II want to put on record that I’m not really feeling the whole “Bomb Syria” thing.  I’m channeling my inner George Lucas on this one.  You know what I’m talking about–in every Star Wars film some character, somewhere, says “I have a bad feeling about this.”  That line is usually uttered about the time things fall apart.

For consistencies sake, I had a similar bad feeling about Iraq and Afghanistan but no one  was listening.  I remember having a meal with a friend of mine at the time of the invasion of Iraq and we talked about it at length.  We decided that we shouldn’t invade, but that this is what empires do and this is what militaries want to do.  We were kind of fatalistic about it because we knew no one was listening. Please be mindful that I am not against the use of military and I am not a pacifist per se.  Sometimes the military option is the only viable option and those who serve our country in the fighting forces are among the bravest and noblest people in the world.  I was against invading Afghanistan and Iraq  because I didn’t really think it would solve any of the problems.  Those wars were more about vengeance for 9-11, and I understand why people felt he way they did, but as a historian I just don’t see how military action helped anything in those places.  It’s like we never learn from our past.

Now, back to Syria.  I just don’t think this collision course our government has set is a very good idea.  Here is why.

1.  If we strike Syria, will is end the bloodshed and violence.  No.  It will not.  If we attack it will escalate violence.  More children will die if we attack than if we do not.

2.  Our leaders seem very convinced that they know exactly what happened with the chemical weapons in Syria–that it was Assad who released them as an act of aggression.  These are the same officials who didn’t know what happened in Benghazi and who seemed surprised by the Arab spring’s origins in Iran where they allowed it to be brutally suppressed with almost no support from the West.

3.  Senator Susan Collins from Maine said yesterday that one of the reasons she was ‘undecided’ about action in Syria is that the “credibility” of the President of the United States had to be maintained.  I’m sorry, but saving face is not a good reason to kill anyone, ever.

4.  I can’t believe President Obama really wants to attack Syria.  I just can’t.  Therefore, if he attacks, then something else is going on.  When President Bush invaded Iraq (not Afghanistan) I argued that even though I was against it, I will support the President because I’ve got to believe he knows something I do not.  If Obama ends up leading us to attack Syria, I’ve got to likewise believe he knows something we do not because, and this might sound harsh, a dictator far away who is mean to his own people doesn’t seem just cause for the United States to get involved.  Obama can’t want this, so something else is at play.

5.  As a child of the Cold War I don’t trust Russia.  Whatever Putin says is to be viewed with great suspicion, but I do believe he is looking for a chance to reclaim Cold War status as a superpower and he will use Syria to do it.  I am not afraid of World War III erupting, but I am afraid of a Korea or Vietnam–distant wars fighting an enemy well supplied by Russia, China, or Iran.

6.  Israel.  Nothing we do in the Middle East should be done without thinking about the impact of one our true ally in the region.  If we attack Syria it will magnify the instability of Egypt and Libya.  The result will be that we will have created an even greater powder keg for the Israelis and that doesn’t seem like a good thing.

7.  Lebanon.  Does anyone else remember the Marines in Lebanon in 1983?  We were just trying to help then too.

I predict there will be no strike against Syria.  This is all just brinkmanship–Cold War style–and the threat of intervention is designed to get a response from Russia, which we got yesterday.  At least, that is what I am hoping for.


  1. It seems that this whole business is benefiting from the presence of a visible number of Christians in the region, and more historically knowledgeable folk are even aware of the crucial history of the area for Christianity. We are, after all, talking about the part of the world where Christians were first called Christians. The part of the world where Saul was knocked to the ground and questioned by the Lord. A great many events recorded in Scripture took place in what is modern Syria as well as closely neighboring places like Lebanon.

    One of the sad consequences of Iraq was the loss of antiquities. The Middle East is a treasure of civilization. That sort of thing didn’t ever to my memory get a lot of press with respect to Iraq. In matters like this human lives are lost, others caused great pain, and physical remnants of history, which are often overlooked anyway, can be irretrievably destroyed too.

    I learned something this week that I had not known. It seems there are more Orthodox Christians in Syria than in the United States. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising. I’d never had occasion to think about it before.

    • great point virgil. Syria is filled with all kinds of people, just like most places, who would become, mostly, collateral damage in any kind of military action.

      as to the antiquities, wouldn’t it be wonderful to tour north Africa and see the roman sites in Libya, the Egyptian digs and pyramids, Israel, the road to Damascus, look at he greek sites in turkey and the finish at the acropolis? too bad such a trip is impossible right now ,and has been for the entirety of my life.
      here is hoping someday sanity comes to the region.

  2. There has been numerous statements from leadership of Orthodox groups about what would happen to the people in and around Syria. Since, as you can imagine, I get my share of “Orthodox news,” it’s been a big story in my regular reading.

    Most of those historic sites you mention I too long to see one day. I’m sad to say as well that it’s been over ten years since the last time I was in Greece, and that was just a brief visit in the winter with no historic tours. My late mother emigrated from Greece, so I have kin there. When I went as a boy, the kinfolk took me to numerous places. The last time I went, though, I was slammed a bit by locals for being an American. Same thing happened to my mother. One time she was there with an American friend, and they were in a store, speaking English of course, and the employees started to say nasty anti-American things about them in Greek. My mother then very calmly chastised them in, of course, perfect Greek. They were mortified. The country can’t get its own act together, but a good many detest America and blame us for all manner of evils in the world.

    It’s well worth visiting for the history. I hope you make it. The modern Greek has little in common with the ancient, however. Other than living on the same real estate.

    • oh I would love to visit Greece–probably more than the holy land, to be honest. I do not fully understand all the complexities of modern greek life, but I am aware that the culture has endured many ups and downs and has never seemed to fully catch the potential of all it could be.

      peace and blessings,

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