So far, I’ve only managed to write one letter to my political representatives in rejection of intervention in Syria. That’s unfortunate, because my senator, Robert Menendez (D-NJ), has been one of the most gung-ho supporters of missile strikes in Congress, and I haven’t yet written to him. (I’ve written to him before; his foreign policies views are a mess, and his responses back to me have invariably been of the vacuous pro forma variety.) The one letter I managed to get off was to my Congressman, Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who appears to be on the fence about intervention. Here’s the text of the letter:
Dear Representative Frelinghuysen:
I’m writing to express my absolute rejection of the idea of intervention in Syria. In fact, the intervention has already begun in advance of the president’s desire for missile strikes. And yet so far, not only has the administration not successfully explained why intervention is in our national interest, it doesn’t even seem focused on that issue. The claims it has made on the subject are vague to the point of vacuity. Can we really afford to get embroiled in a war on this basis? It seems imperative in this light that our political representatives vote “no”–an emphatic “no”–on the proposed (further) Syrian intervention.
I write a blog, and I’ve been blogging against Syrian intervention for months: https://instituteforobjectiviststudies.wordpress.com/?s=syria&submit= Please don’t hesitate to contact me for further elaboration.
I’m not particularly satisfied with the way it reads; I dashed it off somewhat hastily in one take on the “Contact” section of Frelinghuysen’s website. I’m a slow writer, and I have an unrealistic tendency to send my political representatives long, over-explanatory letters that I doubt they read, much less comprehend. But this is no time for that: the decision on Syria is imminent, and I basically just wanted Frelinghuysen to know that I stood against intervention. I’ll post his response here when I get it.
In the meantime, one’s heart sinks at the pathetic character of the supposed Congressional “opposition” to intervention, especially on the Democratic side of the aisle. Consider the priorities of this “opposition,” and its approach to political decision-making about matters of life and death:
“There are two major considerations to take into account,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a freshman from New York and member of the Black Caucus. “The prestige of an administration we strongly support versus an open-ended conflict in the Middle East that risks the lives of the people we represent if war were to break out. Not to mention the diversion of resources back into our communities that sorely need it.”
I don’t know what’s worse: that Jeffries’s claim about “prestige” is racially motivated or that it’s motivated by partisan considerations. I almost find it difficult to credit the existence of a mentality that can think this way–a mentality that thinks that prestige is a normative consideration on all fours with “the lives of the people we represent if war were to break out.” What “prestige” can a regime have if its leadership thinks this way? And this is the opposition to the war!
Consider what Jeffries is saying.
Racial interpretation: I am black. The president is black. “Therefore,” the president’s prestige matters a great deal to me; after all, we’re members of the same race. Racial solidarity is a normative consideration I regard as on par with whether or not the risks of war are high or low. Which is it to take precedence: racial solidarity or the lives of the people I represent? I’m not sure, but I’d prima facie be willing to sacrifice lives for the sake of racial solidarity.
Partisan interpretation: I am a Democrat. The president is a Democrat. “Therefore,” the president’s prestige matters a great deal to me: after all, we’re members of the same party. Partisan solidarity is a normative consideration I regard as on par with whether or not the risks of war are high or low. Which is to take precedence: partisan solidarity, or the lives of the people Irepresent? I’m not sure, but I’d prima facie be willing to sacrifice lives for the sake of partisan solidarity.
Arguably, Jeffries’s claim about prestige is a matter of both racial and partisan considerations. Just start either of the preceding paragraphs with: “I am a black Democrat. The president is a black Democrat….” And you can fill in the rest. He’d be willing to sacrifice lives for the sake of racialized partisan solidarity.
We’re dealing here with a political class–to paraphrase Nietzsche–whose “therefores” are self-refutations. It almost seems an exercise in futility trying to reason with these people. But if there’s the possibility of success–the possibility of influencing the outcome of the impending vote–we really don’t have a choice.