Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Blurred lines

What to do, or not do, in Syria?

I generally fall in with the interventionists when it comes to humanitarian crises.  As Madeline Albright once said, what's the use of having this marvelous military that outspends the next 25 nations combined, if we can't use it?

But I worry that my view of intervention is too romantic.  When I think of what we are contemplating, I visualize commandos taking control of the situation, setting up a functioning democracy, and standing up for the American Way.

The problem is that what is being contemplated mostly consists of sending guided missiles to blow stuff up.  I find it hard to believe that will help the situation.

Bashir al-Assad controls much of Syria and rules as a dictator; he has control of the military and has almost certainly used chemical weapons against the rebels.  Most of that is unfortunate, but that last bit is unacceptable.  I agree with the idea that we must stand up to defend international agreements banning the use of chemical weapons.  And I think it is utterly irrelevant whether we have done so in the past or not.  We can only make the moral decisions that confront us now; we cannot allow ourselves to be bound to the inaction of the past.

But what exactly does it mean to defend those agreements?  Does it mean announcing to Assad that he has violated the law of war and that a cruise missile will be heading down his chimney in 10 seconds to take him out?  Or does it simply mean degrading his military capability by blowing up a few buildings or arsenals, and thereby aligning ourselves with the rebels?  Who are these rebels?  Are they worthy of our alliance?

Sometimes there are no angels to be on the side of.

I dream of a world where our differences are settled at the negotiating table and not on the battlefield.  I believe that we stood for that concept at one point.  I want to believe that we stand for that concept.  I find it difficult to believe that the solution to war is more war.

In Syria, what do we stand for?  Is it democracy and self-determination?  Is it peace?  Do we help our allies and those who believe will ally with us? 

Can we even accomplish what is needed to stand up for whatever it is we're standing up for?

I would have an easier time knowing where to stand if I had confidence in our motives as a nation.  I believe we Americans are, as a whole, good people who want only to help.  I'm just not sure that those in power have that goal in mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment