To bomb or not to bomb?

A visitor from outer space might survey the current international scene and report back:

Question: how would you describe the USA? What does it do?

Answer: Well, it bombs. When another country provokes it, it drops bombs on it. That’s what they do.

Unfortunately this caricature isn’t just from outer space. It is becoming accepted in many parts of the world. The land of liberty, the land of the bold and the free? The land of opportunity, where any man or woman in the Old World who wants to unshackle the bonds he was born with can come and forge a new life? Well, that’s old hat, passé. America is the country that drops bombs. That’s what they’re good at. That’s what they’re for.

There is a simple answer to the simpletons in our Congress and other asylums inside and outside the beltway, who have fallen into this pugnacious mindset: just ponder the truism that a threat ceases to be a threat when it is carried out. So carry a big stick, John and Lindsey and the rest of your ilk, but try, please, to walk softly for a change.

Maybe if we made more of a habit of not bombing, we would discover that just having this capacity to bomb and not actually using it gives us more clout than we get from using it all the time. Just busting up the infrastructure is usually not the best way to influence other nations. More talk and less action is what’s needed.

I hope that we are working very quietly with Russia and Iran and other interested parties to persuade Assad to support a liberalization and restructuring of his regime that would get us all on more or less the same page for once. It is not impossible; much the same process last year persuaded Assad to give up his poison gas. It wasn’t our bombs that persuaded him, although the threat to use them did lend cogency and urgency to our other arguments.

Now that we are actually bombing Assad’s enemies, we may have discovered a new way of pressuring him: threaten him that we shall stop bombing ISIS if he doesn’t play ball.

This could open up a whole new chapter in how national power can be applied on the international scene. I do not, however, recommend that we go there. The world is messed up enough as it is.

Carl Coon
9/29/14

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