The rhetoric of war

holdenpeacecandlesI’m not a pacifist.

I believe it’s vital to resist evil in the world, and sometimes force is required. But I also believe we use it poorly.

Syria’s Assad has little legitimacy as a leader and the alleged use of chemical weapons in his country is indefensible. I would have preferred Obama to have acted early in the conflict to find a resolution before so much human suffering occurred. But I don’t believe our country’s missile strike early Friday will do much to change the situation.

We’ve poured bombs on Afghanistan to no end. We’ve rained explosives on Iraq…and while Saddam is gone, I am not sure we (or they) are better off. And I don’t buy the argument that if we had been allowed to use more missiles…more troops…that the end result would be any different.

Weapons are one tool in a coordinated arsenal of choices, and we are too quick to use them. I don’t see this step as a part of a bigger plan. More than anything, I am distressed at how the political will exists to fund destruction, but not diplomacy.

$1 million. That’s how much a Tomahawk cruise missile costs. So, in a few moments, we collectively spent $60 million for a single strike of questionable worth, but at the same time, we are gutting diplomatic funding because of budget constraints.

We cite concern over Syrian civilians and young children while at the same time turning away refugees.

We object to chemical weapons for their indiscriminate killing, yet refuse to sign on to the international ban on land mines…which also affect civilians and young children, long after conflicts are resolved. (currently, 162 states have signed onto the treaty, but not the United States)

We defend our actions in Syria by invoking United Nations rules while systematically defunding and delegitimizing the same institution.

The situation in Syria is complex. I don’t know the right answer. My heart breaks over the human suffering, so much of which happens because of international powers jockeying for influence.

Character requires moral clarity. Leadership requires careful thought. Power and force are seductive but the results are seldom as effective as we are promised. Peace requires a commitment to diplomacy…a pledge to avert and transform conflict in ways that seldom generate lasting headlines and political capital.

We can get lost in the debate over current events…my concern is simple…the rhetoric of war holds our imagination more strongly than the rhetoric of peace.

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