By Bishop Michael Goings
The most important issue, in the news today, is the Syrian civil conflict and the claim by the Obama Administration that President Bashar al-Assad has authorized the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population, especially women and children. Some may ask, “What does that have to do with us in a little community like Dillon, off the beaten tracks?” To that question, I would say that it has a whole lot to do with us. Although we may appear to be an insignificant and out-of-the-way place, with no value or role in the scheme of things, we are important. Furthermore, what involves our national government and military involves us as well; believe it or not. I have not done a survey, but I am certain that there are many of you out there, like me, who have been keeping up with this ever unfolding story. Therefore, this commentary could possibly be exclusively for those of you who are curious of heart like me. I have given much thought and some probing on the issue and have come up with pros and cons of why we should or should not launch a military, aerial attack against certain strategic targets in Syria.
1. We Will Be Acting Alone
The first point of our argument against attacking Syria is that it will be a unilateral effort. None of our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or any of the other affiliations that we have with nations like Saudi Arabia, have agreed to support us in the aerial attack. Perhaps the greatest reason for not launching a unilateral attack is the overwhelming disapproval of the British Parliament to permit their military to be a part of it.
2. We Do Not Have a Vested Strategic or National Security Interest in Syria
As far as I know, Syria is not strategically significant, nor is its stability or instability a plus or minus to our national security. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Egypt, what affects Syria (apart from the humanitarian issues) has no ripple effect on us.
3. It Will Imperil Israel, Our Number One Ally in the Region
President al-Assad, along with the government of Iran, has already made threats to attack Israel with missiles, if America attacks Syria. Whether or not they are bluffing, we cannot tell. However, you have to ask yourself, “Is it worth the risk of starting a regional conflict that will most certainly draw other Arab countries to the side of Syria, due to their mutual hatred of Israel?” The simple answer can be summed up in one word – “No!”
4. It is a Civil Conflict Based Upon Tribal and Religious Interpretations and Discrepancies
What many in our government and nation have failed to consider about the civil conflict in Syria is the tribal and religious aspects. It is difficult for most of us in western culture to understand why tribal and religious beliefs would cause such uproar within a nation. Most people who live in the Middle East, third world countries in Asia, Africa, and other developing nations are more devoted to their tribal and religious beliefs than most Westerners. These traditions and beliefs are by far greater to them than any national allegiance and affiliation.
5. There is Rumored to be an Element of al-Qaeda Affiliates Operating Within the Rebel Group
One of the worse things that we could do is to aid al-Quaeda affiliates. In our concern and compassion for the victims and innocent, we must be very careful that we do not unwittingly remove one evil regime, only to have another (that we know is our enemy) who is more sinister and bent on spreading terrorism to the West to take its place. Did not we help to train and arm Iraq just to have them use some of our own weapons against us? When will we learn?
6. The Astronomical Cost
After hundreds of billions of dollars were spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, we cannot afford to invest money in a conflict that has no strategic interest or national security risk to America. Could not those billions or millions of dollars be better spent at home on our deteriorating infrastructures (i.e. roads, bridges, dams, or power grids), floundering educational systems that have, to our detriment, plummeted to an embarrassing ranking of 17th among the nations, or some other urgent domestic need?
7. Do We Actually Have the Right to Intervene and Interfere with Another Country’s Internal Affairs that Have No Bearing on Us?
All things considered, do we, as a sovereign nation, have the right to intervene or interfere with another sovereign nation’s internal affairs? If so, why have we not done so in the Congo, where millions have dies to civil conflict. Given there may not be the usage of weapons of mass destruction, but millions of women, children, and innocent people have lost their lives to the carnage. How can we close our eyes to the brutality and slaughter over there and in other troubled spots around the world, yet be so eager to jump in the fray in Syria?
8. A Vast Majority of Americans Are Opposed to Our Intervention
The final point that I want to consider in this section has to do with the percentage of Americans who do not favor the Obama Administration’s call to war against Syria. Although the war will not involve boots on the ground, a Washington Times poll finds, “Fifty-six percent of adults say the United States should not intervene and 19 percent support actions.” The majority is not always right; however, all indications seem to say that they are right this time.
1. Humanitarian Consideration
Admittedly, the most compelling reason why we should launch an attack against Syria’s military installation, especially the ones that either store or produce chemical weapons, is that it is humanitarian and preventative.
Due to what is proven to be conclusive evidence that President al-Assad is using chemical weapons against many innocent people, including women and children, provides a strong argument why we should strike. Regardless of Syria’s sovereignty, no nation has a right to slaughter its citizens who protest or disagree. In his book, While England Slept, then Congressman John F. Kennedy exposed and expounded on the grave consequences that British complacency produced in Western Europe leading up to the World War II and the Holocaust. As stated by Edmund Burke, Irish orator philosopher and politician, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
2. Failure to Respond Militarily Will Weaken our Position or Reputation in the Region as the Last Superpower
There is some merit to the fact that our position or reputation as the last superpower is in question. Another argument that supports an American strike, even if it is a unilateral one, is to maintain our image as a superpower and not send the wrong signal to others in the region, like Iran. In such a volatile region as the Middle East, we must not allow ourselves to appear as a paper tiger.
3. It is Now or Later
The third and final argument for attacking Syria’s chemical weapon facilities is simply a matter of time and opportunity. It is not wrong to project or surmise that sooner or later, Syria is going to be drawn into a conflict with Israel, our greatest ally in the region. This being the case, why not eliminate or degrade their ability to employ their huge stockpile of chemical weapons now, while we have an opportunity without any of our troops being in harm’s way? Why put off until tomorrow what we can easily and effectively do today?
In conclusion, in this commentary, we have allowed the pendulum to swing in both directions, as it always should about any issue. I have presented to you the pros and the cons of why we should or should not launch a unilateral aerial attack against Syria. To be perfectly honest with you, for the moment it seems as though the cons vastly outweigh the pros.
Based on this alone and in my opinion as a citizen of America, we do not presently have sufficient reason to strike. However, this is my opinion and you have the right to disagree, hopefully without becoming disagreeable.
In the meantime, let us pray for peace in the Middle East!
By Bishop Michael Goings