Troubled over events in Syria?

I am, too.

Once more, the neo-cons, the media, the usual suspects, are beating the drums of war. Our president (remember the Nobel Peace Prize?) seems to be planning “surgical strikes” by way of retaliation and punishment. The consequences of our intervention and the long-term effects on Syria and the wider Middle East, seem not to be taken into consideration.

George Packer summarizes the debate and the futility of it all:

What are you saying?

I don’t know. I had it worked out in my head until we started talking. (Pause.) But we need to do something this time.

Not just to do something.

All right. Not just to do something. But could you do me a favor?

What’s that?

While you’re doing nothing, could you please be unhappy about it?

I am.

Where are the Christian voices speaking out against violence as a solution to violence?

Here’s one:

From Jim Wallis of Sojourners:

It’s natural to feel moral outrage, and there is no doubt that the Assad regime is responsible for more than 100,000 civilian deaths. But a moral compass must guide our moral outrage.

Christians, both who identify as pacifists and those who subscribe to a just war theory, can agree that rigorous criteria and conditions must be applied before there is any decision for military intervention. As part of that process, we must first ask if military strikes are a last resort. Have we exhausted peaceful, multilateral solutions to the conflict? Will military intervention have a reasonable chance of success, and how would we define that success? And does military intervention comply with international and U.S. law.

We also need to consider the unintended consequences of U.S. military action in Syria both at home and abroad. Our involvement could add fuel to the fires of violence that are already consuming the region. It could exacerbate anti-American hatred and produce new recruits for terror attacks against the United States and our allies. Military action could also increase refugee displacement, further risking regional destabilization.

From  Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (speaking in Parliament today):

I feel that any intervention must be effective in terms of preventing any further use of chemical weapons. I’ve not yet heard that that has been adequately demonstrated as likely. That it must effectively deal with those who are promoting the use of chemical weapons. And it must have a third aim which is:  somewhere in the strategy, there must be more chance of a Syria and a Middle East in which there are not millions of refugees and these haunting pictures are not the stuff of our evening viewing.

The Archbishop was participating in something that doesn’t happen in Congress anymore: debate over military action. That debate has slowed down the rush to war but it probably hasn’t prevented it.

A piece by Maryann Cusimano Love examines the proposed action in light of Just War Theory.

Silence on the Drones–updated

By and large, the silence continues. There are reposted articles on Christianity Today and Religion & Ethics from years ago (I won’t link to them because it can’t be that difficult to find someone who can write 1000 words on Just War Theory and Drones in light of the new information we are receiving.

But a few voices are beginning to be heard (not on religion sites, on the Washington Post, for example, but they’ve not exactly exercised responsible journalism on this issue (or on the larger issues of war and terrorism). Huffpo Religion promises a conversation on drones tomorrow afternoon. And total silence from the Episcopalians, so far as I can tell.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes in the Washington Post:

One of the most inspiring and even profound speeches on both Just War theory and Just Peace theory I have ever heard was President Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. In that speech, I argued, “The president said that the ‘old architecture’ of thinking about war and peace is ‘buckling.’ What is required now, argued the President, is to ‘think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of just peace.’” I called this the “Obama doctrine.” I was wrong.

David Gushee of Mercer University, in the Post:

The United States would never accept it if another militarily sophisticated country-China or Russia come to mind-developed a policy in which they routinely launched “targeted” attacks on our soil seeking the deaths of those they identified as “imminent threats” to their national security, accidentally killing innocent Americans on a regular basis.

There is a disturbing combination of American arrogance and self-righteousness at work here. We alone, the exceptional nation, the beacon of freedom and justice, can be trusted with the power to kill our own and others around the world in the name of national self-defense (and global security). And then we concentrate the execution of that policy in the hands of individual officials in the executive branch not subject to external review. This sounds like a people that have forgotten the old biblical claim that “no one is righteous, not one.” Every nation and every individual needs someone looking over their shoulder and checking their exercise of power. All are fallible. Even us.

If you want to understand a little bit of why I am so angry about this, note that today in the hearings for John Brennan, Senators cracked jokes about waterboarding.

Outside of the Christian community, progressives and human rights activists are speaking out. David Cole has 13 questions he wishes the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would ask John Brennan during his nomination hearing.

An earlier piece by David Cole on the released memo addresses moral  and legal questions raised by the use of drones:

In fact, the capabilities of drones raise a number of related questions that go entirely unasked in this paper. Drone technology has made it possible to use lethal force in many situations where we could not or would not have even considered it in the past. Unlike conventional military operations, drone attacks require no “boots on the ground,” and therefore do not pose a risk to American lives. Unlike bombings, they have pinpoint accuracy; they therefore reduce the collateral costs of killing and may be easier to disavow. Because drones can effectively travel the world while being controlled remotely from home, they permit the “war” to move far beyond the battlefield. And drones have made it possible for the US government to do something that was unthinkable before, and should be unthinkable still—to kill its own citizens in secret. In short, drones radically reduce the disincentives to killing. And that may well make a nation prone to use military force before it is truly a last resort. That certainly seems to be what has happened here.