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August 26, 2013


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Read enough Chinese history, of the sort where punitive expeditions gets discussed, and you get the feeling that those are all nonsense, and tend to be poorly reconned, organized, and fought. Which then leads to a dynamic of balancing confusion or constraint afterwards. For example, in recent times, it wound up being the Thai that got the Viets out of Cambodia, and not directly the Chinese.

In American context, conflicts like the Pershing expedition didn't solve much and managed to suck in resources. In general, the American involvement in the Mexican Civil war has a few echoes in Syria (not much, though).

Broadly, though, I think the primary cost of a little cruise-missilling will be reputational, and I also think that the UN will wind up taking a more public loss of face, which will result in a loss of access to local leaders and dynamics. Lastly, I think this will contribute to a hardening of attitudes between various players, like Russia, various non-state actors, and any new-risen government in the region such that diplomacy is less likely to work (all they do is provide time for military responses), and set the scene for severe interstate wars.

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