Friday 2013-09-06

John McCain recently framed the Syria debate as between doves, hawks, and wacko birds.

While eagles aren't the prettiest birds out there, they (especially bald ones) do have a special place in a lot of Americans hearts. Which makes it hard to hear that a decorated veteran had made such a disparaging remark.

When debating entering any conflict, there are doves -- who always want peace. There are hawks -- who always want war. And there are eagles -- who always want what's best for America.

To win the eagles over, you have to estimate the dollar cost and the number of young US citizens who will die in order to win this conflict. You then have to estimate the benefits to the US and show how they more than equal the cost to future generations, our soldiers, and their parents.

Given our hard-won understanding of the costs involved in Afghanistan and Iraq, you have to find a huge upside in Syria. Until you can convincingly explain how we will derive a great deal of good from this conflict, there's not a single eagle who will vote for entering the war in Syria.

Serendipitously, Blomkamp's Elysium is in theaters now and shows a bit of why some eagles are eagles. Like his previous work, District 9, Blomkamp touches on the notion of Interventionism. In District 9 the desire to help the aliens resulted in refugee camps of squalor and warlordism. Whereas in Elysium the wealthy attempted to isolate themselves, and ended up with a planet of poverty and violence.

Together both films show that for many state-level situations, you are damned if you do intervene, and you are damned if you don't. Eagles see that scope for pain for any given action or inaction. And rightly demand an upside we all can see.