International News

War Begets War

Expect to hear very little in the days and weeks ahead than attempts to stir up the American public to give Washington – and its only most likely ally, France – sufficient cover to mount some kind of retaliatory attack on the Syrian regime. A case must be built to justify a military response with any arguable balance of necessary components (retaliatory, prophylactic, defensive or dilatory – whichever will fly) to the recent chemical weapons attack that the President says crossed a red line.

Over 100,000 Syrians had already died in the civil war, often quite brutally, but it was the indiscriminate horror of the chemicals attacks – of some 1,500 of whom over 400 were children – that hit home. Except for Pope Francis, we have heard little about channeling resources towards humanitarian aid to the hundreds of thousands of innocent people already displaced from their homes and homelands in Syria, Egypt and nearby countries. Instead most of the attention will be directed towards more destruction of property and livelihoods, so that more people will be killed and displaced.

This reaction is similar to patterns of poor parenting. Johnny hits Maria and injures her. Instead of sending the perpetrator to the isolation of his room, he is empowered by the parent’s immediate attention while the victim is left alone on the ground to suffer. While it might be considered excessive – and probably actionable – to cut off Johnny’s access to food and kid fuel (i.e, all the electronic games, screens and keypads), what is so objectionable about defunding a tyrant? Of course, that might mean seeking some difficult political compromises, like revisiting the Keystone Pipeline or the harvesting of domestic supplies as a national security issue. Yet even the announcement itself of a halt to current trends at least looks like a strategy – as of yet we have none – to de-tox us from our own dependency on the hand that slaps us.

The reality is that, if you follow the money, much of the behavior we see from the Assads of the world is aided and abetted by the supplies by which we enable them, be it our own dependency on oil or a market for the components of their weaponry. Cut off the money supply! Make better investments of our own – in this case, on people like the refugees and wounded who could most benefit from our support of humanitarian assistance and those who provide it.

What if our own national representatives would show that kind of leadership to the international community, instead of once again leading the revenge squad? As Pope Francis said at the Angelus last Sunday, war begets war: “It is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.”

Oh but we must act now, says the President (if Congress buttresses him) because a red line has been crossed. So what is this “red line”? As Dominic Tierney wrote for The Atlantic in December 2012, “Blowing your people up with high explosives is allowable, as is shooting them, or torturing them. But woe betide the Syrian regime if it even thinks about using chemical weapons! A woman and her child under fire in Aleppo might miss this distinction.”

And now because the red line has – we must believe – been crossed, it is okay for us to go ahead to start bombing Syrians, too, with high explosives – though only a pinprick, really, to the Syrian regime – so that the regime will stop bombing Syrians. And this will improve the lot of the Syrian people and our national security. What?

The best leadership right now is coming from the Holy Father. In calling for a day of fasting and prayer on the eve of the Birth of Mary, the Queen of Peace, he issued a cry of hope that peace – not war – might “break out.” Enough hearts open to heed the Holy Spirit, who informs consciences, can protect us from the machinations of those seeking to enflame our passions in the name of some misplaced notion of patriotism or national security. Nothing will destabilize our country more than a reliance on violent confrontation when what is needed is the courage to win the peace.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!