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Like all people who work in public relations, I enjoy and appreciate the language of euphemism, and my hat is off to the wordsmith who coined the phrase “cosmetic strike,” but it was a true artist who came up with the provision in the Senate Foreign Relations Commitee Resolution, voted in by 10-7, that newly adopted policy must “change the momentum on the battlefield” in Syria.  “Battlefield,” is a picturesque and tidy Victorian notion, and “momentum” is what happens at exciting moments in Notre Dame-Southern Cal football games.  This is, I guess, is what we mean by “realism” in American foreign policy.     

About the Author

Michael O. Garvey works in public relations at the University of Notre Dame.



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While we're at it, could we also mount a crusade (can I use that word these days?) to rid the English language of the meaningless cliché "boots on the ground?" What ground? What boots, and whose are they? If we mean "American ground forces engaged in combat," let's say so; that phrase at least has some precision. What if we send military advisers to Jordan to help train the Free Syrian Army, as some are suggesting? Do we outfit them with tennis shoes to maintain our feel-good pledge that we're not intervening, properly speaking, and that our involvement has a guarantee against expansion?

At present it sounds as if even before any strike has been authorized, "mission creep" is already setting in, and there seems more and more talk about bringing Assad down, or at least "degrading" him so that he can no longer continue. Then what? Who goes in to rebuild Syria? Is that when American boots have to go on the ground?

The classic book on military euphemisms and military b.s. in general is The Great War and Modern Memory, by Paul Fussell.

Interesting picture on the front page of the NYT this morning of Syrian rebels about to execute soldiers.

(Which side are we on?)

The people who want to go to war often bring up WWII and the Shoah, but there are many big differences. For one, then the Jewish people in Europe were ardently hoping the US would intervene. Now, the Christians in Syria, potential victims of further violence, are unanimously hoping that the US does *not* intervene.

Given the record of US intelligence and officials in lying to the media about what they "know" and the situation on the ground, I will go with the locals.


Someone pointed out that there are some countries in which there are factions who hate each other so much that there will be constant internal warring unless there is a strongman such as Assad who keeps the lid on by using even greater brutality than the factions use against each other.

Surely there must be some other sort of solution.  But how do you get people to stop hating each other?


As old as Cain and Able. It does seem like a strong leader is required to consolidate factions. Muhammed was able to consolidate the disparate tribes into a single grouping through religious adherence and submission to the will of God. It sounds good in theory and, Muhammed did actually have a lot of success. Yet, shortly after his death religious lines within Islam formed (e.g. Sunni/Shia/Sufi to a lesser extent) making a universal dar al Islam a far away dream even assuming that Muslims converted most of the world. Before you know it Sunni's would be accusing Shia of being infidels and vice versa.

Even among my slavic ancestors on father's side, Serbia and Croatia have long standing enmity and it was only under Tito that Yugoslavia was able to be united. After his death, it disintegrated.

Ironically, for all the demonizing of Sadaam Hussein, who was indeed corrupt in many ways, he was able to govern over an area in which Roman Catholics, Copts, and Muslims co-existed as they have for millenia.

Political leadership is a charism and we see that there are few examples of leadership capable of bringing factions together in democratic or other kinds of societies.


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