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Pope_Francis_Sept_1_Angelus-255x266Next week the American Congress will decide whether to back their president in his desire to carry out a military strike on Syria; on that result much hangs. Will America learn anything from the last fifty years of involvement in active military intervention? Or are Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq not sufficient to convince it that these things are a waste of time and prestige, not to mention men and treasure?  Will the Imperial Presidency, as we have seen it since FDR, continue, or will America retreat to a model more in keeping with its own history? Most of all, will its post 1945 search for dragons abroad with whom it can engage continue, or will it remember the wise advice proffered by the retiring George Washington:

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

For ‘European’ substitute ‘Middle Eastern’.

For all his irritating way of putting it, President Putin has it right here. ‘Punishing’ a sovereign state is something for the United Nations. We can, if we wish, intervene to protect a population against its own President, as we did in Bosnia, but if we do so, we are taking on a larger role than merely a punitive strike would involve. If Obama and company do not know that, they are stupid; if they do and are muddying the waters, they are verging on the criminal.

Tens of thousands of Christians have been slaughtered and/or displaced, and that required no action; hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been slaughtered and/or displaced, and that required no action; 1400 are killed by chemical weapons, and that does? This is, we are told, because the use of chemical weapons is an affront to international law and morality; and slaughtering tens of thousands is not?

Obama tells us that his credibility is not at stake; well if that were a recognition that he has none, it would be a rare moment of truth, but it is, alas, transference, as he seeks to find rhetorical tropes which will help him get what he wants. There would be great merit in his, and others, learning that their abuse of rhetoric has been noted and will work no longer; we have heard all of this before, and we have observed the results.

It does not need saying that Assad presides over a brutal regime, but it may need saying that he is not the only President in the world who does so; and it does need saying that just as we were told about the ‘moderate’ Iraqis who would take over from Saddam, the ‘moderate’ Syrians are not those who would take over should Assad fall. Anything approaching ‘democracy’ in the Arab world would give a majority to Islamists who wish, as Morsi did in Egypt, to push a particular agenda. Now, if our leaders have decided that is our agenda also, they are foolish; and if they have not considered what they would do in such an event – well would any of us be surprised? Sophomoric indignation is no excuse for thought, and forms a poor basis for international intervention.

If anyone wants an example of what the ‘rebels’ think of Christians, and how they will treat them if they win, they should look here and here. The Chaldean Patriarch has said that intervention will be a ‘disaster’. Marking the anniversary of 9/11 by working with Al-Qaeda is an odd thing to wish to do. By now, Americans know that it will not be international intervention. The usual British fig-leaf is not there, and it will be interesting to see what, in practice, the French are offering. President Obama is a latter-day Bourbon – he has forgotten nothing and learnt nothing from experience.

Today the Pope has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria. I have joined that call, and hope readers here will pray for wisdom to descend.