Syria has been in turmoil for two years. The people there are mired in a civil war that is hideously violent. I look at what is happening over there and my heart aches. However, the question I consider as a citizen of the United States of America is whether or not my country should see fit to intrude upon the conflict, to seek regime change, to meddle in the affairs of others in order to save lives? Is it our responsibility, truly?
There are pundits and power brokers, lay people, and legislators weighing in on the debate. President Obama stipulated a Red Line that must not be crossed, lest America intervene and sanction Assad’s forces with whatever America might choose to bring to bear. According to American intelligence this Red Line has been crossed. Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people.
Now, this brings us to an inflection point, a remembrance as a nation, and true introspection as a people. Some say it’s all politics and the President has to save face. Though that argument carries some validity let’s dismiss it as garbage when weighed against the sanctity of life and the ability to promote policy even if you do back down.
Many say this is simply Iraq all over again. It doesn’t take much to realize they are not the same. There is no dispute that chemical weapons were used. The question that many highlight is who actually used them. Was it Assad, or was it one of the many factions fighting against him? Was the incident staged? Did someone mishandle the weapons? American intelligence is certain it was Assad.
Another crucial difference between Iraq and Syria, besides the fact that President Bush and VP Cheney clearly committed a crime against humanity (too strong? Ask the people in irradiated Fullujah), is the fact that the people of Iraq did not call for our help. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no real pretext for the war we wrought.
In Syria, the people are begging for help. They demand International intervention. They look to the land of the free and the home of the brave in complete and total bewilderment. They are wondering … where are the Americans, and why have they not come to save us?
They really do want to know, where is G.I. Joe?
With this knowledge and understanding of the present and the recent past I can view the Syrian conflict through the prism of our national experience. The 20th Century was indeed the American century, and in that century we practiced regime change, we projected power, we became the world police standing boldly for freedom and justice, even as we committed murder and espionage, propping up petty dictators and killing people who would chart their own destiny.
Yes people, be proud of America, as am I, but don’t be proud in ignorance. The evil that some Americans have committed in the name of our great nation does not blot out the ideal of who we are, what we have been, and what we hope to be. We are a beacon of freedom, and the evil of corrupt men cannot take that away from us. No, in fact we must know our truth in order to be our best selves, the best America has to offer.
The other day I heard Congressman David Scott from my home state of Georgia say he was a strong supporter of President Obama but he simply did not understand why we needed to intervene in Syria. He stated, “Where is our national security threatened with what is happening there? There are regimes poisoning their people, shooting their people from the Congo of Africa all over the world. Do we go to every place?”
A number of Democrats and the majority of the nation do not want the US to intervene. We are tired and weary of war. We are sick of the rationalization for bombs. We as a nation do not want to be the World Police. In truth, we do not want to be the arbiters of freedom. Honestly, we like the sound of it, but our hearts have grown weary of the task, and seek not the heavy burden.
Not surprisingly Republicans in number support intervention. We don’t need to dive deep into why this is so. The military industrial complex constitutes the ties that bind in the GOP. Altruism and the need to save the little people is not the priority, save for when it looks good in the report. I hate to be harsh, but combat focuses a nation, and war represents opportunity of a kind, the type many have no fear of exploiting. Now, let’s be clear this does not apply to all Republicans anymore then the pursuit of peace is the province of all Democrats. We make no generalizations. However, the party lines are often quite clear on issues such as these.
Where does that leave those of us who askew parties, and believe that the only consideration we should be making must revolve around the facts, including the facts of what this means to us and our polity? We must remember that history proves as a guide. Knowledge is the power that can drive us towards vital solutions. We must use all the knowledge at our disposal to define a true path forward.
Let us first consider America. We cannot in truth afford an extended military campaign in Syria. Can we offer them help? Yes. Can we aid them in more than one fashion? Yes, we can. Should we? That remains a question. During our Revolutionary War foreign powers came to our aid. During our Civil War foreign powers sought alignment and offered aid. Were they altruistic? No, they were trying to be forward thinking, considering what the outcome of the conflict might mean for their national interest.
On this point we can jump to the present and consider why some form of intervention might be necessary not only for America, but for the entire Western World. Know that we are still very much an East versus West world. Do you truly think Russia and China simply don’t care about the children and people getting blasted to bits? They care a great deal. Just like we cared when we intervened in Nicaragua where the people sought to create a strong democratically elected government. We covertly supported murder and regime change, plunging the country into death and chaos, all in an effort to keep the commies out of our back yard. Think on this for a moment for clarity. It is the kind of truth that burns, and hurts.
Russia and China can prosper with an Assad regime that leans towards their interests. America clearly cannot. In fact, an Assad victory builds strong lines from Damascus to Tehran. Syrian-Iranian alignment is absolutely not in the best interest of the Western World. It is not good for Israel. It is not good for Jordan or Saudi Arabia, or Turkey. An Assad regime still in control of Syria could reshape the Middle-East. This is a very real fear, and it is one that must somehow be addressed, as it most certainly affects our national security … at least until we get the hell off of our oil addiction.
When Congressman Scott asks how Syria affects our national security he must look at the global picture. The Congo at this time has no security alignment with America. The Middle-East has dictated American security for almost fifty years. He has access to intelligence that we poor commoners as American citizens simply do not have. However, it does not take much to see the possible threat. And just to be clear, the possibility of such an alignment has its roots in the evil of America and Western action. Google the Shah of Iran and you’ll find all you need to know.
So, does this mean we should stick our noise in Syria?
The President is calling for missile strikes. He is seeking to uphold the threat of the Red Line, and punish Assad for his transgressions. Then, he is seeking to step back, and leave them to their own devices and let the war play out as before. In this regard I would say if you were going to do something then do something decisive. It must truly be a blow that has impact, or in truth it’s not worth doing. Then, we must consider how we will render aid, support the factions for the people, and still allow them to rebuild their own country as they see fit. To be sure I believe we must ensure that we have utilized the Powell Doctrine and determined whether or not we are truly at the point of intervention.
If we do intervene, we must have an appropriate exit strategy. Understand, we cannot force democracy on the Syrians. They must be allowed to chart their own course, even if we don’t agree with the path they choose.
One must also consider a Syria that defeats Assad on its own but remembers that the West never came to its aid in its darkest hour; more permutations that must be part of our thinking and decision making.
With all this in mind should we or should we not strike Syria? I personally think the use of chemical weapons demands a response, no matter where it occurs. I personally think we should find a way to put Kim Jong-un out of North Korea’s collective misery. I think we should stand opposed to all such evil. Unfortunately, we cannot. We don’t have the ability to do so. Still, in this instance there is a path for dealing with Assad, we simply must divine it.
I would rather not support attacking Syria, unfortunately in this instance I must agree with the President. In this, I consider history. I consider what we have done. I consider what was before, our responsibility in it, and what might become tomorrow if we do nothing. I strongly consider … if we do nothing.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke
However, as I have stated, we cannot be the World Police. We did not do it well in the 20th Century, and we most certainly cannot do it well in the 21st. We do have a responsibility to be who we claim to be. We must hold ourselves accountable, but in order to be that better people we must think better, AND act better. The sword and shield will continue to be required in Syria but in the end it will be the power of the word of the people that brings lasting peace. In this, America cannot and should not stand alone. The world must take on the responsibility for helping the world in the 21st century. There must always be a coalition of the willing that sees beyond petty power politics and a national alignment that values natural resources more than human lives.
Internalize that last sentence people, for it is an incredibly powerful statement that in the aggregate we human beings are simply too primitive to fully understand. However, we must push ourselves to fully understand it, and eventually become it.
Last week Britain voted down intervention. However, no one expects anything of Britain, who once sought to make the whole world Britannia. Nations have built on the British legacy both good and ill. They no longer look to Britain. When people fall on bended knee and beg for help from the wider world they do not seek out the Queen and England, they look to America.
So, who are we, what have we been, and what will we be?
With heavy heart, clear conscience, and deep reasoning I see justification for strikes in Syria. I firmly believe the President’s political optics are finely tuned in the action he took by assigning Congress the responsibility of affirming action. He is not the king.
And despite what many pundits have claimed, like Richard Haas, who thinks this action may set a bad precedent for Presidential Power, nothing could be further from the truth. His perspective supports the America World Police model, and a Presidential policy that pushes constant combat and never-ending war.
Just to be clear, our nation has been at War at one time or another perpetually without end since World War II. The word war is about perspective. Our military does not stop seeing action. Congressman Scott, we have boots on the ground in Africa, in action. We have boots all over Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia. You know, we might even have a few boots in Syria that the public doesn’t know about. A better question might be were does America not have boots on the ground?
We continue to project power globally and somewhere in the world America is shooting at something for some reason, and we have been doing so for almost fifty years. We must remain poised and ready, but we must do something about our profligate involvement in perpetual global conflict. The President’s actions may set precedent, but we must consider that if it does, it is a good thing. WE CANNOT MAKE IT SO EASY TO GO TO WAR.
The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave must embrace the totality of that ideal, fully capable in power, while elevating passionately the cause for peace, the sword, the shield, the hand, and the word, all together in due strength. Diplomacy must be our strongest weapon, bolstered by our ability to make devastating war, such that our power only be used when most assuredly necessary, in the process of defense, the saving of lives, and the destruction of evil and tyranny. And to be sure in our WEB 2.0 world the proliferation of information helps us ensure that we hold ourselves accountable.
Should we stick our noses in Syria? Yes, but we must not do it alone. The world must hear the cries of the Syrians. The world must see the evil of Assad. The world must do more than beg us to carry the load alone. Saudi Arabia must find the courage and the strength to manage its own internal politics and aid in what it is calling for, after all we have given them the same weapons we use. They must deploy. France must be at the vanguard as they have called for intervention. Jordan and Turkey want intervention but they must be willing to put their power and their people on the line for the sake of others. They must have the courage of the words they impose and demand of American treasure.
We are not the police. We are not the arbiters of freedom. We may proudly bear the standard of freedom, but we must admonish and remind the world that we cannot and would rather not try to do this alone. Help us champion freedom.
President Obama, you have done well in seeking Congressional approval. Now, demand that the world do the same. Let this be an honest start to global change in the 21st century. If we consider this moment for what it is, Assad can be the beginning of the end of despotism from the Middle-East down into Africa, spreading East and West across the seas, a high minded dream to be sure, but one worth fighting for, or at least worth starting. Please, consider it critically.