Attempts to understand the potential U.S.-led military strike in Syria have made amateur historians of us all. The events in Syria are specific to Syria, but that hasn't kept journalists from comparing other wars to Syria as a source of reference. George Packer criticized some of these comparisons in a debate with himself in The New Yorker on Thursday: "That’s the problem with these arguments. Iraq! Vietnam! Valley Forge! Agincourt! People resort to analogies so they don’t have to think about the matter at hand."
Well let's think about the matter at hand and look at some of these analogies. After inspection, it turns out Syria is exactly like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo, and World War I. But it's also absolutely nothing like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Kosovo, and World War I. So there you go.
Why Syria is just like Iraq:
The comparisons of Iraq to Syria are numerous, and they are universally used as an example of why not to intervene. Former military men like Navy veteran Jack Camwell are particularly fond of this point, in the negative sense, as Camwell write explains:
It seems like 2003 all over again. A despotic Middle Eastern regime is accused of using chemical weapons on its own people, and the White House is mulling military action. How many times must America go down this road?
It's not just war-weary Americans making this point. Though obviously from a different perspective, Russia's foreign minister argued along similar lines to Camwell in his criticism of the potential attack:
The situation “brings to mind the events of 10 years ago, when, on the pretext of false information about the Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction, the United States outside the U.N. went on an adventure, the consequences of which are well known."
These two sources — a military veteran and a Russian diplomat — presumably make up two very different sides of the American foreign policy spectrum. Yet both use Iraq-Syria comparisons. They must be correct then, right?