Syria and Moral Authority

By now, there is no one in the Western world who is unaware of President Trump’s decision to launch cruise missiles against a Syrian airfield. Digital ink uncountable has been spilled trying to analyze this event, thinkpieces and breathless opinion columns, in the predictable range of stellar to laughable, in every conceivable outlet and from every conceivable point of view. From the left to the right, every pundit has made their voice heard.

The Editorial Board of the Georgia Wonk, after long deliberation in our hardened bunker, has decided to weigh in on the situation. We would remind readers that it is not our policy to comment on current events; we prefer to let our operatives speak for themselves. But in reading much of the commentary around the President’s actions, we have decided we cannot be silent.

So much of the dialogue surrounding this action has focused on how this military action sought to punish Assad for using chemical weapons against civilians. We are given to understand that, as Americans, we have a right–indeed, a duty–to intervene when crimes against humanity are committed. We are given to understand that our missiles carried with them the weight of a righteous people.

We will set aside, for now, the legality of the President’s decision; we will set aside, for now, the potential for escalation this action carries, either through mission creep or through confrontation with Russia; we will set aside, for now, the implication that the conventional weapons which Assad uses to kill civilians are apparently acceptable to this Presidency, and that only chemical weapons warrant a response. Rather, the Editorial Board wants to propose that the United States of America is in no position to declare itself the protector of human rights.

Put bluntly, we believe the United States lacks the moral authority to condemn the chemical attack in Syria, and it certainly lacks the moral authority to claim that its retaliation is driven by righteousness.

Now, there is no doubt that we have a responsibility to condemn suffering of all types. And we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to end suffering. We at the Editorial Board acknowledge that geopolitical realities can make military action necessary, but we remind our readers that violation of norms against non-violence are not the best solution to violence. Rather, we believe that in order to build long-term and sustainable stability in the Middle East and all over the world, we must embrace a foreign policy that is guided not by force, but by compassion. Our goals must not be to establish dominance, but rather to end suffering and save lives, and not in word, but in deed, and through our deeds by our example.

But if we are to lead the world, we must have the moral authority to lead. Without moral authority, our example will not inspire, our deeds will be meaningless, and our words will ring false. Put simply, until our deeds match our rhetoric, we cannot claim that we stand among the righteous. While our bombs kill civilians in Syria, while we turn our eyes away from starvation in South Sudan, while we remain complicit in human rights violations all over the globe, we cannot make the claim that we are the representatives of justice.

The path towards reclaiming moral authority rests on recognizing a single ugly truth: and that is that our actions overseas, all of the imperialism and exploitation are not anomalous; rather, they are the true reflection of our values as a nation.

It is no surprise that a nation that allowed its citizens to knowingly drink poison water would ignore refugees in the Middle East. It is no surprise that a nation that fights to sustain a broken justice system would have funded fascist uprisings all around the world. It is no surprise that a nation crippled by income inequality would allow innocent men, women, and children all over the world to die. No nation that so deeply compromises its stated values at home can sustain those values abroad, and vice versa.

We must recognize that at the heart of this country is a malignancy, a clot of sickness, pale and sightless like a deep sea fish. If we are to truly live the promise of this nation, the joint promise of Liberty and Justice, then our actions overseas must undergo a radical transformation; but no transformation will be possible until we reaffirm a dedication to Justice and Liberty in this country.

It has been the Editorial Board’s experience that the true measure of a man is how he treats those of lesser status; we are given to understand that the same applies to nations.

The Editorial Board manages the output of the Georgia Wonk blog from an undisclosed location.

Categories: Editorial Board

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