Foreign and Defense Policy

George Will, Syria, and the dead columnists society

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

In George Will’s column today in the Washington Post (“Obama is Right on Syria”), Will references an essay in the most recent issue of the American Interest by Owen Harries and Tom Switzer (“Leading from Behind: Third Time a Charm?”) and notes positively their claim that “Obama understands the ‘most important sentence ever written about American foreign policy’” — Walter Lippmann’s statement: “Without the controlling principle that the nation must maintain its objectives and its power in equilibrium, its purposes within its means and its means equal to its purposes, its commitments related to its resources and its resources adequate to its commitments, it is impossible to think at all about foreign affairs.”

A truism, if there ever was one. However, Lippmann’s formula doesn’t answer the question of whether an intervention in Syria is beyond America’s means and what the costs and strategic benefits might be for intervening. Those are serious issues which Will’s erudite but facile column never addresses.

Also, it’s certainly odd to cite Lippmann, who penned this sentence in 1943 and who went on to argue that the US was making a monumental mistake by adopting a policy of containment toward the Soviet Union. If there ever was a wrong-headed assessment of what the US should and could do when facing the threat posed by the Soviets, it was Lippmann’s.

Whether to intervene in Syria and how to do so are, again, matters of judgment, principle, and prudence. But neither Will, nor Harries and Switzer, make their case any stronger by pulling out a 70-year old quote from another wrong-headed columnist.

3 thoughts on “George Will, Syria, and the dead columnists society

  1. I think the more salient point that Mr. Will has been making is that it’s probably not a good idea to get involved in situations where ALL the outcomes are bad. To paraphrase Robert Morley in Those Magnificent Men . . , the trouble with these Middle Eastern countries is that they are populated by Muslims, most of whom seem hell-bent on trying to return to the eighth century, or being ruled by thugs.
    I can send a cleaning crew into a crack house, but a few weeks after they leave it will look like a crack house again.
    Intervening in Syria is not beyond our means, but changing the character of the Middle East is. Syria would end up either being ruled by another thug or an Islamist mob.

  2. I completely agree with SeattleSam. As with the fiasco in Yugoslavia, if the locals (such as Saudi Arabia) don’t think intervention is worth the problems it would cause, the US has no interest blundering into Syria. All the hype about intervening to “stop the killing” is nonsense. It’s a civil war. People get killed in civil wars. How many pro-Assad civilians have been murdered by the rebels?

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