The case for war has not been made

I am only 37 years old, yet old enough to have witnessed a number of military actions carried out by the United States against other nations — with Gulf Wars I, II, and our current operations in Afghanistan standing out from the pack. Actions in Libya (1986, 2011), Panama, and Grenada are in there too, but to a lesser degree in U.S. casualties/investment of resources.

Now we stand upon the precipice of possible action in Syria – an action I believe lacks sufficient justification at this point. That’s not to say that I believe there is not any justification, only that the case has not yet been made to the American people. That is a burden that typically falls upon our military’s commander-in-chief — in this case, President Barack Obama.

The United States presents itself as a just nation and, compared to most countries, we are. Of course, considering the prevalence of woefully corrupt nations in our world, I suppose it’s an honor right up there with being the most virtuous prostitute in a brothel.

Nevertheless, we maintain an informal adherence to the theory of “just war” and the first principle of a just war — that of a “just cause” — has been met in the case of Syria.

Bashar al-Assad is a madman and a despot whose regime is lawless and tyrannical. It rightly provokes international outrage. That said, there are other principles missing here — both to justify action from a practical perspective as well as the moral and ethical implications.

I do not see, from President Obama, a reasonable opportunity to prevail, or even a definition of what prevailing would mean. Regime change is not the point of this action, and even if it were, we don’t yet know who the good guys are. Replacing one set of terrorists with another does not bring about justice or peace.

I agree with the President on the moral urgency of Syria, and I morally reject the crypto-isolationist voices that tell us, in every era, to tend to “America First” and leave defenseless people around the world on their own. In this case, though, the Administration is demonstrating neither an imminent threat to national security nor a feasible means to alleviate thereal human rights crisis in Syria.

Moreover, there is thereal threat to religious minority communities in Syria. How will an attack further jeopardize the Body of Christ in Syria? Could it be that an anarchic regime of al-Qaeda sympathizers could do to the church in Damascus what Jesus prevented Saul of Tarsus from doing?

Those are questions worth answering, and that means the President and the Secretary of State must communicate to the country not just the moral condemnation of the Assad regime (most of us agree). But the more difficult task of communicating the moral case for American intervention in this civil war, making clear how such wouldn’t make the situation worse.

Saving national credibility is important but it does not make a war just.

The President must use his bully pulpit to make the case that what he wants to do here is more than a symbol, a symbol that will leave blood and fire in its wake. Right now, it seems the Administration is giving an altar call for limited war, without having preached the sermon to make the case.

If I were in Congress, I would vote “no” on this war.


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