Our nation is called to live its values. As a people, we can ground our actions in our values with consistency, not expediency -- for expediency is the pathway to discarding morals. As a democratic nation ostensibly committed to world fellowship, I believe implicitly that we should strive relentlessly for peace. I fear that our nation is discarding its morals again this week in our likely response to Syria and Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons. Our likely actions value a Geneva Protocol around chemical weapons over the imminent risk inherent to a military strike for civilians.
In April 2011, we first heard that the Syrian army was firing upon civilian protestors. In September of 2012, cluster bombs were reported to be dropped on rebel-held towns causing incredible civilian causalities. In March of 2013, the UN concluded that fuel-air bombs were dropped on a town. By late June of 2013 the death toll reached 100,000 people. You can read a more in depth timeline via the BBC's tracking of the "National Uprising" here. This week in September we hear that chemical weapons were used. Now the White House is calling us to act, so that dictators know there will be repercussions for the use of chemical weapons.
I get it. I see that a world that ignores the use of chemical weapons is a world that will see massive civilian casualties in war time. If we ignore this, the chance of chemical weapons getting in the hands of terrorists is a real threat. However, because of the advancement of military weapons, we already see that horror in our daily experience. One hundred thousand dead in Syria already. In our current and recent wars in the middle-east, we saw over another 100,000 civilians dead through our actions. That is the nature of modern warfare. Death is not reserved for the soldier, but the children and families. The old, the young, the unlucky.
The White House has indicated that these potential military strikes won't change the direction of the civil war. That toppling Assad's secular dictatorship would only cause more problems down the road knowing that with all the ethnic and religious subgroups vying for power in the rebellion, it's impossible to know what will come next or how many decades it would take. This is just to send a message that chemical warfare is a horror.
I maintain that warfare is already that horrible. If 100,000 civilians have already died, we're already in an age where we can't walk into war without knowing it will bleed our humanity that much. I don't see how violence -- that expressly has no intent to stop violence, topple a regime, or bring people to safety -- does anything more than beget further violence. We would not be committing to any of those goals. We would only be sending a short-term message that will have limited lasting effect -- except of course for the permanent loss of life our military strikes would cause -- both military deaths and if history is any indication -- civilian deaths as well.
Some of the answers here are not fixes in the short-term -- (not that a military strike, by the President's own indication, would fix the situation anyway). The longer term fixes involve applying pressure and diplomacy in many places. We can only build peace if our values are grounded in peace.
Our steps are many. The UN veto process for life-time members of the security council (of which the US is also a member) is as broken as our nation's system of filibustering. Since that perpetuates inaction that allows murders to continue, we start by changing that. Economic pressure can be more lasting than violence. Syria is heavily sanctioned already, but Assad's assets have yet to be frozen. As a nation we can stop engaging in arms sales. We could track chemical sales of our allies and put pressure for those sales to stop.
Problems of global crisis require broader solutions other than at the end of a missile. They also require us to root our changes in our convictions and to be honest with ourselves what our convictions are. We could begin funding less military and more development. Or as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr once said, " A nation that year after year continues to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." We could change our tax code that encourage the accumulation of wealth for the very few. In 2013, CNBC reported that the top 1 percent of the global population controls 39 percent of the global wealth. Extreme poverty encourages strife. If you have nothing to lose, you have nothing to lose. It is possible to draw these lines. Everything does connect. It is never only one thing. And lastly, we could prioritize peace-based education practices globally now so generational shift begins.
We do not need to be a nation in a perpetual state of war. We do not need to be a nation that fails to engage in long-term solutions, but perpetually chooses long-term military engagements. If we're not grounded in our values, if we're not called at our core to strive toward peace, we will not know peace. There is no quick fix. There is no magic missile that will nurture peace. When we err on the side of expediency, some movement may happen in the direction we hope, but often the underlying problems will remain.