The sarin poison confusion in Syria highlights an important point: There is often no “right” side or “good guy” in war. Too often both sides are wrong and capable of causing horrible deaths and intolerable injustice.
War brings out the worst in most of us. The dehumanization of enemies leads to atrocities against soldiers and civilians. The moral justification for war becomes immoral justification for rape and pillage. Mistakes are made, weapons malfunction, best intentions go awry.
War is deadly and destructive, regardless of what side you are on. War does not resolve conflicts, it just exacerbates or multiplies conflicts. War is never simple, war is never quick; hatred is never forgotten.
And while people die, weapons live on. The rocket launcher we sell to our best “ally” can be ripped out of a dead soldier’s hands and used by our “enemy.” Like handguns in the U.S., once weapons leave the manufacturer’s warehouse, you can’t control — let alone track! — how many times they change hands, where or when they are used, or if they are used to perpetrate evil.
However you look at it, war is bad business. (And is it bad for business, as well? Are our weapons sales overseas undermining goodwill toward the U.S.? Do dead people buy U.S. goods?)
A few hawkish senators want to send lethal aid to the Syrian rebels, but our only involvement in that, or any, conflict should be in the form of leadership (pushing for a diplomatic solution). Diplomacy can be a slow, even painful, process, but it doesn’t cause mass murder, environmental devastation or budgetary disasters. This is not the time for machismo and muscle; this is the time for thoughtfulness and a measured response.
Instead of President Obama trying to puzzle out who (if anyone) poisoned innocent civilians, and whether to retaliate, we should focus on ending this conflict and preventing any future conflicts. We should prevent deaths, not cause more.
Let’s get in the business of peace, stability and prosperity. Death is an ugly business.