Who's next?

Like déjà vu all over again!

All this saber rattling in Washington leaves me with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. A bevy of bellicose hawks in the Bush administration has begun to ratchet up the rhetoric against Syria before the dust from all the bunker busters in Iraq has hardly had a chance to settle yet.

If it all sounds eerily familiar, it's because it is. The charges are the same as the ones levied against Iraq: possession of chemical weapons, giving aid and comfort to terrorists, lusting after weapons of mass destruction. And, for good measure, harboring fugitives from the Iraqi regime.

The Bush administration takes great pride in staying "on message" and right now the messengers are all lined up to deliver the same belligerent line to Syria: "Shape up, or else!"

bevy of bellicose hawks

Let's be clear: Syria has a lot of 'splainin' to do (as Ricky used to demand of Lucy).

But let's also be clear about this: Bush and his buddies are engaged in something very dangerous. Granted, there is a lot to be said, tactically, for striking "while the iron is hot." There's probably no better time to maximize the power of "persuasion" than right after you've "liberated" the next door neighbor.

The military credibility of the US has never been higher. But at the same time, its political and moral credibility are sinking rapidly. All this very public and noisy chest thumping plays right into the perception that the U.S. is an imperialist bully determined to remake the world in its own image.


It's probably brinksmanship — remember that concept from the Cold War? — raised to a new level. The Pentagon wouldn't likely be withdrawing bombers and aircraft carriers if military intervention in Syria were seriously in the cards. At least that's my hope. But it's a sorry state of affairs when the Secretary of State is compelled to hold a press conference and assert that "There is no list [of countries to be invaded], there is no war plan" and when the Prime Minister of Great Britain is compelled to reassure the world that the United States doesn't intend to march on into additional countries in the Middle East. It's a little reminiscent of Richard Nixon's "I'm not a crook" statement.

I hope it's brinksmanship. But what makes this so dangerous, and not just inept or unwise, is that our government is headed by someone who frames everything simplistically as good versus evil, who believes he's an agent of God, and whose mission in life is to root out all these evil-doers. The "axis of evil" metaphor and his use of the word "crusade" were no accident. (Granted, the word crusade was quickly abandoned when the White House realized what an incendiary term it was.)

The problem is, Osama thinks he's an agent of God, too. And so does the Pope, and the Dalai Lama. It's always dangerous when people claim to be doing God's will and use that as justification to impose their will on others. It's doubly dangerous when someone wraps the flag around their god and sets government policy.

Bush is not a reflective person, nor one who listens to those who disagree with him. And he doesn't feel any need to explain himself to others. In Bush at War, Bob Woodward quotes Bush describing himself as "a gut player" and saying, "I don't need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

We should all recognize this attitude; we saw it in his daddy: "I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."