As someone who was a child and an adolescent during Vietnam, I have always hated war, and I have never been very trusting of the government’s push toward most war actions since then. From that period on, I’ve marched against many of our too frequent US military interventions around the globe.
I can only think of one war that I wish had been fought with more intent: World War II. I wish President Roosevelt had decided to bomb the entries to the death camps, and had taken other actions to prevent the Final Solution. I was glad that President Clinton got involved in Bosnia, because I want “Never again” to mean something more than an empty phrase. How I wish we had found a way to prevent the killing fields of Rwanda.
So we stand on the precipice of doing something in Syria, not to end the violent, bloody civil war, where more than 100,000 people, many of whom were women and children, have died. The use of chemical weapons has been called the “red line” that means some sort of intervention, at a time when we are reasonably weary of war. While the 1,400 people are a small drop in the bucket of death in Syria, the means of their death makes a huge difference. So many Jews died from chemical weapons—Zyklon B—during the Shoah. We said, “Never again.” Did we mean it then? Do we mean it now?
When Hitler began his march across Europe, it is said that he watched what happened in Spain, and when the world stood by and did nothing, he took his cue. Had some nation stepped in earlier, in Czechoslovakia or Austria, maybe that war would have been avoided.
Syria is different: it is a civil war in which it is hard to root for anyone. The leader is a tyrant who is willing to kill his own people. The rebels are a disparate group of people unable to work together, and their methods and goals are also troubling. How the US or Israel would become involved in an effective, helpful manner seems a complete mystery.
But, again, use of chemical weapons is different: If the world stands by silently, tacitly letting it happen, not only is it likely that Assad will use them again, but other nations and rebels will know that the taboo against them has been breached and they too can use them. Weapons of mass destruction, the very weapon that killed so many of our people, will become the norm.
I do not want a meaningless, or worse, dangerous attack, a few cruise missiles with the message, “Don’t do it, but if you do, all we’ll do is slap your wrist.” And I fear the House of Representatives not being able to see past the partisan politics they are mired in.
My preference would be to take Assad before the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague and put him on trial for war crimes, for crimes against humanity. If special forces can find OBL, surely they can find Assad.
I am glad the decision is not mine.
But I do know, that as someone who believes that genocide and weapons of mass destruction are evil, and not a necessary evil, I must speak up, not stand idly by the blood of my (global) neighbor.