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Bomb Syria, Even if It Is Illegal

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  • Steve

    Hmmm… the link seems damaged. I was asked by one of my students which was the “good side” in Syria. “The civilians”, I replied. But as far as the warring factions, we have no dog in this fight.

  • HornOrSilk

    Things are very complex here. First, Mark, you need to actually read so-called “liberal” sites, instead of create strawmen about them. You will find many of them (and media outlets) ARE critical of any bombing in Syria. Here, you should read this thread on the FogBow, starting with the more recent posts: http://www.thefogbow.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=83&t=9436&start=225 . So there are many who are against this, speaking out against it. Stop getting analysis from one source without looking to the other side and what they actually say.

    Second, I’m opposed to any bombing in Syria. However, anyone who looks at the situation can tell it is different from Iraq. Here, in Syria, things are actually happening, chemical weapons are currently being used. Iraq was pre-emptive, with no WMDS being used. So the situation differs, so that some might actually have legitimate reasons to be opposed to the Iraq war and not opposed to doing something in Syria. Again, I am opposed to action in Syria but lets not forget proper distinctions. Without them, your own ideology comes out.

    • Iota


      I read Mark’s blog sometimes but don’t comment much so I might be missing something here (apologies in advance) but

      Do you really think there’s a substantial difference between the invasion in Iraq and potential invasion in Syria?

      From where I’m sitting (I’m not American) it looks like the similarities outweigh the differences:

      In both cases the US has pretty unilaterally decalred that if a foreign ruler does/is suspected of X, they will attack, basically “for the good of the people”. They did this without a jurisdiction (neither Iraq nor Suria are colonies or protectorates of the US), nor with sustained support from the populace. Which pretty much means unilaterally deciding that you get to tell other countries what to do.

      The problem with this is twofold:

      a) If you enter a conflict without massive support form the populace, they won’t like you. Because if you could topple a previous leader, you can topple them, and they know that. So, unless they already like you, you will be seen as at least a potential threat (and as an actual threat by any faction that doesn’t want you there).

      b) The US is still just a country, with its own political ambitions. It has tolerated and supported non-democratic regimes elsewhere, in living memory. So whenever you go to war for “humanitarian reasons” without the backing of the majority of the populace of the affected country, the populace might suspect you aren’t doing it because you’re just nice and caring. After all. North Korean concentration camps have been operational for +50 years now.

      So let’s assume (assume, because I haven’t been in Syria and, if pressed, would not be a house on the facts) Assad has chemical weapons, and has used them against civilians and the rebels wouldn’t do that. This means, the way I see it, that the pretexts for entering a war is just a bit less flimsy. The context for invading Syria would be substantially different (better) than in Iraq, if the US actually had overwhelming, long-term support.from the Syrian people.

      • HornOrSilk

        As I have said, I do not support action in Syria. However, there are profound differences. With Iraq, there was no military action going on in the nation itself which needed a reaction. What was used as justification — WMDs — were 1) false and 2) used events from previous decades, long over, not recent times, to justify action.

        Now, a peace-desiring interventionist philosophy, such as found with Mo Tzu, would reason no action in Iraq. However, it would also recommend action in Syria. Because the attitude is to force peace through military might, to defend people who are under unjust attack as a means to end war. Again, I’m not Mo-ist myself, but I am giving an example of a philosophical position which would lead to the difference. The distinction is significant. And you admit, if there is real evidence of chemical weapons being used, it is indeed indicative of a difference.

        There is also the approach an approach which differs. Iraq was seen as an optional military campaign, and the US was willing to go at it alone. It tried to make a case to get allies, but it was going to do it no matter what (and we have evidence of plans of such an invasion taking place pre 9-11). With Syria, right now, it looks like the decision (currently) is limited strikes (not troops on the land) and the US is seeking to not go at it alone. The attitude is different.

        A good movie to see the Mo-ist position put into practice is “Battle of the Warriors.” It is intervention-defensive in attitude, trying to force peace when someone else strikes out. Which, again, is quite different from pre-emptive strikes. Iraq was all pre-emptive. Syria would be reactive.

        But all that said, and the distinction being as it may, I am still opposed to action. My point is that things are not so simplistic. This is not pre-emptive. Many opposed Iraq due to the pre-emptive strike notion engaged with it (which is why many of the same people supported action in Afghanistan who opposed Iraq; while of course many opposed both and oppose action in Syria, like me).

        • Iota

          > As I have said, I do not support action in Syria

          I did read that. Acknowledged.

          > Now, a peace-desiring interventionist philosophy, such as …

          Just to be perfectly clear – I’m not asking you about philosophical positions you don’t endorse or follow. It’s obvious to me that anything can be a “profound” difference for *someone* out there. But as it happens, I want your opinion – HornOrSilk -, not someone else.

          So if you’re not a Mo-ist, don’t endorse the Mo-ist position, then you haven’t answered my question.

          Can I ask you to try engaging again?

          Why, for you, is the difference significant? Or maybe it isn’t, since you end up saying “the distinction being as it may”?

          [Also I’d have a gripe with the Mo-ist position, at least as you explain it, for ethical. logical and practical reasons, but since you’re not a Mo-ist, the point is moot.]

          • HornOrSilk

            The distinction is legitimate distinction, which explains why someone can be opposed to the Iraq war and still support action in Syria. Difference which come from just war requirements also indicate this: the idea that someone opposes one war must oppose all wars or be inconsistent is what I find wrong. The Mo-ist point I raised comes from the fact that I think many who support reaction in Syria and opposed Iraq are neo-Mo-ists, and so I am explaining the difference in thought and why the distinction matters.

            • meunke

              “Mo-ist … Neo-Mo-ist”
              – For a second I hoped you were talking about This guy.

              As for some people using the “Well, they used chemical weapons!” as the reason we should intervene, I say… “so?” If the same people who died from the chemical attack had instead, say, been bayoneted or shot, does that mean we shouldn’t intervene? I mean they’re still dead. Why does killing them in one way supposedly justify a military attack, whereas killing them some other (possibly even more hideous way) NOT justify an attack is what I would ask them.

              They shot 50 people! Well, that’s too bad… Hmm, what else is on TV?

              They gassed 50 people! SON OF A *****!!!! We have to crush them NOW! This can not be allowed to stand!!!

              I don’t get it.

              • HornOrSilk

                Weapons of mass destruction have a greater sin involved with them, which is why the “so what.” This is why the use of the Atomic Bomb is seen as a great evil.

                • meunke

                  You missed my point entirely.

                  By the way, starting a war with them is a MUCH more terrible evil than not getting involved militarily if you want to use that logic.

              • D.T. McCameron

                Please, what does it mean? I’ve tried google, and all I can come up with is how unpopular the word moist is.

            • Iota

              > The distinction is legitimate distinction

              Depends on your idea of legitimacy. For some people (like the Mo-ists in your example) it’s a meaningful distinction. For others, like me, it’s overtly abstract (formal) and, therefore, trivial.

              I assume, that – even though you don’t support military action in Syria, you do think the distinction is somehow significant.

              It would be an interesting philosophical debate, where we could all kindly agree to disagree, if not for the fact that there is actually a binary real-life choice you people (Americans) will have to make: to invade Syria or not. And what you do is kind of important, because you are still a pretty big political power.

              It’s all the more tricky, because you people will not be making a decision about your own lives, but about the lives of mostly *other* people, more than a continent away.

              Which is why, while I can empathise with trying to see things form a philosophical opponents POV, fundamentally saying “I don’t support intervention in Syria but you people have legit reasons for supporting it.” eds up sounding as “I won’t actually condone war in Syria but if someone else thinks we should go to war, y’all can just go ahead.”

              Which is a little baffling, to use an understatement.

              If this were an abstract debate about the finer points of Catholic theology, a historical discussion about the fall of the Ottoman empire, or a disagreement about music tastes, I’d be all for empathetic understanding of fundamental differences in perspective. But it’s about going to war and getting other people killed…

              • HornOrSilk

                Well, the distinction is one which is also found in Catholic Just War Principles. Pre-emptive strike is NOT allowed, while defensive response is. That distinction is indeed valid. However, just war principles have other qualifications which the Mo-ist would not have, including likelihood of success and proportionality. Nonetheless, since one of the criteria in just war doctrine is in accord with the Mo-ist distinction, it is quite important to discuss it and show how that already makes a difference in the issue of a response in Syria.

                To many morality is always “abstract and trivial.” Not for me. Nor are distinctions trivial. Catholic thought is interested in distinctions so we don’t end up equivocating. As I fear this whole article is doing.

                • Iota

                  Like most opinionated Catholics I probably have some opinions about Catholicism you wouldn’t like. But just to clarify my position:

                  > However, just war principles have other qualifications which the Mo-ist would not have

                  Which is exactly why the distinction between pre-emptive and post-chemical weapons use alone is trivial to me.

                  As I understand it (being no theologian and having no theological hotline to Jesus Christ), the whole point of moral theology is to give an internally consistent framework for how you deal with actual people, not with abstract principles (thence: seeking to fulfil the formal requirements as if it were a legal system, that absolved you if you did the wrong thing but your paperwork was formally in order according to human eyes, is wrong).

                  As I understand it, the Just War Doctrine is a result of applying the principle of “Love thy neighbour” to actual people and THEN reverse-engineering that to arrive at individual formal conditions. As a consequence, meeting a single or even most conditions without all of them is fundamentally insufficient.

                  And that is why I bristle when any discussion of a possible war in Syria ends up being mainly about “Catholic thought”, “the Just War doctrine”, “humanitarian principles” or “the Geneva convention” and not Syrians.

                  It’s possible I’m being uncharitable just now and people do actually think about Syrians (the actual people) and simply prefer to dress it up in abstractions. I hope so, at least.

    • meunke

      Any invasion/attack/whatever by the US at this point will end up doing exactly what the United States does best: Swinging its mighty Greatsword to fight a swarm of pissed-off hornets.

      There is no ‘good guy’ side to support in that war. We will do nothing but make it worse in the long run. If we can not contribute positively with diplomacy, then we shouldn’t ‘contribute’.

      In short, let it burn. It’s not our problem.

      • HornOrSilk

        Whether or not we should “invade” or “attack” or the like, the “it’s not our problem” response is also wrong. What is happening in Syria is extremely bad, and something does need to be done to fix the problem. The deaths scream out to God. More deaths in war is not the answer, here, especially since it is unlikely such action will have any success (and thus failing just war principles). Nonetheless, this does not give us a free pass to ignore the human tragedy.

        • meunke

          Yeah, deaths, pillage, murder, rape all over the world, from Burma to Central Africa. Yet no one screams for action there. Wait… *checks CNN* nope, nobody cares.

          Our involvement militarily will do NOTHING but make it worse. So, like I said, if we can’t help with diplomacy, it is NOT our problem.

          • HornOrSilk

            No one screams for action there? Seriously? Is the only place you go to to decide if people are screaming for action is CNN? This is a typical nonsensical response. Several fallacies involved, such as argument from silence [of one channel, today — http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/22/world/asia/myanmar-rohingya-report as an example of a story a couple months old on CNN about Burma].

            Now you add diplomacy.You didn’t say anything about diplomacy before. You said it is just not our problem. Even if we are ineffective with diplomacy, this idea that sin is not our problem is unCatholic to the core. All sin is our problem. Even if we don’t know a solution, we can’t just shrug it off and run off like Cain.

            • meunke

              “Is the only place you go to to decide if people are screaming for action is CNN?”
              – Snark recognition fail.

              “.You didn’t say anything about diplomacy before.”
              (What I wrote in my first response in this thread): “If we can not contribute positively with diplomacy, then we shouldn’t ‘contribute’.”
              – Reading comprehension fail.

              “this idea that sin is not our problem is unCatholic to the core.”
              – Stupid comparison. Trying to combat sin by engaging in sin (which is what starting a war of aggression is) is what is unCatholic.

              ” we can’t just shrug it off and run off like Cain.”
              – Good heavens, do you even think before you post? Cain didn’t ‘shrug off’ other people’s problems. HE MURDERED HIS BROTHER AND RAN AWAY TO AVOID THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper’ was his sad attempt to lie to God. Sheesh, man, READ the Scripture you’re trying to reference before you use it.

              • HornOrSilk

                You still have failed to engage me properly. First and foremost, if you want to talk about reading comprehension fail, you keep acting like I am promoting war. I’m not. I am discussing differences and why people see different situations and contexts (pre-emptive vs reactive) differently.

                Second, though you did mention diplomacy, you still have in the end the “let it burn” idea. So I am addressing your disinterest there. So yes, I made a quick mistake and skimmed over your words while addressing your last line as central.

                Third, the whole attitude of Cain is the attitude of anyone who is indifferent of the situation of our brothers and sisters. Our Church consistently talks about the error of that response, whether or not Cain murdered his brother. The response itself was what comes out of a murdering spirit.

                • meunke

                  “You still have failed to engage me properly.”
                  – GASP! What a horrible crime I have committed! I failed to ‘engage you properly’.

                  “you keep acting like I am promoting war.”
                  – You really don’t read responses, do you? No, I never accused you of promoting war. I made a general statement regarding the futility (and evil) of any kind of military intervention. Your responses spiraled down from there.

                  “though you did mention diplomacy, you still have in the end the “let it burn” idea. So I am addressing your disinterest there.”
                  – You don’t understand. My point: Any response not associated with diplomacy, military intervention of some kind, is going to make everything worse. Therefore, if there is nothing diplomatically we can do, then we just let it burn. That’s colorful way of saying ‘if all that is left is to start a war of aggression, then forget it, we’re not getting involved.’

                  “Third, the whole attitude of Cain is the attitude of anyone who is indifferent of the situation of our brothers and sisters.”
                  – If by ‘indifferent’ you mean ‘allowed envy at his brother’s relationship with God and allowed that envy to drive him to fratricide, I guess that qualifies as ‘indifferent’? Stop backpedaling, just say ‘yeah, that was a dumb comparison’ and find a new one. The first rule when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.

            • Paxton Reis

              “No one screams for action there? Seriously?”

              Certainly not from the White House or the leaders in Congress. Well, what happens in Syria and Egypt may spread to key oil producing countries in the region, thus the discussion and focus of action in those places.

    • enness

      “things are actually happening, chemical weapons are currently being used”
      …By whom?

      As for Saddam, I may have been only three years old at the time of the horrific attack on the Kurds, but I’m aware that it did happen

      • HornOrSilk

        The attack on the Kurds was not happening when we went to Iraq under Bush. Again, using the “they did it over a decade ago in the past” argument, we can perhaps say “The Germans also did genocide, so why question us if we decide they are our enemies needing our intervention now?” See how it works? The situation is, in Syria, things are happening. Serious concerns. Iraq, the events were in the past and nothing was being done. Two different situations.

  • kirthigdon

    The idea that chemical weapons are “weapons of mass destruction” whose use is intrinsically more evil that the use of other weapons needs to be debunked. The rationale for the use of chemical weapons is based on the fact that they are less destructive than (for example) high explosive artillery. In WWI, which saw the greatest use of poison gas, a much higher percentage of casualties were caused by artillery and the ratio of killed to wounded was much higher for artillery than for gas attacks. But that was part of the reason for using gas. High numbers of wounded can tie up enemy resources more than high numbers of dead. Gas was also useful for partial area denial during a battle without destroying or even contaminating for very long material assets. The main disadvantage was/is that gas is uncontrollable once dispersed, making the user vulnerable to quite literal blowback by a change in the wind. It’s just recently been revealed that the CIA provided Saddam with targeting information for gas attacks on the Iranians during his war with them. And the first use of poison gas in the Middle East was against Iraqis at the orders of Winston Churchill. As usual the US and Britain approach this Syrian war with the most exalted moral rhetoric and the dirtiest of hands.

    Thank God the British Parliament has voted down participation in this war and I pray that the US Congress will do the same. I’ve already written my Congress critters and will follow up with phone calls this week.

    Kirt Higdon