Believe it or not, the often admirable Nicholas Kristof in new column today at the New York Times is still calling for bombing Syria.
In today’s column (in a separate note he reveals it was written as the deal to get rid of Assad’s chemical arsenal was just about wrapped up), Kristof makes this weak argument, among other weak ones: “A missile strike on Syrian military targets would result in no supplemental budget, so money would come from the existing military pot. In any case, the cost of 100 missiles would be about $70 million—far less than the $1 billion annual rate that we’re now spending on humanitarian aid for Syrians displaced by worsening war and by gas attacks.
“If a $70 million strike deters further gas attacks and reduces the ability of President Bashar al-Assad to bomb civilians, that might actually save us money in humanitarian spending.”
Also notice how he is charging Assad with “presiding over” deaths of 100,000, even though most counts claim the rebels have slain up to half that number. Artful. And he admits “some” of the rebels “are vile.” Maybe three or four, you know.
Finally, he dishonestly ignores the fact that if Obama had followed his call last week (and that of his colleague, Bill Keller) and started firing cruise missiles, we would have already no doubt killed an untold number of innocent Syrians. Also we would not have the current agreement to get rid of all of Syria’s chemical agents (gained without bloodshed)—which our bombing would not have come close to accomplishing.
Also, this agreement will, if carried out, eliminate the chance of those weapons falling into Al Qaeda hands. In addition, there will now be no Assad retaliatory strikes and our bombs will not inflame much of the rest of the Muslim world against us. Apparently these are rather small matters, in Kristof's view.
In a tweet on Friday, Kristof crowed that the “threat” of bombing that he backed was working and this produced the Syria/Russia offer. Fair enough, except if Obama had actually gone ahead with the bombing already, as Kristof wished, there would have been no such offer.
Kristof argues that we simply must oppose "mass atrocities" and crossing red lines in the use of inhumane weapons—yet in an earlier column he supported the use of atomic bombs against Japan, killing at least 120,000 women and children and 70,000 others (and see on that subject my book here). Kristof’s hero Nelson Mandela famously pointed out how the US still suffers—around the world—from the stain of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Most of the rest of the world remembers that, even if most Americans ignore it, or support the crime.
By the way, Bill Keller in his latest hawkish column declared that he'd eat his hat if the current agreement on chemical weapons also led to serious talks on cooling down the civil war in Syria. I've got the salt and pepper or hot sauce ready.