As I listened to President Obama's statement over the weekend calling for military action in Syria, I found myself still unconvinced that U.S. military action will make any meaningful difference in Syria's now two-and-a-half year civil war. While the use of chemical weapons is a crime against humanity, I fail to see how cruise missiles will do anything to bring justice to the approximately 1,500 victims of that attack. Indeed, I foresee only further suffering of innocents, no matter where those missiles will fall, as U.S. involvement will likely only further exacerbate regional tensions and lead to further violence.
What concerns me most, however, is the president's equation of "accountability" in the case of these chemical attacks to violence. Is there no other form of "accountability"? Not in the imagination of our government, evidently–and I fear not in our national imagination either. We seem to be utterly convinced that violence is the only possible guarantor of "accountability," despite the fact that it has almost universally failed us in the past 50 years.
As someone who has visited Syria and who has friends with on-the-ground contacts there, I am certain there is no desire among everyday Syrians for U.S. miltary involvement; Syrian civilians, like so many civilians in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan, are caught between enemies who care little for their well-being. (How else can we explain the more than 100,000 deaths this war has produced.) That is certainly the position of the Catholic bishop of Aleppo, an ancient Syrian city that has suffered greatly in this conflict. We who follow the Way of Jesus must find another path, whether it is the pope's call for prayer and fasting, or our resistance to any military intervention by our country in this tragic conflict. I will be accompanying my prayer for peace with calls to my congressional representative and senators.