Thirst for vengeance may be the last thing Syrian children need
For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.
Alexander Pope An essay on criticism, 1709
I am of two minds about attacking Syria. As an avowed peacenik, you would think I wouldn’t be ambivalent, but I am. I watched the notorious video that showed missiles being shot off and the subsequent footage of screaming children, a little girl gasping for breath and wailing in pain and terror, a dead, blue-faced baby, a little boy dying, rows of dead children being laid out on a cold concrete floor.
They say that there is no fury like a woman scorned. Fie on that. There is no fury like a grandmother in full Nana Bear mode. As I watched that video, I wanted to kill somebody. Right then. With tooth and claw and blood running down my chin. No, that’s not a pretty picture, but Nana Bear isn’t interested in pretty. Nana Bear is not entirely sane in protect the children mode, either, and clearly, the children in Syria are in dire need of protection.
But then I stood back. I allowed Nana Bear to go down for her nap and Rational Maya tiptoed around her and walked into the next room. And I asked myself – what do I really know about this? What’s the intel? More than that – what good would it do if we hurtle our military into the already unstable Middle East? Would that protect the children or would more children die? In the end, what good would it actually do?
We have had righteous wars. Nowhere near as many as the hawks would have us believe, but few people believe that World War II was unrighteous, not unless you feel that Hitler should’ve been allowed to overrun Europe, not to mention Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s just not as unforgivable when people attack you first.
It should be remembered that Syria, just like Iraq and Afghanistan, has not attacked us. We went into both Iran and Iraq with the full knowledge that they had not aggressed on us. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld excused Afghanistan by announcing that it was in collusion with Al Qaeda and bin Laden. They excused Iraq by claiming there were Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was a lie. (“Bush later said that the biggest regret of his presidency was “the intelligence failure” in Iraq, while the Senate Intelligence Committee found in 2008 that his administration “misrepresented the intelligence and the threat from Iraq”. A key CIA informant in Iraq admitted that he lied about his allegations, “then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war”.” From the Wikipedia entry “Iraq and weapons of mass destruction”)
And while, again, I am not entirely opposed to a surgical military maneuver for a righteous reason, I don’t particularly trust that we would do that. No, I expect instead that it would be a hideous quagmire, akin to Vietnam which lasted 14 years and to Afghanistan and Iraq which have surpassed the decade mark, each. Despite our declared victory in Iraq just two months after the March invasion in 2003, we are still there, as we are in Afghanistan and of the over 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq, I can guarantee you, a horrifying number of those would be children, just by default.
Ultimately, we would be a far distance from protecting the children should we invade Syria. What’s more, giving Assad his much-deserved smack upside the head for his genocidal assault on his own people should not merely be a US effort. This should be the world taking him and his to task, not just us. There absolutely should be consequences for any country that uses chemical weapons – on its own or anyone’s people. But this should be decided on a global level. Not only because that’s the right thing to do, but for quite practical reasons. If we spearhead this effort or jockey off on our own, our haters will undermine it, condemn it and it will cause only more world contention. If it is a global decision, we will all work together to a greater success.
While the knee-jerk vengeful (and I include myself) just want to bring Assad’s house down around his ears, we truly have to be more pragmatic, as heartless as it may sound. While we might want to rush in and do something, the children of Syria – and the rest of the world – would be far better served by a slowly, cautiously and thoughtfully planned strategy that would ultimately work. After all, what are we really after? Bloody revenge which does nothing more than generate and perpetuate wave after wave of violence and destruction? Or a solution that brings peace to the land, a safe return for the refugees and peace and rebuilding to those who are still there?
Ultimately, we have to choose the solution that serves the world best, and that cannot be done by the United States in isolation, or in haste. We need to get our wisest heads together worldwide to give the citizens of Syria – and their children – the best chance at a good life that we can. And for that to succeed, we must not be the fools that rush in where angels fear to tread.