Why the Death Count in Syria Actually Doesn’t ‘Count’

Civilian deaths only count when as a pretext for ‘intervention’

In July 2012, Senator John McCain argued the US’s unwillingness to intervene militarily in Syria to stop a humanitarian catastrophe was “shameful and disgraceful,” because it has allowed Bashar al-Assad “to massacre and slaughter people and stay in power.” Last month, he called on the US to “lead an international effort” to conduct “airstrikes on Assad’s forces.”

“The Assad regime has spilled too much blood to stay in power,” McCain insists.

McCain’s interventionist allies in Congress have been making similar pleas in Washington to initiate military action to stem the Assad regime’s violent crackdown on an armed rebellion. Hawks in the media, like Max Boot and Jackson Diehl, have just this week argued that 70,000 dead – according to a United Nations estimate – is too much not to intervene.

I’ve written ad nauseam and in detail about how disastrous direct US military intervention in Syria would be. Everything from directly arming the rebels to imposing a no-fly zone to sending boots on the ground to topple the Assad regime – all of it carries the predictable consequence of making the humanitarian situationunimaginably worse, which is ironic for war hawks who justify intervention on humanitarian grounds.

But we can expose the weak and even dishonest case for military action in Syria in a much simpler way: by analogy.

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