Syria Again (Weary and Helpless)

by Bob Schwartz

I’ve stopped counting the number of posts I’ve written about Syria. The most recent back in December, right before Christmas, was Syria: Things Fall Apart: “This is a season of light for many people, but in Syria it is getting darker every day.”

More than three years ago, the post was Syria and the Fog of Or Else:

Hints of chemical weapons allowed Obama to employ his own red line: no chemical weapons—or else. Because of world history and established international agreement, certain weapons of mass destruction are deemed so out of bounds that action is semi-automatically called for. That is, using chemical weapons trumps sovereignty. The international community might stand by for the internal slaughter of thousands, no matter how inhumane, but it is quasi-obligated to answer when certain civilized conventions come into play. In other words, the chemical weapons would offer a license to act, even if the other inhumanities didn’t

A license to act—if we knew what we could reasonably achieve, if people believe that it is worth losing lives to enforce the ban on chemical weapons, if it is actually about chemical weapons, if acting doesn’t make matters worse, if we knew exactly what we planned to do and how we would deal with all the possible aftermaths. None of which is clear now. None of which is likely to be clear anytime soon.

Welcome to the fog of or else.

The “hints” of chemical weapons aren’t just hints any more. They are being dropped in bombs. If it was dark in December just before Christmas, it is darker in April, just before Passover and Easter. Why mention those holidays? I could try to explain by making some clever intellectual and theological connections, but I’m really not sure, and anyway I’m not up to it. I am weary of writing about Syria. And I am weary of nonsense, and of comfortable leaders making others suffer, and of comfortable leaders pontificating and politicizing and pretending to be more moral and smarter than they actually might be. They may mean ill or well, but meanwhile, there is the fog and the darkness and things falling apart in Syria. And most of us are helpless to make it better.