It’s rare that I find a news article equal parts infuriating and confusing. I want to deeply examine this article from today’s New York Times. Ideally, I wish I could sit down with the author of the piece, the key players quoted, the key players not quoted, eminent historians, etc, and really dig into it. But you, loyal readers, will have to suffice.

In some of the most aggressive language used yet by the administration, Mr. Kerry accused the Syrian government of the “indiscriminate slaughter of civilians” and of cynical efforts to cover up its responsibility for a “cowardly crime.”

Unlike the US government, which conducts discriminating murder of medical professionals and funerals. And unlike the US government, which always immediately and honestly owns up to any wrong-doing (more info).

Administration officials said that although President Obama had not made a final decision on military action, he was likely to order a limited military operation — cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea at military targets in Syria, for example — and not a sustained air campaign intended to topple Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, or to fundamentally alter the nature of the conflict on the ground.

I don’t understand this at all. What is the purpose of military intervention if not to “alter the nature of the conflict”? What is the goal of this? How will launching a few missiles achieve that goal? I’m reminded of the “politician’s syllogism”:

  • Premise: We need to do something.
  • Premise: This is something.
  • Conclusion: We need to do this.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but when the Secretary of State lays out a plan for launching missiles to kill people, I like to hear a rationale for why it’s the right way to solve the problem.

In the coming days, officials said, the nation’s intelligence agencies will disclose information to bolster their case that chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad’s forces. The information could include so-called signals intelligence — intercepted radio or telephone calls between Syrian military commanders.

Announcing that “evidence is forthcoming” is one of the most bullshit PR war-mongering techniques in the playbook, but it works. It provides instant support for the case, but if the evidence turns out to be weak or nonexistent, you don’t just undo the effect of promising evidence. If the evidence is weak, no one will care; if the evidence is never released, no one will notice.

In a move that reflected its differences with the Kremlin over a possible American-led military operation against Syria, the Obama administration has decided to postpone a coming meeting with the Russians on the crisis.

This, I don’t understand at all. What is the harm in meeting with the Russians? Are we scared they are going to to talk us out of it?

“Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Mr. Kerry said.

Three points here. First, the US government not exactly famous recently for openness and transparency. Second, how does/would the US react to the UN investigating war crimes during our wars? Third, I don’t even need any of that evidence to show how ridiculous this is as a “serious allegation”.

Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, cut short a vacation to deal with Syria, and the foreign ministers of Britain and Turkey suggested that bypassing the United Nations Security Council was an option.

The UN is convenient for us sometimes, but the amount of cynicism here is staggering.


Anyway, I could keep going but the title of this post says it all. I’ve ended this exercise with more questions than ever, and now I’m discouraged instead of angry. Is that progress?

Dear friends/readers, please point out egregious lapses in logic, factual inaccuracies, etc in the comments.

(EDIT: Your prize for reading all the way to the end, similar points made better.)