Syria May Prove America’s True Character

The situation in Syria has become something of a fascinating study in the distinction between the principles of politics versus the principles of morality; and, strange as it sounds, it may be the thing that reminds Americans who we are as a people and what we will - and will not - accept from humanity living outside our borders.

The seriousness of potential war — especially one tied to images of children dying while foaming at the mouth — has a not-so-funny way of shining a light on just how shallow ideological passion can be. The libertarians and the traditional liberals are adamant that we stay out of the conflict; the more progressive (those who support Obama and generally the anti-war crowd) Democrats and the neoconservative hawks seem to be aligned in thinking that we must defend the red line President Obama drew in the sand. (Although now he’s insisting it wasn’t his red line at all…).

In short, there seems to be no easy partisan divide on whether we act or shutter the windows and wait for the fall out. But if this makes you uncomfortable, David Freddoso has an excellent piece in yesterday’s Conservative Intelligence Briefing on why it shouldn’t:

It would be rather disappointing to see Democrats who typically oppose all wars vote in favor of this one just to save a president’s rear end.  It would be dispiriting to think (as many liberal pundits have suggested) that conservatives are only breaking against this war because Obama is president.

And sure, there’s probably some of that going on here, especially among the public — a great deal of partisanship out there, one might say. But in fact, both characterizations are misleading, especially when it comes to elected officials.

He goes on to cite examples of past wars where the likes of Howard Dean spoke like a hawk when calling on Bush to invade Liberia. Or when Republicans opposed Clinton’s decision to act in Kosovo:

There are some Republicans and quite a few more Democrats who oppose most or all military interventions in principle. But for many others, not all wars are created equal. There are wars to like and wars to dislike, and one’s opinions vary with one’s view of the world.

Syria is even more difficult to assign a partisan line because the objective is unclear and, apparently, will need to be debated for some time to come. In other words: it’s hard to determine if your ideology matches the proposed outcome if no one is sure what that proposed outcome is supposed to be.

It’s tempting to get disheartened by what looks like a chaotic mess orchestrated (perhaps intentionally) to, at the very least, posture in a region where the United States has decided to draw back influence. But it’s the necessary scaling back of purely partisan decision-making that offers a glimmer of hope in an otherwise terrible turn of events:

It’s certainly true that a lot of the anti-war crowd are now lying low. It’s certainly true that many antagonists of President Obama have supported past wars. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s a hypocrite — which you’ll hear a lot in the coming weeks. Some of them are hypocrites, sure. But unless you oppose them all, not all wars are the same.

Freddoso has hit on something that, in fact, speaks to the character of Americans as free people: when it comes to the loss of innocent lives, we put away our partisan swords and begin to think like human beings. And that, despite the fumbling political posturing that got us here, is a democratic light in the despotic darkness.


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