved taking away his chemical weapons, but that was not a reason for what happened.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Nonetheless, targeting and destroying Iraq’s chemical weapons was both a major goal of allied war planners, as well as the mission of an unprecedented UN effort in the aftermath of the war.

                  All of this happened because of a war that, no, was not fought for the purpose of eliminating Saddam’s chemical weapons, but did so anyway.

                  Wars often see their aims change mid-stream. The precipitating cause of the Gulf War need not have been chemical weapons related for it to have accomplished that end.

                  And I don’t see why another state actor would think that this example would qualify as a warning that you’ll get punished by the international community for having chemical weapons.

                  They wouldn’t. The question here is why Saddam’s use of chemical warfare didn’t wreck the norm and set off a reaction among neighbors. The answer is, because his weapons were taken care of in short order.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Manny,

                  There are two dynamics when it comes to preventing proliferation and the collapse of the norm: deterring countries that are just chomping at the bit to develop arsenals, and reassuring countries that don’t really want them that they don’t need to have a deterrent.

                  With UNSCOM and the destruction of Saddam’s nbc programs/arsenal, I’m talking about the latter.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              And for the third time, three years after that happened, a war that destroyed Saddam’s chemical weapons arsenal was launched, and a UN weapons team put into the country to root out and destroy his remaining stockpiles and programs.

              If you are merely looking to chant “USA! USA!” in reverse, go right ahead, but the history of how seriously the world took Saddam’s chemical weapons use tends to undercut any argument about the international norm and its enforcement by the outside world not being taken seriously.

              • SIS says:

                That is a deeply disingenuous claim. The 1991 Gulf War had nothing to do with Saddam using chemical weapons in 1988 and before. had Saddam never invaded Kuwait, we would have never put sanctions against him or tried to remove him from power, or take away his WMDs.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  I didn’t say the war was caused by his chemical attacks.

                  I said the war took care of the threat of further chemical attacks – answering your question about why those attacks didn’t cause proliferation – and that the coalition’s military decisions, and UNSCOM, demonstrate how important it was to the world community to do so.

                • SIS says:

                  I didn’t say the war was caused by his chemical attacks.

                  I said the war took care of the threat of further chemical attacks – answering your question about why those attacks didn’t cause proliferation – and that the coalition’s military decisions, and UNSCOM, demonstrate how important it was to the world community to do so.

                  So if Assad invades Jordan then we can get UNSC approval for his removal and for taking out the chemical weapons.

                  Its also a bit funny for you to keep bringing up as evidence of your point a UN sanctioned and approved act when what you are advocating will be an action completely lacking in US approval or support.

                  If the international community cares so deeply about this norm that we must enforce, why isn’t this going to get UN support, unlike in 1991?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  And right onto the next talking point.

                  Was there ever a point at which you actually believed what you were arguing about UNSCOM and the destruction of Iraq’s WMD programs’ effect on nonproliferation and the reaction of other countries?

                  Or was is just an argument of convenience the whole time?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              And for the fourth time now, three years later, the destruction of Saddam’s chemical weapons became a major war aim of an international military coalition, which then imposed a UN weapons team into Iraq to root out and destroy the last of his chemical weapons.

              Yep, the history of Saddam sure is an example of using chemical weapons and getting away with it.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                Whoops, should be here.

              • Helmut Monotreme says:

                Repeating it doesn’t make it true. Saddam Hussein would not have suffered consequences for his use of chemical weapons if his reach had not exceeded his grasp. The international community seemed perfectly happy to let Iraq and Iran fight it out any way they chose. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, the chemical weapons retroactively became important to the US and the coalition forces.
                The chemical attacks were an atrocity from day one, but they were an atrocity that the US ignored until their pet dictator got off leash and attacked one of our allies.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Again, the motivation of the coalition in going to war against Saddam doesn’t change the reality: his nbc stockpiles and programs were destroyed, both as a primary war aim and through UNSCOM after.

                  Wars often have consequences that differ from their triggering events.

                  Yes, yes, bad USA! Bad! Bad! We know, we know.

                  Say that all you want if it’s important to you.

                  It doesn’t matter how terrible and awful the US and the rest of the coalition’s motivations were; the fact remains that the destruction of Saddam’s chemical weapons stocks actually happened, was taken seriously, and had the effects I described.

                  Tell you what, I’ll write it this way:

                  Why didn’t Saddam’s use of chemical weapons set off a chemical arms race? Because, despite the unmitigated hypocrisy and evil of the true villain in all affairs, Amerikkka, the destruction of his chemical stockpiles, though wholly accidental and unintended, was an outcome of the war, and eliminated the factors that might have resulted in more proliferation. Long live Chomsky!

                  Better?

          • Manny Kant says:

            Do you think this is why Hitler and the IJA didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Japan did use chemical weapons, in China.

              Of course, that was immediately after Italy got away with it in Ethiopia.

              • SIS says:

                So why didn’t Italy’s unpunished use of said weapons start a trend, like the trend you fear will be created if we don’t ‘punish’ Syria?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Because the people who used them lost a war very shortly thereafter, and the chemical weapons war criminals were punished. The endangered norm was reestablished – through military force.

                  Sort of like what happened in 1991.

              • SIS says:

                Because the people who used them lost a war very shortly thereafter, and the chemical weapons war criminals were punished. The endangered norm was reestablished – through military force.

                Sort of like what happened in 1991.

                Except of course that the Egyptians used chemical weapons in the 1960′s, we used chemical weapons in Vietnam (to kill the environment, so I guess that was okay..)Saddam used them in the 80′s, and both superpowers stockpiled huge quantities of them.

                And not all the war criminals from WW2 got punished, only the ones from the losing countries.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  As everyone understand when the subject is gun control, norms are never absolutely effective, but having them in place serves to minimize the problem, and to prevent the need for everyone to arm up in response to it.

                  And your need to bring in factually-averse irrelevancies (no, defoliants are not part of the chemical weapons norm) only advertises how weak your case is.

                • SIS says:

                  As everyone understand when the subject is gun control, norms are never absolutely effective, but having them in place serves to minimize the problem, and to prevent the need for everyone to arm up in response to it.

                  We already have the norm against chemical weapons. It is crystallized in the CCW which 189 of 196 UN members have signed and ratified. Syria was never one of those countries. Now you want to violate the norm of waging war without UN approval to punish Syria claiming that not doing so undermines international law. Yeah, that makes sense…

                  And your need to bring in factually-averse irrelevancies (no, defoliants are not part of the chemical weapons norm) only advertises how weak your case is.

                  AHAHAHAHAHA!

                  How many nations have chosen to inundate other countries with vast amounts of plant killing chemicals and view that as a legitimate tactic that isn’t in fact using chemical weapons? We openly used Napalm as well – I guess that was hunky dory as well.

                  I also doubt the millions of Vietnamese who have had adverse health consequences thanks to our indiscriminate gassing of their jungles find the distinction a powerful one….

                  Oh, and you claim my argument is weak, and that is for nitpicking one of FOUR examples I gave of your norm not meaning a damn. last time I checked 75% is a passing grade. or do you not think Egypt and Iraq using those weapons free of consequence challenges your claims?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  claiming that not doing so undermines international law.

                  No, I’ve never made this claim. I’ve never argued about the need to uphold the law for its own sake. The law is merely a tool, helpful in the actual underlying cause of preventing chemical weapons use and proliferation.

                  The Superpowers stockpiled chemical weapons during the Cold War which, as a matter of fact, ended before the 1993 CWC.

                  So now we’re down to Egypt, one example. As I’ve already explained, “As everyone understand when the subject is gun control, norms are never absolutely effective, but having them in place serves to minimize the problem, and to prevent the need for everyone to arm up in response to it.”

                  And your internet fake laugh thing means as little to me as your “Hey, look over there!” argument. We’re talking about chemical weapons.

                  I think it’s clear you don’t even believe what you’re arguing anymore. You’re just out to win and get what you want. Bye.

          • Anna in PDX says:

            Joe, I think diplomacy and treaty work has a lot more to do with the world’s lack of chemical weapons use than the threat of a military response.

        • Cody says:

          I assume the “deterrence” aspect of our air campaign counts on us destroying most of the Syrian military’s ability to deploy chemical weapons.

      • wengler says:

        Oh bullshit. Chemical warfare isn’t going to make a comeback as an element of modern war because chemical weapons are shitty terror weapons employed by poor countries.

        Since we are using WWII references, let’s try this one on for size. Hitler, the worst person in the history of everything, with no natural or unnatural limits for violence and killing, never used chemical weapons in war. Stalin, the second worst person in the history of everything, never used chemical weapons in war. Why not? Since they are obviously ‘weapons of mass destruction’, are they not?

        Hell the biggest proponent of chemical weapons after WWI was the US, with the firebombing of Tokyo and the massive defoliation campaign in Vietnam. But those aren’t classified as chemical weapons because burning people to death and attempting to kill all plant life with chemicals is a-OK.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Chemical warfare isn’t going to make a comeback as an element of modern war because chemical weapons are shitty terror weapons employed by poor countries.

          Good thing there aren’t any poor countries, then. Or countries whose military efforts including fighting not-particularly-well-equipped forces, or terrorizing and cleansing civilian populations.

          Hitler, the worst person in the history of everything, with no natural or unnatural limits for violence and killing, never used chemical weapons in war.

          15-20 years after the signing of the Geneva Protocols, you mean. And this is meant to undercut the value of having a credible taboo on chemical warfare, how exactly?

          But those aren’t classified as chemical weapons because burning people to death and attempting to kill all plant life with chemicals is

          …not what the treaties and norms against chemical warfare were about.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            Certainly, there aren’t any urban insurgencies, involving irregular forces operating in urban areas inhabited by supportive civilian populations, involved in 21st century warfare.

            That must be why Assad’s military didn’t see any value in using them; because that type of warfare never happens, and isn’t expected to play much of a role in the future.

            Did you know there are ten cities in Xinjiang Province with populations over 100,000? And that the largest has a population of 3 million? Why do I bring this up? Oh, no reason.

          • Manny Kant says:

            You are really saying that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons because he had a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, and cared about the Geneva Conventions?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              I’m saying he didn’t use them because he realized that there would be major political and military consequences to doing so.

              The international norm against chemical weapons use is not, at bottom, about strongly-worded letters.

              • SIS says:

                Except he did use chemical weapons, in greater quantities than anyone before. He just did it against people who couldn’t shoot back.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  …which goes to show how seriously he took the threat of repercussions for using them in battle.

                • SIS says:

                  …which goes to show how seriously he took the threat of repercussions for using them in battle.

                  Hitler’s personal adversity to using chemical weapons on the battlefield hardly makes your point, given his indiscriminate mass murder. That the man had a personal tick about these weapons is a weak foundation for an argument.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Hitler’s personal adversity to using chemical weapons on the battlefield hardly makes your point, given his indiscriminate mass murder.

                  Wait wait wait…even a guy who carried out indescriminate mass murder shied away from chemical weapons; therefore, there couldn’t have been pressure on him not to use them.

                  That’s your argument? That’s not a very good argument.

                • SIS says:

                  Wait wait wait…even a guy who carried out indescriminate mass murder shied away from chemical weapons; therefore, there couldn’t have been pressure on him not to use them.

                  That’s your argument? That’s not a very good argument.

                  No, the argument is that Hitler had a personal aversion to seeing his soldiers gassed. That particular and personal aversion (one he obviously didn’t share about gassing millions of civilians) against using chemical weapons against those that might us them back doesn’t make much of a point for you. After all, this Hitler analogy would seem to suggest that we should gas the Syrians, cause then they will know not to use chemical weapons themselves. Is that what you are saying we should do? We still have some stockpiles of VX around – we could do it.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Yes, idiot, I’m saying we should gas the Syrians, and you aren’t flailing about to make yourself look better.

              • Manny Kant says:

                What political and military consequences would he have faced for using chemical weapons? He was engaged in a total war with enemies who were willing to bomb his cities to smithereens with high explosives. If chemical weapons would have actually created military advantages for Hitler, why should the fear that the Allies might use a somewhat different means of killing civilians inhibit him from taking that advantage?

                I don’t understand the mechanism you’re claiming here.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  What political and military consequences would he have faced for using chemical weapons?

                  Reprisal in kind. After all, the war wasn’t being fought in Britain or the US, but on the soil he considered the Reich.

                • IM says:

                  The common assumption is that chemical weapons weren’t used in World war II because of a balance of terror.

                  As already pointed out in situations were the enemy could not retaliate in kind – Ethiopia, China – they were used.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Isn’t that just another way of saying “reprisal in kind?”

              • SIS says:

                Yes, idiot, I’m saying we should gas the Syrians, and you aren’t flailing about to make yourself look better.

                The only person who thinks I don’t look well is YOU, and I honestly could not give a damn what you think of me.

                You are trying to use a singular, particular act as evidence of a trend. At best, what you are claiming is that people don’t use WMD’s against people who might use them back. Wow…what a great lesson. I mean, Saddam didn’t use WMD’s against the allies during the First Gulf War…look, a trend!

                That does not support your argument that somehow the US attacking Assad will prove to everyone in the future not to use chemical weapons. After all, his using chemical weapons is an excuse for us to attack him – the US has wanted his regime gone since 2011.

                Can you with a straight face say that is the Egyptian generals, who run a country that like Syria never signed the CCW, decided to use gas against Islamists, that we would bomb them too, as long as they kept their part of the deal with Israel?

                The only lesson to learn then is don’t use chemical weapons when you are on the global Hegemon’s bad side. What an idealistic lesson.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              And among those consequences was, yes, the realization that using them would set off proliferation and more widespread usage – in that case, against his side.

            • jim, some guy in iowa says:

              Hitler himself had been gassed back in WWI. I can see the old loon drawing a moral line between using it on soldiers, even those fighting him, and civilians who were nothing more than ‘undesirables’.

              He wasn’t exactly sane – most of these dictator types aren’t, at least by our definition – which is why it seems so ridiculously optimistic to say, “If we do x then y and z just automatically fall into place”. It’s a civil war – things don’t necessarily work that way

          • wengler says:

            I would respond to this but you didn’t appear to make any points. I will attempt to anyways:

            1) Chemical weapons are great ways to commit genocide- in controlled conditions. On the battlefield though, not so much.

            2) If you want to argue Hitler had a lot of respects for international treaties, good luck with that. American POWs generally were treated pretty well…unless they were found to be Jewish. And Russian POWs? Yeah, good luck with that argument.

            3) Treaties and norms against chemical warfare exist because they are inherently messy weapons that rarely provide clear advantage in armed combat. In the same era international warfare was also outlawed and the first real arms limitation treaties came into effect.

            • joe from Lowell says:

              I can’t help what “appears” to you, and there are people who actually are able to keep up that I’d prefer to talk to instead.

              Go back to explaining why we need boots on the ground to break the entrenched stalemate in Libya.

        • Tristan says:

          Goering testified at Nuremburg that Germany didn’t use chemical weapons because of their reliance on horses to move supplies on the battlefield (it could have killed the horses). Hitler also allegedly had a life-long distaste for chemical weapons as a result of his own exposure to mustard gas in WW1. Both sides in the conflict had stockpiles that they planned to use in retaliation if the other side used theirs.

      • SIS says:

        what evidence do you have that Assad’s use of chemical weapons would instigate others to acquire those weapons in a way that Saddam’s much larger and completely unpunished use of such weapons against not only his people but another country didn’t?

        Cause Syria has been on the list of nations with chemical weapons for a long time, but I haven’t heard anything about their proliferation lately, except possibly to non-state actors.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Saddam’s much larger and completely unpunished use of such weapons against not only his people but another country didn’t?

          Once again, Saddam’s country was invaded and his chemical arsenal destroyed three years later. The world considered this sufficiently important that they left a strong UN chem/bio/nuclear inspections team in place to root and destroy the rest of his stockpiles and program sites.

          Cause Syria has been on the list of nations with chemical weapons for a long time, but I haven’t heard anything about their proliferation lately, except possibly to non-state actors.

          Having chemical weapons isn’t a problem. Using them is. With a robust norm in place, countries don’t expect that even chemical-armed neighbors are likely to use them.

          Nobody (well, Israel, but they’re pretty touchy) was talking about striking Syria for merely having the weapons. That they would actually use them kicks things up a notch.

          • SIS says:

            Once again, Saddam’s country was invaded and his chemical arsenal destroyed three years later. The world considered this sufficiently important that they left a strong UN chem/bio/nuclear inspections team in place to root and destroy the rest of his stockpiles and program sites.

            That invasion and disarmament of Iraq had nothing at all to do with Saddam using chemical weapons, but instead invading Kuwait. I think it is disingenuous to try to claim somehow that the 1991 Gulf War had anything to do with Saddam’s use of chemical weapons.

            Having chemical weapons isn’t a problem. Using them is. With a robust norm in place, countries don’t expect that even chemical-armed neighbors are likely to use them.

            Last time I checked, you can’t use what you don’t have. Most nations don’t have chemical weapons ability, and thus can’t use them,period. They are only being used in Syria because Syria has had a long history of stockpiling them as a poor-man’s nuke ability. Without a proliferation of the weapon, the threat of further use is impossible, because again, you can’t use what you don’t have.

            And weapons exist to be used. If you really don’t care to use a weapon, YOU DON’T GET IT. The whole Western argument against Iran’s nuclear program is premised on that very notion. No one has used nukes since 1945. We have treaties against their spread, and most countries have promised not to use them. That is the whole basis for sanctioning countries that might be trying to get them, when they said they never would. Last time I checked almost all countries did sign on to the Chemical Weapons Convention. In fact, Syria is only one of five countries never to sign, and only two that signed have yet to ratify the treaty.

            I therefore don’t find your argument credible. Syria had chemical weapons, never promised to get rid of them, and lo and behold, they have gotten used. How does that set an international precedent to the 189 nations that signed on to the CCW?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              That invasion and disarmament of Iraq had nothing at all to do with Saddam using chemical weapons, but instead invading Kuwait.

              I see. They put a special chemical weapons destruction program in place in Iraq – something unique in the aftermath of a war – that had nothing to do with his chemical weapons.

              Nobody claimed that the Gulf War happened for any reason other than the invasion of Kuwait, but it is undeniable that a response to his chemical weapons attacks happened because of his chemical weapons attacks.

              Last time I checked, you can’t use what you don’t have.

              Which brings us to the point you missed: why don’t other countries have them? Gee, do you think it has anything to do with an international ban, or the security such a ban provides?

              And weapons exist to be used. If you really don’t care to use a weapon, YOU DON’T GET IT.

              Ah, yes, like the American and Russian ICBM arsenals. Or the Abrams tanks that Mexico buys from us. Certainly, no country ever buys weapons for the purpose of deterrence.

              The whole Western argument against Iran’s nuclear program is premised on that very notion.

              Actually, no. While there is a lot of scary talk in the right-wing and Israeli media, the actual issue there is proliferation – if the Iranians get them, the Saudis will pursue them, then the Egyptians. This thinking is based on the preceding pattern of China -> India -> Pakistan -> Iran.

              • SIS says:

                I see. They put a special chemical weapons destruction program in place in Iraq – something unique in the aftermath of a war – that had nothing to do with his chemical weapons.

                Nobody claimed that the Gulf War happened for any reason other than the invasion of Kuwait, but it is undeniable that a response to his chemical weapons attacks happened because of his chemical weapons attacks.

                Without a war in 1991 there is no post-war sanctions regime. You don’t get to magically claim that the sanctions regime was a response solely to his use of chemical weapons before. The sanctions regime came into place because the US didn’t stomach regime change in 1991 but wanted to neuter Saddam. His past use of chemical weapons did give us a wonderful excuse to why we needed to keep him in line like no one else. But lets be clear – the men who set up that regime were the same ones feeding him info to gas the Iranians four years before.

                Which brings us to the point you missed: why don’t other countries have them? Gee, do you think it has anything to do with an international ban, or the security such a ban provides?

                Perhaps it has to do with most countries having made the decision that WMD’s weren’t worth it, unlike most of those few countries, like ourselves, who have in the past chosen to create and stockpile WMDs in bulk. most countries also don’t illegally carry out acts of war against other countries within UN security council approval. Why is that a precedent you aren’t worried about setting?

                Ah, yes, like the American and Russian ICBM arsenals. Or the Abrams tanks that Mexico buys from us. Certainly, no country ever buys weapons for the purpose of deterrence.

                Are you aware that the entire logic of deterrence is based on the willingness to use a weapon? If I get a gun but then announce to the world I will never get bullets, then that gun is meaningless as anything other than a club. This point undermines your following point, of course, since proliferation wouldn’t be dangerous if you really don’t expect anyone to ever use those weapons. They become nothing but expensive trophies. Except that they do exist, and the means to use them also exists, because the whole logic of them is to be ready to use them.

                Actually, no. While there is a lot of scary talk in the right-wing and Israeli media, the actual issue there is proliferation – if the Iranians get them, the Saudis will pursue them, then the Egyptians. This thinking is based on the preceding pattern of China -> India -> Pakistan -> Iran.

                You forgot the beginning, US-> USSR, except of course that above you claimed the US and USSR got those weapons even though they would never have used them…. (except of course Farley had that wonderful post about war planning in the 1960′s which showed that everyone was ready to use nukes)….

                Yes, proliferation is a danger. You still haven;t answered the question of why Assad’s use of such weapons going unpunished would weaken the CCW. After all, he was never a signatory to the CCW. That Syria failed to sign on didn’t stop any other nations from voluntarily signing on. Why should his use of them internally all of a sudden get them to chance international sanctions for breaking the CCW?

                That is your claim, and you still haven’t defended it.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  You are being deliberately obtuse by pretending I said Iraqi chem warfare caused the Gulf War.

                  You don’t get to magically claim that the sanctions regime was a response solely to his use of chemical weapons before.

                  Are we now pretending there wasn’t a special program set up to monitor and destroy Iraq’s WMD stocks and program? Do you no know this happened? Or do you think you can get around it by noting that there were other things happening as well, and using the word “magical?”

                  But lets be clear – the men who set up that regime were the same ones feeding him info to gas the Iranians four years before.

                  The UN Security Council?

                  Do you actually have any plausible argument at all that the huge efforts to contain and destroy Iraq’s WMD program wasn’t actually an effort to contain and destroy Iraq’s WMD program? Or do you just think that impugning some motives will be a sufficient distraction from what actually happened?

                  Are you aware that the entire logic of deterrence is based on the willingness to use a weapon?

                  Which is not the same thing as intent to use that weapon. No, I am not going to let you elide this point, no matter how much you think a condescending tone might help you. Your claim was “If you don’t care to use a weapon, YOU DON’T GET IT.” That claim is false. If you want to walk it back and make a different point, fine.

                  You forgot the beginning, US-> USSR, except of course that above you claimed the US and USSR got those weapons even though they would never have used them….

                  Nope, never made this claim. You really are committed to this obfuscation of “care to use them” and “willing to use them.”

                  You still haven;t answered the question of why Assad’s use of such weapons going unpunished would weaken the CCW.

                  Not the CCW; the norm, and the security order it produced. The CCW is only a tool for strengthening the norm.

                  You should really stop telling me what my claim is, because you keep getting it wrong. For example, I never used “CCW” in any of my points. You just made that up, and then pranced around insisting that I never defended that claim I never made.

              • SIS says:

                Are we now pretending there wasn’t a special program set up to monitor and destroy Iraq’s WMD stocks and program? Do you no know this happened? Or do you think you can get around it by noting that there were other things happening as well, and using the word “magical?”

                The UN Security Council?

                Do you actually have any plausible argument at all that the huge efforts to contain and destroy Iraq’s WMD program wasn’t actually an effort to contain and destroy Iraq’s WMD program? Or do you just think that impugning some motives will be a sufficient distraction from what actually happened?

                The fundamental fault in your logic lies in claiming that the world was responding with these actions to the general use of chemical weapons, when it fact this was a purely PARTICULAR action taken against a singular actor who had shown a propensity for invading his neighbors, which was his cardinal sin, while the chemical weapons use was just a venial sin.

                Had Saddam Hussein never invaded Kuwait, or had the West allowed him to keep it, those UN inspections of his chemical weapons systems would have never occurred.And this is why the UN Security Council isn’t authorizing any action against Assad this time, making the course you advocate a violation of international norms also.

                Which is not the same thing as intent to use that weapon. No, I am not going to let you elide this point, no matter how much you think a condescending tone might help you. Your claim was “If you don’t care to use a weapon, YOU DON’T GET IT.” That claim is false. If you want to walk it back and make a different point, fine.

                I am walking back nothing (also, you are one to talk about condescension in these Syria discussions!). Intent is a temporary thing – it changes with the winds. Capability does not. You need capability before intent is even relevant. You can’t intend to use a weapon if you don’t have it. There is no clearer signal of lack of intent than lacking the capability. Conversely, gaining a capability makes intent meaningful. A nation without nuclear weapons can never intend to use them. A nation with nuclear weapons may intend to use them. Deterrence is only created if your opponent believes that you will have the intent to use them if they do something seriously threatening to their opponent. So deterrence requires the possibility of intent given a particular circumstance. Again, the only way to show a complete lack of intent to do something is not ever being capable of doing it, including a voluntary abandoning of that capability.

                Not the CCW; the norm, and the security order it produced. The CCW is only a tool for strengthening the norm.

                You should really stop telling me what my claim is, because you keep getting it wrong. For example, I never used “CCW” in any of my points. You just made that up, and then pranced around insisting that I never defended that claim I never made.

                Your claim is that not enforcing the ‘norm’ against using chemical weapons weakens that norm. Well, that norm you claim you want to enforce has been given form and substance through the CCW. It is impossible to claim that the norm against using chemical weapons will be weakened without inherently claiming that the norm given form would be weakened as well. The vast majority of countries in the world don’t have chemical weapons, and have promised never to have them.

                And norms don’t exist alone. The norm against the use of chemical weapons exists alongside other norms, like not invading your neighbors or attacking them without UN approval. Which is why it is through the UN that norms are given the form of covenants or treaties. This is also why nations (like Syria) are allowed to not sign on to covenants. Because sovereignty remains the cardinal norm, which is why for example we can refuse to join the international court of justice, or refuse to join the international norm against using landmines.

                You have yet to explain HOW not violating the norm of not attacking another UN member without UNSC approval will weaken the resolve of those nations that chose to show their agreement with the anti-chemical weapon norm by signing and ratifying the CCW. How will they react? Will they start stockpiling chemical weapons in violation of their commitments to the CCW, which would be a necessary act for any of them to ever use chemical weapons in the future?

            • joe from Lowell says:

              Another point you miss is the difference between “care to use” and “end up using.”

              Along with developing weapons that you don’t intend to use, just deter with, comes the threat of something unexpected leading to their use.

              Which brings us full circle to the important point here: eliminating the need countries might feel to have chemical arsenals that they don’t “care to use” at the time they build them, because of the threat of usage that is unforeseen at the time they were acquired.

              • SIS says:

                You can’t deter anyone with a weapon if people believe you won’t use them – that is the whole logic of deterrence. How does that concept escape you?

                Again, why would those nations that already signed on to the CCW and ratified it risk sanctions only because a non-signatory state used them internally? particularly when most nations do not in fact have non-signatory neighbors?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Last time I repeat this: if you don’t get it, or pretend not to get it, that’s you’re problem.

                  “Care to use” and “willing to use” are two different things.

                  If you want to play dumb on this, you’re going to have to play solitaire from here on out.

                  Again, why would those nations that already signed on to the CCW and ratified it risk sanctions only because a non-signatory state used them internally?

                  Because using them internally violates the norm just as much as using them externally, compelling other countries to deal with the threat, just as if that use had been external. Tell me, Mr. “This Point Eludes You,” if your neighbor shot at his wife, would you dismiss the threat because he didn’t shoot a different neighbor?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  How can anyone think a government is a chemical warfare threat if it “merely” used them against its own people, after building and stockpiling them for years, and didn’t sign a treaty against chemical weapons?

                  Is that really your question?

              • SIS says:

                Because using them internally violates the norm just as much as using them externally, compelling other countries to deal with the threat, just as if that use had been external. Tell me, Mr. “This Point Eludes You,” if your neighbor shot at his wife, would you dismiss the threat because he didn’t shoot a different neighbor?

                What evidence do you have of that at all? Saddam’s use of chemical weapons didn’t get any other countries to start stockpiling them as an example. And to be honest, attempted second degree murder does not prove that someone is inherently a murderer. In fact, I think crime statistics show that most people who murder based on passion would not in fact go around shooting everyone. Their act is a particular, one off event triggered by passion. So, cute attempt at bad analogies, but I ain’t biting.

                How can anyone think a government is a chemical warfare threat if it “merely” used them against its own people, after building and stockpiling them for years, and didn’t sign a treaty against chemical weapons?

                Is that really your question?

                What is this even supposed to mean? Are you accepting that you are incorrect in refusing to acknowledge that getting and stockpiling chemical weapons must be seen as a prerequisite for anyone to use them, and thus the lack of any other countries rushing to create and stockpile chemical weapons should be seen as a failure of your claim that if we don’t violate international norms now, the norm against chemical weapon use will be weakened?

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  Desperate flailing to avoid backing down.

                  And to be honest, attempted second degree murder does not prove that someone is inherently a murderer. In fact, I think crime statistics show that most people who murder based on passion would not in fact go around shooting everyone. Their act is a particular, one off event triggered by passion.

                  Whatever.

      • Pseudonym says:

        When has a unilateral (or trilateral?) limited response to the use of chemical weapons in an internal civil war been successful? This isn’t the UN or NATO or the Arab League endorsing this not-war violent action, and it isn’t an action intended or likely to have humanitarian benefits. It’s a question of an international norm being enforced by an arguable vigilante. Has that worked in the past?

  11. mark f says:

    The World’s Most Pernicious Anaology Strikes Again

    Coulda been stopped if Obummer kept the bust of Winston.

  12. Edmund says:

    While I can agree that McCain and Graham are pretty awful senators, Obama is pressing hard for approval to bomb the shit out of Syria.

    And it’s Obama’s decision in the end so let’s spread the ‘love’ around a little to those who deserve it…Obama and those who voted for him.

  13. Dilan Esper says:

    And remember, Munich bought Britain some time to re-arm and gain allies. Chamberlain SAID some things that look stupid in retrospect, but the idea that Britain could have whooped the German war machine by itself in 1938 is pure Green Lanternism.

    • Anonymous says:

      And its not like Poland or Czechoslovakia were liberated by the war, either, they just traded German Fascist oppression for 40 years of Soviet Communist oppression.

    • ajay says:

      the idea that Britain could have whooped the German war machine by itself in 1938 is pure Green Lanternism.

      1) Not by itself; France would have been on side as well.
      2) Germany grew significantly stronger as a result of Munich; for example, a large number of the tanks that rolled into France in 1940 were actually Czech-built. And the extra year bought Germany a lot of time to continue re-arming as well.
      3) A lot of people didn’t think at the time that it would have gone well for Germany in a 1938 war; among them, the German Chief of the General Staff, who resigned over it.
      4) Look at the size of the German army in 1938. You think they could have defended the eastern border and East Prussia and fought their way into Czechoslovakia and defended the Rhineland against France and the BEF, all at the same time? With their three armoured divisions?

      • joe from Lowell says:

        The German occupation of the Rhineland is an even better example. The units that moved in were prepared with plans for swift evacuation, to be used in the event that the French displayed any intention of resisting.

      • Dilan Esper says:

        The British and French forces also sucked.

        The British military buildup between Munich and the invasion of Poland was immense. And French forces completely sucked as we soon found out.

        Looking at this only from the German side is part of the Green Lanternism. Churchill was right about the threat of Hitler, but he was also an incredible warmonger and he could have gotten his country conquered had he been in power rather than Chamberlain. It’s often much, much better to wait and re-arm, and “appeasement” allows that to happen.

        • ajay says:

          The British and French forces also sucked.

          This turns out not to be true.

          The British military buildup between Munich and the invasion of Poland was immense.

          As was the buildup between 1935 and 1938 (mechanisation and modern aircraft). The 1938-9 expansion mainly consisted of increasing the size of the reserves.

          And French forces completely sucked as we soon found out.

          The worst French forces – Corap’s 9th Army – indeed sucked. But that’s why they were put on the bit of the Meuse that the French didn’t think the Germans would attack. The best of the French forces were equal or superior to the Germans, certainly in the areas of tanks and air power, and they were put in the wrong place in 1940. In an attack on Germany, they would have been in the lead.

          Churchill could have got Britain conquered in 1938? How? By whom? I mean, you’re aware of the existence of the North Sea, right?

      • bexley says:

        A lot of people didn’t think at the time that it would have gone well for Germany in a 1938 war; among them, the German Chief of the General Staff, who resigned over it.

        Yeah but the odds at the start of WWII weren’t great for Germany either. That’s why they had to go with the massive gamble of the Manstein Plan to quickly knock France out of the war.

        Look at the size of the German army in 1938. You think they could have defended the eastern border and East Prussia and fought their way into Czechoslovakia and defended the Rhineland against France and the BEF, all at the same time? With their three armoured divisions?

        The same can be said about what might have happened if the Allies had gone with an all out offensive while Germany was occupied in Poland.

    • wengler says:

      Consenting to the give away of Czechoslovakia was stupid though. Germany gained Skoda Works and a lot of tanks without firing a shot.

  14. N__B says:

    If we continue to allow people to use this analogy, it will be just like Munich, and they will use every bad analogy there is!

    Insisting on media’s unconditional surrender is the only way to go.

  15. pritesh says:

    Someone should tell Hack pundit, Germany during this period was the most advanced nation on planet. Were as the countries of the middle east today are third-rate powers.

  16. Gary K says:

    I prefer the guy who said ”How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” Whatever happened to that guy?

  17. joe from Lowell says:

    I believe the phrase you’re looking for is “John Kerry is shrill.”

  18. Jesse Levine says:

    I hope Congress authorizes the prospective strike solely on the ground that an attack without that authorization will precipitate a political and constitutional crisis. And the MIC always wins those battles.

  19. synykyl says:

    From your ThinkProgress link about Churchill:

    … So it’s important that we not talk ourselves into believing that they do, and thus abandon other, less catastrophic options than military action, which, while they may be condemned as “appeasement,” would have the benefit of not getting tens of thousands of people killed …

    See, that’s where we differ from Conservatives and Neo-Cons. We see “not getting tens of thousands of people killed” as a benefit.

  20. dybbuk says:

    French support, English oppose. We need that moron Jonah Goldberg to speak up and mock the tea-swilling appeasement monkeys.

  21. SIS says:

    I always wonder why no one ever brings up the analogy of the US oil embargo against Japan in 1941 in response to Japan’s taking over all of French Indochina. That was a clear case of a power taking a strong stance against an aggressive power, since Japan was highly dependent on the US for it’s oil. Except of course that our strong action against Japan ended up with war. That is not to say that a war between Japan and the US wasn’t inevitable, but the notion that all one has to do is stand up against a bully and somehow the bully backs down is silly. The bully’s reaction depends on the bully’s interests.

    Even the tired Munich analogy is generally based on the assumption that German generals would have removed Hitler from power, something I don’t think has much validity to it, given how the Generals behaved later. And of course, had the Franco-British forces not fallen in 1940, and the course of the war had been very different, then no one would be using Munich anyways, since the whole “lesson” would have been very different.

    So the idiocy of ‘Munich’ goes even further than what Scott says.

    • joe from Lowell says:

      William Shirer writes in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich that there actually were plans by the generals to remove Hitler, and attributes their abandonment of those plans to the respect and popularity he gained by successfully annexation the Sudetenland.

      • Manny Kant says:

        There were some vague plans, but Shirer is almost certainly wrong that they would have been successfully carried out.

        • joe from Lowell says:

          Shirer doesn’t actually say they would have been successful.

          But what is inarguable is that they abandoned the plans owing to the evaporation of the expected Anglo-French resistance, the success of the Sudetenland occupation, and its effects on German politics both within the military and the population as a whole.

      • SIS says:

        And there were plans by generals to assassinate Hitler, which they did carry out, only several years too late.

        Did Western leaders know about such plans in 1938, according to Shirer? because if not then there is no actual lesson to learn from that other than the German generals making such plans were inherently weak and spineless. There is no grand historical lesson to learn from that.

        • Just Dropping By says:

          You could also note that removing Hitler wouldn’t necessarily create that much better of a historical outcome. From what I’ve seen, the German military almost certainly wasn’t going to install a liberal government if Hitler had been removed and probably would not have done much to reverse anti-Semitism either. (I would even say it would be plausible that a non-Nazi German military regime might have even emphasized its anti-Semitic bonafides to help coopt Nazi loyalists.)

          • Manny Kant says:

            Probably, a military regime would have kept the Nuremberg Laws in place, but it’s almost inconceivable that they would have carried out the Holocaust. It’s not like murdering Jews was a public policy that was embraced because of its popularity.

          • GoDeep says:

            Are you seriously arguing that a non-Nazi German government would have repeated the Holocaust???

            Is this wholly conjecture, or a full pulling it out of your ass?

            • Just Dropping By says:

              No, I’m saying that if someone is contending that simply removing Adolf Hitler and couple of his closest friends from power to merely install a more generically authoritarian military dictatorship in Germany would have (a) instantly healed the rot of anti-Semitism in mid-20th Century Europe and/or (b) prevented a major European-wide war from taking place in some form before the 1940s concluded, they’re the ones pulling stuff out of their asses, you rude little shit.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        Gosh, this has got to be the year I finally get that set and read it. I’ve been meaning to read Shirer every year for the past four years.

    • witless chum says:

      Well, you seem to assume that FDR wanted to avoid war with the Japanese empire and it seems to me that’s really not the case. I think he viewed Japan’s attempts to conquer even more of Asia as unacceptable to U.S. interests and he was willing to fight a war over it. So, the embargo either got the Japanese to back down or we fight a war.

      I’m pretty sure Syria is not an analogous situation because I don’t think Obama wants a thing to do with joining in on the Syrian civil war.

      • Manny Kant says:

        Some people in the State Department may have wanted a war with Japan, but FDR almost certainly did not, at least in the short run. He wanted a war with Germany, and, rationally, a war with Japan was more likely to distract from Germany than anything. Roosevelt got completely bailed out from what might have been a disaster when Hitler declared war on the US after Pearl Harbor.

      • wengler says:

        If FDR wanted a war with Japan I haven’t seen much evidence to support it. The fact that the US was willing to focus on Europe while losing battles in the Pacific also seems to prove that the US was much more comfortable fighting a European war than a Pacific war.

        • Just Dropping By says:

          I’ll just leave this here:

          In an effort to aid the Nationalist government of China and to put pressure on Japan, President Franklin Roosevelt in April 1941 authorized the creation of a clandestine “Special Air Unit” consisting of three combat groups equipped with American aircraft and staffed by aviators and technicians to be recruited from the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps for service in China.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Volunteer_Group

          • wengler says:

            I’m not sure what this has to do with wanting a war against Japan though. The Flying Tigers were practically mercenaries that got a bounty for every Japanese plane that they downed.

            The Philippines were smack in the middle of Japanese expansion and had the US wanted a war they would’ve parked the Pacific Fleet there and effectively blockaded the Japanese navy from operating freely in the region. Instead the fleet was operating far closer to home and the battleships were lined up in port in Hawaii.

            • Just Dropping By says:

              I’m not sure what this has to do with wanting a war against Japan though.

              The American president authorized providing material assistance to an armed group fighting the Japanese when no state of war exists between the US and Japan? Yeah, I guess there’s no way that could be construed as provocative. :-P

              • Manny Kant says:

                The US obviously was not friendly towards Japanese expansionism in China, and was working actively against it. At the same time, I think the evidence is pretty strong that Roosevelt himself and his closest associates were focused primarily on Germany, and worried that taking too strong a stand in the Pacific would detract from what they thought was the more important campaign against Hitler.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  I think you two are talking past each other.

                  JDP and wengler aren’t saying that FDR passionately desired a war, just that events left him little choice but to fight one. The Japanese invasion of China actually happened, and couldn’t be ignored. The threat of Axis-power Japan was something he couldn’t just ignore, but that forced his hand in taking action, even if he would rather not have had that war at all.

              • wengler says:

                Maybe, but most historians would point to the oil embargo and the Philippines blocking the way to the alternate source of oil in the Dutch East Indies as being the main reason why Japan attacked.

    • GoDeep says:

      No one’s saying that countries always back down. I mean criminals rob banks all the time even with armed guards there, but if we got rid of the guards is there anyone who doesn’t believe we’d have MORE bank robberies?

      You might as well argue we shouldn’t do anything b/cs nothing we do is guaranteed to work.

  22. Bitter Scribe says:

    If everyone who referenced Munich during the Vietnam War had been obliged to send me a dollar, I would now be retired.

  23. Joshua says:

    Really, let’s leave these dumb analogies to fourth-tier winger bloggers, please.

    Is Stephen Den Beste still around?

    • Manny Kant says:

      These days, his blog is mostly pictures of cat girls, but he does have some time for old-fashioned war blogging. Astonishingly, he’s in favor of war with Syria: “Threats, bluffs, and red lines”

    • FMguru says:

      Sadly, yes! At a bizarre website titled “Chizumatic”. He lives alone in a little apartment, is in bad health, and spends his time writing thousands of words a day about his one hobby: watching animated Japanese cartoons where prepubescent schoolgirls lose their panties. He occasionally interrupts them with incoherent warblogging and techblogging; the jarring contrast is pretty amusing. Metaphorical wanking and non-metaphorical wanking, together at last!

      D-Squared observed that living well is the best revenge, and that retiring from life to write a sexy anime blog is pretty much the exact opposite of living well.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Anyone else a bit curious how this rush to war just happens to come after the Snowden/Greenwald affair? It distracts from the scandal quite nicely, doesn’t it, especially since Snowden just revealed we were illegally spying on the Presidents of Brazil and Mexico.

    • witless chum says:

      No, I think the rush to war happened now because someone in Syria decided to gas a bunch of people just recently. I think the U.S.government is perfectly happy to ignore civil liberties whether we’re getting involved in a Syrian civil war at the time or not. I think imagining everything is connected, man, tends not to be the path to wisdom.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Nonsense.

        The Lowell City Council rezones part of Route 38 and BAM! we’re bombing Syria.

        Wake up, Sheeple!

      • mark f says:

        Confusionism is the opposite of the assorted conspiracy theories that you often read about. Some people believe that the world is run by a shadowy network of elites (e.g., the Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg, Council on Foreign Relations, etc.). Other people think everything is ultimately the product of some secret Zionist conspiracy, or the machinations of oil companies and the military-industrial complex. Islamophobes are convinced there is some sort of well-oiled Muslim plot to infiltrate Europe and America, impose Sharia law, and stick all our young women in harems. If you read enough Robert Ludlum, watch The Matrix too often, or spend enough time patrolling the nether regions of the blogosphere, you might find yourself thinking along similar lines. If that happens, get help.

        These warped world-views all assume that there are some Very Clever People out there who are busy implementing some brilliant long-term scheme for their own selfish benefit. But if you’ve actually met a few real politicians, run a small business, or merely tried to get a dozen family members to a wedding on time, then you know this is not how the world really works.

        Which is where Confusionism comes in. It begins by recognizing the limits of human reason, as well as the inherent uncertainties and accidents that accompany all human endeavors. Because men and women are fallible and because our knowledge is imperfect, screw-ups are inevitable. Why do you think the first two letters in the acronym SNAFU stand for “situation normal?” Clausewitz taught us “in warfare everything is simple, but the simplest things are very difficult,” but his insight was not limited to the battlefield. Leaders rarely have accurate information, they are usually guessing about the results of different choices, and even well-formulated plans often go wrong for no good reason. For Confusians, world leaders aren’t Megaminds implementing fiendishly subtle stratagems; they are mostly well-meaning ignoramuses stumbling around in the dark. Just like the rest of us.

        http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/11/29/a_new_paradigm_for_international_relations_confusionism

      • janastas359 says:

        No, see, the Syrian rebels gassed themselves because they wanted the US to intervene, not because of the war they’re fighting, but because the Syrian rebels don’t like Glenn Greenwald and so the whole thing is a false flag…

        Whoops, I just went cross-eyed

    • JMP says:

      It’s obviously designed to distract from Snowden revealing the TRUTH that Obama is actually an alien lizard person in human skin! WAKE UP SHEEPLE!!

    • wengler says:

      No. US corporate media believes that Miley Cyrus twerking is more important than the US government spying on its own people. It has nothing to do with Syria.

  25. Major Kong says:

    Get back to me when Syria annexes the Sudetenland.

  26. Shwell Thanksh says:

    Too bad for the refugees that no one considers the tired old “Pottery Barn rule” (“you break it, you bought it”) to apply to this “surgical strike”, innit? Calvinball is so confusing sometimes.
    I guess we can bury that one next to Mr. Upperdown Vote to Confirm.

  27. Mike E says:

    Rep Grayson did everybody a solid by tearing Thomas Roberts a new one this morning on MSNBC over the whole “appeasement” meme and the concept of “humanitarian” bombing. He’s not my cup of tea most times, but I dig it when stoopid media bobbleheads get a nice thwacking. Nice one, Mr Grayson.

  28. Murc says:

    But of a tangent here, but am I the only one who thinks that the idea “appeasement is bad” and, for that matter, “unconditional surrender is a valid tack to take” are two of the most pernicious ideas to come out of the WWII era?

    I mean, seriously. Opposition to appeasement basically seems to boil down to “sometimes you’ll make deals with bad actors that they have no intention of hewing to.” I believe they call that “international diplomacy” and it’s been happening for thousands of years. Taking away the lesson from that that you should never negotiate and never give someone “bad” something they want in exchange for something you want seems dumb.

    Likewise, the idea that you should never negotiate surrender terms unless your foes first show throat and put themselves completely at your mercy and in your power seems… dubious. Even the guy famous for coining it, Grant, would throw it over the side when necessary.

    • Aidian says:

      The whole unconditional surrender thing is an excellent point. People have this idea that anything besides an enemy’s total collapse is a failure, when that’s the way most wars end. WWII was the outlier.

      • wengler says:

        Yeah, the vast majority of wars have ended with a negotiated peace leaving the authority and command structures on both sides intact. After the advent of ‘total war’ this was less a likely outcome because popular sentiment was always on the side of total elimination of the enemy. The only thing that has tempered this notion in the post WWII era is nuclear weapons.

        • janastas359 says:

          WW2 has had the unfortunate effect of ruining every strategy game I’ve ever played, in that I go into every war expecting to completely annihilate my enemies, instead of seeking limited wars over limited objectives. As an arm chair general I learned all the wrong lessons by reading about that war.

    • Cody says:

      I feel like this comes out of some kind of weird world morality play we feel like we’re in.

      No one wants to stop the people dying in Syria. We want to teach them a lesson or else enforce justice because that is what the righteous sons of God do!

      Or something like that.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Yes, that’s what the singling out of chemical warfare as warranting special attention and deterrence was all about: feeling like we’re the son of God.

        That’s why the people who lived through World War I, and know more about death in war than you or I ever will, singled it out: because they were just so damn full of themselves.

        • synykyl says:

          I wonder what the drafters of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 would think about Napalming Vietnamese civilians or dropping atomic bombs on Japanese ones?

          Face the facts Joe. The only time we give a damn about these ‘quaint’ old prohibitions is when we want to use them as an excuse to massacre someone.

  29. Aidian says:

    There’s only one good reason to bomb Syria: ‘cuz Obama (sorta) said we would if Assad used WMD. Assad used WMD. Don’t do anything and the U.S. loses a bit (more) of its credibility. The lesson here is that one shouldn’t be making public statements that back one into a corner unless one is really really committed to following them up. You’d think someone on Obama’s team would have realized that a while ago. Way to fail.

    • Kurzleg says:

      Nope. JFL claims it’s critical to send Assad and future leaders a message that using chemical weapons has steep repercussions. If we don’t send this message, then there’ll be mass proliferation of chemical weapons.

    • Protagoras says:

      I have one thing to say to that. Bah! And humbug! OK, two things. If the U.S. doesn’t bomb Syria, any sensible, cautious nation will note that the U.S. military outspends, what is it, the next 25 countries combined? and will fear that the U.S. will feel that its military hasn’t been getting enough use and won’t want to provoke the U.S. If the U.S. does bomb Syria, any desperate nation whose borderline crazy leaders feel like they have their backs against the wall will rationalize that their case is different; the U.S. won’t want to intervene again and antagonize the global community even further just because of their tiny little violations of the rules, especially as it may leave the U.S. further overextended. Decisions are always driven far more by domestic circumstances than the reputations of foreigners, and even to the extent that the opinion of foreigners is considered, the outcome is determined almost entirely by what the mix of paranoia and wishful thinking happens to be, with the genuine facts about recent events entering hardly at all. Which is almost sensible, given how unreliable making predictions based on recent events often turns out to be.

  30. Jesse Levine says:

    A not so bold prediction. In the spirit of bipartisanship Congress will authorize war, everyone will agree on the need for a stronger defense establishment and, presto change-o, defense spending will no longer be subject to sequestration. Buy defense stocks now.

  31. Brien Jackson says:

    Things I’ve learned from Syria: Ronald Reagan being an evil dick is binding precedent on all future Democratic Presidents. Go figure.

  32. joe from Lowell says:

    WARGASM!

  33. herr doktor bimler says:

    The invasion conclusively discredited the concept of “appeasement” as a foreign policy for, well, the next 74 years.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but haven’t Republicans been accusing Democratic presidents of “appeasement” for, well, the last 64 years?

  34. joe from Lowell says:

    So, to the question “Why didn’t Saddam’s use of chemical weapons weaken the norm against chemical weapons usage?” there is the obvious answer I gave above: because their chemical weapons and program were destroyed a few years later.

    But there is also another answer: they did. Iran, never a chemical weapons power, responded to the gassing of its troops by developing its own chemical weapons program. From the Nuclear Threat Initiative:

    The weak international response, particularly by the United Nations, to Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iranian forces left Iran increasingly bitter about what it perceived to be a double standard in the enforcement of international agreements. Many Iranian officials concluded that their country had to develop the ability to retaliate in kind to deter chemical weapons use. In a 1987 interview, the Iranian representative to the United Nations (UN) stated that “…if the Iraqi regime does not take any steps in putting an end to the crimes of the Iraqi regime, we will retaliate in kind, and in that case, we will certainly announce it.”[10] Some reports suggest that during the 1980s war with Iraq, Iran might have employed CW agents on a small scale between 1984 and 1988; however, an intensive review of the open literature (including UN reports based on field investigations from that era), has failed to support these allegations. [11]

    While several Iranian leaders felt that developing a CW program would counteract the Iraqi threat and prove to be a strong deterrent, others within the clerical Islamic regime publicly condemned any use of chemical weapons on moral grounds, calling them un-Islamic.[12] However, there has been official confirmation that Iran pursued an offensive CW capability, at lease historically. In November 1998, Iranian Ambassador Mohammad R. Alborzi, director general of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, delivered a statement to the Conference of the States Parties (CSP) to the CWC in The Hague, Netherlands. In his statement, he admitted for the first time that Iran had once possessed CW, in the waning years of the Iran-Iraq War.

    None of which is to point the finger at Iran for being terrible people, but to support the proposition that, like “Chemical weapons are bad” wasn’t controversial among liberals two weeks ago: that WMD proliferation causes further WMD proliferation in other countries, who feel the need to develop their own capacity if they feel threatened by others’ WMDs.

    • bobbyp says:

      Joe,

      I do not find this example compelling. Iraq violated the “norm” and was not punished by the international community. Correct me if I am wrong, only one, nation responded to this horror by initiating their own program. That nation was the one subjected to the actual gas attack. Further, it appears this rogue nation, itself a member of the ‘axis of evil’ successfully resisted the understandable urge to retaliate in kind. How can this be?

      In other words, there was no ‘mass proliferation’ of gas warfare programs by other countries.

      If Syria goes “unpunished” I suspect we will see even fewer nations (i.e, zero) instituting such programs as a result of our perceived inaction.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        Correct me if I am wrong, only one, nation responded to this horror by initiating their own program…In other words, there was no ‘mass proliferation’ of gas warfare programs by other countries.

        It started with one; doesn’t it always? Then, a few years later, Iraq’s chemical weapons were destroyed by the international community.

        Further, it appears this rogue nation, itself a member of the ‘axis of evil’ successfully resisted the understandable urge to retaliate in kind. How can this be?

        George Bush’s nonsense aside, Iran has always been a rational actor in world affairs. It was being a rational actor when it responded to Iraq’s chemical warfare by developing its own program, too. That’s the problem: we’re not talking about only madmen here.

        Tell me, did you “suspect” that WMD usage didn’t cause proliferation before, say, last Wednesday? Because I gotta tell you, this is not something anyone found remotely controversial before this.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        And just as a reminder: this was not my example, that I brought up to demonstrate my point.

        This was the counter-example that people who wanted to rebut my point brought up: a counter-example in which the use of chemical weapons did lead to proliferation, and which involved the use of military force to destroy the program of the chemical war criminal’s weapons and capability.

        • SIS says:

          Except Joe, Iran became a signatory to the CCW. So Iran gave up those chemical weapons and gladly signed up to the international treaty to ban them. Them and 189 out of 196 UN members.

          That is the problem with relying solely on the crutch of history (sometimes, terribly twisted history) to try to make a claim about the future. Give us mechanisms Joe, because we aren’t living in 1991, but in a world in which 96% of UN member states have signed a convention categorically surrendering the right to even posses Chemical weapons, and anyone who did posses them has to certify their destruction.

          So what is the mechanism by which countries that have already signed up (meaning they have accepted the possibility of international punishment for violating their word)for the CCW all of a sudden, seeing that one of the 6% of nations that didn’t sign up or has not yet ratified this treaty isn’t illegally bombed, decide to incur possible sanctions by beginning to manufacture and stockpile chemical weapons.

          This is what you have failed to argue honestly here, instead throwing out your interpretation of the historical past as if your interpretation were infallible.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            Lol, “the crutch of history.”

            Look, I think you embarrassed yourself enough upthread by arguing that your neighbor killing his wife wouldn’t worry you. Arguing that history isn’t a good way to understand events is just the cherry on top.

            • SIS says:

              Dude, as I said, the only one I have embarrassed myself in front of is you, and that doesn’t mean anything to me. It is not my problem that you don’t like to make assumptions based on evidence as opposed to prejudice. And history can serve only as a rough guide, and to make actual predictions you need not just specific cases but to announce mechanism. You have not done so, which is why it is so easy to discount your claims, especially when you are not even honest with the history.

          • joe from Lowell says:

            And just in case it wasn’t clear, the way you keep moving on to new arguments, and then calling me dishonest for not preemptively answering them, isn’t obvious or anything.

            • SIS says:

              I haven’t changes my argument at all:

              You claimed that not bombing Syria creates a bad precedent (like Munich) which might lead to the spread of chemical weapons. Well, almost every country in the world has signed on to a treaty explicitly declaring such weapons out of bounds. They did it, even knowing that Syria did not sign on to such a treaty. So why would they go back on their commitment against chemical weapons in the face of further bad actions by Syria, with the main bad action being their unwillingness to give those weapons up in the first place.

              And no, your argument that there is some fundamental difference between having the intent to use a weapon aggressively vs. defensively (your so called care to use and willing to use distinction) is irrelevant to this discussion because militaries aren’t in the business of getting weapon systems they aren’t willing to use under the right conditions. The only way to show you mean never to actually use chemical weapons is not having them, period. if your military must have them, that is a clear statement that there are situations under which you WILL use them. This applies to nuclear weapons as well, which is the basis for the NPT.

  35. NewishLawyer says:

    I wonder what it is about the psychology of politicians that makes them think of every potential situation as being Munich?

    The majority of Americans in all parties are against military action in Syria. Our political leaders seem to think they can ignore this without risking too much.

    I wonder if it is because most politicians operate under the fallacy that they will be present at great moments of history and be written about for ages. The truth is probably that most politicians will be forgotten sooner rather than later whether they were good, bad or, mediocre. Obama will be studied by Future historians. Kerry and Cantor will probably be mere footnotes and mentions in the histories of others, perhaps written about for only a few pages, give or take.

    But they all seem to think that every moment is a very important moment and they will be mocked for being Nevile Chamberlain.

    • Bill Dacey says:

      What we now think of as the Munich crisis was really just kibuki theater. The British were never going to go to war for the Czechs. Chamberlain had announced this to parliment before
      going to Germany. Then he put out a D notice, which kept this fact out of the British press. All the diplomats in London had seen his announcement and notified their governments. The announcement was quoted in the New York Times. Only the British pubic was in the dark. This bit of suspense helped Chamberlain come through the event with the headline of “Peace in Our Time” rather than “PM Sells Out Czechs”.

  36. . says:

    I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.

  37. [...] The World’s Most Pernicious Analogy Strikes Again Lawyers, Guns & Money [...]

  38. [...] “The World’s Most Pernicious Analogy Strikes Again“, Scott Lemieux (Prof History, U RI), 3 September 2013 — No, this is not like Munich [...]

  39. [...] the power relations in Syria.)  Kristof’s argument isn’t quite as bad as Kerry’s embarrassing neoconnish invocations of Munich, but the problems with his line of reasoning are manifest: At bottom, as James Fallows [...]

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