You can be sure of one thing if you're in the business of putting your views out there, and that is that should you express an uncertainty in some matter where others have strong opinions, someone will take exception to your doing so. This happened to me two weeks ago when, in a post about dithering over Syria, I quoted a passage from Michael Walzer in which I echoed his doubts concerning what President Obama should now be doing about that country. I was taken to task by Kellie Strøm, as if by sharing some of Walzer's uncertainty I must be letting myself down vis-à-vis some of my more robust previous positions. Kellie and I go back a long way as blogospheric friends; we've been in communication for the greater part of the last decade and I take his views seriously. I'm not about to let a misunderstanding over one political issue get in the way of that. But in his response to me some misunderstanding there has been, so I want to put the record straight.
Two ways in which my current view can be misconstrued from what Kellie writes in that post are these: (a) you might think that my doubts extended to whether the defeat of the Assad regime would be a desirable outcome; and/or (b) you might think that because in my 'dithering' post I cited a Human Rights Watch report on a Syrian opposition atrocity, I was putting the regime and the opposition to it on a par with one another.
Neither construal is merited. Regarding (a), I think my general attitude to the Syrian regime and its future is amply demonstrated by these posts between 2011 and today: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. More specifically, I have blogged about how recent events in Syria throw a light backwards on to what might have been the costs of non-intervention in Iraq - a subject which opponents of intervention there just love not to dwell on. As for (b), I can't do better than to refer you to a post of Jeff Weintraub's; there is not a balance of atrocity in this matter so far as I'm aware, and my reference to the HRW report was not meant to, and didn't, say otherwise.All that now registered, I stand by my uncertainties. As a consistent supporter of the principles of humanitarian intervention and R2P and regime change in certain circumstances, I have not ever overlooked the crucial justifying condition that external intervention must have a reasonable chance of making a difference for the better. Others may know what action to be taken by Obama and the US could do this right now. But for my part I'm not sure. That was the uncertainty I was expressing. It doesn't extend to either of the issues on which I fear Kellie's post might have exposed me to possible misunderstanding.