As a retiree who hates war and loves serving my community, I’m dumbfounded by my Nobel-Peace-Prize-laureate Commander-In-Chief asking Congress and European nations to support bombing attacks on Syria.
Ignoring his crusade weighs on my conscience daily. Obama’s crusade is taking the wrong approach for both military and faith guidelines.
After multiple US-led military interventions, I’ve developed a priority for our country to follow so I can focus on my community. Attacks against our national interests should be responded to by our military and international interventions should be fought in participation with allies from the United Nations.
As a youngster I loved the Korean War. My dad won a Bronze Star in WWII. His military portrait was in my living room. I’d been too young to enjoy WWII, so at the age of nine I was thrilled to see newspaper photographs of an active war in Korea authorized by the UN. A UN war seemed the right way to fight a war.
As a grandfather I abhor that war. I read casualty estimates standing beside life-sized statues of soldiers in the hushed peacefulness of the Korean War memorial. That civil war erupted when UN troops defended South Korea. Chinese troops joined North Korean troops as the Soviet Union supplied them. Wikipedia estimates the full battle death toll is over 1.2 million, the full civilian death toll unknown.
The Security Council unanimously approved the Korean War, but now Russia and China use their veto against military interventions inside sovereign nations because the UN charter mandates respect for national sovereignty.
Critics say the UN is deadlocked and can’t react.
That’s ridiculous. It currently has 15 authorized peacekeeping operations in the Middle East, Africa and Haiti. It had a successful humanitarian intervention inside Bosnia but failed to intervene in Rwanda. Since China and Russia joined the Security Council, the world hasn’t fought a war that killed 1.2 million combatants. Isn’t that a success?
Admittedly the UN record is mixed. The US record on interventions is mixed. It’s better for our national interests if we strengthen UN peacekeeping than it is to blunder into action, like we did in the last Iraq war.
“Doing nothing is a moral option when doing anything makes a bad situation worse,” said Rabbi Michael Broyde.
The UN Security Council should vote on whether to invade Syria. Russia says it would veto a resolution. Let’s make the case anyway and urge the UN to seek peaceful resolutions. Our country is exhausting itself taking military actions too often and too hastily. Then I could feel comfortable and refocus on my community.
Besides, forcing the UN to consider action would help it pursue the dream of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He called for a ‘Responsibility to Respond’ doctrine in 2001 when he famously asked:
“(…) if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, …—to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?”
Annan established the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) in 2001. Its report recommended the UN had the responsibility to protect citizens from massive deaths or genocide when a sovereign state is unwilling or unable to protect its citizens.
The report established six criteria for intervention: a just cause; the right military authority to lead the response; the right intention; it’s the last resort; it’s a proportional action compared to committed atrocities; and it has a reasonable chance of success.
Obama’s crusade seems to fail several of the criteria and could make things worse.
The UN’s ICISS report was not accepted when it came out in the early stages of the raging age of war on terrorism. But instead of dying, the recommendations continue to be debated. Pressing for a Security Council resolution may enliven the debate.
Then we could all concentrate on doing good in our communities.