Saturday, September 7, 2013

International SNAFU: Syria Edition

Map taken from Sondra Oster Baras' blog (discovered when looking for images online). I recommend reading her post about the current situation in Israel regarding Syria.

Unless you have been under a rock for the past month or so you know what is happening in the Middle East right now, specifically with regard to Syria. You should also be aware of the fact that President Obama is asking Congress to support military action against an admittedly horrible regime that is currently in power. There have been numerous questions and debates over the last several weeks as to whether or not the United States should get involved and, frankly, I am uncertain as to what can be done to quell the violence happening in Syria right now.

I can say that there has been a common thread in the discussions I have had with countless people, mostly those directly involved in politics, which has boiled down to a very simple yet complex question: “If we attack Syria, what happens to Israel?” ("How will Iran react?" was a close second). No one, myself included, really has a definitive answer to that question but it is one that needs to be considered when determining what kind of action, if any, we should take. Obviously, there are countless other factors that come into play such as financial commitment, putting more troops in harm’s way, and the scale of such an offensive.

The bombing and use of chemical weapons on its own citizens is an abhorrent act that has been committed by those in power in Syria and one that needs to stop. However, we have to take into consideration that these heinous acts are currently kept within its borders. Introducing an external force, such as the US military, drastically changes the rules of the game… it would no longer be a civil war. This has the potential of giving the Syrian government a reason to expand the conflict into neighboring countries, specifically attacking Israel.

While military action has the potential to save lives, our ‘intervention’ would cost the lives of thousands more. Like it or not, this is a numbers game… that is the cold hard fact of the matter. If this action is going to cost more innocent lives than it saves then why should we take action in the first place?

Consider the wisdom found in both the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud. Many of you have heard or read variations of these passages but let us consider them in their entirety. 

"Whoever destroys a soul from Israel, the Scripture considers it as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life from Israel, the Scripture considers it as if he saved an entire world." - Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a

"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world." - Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)

I am by no means a Talmudic scholar, but it seems as though we are in a grey area at the moment. Being that there has been no direct threat revealed against the United States, at least at this point in time, we can’t claim to be acting in self defense. Therefore, I think we are on the wrong end of this holy equation.

Now I can hear many people saying that we must defend the innocent and I whole heartedly agree with that statement but the taking of human lives should not be the first course of action it should be the last course of action after all other options have failed. We have not yet attempted to find an alternative solution. Besides, our primary priorities should be to protect our own interests first and those of our allies second (Israel) before we even consider the people in hostile countries. So instead of fighting alongside Al-Qaeda to fight a lesser evil, why don’t we make sure we contain the conflict and protect our allies, namely Israel. That seems like the most logical course of action at this time with the information we have.

If the conflict expands beyond the Syrian border then I am open to considering taking more aggressive action (especially before the United Nations sanctions Israel for defending itself). At that point I could see justification in taking military action in a supportive role to protect the interests of our allies and therefore our own interests. And if you don’t think defending Israel is in the best interests of the United States please stop using any technology developed in the last 20 years (including your phone).