So, my government just bombed people on the other side of the planet because their government did something terribly bad. For the life of me, I can’t figure out the legal basis for bombing a country that’s done evil things to its own citizens in its own civil war. But I can see the political and even the moral imperative.
The political is easy. Unpopular US presidents almost always bomb someone. It’s a guaranteed instant uptick in their poll ratings. It distracts from things needing distracting from. And let’s face it, Americans like a strong leader and killing people in far off countries is about as strong a display of petulant manhood as modern life allows.
As for the moral imperative, it seems to be this: bad people have to be punished for doing bad things. And we’re just the ones to punish them. More nuanced, it goes like this: We have to kill Syrian people to punish the Syrian government for killing other Syrian people in the wrong way. There is a right and a wrong way to end the lives of strangers, and it’s our job to demonstrate the right way. If the Syrian government is confused, they need only look at our recent correctly carried out massacre of civilians in Mosul. We killed far more families than did Assad’s regime in their chemical attack, but we did it the proper way and we said “oops” afterwards. I’m sure that makes a big difference to the orphans and other survivors.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Clinton would have reacted the same way as Trump, only she would have bombed a few more airports. Seems like I’ve been writing about this exact same issue for years: