The Ethics of War with Syria

by | Sep 7, 2013

America is not the world’s police and it ought to be unnecessary to have to declare let alone debate that an attack by the U.S. on Syria would be an outrage. But the Obama administration, backed by every major Democrat and Republican and largely by the press, too, is on the verge of taking the […]

America is not the world’s police and it ought to be unnecessary to have to declare let alone debate that an attack by the U.S. on Syria would be an outrage.

But the Obama administration, backed by every major Democrat and Republican and largely by the press, too, is on the verge of taking the U.S. to war with Syria. It’s bad enough that Obama is proposing to align with rebels that by credible accounts are allied with the Islamic terrorists who attacked the U.S. on 9/11, and it is monstrous to subject this nation – having already been subjected to the longest war in our history – to another war with no purpose other than helping others. But the U.S. government has, to my knowledge for the first time, explicitly rejected U.S. self-interest as the cause for initiating the use of force against another country. Obama’s stated purpose for going to war is pure altruism – the morality of helping others for the sake of helping others – to the exclusion of self-interest and the fact that both sides of Syria’s civil war are jihadists for Islam. The altruism is the point, its proponents agree.

This war, currently being debated by Congress, is a crucially climactic, possibly ultimate, test in our lifetimes between the ethics of egoism and the ethics of altruism or between good and evil. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is right that the United States is “not Al Qaeda’s air force” when he argues that we should not go to war with Syria. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is right to declare as he did in Time that he refuses to “vote to send our nation’s best and brightest to fight for anything less than victory.” But these are deeply flawed Christian politicians who can go bad – and, on crucial issues, they have – because they have no moral defense for acting in our own self-interest. A nation hurling itself into war in solidarity with victims of chemical weapons won’t be stopped on practical, even Constitutional, grounds.

The ethics of self-sacrifice must be challenged, rejected and replaced with the ethics of self-interest, which ought to be our sole criteria for foreign intervention, as the Founding Fathers, who warned against foreign entanglements, understood.

The opponents and proponents of war with Syria are proving philosopher Onkar Ghate right that the fundamental political conflict of our time is not between left and right. The conflict is between the rational and the irrational, between reason vs. faith, with leftists and conservatives converging into a single, dangerous pre-dictatorship based on faith in the state – the NSA, TSA, ObamaCare, anything dictated by government – with Obama, McCain and Fox News leading us into submission. President Obama, a pure nihilist whom I’ve called the Nothing Man, openly expresses disdain and outright contempt for having to communicate anything about the issue of going to war with anyone for any reason. He embodies the nil, the nothing, in this sense; a kind of walking (or in his case loping) Grim Reaper. I am 100 percent confident that his war with Syria will bring mass death.

Two years ago, I had a long discussion about war with John Lewis months before he died. I had studied under his instruction in war history and read his book, Nothing Less Than Victory, and Dr. Lewis was the best war historian I knew. We talked about 9/11, the jihad, Syria as a flashpoint, the prospect of Obama as a warmonger and the people treating someone like Obama as a deity in total faith. He warned against all-out world war born of our refusal to identify, name, confront, kill and wipe out Islamic jihad.

Attacking Syria brings America closer to total, nonstop world war and destruction of western civilization. Some Americans, including war veterans and other individualists, are awakened and emboldened by Michigan Rep. Justin Amash’s efforts and Edward Snowden’s heroic whistleblowing and they reject the emerging government-controlled society by speaking up against war with Syria. In ethical terms, the debate over Syria separates the selfish from the selfless. The question demanding to be answered right now is: which one are you?

Scott Holleran's writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Classic Chicago, and The Advocate. The cultural fellow with Arts for LA interviewed the man who saved Salman Rushdie about his act of heroism and wrote the award-winning “Roberto Clemente in Retrospect” for Pittsburgh Quarterly. Scott Holleran lives in Southern California. Read his fiction at ShortStoriesByScottHolleran.substack.com and read his non-fiction at ScottHolleran.substack.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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