Magazine | September 16, 2013, Issue

Attack of the Acronyms

Some cable show, some channel, some Sunday: another think-tank smart guy laying out the risks for landing a right cross on Bashar Assad’s chin. (If you could find it. SpecOps might have to get close and paint it with a laser.) If the United States does nothing, it will be accused of indifference to Muslim suffering. If it does something, it will be accused of aggression against Muslim people. He might have added that if the United States reduced its ethanol subsidies, or issued regulations about the acceptable amount of airborne particles generated by sawing through drywall on construction sites, it would be seen by some people in the region as a proof of Jew-run perfidy that brought down Morsi by bouncing lasers off the moon.

Hence a tepid national reaction towards intervention in Syria. Even a “surgical strike,” which sounds odd. A doctor never says “That heart valve is weak, so I’m going to nail you in the sternum with a sledgehammer.” A surgical strike means a piece of ballistic wizardry that flies through the window and blows up some employees. You could just imagine Saddam Hussein weeping after cruise missiles took out a ministry. I just had the place painted. New shrubs out front. All gone. Okay, I surrender.

Here’s a suggestion: Take it right to Assad’s house. Drop a MOAB on his crib. “MOAB” stands for Mother of All Bombs or Massive Overhead Air-Burst or Mucho Overwhelming Awesome Boom or something; the name was probably chosen because it sounds Biblical. Yea, did the children of Moab lie down by the river and lament, being sad and much besmitten by the Hittite minions of Baal. For that matter, call the bomb “BAAL”: Big and Awful Loud. Someone might want to call it the Big Old Matter Buster, but “BOMB” didn’t quite narrow it down.

Speaking of acronyms: The U.N. has a particularly euphonious moniker for the team intended to look for evidence of chemical weapons: UNMIAUCWSAR. (Pronounced “UNMIAUCWSAR.”) Best to use something honest, like POTSED, or Parade of Toothless Scowling European Diplomats; at least you know who’s showing up. UNMIAUCWSAR doesn’t incite fear in anyone except the translator who’s trying to get the letters in the right order.

Anyway. A MOAB or BAAL or Kinetically Assisted Bashar-Oriented Ordnance Matériel (KABOOM) on the dictator’s house would have wide-ranging implications, as they say.

#page#1. Vogue, which ran the lovely profile on Mrs. Assad when they named her hubby the Mideast’s “top dead-eyed ophthalmologist reformer,” could offer up the photos of their elegant house with its tasteful furnishings and stylish decorations, right down the verdigris patina on the copper drains that led from the torture rooms to the sewer. (To be fair, that was in the guesthouse.) After-action reports could tell whether they’d sufficiently degraded Mrs. Assad’s capability to impress the media in the future, or whether she still had enough Western-style rooms to mount a successful image-rehabilitation campaign. “In the ruins of privilege, a widow struggles to rebuild.” That sort of thing.

Perhaps she’s already out of the country, but her Instagram feed shows her working soup kitchens for refugees. Really. Forty-seven people have probably been purged for not “liking” the pictures within three minutes of posting.

2. Other dictators might pay notice. If there’s anything they fear, it’s being dragged out by their heels and strung up while people pelt them with rocks. But surely losing all the creature comforts figures in their calculations as well. Take away the nice big house, and the other one, and the one outside of town, and the one on the lake, and oh by the way there was a fire at the Italian villa, they’re calling it suspicious — and the thug gets a sick realization that all that time spent arranging the DVDs just so (alphabetically? by genre?) was for naught. Worst of all, the U.S. took out the house where he had the password for the Swiss accounts written on a Post-It note on the computer.

They’re hurt when they lose planes and airfields and tanks, but it’s not personal. What do you do when your bed’s gone and you can’t remember your Sleep Number on the high-tech adjustable mattress? Call up the Mossad and say “I know you probably had that bugged too; can a fella ask a favor?”

Assad should realize he’ll spend his last hours in underground bunkers with dust raining down from the ceiling and a cheap fan going back and forth and squeaky chairs that get on everyone’s nerves. But that’s not enough. The entire regime has to go, so the vacuum can be filled by all the reasonable pluralists who are in the field right now. Yes, yes, you’ve seen the horrible YouTube video of the Syrian fighter who cut out his foe’s heart and ate it on camera, but there has to be someone who just cut out the heart and gave it to a stray dog. The moderate element.

Once they’re in power we can send in some advisers and diplomats, hire some locals to stand around with Nerf guns, and wait for another Benghazi, spurred when someone posts a fake picture on Instagram of Mrs. Assad reading the Koran in a bikini or an equally outrageous offense.

After the administration has arrested the picture-poster, and John Kerry has issued a sonorous, droning defense of the administration’s reaction, people will look back to Hillary Clinton’s spunky performance at the Benghazi hearings and marvel at what a fighter she was. Let’s elect her president.

Warning: Some Muslims may regard this as indifference, or aggression. Possibly both.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

James Lileks — James Lileks writes the Athwart column for National Review magazine and is a frequent contributor to the National Review website. He is a prominent voice on Ricochet podcasts.

In This Issue



Politics & Policy

Rocky Mountain High

Denver, Colo. – There’s a stretch of Broadway that’s called Broadsterdam because of its medical-marijuana dispensaries. Just a block over, flanking Acoma and Bannock Streets, is a warehouse district. It’s not ...
Politics & Policy

The Army You Haven’t

When Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, the American military was already fragile. The last major military build-up had happened 25 years before, in the Reagan administration. Years of high ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

E Pluribus Bonum

The mantra “We are a nation of immigrants” is repeated endlessly, but this incantation is essentially misleading. The addition of one adjective, “assimilated,” as in, “We are a nation of ...
Politics & Policy

Film: Small Ball

I complain fairly often in this space about the slow decline of middlebrow entertainment — the way superheroes and franchises have crowded out original storytelling, the way the economics of ...
City Desk

There’s a Place

Every man has the place he hangs out. The employees of this magazine, at its old location, had the fancy Italian restaurant for editorial lunches and dinners. But for daily ...


Politics & Policy


Persecution at the Polls (In re “Laboratory of Islamism,” August 19) I have read several articles stating that the Muslim Brotherhood actually threatened Coptic Christians into not voting last year in ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Whatever happened to the wholesome, respectable MTV we grew up with? ‐ In a recent interview, Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said of defunding Obamacare that “if it doesn’t happen ...

Attack of the Acronyms

Some cable show, some channel, some Sunday: another think-tank smart guy laying out the risks for landing a right cross on Bashar Assad’s chin. (If you could find it. SpecOps ...
Politics & Policy


NIGHT WISDOM Face framed with a few lonely wisps of gray, the dark haired lady suggested gently, over coffee, to the young mother, bone weary, with a babe who had cried through the night, but now slept, as ...
Happy Warrior

Party Politics

Prowling my hotel room the other night, I discovered a copy of the latest Vogue, kindly provided by the management. So, after bringing myself up to speed on Jennifer Lawrence ...

Most Popular


Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More