Song for Syria (Part 4)
In Part 3 I wrote that I was of the belief that the responsibility for action against Syria falls on the United States.
It seems the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agrees with me, but I’d like to elaborate on the reasons why I think some type of action is necessary.
First, I think it is time that America came to grips with the fact that we are the world’s only superpower for the time being. This means we have the immense responsibility to make sure the world remains a relatively secure place not only for our own national interest but for the interest of the globe as well. Just one example of this is the fact that without American military might, the oceans would be less secure and international trade would be a much more risky proposition for many nations. This would stifle global economic growth.
Responsibility for global security means that the United States cannot stand by idly while people are killed using weapons of mass destruction or when a tyrant decided it is a plausible tactic to begin the systematic murder of a group of people he does not agree with. There are many who argue that the United States should not be the world’s policeman, but I would argue that if the basic international norms are violated and the United Nations does not have the ability to act in the face of solid evidence that international norms are being upset, then the responsibility to uphold those norms belongs to America.
Why America? Because America is uniquely positioned to make a positive difference when tyrants who, are nothing more than glorified mob bosses decide that they can use the power at their disposal to murder innocent people in a manner that completely degrades the value and sanctity of human life.
There are people who say well America should have gotten involved in the situation in Syria earlier or what’s the difference between chemical weapons and bullets. I think as the most powerful nation in the world, America has to be able to mature in a manner that allows us to understand nuance, no matter how ugly it is. It is a fact that factions within nations disagree, and sometimes those disagreements cannot be solved politically, and they must be solved with war. Therefore the mere fact of having a civil war cannot be seen as illegal on the world stage. Although it is a noble goal that one day no nation will see the need to take up arms to solve a political, economic, or social disagreement, we must recognize that we are not at that point yet.
However, when the leaders of different factions lose sight of the fact that the people they are at war with are still human beings who deserve some basic level of respect and that even in war there must be some basic level of decency. When they choose to use weapons of mass destruction, then the international community in the form of the United Nations should step in and if the United Nations loses its nerve then the United States of America must step in.
People argue that the United States should learn its lesson from Iraq and Afghanistan. I think the people who say that learned the wrong lessons. Iraq was a fiasco based on the false premise that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction although there was no evidence that even if he did, that he had used them on anyone recently. Mere possession of weapons of mass destruction, no matter how undesirable it may be, should not be a basis for attacking a foreign nation. In the case of Syria, not only do we know that Assad has weapons of mass destruction, we can reasonably deduce that he used them on his own people as recently as 3 weeks ago.
Similarly Afghanistan is not a good example of why we should not do something about Syria. I believe we had every right to attack Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden attacked us and he was sponsored by the Taliban, which was in control of Afghanistan. When we requested that the Taliban hand Bin Laden over, the Taliban refused. As a result we commenced a war in Afghanistan on the basis of self defense. Our objective there was to topple the Taliban and capture Osama Bin Laden. Unfortunately, that mission was derailed by a misguided effort to do something in Iraq. Our failure in Afghanistan was not lack of clear objectives or lack of just cause, our failure in Afghanistan was that we did not commit the necessary amount of resources in Afghanistan and paid too little attention to what we were doing there.
The lesson we should draw from Iraq is not to get involved in dumb wars that have no clear purpose for reasons that make little or no sense. The lesson we should draw from Afghanistan is that if we are involved in a war with a just cause, we should commit our resources in such a way that we achieve our objectives. The lesson from these wars should not be that we should simply avoid action in the Middle East altogether.
There are people who say involvement in Syria is not in our national interest. They are right, if we wanted to make a calm cold analysis of our national interest, then involving ourselves in Syria is a bad move. It doesn’t line up with our national interests, no matter what the President and his current administration say about how we should do this for our national security interests.
However, I am asserting here that America is a unique nation. America was built on an ideal that has come to define it in a way the founding fathers never thought possible. The animating facet of American politics, the one true value that has allowed America to continue to flourish despite ghastly missteps, the one idea that has allowed America to overcome its darkest days is this:
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF EVIDENT, THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.
At first this only meant White land owning men. But as time has gone on, it has come to mean EVERYONE. We don’t need to spread our way of life across the globe. However, I do believe that it is America’s responsibility to spread this one simple ideal across the globe and to defend the concept whenever and wherever we can.
This is the concept that gives us our moral authority. This is the right that has always given us might. This is the concept that has allowed minorities from every corner of America to petition and win rights from the government and we can’t just stop at America. This simple concept is a universal law and if people are to be lifted from the depths of despair throughout the world this is the concept that will show them the way.
Weapons of mass destruction, whether they are Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical, have the uniquely savage ability to make the value of human life appear to be much less than what it truly is. When they are used, America’s moral obligation is to act in such a way as to demonstrate that as long as America has the ability to act, these weapons will be outlawed globally. It is not a question of national security interests; it is simply a question of human interest. All men are created equal and the sanctity of human life must be preserved. This is a just cause that should motivate us to take action.