Dead Children As Talking Points

Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau makes an emotionally-charged case for military action:

I don’t like war, or the risks that accompany even the most limited conflicts. But I cannot un-see the images played on CNN over the weekend of little children gasping for their last breath while an invisible poison destroys their nervous system. The world is a messy, complicated place, and I know we don’t always have the ability, or frankly the will, to stop bad things from happening everywhere, all the time.

But years from now, when the history is written about the time a madman gassed hundreds of children while the whole world watched in horror, I want to be able to tell my own kids that I was part of a country that did something about it; that we acted to save more innocents from this special kind of horror, in Syria and in other places where such evil is contemplated.

Obama has also cited the deaths of children on countless occasions – and I don’t doubt it’s informed by a father’s instinctual anguish and recoil. I do not doubt the sincerity of this feeling, or the rightness of it. We just have a duty not to let our frontal cortexes be flooded with that kind of non-negotiable. It was exactly these kinds of absolutes – the torture of children under Saddam, for example – that replaced calm thinking in 2003.

And in the end, far, far more children died because of the US invasion than would have happened in most feasible alternative scenarios. Garance sees the same emotionally blackmailing rhetoric in speeches by Susan Rice (see above) and Samantha Powers:

Either U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice have been working from a script or the two foreign-policy pros, both mothers, share a remarkable affinity for making similar points in the same way, as evidenced by their vivid descriptions of gassed Syrian children during recent speeches making the administration’s case for congressional authorization to use force against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

As the administration finds that its other messages are, to be kind, not breaking through, its top female national security officials have been making the case that it’s about the kids. They know that it is impossible to look at the pictures of fat babies and adorable toddlers wrapped for burial in late August and not be horrified — not if you have an ounce of humanity. But the question has never been that there was an atrocity committed; the debate has been what to do in response to it.