How not to argue against war

children killed in ghouta
Two recent articles I’d like to bring to readers’ attention. The first is my debut article for Al Jazeera America in which I write about the misuse of the Iraq analogy:

Of the many lessons Iraq taught, only two are fundamental: one must not hype threats that don’t exist, and one must not introduce war where there is none. The former diminishes public trust; the latter creates human suffering it is supposed to prevent. Neither is applicable to Syria. The regime has shown both the capability and the willingness to deploy proscribed weapons, and Syria is already at war.

In yesterday’s frontpage article for The New Republic I write that in their justifiable concern over (the highly improbable) military intervention in Syria, some opponents of the policy (or Obama) have crossed the line into victim-blaming.

There are perfectly good arguments for opposing military intervention—and some have been made persuasively, on moral or national interest grounds. There are also good reasons to be skeptical of humanitarian conceits that might be used to justify intervention. But there is more than a fine line between skepticism and cynicism—and not even the otherwise noble concern with preventing war, or the less-noble determination to oppose a president regardless of policy, justifies excusing the Assad regime’s well-documented crimes. While war must always be an option of last resort, and it is right to be concerned about its unforeseen consequences (as long as one is mindful that inaction too has consequences), the national debate over whether to wage it in Syria is not helped by spreading ideologically driven lies.

My argument that the relevant analogy is not Iraq but Bosnia has also been echoed by Rory Stewart in what I consider the most sensible article written by a non-Syrian on the subject so far.

As regards the regime’s use of chemical weapons in last month’s massacre, those who think the jury’s still out might want to read Human Rights Watch’s detailed analysis of the regime’s culpability which was already well established by respected independent munitions experts like Eliot Higgins. As regards the regime’s motivations for using CW, check out Kim Sengupta’s stellar report on developments in Ghouta before and after the attack.

Author: Idrees Ahmad

I am a Lecturer in Digital Journalism at the University of Stirling and a former research fellow at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies. I am the author of The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War (Edinburgh University Press, 2014). I write for The Observer, The Nation, The Daily Beast, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Al Jazeera, Dissent, The National, VICE News, Huffington Post, In These Times, Le Monde Diplomatique, Die Tageszeitung (TAZ), Adbusters, Guernica, London Review of Books (Blog), The New Arab, Bella Caledonia, Asia Times, IPS News, Medium, Political Insight, The Drouth, Canadian Dimension, Tanqeed, Variant, etc. I have appeared as an on-air analyst on Al Jazeera, the BBC, TRT World, RAI TV, Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, Alternative Radio with David Barsamian and several Pacifica Radio channels.

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