In a recent blog I discussed the question of "What to do about Evil in the world?" What to do with evil in the world is precisely the question facing the Citizens of the United States today through their elected representatives and senators in the American Congress. The Obama administration has released intelligence whose credibility has not been challenged that President Bashar Assad of Syria used chemical weapons on citizens of Syria in the rebel-held section of Damascus killing a reported 1,429 people, 426 of them were children. President Obama condemned the atrocity, which he says demands a military response on the part of the civilized world. Congress is now considering a proposal to approve a limited and targeted military response against Assad and Syria, a nation that signed the Geneva Protocol of 1925 to ban the use of deadly gases on the battlefield. (Information from an Associated Press release "What makes Syria's chemical use 'red line.'")
Proposition: The use of sarin gas on a civilian population whatever the reason is an evil act. What is sarin gas? See the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It appears that only France has stepped forward, after the British Parliament said "no," to stand beside the U.S. president in what started out to be President Obama's unilateral act to punish Assad for violating the 1925 Geneva Protocol, but now France has asked for more time to consult their national legislature, while President Obama has taken the issue to Congress.
So what does our country do about this particular evil act? I am afraid that we will not find much help from Jesus on this particular question; he said "Love your enemies" (Luke 6:27) and "do not resist evil" (or the evil person, or the evil one, Matt 5:39). Frankly as a standard for nations to apply not only are these ideas not practical, but they are dangerous to the nations that apply them. (Or did Jesus really say that it was "time to take up the sword"? Luke 22:35-36.) Should Congress support the President and risk plunging the nation deeper into the Syrian civil war? Or should our country simply ignore Assad's use of sarin gas now for the second time?
Polls tell us that the American public is war-weary and America cannot continue being the world's "policeman." But, on the other hand, does America's position in the world impose some responsibility for taking some kind of action? Would not our isolationist tendencies in this regard, and our anti-war marches amount to condoning the use of sarin gas by Assad, and in so doing would we not be strengthening his hand for further use of chemical weapons?
Quite frankly I do not wish to live in a world where evil goes unopposed. And that means sometimes those who do violence in the world must be opposed with force. We live in a world where ethical choices more often than not are dirty shades of grey, and our choice is not between absolute right and absolute wrong but between dark grey and a lighter shade of grey. That is to say, whatever your ethical choice it is likely hurtful to someone. But in this case, using sarin gas on a civilian population will always be an evil act! It is not a dirty shade of grey! And it is right that President Bashar Assad and Syria should be held accountable by the world community, war-weary or not.
I am not a "hawk," although I am a retired soldier (Korean War era, and reactivated from reserve status for the first Gulf War). I would prefer that we not initiate military action against Syria, but doing nothing is not an option.
Elie Wiesel in a Commencement Address at Washington University in 2011 said: "My commandment is: you shall not stand idly by. When you see an injustice, do not stand idly by. You must intervene, you must interfere." (csmonitor.com)
I have wondered why the Obama administration has not at least sought the prosecution of Assad as a war criminal before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Is it not true that doing nothing in itself is criminal, while standing idly by makes us all complicit in Assad's crime?
Charles W. Hedrick
Missouri State University