In Syria War Debate, Media Are Missing in Action

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Harper, Special to The Washington Times

As the American public, Congress and the president grappled with the apparent use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, the media failed to provide a coherent understanding of what the United States should do and why.

Columnists and commentators have used some of the most twisted logic to justify or oppose an American role in Syria, including a diplomatic one. The media have become almost useless in helping their readers peer through the fog of discussion.

The general perception is that the media failed to press the George W. Bush administration hard enough about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so this time reporters and pundits were not going to let that happen. Furthermore, the usual tilt of media liberals opposing war and conservatives supporting it has almost been reversed in the journalistic debate over military action against Syria.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who opposed U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, led the charge for military action in Syria. But his analysis was so odd that it's no wonder he skipped law school for a tour of Syria in 1982.

Skeptics are right about the drawbacks of getting involved, including the risk of retaliation. Yet let's acknowledge that the alternative is, in effect, to acquiesce as the slaughter in Syria reaches perhaps the hundreds of thousands or more, he wrote last week.

It seemed Mr. Kristof wanted the United States to toss some cruise missiles into Syria on humanitarian grounds. What if those missiles accidentally created some collateral damage - otherwise known as civilians? If we were fighting against an incomparably harsher dictator using chemical weapons on our own neighborhoods, and dropping napalm-like substances on our children's schools, would we regard other countries as 'pro-peace' if they sat on the fence as our dead piled up? Mr. Kristof added. I guess he also missed the course on logical fallacies. An argument by comparison falls under the category of a weak analogy - one of the most frequent logical fallacies used. …