'What I Am Opposed to Is a Dumb War'

Here's a shorter version of the latest long Syria post.

"What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by [officials] to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne."

This was of course then-State Senator Barack Obama in the fall of 2002, in the speech that ultimately made him president since it allowed him to claim that he had shown better foreign-policy judgment than the far more experienced Hillary Clinton. 

Obviously the situations of Iraq and Syria differ in a hundred ways, including the cynicism factor that young Obama rightly complained about. But, to distill the previous very long post, President Obama seems inexplicably to be positioning himself for a dumb war. A war with the highest moral aims -- saving innocents, pushing evil-doers, reinforcing a "norm" -- but with no backing from our major allies, no attainable strategic goals, no evident support from the U.S. public, and no apparent attempt to make Congress share responsibility for whatever the consequences turn out to be. 

What I am opposed to is a dumb war.

 

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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