August 29, 2013

The ethics of a Syrian military intervention: The experts respond

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WASHINGTON (RNS) As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime's use of chemical weapons against civilians.

  • Ken Jorgensen

    I suspect it is just as well that the politicians are making the decisions. One writer said “…the U.S. is not the sword of God.” Really, who in the last hundred years has been protecting freedom in the world. Is God not interested in freedom? I suggest that he is very interested in freedom. To put down tyranny is always right. True, removing Assad may not eliminate tyranny, but it is certain that if he is not removed tyranny will continue.

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  • hag

    Just war, go don’t go JUST DON’T TAKE MY SON …..
    WW!!< korea, Nicar, Viet, Iraq, afgahn
    Just don't take my son, he is studying to be a …………

  • Ray

    Well the horrendously evil Soviet Union played an important role against nazi Germany. And while some good consequences have come from US intervention, it hasn’t always ended up well. At least one third of Iraqs Christiahs have had to flee since Saddam was taken out. There is also ample evidence than in our oppositions against truly evil communist dictators, who were certainly imperialists in their own right, that the United States had offered support to some truly evil “far right” dictators as well. After “losing” the Vietnam war, and after the US supported Kuonmingtang lost in China, bother areas have made substantial progress. China and Vietnam have been engaged in market reforms and become more prosperous, while the human rights situation is terrible, it has gotten better, and in Vietnam, citizens are polled as having a higher approval rating of the US, the American people, and the free market system than many European countries. If this much can be done in the absence of successful violent intervention, doesn’t that leave room for considering non violent intervention? Did we really have to, in an act of utilitarian logic kill thousands of civilians in Japan, including in what some have called the heart of Japanese Christianity (Nagasaki), to change that society? If we are going to argue from history we need to have it in proper perspective. World police policies have not always been humane, nor effective.

  • Carl Rosenberg

    I can think of a few occasions when the U.S. didn’t intervene to defend freedom–in the early 50s, when they put the Shah of Iran back in power; on endless occasions throughout the twentieth century when they supported military dictatorships in Latin America, often supporting the overthrow of elected governments in the process (Arbenz in Guatemala, Goulart in Brazil, Bosch in the Dominican Republic, Allende in Chile); defending a string of dictatorships in their neocolonial war in Vietnam. Not exactly an angel of freedom.

  • I would have certainly enjoyed hearing from a few of the wonderful and smart women thealogians on this topic. Their omission is a loss for all of us. I hope this does not happen again.

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  • JustThinkin

    Many of these religious experts all seem to assume that Assad was behind the attacks. That has not been proven nor have we seen any strong evidence of the same.
    Secondly, Assad, as bad a guy as he might be, is fighting a rebellion in his country and the U.S. is standing in to help the rebels just as Britain helped the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
    A U.S attack is not about morals it is about world politics and the apparent policy in the Mideast to destabilize all the countries. Do Iraq and Libya have better governments and human rights than before the U.S. and the world got involved?
    I don’t recall Jesus saying anything about “just war” As I recall of my reading he was for peace and against killing. I cannot speak to Judaic war theory but, I think Christians are supposed to be against all killing. “Just War” is just a theory dreamed up so religious leaders could make nice with political leaders. Telling those in power not to kill is not a winning position. True religious leaders promote peace. Ghandi, Jesus, Martin Luther King are fair examples.

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  • Lrr Lybarger

    Reinold Niebuhr, John Swomley, John Howard Yoder! Where are you when we need you?!!

  • Lrr Lybarger

    Reinhold Niebuhr, John Howard Yoder, John Swomly!! Where are you when we ned you?!!

  • Arlene Montevecchio

    It is a shame that no female experts (religious leaders or scholars) could not be found for comment on this issue.

  • Kate

    I agree, Deb. That was one of the first things I noticed

  • Lauren Markoe

    We also noted the lack of a female expert before we published this. There are many more men than women in this particular field, and we could not find a female commentator — someone who had written about about just war theory in particular — who was able to comment by our tight deadline. But please know that we will continue to seek a diversity of sources.

  • Morgan

    How can it be that you did not offer one woman’s perspective??? Are all religious opinions male opinions to you? There is more to justice than war.

  • Cathy Norman Peterson

    My thoughts exactly.

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  • Rebecca Peterson

    Why were there no women interviewed in this important topic?

  • Kevin Eckstrom

    Rebecca, it’s a very important question, and one we wrestled with. As it turns out, this field is almost entirely dominated by men, but that’s no excuse. We did ask around — repeatedly — for a woman’s voice and came up relatively empty. Again, not an excuse, just more of an explanation. Thanks for writing in.

  • Howard Hallman

    There are a variety of alternatives to bombing Syria as explained in an article “The Rush to Bomb Syria: Undermining International Law and Risking Wider Law” found at http://wslfweb.org/docs/wslfsyriabrief1.pdf.

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