The old saw is that a conservative is somebody whose been mugged, while a liberal is somebody whose been arrested.
A recent Daily Caller article is a troubling. A source close to but not part of the Iranian government says that if the US bombs Syria, Iran will respond by kidnapping, torturing and killing family members and children of officers, ambassadors, and cabinet members. The source singles out Sasha Obama for special treatment. The article cites a prior example--that of William Buckley, a CIA station chief. They could have mentioned journalist Daniel Pearl, or author Salman Rushdie. The latter, while not killed, has been forced to spend decades in hiding, a fate that could ruin Sasha's life even if she escapes the terrorists.
So this is turning Mr. Obama into a conservative--he's being mugged. He came in to office with the wrong-headed but sincerely-held assumption that if you sit down and talk to world leaders like civilized people, then problems can be solved. That's the way they do it in Chicago. Yes, even the Chicago Outfit had an ironclad rule against harming family members--and a similar prohibition against shooting cops.
But Iran does not play by the Marquis of Queensberry rules. Perhaps their leaders are a bunch of psychopaths. Or perhaps they perceive the stakes as existential and thus worth any cost. Either way, they are resorting to 7th Century tactics in response to America's 21st Century armaments. And, in the short term at least, I predict they will be successful.
I think Mr. Obama will back off the Syria attack anyway, especially if he loses the vote in Congress. He's a wimp. He has no support for his plan from any other corner. It was a crappy idea to begin with. The US has no dog in the fight--we don't care who wins, and indeed, we're best served if both sides lose.
But if he has more backbone than I give him credit for, then the threat against his daughter should talk him out of it. Is there any strategic goal in Syria that is worth sacrificing his daughter's life? I don't think so, and she's not even my daughter. A president has to know when to hold them and fold them. Now's a good time to fold. We can find a more propitious battlefield to confront Iran if we need to.
But let's imagine that Obama attacks Syria and Iran carries out it's threat. While I think the threat serves Iran's interests, carrying it out makes for a whole new ball game. Then it becomes personal--not just between Obama and the mullahs, but between Americans and Iranians. After that, we won't be discussing Arab Springs or human rights. It will come down to revenge, pure and simple. Our bombs are bigger than their bombs.
Both Presidents Bush and Obama have worked very hard to avoid casting us into a war against Islam, and for good reason. Sometimes this has been comical, such as in the media's initial refusal to identify Hasan Nidal (the Fort Hood killer) as a Jihadi. (He was originally portrayed as just another nut case.) Similarly, we are in a "war on terrorism" rather than against any ideology or religion. Never mind that doesn't make any sense--one can't fight a war against a tactic. Bloggers such as David Horowitz and Michelle Malkin have long documented the politically-correct effort to avoid blaming Islam.
As far as I know, the only mention of this Iranian threat in the mainstream media was in the Daily Caller, albeit picked up by the Drudge Report. This is par for the course--why inflame passions? I'm a little nervous writing about it myself.
The shyness is all for the good. Only a minority of Muslims support the Jihadis--perhaps a large minority, but nobody thinks it's a majority. By declaring war on Islam we help turn that minority into a majority--it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then, instead of being in battle against some crackpot sect, we are picking a fight with one billion people. This we will never win--it will go on forever. Bush and Obama both recognized that it is important to keep our enemy as small as possible.
But if the Iranians carry out their threat, then all bets are off. Revenge is a deep-seated emotion that precludes rational thought. The hitherto mostly mythical Islamophobia will become a reality--and not just on the Right but across the entire society. The American Muslim population will be forced into hiding, and thereby also recruited to terrorism. This will not end well. Our civilized solicitude for civilian life in enemy countries will diminish if not disappear. Bombs away. This is not good for Iran.
So I urge Mr. Obama to back off the Syria attack. He should never have drawn the red line. His daughter's life is far more important than bouncing the rubble in Damascus. If there really were some stakes involved, then I'd argue differently. But there is nothing at stake here for the US.
Just walk away.
Update: Thomas Friedman has two articles that I agree with: from last Wednesday, here, and from today, here.