Back in 1976, when Bob Dole was running for Vice President, during his debate with Walter Mondale he made the following statement:
I figured it up the other day: If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans — enough to fill the city of Detroit.
It didn’t do him any good, although it’s debatable it did him any harm either. He and Gerald Ford, running as Republicans in the wake of Watergate, had a thankless job, although many people came to regret the outcome of that election.
Dole had good standing to make that remark: he was badly wounded in World War II, and Richard Nixon, demonised as he was, had ended the Vietnam War. Today, however, we have a President, whose snooping has far exceeded anything Richard Nixon did, about to put us in another “Democrat war,” this time in Syria. The Syrians have supposedly crossed a “red line” with chemical weapons, and American moral outrage always demands someone’s blood somewhere or another.
There’s not much support among the American people for this kind of adventure; in fact, I think it’s safe to say that the stomach of the American people for interventionism is the lowest it has been in my lifetime, and this in our supremely connected world. But our inept leadership (and that includes Republicans such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham) cannot resist another intervention to confirm our moral superiority when in fact each intervention erodes it.
Problem #1 here is simple: the last decade plus has demonstrated that our entire political caste, divided as it is, is united in its supreme ignorance of the Middle East. They don’t understand the chronic careerism, the shame-honour dynamic, the power holder/power challenger dynamic, the money favouring. It’s not that we don’t have those here; indeed they’ve gotten worse in recent times. It’s just that they are blinded by their inability to understand anyone who is unlike them, all the education and travel notwithstanding.
With George Bush, we had the siren call of “democracy in the Middle East” and that didn’t work out. With Barack Obama, we have the ideal of a rapprochement with Islam, which is made more meaningful if Islam is the hegemon in the Middle East, and specifically the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. That went up in smoke in Egypt, where, as Mohammed el-Baradei put it, you can’t eat Sharia.
You’d think that a man who courted the anti-war crowed the way Barack Obama did would just pull out and stay out. He allowed his European “allies” to rope him into what was frankly a colonialist attack on Libya, the real intent concealed by the “Arab Spring”. The blowback from that–the attack on the consulate in Benghazi–still dogs him. (Personally I think what he is covering up is the fact that those who attacked the consulate were being furnished arms by the US for an attack on Syria, but it makes people angry to think about it).
And that leads us to Syria. There is no good outcome here. Assad stays, the Sunni majority suffers. Assad goes, the Christian, Alawi and Druze minorities suffer, along probably with the Shi’a Muslims. It’s a slaughterhouse any way you slice it. There’s no moral high ground here. Our government is attempting to find it in the use of chemical weapons. But who used them? Where is the evidence? Was this a set-up? Are our people in Washington too stupid to know if it is?
As for a Christian response, beyond our usual prayers and succour for the victims of this mess (and both are in progress), it’s yet another good time to encourage an exit of the followers of Christ from the military. I’ve discussed this recently and won’t belabour the point, but the truth is that our military has been made into a mercenary tool of our feckless elites, not the general defenders of our liberty. They ought to revert to the name “Department of War”; it’s a more honest title these days. I know that many have sacrificed, but we must face present reality before it consumes us.