Based on Catholic social teaching, here are seven reasons to oppose a U.S. military strike against Syria:
1. Just cause. The use of chemical weapons crosses a threshold that was established as illegal since the end of World War I. It is assumed but not proven that the chemical attack was the work of the Assad government (Syria). However, it is conceivable (even if unlikely) that the rebel groups staged the chemical attack to provoke a U.S. response. Just cause requires a burden of proof.
2. Legitimate authority. Russia and China would veto any U.S. attempt to get U.N. support for a military strike against Syria. Because the U.S. was not directly attached, a U.S. attack on Syria would violate international law — unless we obtain U.N. backing. We would be breaking international law against a country that we think broke international law to show that breaking international law is wrong.
3. Probability of success. Nation-building is an elusive goal. If we remove Assad from power, what is the strategic objective? Who will take his place? The rebel groups we support are now controlled by extremists such as Al Qaida. If we weaken Assad and the rebels win out, we could be placing terrorist groups in control of Syria and giving them access to Assad’s weapons.
4. Proportionality. Any direct action by the U.S. could escalate the war and increase the involvement of Russia, China and Iran. If the U.S. retaliates against the Syrian government, Assad could retaliate as well. The damage that would be done with a military strike is unlikely to be proportionate to any good that might be accomplished.
5. Discrimination. How would a U.S. strike against military installations discriminate between combatants and the civilian population? Modern warfare has demonstrated how difficult it is to attack by ground or by air without killing innocent bystanders.
6. Last resort. We are quick to resort to military solutions because we lack the strength, wisdom and know- how to resolve international conflicts in peaceful ways. The problem is not that peacemaking has been tried and failed. Nonviolent means have not been tried.
7. Option for the poor. An attack on Syria could worsen the situation for millions of Syrian refugees. Funding that would be used for a military attack could be re-directed toward humanitarian assistance. Our credibility, character and reputation would be enhanced if we focused more on the works of mercy and less on the works of war.
Dan Ebener is a Pax Christi USA member and the director of stewardship and parish planning for the Davenport Diocese. This article appeared in the Catholic Messenger. Visit his website at http://www.danebener.com/.