Our impending Syria war is all over the papers again today, and there's an interesting trend developing.
Type "Syria war" into Google News and you'll quickly get the impression that there's a lively debate over the usefulness of wars in the Middle East. To read some sources, this debate only even exists at all because of the wildly unpopular and berserk radicalism of the leader of the opposition, but the overwhelming majority of writers and politicians seem to agree: this war will almost certainly end in at least a partial success.
I have no idea quite why this should be the case, since our experience in the last fifteen years has demonstrated quite neatly that our humanitarian wars almost never work, and are in fact greatly more likely to leave the people that we're trying to assist hugely worse off, or dead.
So you'd think that this would be the end of the debate about the usefulness of wars, or at least of humanitarian wars in the Middle East. It's not like we've only seen this play out once, or anything - we're long past the point where it was controversial, and we can now observe trends and draw hard conclusions.
We can happily concede that of course, it's possible that any particular new war will work - in much the same way that it's possible that I might score a World Cup goal for Scotland - but we can say with a very high degree of confidence that it probably won't work*. I foolishly expect this to be universally accepted fact, myself.
I'd also suggest that this should affect our thinking about any new proposal for war. After all, if trains operated at the same failure rate as our wars, nobody would ever set foot on one. If politicians and pundits near-unanimously responded to train crashes by announcing faster and more rickety trains, then we'd all assume that those people were dangerously unhinged and unreliable, and we'd never listen to their advice about anything.
The basic conclusion that we can draw is this, though: Our new war will probably be a failure too, and possibly a terrible one.
Now, with this in mind, try that Google search again and see if anything it returns reflects this reality.
There ain't much, is there?
What there is, is plenty of hysterical denunciation for people who point out our dreadful failure rate. I've picked McTernan's gloriously deranged Telegraph article as an example, because it's the wackiest, but with most of today's coverage, it's mainly a difference of tone rather than content.
Now, why do we think it is, that the most glaringly obvious fact about our recent military adventures is almost entirely invisible in our discussion of our involvement in this war? And, can we draw any conclusions about the people who seem to have overlooked it?
*This one is probably the best, although I've never heard of the author, who openly admits that the war probably won't work and backs it anyway.