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John McCain getting ripped a new one by his constituents over Syria
(Photo courtesy of Salon.com)

To whatever extent one can get involved in a debate on Facebook, I was recently involved in one over Syria.  And my interlocutor used this analogy with regard to Syria (the “bullies” analogy, which I personally like in general):

Respond to a thug with a written list of grievances, and all you get is more thuggery; knock him upside the head with a bat, and you’ve got his attention.

The problem with that analogy is this:  If you are standing there watching a thug beat on someone, and you jump in and knock him upside the head with a bat, what’s the most likely outcome?  I think it’s obvious:

The thug will stop beating on his current victim and turn on you instead.  Or maybe the thug’s friends will jump you, having decided you’re a pushy busy-body and a bully your own self, and feel a need to protect their friend.

The analogy here is pretty clear:  Assad is a thug, and he’s beating on his own people.  And if we whap him upside the head, he’s going to either turn on us, or his friends (or the various American-hating terrorists around the world) are going to decide we’re being a bunch of bullies again ourselves and jump us.  And given our behavior in the last, oh, say 60 years, I think they have a strong case, don’t you?

And the case of Syria is even worse, right?  Because this is a case of us arriving at a scene late in the game, and we look down, and we see someone writhing on the ground and the bully standing over them.  A bunch of people in the crowd are yelling, “That bully tear-gassed that poor person!”  Yeah, maybe, but do you wade into the bully based solely on the say-so of a bunch of bystanders?  What do you do?

Let’s go ahead and push this analogy as far as we can:  What’s the “right” thing to do?  Well, it’s obvious:  You see someone getting beat on, you don’t jump in yourself, you call the police.  You ask for help.  In this case, the “police” are the UN weapons inspectors.  Let’s let them examine the victim and say, “Yeah, okay; he was tear-gassed all right.”  Then we get to decide if we play the role of police, or if we ask the world (again) for help, or what we do.  But to just wade in there with our baseball bat, without all the facts, when we weren’t even the ones being beat on, strikes me as reckless and foolish.  And let’s face it, folks:  We’ve done it before, and when has that ever turned out well?

(And before you say, “Kosovo”, let me point out:  The Europeans wanted us to fix the situation in Kosovo; they were too weenyish to do it themselves.  This time, all the folks involved don’t want us to butt in.  What does that tell you?)