Two essays on Syria drew my attention on the same day. The first, by Nicholas Kristof, is a heartfelt argument in favor of military intervention, and specifically airstrikes. The second, equally heartfelt, from Jim Wallis, argues for immediate massive humanitarian aid to the millions of refugees from this conflict and against the use of military force in response to Syria’s passion.
A few days earlier, a friend who is a leader in the peace and justice community where I live asked why there are no mass demonstrations against military intervention. Reading the Kristof and Wallis essays, I saw why: most of us cannot imagine an effective non-military solution. Kristof writes, for example:
I received a mass e-mail from a women’s group I admire, V-Day, calling on people to oppose military intervention because ‘such an action would simply bring about more violence and suffering. … Experience shows us that military interventions harm innocent women, men and children.’
Really? Sure, sometimes they do, as in Iraq. But in both Bosnia and Kosovo, military intervention saved lives. The same was true in Mali and Sierra Leone. The truth is that there’s no glib or simple lesson from the past. We need to struggle, case by case, for an approach that fits each situation…