The man in the White House came to prominence, at least in part, because almost alone among prominent Democrats, his gut reaction to Dick Cheney’s Iraq adventure was that it was a “dumb war.”
Apparently there is something in the water in Washington that makes Presidents think that repeating dumb actions over and over will eventually produce a different result. Although the Arab League, the United Nations, and now the Brits have said “no” to launching an air attack on Bashir al-Assad’s Syria in response to chemical atrocities, President Obama seems bent on going forward, just the U.S. military alone, on his say-so without even a Congressional vote.
The Presidential fantasy that there’s a way to achieve the impossible on the cheap through the air is not new. According to Lynne Olson in Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 Franklin Roosevelt pioneered a variant in the 1930s:
Air Force generals and the companies that live off building bombers and missiles always advertise that this time they’ve come up with a sure weapon that will impose their user’s will without cost. But events have never proved to be so simple and smart leaders should know that by now. In the great world war in which FDR led the United States, it wasn’t air power that triumphed over Hitler and Imperial Japan. Defeating these brutal expansionist powers took massive armies, ours and our allies.
Now that his likely partners have backed off, couldn’t the intelligent man in the White House come to his senses? Okay, so he made a dumb remark about a “red line” against the use of Syria’s chemical weapons. But sending in the bombers and missiles is no less dumb.
Simon Jenkins, reporting the British debate for the Guardian writes:
There is something the United States could do that might help the suffering people of Syria: commit real resources to aiding both the refugees from that awful civil war and the neighboring states that have taken them in. That would be a smart response to ghastly horrors.
Do we always have to be dumb? Not to mention murderous?