Monday, September 9, 2013

In Which I Explain My Thoughts On Syria

Hello, gentle readers! Let me begin by apologizing for my absence. With the sable days of summer waning and calling me out-of-doors with their siren songs; the vicissitudes of moving and with beginning a new (and hopefully final!) semester of my undergrad; the social obligations of seeing returning friends; and a family reunion  in the literally poisonous hills of Western Utah -- I have had little time to sit and write with any thing resembling attention or vigilance. But now, as the young Florentine says, I am return'd, and that war-thoughts have left their places vacant...

The news of the day is, and as it should be, nothing but Syria. While conspiracy theorists are going apoplectic with insinuations that somehow our government has managed to fabricate yet another war in the Middle East to draw the eye of the American electorate away from our own institutional failures (the NSA, for example), I am of the slightly-less-paranoid bent and, thankfully, Syria presents a moral challenge for our foreign policy that we have seen before -- indeed, a couple of times within my lifetime!

Let me begin bluntly: anyone who says, in voice or in print, that we are "going to war with Syria", is indescribably wrong. This is not a semantic argument -- it is based in the principle of how a country identifies itself: which is, as we can hope, not in the candor of its government nor in the effectiveness of its diplomacy, but rather in the spirit and culture of its people. The people in question, I rush to add, who are fleeing their own borders in the millions to escape the vicious throes of violence from a corrupt, caliphate-determined government on one side, of which most current evidence seems to illuminate is willing to use illegal chemical weaponry upon its own people, and a theomaniacal revolution that began with a humanist, secular intent and quickly was inundated with more fundamentalist radicals whose chosen form of retaliation is in the manner of suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism. "Syria" is the mass of horrified, lost, and seemingly hopeless innocents flooding into Iraq and Jordan (the second largest refugee camp in the world currently, supporting just over 200,000 Syrian refugees, is just eight kilometers south of the Syrian border). It is outright piffle to insinuate that these are the people we are going to war against, that we seek to bomb innocents or further mutilate their infrastructure. 

(Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

Rather, it is the necessary and welcome policy of the United States to liberate the Syrian people from its oppressive President and the theocratic revolution that he faces, which together put the unarmed people of the country in the middle of a merciless vice. Western foreign policy has very much tried to adopt this stance in recent history -- our signing of the non-proliferation agreement, the Genocide Convention, and the Geneva Convention are all examples of this principle. While critics of this kind of foreign policy have rightfully pointed out that we as a nation have been negligent, unsuccessful, or downright detrimental in implementing these actions in the past, it stands to question why our past failures should be any bar at all to our continued efforts in humanitarianism and liberation now? At the heart of an issue, a people who cannot fend for themselves are watching their homes and families being torn apart by actions that are illegal on an international scale -- who with the slightest trace of a moral compass could not see such an issue and feel that those with the power to help alleviate the problem are obligated to do that very thing? 

On the subject of illegal actions, the general American populace needs to realize that we have much more than a moral requirement to intervene when certain actions are made public on the global scale -- in many instances, we are mandated to by international law. Much as in the case of Iraq, a large piece of our legal obligation to intervene came from the stipulation that all signatories to the Genocide Convention are required to "prevent and to punish" a country that has enacted clear and defined events of genocide within or outside of their own borders. It was legally required for us to invade Iraq under terms of the non-proliferation agreement. It was under the weight of law that we were required to penetrate Iraq when they harbored internationally wanted criminals and gangsters. 

Similarly in Syria, we are faced with a national institution that seems to have used chemical weaponry on its own people, thereby prompting an international response from those states who have been integral in the compilation of The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. While Syria is one of the UN five states that have not yet signed the treaty, their status as a member of the United Nations subjects them to international law in the event that they use chemical weapons within or outside of their own borders. The United States may be the swiftest to act on this precedence as we have the means and our current administration has the passion to do so, but rest assured that the UN and other superpowers will not be far behind in making tangible actions. 

Whether or not one believes that the efficacy of military action is the best way to intervene, it cannot be stated that military action against a wildly violent government and its equally violent coup are equivalent to actions against the people, many of whom are no longer within the conflict zone. I would not be the first to suggest a military response myself, but I would be the most vocal in both declaring that an international response is valid, necessary, and welcomed by the Syrian people, and to say that such an action is an act of "war on Syria" is delusional nonsense. Those who are moved by admirably Leftist passions for non-violence might be going too wide in the foreign policy spectrum to think that a liberation of a people is the same as targeting them militarily, or that those who believe that a military response is warranted and required are people who do not care about the lives of innocent Syrian civilians and the application of a proper peace process. Quite the contrary, in fact. Furthermore, it rather makes those who banner their proud resistance to a "war on Syria" look the more callous, happy to wave their stance of non-violence on the easy, green grass of an non-endangered country, while being unable to present a viable solution to dismantling violent regimes in territories that desperately require it. It is, for all observations, the kindest kind of hypocrisy I can think of -- to preach non-violence and simultaneously allow it to occur with impunity. As Coriolanus remarked:

What would you have, you curs,
That like nor peace nor war? the one affrights you,
The other makes you proud.  Your virtue is
To make him worthy whose offence subdues him
And curse that justice did it.

Nevertheless, it will be amusing to see what other kinds of radical conspiracies leap into the fray to explain our insistence at going to "war on Syria". What international commodity does this small nation hold that our greedy, imperialist country must attain for itself? What future national scandals will evolve that makes the death of thousands of people on the far side of the world a convenient distraction for this administration or any other? I hesitate to think that, while it can be argued that our hearts are in the right place in this event, as they were in Iraq, in Iran, and in Kuwait -- it is a piece of the bitter, jaded necessity of skeptical thought to assume the worst in policy and in action, and to forget that we as a privileged nation have a basic, human obligation to defend our brothers and sisters wherever they are in the world, especially when they cannot do it for themselves, and that pacifistic philosophy amputates those who might otherwise do it for them. 

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