Long time readers will know that one of my political obsessions lies in the difference between “is” and “ought.” Contemporary politics is obsessed with “ought,” but politics, being a discourse of power, is about “is.” Contemporary liberals are obsessed with ought, to their detriment – see “it shouldn’t be the job of the oppressed to educate the oppressors,” which puts “ought” before “is” in a uniquely destructive way. But so are contemporary conservatives, such as in their distaste for leftists pointing out that 9/11 was in large part a response to American aggression in the Muslim world. That is not a normative statement, not a statement of justification. It is an empirical statement, a statement of analysis. Intervention by great powers in foreign conflicts prompts terrorism against those powers. I’m not saying that’s good. I’m saying it’s true.
I have been accused, since I wrote this piece in Current Affairs, of being part of the “pro-Assad left,” and of saying that I don’t recognize that NATO already is intervening in Syria. But I do recognize that, and am opposed to our bombings, and am opposed to Russia’s intervention as well. It’s simply that, as a member of the American democracy, my first responsibility is naturally with the conduct of my own country. What we might observe, if we’re in the mood to be wise, is that the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey as a reprisal for Russian intervention on behalf of Assad was an entirely predictable outcome. Not good. Not moral. Not justified. Just predictable, inevitable, natural.
Intervening in foreign conflicts leads naturally to terrorism against the intervening party. And if we deepen our interventions in foreign affairs, chickens will keep coming home to roost for us, again and again, forever.