As the folks in Washington, DC, continue the confused march to war (or nothing), a report has come about that the civil war in Syria has led to over two million Syrians fleeing their homeland, according to the United Nations. I am torn as to how I should feel about military action by either an allied force or individual action by the United States.
The straw that supposedly broke the camel’s back – in this the camels being Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama – was the alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians by government forces. From the start, I want to make perfectly clear that I think the government of Assad is a government of thuggery and brutality and in no way do I support anything that the Assad government has done. However, in looking and looking, I can’t find anything that can conclusively and irrefutably convince me that it was the action of the Syrian government and not the rebels who used what Secretary Kerry said to be sarin gas, apart from a French report stating that the Syrian government has now on multiple occasions used chemical agents against the population.
Assuming then that this is true, that Assad’s regime and agents supporting his regime did use chemical weapons against a civilian population, what is our moral imperative and where is the support to launch a strike against the Syrian government? France supports us. The United Kingdom is gun shy. Russia and China are supporters of the Assad regime. Of course the diplomacy and politics of this all run deeper – Russia isn’t throwing all of its weight behind Assad and the UK’s opposition is fractured amongst the parties internally. That addresses the second question – our support is limited. But what of the first question – whence our moral imperative to act?
Ten years ago, the moral imperative to act against an undoubtedly savage regime was thrust upon us by the previous administration. Facts fabricated and kabuki theater in the Security Council of the United Nations. Should we feel gun shy about going into a war that doesn’t sound so different from the one we are ever so slowly extracting ourselves from right now? Should? I’m not sure. But I do. And is it that I distrust the government for its repeated misrepresentations about the threats these enemies constitute to us? Entirely.
I think what’s most frustrating about this is it is clear that the Obama administration doesn’t trust the rebel forces in Syria. Not that I blame him given the complete mess that has evolved in Egypt over the last two years. Why do I say that the administration doesn’t trust the rebels? Why else would we consider attacking the government ourselves if we’re not going to arm the rebels?
I don’t see a moral imperative for us to act unless it is us who instigated the conflict. If we started it, if we drove and funded rebel causes, then maybe the moral obligation to act against the Assad regime exists. But short of that, it isn’t our business to be the global police and imposers of democracy and freedom. The situation in Syria is undoubtedly sad and distressing, especially for those of us with loved ones and friends in the region. But we shouldn’t make a bad situation worse.