Thursday, August 29, 2013

Confused by Syria?

Will the West go to war against Syria? Should it go to war against Syria?

It is a finely balanced equation, or am I missing something?

Dastardly deeds are occurring in Syria. Reason to consider going to war.

War could lead to an even worse situation (e.g. a harsher government or simple chaos and anarchy) Reason not to go to war.

If we do not do something now, even worse things could happen. Reason to consider going to war.

There are other ways to express our displeasure than war. Reason not to go to war.

OK that will do on the calculations.

What is horrible and challenging for Christians is the sheer human suffering, knowing we could do something about it, and the impossible situation of Christians in Syria who are, all things considered, likely better off under Assad than under any alt.successor.

19 comments:

carl jacobs said...

Peter

Military forces do not exist to right terrible wrongs in the world. They exist to enforce the national interests of nation -states. In otherwords, soldiers aren't proto-global-policemen. The fact that terrible things are happening in Syria is not a reason to commit forces to war. There would have to be some significant national interest at stake to justify the expense of blood. People dying in a foreign land is not a significant national interest. It happens all the time all over the world. That may sound harsh but it's true. The West collectively does not have the will or the ability to right all the wrongs that occur because foreign rulers do terrible things. It is simply a bottomless pit from which there would be no escape.

As hard as it may be to accept, there is no good reason to go to war in Syria. The battle could be won with little trouble. But then what? Do you try to westernize a people who manifestly do not want to be westernized? Do you hand power over to one of the defeated parties? Do you rule as a colonizer? When they start shooting at you, what will you do?

Leave it alone. There is no way we can fix the problems that are behind this tragedy. Certainly not with the application of military force.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Bearing in mind, Carl, that I do not have mighty military force at my disposal, but imagining for the sake of the argument that I do (!!), I understand what you are saying and my head would say, 'Indeed. Do not go there, even though you could.' But my heart would say, 'I have some ability to do something about this situation rather than stand idly by and so I should authorise an intervention.'

Thankfully I am not the Prez of the USA!

Andrei said...

Thankfully I am not the Prez of the USA!

You'ld probably do a better job of it than the gentleman that is the current incumbent of the Whitehouse.

You might engage your brain before engaging your mouth and painting yourself into a corner where you look a fool if you don't bomb and and fool if you do= which is what has happened here.

When the missiles start flying they will kill people just as dead as the gas did (whoever is really responsible for its release - I am personally far from convinced it was Assad) and Syria will sbecome the 12th sovereign nation in past 15 years to be on the receving end of American bombs as the USA makes the world a safer place

carl jacobs said...

Peter

The problem is found in the very formulation of your question. Your logic (head) says "No" while your emotions (heart) says "Yes." Your emotions will not sustain you when payment of the cost is required of you. At that point, you will be experiencing different emotions and so will make an equally rash decision. Emotions are deceptive and unreliable.

This will be especially true when you discover the people you are helping aren't particularly interested in your vision of a just future. Mostly they want you to kill their enemy so they can rule. Then they will want you to leave. At which point they will kill those you left behind. If you don't do this, then they will start fighting you. You aren't necessarily helping. You are simply changing the identity of the dead.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Yes to both Andrei and Carl.

I am not the Prez of the USA! (I am sure he is also guided by opinion polls ...)

Shawn Herles said...

No confusion at all on my part. A chemical attack on civilians cannot go unanswered. The West must respond with military force, and sooner rather than later.

While there are always risks associated with any military action, the risks in allowing a chemical weapons attack on civilians to go unanswered are far greater. The long term fallout from doing nothing would be to embolden other tyrants to do the same.

There is no doubt this was Assad's regime. Nor is it the first time he has ordered such attacks.

This is not simply an American issue as Andrie claims. The threat of military action has also cone from Britain and most strongly from France. In fact the Socialist leader of France has made Obama look like a weak, prevaricating fool.

In the late 1930's many voices were raised in opposition to any military action against the Nazi regime, claiming that it had nothing to do with the Anglo-sphere. Had the isolationist and pacifist voices been heeded, the Jewish population of Europe would have been totally exterminated.

I find the "it's not our business" view difficult to impossible to reconcile with the command to love our neighbor.

Thank the Lord of Hosts who "trains our hands for war and our fingers for battle."

carl jacobs said...

Shawn Herles

Asserting that 'the West must respond with military force' does not define a coherent achievable objective. What would the West attempt to achieve with this military response? What level of force would be required to achieve it? What level of commitment is the population willing to sustain? Because lobbing a bunch of cruise missiles in the general direction of Syria is going to accomplish less than nothing. For any useful outcome to be realized, invasion and control are both necessary. Are you prepared for that?

Remember that it was never an Allied War objective to stop the Holocaust. How could it have been when one of our principle allies had death camps every bit as lethal as Auschwitz - if less efficient in their means of killing. The western powers fought Hitler because he was a mortal threat to themselves. It had nothing to do with saving foreign civilians from the German government. If it had, the West would have conquered the Soviet Union as well.

Some Jewish leaders complain to this day that the Allies did nothing to stop the trains or the camps. Of course they didn't. It would have been irresponsible to divert limited resources onto missions that didn't contribute to ending the war. Foreign civilians didn't figure into the calculation. They still don't. 'Never again' is a nice sentiment, but when push comes to shove, countries simply won't do anything to back it up.

Truth be told, the West is incapable of fighting without the US. If it is important to intervene in situations like this, then other western countries should be spending a lot more money on military capability and a lot less on the national health service. It's not an American responsibility but lack know of critical capabilities elsewhere means the US has to participate in the principle role. If the west really thinks action like this is important then other western countries must develop the ability to act independently.

carl

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Carl,

some of thevquestions you raise are questions that can only be answered by those with more knowledge than me on tactical issues.

Yes, I am prepared to support invasion and occupation if that is necessary, but I'm not convinced it is. An air campaign supported by Special Forces on the ground may well be effective, especially given the strength of the Syrian rebels.

I agree with you about Europe pulling it's weight far more, though I would point out that France does maintain a high level of military expenditure and has s very effective and well trained fighting force.

Shawn Herles said...

P.s. I agree that there are questions about the Allied response to the Holocaust, but surely the lesson remains that doing nothing is sometimes not an option. And the fact remains that had the Allies not responded to the invasion of Poland, the Jews of Europe would have been exterminated.

I should point out that I have several family members serving in the US military, so these are not abstract decisions for me, but deeply personal ones. But I remain convinced despite my fears for them that a chemical attack on civilians cannot go unanswered.

carl jacobs said...

Shawn

It is true that doing nothing is sometimes not an option. But this statement begs the important question. What is it that you must do something about? The western powers did not do something about Hitler because of any fear regarding his expected treatment of Jews or 'lesser races.' They did something about Hitler because he sought to extend his dominion in ways that threatened Western civilization. Britain wasn't defending Poland or human rights or foreign civilians. Britain was defending Britain.

The problem with your argument is that you can't connect the use of CW in Syria to any threat to the US. A lowered threshold simply isn't sufficient. It doesn't automatically translate into a lowered threshold for use against the US or its allies. If any would be so foolish as to break this threshold, the response will be more than adequate to establish deterrence in the future.

carl

Anonymous said...

"Britain wasn't defending Poland or human rights or foreign civilians. Britain was defending Britain."

Actually, originally it *was defending Poland. Ironically, the war ended with Poland still occupied by a foreign power.
Under classical just war theory, it is not clear that the US is justified in attacking Syria, unless it can be shown it has the right to do this to any country that mistreats its own people, acting as an agent of divine retribution in the world. Britain sometimes made this claim in the 19th century, against Ethiopia or Turkey.
I don't know why that blood-stained tyrant Mugabe wasn't overthrown. Or why Tibet wasn't liberated.
Martin von Ranke

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Carl,

I don't need to connect the use of CW to a threat to the US as that is not a relevant concern to me, in the sense that a nation should only use military force when it is itself threatened. I don't agree with that principle. The use of CW against women and children is enough of a reason for me. National interest alone is not to me a sufficient basis for the use of military force. That to me is contrary to the commandment to love our neighbors.

This is why I reject both pacifism and just war doctrine. I firmly believe in the Crusader doctrine. Defend the weak and powerless, right wrongs, liberate the oppressed, wherever in the world oppression and tyranny occur. National interest is secondary at best to that principle.

As you may guess, on foreign and defense policy I was a huge fan of George Bush.

Shawn Herles said...

De Oppresso Liber

The motto of US Army Special Forces.

Father Ron Smith said...

My previous attempt to answer Shaun's use of the Old testament to support his aggressive call to arms has obviously been found wanting. Here's another try:

The New Testament leaning is towards peace-making: vide: "Blessed are the Peace-Makers" - The Prince of Peace!

carl jacobs said...

Shawn

And you somehow think that throwing Syria into the hands of the 'rebels' will result in 'liberating the oppressed.' You know. Like in Libya.

To fulfill your doctrine you would have to seize control and rule the country like an altruistic colonizer. You would have to do this especially when the unenlightened people you have conquered do not share your vision of a just future. You are advocating a form of Cultural Imperialism that you do not have the ability to achieve.

It sounds noble and inspiring. But it's all sentiment and gesture. It has no substance. We can't actually implement the doctrine you advocate. If we tried we would be perpetually at war all over the world. Yet we have not declared war on China to liberate Tibet. Why? We have not sent soldiers to Zimbabwe to dispatch Mugabe? Why? You know the answer as well as I.

carl

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Carl,

I disagree, on two counts. Ruling a nation indefinitely is not necessary. Sooner or later people will learn to do so themselves, and the only thing necessary is a combination of hard diplomacy and sometimes military force and temporary occupation.

This is not sentiment lacking substance. It has already been tried and tested, on Germany and Japan.

War all over the world is what we have and have always had. War is a fact of life. Best to use it then for noble causes.

Nor is this "Cultural Imperialism." Justice is universal and objective.

Ron,

Allowing tyrants to use chemical weapons against women and children while we do nothing is not "peacemaking."

Father Ron Smith said...

And making war, is that peace-making?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
In the last resort I think peace-making can include making war.

Any which way I understand the history of the origins of the Second World War (to take perhaps the easiest war in history to discuss in these terms), I cannot see how peace would have broken out if Hitler had not been stood up to when Britain declared war on Germany.

I do not profess to know the right thing to do about the situation in Syria; and it is highly tempting to support 'do nothing.' But when tyrants so blatantly and unconscionably destroy their own citizens with a means of warfare universally decried, even the most pacifist of Christians must consider whether doing nothing is a loving action.

Shawn Herles said...

War has already broken out in Syria, so war is already being made. I'm not advocating in this situation making war, but ending one.

It is easy to preach peace when it's not the preachers children dying slowly from chemical weapons. The Western "peace" movement is an indulgence of armchair radicals and midfle class leftists who already enjoy relatively peaceful countries.

Jesus was talking about peace between God and man, not pacifism, nor turning our backs on the weak and powerless being slaughtered by a tyrant.