Isn’t it terrible about Syria?

We’re days away from war, and the only thing interesting about that is how uninteresting it is.

The justification for war is byzantine–having to do with century-old European treaties and a hazy, ethically-puzzling set of “international norms”. (You can roast people alive with jellied gasoline, but not asphyxiate them with chlorine?)

It isn’t about what John Kerry called the “moral obscenity” of chemical weapons. Mowing down peaceful protestors with a helicopter gunship is a moral obscenity; bombing a breadline is a moral obscenity; and that’s been going on for the last two years.

It certainly isn’t about making life better for the Syrian people. We’ve been arming the Syrian rebels for over a year, but not well enough to ensure victory–just well enough to prolong the conflict. There is no plan for regime change, no rebel faction worth endorsing.

Until recently, the war has undermined Iran, and cost us almost nothing, so we’ve been happy to see it go on as long as possible. So why put a stop to it now?

Mostly, it’s because al-Assad crossed a line, however arbitrary; and this is the Western powers’ way of reminding all the ‘Stans and banana republics that ultimately, their sovereignty only goes as far as we allow it.

It’s the kind of logic you see in gangster movies.

And it’s a silly reason to kill people, but none of us has any real stake in it; none of your kids are going to die. You might pay an extra $20 on your income taxes at the end of the year.

So its appearance on the news is basically obligatory, like the networks are making awkward conversation at a dinner party. “Isn’t it terrible about Syria?”

And we all nod and say, “Yes, those poor people. But did you hear about how that Disney starlet became an overt sex object after a decade of being groomed for exactly that purpose? Now that was shocking.”

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Isn’t it terrible about Syria?

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