Update - August 31st 2013
In his column Friday, Rick Salutin of The Toronto Iskra (Star) writes that the citizens of Britain and North America are opposed to a retributive strike against Assad because they have "used the old noggin" and seem through the "vacuous bluster" of their leaders.
On first blush I couldn't agree more that people in the West have drawn the conclusion that "people elsewhere are similar enough to us — despite different languages, faiths etc. — that they can draw conclusions about what makes sense over there, by themselves."
What Mr. Salutin is advocating is that we let people "over there" decide that using chemical weapons indiscriminately upon THEIR OWN PEOPLE (which is the issue here) - including napalming children in a school playground - "makes sense over there" and should just be left alone to work out it amongst themselves.
The USA used depleted uranium and white phosphorous on enemy combatants - in Falujah.
The RAF's fire bombing and the USA's use of nuclear weapons on Japan are of such a different category - total war between entire societies - that they cannot be legitimately used to create a moral equivalency which lets Assad burn and suffocate his own civilians "just like the Americans or Brits did in their war".
Furthermore Mr. Salutin's argument smacks of exactly the kind of racism The Star and Canada have been trying to wipe out both at home and abroad. We don't want to nor should we treat people differently because they were born somewhere different, or look different or think differently or worship differently.
To actually read him write during the week that we are all celebrating MLK's dream of a time when "the content of their character, not the colour of their skin" would become the barometer of his children's worth in the eyes of the world - I have to ask Mr. Salutin... Are children and civilians "over there" afforded a lower value and fewer protections from annihilation for any other reason than simply because they are "over there" where chemically attacking them seems to "make sense" to their leaders?
I refused to be "inspired" by the thought that children who have been born "over there" where "it makes sense" - to use Mr. Salutin's very unfortunate phrase - to allow governments to suffocate and burn them and other civilians expecting immunity in the process. Unlike Rick i have abandoned hope at the thought of letting my Canada stand idly by while Syrians bury their charred children precisely and only in Mr. Salutin's point of view because they are "over there".
Being "over there" shouldn't especially endanger children and civilians no matter how much "sense" it might make to the leaders with the chemical weapons.
Update - August 30th 2013
With the British parliament voting against action in Syria before the inspectors have completed their work, one has to think that is a vote for rationality more than anything else at this time of confusion and chaos.
Hot on the heels of the UK government's vote, it is reported today that napalm was used in Aleppo against school-children playing in their playground.
If children and civilians can be gassed and burned alive with impunity do we not AS HUMANS have a duty to come to their aid?
What will the friends, family and progenitors of these victims say about us who stood by impotently with all sorts of fancy political arguments as to why NOT to get involved, when we had the power to do so?
And i hate to ask this but... What other conclusion can one draw from this situation other than life is cheap to Muslims and to Islamic cultures in general given that many self-identified Islamic nations have the power to stop these atrocities and yet do nothing at best or help perpetrate them at worst?
All the while the people with the "real" influence on the ground in Syria - the Russians - advocate a hands off... let the Syrians (Assad backed by Russia, Iran and Hezebollah) settle matters with Syrians (Al Quaeda, Turkey (a NATO member don't forget), the Kurds, Qatar).
So while i understand the argument "The West's missiles will not solve anything", the argument "let Syrians work it out amongst ourselves" is not a valid option. Why? Because those chemicals used in Damascus and that napalm dropped on those kids on the playground might as well have come labelled "From Russia with Love" or "Thinking of You! Iran".
Update - August 28th 2013
Together with the Coptic Church, the Antiochian Church is the oldest strand of Christianity in the world.
The West's support of Al Quaeda linked groups in their attacks on the vicious dictator Bashir Al Assad is helping to destroy this historically important remnant of believers in what was the apostolic heartland of Christianity. Here is a blog post about it. Its too terrible to contemplate.
My wife's niece is asking people to sign a petition against the NATO missile attacks on Damacus. Please consider signing it.
Please pray for Yohanna Ibrahim, archbishop of the Syriac Orthodox church and Paul Yazigi, Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox church. They both kidnapped after their driver was killed in April 2012. Their whereabouts and condition are unknown.
Update - August 23rd 2013
I responded a Daily Mail story about over 1300 dead in one Sarin nerve gas attack today in "a suburb of Damascus"... a city where a relative of my wife still lives, though is not there now.
@DRUDGE_REPORT Only 1 way this ends: the Israelis invade, occupy, 90% of pop. are better off, 10% start an intifada 4 which Israel is blamed
— Jacob Birch (@JacobBirch8) August 21, 2013
Why would i say such a thing?
Because it is clear that the only country with ALL 3 of the following necessities:
1. The naked self-interest in their own security
2. The commitment to human rights to not just slaughter everyone making the situation worse.
3. The military muscle in theatre, trained and able to do the job
No body - least of all the Israelis i suspect - WANTS Israel to do this: invade Syria, wipe out all the guys with guns on every side, free the civilian population for their terrific predicament and restart the necessities of life (food, water, sewage, electricity, schooling and health care) but who is going to do it?
When 1300 men but mostly women and children are gassed and all the EU can muster is a call for things there to be "thoroughly investigated" while the USA baldly admits it won't get involved because the rebels "wouldn't support American interests if they seized power today" it is clear NO ONE is coming to the aid of the Syrian people any time soon.
America and the EU lack necessity #1 from the list above.
Russia lacks necessity #2 and probably #3 in the strictest sense of the word.
Turkey is the closest regional neighbour to Syria but still lacks most of #3 and a lot of #2.
Iraq? No to all 3.
Iran? No to all 3.
Saudi Arabia? No to all 3.
Lebanon? No to all 3.
As Sherlock Holmes said, "It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Israel has the most experience policing large hostile populations.
Israel has the most experience invading and holding territory against overwhelming odds.
Israel has the economy through which the world could funnel aid reliably and with a minimum of corruption.
Israel has a framework for negotiating the eventual return to self-rule for the Syrian people.
If not them... who then?
The Chinese? They have 1 borrowed aircraft carrier that isn't even seaworthy yet.
So the question that remains then is who goes to bat for the only workable solution on the table to create the diplomatic cover needed for such a bold - but ultimately most humane - possibility?
IT would take a former Arab enemy of Israel's to do so.
Saudia Arabia? Regional stability is in the House of Saud's best interest as they are pretty much next up on the dance card for overthrow if things go badly in Syria.
Original Post - June 15th 2013
Who honestly thinks this will turn out well?
In a classic "the enemy (FSA) of my enemy (Assad) is my friend" type of gambit that saw the CIA back Saddam Hussein, the Mujahideen and an endless list of baddies that subsequently used the very arms and training supplied to them to kill the soldiers of the US and their Allies, Obama has at long last "done something" about the situation in Syria as hawks in Congress have been harassing him to do.
This type of logic of course is meaningless on the ground in that part of the world. Both sides massacre civilians. Both sides hate "the West" and the democratic values we espouse. Both sides are liquidating churches and emptying the Middle East of its historic Christian populations. The FSA will have NO QUALMS whatsoever about using those arms against Assad... but also against Israel, who is ostensibly the US' best friend in the region. They will also have no hesitation to use those very arms and training against the coalition forces that will one day have to go to Syria to quell this civil war, as has happened in Afganistan and Iraq before it.
As always... the IDF will have to remain extremely vigilant and continue to develop its significant technological edge in the region to stay ahead of the advanced weapons that its enemies will receive from its "best friend". With friends like these...