Saving Syrians

We, humans, have been through many wars and have lived through horrible ordeals. In the Battle of Gettysburg, for instance, there were close to 50,000 people among those who were killed, wounded, or missing. But much has changed since the US Civil War.

Relief effort for Syrian refugees in Kawrgosk ...

Relief effort for Syrian refugees–August 2013 (Photo credit: İHH İnsani Yardım Vakfı/TURKEY)

Our modern sensibilities demand a world that does not stand indifferent when confronted with humanitarian calamities. Such is the case of Syria today, where people are suffering from attacks with chemical weapons from the Syrian government. More than ever, we should reaffirm the maxim proposed the ancient Roman Publius Terentius “I am human, and I regard nothing human as alien to me.” Far from humanity should be the day when we could stand by and see entire populations slaughter one another just because they were engaged in a civil war. We have seen–powerless or indifferent–too many genocides.

Certainly I do not counsel military intervention. Especially those who, like me, have served in the military, we know that “war is politics by other means,” as Causewitz has put it. And those “other means” are often not the best ones nor the most effective ones. Military action–like surgery in healthcare–must always be present as an option, but it must be used judiciously, expertly, and with a precise, focused purpose. The less intervention, the better. Though certainly not futile, military action may not be the most effective means to ameliorate the situation.

But certainly, and most assuredly, the world must act to alleviate the suffering and provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian population. Humanity must not admit as “business as usual” the deployment of chemical weapons against civilian populations. 

You might retort, “We cannot be the policeman of the world,” or “We can’t put the troubles of the world on our shoulders,” … and you would be right. But I think we can all agree on one point: We cannot NOT act! Something must be done to help the Syrian refugees.

Without a doubt, the US should not act alone. All the nations of the world should be concerned–ESPECIALLY the Arab countries. And I believe they are. What I think the US can provide is leadership. The US is still the best hope of humankind. I am convinced that, with appropriate and inspiring guidance, many nations will jump in to help. Brazil has deep pockets; Mexico has known adversity and has a heart of compassion; Canada always comes through; the British never fail; Egypt is still a powerful leader; Germany complains but in the end always does the right thing; and Italians, well, the Italians have Pope Francis. And let’s not forget Russia and Asia.

But everybody looks to the US for setting the tone and the mood.
 
So, my position is this:

1. The US Congress should authorize military action.

2. Though authorized, military action is NOT advised as a first response.

3. The entire world should condemn the use of chemical weapons in the sharpest terms.

4. The US should provide leadership for a HUMANITARIAN coalition to supply assistance to the victims of the Syrian civil war.

And we all live to see a better world.

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan,
USA
September 7, 2013

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