Monday, September 2, 2013

On War and Peace

I posted a few days back that it feels like we are stuck in the 1980's movie War Games, as though we are all unwilling pawns in some game being waged far away, without anyone really having access to the rules.

In some ways, the last couple of weeks have been very reminiscent of the Cold War days, except now we are only talking about chemical weapons instead of nuclear ones, though anyone dealing in the world of reality understands that war is war is war and that the parties playing this game all have loaded arsenals.

There are few conflicts in the post WWII era that have been waged where there was a clear delineation of right and wrong. Just about anyone with a conscience understood that the Holocaust was wrong, but whether any of the battles in the world since then have been fought for the right reasons or the wrong ones is much harder to say.

How and why we got into WWII was clear enough, but how it ended, by us dropping not one, but two atomic bombs on the other side of the Earth, paved the way for the proliferation of nuclear weapons not just by our allies, but by our enemies as well. It also revealed the unfortunate truth that we, The United States of America, are not above the killing of thousands of innocent people just to make a point.

It appears that any involvement we may engage in Syria is intended for just that express purpose - making a point. President Obama has said he has no intention to send in ground troops, and will only use air strikes.

Those in leadership have admitted that they don't anticipate that any air strikes launched by the US will have an effect on the fight there. We know that it won't end the war. We know that it won't stop the fighting. We hope, so it seems, that strategic air strikes will send a message to those who used chemical weapons that they can't do that.

We hope, so it seems, that fear alone of our involvement will stop them from using these weapons. Guns, bombs, IEDs, torture, all permissible in our eyes....just not chemical weapons for some arbitrary reason.

We hope, so it seems, that we alone can communicate this message, even as our allies excuse themselves from any involvement.

We hope, so it seems, that our intel is right this time. That this time we know who used the weapons and against whom, though we've been wrong about that before.

We hope, so it seems, that we know which side is the right side and which side is the wrong side, and that we are choosing the correct one this time. Except that even Senator McCain was snowed when it was discovered that one of his hosts was a kidnapper. We don't know who the good guys are here and who the bad guys are, because it's just not that clear cut. This isn't a war we started. This isn't a war we can end. 

We hope, so it seems, that our actions will be justified.

We hope, so it seems, that the rest of the world accepts our hypocrisy. We used napalm in Vietnam, we used phosphorus in Iraq. We've used chemicals. We dropped bombs on Japan. We're the only nation that has used a nuclear weapon against another.  We kill people weekly using drones flying in other parts of the world. We are engaged in a silent air war as it is, with the collateral damage of dead and injured civilians.

We hope, so it seems, that others will heed our warning to do as we say, but not as we do.

The conflict in Syria has been going on for a long time now, and the estimated dead are already well over 100,000. Many of those killed are women and children, just as they are alleged to be at the hands of the chemical weapons that appear to have been used in recent weeks.

We don't flinch when 100,000 people are dead until and unless some line in the sand is crossed, though it's a line we ourselves have crossed before. If we are suddenly to care about the numbers of the dead, shouldn't it have been a long time ago before the numbers were this high, prior to the alleged use of chemical weapons? If we truly have an interest in human rights, I would make the argument that we should have, and that the types of weapons employed shouldn't be the sole determining factor in whether we are involved.

Human rights are worth defending against all oppression, not just the tools we deem exceptionally bad.

The President has said that he will ask Congress to authorize war powers here, but also said that he doesn't need their authorization to order a strike.

Congress is on vacation, and has refused to reconvene early to vote on the matter.

And we, the American people, sit in the dark room full of flashing lights and world maps, waiting, constantly being asked if we would like to play a game.


I, for one, would like to abstain.

I hope that Congress will pause. I hope that they will demand clear and convincing evidence that has been backed by the UN weapons inspectors. I hope that Congress will wait for UN authorization of any involvement. I hope that any involvement is multi-national. If it is not, I hope we abstain.

We've waged war on false pretenses before.

I've known soldiers killed in those wars.

I'd rather not know more.

We did not start this war and we cannot end it.

We know this already. This should be all the information we need.

We should be supporting peace and human rights. And honoring them both ourselves.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.  This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.  Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.  
~Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

1 comment:

  1. When congressional members from both parties walk out of a classified briefing still feeling unconvinced then we have a problem. If I thought this was some great humanitarian rescue plan I might be on board but it isn't and it's hypocritical of this government to put it out there that way. As always, great post Kelly.

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