Strike Against Syria

Three caveats before proceeding.

  1. I am a struggling pacifist. What that means is I wish I were a pacifist, but the evils of using chemical weapons to kill innocent children, women, and men, make it difficult for me to conclude a country should never use force. (On the other hand, knowing our own military has killed innocent civilians and bombed hospitals, makes me want to be a full blown pacifist.) So, I am a struggling pacifist.
  2. I do not claim to be any type of expert on world affairs. My remarks below are just my initial thoughts after watching the news last night and this morning. (I recognize I really have no ability to do anything about any of this.)
  3. I think most people in our military are some of the greatest people you will ever meet.

Now, here is my understanding and concerns about our President’s military strike against a particular Syrian airbase.

Earlier this week, according to the United States and most of the world, Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, dropped a bomb, containing a nerve agent and other poisonous chemicals, in a northern rebel held area of Syria. These chemicals killed “Dozens of people, including children — some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth.” The pictures and videos of this attack were hard to watch, and even harder to comprehend.

Yesterday (Thursday, April 6, 2017), in response to this attack, President Trump ordered an attack on the airbase in Syria where it is believed these strikes originated. In obedience to President Trump’s orders, two of our warships in the Mediterranean, fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. All but one of the missiles hit their intended target. As of this morning, most people in the United States, and around the world, support President Trump’s actions against Syria.

I’m withholding both support and opposition until I learn more. Let me explain my hesitancy.

First, according to early reports, the Russians had military personnel, weapons, and airplanes at that particular airbase in Syria. Furthermore, according to early reports, the Russians were given advance notice of our attack so they could move their personnel and equipment. It is common knowledge that Russia supports President Assad. Is it to much to wonder if they knew about the chemical attacks and possibly helped carry out those attacks? If not, then why treat the Russians like allies and give them advanced warning?

Second, the targets of our missile attacks were small and precise. On the one hand that is good news because it cuts down on “collateral damage.” On the other hand, it is interesting to notice what was and was not targeted.

Again, according to early reports (so things could change which is why I am withholding judgment), buildings thought to contain chemical weapons were not targeting. The reasoning for this seems just. If you blow up a building containing chemical weapons those chemicals will be released into the atmosphere, killing hundreds (if not thousands) of innocent lives. That makes sense. I agree with that assessment. But here are my questions: (1) If we knew those chemical weapons were in those particular buildings, why did we not do something before they were used? You are asking, “What could we have done?” Well, (2) If we knew they were there, so did the Russians. Could we not have done something with them to get to the chemicals? (2) If the Russians knew they were there and chose not to do something, what does that mean? Are they, then, complicit in President Assad’s attacks?

Third, and this is what confuses me the most, the runway at the airbase that was used to deploy chemical weapons against an innocent population, was not targeted at all and not destroyed. Again, I am no expert, but I find that fact troubling. It seems to me the runway would be the very first target, and the easiest target, to hit. I can think of two reasons why the runway was not a target: (1) The Russians asked us not to destroy the runway because they use that airbase. (2) We are planning on more attacks in Syria and will need that runway for our planes to land at that airport. Both reasons trouble me.

So, I am withholding support and opposition of this military action. In the meantime I will pray for our country, for our president, and for our military men and women. I will also pray for the country of Syria and for all the innocent people who have been harmed and will continue to be harmed.

God help us.

God help me.

I’m a struggling pacifist.

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About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider...in that order.
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