Monday, September 02, 2013


Over the course of the last week, I've been aware of all of the rumblings going on about Syria. It's hard to miss--everywhere I go on the Internet, from Facebook to Twitter (especially Twitter), there are opinions about Syria, and what the United States' roll in that ongoing conflict should be.

Let me be clear about a few salient points:
  1. I do not like war, or the actions of war, except in cases where they are necessary. There are, of course, cases in history where war has been an inevitable outcome--World War II comes to mind. I did not feel that our actions in Iraq ten years ago were necessary or justified.
  2. Yes, I tend to vote Democrat, but that does not make me a blind supporter of all Democrats, or, indeed, President Obama. I support him in the sense that I trusted him to lead this country more than I did the other candidates in 2008 and 2012, but that does not mean I put him on a pedestal and blindly follow him in everything. He is, as they all are, a human being and a politician. I'm well aware of what these things mean in Washington.
As the week progressed, I was simply too busy to do more than glance at opinionated Tweets from both sides of the debate--well, not truly both sides. My Twitter feed is comprised mostly of left-leaning people, but they are divided into true progressives who see President Obama as a more centrist, or even right-leaning, president, and those who follow and support him even when it leaves a bitter taste in their mouths. The opinions I've seen have ranged from, "I voted for you, but this is a terrible idea!" to "Well, I hate war, but I can see why you think you need to do this and I back you." As for me, I've been dumbly reading, but not opining because I simply didn't have enough information.

So in the last couple of days, I've set out to educate myself. The hard part about this, is, of course, finding unbiased information. I figure everything I read and watch will have some sort of bias, but I've found a couple of articles recently that trend towards neutral territory. The first, is "9 questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask", which does a good job of laying out just what is going on in Syria, and why top officials in Washington may be leaning towards taking some sort of military action there, even if it pisses off Iran, Russia and most of the Middle East...oh, hell, most of the world because let's face it, we are seen as imperialist bastards by many. Even the British have voted against taking military action in Syria.

General consensus on all sides--from the "Obama is a Muslim-Socialist-Baby-Killer" set to the "Obama Is My Spirit Animal!!!" group--seems to be that nothing the United States does in Syria is really going to make any sort of difference at all. At best, it topples a brutal dictator but helps perpetuate years of unrest and the upswing of militant anti-western groups. At worst, it makes an already horrible situation one big unresolvable clusterfuck, thousands more innocent lives are lost, and World War III breaks out because the U.S. has pissed off Iran and Russia. However, there is one very important factor that may be what is driving President Obama and his staff: Assad is very likely using chemical weapons against his own people, a huge no-no in international warmongering "rules" and one that is seen, by many, as an action deserving of a very big swat on the head with the metaphorical rolled-up newspaper, followed by an echoing international cry of, "NO! BAD DICTATOR!" Standing idly by while chemical weapons slaughter thousands of innocent civilians does not make the United States look good--but then, neither does stomping in with our "by our might and by our right" attitude.

It's likely very obvious by this point in my post that I'm really not for war, or the U.S. taking miltary action where it doesn't really belong; but then, I can't claim to be one hundred percent isolationist when innocent citizens are suffering. Assad is brutal.

From the "9 Questions" article:
It’s true that basically no one believes that this will turn the tide of the Syrian war. But this is important: it’s not supposed to. The strikes wouldn’t be meant to shape the course of the war or to topple Assad, which Obama thinks would just make things worse anyway. They would be meant to punish Assad for (allegedly) using chemical weapons and to deter him, or any future military leader in any future war, from using them again.

This, I can almost get behind, but only so far. There are other options in Syria that do not involve our military beating the crap out of anyone; these options would not make a huge difference in the grand scheme, but would at least show that we don't support Assad's methods, and wish to do something to aid the Syrian people.

I reserve my right to be both for and completely against a U.S. military intervention in Syria. If we can help in a constructive way, one which aids the people who need it while still sending a strong message to leaders everywhere that chemical weapons are a no-go area, and in direct conflict with the rules set forth by the Geneva Convention, then I'm all for it. This begs the question: If Assad did, indeed, use chemical weapons, and this is truly going against the Geneva Convention, why can't he be tried as a war criminal? Honest question; I really do not understand.

I'm well aware that I'm sitting here in my safe little home in a very comfortable part of California, viewing this issue from behind a window of privilege. My thoughts and feelings on the subject are not going to help one whit the people who are cruelly suffering this long war. It's easy for me to sit at my computer, idly wondering what will happen to my life if my country chooses to take military action in a country far away, while the people of that country are running for their lives, camping in refugee camps, and dying in large numbers.

Should we do it? I lean towards "hell no," because it's not going to solve anything. I really don't see a military slap on the wrist doing much to convince Assad or other dictators to refrain from using chemical weapons now, or in future. But then, no one really cares what a music teacher in California thinks; I'm really just sorting my thoughts out. It's taken me a weekend to write this (I rarely--and I mean rarely--edit blog posts, preferring the "word dump" technique of sharing what is going through my head at any given moment--that's what makes my blog live and real to me) and new information and misinformation is still streaming across Twitter even as I try to type a conclusion. I'm only relieved that I'm not making this decision for the U.S. government, the country, and, by extension, the world.


Erik Ammon said...

Meg, thanks for that article! It really explains a lot and can help people make a more educated decision.

Meg said...

Glad you found it helpful, Erik! I did, too. I do try to keep up but the new job has me running around with so little time to catch the news.