So the kids that govern us are once again getting out their toy war drums and beating the living daylights out of them. The rhetoric has been fired up, the media propagandists have thrown on the fuel, and without any concrete evidence that the Syrian government was behind a chemical attack on August 21st, here we preparing for yet another military adventure in the Middle East. But hey, who needs hard evidence when you can just claim a thing to be true and then let the media carry the story until it is universally known to be “a fact”!
I have a feeling we have been here before. I seem to remember the US and its allies intervening in a country called Afghanistan to overthrow the regime and establish a peaceful and ordered country. I seem to remember them invading another country called Iraq to overthrow the dictator and then set that nation a-flourishing. I seem to remember them supporting the “flower-waving,” “peace-loving” rebels as they attempted to overthrow the dictators of a couple of countries called Libya and Egypt?
And where did it leave things? A dead dictator or two maybe, along with thousands of lives lost and billions of dollars spent. But which of those countries is any more peaceful than it was before we intervened? Afghanistan? Iraq? Libya? Egypt?
Why do the babes that rule over us do it? Three reasons: Firstly, because they are ignorant of the true state of things in the Middle East, and so they actually come to believe their own phoney rhetoric that they can go around remaking the world. Then when they predictably end up stirring a hornets’ nest, they are genuinely surprised that their solutions didn’t work. Secondly, they are both power-merchants and believers in their own inherent goodness – a fatal combination – and so are driven by a desire to preen and pose as the policemen of the world and the guardians of morality. And thirdly, because they love nothing better than to devise ways of detracting attention from their failure to bring peace and order to their own nations.
But what of the claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against their own people? Isn’t that reason enough to launch an attack? Well the first thing you need to know about the chemical attack that the Syrian government launched on August 21st, is that nobody has uncovered conclusive evidence that it was actually the Syrian government that was responsible. The current rush for war is not based on any hard evidence, but rather highly speculative hearsay, which is itself utterly unbiblical and not a basis for reprisals.
“But hold on a minute,” you say. “Are you seriously suggesting that if chemical weapons were used last week that it could have been anyone other than the Syrian government behind it?” Well I make no unequivocal statement one way or other as to the facts of the case, since I nor anyone else in the West knows them, but I would point out that in the only other known chemical attack in the Syrian conflict, back in May this year, the evidence actually pointed to the rebels as bearing responsibility.1 So whilst not knowing who was behind this latest attack, we can at least say that it is by no means impossible that it could have been carried out not by the government, but by those fighting the Assad regime.
However, let’s just suppose that Assad’s government was behind this attack. What then? Would that justify going to war? Whilst every man and woman will make up his or her mind as to the rightness of intervention, my concern is that many Christians only get to hear one side of the story, which is driven by those cosy bedfellows, nation-building liberals on the left and conservative let’s-bomb-the-heck-out-of-them hawks on the right. So for the purpose of counterbalancing the stuff you might be faced with in the mainstream media and political classes, here are some thoughts that might make you think twice:
- Getting involved in yet another country’s affairs will almost inevitably lead to the loss of life of US servicemen. Is this a price worth paying for intervening in a country thousands of miles from you which currently poses no threat to your nation whatsoever?
- Launching airstrikes on Syria will lead to the loss of innocent life on the ground. Of course the politicians will talk incessantly about how the military is at pains to keep the threat to innocent life at a minimum. Nevertheless, despite their assurances, innocent people will be killed by US missiles if they are used. They always are.
- Syria is a sovereign nation that poses no threat to the US. So whilst you and I might deplore the state of things in that country, and whilst we would deplore the use of chemical weapons, were it proved that the government had used them, does this justify sending people to die for a cause that has nothing to do with the US?
- If you think that we are justified in responding to this alleged atrocity, do you think that we should act in every other example where the authorities massacre their own people? How about Egypt? The army there has just ousted the elected leader there and followed this up by the deliberate killing of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people. And in this case, there is no doubt as to who carried it out. Where are the threats of military action and UN resolutions in that case? Why Syria and not Egypt? Why Syria and not every other place on planet earth where governments oppress and even kill their own people?
- Opposing military action in Syria does not make you a friend of Bashar al-Assad. People often make the mistake of thinking that you must be on one side or the other, and so if you come out and oppose military action against a dictator, you must have something of a secret soft spot for him. Not so. It is possible to deplore the dictator and yet still be against taking action against him for other reasons. It is possible to oppose Assad without endorsing the rebels. It is possible to oppose the rebels without endorsing Assad. And it is possible to oppose Assad, the rebels and the Western governments rattling their sabres, in the conviction that all three parties are evil and unworthy of support.
- Opposing military action in Syria does not make you a pacifist. The usual tactics of those who beat the drums of war is to paint those who oppose their actions as unpatriotic, lily-livered cowards. Not so. Firstly, there is nothing brave about sending other men off to war and then cheering them on as you down your beer in a bar 5,000 miles away. And secondly, opposing foreign wars like this does not indicate that you are on the same side as the pacifists who oppose all use of force. Supporting the use of force when your nation is truly under threat is not in any way mutually exclusive with opposing the use of force when your nation is not under threat.
- What good do you suppose this will do? I have already mentioned the interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Egypt. Can anyone looking at those cases seriously think that our actions or support left those countries any more peaceful and stable than before? What makes you think that Syria will be any different? Do you really think that in ousting Assad and allowing the murderous thugs who oppose him to take power, that poor, miserable country will end up with peace and stability?
I can well understand the reaction that some people have that if the Syrian government was behind this atrocity something must be done. It is in many ways a natural reaction to want some form of justice to be done. But do you really think that blind and morally bankrupt politicians like Barrack Obama, John Kerry, David Cameron and Francois Hollande are in a position to dish it out? Do you really think that these guys can really do some good by ordering missile strikes on Syria? If you do, you haven’t been paying attention over the last few years.
If you really care about Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and every other hell-hole governed by a despot or in the grip of civil war, there is only one appropriate response. You pray to the God who makes wars to cease from the ends of the earth to bring peace (Psalm 46:9); pray for the gospel to take root and flourish in those nations; and send out missionaries there if you can. These are the only weapons that will ever do those places any good. All others will reap yet more destruction and misery in the years to come and our nations will bear much of the responsibility for it.