The current leader of Syria kills his own people.
He uses chemical weapons to do so.
He is bad.
The rebels fighting him are a motley crew, but they do things like kill catholic priests who defend nuns. (They didn't decapitate him, however, as some initial reports stated.)
They are also bad.
While this all rolls along, Americans are having a debate about whether or not we should do something. Our options seem to be: 1) Do nothing. 2) Invade. 3) Something in between. So far it looks like Obama is opting for 3, specifically responding to the use of chemical weapons, and is asking for congressional approval. I entirely approve of him seeking such approval. I think that's in the best interest of all who want to see a balance of powers in the US government continue to be struck, because, well, checks and balances are good. I have many thoughts on this subject, but I will limit them to two things in this post.
First, it appears I have no friends on FB who are even willing to countenance the possibility that some form of intervention is a good thing. All I'm getting in my FB feed are people happy with their representatives voting against it, people quoting the Savior ("he who lives by the sword dies by the sword"), people worried that doing anything will ignite World War III, and people joining the pope in a worldwide prayer and fasting for this entire situation. Let's be clear, I'm all for a robust discussion about the use of US military personnel. I'm also pro-Jesus, and definitely believe his teachings are to be taken seriously. I will join the pope in his call to fast and pray this Saturday.
However, it seems that too many of those arguing against intervention have forgotten a principle famously taught by John Stuart Mill:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.Also, while it is true that Jesus said that he who lives by the sword will die by it, as a Latter-day Saint, my scriptural relationship to war is much more complicated than merely being a pacifist. As Patrick Mason put it, with regard to the Book of Mormon and its teachings on war:
Indeed, [The Book of Mormon] presents seemingly every possible option regarding the slaughter of innocents. At one point disciples watch as innocents are slaughtered, and say they are moved by the Spirit of God not to stop the carnage, but that God will save the innocent victims and judge the perpetrators. At another point disciples lay down their weapons of war and allow themselves to be slaughtered rather than to shed blood themselves. Then they send aid in kind to the soldiers who stand between them and their enemies. Then they send their sons to war—all of whom are miraculously preserved while defeating the enemy. At another point disciples organize militarily in defense of faith, family, and freedom, engaging in both defensive and preemptive war to preserve their national interests. At another point God’s people are rescued from their oppressors through a combination of nonviolent strategy and the miraculous power of God, without the shedding of any blood. At another point disciples live for two hundred years in peace because they embody the virtues of the Sermon on the Mount (or in this case, the Sermon at the Temple). The love of God that reigns in their hearts will allow them no other path but the path of mercy, forgiveness, kindness, and peace. The book ends with not one but two civilizational holocausts. Indeed, in the Book of Mormon the violence starts when humans arrive on the scene, and ends only when there is virtually no one left to kill, except for lone prophetic voices who stand as witnesses to what happens when people forget the message of Jesus not only in their personal but also in their political lives.Whereas sometimes pacifism is condoned, other times it is not, and in particular several times war is advocated as a good thing to defend those unable to defend themselves. Just war theory is a vary complicated set of propositions and criteria to meet. I myself do not think that intervention in Syria (either option 2 or 3 above) is a clear case of action that meets the criteria. But I am not opposed to all wars ever, and it seems many of us are veering that way.
Second, as I was reading on the various subjects, I came across a photo gallery. Sadly, I can't find it anymore, but the thing that struck me the most was the juxtaposition of the Americans and the Syrians in the photo essay. We Americans are protesting.
He's also calling members of congress, in this photo I believe it's actually Speaker Boehner.
Whereas the Syrians are fleeing for their lives and living in an environment like this:
I'm not saying I'm for intervention. I'm not saying I'm against it. You'll notice that I haven't actually stated anything about what we should actually do here in this situation. You don't know what my opinion is on this issue.
My point is simply this:
It's complicated. Really. It's complicated. Seriously seriously complicated. That means there are no right answers. That means that going to war is not clearly right. That also means not going to war is not clearly right. That also means limited strikes is not clearly right. That also means that not doing limited strikes is not clearly right.
And while we sit here, comfortable, arguing about this over the internet, free from the thought we might be shot and killed in our own country being torn apart, afraid that tonight chemical weapons may be used in our neighborhood, afraid that if Assad wins, we'll be badly off, afraid if the opposition wins we'll be worse off, we ignore the Syrians who are not involved in the conflict. The ones who just want to live their lives. We ignore the fact that the two sides, the rebels and Assad, don't represent every facet of life in Syria and don't represent all the people of Syria. Or, to quote a movie I rather liked:
I'd like to be able to pick just their side. But alas, with no good options, that seems to not be possible. But if we are our brother's keeper, and I believe we are called to be so, we can at least be sad that we cannot help those who suffer so much. Those of us who are against war in every situation have basically said that there is no way they would even like to pick the side of the Syrian civilians. Being against war in all circumstances is the equivalent of saying to those in harm's way because of war, "you're not worth it, and you'll never be worth it."
I'm no fan of war, but I'm just not comfortable with that response either.
P.S. I still haven't told you what my personal opinion is on what we should actually do on this whole Syria situation.