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Syria: Two Arguments Why to Say No Print E-mail
By Robert Royal & Brad Miner   
Friday, 06 September 2013

Editor’s note: Brad Miner and I discovered recently that we were each sketching a column about Syria in light of the pope’s call for a day of prayer and fasting Saturday, as well as the national and international debate currently under way about the president’s planned military action. We agree about the just war principles and the conclusion, but differ widely in our perspectives and prudential judgments along the way – not all that surprising since in matters of war and peace many contingencies, which cannot be reduced to mere formulas, are always in play. We offer them together here to encourage further thought on an urgent moral question. – Robert Royal

 
Sometimes a Little Is Good
Robert Royal
 

I want to make an argument about potential military action against Syria with full awareness that it will please no one – not even me – entirely. I would have been in favor of a limited, well-targeted strike against the Syrian armed forces – if it had occurred immediately following verification of their use of chemical weapons. The world would have understood and forgotten about it. But the Syrian regime would have had one more thing to worry about, including what would happen if they tried again. As would other potential malefactors. A small but real gain for innocent Syrians and the world.

Polls of the American people basically follow my own shifting view. A majority favored action early after the chemical attacks. Now the majority lies the other way. As well it should.

The situation has morphed into ridiculous nincompoopery. Has any government ever told an enemy so much of what it intends to do and not do? And who are we going to ask next for their opinions before acting? Assad’s generals? Putin? Any action we might take now will fail in the limited difference it might have made. The president’s explanations and the debates in Congress are growing more convoluted than if we were contemplating a full-scale declaration of war. In an odd way, all this talk might turn it into the moral equivalent of one.

My basic judgment – only a prudential judgment – is that it is bad, indeed very bad, for the world to give any nation a pass on the use of weapons of mass destruction. People on all sides of the argument have said that there’s no difference between death from conventional weapons or from WMD’s. That’s true. In a very limited sense, dead is dead.

In policy terms, it’s false. Syria killed almost 1500 people, including almost 500 children, in a single chemical attack. This means death on a different order of magnitude, which is why we call them WMDs and why the nations of the world have outlawed them in theory, while showing little moral responsibility in practice.

There’s a price for moral grandstanding without follow through. In Syria, it might quickly lead to double the 100,000 or so people already killed.

Now, it’s also true that many worrisome things might follow an attack on Syria. But there are many worrisome consequences for not acting. I take Russia’s warning yesterday that nuclear material might leak, if we’re not careful, as a transparent ploy You’re worried about chemicals? This could go nuclear!

My preference would have been a quick strike on military capabilities, airfields, known residences of high-up members of the regime – and one that made clear, something President Obama has denied, that future WMD use will invite repeat attacks.

It’s not necessarily true that such a strike would “do nothing.” Ronald Reagan sent fighter-bombers in 1983 to attack Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, who was sponsoring terrorism against Americans in Europe. European friends at the time were terrified that we’d made things worse. In fact, those attacks came to an abrupt halt.  A near miss can make the most ruthless ruler think again.

It would have been a measured and appropriate deterrent, in my view, if we had attacked swiftly. Assad and his generals know we’re not going to invade. And so do we. But we can draw some lines. And sometimes should.


The army

The president did so haphazardly and half-heartedly – so it’s no surprise Assad called his bluff. Indeed, it’s been declassified in the past few days that Syrian gas attacks over recent months have already numbered somewhere in “the teens.” Syria probably already thought Obama was only talking when he gave the infamous “red line” speech.

Which is his M.O. After talking tough last Saturday, Obama went golfing that very afternoon for seven hours. That, I’m afraid, also sent “a message.”

Both the pope and Syrian Christian leaders have opposed a military response. And Francis has asked Catholics to observe a day of prayer and fasting for peace on Saturday. I’ll be one of them because, as the old joke goes, divine intervention is the realistic option in a place like Syria.

The pope has also asserted that, “War begets war, violence begets violence.” But with all due respect, this is not exactly right.

Violence by definition is always improper and may often lead to further violence.

War – just war under the traditional criteria – may be proper precisely because it’s not violence, but a just use of force. War does not inevitably beget war; sometimes it’s the only way to stop war.

We’d all prefer that every war was like World War II – which settled the violence spread by Germany, Italy, and Japan – and turned them into normal nations. The outcomes in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan have made it appear, by contrast, that interventions in very difficult parts of the world are pointless. That’s almost always so. Almost.

Sometimes the best we can do is not to seek regime change or a grand “victory” of some sort, but “the least bad alternative.” In Syria, until we have an idea of who we want to replace Assad, we’re better off taking our time in helping with his departure. As a general proposition, we do best to stay out of the Middle East, while at the same time making clear that some things we will not tolerate, and will respond to at times and in ways of our own choosing.

I am not talking about overbroad ideals like the “responsibility to protect,” which the Vatican long supported and was passed by the U.N. in 2007. There’s no likelihood that the nations of the world together, the United States singly, or some as yet to be created U.N. force will treat R2P, a favorite of our U.N. ambassador Samantha Power, as an ironclad requirement of international law. Even use of WMDs may sometimes happen in circumstances that don’t permit outside action.

But measured action to deter mass slaughter in specific circumstances? The world – usually the United States – must be prepared to do that. Not as the world’s policeman, but a prudent power when nothing else will stop barbarism.   

The moment for that has been thrown away. Instead of a quick and measured warning, anything we do now is going to make things more complex and dangerous – even not attacking. In the short run, the poor Syrian people will pay the price for this failure. In the long run, I fear we’re all destined now for worse troubles.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the Westnow available in paperback from Encounter Books.



The Syrian people

 
The Question of Proportionality
Brad Miner
 

In an interview in the wake of 9-11, Joseph Ratzinger was asked about just-war theory. His reply, in part:

I think that the Christian tradition on this point has provided answers that must be updated on the basis of new methods of destruction and of new dangers. For example, there may be no way for a population to defend itself from an atomic bomb. So, these must be updated.

Although I dread to misinterpret the great man, this has struck me ever since as a way of thinking about preemption. God knows, it’s no sort of rubber stamp for every imaginable intervention this or that leader might envision, and I don’t believe it comes close to justifying the attack President Obama is contemplating against Syria: a punishment for the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against “rebels.”

President Truman’s 1945 decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan will always be debated. On the evidence I’ve seen, I believe Mr. Truman was convinced the bombs would obviate a D-Day-like invasion that might have cost a million American lives; God alone knows how many Japanese soldiers and civilians would have perished. (Approximately 250,000 died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) Of course, we cannot know what would have happened in an invasion, because we didn’t invade.

But that was then, and nobody is contemplating nuking Damascus. But surely we can agree – putting aside other options available to President Truman (and the consequences that might have followed) – that he made a prudential decision. I don’t think it was cunning, which is false prudence.

In fact, Truman’s decision corresponded to all or part of the basic criteria of just war theory, save one: the question of proportionality. As in the fire bombing of Dresden, Germany, it’s hard to see how the choice of targets (even though significant militarily) was justified given their large civilian populations.

I may grudgingly support President Truman (easy concerning events before I was born and knowing the result: friendship with Japan and Germany), because peace was the result of his decisions.

So how to judge Obama and Syria? The cause, as stated by the Administration, is only vaguely just, i.e. eliminating or deterring the further use of chemical weapons. Although I think the office of the American presidency is a “competent” authority (and the United Nations in all its irrelevancy is not), I don’t think acting alone in the case of Syria makes sense, especially – addressing a key element of just war theory – America’s national security is not at stake. In fact, as one of my correspondents likes to say, Syria is a sideshow. (Things may look very different someday if Iran aims nukes at Israel.)


The rebels

Wherever Assad’s chemical weapons are stored and from whomever they (and any other WMD the regime may possess) have come into Syria, every single site those weapons now occupy is likely surrounded by civilian shields, making it unlikely an American attack could be proportional. Or effective, although there are lots of reasons why that is so.

More and more, I find myself thinking that in war there must rarely, if ever, be half measures – and never, ever futile gestures. Mr. Obama’s plans – as articulated (if that’s the right word for such anxiety-ridden mumbo jumbo) by him, the veep, and Secretaries Kerry and Hagel – seem designed to do nothing to encourage peacemaking in the ongoing Syrian civil war and may, in fact, succeed in inflaming the conflict, the outcome of which could go either way.

And by the way – and Sen. McCain’s roseate view notwithstanding – who are those Syrian rebels opposing the Assad government? One is concerned that we have met the enemy and they are them. As formerly in Cairo. We’re not very good at picking the right horse. As currently in Kabul. At editorial meetings at National Review, James Burnham (he died a couple of years before I worked there) would listen to this sort of lose-lose scenario being debated heatedly around the table, and when a lull came would say: “Ladies and gentlemen, if there’s no solution, there’s no problem.”

That may scan as cynical, but to my mind it’s the soul of common sense.

Every Catholic should be spending some time every day – not just at Mass on Sunday – praying for peace. The pope has asked us to. And we ought to pray for President Obama; that he will make a prudential, not a political decision.

In his history of WWII, The Great Crusade, H.P. Willmot makes the point that the West’s failure to defend Manchuria – by enforcing treaties with China – against the Japanese invasion (1931) was an incitement to global war. In short: Hitler saw that Manchuria was left to twist in the wind, and was emboldened to move on the Sudetenland. In all, 60,000,000 (conservatively) would die in the next fifteen years of slaughter. There was talk in the lead up to the Gulf War (1991) that it was all about oil. I argued at the time – at a National Review gathering (under questioning by WFB) – that, as in the Thirties, world peace was at stake, and we needed to consider that what may seem but a single ember floating on a faraway breeze may drop upon distant tinder and ignite a spreading conflagration. This may be what we face in Syria, although I doubt it.

And the only reason to preemptively, prudently bomb Syria would be to prevent another world war, and I don’t believe that’s what’s at stake. Neither does anybody else.

Sad to say, however, the World’s Only Remaining Superpower has made a spectacle of dithering weakness. And in the long run, that may cost us dearly.


Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is the author of six books and is a former Literary Editor of National ReviewThe Compleat Gentleman, read by Christopher Lane, is available on audio.
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.    

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Comments (29)Add Comment
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written by Howard Kainz, September 06, 2013
Vladimir Putin is raising some points that should be considered. He asks why Assad, who has been winning the civil war, and with U.N. inspectors in Syria, would use chemical weapons, and thus shoot himself in the foot. He is asking for proof that the gas attack was initiated by the Syrian government and not the rebels. He alleged that the Syrian rebels' "main combat unit is the so-called Al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda unit." The Russians say that they submitted a 100 page report in July to the U.N. Secretary General that chemical weapons were used by the Bashair al-Nasr brigade on the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal. To me, his advice that this issue should be considered by U.N. Security Council seems reasonable. World War I began with some supposedly localized violence in Sarajevo.
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written by Suzanne, September 06, 2013
I usually love your pieces, and email them to my friends whenever I can.
But this time, I don't understand the authors. How can anyone still believe that Assad used chemical weapons??? Weren't we duped before??? Don't you remember Colin Powell at the UN with his little vial of... nothing?? How can you not realize that this is merely an excuse to attack Syria?? Has no one heard what General Wesley Clark has to say on these matters? Haven't we learnt our lesson? This is another attempt by the American government to send your sons to die to fill up their own pockets! The answer should be a loud and clear NO to Obama! NO we will not die to fill your pockets and those of your Masters! NO will not attack a population and leave Islamic extremists to murder the Christian population! How dare the American, the only one in the world to have use weapons of mass destruction, give lessons on peace to other governments!
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written by Randall, September 06, 2013
Ditto Howard. I still haven't heard any conclusive evidence that Assad's regime was the one that used the chemical weapons. I greatly respect both Mr. Royal and Mr. Miner but I have to side with Mr. Miner here.
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written by Michael Paterson-Seymour, September 06, 2013
In some countries, at some times, especially those deep ethnic or religious divisions, only a military dictatorship (or colonial power) can maintain order and protect minorities. Recent examples include Yugoslavia after Tito and Iraq after Saddam. For many Syrians, including Alawites, Christians and Druzes, Assad may be the least worst option and his fall be followed by continuing civil war and massacres.
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written by Jack,CT, September 06, 2013
At this point is there any good decisions?
Assad has moved all his assets to Mosks and
schools-
I am as confused as the next guy!
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written by Sandy O'Seay, September 06, 2013
I could not agree more. The time to punch him in the nose was immediately after the event. The "process" that is going on now in Washington is like pulling teeth without novocaine. The time for making a strike has passed and anything we do now on that order is likely to make things worse. The dithering by the Obama administration and his Democratic and Republican cohorts is making our country look week and I fear that the result will not be good for our country.
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written by Manfred, September 06, 2013
How is Assad OUR enemy? Germany, Japan and Italy were not OUR enemies. We provoked first Germany (they did not take the bait)by attempting to sink their subs in NINETEEN FORTY)We shut off the oil and rubber to Japan in July, 1941 as they had no source for these industrial items at home. They took the bait and bombed Pearl Harbor with a mind for a quick truce. We immediately sent troops to Africa and England and let the Navy fight the Pacific war. WE used WMDs in 1945 on a foe whose every city we had burned down. We are the only nation to ever use atomic weapons and we are sitting in judgement of Syria, in a Middle East we have deliberately destabilized since 1948??? We entered WW II to get the US out of the Great Depression and give us 60 years of materialism and wealth. Period. We did not go into Europe to protect Jews or anyone else (certainly not Poles, Czechs, Ukrainians, Latvians, Lithuanians, etc.)
A strike against Syria would have NOTHING to do with Syria,but everything to do with Israel's concern about Syria's supporter,Iran. The Vatican warned Pres.Bush that an invasion of Iraq would be "illegal and immoral". There were no WMDs there and we knew that before we ever went in. This time, there are Russian and Chinese warships in the vicinity of Syria. BTW, how many more Boston Marathon-type attacks do we wish to provoke?
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written by Dennis, September 06, 2013
1. I don't believe the 'proof' that Assad, and not the rebels, used those chemical weapons.
2. Janet Renno gassed, then burned the Branch Davidians at Waco.
3. Kim Jong Un is more cruel to his people.
4. The rebels are aligned with al Qaeda.
5. No way this will end well if we intervene.
6. This proof recalls the proof of WMD's in Iraq, the proof underlying the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, the proof that the Branch Davidians were abusing children, and so on.
7. Let the Arab League sort it out.
8. My sons will not be volunteering.
9. Not every thug and bully is our own problem.
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written by Jacob, September 06, 2013
If I were a cartoonist, I'd draw a picture of a muscular Shia man fighting a muscular Sunni man, each using his right hand and both grasping to strangle a Jew with the left and Obama would be coming from behind and would just daintily be placing his right hand on the back of the Sunni man while aborting an African-American child with his left hand.

If nothing else, do our faith muscles get stronger during times like these?
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written by Mack Hall, September 06, 2013
Well said by Mr. Miner, Mr. Royal, and respondents.

In an aside that is not as frivolous as it might seem, I propose never to vote for any candidate for public office unless she or he promises to forswear any association with golf for the term of office. Symbols carry their own reality, and golf balls are images of irresponsibility and immaturity exactly like the tennis balls in HENRY V.

Leaders should present themselves as leaders, not as superannuated frat boys.

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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 06, 2013
What about Muslim Turkey using its arms to fight against a regime it finds so deplorable and whose country harbors so many of Syria's refugees?

What about Muslim Saudia Arabia using arms supplied by the USA to fight against a regime it finds so deplorable?

What about Muslim Jordan using its arms to fight against a regime it finds so deplorable and whose country harbors so many of Syria's refugees?

They are free to use their own personnel and resources to fight these regional conflicts. The US could always serve as backup to these other countries. We've been front line for far too many of these conflicts.

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written by Grump, September 06, 2013
You are both arguing from the shaky premise that "chemical weapons" are somehow different and worse than other "weapons of mass destruction." Whether guns, tanks, nuclear bombs or sarin gas, all result in horrible deaths, sometimes gruesome in nature. Look at photos of the wounded, burned, scarred-for-life innocent victims of Hiroshima/Nagasaki or the mutilated corpses in mass graves or the unidentifiable body parts of bombs and drone attacks and tell me there is a difference is the pain and suffering endured.

Is the lethal use of napalm, cluster bombs, Tomahawk missiles more acceptable and "humane" than poison gas in conducting mass murder? Why is there so much outrage over chemical weapons but acceptance of all other kinds of WMD?

How can Obama, representing a nation that has used more WMD's than any other country in history, lecture the rest of the world on barbarity and morality when he advocates the killing of millions of innocents in the womb and orders drone attacks that kill countless numbers of innocents in untold hideous and heinous ways?

Bob Royal flatly asserts: "Syria killed almost 1500 people, including almost 500 children, in a single chemical attack." How does he know this? Because John Kerry said so? There is more credible evidence that the so-called "rebels," which Kerry claims are "moderates" and who are as indiscriminately murderous as their foes, used sarin to lure America into the fight on their side.

And look what has happened whenever America decides to remove "brutal dictators" or intervene militarily in countries that it once supported: Mass chaos and instability and worse in Iraq, Libya and Egypt, among others.

Nearly 80 years ago, Medal of Honor winner Gen. Smedley Butler penned "War is a Racket," which can be summed up by this passage: ""War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

And so the madness and folly continues as the war drums are again beating and the lessons of history are ignored. Augustine and Aquinas had much to say about "just wars" including the right of self-defense. What "national interest" does the U.S. have in attacking a sovereign nation that did not attack it?



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written by Frank, September 06, 2013
While Americans killed 650,000 of each other during the years 1861 - 1865, Europe sat anxiously by wondering if we would self destruct and then come in and pick up the spoils. Britain is known to have sent military observers into both Union and Confederate ranks, but that is all. The European powers decided that thre was no strategic interest on their part to take sides during this American against American slaughter. Mr. Miner, why such a pejorative tint about World War II? If anything, WWII serves as a perfect model in the Clausewitz pardigm that war requires the support of the government, the people and the press. If anyone of the three is not supportive, this should be pause for concern with respect to taking the next steps of escalated military response.

The cliche fits; "The problem with being a hammer is that everything else looks like a nail." War, "The continuation of policy by other (violent) means," according to Clausewitz, has a place within the national instruments of power but it has and should be the last resort; the last option and when forces are committed, the committment is planned, focused and as massive, using the proper military means to support the politcal ends. Just "sending a message" in the form of some "drive by bombing" has already been telegraphed to the US by Iran and Russia. Russia has vital interests in Syria and it appears the Russians are drawing a big wide line in the sand. If the US crosses it, things have a very high probability of getting nasty.
We have other assets available in the form of covert action, subterfuge, etc etc to bring Assad to heel. Why the blunt instrument of a few bombs that will achieve nothing but stir a regional hornets nest.


Having spent some time over there myself, one thing I've learned, alliances shift in the Middle East. Your friend one day is your enemy the next and unless you're willing to literally put your enemy's head on a stick for friend and foe alike to know you mean business, you'll be reagrded as a toothless, shameful paper tiger. Be careful taking on a civilization that gave us the games of Chess and Backgammon...games that condition the mind to think three to five steps ahead of the opponent.

Yea, its cruel and wrenching to see the bodies of civilians
particuarly children, dead from chemical weapons. Let's make sure our response is smart, calculated, and the tools are sharp and lastingly effective instead of blunt and useless.

Our President has put himself in a box through his own devices and desires. He wants the rest of the country to charge up San Juan Hill with him. I might if I was confident the guy knew what he was doing. At this point, I wouldn't even participate charging up an ant hill with this guy.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, September 06, 2013
In the past two years, over 100,000 people have been killed in Syria. My guess is that those 100,000 are no less dead than those 1100 killed by sarin gas.

Where was the Obama/Kerry/Pelosi outrage over the past two years when the 100,000 were killed? Outrage is selective. Sorry, but Obama, Kerry and Pelosi are liars. If they are so outraged, let them send their children to fight for their 'principles.' But don't dare ask me to send my children because they will not go.
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written by Tony Esolen, September 06, 2013
I agree with Grump and find myself growing more and more weary with vague but expensive warring, against no clearly defined enemy, in no clearly defined territory, with no clearly defined objective, and no clearly delineated plan for achieving the objective. Especially in the Middle East, where democracy cannot take root -- and where the whole world was better off with the despot Shah Reza Pahlavi than with the ayatollahs. So, this time I'm saying no.
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written by DS, September 06, 2013
Papal teaching on war has been remarkably consistent from Paul VI to Francis, and there is a current of unease on the subject that runs through the American Church. Perhaps that is to be expected given America's role as a military superpower.

Over the last 50 years, the burden of proof to categorize a war as "just" has increased dramatically. In fact, I can't think of a single instance during that period in which a pope has given even tacit approval to a US military action (I would be interested in hearing of any examples).

Despite unambiguous clarity, the pope's and bishops' teaching about both Iraq wars fell on largely deaf US Catholic ears, dismissed by many as no more consequential than the pope's opinion about his favorite food. They were dismissed with sentiments like "he's certainly entitled to his own private opinion." Even after 9/11, Bl. John Paul II, while acknowledging a right to US self-defense, also cautioned the US about military overreach.

These teachings are not infallible, but they are authoritative from the See of Peter and should have a central place in forming Catholic opinion about the use of force in the 21st century.

In that spirit, I would suggest that Mr. Royal not be so quick to dismiss Francis' teaching. I think the pope knew exactly what he was saying. If you're caught in a war that has checked all of the requisite boxes to be categorized as "just", and your house is destroyed or your child is killed by an errant cruise missile, that is violence. And revenge for such an incident, though morally indefensible, would beget more violence. The unleashing of violence is almost always an unavoidable consequence of war, even a just one, and must be considered in the calculus.

Perhaps there is a also very practical reason why recent popes have taught us to be so cautious about war, violence and the use force: all of them experienced war or violent civil conflict firsthand in their homelands.
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written by Jcatholic, September 06, 2013
"War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military options. [Have the courage to] say no to war."
--Blessed John Paul II

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written by Michael , September 06, 2013
Good pieces. We missed our time to act two years ago. Now it's too late; AQ has the upper hand among the rebels. Assad's people probably did use the Sarin. No justifying it. But now the Administration wants to expand the attacks. It has no idea what the goal is. American people support fighting for justice, but they don't see it here! Prayer is the only rational response to this disaster.
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written by John Sobieski, September 06, 2013
What makes you both think it wasn't the "rebels" who staged a red flag operation? Cui bono? This war would benefit the people who have said they would pay for the war: the Saudis and Qataris. They want to build a pipeline to Turkey so they can break the Russian monopoly on gas supply to Europe, but Syria, Russia's ally, is stopping them.
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written by Athanasius, September 06, 2013
The Middle East is different from Iron Curtain eastern Europe, because the underlying culture is barbaric, and not Christian. That is why it is so hard to "free" them because replacing one dictator just leads to another, who will still be anti-Christian/Jew and a misogynist.

The real long term solution is to evangelize the area to the truth of Christ and point out the falsity of Islam. The West has succeeded only because of Christ, and the same will hold true for the Middle East. Even now, as we see anti-Christian Liberalism gaining in the West, we see the West crumbling. The trend of history makes it clear that only when we live by the truth of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of Jesus, do we live civilly with each other.

For the sake of your daughters, preach the truth of Christianity.
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written by John Hittinger, September 07, 2013
"In fact, Truman’s decision corresponded to all or part of the basic criteria of just war theory, save one: the question of proportionality. . . .
I may grudgingly support President Truman (easy concerning events before I was born and knowing the result: friendship with Japan and Germany), because peace was the result of his decisions."

False: Truman violated non-combatant immunity from direct attack. His act was murderous. Therefore the end of peace does not suffice to justify act. See Elizabeth anscombe' s articles.
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written by ib, September 07, 2013
It's simply: the current U.S. Administration has shown itself to be very prone to foolish, incompetent actions. Don't allow a foolish crew to continue their foolish deeds. As even Catholic Relief Services has e-mailed their donors: "Urge Congress to Vote NO on Syria Use of Force Resolution!"
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written by Sygurd, September 07, 2013
Both authors clearly assume that it has been the Syrian government behind the gas attack but we are yet to see the proof of it. Why this assumption then?
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written by Brad Miner, September 07, 2013
To all who raise the issue of which side in Syria used gas: Dr. Royal and I are discussing the Administration's position regarding who used gas, which -- again -- is the justification for whatever interdiction is in the planning. -ABM
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written by jason taylor, September 07, 2013
"We shut off the oil and rubber to Japan in July, 1941 as they had no source for these industrial items at home. "

Yeah, how dare we refuse to finance Japan's Chinese invasions with our own oil.
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written by John Fisher, September 08, 2013
I am sorry but the USA getting involved in this is a case of "the pot calling the kettle black". You deal in arms, you have used chemicals against your enemies. You developed and used nuclear weapons and you have killed children and many many thousands of woman and children in your overseas wars. The place for Syria to be judged is the International Court of Justice. The world is really just sick of your country dominating and getting involved in areas you have no right to be involved in.
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written by markrite, September 08, 2013
Is anyone looking hard @ the collectivist ideological maniac who is commander-in-chief of the U.S., and will be giving the order for the "pinpick" strikes? This man is the same one who was commander-in-chief of the horrific Benghazi incident,of which new details emerge weekly, and who, as commander-in-chief, along w/his incompetent Secretary of State, enabler Hillary Clinton, botched it so bad it may lead to Obama's impeachment. We should do NO military strikes on Syria; peace talks should convene, and meanwhile, humanitarian aid s/be rushed to these unfortunate chemical attack victims. Obama is not the person to lead any strikes on ANY country; he carries too much ideological baggage. GOD BLESS ALL, Markrite
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written by Seeking Truth, September 08, 2013
@Athanasius
The correct statement, I believe, is:
"The real long term solution is to RE-evangelize the area to the truth of Christ..."
Study your church history. Many of the apostles traveled Syrian roads in their activities.
That's why there were many Arab Catholics in Syria.
Benedict XVI was on to something with the call for RE-evangelizing....
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written by David M Paggi, September 09, 2013
We have a remarkable lack of imagination when it comes to Middle Eastern despots. What is that lack? We can’t imagine anything worse. So, U.S. foreign policy rather naively encouraged the so-called “Arab Spring.” To whatever degree we are complicit in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt; in exchange we got Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, with catastrophic consequences for Coptic Christians. It really highlights the degree of our failure that rather than the democracy we were supposedly were fostering, the Egyptian military has had to step in to maintain order. Can anyone really believe Egypt is better off without Mubarak?

While Saddam Hussein was despicable, under his secular rule the Christian minority in Iraq could at least survive. We bear some burden for our ambassador’s unwitting encouragement of Saddam’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, so even though we acted to right our mistake, our interventions there taken as a whole have not yet proved constructive, which makes the casualties suffered that much more bitter to endure.

Going back further, Jimmy Carter dumped the Shah of Iran for the Ayatollah Khomeini, then complained when the latter “didn’t even follow his own religion”, compounding his lack of judgment with this inane demonstration of personal ignorance and insufficient briefing. Ironically, the Shah himself was installed by the CIA in 1951, so our hands are not clean there either.

So while all these despots were execrable, they were also pragmatic Machiavellians who suppressed the radical Islamists now gaining power in their absence. Even Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya whose passing one may have difficulty lamenting made remarkable strides in his later years. Instead we got in exchange Benghazi and yet another unanswered attack on an American Embassy, this time with the death of our Ambassador.

Had a Republican been in the White House he would have been pilloried in the press and likely impeached. That is beside the point I am making here, save that the actual event was far worse than is commonly recognized.

Now comes President Obama, curiously ambivalent and avoidant when the rebels were gaining ground, suddenly declaring his abhorrence for the admittedly despotic Bashar el-Assad and brandishing evidence (?) of the use of WMD. Of course in his case it is assumed that his information is trustworthy and his motives are pure.

While I don’t have access to sufficient information to engage in speculation, it seems to me something is rotten, not only in Syria, but also in Washington.

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