Grappling With Anxiety And Guilt Over Syria
It’s getting harder to ignore the brewing mess in Syria as Assad plays for time to decimate his opposition. We see the pictures of maimed innocents and from our vantage point of partial information and misrepresented spin we are divided between yawning and concern that we aren’t more concerned. Have we become punch-drunk from too many world scenarios of suffering people and out of control tyrants / insurgents / terrorists/ self-promoters? With so many choices, how can we realistically care for any of them? Has the misinformation and spin made us suspect that every report is an attempt to dupe us? We know there is genuine suffering and it is out of control in many places. It really comes down to deciding if it is our problem or not. We risk mental breakdown and resource exhaustion if we try to care for all of these situations yet we wrestle with guilt if we don’t.
Hillary Mann Leverett claims expertise in Syria and she urges us to care about the mess in Syria because:
- It could destabilize the middle east – like it isn’t already totally unstable? Her point is that if things get worse we would inevitably have to address it. This was the reasoning that got us into Iraq – if we don’t intervene Hussein will get out of control with his weapons of mass destruction and we will have a big problem to clean up. That worked out so well.
- Al Qaeda might move in. And your point is ? Starting to get the idea that she worked for Number 43?
- Iran – the way to hurt Iran is to take Syria away from them – it’s not clear exactly how we’d do that or why we’d want to but it has nothing to do with the suffering of the citizens in Syria.
- Oil prices. It had to be there! We will pay gazillions fighting people far away in case we have to may millions more for gas. Great economics, professor!
- The economy, stupid. This boils down to the “strike now while it’s cheaper to intervene rather than waiting for an expensive full-scale war.” The assumption is we will inevitably need to intervene. Why would we make that assumption?
- Global reputation. We apparently were criticized for not being consistent in our support of the Arab Spring and so we have to act now to preserve our reputation and our status as the global defender of democracy.
Her reasoning pretty much boils down to pride, fear, self-interest and meddling. It’s interesting that alleviating human suffering doesn’t make the list. No thought of “justice” and protecting the innocent. Let’s face it, these are terrible reasons for urging any sort of intervention and if we were stupid enough to listen to her we would deserve all of the problems we brought upon ourselves. Coming from a former Security Council adviser to number 43, it’s not too hard to figure out why his foreign policy ran aground so hard. If we surround ourselves with advisors like this we have to understand that we are going to make bad decisions. Oh that’s right, we did.
Where is faith in all this?
Well we can’t expect foreign policy to be all about faith. There are aspects of national interest that have to be there, but we do need to consider how faith can be integrated into foreign policy. We live in a world of self-interested people who act unreasonably and violently towards each other so anything we do that is based on self-interest simply increases the conflict – the throwing oil on the fire approach. The problem with any sort of intervention is that it won’t help if we are motivated by our own gain. The other parties sense our self-interest and resist it, they play us off against each other and invent ways to relieve us of our money and resources, but nothing actually changes and we end up getting sucked into supporting one form of injustice over another. Then to save face we hastily exit leaving simmering enmity and festering hatred in our wake.
In our moments of reality we recognize that the problems of the whole world are a little too big for us to resolve, even if we knew how to do that. Not every problem belongs to us, despite our chronic desire to be the world’s enabler. Not everyone is waiting for us to step in and fix things for them. Our sense of responsibility far exceeds our sphere of influence while our guilt-motivated sense of duty combined with our ignorance of the trouble spots inevitably leads to us making things worse not better. Not every fight in the world belongs to us. Not every victim can be helped by us. The tragedy of us fighting a faction we fostered to frustrate the Russians in Afghanistan is a solemn warning to us that our help can be horribly misguided. The Russians couldn’t afford to sustain the war to beat the monsters we helped create but nor can we.
Faith pushes us to reconsider. It yells at us to stop thinking folly, to stop trying to meddle in other people’s messes. It firmly calls us to look at ourselves and our selfish motives. We are called to look at our own yard, to clean up our own messes, to invest in making this world a better place – and that begins at home. It’s not like we don’t have people here who are suffering and need practical help. And as we move beyond our borders, the same principle needs to be applied – how can we act to lift people up and help them stand on their own feet, how can we do that without defaulting to our own interests? The only people we can really hope to help in this life are the ones we are willing to put ahead of ourselves.
Don’t do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not focus only on your own interests but look to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as the one Christ Jesus demonstrated . . . Philippians 2
If we dared to live like that, what would it be like?
. . .
- Warzone Syria: Assad unleashes assaults in THREE major cities a day after world dismisses his offer of a referendum (dailymail.co.uk)
- Daily Number: Most Say the U.S. Has No Responsibility to Act in Syria – Pew Research Center (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- Nightmare civil war in Syria spills across 2 borders: opposition reports a thousand Syrians killed in a week (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- Why Syria should matter to Americans (cnn.com)
Posted on April 11, 2012, in Active faith, Self-awareness and tagged Al Qaeda, faith and reality, fear, guilt motivation, injustice, self-interest, Syria, world suffering. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.