President Barack Obama's proposed U.S. military response against Syria for its use of nerve gas in its civil war is dominating America’s public forum, and diverting needed attention from serious domestic issues such as the economy, health care and immigration. It seems that whenever a U.S. president, especially in his second term, becomes frustrated with domestic issues, he turns to foreign affairs and, since Teddy Roosevelt’s day, to that big, powerful, U.S. military machine, the keys to which he believes are all his.
There is always some excuse, some unavoidable necessity to fire up that machine. Listen to the rationale for U.S. military intervention in Syria. You will hear more sense coming from a cuckoo clock.
Those advocating for military intervention pontificate that it is our moral responsibility to respond forcibly to Syria’s use of deadly nerve gas, especially as it was used to murder civilians. They further posit that left unpunished the use of such horrific weapons will become more frequent, if not epidemic, in future conflicts around the world.
First of all, what self-righteous hypocrisy it is for the nation that twice used the most horrific weapon of mass destruction in human history — incinerating and irradiating 239,000 noncombatants in World War II — and later used Agent Orange to broadcast chemical death over broad areas of civilian populations, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands, to moralize over and condemn a two-bit, Mideast dictator for unleashing sarin gas on hundreds of his people?
Next, there is something perversely incongruous about the idea that war has moral limits. It implies that war can be ethical if conducted within prescribed parameters. War is premeditated homicide organized on a grand scale. Realistically, can “rules of war” ever be honored? No nation or party engaged in war will risk defeat or incur unnecessary losses to comply with any such rules. Isn’t that why the United States found nuclear bombs and Agent Orange so expedient? Isn’t that way nerve gas was used by Syria and Iraq?
And, if punishing the users of such weapons will prevent their future use, why are those weapons still being used? The lead argument the United States made to invade Iraq and depose its two-bit dictator was his possession and use of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nerve gas used to massacre Iraqi citizens. The consequences Saddam Hussein suffered, including his hanging, for using nerve gas surely did not go unnoticed by Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the two-bit dictator next door, but that has not deterred Assad from gassing his own citizens.
Syrians have been slaughtering each other for two years now, but because they have used “sanctioned” weapons — bullets, bombs and bayonets — to do it, official America was not compelled to intervene. In a wacky world, the immorality of mass homicide is determined by the means used to commit the deed, not the deed itself. So, in war you can kill all the women and children you want with impunity, just as long as you use conventional weapons, not chemical weapons.
Recall that America and the world watched the appalling genocidal massacres in Rwanda and southern Sudan and did not intervene militarily to stop them. Tens of thousands of victims, including women and children, are just as dead regardless of the weapons used to kill them. Curious, though, that the West forcibly intervened to end the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. So, maybe along with what is used to kill civilians, who the civilians are also determines our moral responsibility to referee wars.
Finally, how can a nation that is already $16 trillion in debt, and counting; a nation questioning whether it can continue to fund health care, retirement and education for its own people; a nation whose vital infrastructure is crumbling into disrepair; a nation that year after year spends more on military than the next 20 biggest defense-spending nations combined; a nation currently attempting to extricate itself from two treasury-draining, disastrous, decade-long military misadventures in the Middle East now actually contemplate engaging in a third?
The only way the United States has money these days is because it prints it — what the current economic sophistry calls “Quantitative Easing." Sooner or later, though, creditors and the world will awaken from their economic trance and see that Uncle Sam is Uncle Sham.
What foolish arrogance it is for America to insist on international moral standards in the conduct of war while going bankrupt policing the world with military force to enforce those standards?
Americans are rightfully tired of all this lunacy.