Syria, A Question of Responsibility
One might think the war in Syria has little to do with we gentle folk occupying (can we still use that word?) our little patch of paradise in Central Alberta. However, being civil people in a peaceful land, it bothers our conscience when we see the horrific images of strife and death in that war-torn country beamed into our TV sets on a nightly basis. When, across the world, peace-minded people like ourselves consider the U.S. attack on Syria, many difficult and soul-searching questions often arise.
“What is the free world’s responsibility to oppressed people around the globe?” is the umbrella question but there are many facets to that question that must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. “When two factions in a country are at war, are there any extenuating circumstances that should change a non-interference policy?” “Should we have “red lines” drawn; automatic punishment for certain specific atrocities?” “In the case of a critical event, the use of chemical weapons, for example, is that enough of an outrage to justify intervention and putative retribution?” “Is there really a difference between killing innocent people with nerve gas or bullets?”
It might clarify your position if you brought the argument home to Canada; in the extremely unlikely, but possible event of a civil war here; say, PEI choosing to separate using military means, when would we welcome foreign influence in the fight? What if one side used chemicals? Nukes?
These are difficult questions, indeed, whether you’re left, right or moderate. By most accounts, there has already been death toll in Syria of over 100,000. It is hard to just turn our backs when there is such destruction and waste of life and infrastructure. The use of chemical weapons has ramped up the urgency to resolving that basic question of responsibility to intercede. Unfortunately, however, it’s unclear who, exactly needs to be punished.
There are four possibilities; an insurgent faction, a rebel Syrian general, the Assad government, or some other, currently unknown party. No matter who is responsible, however, it has ramped up the urgency to resolve that basic question of responsibility to intercede.
Of course, if there was a reasonable chance that armed intervention would create a positive outcome, the moral imperative would be to move in and stop the bloodshed. Not even the most optimistic prognostication sees that as a hope, however. The hatred on both sides has become so deeply entrenched, it’s unlikely there can soon be hope of conciliatory talks leading to ceasefires, a truce and ultimately peaceful coexistence. The issues that divide the two sides are not logically or politically based as much as they are about religion. Trying to wade into such a quagmire would be as foolhardy as it is futile.
Thankfully, for the most part, western governments have had little participation in the fight. The U.S. was loath to provide arms to insurgents that were connected to al-Qaeda, though did supply some rifles and ammunition to supposedly western-friendly forces. They were very careful what they gave them, as they did not want their own armaments directed at themselves someday. There was also the pachyderm in the parlor in the form of Putin being ready to stand by his man, Assad. Few believe that intervening in the civil war in Syria, no matter how brutal, is worth a confrontation with Russia. Syria is Russia’s wench, much like North Korea is China’s. No one wants to start a fight with a kid with a protective big brother.
Then came word of chemical weapons killing Syrian children; estimates as high as 149 kids succumbing to a barrage of lethal poison charges. World leaders were all appropriately shocked and appalled at the revelation but few planned any action. NATO was so upset they moved to “monitor the situation more closely”. The Arab League issued a statement saying that chemical weapons were over the line but the impact of their response was akin them sending Assad a snippy Twitter message. Though some nations chalk up the chemical attack to Assad’s unstable mentality, others claim he had the least to gain from such an attack which makes it appear another agency may be culpable.
The U.S. is certain it was Assad’s forces of course, but since they have a card in the game, their word isn’t taken at face value and their evidence isn’t compelling enough for the other factions. Memories of Colin Powel at the UN laying out the case for Iraqi WMD’s are still fresh in many minds. The view that there is inherent weakness in the evidence proving Assad’s involvement in the chemical attack isn’t just held by Russia and Iran, either, but even America’s own allies. Britain’s David Cameron suffered an embarrassing loss in parliament when trying to martial support for a retaliatory strike. Once gung-ho France is also back-pedaling. One by one, countries have fallen off the U.S.‘s “Punish Assad” bandwagon. Canada, it must be said, has no naval support to offer, after our two boats collided and apparently doesn’t want to use up our missile on this project. Therefore, all Prime Minister Harper can provide is cheerleader support, which he has done, although almost inaudibly; barely heard by the international community. Other than Harper’s Facebook “like” of the punishment plan, America is alone.
I believe it is important for everyone in the free world, including those far removed as in our neck of the woods, to consider what should happen next. We all have to answer within our own hearts the question of responsibility to our neighbors. We know what the Bible says about loving our neighbors as we love ourselves but sometimes the method of showing that love can range from difficult to impossible.
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