Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Easy Stuff, Hard Stuff

Some things are easy.

Some are even so easy that you and I could do them, even if we suddenly had to do it on a professional level.  For instance, we could score an empty-netter from 20 feet away.  We could run the first 100 meters of a marathon at the same pace as the eventual winner.  We could sink a two-foot putt at the Master's, take an intentional walk and make it to first in the Bigs, or probably even hit an uncontested layup on a fast-break at just about any level of basketball.

Then there are the hard things that come with that stuff -- that's why we're not professional athlete millionaires.

Lately, I've seen a few people ranting and raving about how the U.S. should "do something" in Syria.  The something is never really defined, because that's where it would get really, really hard.  Do we risk inserting ground forces into yet another Middle Eastern, Muslim nation?  Do we commit even more blood and treasure overseas?  Do we just bomb the Syrian government into submission until a new government can take its place?  If we take that option, what do we do when the transition gets messy?

The hard decisions fall on the National Command Authorities -- people like President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and SECDEF Panetta.  They would have to wrestle with questions starting from the ones listed above, and those questions would only become increasingly complex once things got started, and an official, named Operation was underway.

Saying the U.S. should "just do something" is great for amateur hour in the parlor or on Facebook.  It requires about the same level of effort as the two-foot putt, and even better, it provides the writer with some moral high ground as things continue to spiral downward in Syria ("...see what I've been saying...").    It's easy to be really critical of all the times that the U.S. or NATO have intervened (never mind the way that public health changes alone have saved up to 1 million Afghan lives in the past 10 years) while simultaneously being critical of all the times they have not (never mind that the Rwandan genocide was committed by Hutu and Tutsi neighbors spread across the country, as opposed to warring sides in distinct regions that could have been easily separated by outside peacekeepers).

I would give a lot of credit to someone proposing a rational, comprehensive plan for dealing with Syria that accounted for secondary, tertiary, quaternary effects, and so on.  That's the seven three-pointer night, or the 8-under on the back nine that takes real work.

Chin-scratching over vague policy proposals, coupled with some kind of faux high-minded moralism, however, is kind of like a garbage-time empty netter that the scorer confuses with a one-timer that sneaks past a glove to wind up just inside of a pipe.

Let's not confuse the two.  

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