September 11th: “We will (never) forget”

Now this makes sense.  It’s been twelve years since the September 11th attacks.  Our highways are strewn with flags, our cars are bedecked with bumper stickers and we’re telling each other that we will never forget, that we support the troops, that Iraq has been “liberated,” that Afghanistan is being dealt with and that we’re making the world safe for democracy.  So yeah, sure, let’s attack Syria.

No “boots on the ground,” of course, but rather a “targeted strike” (whatever that means.)

On my way to work yesterday, I was listening to an interview on Fresh Air with author A. Scott Berg who recently published Wilson, a biography of (you guessed it) Woodrow Wilson.  I’ve always had mixed feelings about Wilson.  I like that he was smart (a professor at Princeton to be exact) and that he tried to keep the US out of WWI as long as he could.  On the other hand, he wasn’t terribly accommodating to my BFF Alice Paul (okay, I’ve never actually met Alice Paul but she was cool and she was a Quaker so I’m pretty sure that if I had been around during the women’s suffrage movement, our paths would have crossed at some point) nor was he terribly progressive in terms of race relations.

But I learned some interesting facts about Wilson listening to that interview.  For example, he was old when he assumed the presidency in 1912.  Like really old.  As in born before the Civil War.  As in he lived through not only the war but Reconstruction as well.  He was from Virginia so he witnessed the devastation of the Civil War firsthand and when he finally secured Congressional approval to get involved in the European conflict some fifty years later, he literally wept at his desk.

Woodrow Wilson

I wish Obama was weeping at his desk right now.

And Kerry.

And everyone else who thinks that attacking Syria is a good idea.

Because it’s not.

And if you think it is, you need to step back for a moment and ask yourself what do you really know about war?  What do you really know about Syria?  What do you really know about the people of the Middle East and what is “best for them?”  What do you really know about chemical weapons and our own less-than-stellar track record in that department?

I agree that “with great power comes great responsibility” and that something must be done to help the Syrian people (and anyone who needs help for that matter, not just folks who live in countries with connections to oil resources) but if we really want to help them, we should follow Sweden’s example.  Offer aid—and I don’t mean arms and weapons and financial resources that we’re going to withdraw the minute our newly established puppet dictators get too powerful and stop doing what we want them to do (call me a cynic, but that hasn’t worked out too well for us in the past)— I mean real aid. I mean asylum.

Since 2012, Sweden has taken in approximately 14,700 asylum seekers from Syria.  And they have all sorts of immigration problems already.  An article that appeared in The Economist earlier this year noted “For the Nordic countries to be able to afford their welfare states they need to have 80% of their adults in the workforce, but labour-force participation among non-European immigrants is much lower than that. In Sweden only 51% of non-Europeans have a job, compared with over 84% of native Swedes. The Nordic countries need to persuade their citizens that they are getting a good return on their taxes, but mass immigration is creating a class of people who are permanently dependent on the state.”

And yet, somehow they’ve managed to open their doors once again.

Now let’s talk about Russia.

I’m still unclear as to the chronology behind the threat of attack from the US and the offer of a diplomatic solution from Russia.  (All though one would think that diplomacy ought always to precede military intervention, no?)

Of course, according to everything I’ve heard on the radio and Obama’s speech last night, it’s only because the US is so powerful and because Syria was so afraid of the attack that they’ve agreed to turn over their chemical weapons to the UN so fine: congratulations to us.  I guess our anti-bullying campaigns are only meant for school children and we should be proud of our frat-boy approach to diplomacy.

Frankly though, I’m embarrassed.  We’re the most powerful nation on earth, and it took an offer from Russia—Russia!—to start sorting this out?

I have nothing against Russia—I’d really like to visit someday—but I can’t imagine that this is going to bode well for those still embroiled in the Cold War politics of the last century.  I mean, we look pretty stupid right now.

And let’s take Obama’s speech.  First he said Syria posed a direct threat to us.  Then he said Syria did not pose a direct threat, which is why he was going through whole Congressional-approval route to actually upholding our Constitution.  Well, which is it?

Also, what exactly is a “targeted strike?”  Obama had plenty to say about what it would not be: it would not be “an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan” or a “prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo.”  It would not be a “pinprick” strike because “the United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.”  Nor would it “remove another dictator with force” because we’ve learned, thanks to Iraq, that things can get pretty darn complicated once you do that.  I don’t know about you, but this description leaves me with more questions than answers.

And would it have killed Obama to have ended on a high note?  On a “diplomacy might work” note rather that a “we’re ready to ACT if/when it doesn’t” note?

Peter Certo of Foreign Policy in Focus published a GREAT analysis of the whole situation last week.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  In fact, you could consider those five minutes of your day your own personal tribute to the victims of 9/11 because frankly, I can’t think of a better way to honor their deaths and those of the thousands of soldiers and civilians who have lost their lives in the aftermath than not getting involved in another war.

3 Responses to “September 11th: “We will (never) forget””

  1. Landlord

    I read the title and said, “oh, oh, what trouble is she going to start today?” But as usual you surprised me, and aside from a few typos SO WELL SAID, and although I swear off FB on this date, I will post this on my page, it is too thought provoking not to do so. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. Becky

    I agree with Landlord. Very well said. I will admit that I have been rather caught up in my own stuff lately and haven’t given much thought to Syria. I was on the train this morning and realized that it was 9/11. Then I felt bad that it took looking at my phone to remind me of the significance of this date. On the one hand, I wish I could do more…but on the other hand it’s kind of taking all my effort to not run screaming down the street (working two jobs is really starting to get to me…).
    Either way, reading your article helped to remind me to look at the big picture. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. omtatjuan

    I find it ironic that those senators and congress people who were willing to rush into war recently are now saying wait a minute. Remember the “toxic gas labs on wheels” turned out to be helium stations and the uranium rods…. All a fake. If Bush was still in office they couldn’t wait to level that country. I am a bleeding heart liberal and always want peace but here was total proof the Assad government used gas… This too will pass.

    Reply

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