Against Symbolic Killing

We weren’t, President Obama emphasized, going to use force to achieve a strategic goal. Whatever was being planned, it would not tip the balance of power in the Syrian civil war one way or another. “Unbelievably small,” as John Kerry put it, or as the president said, “A shot across the bow.” It seems the plan was to kill in order to put an exclamation mark on a sentence: “America believes in the international laws of war!” or “You’d better keep your fighting within limits, or else!”

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