Lum: Onward, Christian soldiers
September 13, 2013
When I was in elementary school, there were rolls of maps above the blackboard that the teacher would pull down and clip the bottom to a hook and, when done, would snap it back up like a window shade.
The map of the world was covered with pink splotches that we learned represented the British Empire. How could such a little country have acquired such a big empire when it couldn't even fend off a few rebellious colonists?
If the Revolutionary War had gone the other way (and it came close), the United States would have been another pink blotch on the map.
Wars happen. Times change. Iraq used to be Mesopotamia, Iran was Persia, borders are altered, some countries disappear entirely and English manor houses built in the days of the Empire are opened to tourists to pay the taxes.
Since World War II — the last honorable war — our country has engaged in police actions, storms, operations, conflicts — never called actual wars but wars nonetheless. Now, just as we're finally pulling out of Afghanistan, Barack Obama is calling for "strikes" against Syria.
Obama was supposed to reassure us about this in a speech Tuesday night, after this column has been filed, but I can't help thinking that he's gotten himself — and us — into a pickle. He's saying "strike," but everybody else is thinking, "What? Another goddamn war?"
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It's not as if our past storms and conflicts have solved anything or bettered the world; the Middle East is in the worst mess we've ever witnessed — lots of revolutions but no alternative solutions, with Syria the latest of the fiascoes.
I wish that Obama — if he felt compelled to do something — had just sneaked in with a strike without waiting to enlist the approval of Congress and the rest of the world.
The Republican Congress wouldn't endorse Santa Claus if Obama was for him, the Democrats are not known as the war party, our best buddy England wanted no part of it, and the Arab states, which should be the most concerned, remain mum, leaving Obama twisting in the wind.
The Syrian issue is now a huge deal, with the whole world waiting with baited breath to see what America is going to do about it. And what Syria will do back. And whether Russia and/or China may get into the act. As the leader of the free world, America has to be careful that we don't make promises we can't keep or threats we cannot carry out.
This is not to say that gassing innocent people isn't a major atrocity, but I have a hard time separating what is and what isn't a weapon of mass destruction. Over half a million Tutsis were hacked to death with machetes, and America leads the pack with automatic weapons. The roads of war are paved with explosive devices, missiles are lobbed with abandon, and the stockpiles of nuclear weapons could probably blow up the planet.
The Syrian revolution has already claimed more than 100,000 lives with "legitimate" weapons and generated more than 6 million refugees — it's a little late for the Lone Ranger.
If Syria, as is now rumored, volunteers to abandon its chemical weapons, we may have dodged the bullet, so to speak, but when we engage in a game of chicken, we should keep in mind the fate of the British Empire, the Roman Empire, the USSR and other world powers that tripped over their own hubris.
Su Lum is a longtime local who was fooled once by Colin Powell. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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