Follow by Email

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New York Times Editorial, "Questions on Airstrikes in Syria": Do You Remember the Barbary Pirates?

A hypothetical question: Someone whom you don't know walks up to you and punches you in the nose. Do you then say to yourself, "I don't know this person well enough, and before doing anything rash, I need to know more," or do you respond with a haymaker?

Now consider how the US should respond to the beheading of James Foley.

In an editorial entitled "Questions on Airstrikes in Syria," The New York Times tackles this question by first observing:

"One problem is the administration’s insufficient knowledge about ISIS, including its numbers, skills and organization."

Or in other words, if someone walks up to you and punches you in the nose, i.e. beheads one of your citizens, before responding, you should return home and run a Google search on your attacker.

The Times editorial continues:

"The United States, however, has not been invited into Syria and the administration has not articulated a legal justification for crossing the border. Nor has Mr. Obama explained how Syria’s divided moderate anti-Assad opposition could be strengthened in time to fight against ISIS.

As in Iraq, military action alone is not enough to defeat the extremists who gain followers by exploiting repression against the Sunnis. American officials are organizing a coalition of allies to take on ISIS — for instance, Turkey and some Gulf states are permitting the use of their military bases for airstrikes and European countries are arming the Kurds.

But no comprehensive strategy has been worked out yet. And without that, it would be unwise to expand a mission that President Obama has acknowledged 'won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick.'"

Ah, now I understand: You're at your neighbor's Labor Day weekend barbecue, and someone whom you don't know walks up to you and punches you in the nose. Before responding, you should:

  1. Ask permission from your neighbor to respond;
  2. Put together a coalition of others at the party, who are willing to assist you;
  3. Work out a "comprehensive strategy" for retaliation.

Does this make sense to you? It makes even less sense given that Syria no longer exists as a country, i.e. there is no longer anyone to issue an "invitation." More to the point, does the US require an invitation from Syrian madman Bashar al-Assad before striking ISIS?

New York Times editorials are usually less interesting as regards their inane content, and more interesting as a snapshot of what Obama administration officials are thinking. This editorial is a telling reflection of "Lead from behind" and "Don't do stupid shit."

Do you remember the Barbary Pirates? Unless you studied history, probably not, inasmuch as they were before your time. Back in the 1790s, the Barbary Pirates were being bribed not to raid American shipping in the Mediterannean. But then in 1801, Thomas Jefferson got tired of paying tribute and sent American Naval hero Stephan Decatur and the fledgling US Marines to deal with the problem. Hence, the reference to the "shores of Tripoli" in the "Marine's Hymn."

Now, can you imagine Jefferson saying to himself, "Before dealing with these assaults upon American sovereignty, I must first learn more about these miscreants, ask for the assistance of France and Britain, and seek an invitation to attack"? I didn't think so.

Fortunately for America, Jefferson had bigger cojones than golf fanatic Barack Obama, whose world philosophy revolves around avoiding the rough.


  1. As my friend aptly put it, the current administration is "playing" in Syria.

  2. "Barack Obama, whose world philosophy revolves around avoiding the rough"
    Yes, Obama is as qualified to be President as I, a middle age little female who hates gyms, am qualified to be the world's best weight lifter. Sadly, the developments were predictable long before the first elections. In 2007, I, irritated by idiotic promotion of Obama by idiotic NYT, told Frank Rich to get lost and informed the bozo that messianic movements tend to end up tragically. He was silent for a day, apparently looking up the words "messianic" and "tragic."