Bill Keller’s piece in The New York Times yesterday got a lot of attention, and for all the right reasons. The absurdity of the piece wasn’t lost on most people: Keller lays out how terribly wrong he was for supporting the Bush administration’s war of choice in Iraq, and is now asking readers not to collapse in laughter as he speaks with an air of authority on why we should invade, or at least bomb, Syria.
Keller explains that “at the outset of the Iraq invasion, I found myself a reluctant hawk. That turned out to be a humbling error of judgment, and it left me gun-shy.” How harrowing the experience must have been for you, Bill – using your position as an opinion-shaper at the most widely read newspaper in the country to cheerlead an illegal war that destroyed an entire country, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and cost trillions of dollars.
Still, Keller wants you to know he thinks we’ve over-learned the lessons of Iraq: “But in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism, and our caution has been the father of missed opportunities, diminished credibility and enlarged tragedy.”
He then takes us through all “the ways it is not Iraq,” and what follows is a dubious motley of pro-war arguments. Some of them are just flat out delusional, like his first one:
“First, we have a genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one. A failed Syria creates another haven for terrorists, a danger to neighbors who are all American allies, and the threat of metastasizing Sunni-Shiite sectarian war across a volatile and vital region.”
Keller’s too blinded by his own warmongering to realize that it’s been our limited interventions that has made his scenario a reality, not the other way around. The rebels, many of them jihadists, received arms and support from dogmatic religious dictators in Riyadh and Doha (with CIA help) from very early on. The Sunni-Shiite sectarian war has already metastasized thanks to foreign meddling.
Despite all the wishful thinking from Keller, every option for intervention, from no-fly zones to invasion, carries terrible consequences for Syrians and Americans. But beyond that, what he and his establishment brethren can’t overcome is this idea that America has either the right or the responsibility to police the world and make civil wars our own wars. They are infused with the propagandistic notion that America is “the indispensable nation,” the moral actor on the international stage. And they are once again putting those delusions to use by rallying for another illegal, elective, protracted conflict in the Middle East that is bound to worsen the humanitarian situation and carry grave costs in blood and treasure.