After August 23, 2013, something unprecedented happened in America. Due to a Sarin gas attack in the country of Syria that killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children, America became a nation that had voluntarily for the first time in its history crossed over the red line of tolerance. After two weeks of debate, Senate hearings and countless media rhetoric condemning not the gas attack itself, but rather, the logic of its own military response, it proved that it had become a nation that was preparing to readily abandon its steadfast, moral obligations towards the horrors of humanitarian disasters.
It had finally happened; America along with the rest of the world had become desensitized.
The chemical gas attacks that caused the immediate and horrific deaths of Syrian civilians sent shock waves throughout the world. It then was immediately overshadowed with discontent for any form of retort by countries like Britain, Germany, Russia and China. While conjecture flourished and intelligence agencies across the Middle East and the UN scrambled for evidence of responsibility, the world waited anxiously. They waited to hear from the one man himself, who had months before, architected the imaginary red line for prohibiting the use of chemical weapons.
A few days later, after the attack, it had finally come. President Obama told the nation and the world that the government of Syria had crossed over the red line because it had used chemical weapons. The world held its breath, expecting that within the next 72-hours or so, the United States would launch a missile strike against the Syrian military regime.
But then, surprisingly, something unexpected happened. President Obama said that before he would act, he would go to Congress to seek approval to launch a missile attack against Syria. The world and the Syrian regime breathed a sigh of relief.
During this time many theories and opinions arose over why he did so. Some said that Obama was stalling and hoping for a diplomatic solution, others said he was waiting to get more coalition support from allied countries. While another week went by that was full of self-centered, political grandstanding by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama got nothing more than 7-yays and an empty reassurance after days of exhaustive wrangling. He fared no better in the international community. Great Britain had already rejected military action and Russia and China were ramping up their saber-rattling to an all-time high. The only two significant, allied countries who agreed to any support for Obama were Turkey and France.
As all this was going on, however, a creeping, unsympathetic voice was beginning to emerge from around the nation. Americans began complaining that the United States had no reason to get involved in a civil war overseas. Politicians said that President Obama should have acted long before this horrific event ever happened. Even Pope Francis himself, from the Catholic Church, called for restraint and spoke against the use of military intervention. Even as videos of dead and dying women and children in convulsions were broadcast across the internet and news networks, still the cries for non-involvement persisted, and still do now.
Americans had made their voices heard with the rest of the world; no matter what the evidence was, they wanted their government to stay out of the conflict and not to respond at all. For the first time since 9/11, the free world and most of the countries in it had become desensitized to the horrific acts of terrorism and war. It had now become acceptable to gas to death innocent civilians in the streets and in their homes with the use of weapons of mass destruction. Logistics, cost, consequence and a newfound policy of isolationism became more important than reacting to and punishing one of the worst evils the world has ever had bestowed upon it.
As Syria continues to deny that it was responsible for the gas attacks, more and more criticism grows daily towards an attempt for any type of military action at all. It has become almost a rally cry of support for reasons not to punish or question anyone even suspected of using or stockpiling chemical weapons. In result, the imaginary red line of tolerance has quickly faded into a delusion.
Have we become such a heartless nation worried only about what the cost will be if we act to punish such a despicable evil? Have we forgotten how it feels to get attacked in such a brutal fashion? Although it is easy to turn our backs and walk away saying it is none of our business and let the murdered and mutilated worry about it. But how will we act when the horrendous evil that we may let fester and grow comes knocking at our door one day? How will we feel when we go looking for help from the rest of the world and it turns its back on us?
When a country and the people in it becomes so desensitized to the violence and horrors of humanity, it becomes nothing more than like a child playing at the controls of a video game. Even though it sees the carnage and destruction before it, it does nothing to end it.
President John F Kennedy said:
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the comfortable costs of inaction,“
And Haile Selassie said:
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
Today the United States has given Syria one week to hand over its entire supply of chemical weapons or it will attack Syrian military targets. Whatever happens, it will surely put President Obama and America’s resolve to the test.
God help us all.
© Joseph E Rathjen – All Rights Reserved – 2013
- US gives Syria one week to surrender chemical weapons or face attack (theguardian.com)
- Assad says US has no chemical proof (bbc.co.uk)
- A Few Thoughts on Syria (mindofhuw.wordpress.com)