Most Read: Opinions

Tom Toles
Posted at 07:15 AM ET, 09/06/2013

Friday Rant: Hello Ambiguity! Edition

I’ll tell you what red line got crossed in recent global affairs. Americans crossed into maturity. Not maturity, exactly, but the zone thereof.

Chemical weapons and the response to their use is as clear-cut as it gets. Or is it? Suddenly very few are so certain. Chemical use bad. Horrifying deaths. Of innocents. Children. Doesn’t get much worse. Must act, right? But after, what, 200 years of right/wrong Manichean thinking, a sloppy 21stCentury of getting our heads battered about in complicated foreign situations has suddenly made us grow up about actions and consequences.

The Vietnam War gave us a foretaste, and we didn’t like it one bit and have been trying to wash it out ever since. Grenada had a certain minty freshness to it! And then when the Soviet Union vanished in a cloud of its own dust, apparently in response to Ronald Reagan making a stern speech or two, well, we were right back in the saddle of our high horse again!

And for desert? How about a cakewalk in Iraq? And nothing has gone simply since. Now it’s how many innocents will get killed if we strike Syria? How will it diminish or deter Syria’s chemical weapons capacity? Who will end up with those weapons if Assad falls? What will they do with them? How will Assad respond? Will the net number of deaths be higher or lower? Or is that a gross question? Will this lead to further involvement by the US? To what end? Or endlessness? Who ARE the good guys in Syria, anyway? Is there ANY realistic prospect of there being enough of them to sew a functioning state back together? How does partition look, other than complicated? How many dollars is all of this actually worth, anyway?

Actually, the real reason this issue is complicating American politics is that it is a Democratic president who’s proposing military action, though too little, or too much, and an opposing party inclined to disagree with him even when he proposes something they would have, or did, suggest themselves. But this is where Crazypolitic loops all the way around to become Realpolitic, and here we are, chin-pulling realists all. In any case, The Simple Answer, our traditional favorite, is suddenly nowhere to be found. Welcome to adulthood.

By  |  07:15 AM ET, 09/06/2013

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company