I am one of those people who almost always have an opinion. I am a news junky, and a foreign affairs addict. I listen to political talk radio every day on my 35 mile commute to work.
Its usually easy for me to express my views on any and every political situation. NSA spying? Bad. Edward Snowdon? Good. ObamaCare? Good. Sequester? Bad. Stop and Frisk? Bad, bad, bad!!!! Occupy Wall Street? Good, at least for a while.
You get the idea.
My father once told me that I seemed to have opinions even on topics I knew nothing about. He was pretty much right: I could take the smallest fact and turn it into a political position. I was kind of proud of that, actually.
Now, though, I am truly of two minds. I find myself profoundly glad that I don’t have to be the one to make a decision about how to react to the situation in Syria.
For the most part, I agree with Rand Paul, who says that the US should use its military might only to protect direct national interests, and only if all other options have been tried. Like just about every other American I know, I am sick of war. I am tired of checking on those whose children and brothers and husbands have been deployed. Tired of seeing the names of the dead on the news. I am tired of knowing that billions of dollars a month (a week? a day?) are going toward those war efforts and that in spite of those dollars, soldiers are still being injured and killed.
Mostly, I am a pacifist. I believe in diplomacy. I believe that if the US really worked hard in negotiations with Syria’s allies (Russia, China, even Iran), we could peacefully pry Bashar Al Assad out of office and end this terrible civil war.
But how long would that take, and how many more civilians would be gassed in the meantime?
And that is where I run smack into my internal conflict.
I recently visited the National Jewish American History Museum in Philadelphia. I enjoyed the exhibits about immigration, the industrial revolution, Jewish culture in America. But I was brought to tears by a film that featured an old man, a former American Soldier who had been one of the men who liberated the camp at Dachau. He talked about what he saw there; rooms full of human hair, boxes filled with human teeth, mass graves filled with the bones of his fellow humans. And he talked about the faces of those who were still living when the camp was liberated. The film showed us those faces; hopeless, horrified, their huge eyes staring out at us, asking why it took us so long to get there.
And the old veteran, wiping tears from his own eyes fifty years after he became a witness to the horror, told the filmmaker, “It isn’t enough to remember and to think, ‘Never again.’ It isn’t enough to feel bad. We have to act. We have to demand that it never happens again.”
And therein lies my sense of conflict.
15 thoughts on “No Easy Answers”
I’m struggling a bit, too. But I believe that punishing Assad is the right thing to do. I remember Clinton saying that his biggest regret during his presidency was not intervening in the slaughter in Rwanda. If we stand by and let this happen, we cannot ever claim the moral high ground.
I think for me that whole “moral high ground” issue is another struggle. I mean, how can it be OK to kill civilians with drones, but not with chemicals??
I can’t answer that, moms. It’s a tough question.
Moms, you summarized my internal conflict perfectly. Perfectly. We can’t let it happen, and really, we can’t stop it. So what do we do? What do we do? I too am glad I’m not the one who has to make that decision. And I’m very glad it’s not George W who will be making it this time. I think that Obama has both a brain and a moral compass. I am hoping that both of these come together to figure out the right path.
Once again I am reminded that there really are no “good guys” and “bad guys”. We use drones to kill civilians; I am sure that those Tomahawk missiles can’t avoid civilians. So where is the moral compass?
At the same time, I am saddened that the global community isn’t rising up immediately to punish the use of chemical weapons. That is supposed to be beyond the scope of decency; where is the rest of the world on this?
And what will the fallout of an attack be?
What would you do?
There isn´t much a simple person like you and me can do. It is really sad to see people die… Innocent people: kids and women, but even if the US attacks, that wouldnt be stopped; on the contrary, it would provoke more mournings.
I agree with you!
Killing to stop killing has never made sense to me!
I struggle with this one too. I guess my question is what would an airstrike accomplish? Would it change the culture of Syria? We haven’t been able to do this in Iraq with a much more organized effort. It’s heartbreaking what is going on over there. Again…what is our goal here?
Exactly my question!
If the goal is to depose Assad, then we are stepping beyond our role, and it won’t help to bomb anyway.
If the goal is to stop the use of chemical weapons, we need the international community behind us.
If the goal is to reclaim the famed “moral high ground”, then we need to shut down our drone program right now.
Any time you find yourself agreeing with Rand Paul about anything, it’s time to think some more.
I believe in diplomacy too, but it’s not going to work on Syria (or on Iran getting nuclear weapons). Sometimes you have to bring out the missiles and the bombs.
But here is my question: What will actually be accomplished? It won’t get rid of Assad, it won’t stop the bloodshed, and it won’t be enough to end the use of chemical weapons. And it will most definitely cause civilian casualties.
So to what end?
If it is to claim that moral high ground, that isn’t enough, especially given our use of drones.
So understand. I was listening to a debate about the situation this morning, and I have to say I’m not sure what my opinion is. And like you, that is HIGHLY unusual.
I have begun to realize that my opinion is less conflicted than it was when I wrote this: I can’t accept the fact that killing will help to prevent killing.