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Message to my Liberal Friends: You Can't Pick and Choose Your Wars

Last week, we saw our Congress (the opposite of progress) in recess, getting an earful of anti-war sentiment from their constituents.  (And not just from “blue” districts and states either).  Our President, meanwhile, shot some rounds of golf and didn’t make much more headway with the G20 than those in Congress did with their constituents.  But now everyone’s back in Washington (a bad sign) and there should be some voting done on whether Congress will authorise attacking Syria or not.

It’s no surprise that the neocons are out in force to support American intervention.  That’s what neocons do.  The neocon problem is that the rest of the Republican Party, who has supplied much of the cannon fodder for the previous adventures in the Middle East, has had enough.  And it’s not a surprise either that the left-wing power holders are itching for a fight, to assuage their moral outrage with the blood of others.

The real surprise has come from much of the left, both secular and Christian, which are either waffling, AWOL (as is the case with Hollywood) or actually support this adventure.  People who I never thought would support a war are actually either doing it or toying with the idea.  This piece is for those kinds of people.

I’ve discussed the merits and demerits of intervention in Syria before, and won’t repeat all of that.  Leaving aside the moral issues, the Syrious question is this: would American intervention really improve the situation?  We know that it’s bad that Assad’s people have been gassed.  But if we look back on the wreckage of our recent interventions (Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, to say nothing of our playing footsies with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) it’s not a very cheery picture, for them or us.  Or would we be better off letting the international system, such as it is, gum Assad to death with a “political solution” (which may involve Syria’s partition)?

But anti-war people don’t usually think in these terms.  Ever since Vietnam, we have been told that war is bad for living things.  Pacifists, if they are true to that belief, never condone a war for any reason.  Christian pacifists, who base their idea on the New Testament, are equally adamant.  So why are these people either waffling or all in for intervention?

I think the answer is simple: it’s being proposed by a Democrat, and more simply Barack Obama, the darling of the human race.  (That term, for those of you having a classical senior moment, was Flavius Josephus’ term for the Roman Emperor Titus, who won the Jewish War and razed the Temple along with most of Jerusalem).  People who wouldn’t support a war by anyone else (and in recent times one President in particular) are ready to support this one just because it’s done by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, or some other excuse.

But there are two things to consider.

The first is that Barack Obama’s drive for intervention is a shame-honour reaction.  He was shamed by someone using chemical weapons after he drew a “red line” on the subject, so he must recover his honour by attacking Syria.  To do this, he must use the military, which he has little regard for except now when he needs it.

The second is that, if you’re going to be anti-war and a pacifist, you can’t choose your wars.  That gets us to the “just war” theory, and no self-respecting pacifist will support such.  And look at the recent past.  Did anyone advocate intervention with Pol Pot’s massacres, which are far greater than these?  Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds, and we still had opposition from some of the same people against intervention in Iraq who are now considering supporting this attack.

It’s time for pacifists, Christian and otherwise, to face facts and the consequences of their own philosophy.  If you really oppose all wars, oppose them all.  If you don’t, you’re no “better” than the rest of us.  It doesn’t matter whether you like the person starting it or not.

Hopefully Congress will have the sense to vote against intervention.  When Parliament did so, David Cameron got the message.  If Obama goes ahead with it in spite of congressional disapproval, then we will know that democratic process is worthless in this country, at which point our response to events in Syria will be the least of our problems.


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