Syria – To Bomb or Not to Bomb -Surprisingly, That is Again the Question
One more time, as though we had learned nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan, we have neglected the growing humanitarian and moral crisis in Syria, and over-reacted by picking up the sword. We have focused on the brawl on the Potomac and Honey Booboo, while more than a million people have fled Damascus and Aleppo, spilling into miserable refugee camps in neighboring states. Finally we have awakened to the need to act but instead of relying on concerted international actions and institutions, we
are threatening to bomb. It is not clear what we will bomb or what effects that bombing will have except to add to the misery of those left in the cities and towns of
“They’re rolling out the guns again” as the old anti-war song tells us [Post Viet Nam version of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home]. We are rolling out the guns Because of a failure of care, a lack of leadership both domestically and internationally and war-weariness.
First, let us recognize that we are both war weary and war wary. We should be reluctant to enmesh ourselves in yet another inconclusive Middle Eastern conflict. Syria is not a client state of the US, nor is it an ally. It has consistently attacked the only ally we have in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East other than Turkey -
Israel. We have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for foggy and false reasons, and the outcomes of thousands of American dead and billions spent remain amorphous and unclear. In those countries we have been the catalyst for regime change and have helped substitute one group of graft-ridden tyrants for another group of the
same. Surely we know better by now than to try to export democratic ideals to an entire region that holds half its population in bondage by denying its women education and fundamental property rights.
We know that force must sometimes be used, but it should never be used in the first instance. We must use deadly force only after a carefully calibrated escalation of demands and ultimatums to stop using gas and bombs against civilians and non-combatants. The United Nations, NATO, and multiple other organizations are supposed to help us escalate attention and direction of anti-war efforts in these civil conflicts. And yet, we have not turned to those institutions, nor even to the Arab League and other regional associations to help end or at least contain this conflict. Instead we have suddenly awakened to a national cry for war. Our President has not done his job here, nor has our Secretary of State. Having been asleep at the switch, they have forsaken recourse to international bodies dedicated to peace- keeping in favor of
Yes, they’re rolling out the guns again because the general has just awakened from his nap. What a sad and foolish thing for Barak Obama to have learned from six
years in the White House. There is no alternative ethical and moral choice here right now. Bring international, institutional and multi-state forces into play, and ensure that the world and the American people know the identities of those who stand against reducing the civil violence in Syria.
Put the guns back in storage. They must be kept, for that is the nature of man at present, but there is no sensible reason to use them now.
Syria – Putin and Peace
There is no question that Putin has shown himself the better statesman in the recent approach to the Syrian conflict. That has been deeply embarrassing to the American people, but the source of the idea should not diminish our willingness to consider it. The man has an unenviable past but that does not mean that Putin is
incapable of reason and order in international affairs. He is not to be despised for looking after Russian interests; that is his job.
We are faced with the curious specter of an American president who was given the Nobel Peace Prize who now thumps the drums of war while an acknowledged totalitarian who has used bloody ends for political power advocates for the peaceful removal of horrific weapons. President Obama should have engaged in
a calibrated, gradually escalating use of international peace keeping institutions and alliances to dampen the conflict long before today’s sorry pass. The US founded and nurtured the United Nations but has let the possibility of a Russian or Chinese veto in the Security Council stop us from asking the UN to do the job for which it was
established. We have not called either on Nato nor on regional groups with a direct interest, such as the Arab League. Our ambassador to the UN and our Secretary of State have both failed the American people by ignoring the use of chemical weapons in Syria long before the most recent horrific pictures reached our newspapers and televisions.
Reports made to the House of Commons in London indicate that the use of gas weapons in Syria has occurred on more than a dozen occasions and has been
escalating. It is right for us to intervene to stop the carnage and certainly the use of poison gas against civilians. Assad cannot stand against the nations of the world who insist that he stop using such weapons. If we are allied and purposeful, and that is a very tall order indeed, and if we make it clear to Iran and Hezbollah that they must cease supporting Assad until these weapons are removed, then other means can be considered.
We should not declare that we forever forsake all military force in the region. Assad and the Syrian rebel forces have to understand that we along with other nations will
force change by military intervention if they continue to use gas and kill women and children. But first we have to try to lessen the shooting, not add to it.
To reach for the sword is the oldest and saddest solution to conflict. There is a better and as yet untried way before us in this conflict. We need to seize the opportunity that
Putin has put before the world and force institutions like the UN to act. I for one will find it hard to applaud if Putin is given the Nobel Peace Prize for his actions with respect to Syria, but at least in this moment, he has stood for peace over guns.