I Am A Weekling, II: Six Things I Learned From the Syria Crisis

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Friends, Roamers, Countryfans,

Twice in one month, a Facebook exchange about the Syria Crisis resulted in my being called upon to express my impressions in other media. I was surprised both times. First, when Obama proposed military intervention, I posted something along the lines of “no way!” and my friend, WDST  DJ/programmer Jimmy Buff, saw it and invited me to come on the radio to talk to our Republican Congressman Chris Gibson, a veteran of both Kosovo and Iraq. Even though I’m a Democrat and would have a hard time casting a vote for someone as conservative as Gibson, I was eager to talk to him. We did not debate. Like a lot of conservatives (and liberals), Gibson is against military intervention in Syria, and his stance is part of an increasing Tea Party/Libertarian influence in his party. Interestingly, this puts us on the same side re: Syria, which is: diplomacy before missiles, because missiles will lead to even more death. I get the impression people look at Syria and think, “Well, it couldn’t get much worse, could it?” I firmly believe it can.

Regarding the Republicans and their shifting platform, I see Gibson’s stance auguring a different political landscape in the coming election cycles. (Last I heard, Rand Paul was the G.O.P. frontrunner in 2016.) Whether or not the conservatives’ “New Isolationism” is based on morals or money or both is debatable. In any case, I am almost always happy to talk to a politician,  especially a vet, regardless of whether or not we agree. (And Gibson and I disagree on a lot, including the Affordable Care Act, which I am in favor of and which he voted to defund.) It’s not often I get to compare notes with someone of Gibson’s experience, which humbles me. For God’s sake, he’s been shot at. (Our conversation is archived HERE. Gibson does most of the talking, but I did my  best to get a word in, and he was gracious.)

A couple weeks later (last week), my friend Greg Olear, writer, mensch, and editor of The Weeklings, posted a Washington Post op-ed by fearless badass journalist-filmmaker-documentarian Sebastian Junger (author of The Perfect Storm and War); Junger was/is dismayed at the outcry against intervention, and his op-ed is intense. While I wholeheartedly disagree with him, it’s a worthwhile read. He advocates military action as the best way to deal with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s as-yet-unproved use of chemical weapons, an attack which killed approximately 1400 people, 400 of them children. (Assad’s forces have already killed approximately 100,000 with “conventional” weapons.) As a journalist, Junger has spent time in Kosovo, Bosnia, Liberia, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, and, having seen outside forces quell, or, in the case of Afghanistan, moderate brutal conflict in those countries, he is an ardent, unapologetic advocate for America: World Police. Like most interventionists, he downplays past and potential future collateral damage, and he glosses over the elephant in the room that is Iraq. Above all else, the nail he hammers is this: anyone opposing military intervention – a catchall, and as-yet-undefined term – is actively supporting evil. That got my goat. I vented in Greg’s newsfeed. He took it well.

Make no mistake, Junger is no wingnut, and I get his passion. I have not seen wartime horror up close, and he has. Like most, I have only seen the horrific photos, and I agree Syria is a tragedy verging on genocide, and Assad is a madman, a despot. We can all agree on that. But, simply put, I  believe military intervention will make things much, much worse. I also think Junger’s broad strokes are conveniently skewed. For instance, in his op-ed, he opens with a graphic scene from his time in Kosovo, and implies that the only way to stop similar brutality in Syria – and it is nightmarishly brutal – is to attack, like the U.S. did (with U.N. help) in Kosovo. But, as Rep. Gibson told me, Kosovo is not Syria. Far from it. In a nutshell, Gibson said, “We’d be helping the guys who shot at me in Iraq.” Of course it’s much more complicated than that, God knows, but that’s one of many things to take into account, and Junger doesn’t address it.

Anyway, Greg asked me to write something for the Weeklings, and I did. Below is a link to it. Please give it a read at your leisure. Feel free to comment. Thanks.

Six Things I Learned From The Syria Crisis

P.S. # 7: It’s not over.

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