Reminder: We’ve Been At War for 15 Years. This is Just a Different One



Image from The Guardian, come on…

This is what I was getting at in today’s first post, when worrying that CBS was trying to reassure its viewers that the only reason Colbert was making fun of the President is that he didn’t know we had struck Syria.

One can see the telltale signs of a media gearing up to make war normal. Flashes of missiles launching through the darkened foreign night, the President huddling with advisors, reading a stern statement with a serious face, maps and graphics across innumerable cable screens, “experts” who just heard of Idlib this week talking about the strategic importance of sending a message.

I ultimately don’t think much will come of this. Trump is too chaotic and unfocused, and too deeply unpopular. I don’t think there will be much flag-wrapping across the country. I don’t think he’s going to grow significantly more popular because of this, except in a very few knee-jerk quarters. In a week, we may forget this even happened (though it did, with real consequences, but I am just talking domestically for this post).

But it is broadly disturbing how quickly the media gets on its own war footing, which not only has the effect of making Trump seem like a normal President, but shows something dark about our character, and about the last 15 years.

We’ve been at war since 2001 in one country or another, and usually several on some level. But most of those go unnoticed. They don’t get the banner treatment or the blaring chyrons. This is different, because it is against a President, which means it is against a real country, which means it is a real war (regardless of how limited). That’s exciting! That’s newsworthy. The rest? Background noise.

It’s really a dual danger. The first danger is that we get so excited to be at a real war, because that is what stirs the American character. It does so in other countries as well, though America seems particularly susceptible, at the same level as, say Russia. The idiot media is a reflection of that. It doesn’t just prime the pump. But the other danger is that war is so entrenched in our story, and so inextricable from the present moment, that it takes something extraordinary to even stir out attention. It’s ingrained now, in ways we haven’t begun to understand. We’ve always been at war, and always will be.

Update: Syria Responds With Another Bombing

From The Guardian:

A warplane on Friday bombed the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun, where a chemical attack killed scores of people this week and prompted US missile strikes, a witness in the rebel-held area and a war monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based organisation that monitors the war, said a Syrian government or Russian warplane hit Khan Sheikhun, in rebel-held Idlib province, before noon local time.

This is what happens when you “send a message”: people want to know just what it meant. Either the Assad government or the Russians (which you can’t 100% seperate) have decided to test whether the US is actually interested in involving themselves in the fight against Assad, or just wanted to send a very limited and ultimately ineffective message. Because the people killed in this strike are no less dead than those killed by chemical weapons.

So, again, are we just saying there is one line that can’t be crossed, and otherwise essentially stepping away from the battlefield? Or are we going to continue to degrade Assad and involve ourselves in Syria’s future? To be honest, I don’t know what is the better course. But nor does Trump.

The US Is Not At War With Syria: Making Sense of the Strikes And The Trump Foreign Policy

An aerial view of the al-Shayrat Airfield near Homs, Syria, 07 October 2016

The airfield targeted by US missiles. You can already tell the press is on War Footing, which is extremely dangerous.

Despite (or, probably, because of) yesterday’s grim swirl of news, we turned on Colbert last night, partly because I wanted to see if he’d pay tribute to the late, great Don Rickles. He did, but only briefly. I guess they didn’t really know each other. But the interesting thing was that, as the show started, CBS ran a little graphic at the bottom that said the show was taped before the US strikes in Syria started.

At first, I thought, well that makes sense. They don’t want people wondering why he isn’t addressing the elephant in the room. But then I wondered if it was something worse. Colbert spent most of the monologue (if not all of it) pointing out the absurdity and horrors of the Trump administration. So, maybe, they were running it because they wanted to shield themselves from criticism that Colbert was making fun of the Commander in Chief while America was at war.

That, I think, is a good way to illustrate the dangers of what is happening, and the questions around the attack. Are we at war with Syria? Are we just “sending a message?” Are we willing to take ownership over what comes next? What does it even mean to be at war with Syria? What does war mean in the age of Trump, and will this be normalized? And what will happen next?

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