In his siren suit and slippers, atop a stack of bound but leftover newspapers from September 30, 1938, next to a butter dish of an ashtray and a mimeographed sheet of the Munich Agreement, sits Bret Stephens: the Newseum’s in-house performance artist.
A Chamberlain of a Churchill, he commands a column of one. He types a biweekly column, advocating policies that are as foreign to domestic tranquility as they are chaotic to the conduct of American foreign policy.
From calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment, from firing the first shot in an online war of words in which he would disarm the American people, to sending men and materiel to every theater of war, from Asia to Russia to the Middle East, Stephens has no shortage of virtual soldiers to fight and die on the battlefield. He has no protesters to confront, except the ones he would save in the streets of Hong Kong and on the roads to Damascus.
By his logic, the removal of 1,000 men from Syria is tantamount to the withdrawal of all U.S. servicemen throughout the world. By his lights darkness will descend upon the Kurds, affording Turkey a quick and cheap victory against a people whose leonine instincts are now supposedly sheepish. By his line of reasoning, there is no fight we should not join and no war America cannot win.
Despite Stephens’s penchant for war games, and notwithstanding his retreat from the nuclear test site that is Twitter, there are limits to unlimited war.
No matter how much Stephens wants Americans to learn geography by going to war, there are less deadly ways to study history.
Instead of reading Stephens’s column, we would be wise to take the time to read the names of our war dead. Perhaps then we will realize that the nation’s most hallowed ground cannot house all future casualties from war without end.
Between the ignorance of splendid isolation and the stupidity of intervention everywhere lies the power of right and might.