If you’re like me, you have some real doubts about increasing our involvement in Syria by responding to that country’s use of deadly gas attacks.
The pictures we see of the dead, the dying and the sick turn our stomach. We want those who perpetrated such a horror to pay for their behavior.
And our country likes to think of itself as the moral police for the world. We intervened in the Kosovo genocide a couple of decades ago, after all.
But we didn’t intervene even earlier, when then-Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein turned the deadly gas on his own people.
And we’ve done little to stop the carnage found in the civil wars in parts of Africa.
So we’ve been very, uh, situational in our moral response to the horrors of the world.
At the same time, the use of biological and chemical weapons scares us, wondering if those weapons might be used against us by terrorists who somehow get a hold of them.
If we don’t respond to Syria’s use of them, are we encouraging it and others to ignore us? Can Iran take our threats against its weapons development seriously? That’s what some proponents of an attack on Syria argue. And it makes sense, to a degree.
But we’re tired of war. And we’re suspicious of government claims. Some call this, rightly, “Iraq Fatigue.” As we listen to some of the same folks who argued for involvement in Iraq make similar arguments for Syria, we worry that a limited strike soon enough morphs into more American soldiers dying.
And what kind of attack are we talking about? If it doesn’t hurt the regime, put real damage on Assad’s leadership, why do this? But if we do make a significant strike, or series of them, we might make the region even more unstable.
Then, of course, are we forced into an even deeper involvement, and do we see oil prices spike to the degree that our economy, already fragile, begins once again to slide towards recession?
Are we too late to this, so late that at best a strike only makes Syria even less stable, even more prone to radical Islamists taking over that country?
I guess we have to balance our outrage at those Syrians’ deaths with, of course, our own self-interests.
It sounds incredibly selfish, but given our recent history in that region, it also sounds sensible.
Maybe I’m with New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. He suggests the best response is to increase the arming and training of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel faction aligned with the West. Give them a better chance to force Syria’s Assad to take actions other than murder his people.
The so-called Arab Spring gave hope to people that they might free themselves from oppression. But that was such a simplistic notion. And we’ve seen that hope become prolonged war. But it is their war, after all. Maybe the best we can do is give them a fighting chance.
Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.