The Best Of The Dish Today

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 2 2014 @ 9:15pm

At a speech the other night, I was asked a direct question: “Are you an isolationist?” I’ve never been asked that question before and I found myself wanting to say yes, just to stir shit up. But in a moment of restraint, I did say yes in the current case, but not always. I’m against isolationism if there is something we can do that actually works. But no amount of moral outrage at outright evil makes any sense if there’s nothing we can really do to stop it. Or indeed if our intervention will actually make things worse. As it has in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Readers have asked me what I would do if I were president in this case. My answer is nothing. I would tell the country that this is a consequence of the Iraq War, and that if we could not really quell a Sunni insurgency with a hundred thousands troops on the ground for nearly a decade, then air-strikes are not going to do a thing now. I’d insist that the neighboring Sunni states will have to deal with this themselves – or allow Iran to handle it. If a regional Sunni-Shi’a war is the result, we can always hope that both sides will lose. Invading Iraq was not Obama’s responsibility; his responsibility was to get us out and to stay out. Once Syria’s WMDs had been taken out of the country, it would be a regional conflagration – like the Syrian civil war that has already cost 200,000 lives, or the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Yes, we should tighten our defenses; yes, we should deal firmly with any Americans who are going to fight there; yes, we should perhaps intervene from a distance if one side seemed to be gaining the upper hand too much. (Our real interest is in bolstering the one stable power in the region, which is Iran.) But basically: leave these insane, foul, sectarian conflagrations to those who fight them. Above all, do not make this a war between Islam and the West. Let it be what it is: a war of Islam against itself.

The alternative was outlined by George W Bush today. His view is that we should be patient and baby-sit “Iraqi” “democracy” for an indefinite period of time with residual troops. We are now doing that in Afghanistan. The alternative, in other words, is an endless pseudo-empire in failed states to achieve “democracy” where such a thing makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s a form of welfare with no cut-off, creating hatred for the US and thereby anti-Western terror for the foreseeable future and beyond.

We elected Obama precisely to be calm and sane enough to be able to resist what he has now done. He betrayed us. His policy, such as it is, is utterly incoherent and as free from any sane fiscal footing as his predecessor’s. He has launched a war against an entity that even the CIA says poses no threat to the US. And his party will be eviscerated in the coming November elections as a result. If you voted twice for Obama to end these unwinnable, bankrupting, open-ended wars, why on earth would you vote Democrat to enable another one? Yes, the polls show support for the new war right now. But just watch. The easy part is over. The civilian casualties will mount, ISIS and al Qaeda are uniting again, the narrative of Islam against the West is back in the foreground, the completely farcical idea of arming “moderate Syrians” will go nowhere, and the terror risk at home will escalate. There will be no victories. Except for the Republicans.

Today, I took note of how Fox News is seizing on the politics of fear that Obama has now legitimized; we reviewed Marilynne Robinson’s latest installment in her stunning Gilead trilogy; we noted how Hobby Lobby is beginning to prove Ruth Bader Ginsburg right; and noted how our only real allies in Syria now hate us. Plus: more on spanking. And a cat that loves being vacuumed.

Many of today’s posts were updated with your emails – read them all here.  You can always leave your unfiltered comments at our Facebook page and @sullydish. Another reader quotes me regarding what’s quickly becoming our email of the month – a first-person account of child abuse:

“What has long struck me about this almost unique aspect of the Dish is not just the fact that readers feel safe to write us, knowing that their identities will be absolutely confidential, but that the quality of the writing is so high.” I have no doubt that your readership is smarter than the average publication’s (and we’re all damned good-looking, too). But my hunch is that your decision not to have an open comments section also drives up the quality of the emails you get. Every smart email you publish sets the bar that much higher for the rest of us. We know there’s no point in emailing you something half-assed, so we write, rewrite, edit, and re-edit our emails.

And then we throw in a line praising (or trashing) the Pet Shop Boys before we hit send.

What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?

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See you in the morning.