Hnn | HNN Articles

The Right Thing To Do: A Humanist Argument For Syrian Intervention

 

The Humanist Argument for Syrian Intervention

By Christian Hagen

It’s a rare confluence of circumstances that sees the likes of Rand Paul and Elizabeth Warren together on one side of an issue and President Obama and the Arab League on another side.

Yet that is exactly where we are with the current crisis in Syria. The global stage is calling for intervention following Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s sarin gas attack on rebel forces in August, with leaders from the Middle East, France, and the UK all calling on the United States to lead a strike.

But domestically in the U.S., as happened in the UK last week, politicians are divided, sometimes starkly so, on the issue of whether we should get involved in the Syrian conflict.

The problem comes down to the ever-present pull of isolationism against intervention. Should we, as American citizens, allow our country to become entangled in a conflict which has no direct effect on our lives?

But such a question ignores the basic beliefs we claim to hold about our nation, that we stand for justice, that our laws are dictated by a morality of human empathy, and that we do not just lead but are citizens of the free world.

Taking action in Syria is not a decision that should be taken lightly, which is exactly why it hasn’t been taken lightly. In the months since fighting began between Assad’s regime and rebel forces, there have been calls again and again for America to choose a side. The president chose to act diplomatically, joining a chorus of international voices in denouncing Assad and calling for him to step down.

Even now, when all the evidence from every major international intelligence agency points to Assad committing a heinous war crime, and with cover from the Arab League, who passed a resolution urging the United Nations to take action against Syria, and with support from French and British leaders, President Obama still took the bold step of requesting congressional approval before ordering a response.

Consider that for a moment. These are not the actions of a president who is out for blood. It’s easy to forget that Obama was elected in 2008 at least partially because of his prescient senatorial vote against the war in Iraq, but clearly he’s learned lessons from his predecessor’s mistakes, and will not seek unilateral action. He’s making his case to the elected representatives of the American people.

It’s a compelling case: America has agreed with the international community that chemical weapons must be banned and that their use constitutes a crime against humanity. All evidence available points to the fact that Assad has committed such a crime, and that makes an already globally-condemned dictator a verified war criminal as well.

Thousands of people have died at the hands of one villain, who has now crossed the boundaries of what we, as citizens of the world, should be willing to forgive. This has escalated beyond a civil war or a domestic conflict. To do nothing would undermine America’s claim to moral sanctity on the world stage, a position that has been undermined time and time again by either mistaken action, like the Iraq War, or inaction, like our ambivalence over the genocide in Rwanda.

There are purely political arguments to be made as well. Many Syrian rebels are backed by al-Qaeda, which has made supporting them with military force up to this point practically impossible. But by sticking by our stated position decrying the use of chemical weapons and taking a stand against a ruthless killer, America does not have to throw its support behind rebel forces, but can still do some diplomatic good by demonstrating that Western intervention in the Middle East is not universally unsound. Without having to take a side in a bloody war, we can still create new allies in the region.

There is no easy or truly good answer to the question of how to handle Syria. But America is, and has been, a nation that should stand for certain universal ideals, rules that we should all live by regardless of religion or background. The consequence of being an idealistic nation is that, from time to time, we have to be firm and rise to defend those beliefs. This is one of those times. We must punish and seek justice against a war criminal who has viciously slaughtered his own people. It is morally, militarily, and politically the right thing to do.

When your neighbor’s house is on fire, you lend them a hose. The Syrian people are burning. What will we do?

 

Christian Hagen is the communications assistant for the American Humanist Association.

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Montgomery Humanists, to the American Huma...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week on the Humanist Hour Podcast, Bo Bennett and Kim Ellington speak with...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

As we have seen by the recent murders of three nonreligious bloggers—Ananta Bijo...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Jennifer Bardi, editor-in-chief of the Humanist magazine, recaps the AHA's 74th...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Prospective Student Webinar this Thursday! Considering the next class of The Hum...

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

Help the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers represent humanists at this year's...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Humanist Pioneer Awardee Isaiah Smith, stands up for separation of church and st...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

A South Carolina court has ruled that prayer in public school graduations doesn'...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Right-wing media loves terrorism stories, so how did they all manage to miss thi...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Omaha Metro Area Humanist Association, a chapter of AHA, is participating in Oma...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

This week on the Humanist, Becky Garrison sits down with Quiet Company's Taylor...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss the Humanist "Ask Me Anything" session with Kristin Wintermute, Execu...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

We love to see our fellow free-thinkers doing what they can to help out humanity...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

With the number of Christians declining and the unaffiliated rising in the US, w...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Ethical Dilemma: How much would you change for your significant other's beliefs?

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday Everyone!

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Palm Beach Humanists, to the American Huma...

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

Bob Diven, AHA celebrant in New Mexico, recently participated in a debate about...

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

Washington DC does something right, and we aren't talking about the feds!

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

On May 13, the AHA joined other members of the National Coalition for Public Edu...

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

Ethical Dilemma: What to do about a rude house guest. Tell us your experience w...

11 days ago

American Humanist Association

Don't miss the Humanist Institute's upcoming "Ask Me Anything" session with Kris...

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

On this week's episode of the Humanist Hour Podcast, Bo Bennett interviews singe...

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

A very happy 127th birthday to Inge Lehmann, the Danish seismologist and geophys...

12 days ago

American Humanist Association

Do community events like "Draw Mohammad" contests promote freedom of speech or j...

12 days ago