It almost feels like 2002 all over again! Foreign policy “experts” like Karl Rove are calling on President Obama to impose “meaningful consequences on the Assad regime.” Jennifer Rubin has declared: “Any pipe dream suggesting a negotiated settlement in which Assad continues to rule any part of Syria is entirely unacceptable.” And liberal hawks have already convinced themselves that “this time it’s different.”
All right according to schedule.
In fairness, while Rubin seems to want regime change, Rove’s group (which does include some foreign policy heavy weights) merely wants (“at minimum”) for Obama “use standoff weapons and airpower to target the Syrian dictatorship’s military units that were involved in the recent large-scale use of chemical weapons.”
I’m much more open to the notion of a punitive strike to send a message about chemical weapons (though who can say where that might lead?) than I am to attempting to oust Assad militarily (for reasons I’ve previously noted.) But this post isn’t about persuading you to support or oppose intervention in Syria. It’s about the perverse pleasure that we get from this run-up to war.
I’ve felt this feeling before. So have you. I was in school during the Desert Storm era, and the media anticipation made it feel sort of like the way it feels when weather forecasters predict a foot of snow will hit. There was an energy in the air. Nobody thought anything bad would happen to us, of course. And it didn’t. But it was something to talk about (and we got to watch some cool CNN coverage.)
Here’s the thing: Even when military action is the right thing to do, we should treat is as a solemn thing. But we seem to treat it more like the anticipation of an upcoming Super Bowl.
This, of course, is sick. But a decade ago, I sensed this same thing. It felt most poignant during the autumn of 2002. This time, of course, things turned out different. Eventually, it wasn’t so exciting. And eventually, many of the same people clamoring for war turned on President George W. Bush.
You can understand why the media gobbles this stuff up. It’s August, and we all need content. As I type this, the MSNBC chyron reads: “SYRIA GOVERNMENT PREPARING DEFENSE FOR ANY U.S. STRIKE.”
For those in the media, this is exciting stuff. Why wouldn’t we want to egg it on?