Peter Bergen on Syria

From CNN.com:

Bergen’s take is that Samantha Powers showed delay after delay fizzles any opportunity to intervene in a way that helps. Newt Gingrich says both sides of this battle are bad and will not help the USA or Middle East peace.

SMcK: the Christian asks What does Jesus teach? The Christian asks What is best for the church? Some ask pragmatically, What will America or other nations achieve if they intervene?

What do you think?

The issue now in Syria is not simply that al-Assad is massacring his own civilians at an industrial rate, but he is also flagrantly flouting a well-established international norm by this regime’s reported large-scale use of neurotoxins as weapons against civilians. It seems inconceivable that the United States as the guarantor of international order would not respond to this in some manner.

But on what authority? There is scant chance of a U.N. resolution authorizing military action. When she was U.N. ambassador, Rice skillfully ushered a resolution through the Security Council that authorized military action in Libya in 2011. But Russia and China will almost certainly veto any similar kind of resolution on Syria.

Russia is one of Syria’s few allies, and Russia and China are generally staunchly against any kind of international intervention in the affairs of other countries, no matter how egregious the behavior of those states might be.

That leaves the possibility of some kind of unilateral action by the United States.

The U.S. regularly infringes the sovereignty of countries such as Pakistan and Yemen with CIA drone strikes on the novel legal theory that terrorists planning strikes on the U.S. are living in those nations and those countries are either unable or unwilling to take out the terrorists on their territory — and therefore their sovereignty can be infringed by drone attacks.

But making a claim that the Syrian regime threatens the U.S. is implausible, and therefore some kind of unilateral American action seems quite unlikely.

Gingrich:

We have already concluded that as terrible as the civil war is, it cannot be our war. The bombing will not change this — and then what?

Both sides in Syria are bad. One side is a brutal dictator, and the other includes Islamists and terrorists who are dangerous already and who would be brutal in power if given the chance.

We will not spend the time, money and blood to create a desirable side in Syria. There is no victory to be had there.

Syria is not the greatest threat in the Middle East to U.S. or world security. The Iranian regime is working every day to get a nuclear weapon. It poses a direct threat to Israel’s survival and a long-term threat to America.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Kandace

    I don’t know what to think but I know what to pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.” I see no resolution except for Jesus to come back and establish His government here on the earth.
    Another thought, if God responded to the cries of the Israelites when they cried out to Him in Egypt, will our prayers not do the same today? Some say we cannot hasten the day of the Lord, some say we can. It appears from Scripture we can. Thoughts?

  • Susan_G1

    I have not seen/read that the Syrian regime threatens the US. What Syria has done is what the world essentially agreed to after WWI – no more chemical or biological weapons. War is inevitable, but the use of these weapons is not. If nothing is done to curtail their use today, we are tacitly permitting their use in the future.

    I don’t know what Jesus teaches exactly about this. What comes to mind is, Who is our neighbor?

  • Eric Weiss

    To intervene, or not to intervene — that is the question:
    Whether ’tis better in the long run to suffer
    The slings and arrows of merely acting outraged
    Or to take arms against Syria
    And by opposing…

    Then what?

    It is a Kobayashi Maru scenario. Unfortunately, Captain Kirk is not at the helm of the Ship of State.

  • attytjj466

    I don’t know why it falls on the U.S. to do this, but it appears if a response is to be taken the U.S. will have to do it alone. Which is not good. And a cruise missle attack will have no strategic or even tactical impact in the civil war. But, not responding to chemical weapon use will only lead to more. My guess is that it will be done. I don’t think it is morally wrong, but it it wise? Not sure it is, at this time.

  • mc

    I am writing the day after my Parliament voted against taking military action. It’s not what our Government wanted, but we live in a democracy where no one person (Queen, Prime Minister, President, whatever) can take that decision alone.

    I’ve got to be honest and say I don’t know what is right. I hear too many contradictions in what Western leaders say.

    1, Any action to be taken must be justified because it is morally right, not because it is in “my” countries best interests. You cannot claim to act as the world’s policeman, and then act only in your own interests.
    What would you think of a police officer who declined to arrest a criminal because he was a friend or relative? Such a person would be rightly condemned.

    Yet we (UK and USA) both justify both action and possible inaction in terms of our own interests. How we expect other 3rd world countries to react to that, other than to read our vaunted morality as hypocrisy.

    Read your history. The West repeatedly intervened in the Middle East, overthrowing a democratic regime in 1950s Iran and supporting tyrants “in its own best interests”. Now we see the hostility brought about by our actions, and it doesn’t seem to do much for our best interests any more.

    2, Any action to be taken must result in a reasonable hope
    of a better future. Perhaps if we had intervened more at the beginning, when
    most of the rebel leaders were secular or moderate Muslims. Now large numbers
    of the rebels are Islamic extremists. Already they are killing religious minorities, Christians, Alawites, other Shia groups.

    How do you choose between two murderous thugs? Whatever we
    do I fear there will be mass murder done.

    3, If it is right for my country to use standoff missiles and drones to carry out “pre-emptive strikes against its enemies, why should not the Syrians, or anyone else, use similar methods to attack those considered to be their enemies.

    Be careful what you argue for, for your arguments can also be used by your enemies to justify their actions.

    4, “It will damage the USA/UK special relationship”
    See point 1, if that relationship does not involve doing what is right, then it’s not worth having.

    Still the Special Relationship seemed to survive the USA keeping out of WW2 until the Japanese attacked and Germany declared war against them. It seemed to survive UK opposition to the Vietnam war, and it survived the USA staying out of it when the self-governing Falklands were invaded and colonised by Argentina. I don’t know how much the Special Relationship matters to the average USA citizen, but this Brit would not want it at the cost of doing what is right.


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