A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Attack on Syria would be "a criminal act"

WIth two bishops from Aleppo and Fr. Paolo Dall'Oglio still missing, the number of authoritative Christian leaders "on the ground" in Syria has dwindled. That makes it all the more important to consider the few remaining voices, as Christians ponder military action in Syria.

Today Vatican Insider reports that Gregory III Laham, the Greek Catholic Patiarch of Antioch and leader of the Melkite church, is leading a charge to stop a possible attack on Syria:

This attack being planned by the United States is a criminal act, which will only reap more victims, in addition to the tens of thousands of these two years of war. This will destroy the Arab world's trust in the West.

In a further comment that ought to give pause to those supporting a righteous use of force, he says that an attack would be "no less serious than the use of chemical weapons."

Asia News first carried the story, which is still developing.

In related news, Paul Vallely, British biographer of Pope Francis, argues in the Church Times that military action in Syria would "not yet" satisfy just war criteria. Specifically, the principles of last resort, competent authority, proportionality, and prospect of success have not been met. He concludes:

The outraged demand that "something must be done" should not bully us into doing the wrong thing. A signal needs to be sent to President Assad that he cannot use chemical weapons with impunity. But it could yet be diplomatic. Russia and Iran were both pressured to shift on their intransigence against UN weapons inspections. That has shown that the international disunity on which the Assad regime has relied need not be permanent. There is more to be achieved by diplomacy before the Cruise missiles are dispatched.

Indeed, everyone feels that something must be done.

But the cautionary voices in the United States continue to make strong cases. The tweets of Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) of The Atlantic, for example, offer link after link to compelling arguments against military action. This morning, he offered a pithy parable:

Grease fire breaks out at meeting of Syria hawks. They pour water on it. "We couldn't do nothing!"

About the Author

Michael Peppard is associate professor of theology at Fordham University, author of The World's Oldest Church and The Son of God in the Roman World, and on Twitter @MichaelPeppard.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

George Packer at The New Yorker argues against attacking, giving some dire consequences of military action, e.g., possible WW III:

Having trouble following their arguments:

- last resort - what do we have to wait for before acting?  More attacks; etc.  (sorry, this one makes no sense)

- competent authority   (who is that?  UN - given current structure, already know that no action would be approved...and this means what?  Have we not moved into a new worldsphere in terms of morality, justifiable actions, etc.  Don't like US playing *world sheriff* but what are the alternatives?  Like Bush and Kuwait or Clinton & Kosovo, are we moving towards a different moral stage?  What if the UN advisors on the ground find definitive proof?

- proportionality - agree but what does this mean?  Doubt that any surgical strikes will kill more than what this chemical attack did?  and doubt that more women/children will be victims?  In a world with WMD - nuclear, chemical, dirty weapons, extremism, what does proportionality mean today?

- prospect of success    will give them this one.....will surgical strikes deter Assad?  Who knows?  Is there a risk that attacks will only be perceived as West vs. Islam and create more justification for extremism?  Will Iran retaliate (doubt it);  will Israel get involved?  Will Assad strike back - with what and against whom?

This reminds me of the debates going on with FDR/Churchill and the Jewish Shoah.  And nothing was done.  What about our denial of the genocides that occur in Africa (just because they are 3rd world and insignificant economically, etc. we look the other way)

Most of the good reasons for killing somebody are gone. To aid the rebels? Off the table due to presence of terrorists. Get rid of Assad? Off the table due to the enemy of our enemy also being our enemy. End the fighting? Off the table as too risible to consider. Force someone to the peace table? See above and above. So why are we talking about this? Because the president made a silly statement, and now "national credibility" (oooh) is "at stake."

The president came to office with approximately zero foreign affairs experience. That was true of his predecessor as well. And his predecessor's predecessor. And, but for one, the president before that. And in 2016, the voters will be asked to vote -- and will dutifully vote -- for someone whose main claim to fame is that he is "not part of the Washington crowd" (and has never shared Evian with the foreign minister of even Canada except possibly for a pre-election photo op).

And you wonder how we get into these things. If t isn't the vice president's manhood, it's the president's red line that somehow turns into "national credibility." Which is a goofy thing for young men and women to have to die for.

I'm extremely skeptical of military action, and tend to align myself with the church authorities who have spoken against the US and allies taking military action.

However, in the spirit of devil's advocacy, let me cite this piece by John Judis in the New Republic.  His thesis is that US action could be justified, not as an act of war, but an act of punishment, pursuant to international law.  Specifically, any poison gas unleashed by Assad would constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention, to which Syria is a signatory.  Thus a responding strike by the US and/or other members of a "coalition of the willing" would not be an act of war, but rather a punitive act of law enforcement.

I don't know how punishment is envisioned under the Geneva Convention, and whether the US is legally and morally justified in assuming the role of administrator of punishment.  The Geneva Convention predates the formation of the United Nations by a couple of decades, so whether or not the UN would be the designated body to apply any sanctions isn't clear, either.  Nor do I know whether the actions that the US and its allies are contemplating - apparently a barrage of missiles - falls under the sanctions contemplated by the Convention.  But I do think a moral argument can be made, including one that is aligned with Catholic social teaching, that outrageous transgressions such as the one that Assad made should be punished by the world community.

And on the topic of "world community" - has everyone more or less thrown in the towel on the United Nations?  Surely the standards and principles of the Geneva Convention are precisely the kinds of standards and principles the UN should be enforcing.   Has the dysfunctional nature of the Security Council rendered the UN unable to do its core job?  Is the UN retrievable?  Should it be replaced? 


See also:



Christians in the Middle East unanimously oppose potential raid on Syria


When there are three factors in the dispute (Assad, the rebels of various sorts, and the middle),  and they all hate each other, how is peace possible?

My biggest concern is that if we went in some crazy Islamist leader would take it out on Israel and that would possibly mean a world war.

The Christians in the Middle East have spoken with one voice.  Let us heed them.  They are creating the debate that is denied to us whether as citizens or Catholics.  I think of the many iterations of regulations for implementing ACA and how quickly we respond officially to them.  What a contrast!

And there is this:  Vatican Blasts Possible Armed Intervention in Syria

- See more at:

I was in elementary school, probably 12 years old; my brother, then, would  have been either 10 or 11.  His best friend was Charlie, who was the victim of long-term bullying for all the usual reasons among boys in the late 1950s.  One day at recess, across the playground I saw the Usual Suspects harassing Charlie, probably a little more harshly than usual – one of them had his ears (jug, and very large) and another had taken his Coke-bottle glasses, without which Charlie was functionally blind.   Then, out of the corner of my eye comes a streak.  It is Matthew, coming to Charlie’s aid.  And he is coming as The Terrible Swift Sword: he tackled one and carried him into another, and before you know it, he’s on top of the ringleader and going at it hard.  In the time it took a couple of adults to get over there and pull him off, he’s made his point pretty clearly, and not only to the one on the ground.

I was as proud of Matt as I could possibly have been.  Any number of prior times he had picked Charlie up and dusted him off after he had been “set upon by thieves.”  But this time Matthew had seen all he could take; his conscience was aroused to righteous action.  And I never saw those boys bully Charlie again.  But, as I said, I was 12, and complex moral reasoning was not in my toolkit.   Another kid got hurt, too – in fact probably more so than Charlie was physically hurt.   [But that’s what happens sometimes, right?  He should have thought about that before picking on Charlie, I am sure was my reaction.] 

Is it at all strange that, looking back, I regret that Matt got physical with those boys, and yet am still proud that he reacted as he did?  


The problem is, in this situation, who is Charlie, who is Matt, and who is Mark?

Mark, I am applauding Matt. I always support to the max the Zorro  in life or fiction. But the Charlie he went to rescue was the victim. It seems to me in Syria the victims are the ones who aren't fighting, and the bullies are fighting each other. I don't see a role for Matt or Zorro there, except possibly in providing humanitarian aid for the real victims, who are probably mostly in Turkey or Jordan by now.

Jim Pauwels; The Geneva convention to which Syria is a party applies to the use of chemical weapons only against foreign enemies, I believe. Whoever used the chemical weapons was using them in an internal -- civil -- war that probably isn't covered by that convention  but by a later one to which Syria is not a signatory.

In any case, who appointed the United State punisher-in-chief for war crimes, whether specifically covered by international law or not? Matt was already involved when he put boots on the ground, so to speak. We've been a noisy bystander so far. And if we go in, the excuse may be Geneva but the reason will be mishandling of the situation from Day One by the amateurs in the White House, who avoided the hubris of their predecessors but not the incompetence.

....ahh the children of light.

But in the world of darkeness that we all inhabit, Obama has put the US in a position that it is impossible for them not to act without appearing weak. You can't just accuse a country of using chemical weapons, and then saying that this crosses a red line that you had already publicly drawn, and then telegraph what you are going to do. And then not do it.

You appear weak and indecisive. Public words have consequences. And you just can't sound tough without backing it up. Otherwise allies cannot trust you when the going is rough. So he is boxed in and the missiles fly soon.



We have pictures of the dead in Syria but practically zero on the dead in Afghanistan. The videos are only of what the terrorist do. Not the allies. The photos and videos of war should be shown. They helped end the war in Vietnam and they will help in these other wars which accomplished little. 

Why are the hundreds killed by chemical weapons a 'moral obscenity' while the hundred thousands killed by conventional weapons not worth a wimper?

IMHO, there is no hope that a contemplated US military action will do anything other than kill more - though hopefully no innocent non-combatants - to assuage the wounded pride of our president who made a stupid comment about red lines.

I wrote, "I don't know how punishment is envisioned under the Geneva Convention, and whether the US is legally and morally justified in assuming the role of administrator of punishment.  ... Nor do I know whether the actions that the US and its allies are contemplating - apparently a barrage of missiles - falls under the sanctions contemplated by the Convention. "

... and Tom commented, "The Geneva convention to which Syria is a party applies to the use of chemical weapons only against foreign enemies, I believe. Whoever used the chemical weapons was using them in an internal -- civil -- war that probably isn't covered by that convention  but by a later one to which Syria is not a signatory.  In any case, who appointed the United State punisher-in-chief for war crimes, whether specifically covered by international law or not?"

First of all, I misspoke in my previous comment: it is not one of the Geneva Conventions, but rather the Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.  It is available here, and is very brief.  Even if what Syria allegedly has done counts as a violation under the Protocol (and Tom seems to be right that it envisions violations between signatories, not civil wars), there are no enforcement provisions.  

As Tom noted, there is a more recent agreement, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was submitted to and passed by the UN General Assembly in 1992.  The Convention is administered by an independent organization, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).  The OPCW is empowered to conduct inspections to help ensure compliance.  But as Tom noted, Syria never has ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention.

So we have a situation in which (1) the alleged offender has never ratified the law; and (2) the organization that presumably would enforce offenses, the UN, may well prove powerless in this instance.

So this, it seems to me, gives a fuller picture of the circumstances.  But the question remains: given this set of circumstances, does the US, in conjunction with a "coalition of the willing", have the moral authority under Catholic teaching to punish the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons?  






How about a World Court indictment of Assad and the entire chain of command named .as war criminals. ...arrests to follow ASAP.

Jim: given the lack of moral and military sense of the US in the past 10 years, given the (continuing) civilian casualities in Iraq, given Guantanamo, given drones, the US have no moral authority. The US need to first address their own military methods moral problems before they can claim any kind of "moral" authority in military matters. I wish that weren't so!

I admit that I have little secure knowledge of this issue and its complexities. I see no good reason for a military strike by the Us and assorted allies at this point. The situation is tragic. Sometimes there is just no way to impose an end to a tragedy without producing a more serious tragedy.

moral authority under Catholic teaching

According to seven criteria must be met for just war, but only one is met currently:

- the cause must be just (protect Syrian civilian against attacks with chemical weapons: check)

- it must be decided by a competent authority, i.e. the Security Council

- comparisons must be made, e.g. figuring out Assad's motives

- the goal must be good, e.g. intervene to obtain peace

- all other means of interventions must have been exhausted

- there has to be a reasonable success probability, and

- the evil resulting from the call to arms must be proportionate to the resulting good


given the lack of moral and military sense of the US in the past 10 years, given the (continuing) civilian casualities in Iraq, given Guantanamo, given drones, the US have no moral authority. 

Claire, I agree that some of these are indefensible (Guantanamo), some are hard to defend (Iraq), some are debatable (drones) - but I think it could also be argued that this is an extremely incomplete list, and overlooks the many, many instances in which US military personnel have acted in a morally praiseworthy way in very dangerous and ambiguous circumstances, as well as the many billions of dollars spent to restore infrastructure in war-torn lands.   I don't think it's true that "the US have no moral authority".  

There is also the point that, if the US has no moral authority, does anyone?

FWIW, I'm convinced that the President's impetus to act springs from morally praiseworthy motives: that gassing civilians is something that cannot be borne.  I expect it is that same morally praiseworthy intuition that led to what now seems to be an imprudent remark, the "red line" statement that seems to leave him no choice but to act.  But stepping back for a moment: If Assad is gassing civilians, mustn't we act?  Isn't there a moral imperative?  Isn't standing by and doing nothing what is morally bankrupt?


According to seven criteria must be met for just war, but only one is met currently:

My take on the Judis / New Republic piece I posted earlier is that, viewed through the lens of punishing human-rights violators, the Obama Administration credibly could claim that its proposed act is not an act of war, and therefore is not subject to meeting these tests.  (But if someone has some Just Law Enforcement criteria to bring forward, perhaps we could consider those.)


Oh, I meant to be ambiguous, because I think there is way too much anger that supposes clear distinctions.  It is one thing to be 12 and see clearly who was the victim and therefore to celebrate a triumph of justice (if that is what it was).   But applying such a “clear” picture to Syria?  

On the other hand, as I recall it, part of my reaction was to the gratuitous cruelty of the specific bullying, apart from its effects on Matthew’s friend.  If I were to see an adult speaking harshly to a child, my reaction (not knowing the circumstances) might be that of a warning signal.. But if the adult raised his hand against the child (or his partner, or a stranger…) then I hope it would trigger action.

The alternative is not "doing nothing". For example, I read that Iran is negotating with Russia to convince them to withhold their veto, in exchange for other things: that's not "nothing".  The US could negotiate with China to get them to drop their veto. One can also give full support and material help to the UN committee that is trying to gather information. There is also humanitarian help. Also, to get around Chinese and Russian obstructions, the US could volunteer to modify the UN statutes by dropping the notion that WW2 winners are permanent members with veto power. Maybe it is time to reexamine the notion that WW2 winners have special powers forever.

Whether we strike Syria or not, what is to be lost by waiting at least until the UN inspectors have made their report? The evidence may have changed, or been lost, by the inability of the inspectors to visit the site shortly after the attack. But now that that's the case, is it likely to change over the next few days or a week?

I'm afraid that Obama himself is at least in part responsible for this crisis. For this reason: that whether you believe he's a wonderful president, a so-so president, or a terrible president, one of his duties as leader is to educate the citizens of his countries about some of the realities of the world we live in, meaning that world beyond our borders. Yet insofar as America's foreign relations have been concerned, he's been a flop. He gave that wonderful Cairo speech shortly after his election, leading us to think we might expect great things, or at least a clear vision of our place in the world. Since then: silence. Since then our policy has been reactive: reacting to Libya, to Syria, to Israel v. Palestine, to Afghanistan, to the Mexican drug wars, to Canadian tar sands, to Pakistan, you name it. Evidently there is no clear vision of where we stand (except to be able to say proudly We're Number One) or where we should stand. And in that, the Obama administration has simply followed the path of prior adminstrations, particularly those of Clinton and Bush II. Does it sound odd that Richard Nixon was probably the last of our presidents to consider foreign policy a major challenge, and one that had to be answered?

Whether the fault is that of Obama himself, or of his handlers, who now doubt press upon him the view -- unfortunately accurate -- that the next election, whether for the White House, for Congress, for local dogcatcher -- is not going to be won on issues of foreign affairs, the fact is that our disastrous parochialism as a nation has been in no whit diminished by this administration. That is why, among other things, we talk about the end of the war in Iraq, and prove it by the withdrawal of American troops, while the killing goes on, and next year no doubt we will talk about the end of the war in Aghanistan, simply because we'll have no part in it.

Suppose yourself a student, taking an exam in which you were asked to define the foreign policy of the Obama administration, and to contrast it with that of other administrations. Could you possibly answer that question? Could you discuss what, for instance, the pivot towards Asia means, or meant when it was first announced? I couldn't, and I don't think I'm alone.

Will a strike against Syria, whether carried out by us alone, or with Britain and France, make things in Syria -- and the whole region -- better or worse? That, not Obama's redline, or America's prestige, is the real issue. I don't know the answer, but I do know that I have little confidence in our governors to deal any better with that question thatn I can.

Is there any way we might begin to work with Russia on this issue? Heaven knows, Putin is -- or at least sounds like -- an impossible fellow to work with. But how far is it in American national interests to drive Russia and China into each other's outstretched arms?

And that is precisely what we are doing.

I'll say this in Obama's defense: since he has become president, I believe that the US have paid their dues to the UN on time and even paid back some or all of their debt. Since the US contribute about a quarter of the UN budget, that makes a huge difference to strengthen it.

The Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch may have sound moral reasons for his views, but aren't he and other Christian leaders supporting the Assad Government. If so, what have they said about the chemical weapon attacks. That the opposiiton carried them out? That the government did? Have they said anything about the attacks?

I agree with everything you wrote Nicholas. In fact, the way this situation has been handled by France, the UK, and the USA is reactive, poorly thought out, disorganized, hurried, and chaotic. It reveals a lack of vision on the part of the leadership of these countries. And as the saying goes, where there is no vision, the people perish. Now, after making proactive threats, they appear to be taking a sober second look. But who are the mature leaders that successfully pushed back? Russia, China, and Iran.

While the outcome, meaning working towards a political and diplomatic solution is a good one, the issue of moral power and who yields it is not and insignificant one.

I wish I were more highly evolved and spiritually developed that I could say power is not important, doing the right thing is but I just am not. I cannot shake feeling me embarrassed for Obama and the Western leaders.


I was hoping that by now some Commonweal reader, preferably a professor who has taught and/or written on the subject, would have said something about the "responsibility to protect," also known as R2P. I have been following it somewhat remotely as a matter of interest, but I don't claim any authority at all. And let's add that U.S. media are not too interested, possibly because it could easily be denounced in the Senate as yet another affront to U.S. sovereignty and to American exceptionalism.

But what I understand it to say is this: International law traditionally applies to relations/disputes/contracts between nations, which are treated as individual sovereign actors. So what Syria and Jordan to to each other is of concern to international law and to the United Nations, but what they do to their populations, is off limits for international inrtervention. Well, now problems with that tradition have been arising more and more regularly. Any newspaper reader can think of examples. And now thr problems are front and center because the Syrian government has (apparently) done something unthinkable to part of its own population. In such a case, is there a R2P that gives any nation that can the moral right -- or even a duty -- to intervene to stop the unthinkable?

The question has been kicked around in scholarly journals and even discussed (but not, I believe, debated) at the United Nations. But as far as I know there is no consensus. At the moment it seems to exist as a concept that is more and more worth talking about.

Will someone who knows what I am talking about please correct any mistakes I have made here? Please.

Yes, R2P is what would need to be referred to for those supporting military action.  Prof. Maryann Cusimano Love (Cath. U.) wrote a piece just today along these lines.

Yet even under R2P she argues that

Probability of success and comparative justice (the idea that more good than harm will come of intervention) are the hardest Just War criteria to meet in the Syrian case. According to Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker as well as General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, any military intervention may fail. President Assad is fighting for his life, literally, so he will fight no matter what the U.S. does, using every tool at his disposal. U.S. military intervention could make matters worse, according to General Dempsey. "We could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control."

Michael, thank you.

Thanks for transitioning to the specifics around the R2P (and the specifics about the chemical weapons bans from Jim P.).

Would like to respond to Mr. Clifford's comment with a link to this article:

Would suggest that Obama's Foreign Policy is and was a shift from Bush's unilateral bully tactics and one of the best ways to ascertain the shifts and accomplishments to date is to look at what Hillary Clinton as secretary of state did.

Why can't we simply frame Obama's foreign policy?

To quote:  "It is easy to look at Clinton’s tenure and see no Marshall Plan, no great doctrine for the U.S. to adhere to in the post-9/11 era. And yet, Clinton’s leadership was found in the attempt to draw small, creative partners—particularly religious partners—into meaningful relationship with the U.S. government. Clinton worked, quite literally, on the ground, as a grassroots organizer and community partner to take the enormous, unwieldy power of the U.S. government and apply it in remote corners of the world to work on health, education, and environment. This is delicate work that must happen to a large degree outside the limelight. It could be overlooked, demeaned as “women’s work”—but it is no less significant for its invisibility."

"In a 2010 report, Clinton said the State Department will “invest in women and girls at every turn, with the goal of empowering them.” One of the most effective means for achieving this “empowerment” is by working with faith-based organizations, whose leaders are very often women—a fact that belies the notion that engaging with religious communities simply means meeting with male clerics. The world’s health, education, and environmental organizations have what Seiple and Maryann Cusimano Love, professor of international relations at the Catholic University of America, both call “a female face of faith.”

"This form of diplomacy worked in conjunction with the Obama administration’s philosophy of cooperation and engagement. In his 2009 Cairo speech, Obama inaugurated what he hoped to be the era of engagement with the Muslim world. He called on the U.S. and Muslim communities to create meaningful partnerships. “Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments, community organizations, religious leaders and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life,” he said. Engagement and partnership were, both Obama and Clinton believed, a direct refutation of the Bush era’s reputation for unilateral action. The era of engagement was meant to be an era of mutual partnerships, entrepreneurial vision for underdeveloped nations, and an end to the United States’ reputation as a sometimes well-intentioned, but still clumsy and ineffectual, bully"

".......two global realities. One is that traditional partnerships are failing the United States as nation states fail in places like Mali, Syria, and Libya. Failed nations provide one reason to turn to civil society for different allies. For a long time, the U.S. government worked with states that were known to be oppressive, simply because they were better, we believed, than the alternatives. “Dictators and double-standards” was a well-known method of combatting communism, and when communism turned to terrorism as the greatest perceived threat, the U.S. continued to work with questionable allies because they were believed to help us with counter-terrorism efforts."

"The Arab Spring complicated these efforts, hitting at what Love calls our “double weak spot.” The Arab Spring, she says, is “difficult for the U.S. government to deal with because we don’t have a good track record supporting democracy in the Middle East and North Africa and we don’t have a good organizational structure for dealing with religious-based actors or political parties. So it hits us in a double weak spot.”

Complicating the Syrian situation or any in the Middle East  - " places of religious conflict, diplomats do not want to be seen as favoring one religious group over another."  The Arab Spring (think Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon) reveals a type of religious war - Sunni vs. Shia; tribal patterns that have been in place for generations.

In addition, in terms of a simple, specific foreign policy, Obama faces this reality - "But this kind of engagement (does have drawbacks. For example, if you want to have a “strategic dialogue” with “civil society,” with whom exactly are you going to talk? The dialogue partner is vague—and it can never be a conversation among equals. One has vast resources at its disposal. The other needs support and help. Others worry that “engagement” may very well mean engaging religious groups who are persecuting others; it might mean creating partnerships with the oppressors. It can be very confusing,"

Any way, Mr. Clifford, think that you have over-generalized about Obama's foreign policy and like his predecessors, events have caught up to him (not sure anyone could have predicted the Arab Spring).  Quoted from accomplishments above because I would not agree that the policy has been *reactive* - it is more complex and nuanced than that simple statement.  Parochialism - not sure your judgment is fair or balanced.....Americans overwhelmingly wanted out of both Iraq and Afghanistan (why put this burden on Obama solely.  In fact, the NY Times today had an article that projects the combined total costs over the next ten years to be $2-$4 trillion dollars for what?)

And your Nixon comparison - you don't really believe that do you?  What about Reagan and Gorbarchev, the collapse of the Cold War; Bush Senior and Kuwait; Clinton and Kosovo....your historical viewpoint is pretty narrow and stunted.

The bottom line - probably agree with your last paragraphs - will any type of military response work?  Doubt it and what are the lasting risks?  Can we think outside of the box and move away from defending the verbal red line in the sand? 

OTOH - we have reached a point in history where universal laws against nuclear, chemical, terrorism need some type of penalty - who does this?  and how?  Do not agree that doing nothing is the best course of action - do we mobilize the Hague and fight it out in the world courts?  Do we set up a *coalition of the willing* in terms of a massive social work response in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon to care for those who have fled and try to work with various local, regional organizations?  How does this work when Iran, al Queda, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, etc. see the war is their only recourse and will sabotage any attempt to resolve this crisis?



Sorry, my point was simply that Obama in his role as president is also in a sense Educator in Chief, at least in dealing with America's policy problems, be they foreign or domestic. And I think he's done a bad job here, though that in no way makes him any worse than his predecessors. Certainly, reactive as his policies have been, they have hardly been national disasters, the way that Bush II's were.

Nor am I particularly praising Nixon'spolicies, some good, some bad.  Just that he considered foreign policy a chief, if not the chief, duty of a president. Not a bad idea. But not likely to get much traction in a political climate where how to win the next election is the main ambition.

Breaking news:   the UK Parliament has just voted "no" to participating in a Syrian air strike and the PM has agreed to go along with that vote.

I only hope that the President reconvense Congress and lets them have their constitutional right to join in bearing the cross because they seem to want to wear the crown without any attached consequences.

From the Cusimano Love piece to which Michael Peppard linked above:

R2P and JWT both prescribe non-military means be used first. But if peaceful humanitarian and diplomatic means fail, the international community must be prepared to use collective force authorized by the UN Security Council. ... But restricting right authority to the UN Security Council raises the bar for intervention in a way that is difficult to reach. ... For Syrians it makes international authorization near impossible, as Russia promises to veto any UN Security Council motion for intervening in its ally, Syria.

I am all for the UN doing its job, when it does its job.  But when it (specifically, the Security Council) doesn't do its job and there is no prospect in sight  for it doing its job, is there anything for the world community except to stand about wringing its hands and tutting-tutting sympathetically about the victims while Assad (or someone over there) presumably continues to have a stock of poison gas available?








The most sincere and self‑sacrificing defender of an unjustly exploited neighbor must realize that if he rises to arms to put down an aggressor, the arms may turn upon him if he does not have that "superhuman virtue" which can allow him to survive.  The problem of the soldier, then, may not be death endured or inflicted so much as the destruction of all combatants by bestial fury.  Warfare in a just cause provides just the excitement that will allow the beast inside to crawl out unnoticed.  It is not so much the war itself, as what war summons out from within us.  Armed intervention can destroy the possibility of peace when its target is a resolute group of men and women who believe themselves to be defending their families, their homes and homeland, their faith and their freedom; in short, the precious things people are willing to die for.  Every decision to use force or to abstain from force can be justified only by its realistic claims to make peace more possible. 


James T.Burtchaell, CSC, quoted by John Deedy in a supplement to the July 1991 issue of Overview, entitled The Persian Gulf War.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment