Tonawanda News — “These,” Thomas Paine noted, “are the times that try men’s souls.”
He was speaking, of course, about the American revolution but the principle remains the same for Arab ones, as well.
Our nation faces a difficult decision this week as lunch counter customers and congressmen alike debate the merits of yet another American military intervention in the Middle East, this time after a preponderance of evidence suggests Syrian despot Bashar Assad gassed civilians, killing more than 1,400 defenseless people. It is the latest shocking turn in the country’s two-and-a-half-year civil war.
We are a battle-weary society that’s spent too much money, wrought too much devastation and grieved too many sons and daughters whose blood spilled on far-away sand.
But we are also still the world’s single greatest defender of freedom, the planet’s best hope to foster peace and prosperity where only suffering is known.
There are seemingly no good options on Syria. We either start anew on a fool’s errand in a part of the world that seems to provide endless opportunity in that regard or give over our last remaining shred of moral authority to stand with the ordinary nations unable to muster more than a fearsome tut-tut at a cheap and chinless warlord.
President Obama has rightly sought the kind of debate in Congress and among the citizenry to reach whatever consensus there can be on the issue. We hope he abides by the decision our lawmakers make.
Similarly, we hope our lawmakers make the right decision to stand with the president — and against the kind of horrific tyranny Assad has unleashed in Syria.
To do nothing — to ignore the problem or make still more empty threats — is the ostrich’s temptation. “Not our problem,” those in opposition say. “We’ve done enough,” they grumble. “No more war!” the doves shout.
Fair considerations, all — but they miss the point.
This isn’t a trumped up case for war, like Iraq. This time we see the proof on the evening news not only that the weapons of mass destruction exist, but that they were brutally used.
This isn’t endless war like post-9/11 Afghanistan. This time the president has pledged no troops on the ground and the authorizing legislation being debated by Congress expressly prohibits it, limiting military action to remote missile strikes at Assad’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Lawmakers have also promised to limit military action to 60 or 90 days — not the decade-and-counting blank check on Afghanistan that still hasn’t been cashed.
But there’s a simpler point to be made. Right now, out of fear or willful ignorance, other countries are reticent to act to stop innocents from being gassed to death.
We like calling ourselves the leaders of the free world. Sometimes that means putting your money where your mouth is.