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After Iraq, media skepticism on Syria

August 30, 2013

By Dylan Byers

A slew of columnists and pundits have stressed the risks of U.S. intervention. | AP Photo Read more:

A slew of columnists and pundits have stressed the risks of U.S. intervention. | AP Photo
Read more:

For a moment, it looked like the media were going to follow quietly along as America bombed Syria.

But then the Iraq War — the bad intelligence, the disastrous fallout, the regret — stretched its shadow over the span of 10 long years, and the press sprung into action.

Now, pundits and thought leaders from across the political spectrum, many of whom were beating the war drums in 2003, are urging caution, calling for evidence and demanding a plan.

On Thursday, The New York Times editorial board, which had initially endorsed a limited strike, said the Obama administration “has yet to make a convincing legal or strategic case for military action against Syria.” The Washington Post editorial page likewise called on Obama to consult Congress before ordering a military strike and warned, “Unless linked to a broader strategy for weakening the Assad regime — and forcing it either out of power or into real negotiations — the use of force might prove worse than useless.”

These boards join a slew of columnists and pundits — anti-intervention liberals, isolationist libertarians, war-weary ex-hawks and even leading right-wing media pundits — who all have stressed the risks of U.S. intervention and, in some cases, advocated against any military engagement in Syria whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the pro-intervention coalition of liberal hawks and neocons that had a sympathetic audience before the Iraq War is now feeling marginalized. Though strong in number and powerful in influence, their arguments for direct military strikes against the Assad regime are being drowned out by the chorus of caution.

“Iraq is a giant wound that continues to bleed and haunt people and make them afraid of making a mistake or being on the wrong side of history,” George Packer, the New Yorker staff writer who supported the Iraq war but is now wary of America’s Syria strategy, told POLITICO.

“The foreign policy consensus among Republicans, which used to be very neat and sturdy, has blown up,” added Leon Wieseltier, the New Republic literary editor, who also backed the Iraq War and supports an aggressive attack on Syria. “There is much less patience for interventionism.”

After Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday denounced Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people as “a moral obscenity,” the media saw a military strike as a foregone conclusion and began counting down the hours and figuring out which military assets would be put into play.

Kerry’s speech offered “the clearest indication yet that the Obama administration is preparing to attack President Bashar al-Assad’s regime,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more in Politico.


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