Are We Syrious?

Avoiding the Monkey Trap of War in the Middle East

Having written about awakening the global heart, and its importance to our future, I can’t remain silent on the subject of Syria. Here lies a very thorny world problem, one much larger than the country itself, as it lies in the midst of a tinderbox of turmoil, trauma, and tension. Yet, that fact makes it even more essential that we carefully measure our steps and think forward into the future.

As I hear the media revving up the war drums once again, I feel like I’m in a déjà vu movie, another Groundhog Day, a replay of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I am equally reminded of how both of those endeavors turned out. More money spent than the cost of solving every environmental problem on the planet, hundreds of thousands of people dead or maimed (or more), and those countries left with a traumatized population that continues to perpetuate tribal warfare and chaos, with even more openings left for rogue factions, such as the Taliban or Al Queda to prosper and take hold. Given the volatile conditions of the Middle East in general, a “surgical strike” on Syria is like throwing matches into a pile of rags soaked in Middle East oil.

Photo courtesy of FreedomHouse

All wars start with some kind of provocation, either real or manufactured. Whether the atrocities committed there are heinous enough to do something in Syria isn’t the point. Over 100,000 people have already been killed there since the uprising, and only recently have chemical weapons been used, and it is not yet clear exactly who used them, anymore than it’s clear who will suffer if we strike.

Granted the sight of children lined up in body bags is nothing less than atrocious, but will “punitive measures” make any difference? Since ancient times, Syria has been known for some of the most violent and brutal abuses of power of any tribe on the planet. Ancient Syrian kings blinded their slaves. Their armies were fearless and ferocious. It seems to be in their blood.

So what should we do?  Stand back and do nothing while more innocent people are slaughtered?  Or take military actions resulting in more innocent people being slaughtered? Either way, brutality and trauma are visited upon the Syrian people. And that trauma only perpetuates what we are trying to stop.

It is time for world cooperative action.  It is time for the world to express its outrage. It is time for the Arab nations to stand up to their own and demand humane behavior of their neighbors. It is time for the more mature world powers to demonstrate that maturity with surgical peace talks, economic sanctions. It is time for the U.S. to lead with appropriate and clever diplomacy, setting the example of a peaceful and successful democratic nation. We can and must find another way. But we need not remain silent or passive.

It is time for all of us to be outraged by violence. It is time to take it off our TV programming, remove it from the front page of the newspaper or the lead stories of anchor news. It is time to walk out of movie theatres with violent previews or movies and demand our money back (If you walk out within 20 minutes of the movie’s start, they will refund your money. I’ve done it numerous times in protest of violence).

Gandhi said, “The force generated by non-violence is infinitely greater than the force of all the arms invented by man’s ingenuity.” 

Bombing is not the answer. We can use our ingenuity to demonstrate another way. But we, ourselves, must start living the change we wish to see.

For a couple of good articles on Syria, check out these from Yes! magazine:

Anodea Judith
September 3, 2013