The Syrian government has, to all appearances, launched a major gas attack on its own people. It seems the death toll is around 300, with 1000 more suffering severe symptoms of poison gas. This is a monstrosity, and any government that commits such an act has no right to rule.
This act crossed the “red line” that the US has drawn in the sand about intervention in Syria. The attack is inevitable, and only days away. Australia will support the US, as always.
I’m here to say no. Someone has to.
I think it’s likely that the weapons were in fact used by the Syrian government. Maybe we’re just being lied to, like we were with Iraq. But then, the US really wanted to go to war and needed to invent an excuse. Now I don’t think anyone actually wants war. So let’s assume that we’re being told the truth (for once).
The US and allies will decide on a course of action in a few days. This will, in all probability, involve a limited strike with cruise missiles and the like. It’s unlikely that troops will be landed.
So why not go to war?
- Killing is wrong.
- Syria has not attacked the US or anyone else, so this action is not self-defense.
- It will accomplish nothing except killing and destruction. The Syrian government has withstood a long, vicious civil war, and will not be seriously impacted by a few bombs. In fact, fear of an external enemy may have the effect of uniting Syrians.
- It will breed a new generation of terrorists and haters of the west.
- The guilty will not suffer. Anonymous workers at the sites attacked will suffer and die.
- While chemical weapons are abhorrent, they are no more abhorrent than anything else that kills and maims. Over a million people have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Guns and bombs are the real weapons of mass destruction.
- There is no strategic outcome. The US is not looking effect regime change, as there is no regime candidate that is remotely acceptable.
- No-one knows who ordered the gas attack. In the chaos of Syria, it could be a rogue officer or an official policy. The US and allies want to punish without knowing who is guilty.
- Any attack, even a limited one, will cost billions of dollars, and will send the message, once again, that the world’s most “advanced” nations endorse violence.
So what to do? Just sit there and do nothing? Actually, in some cases that is all we can do. No-one, no country, no army, is omnipotent. A wise person chooses where their action can be used most effectively. Of course, we should condemn the use of chemical weapons. And we should see if anything can be done that is peaceful, that will not result in anyone getting killed, and that has an likelihood of accomplishing something worthwhile. If not, then we simply have to admit that there are limits to our power, and that we are not responsible for things we have no control over. Ultimately, the Syrians will be masters of their own fate.