Sunday, September 1, 2013


     I know what my mother would say about the current situation in Syria.  In her usual exquisitely nuanced approach, she would half-listen to the details, shrug, and say, "Let them (i.e., the Arabs) all kill each other."  She would utterly fail to see the connection between Assad's murder of his own citizens by poison gas and the Nazis' use of their World War II gas chambers.  But even when that connection isn't mentioned in public debate about what the U.S. should do now, it feels to me like the elephant in the room.  What is it about gassing people to death that's of a different order entirely than other forms of warfare?  Ask the Jews.  We know.

     There is no good answer to what the U.S. should do about Syria.  On the one hand, how can we as a nation stand by and condone Assad's heinous acts by our silence?  On the other hand, once we get involved in another country's civil war, where and when and how do we get out?  I don't even know what I hope Congress decides.  I only hope that, for once in their lives, our elected officials can act like sober adults with a historic mission to carry out instead of like children squabbling in a sandbox.
     I want to say one more thing.  It's easy to look at the Middle East right now and say that seemingly the only two options in Arab countries are repressive rule by tyrants or chaos that opens the door wide to extremism and violence.  But when in history haven't giant steps forward been followed by regression?  Look at the French Revolution and its bloody aftermaths.  No civilized country can afford to throw up its hands about the Middle East and say, in the immortal words of Sarah Palin, that we should "let Allah sort it out."  We need to remember far wiser words - ones from  a speech whose anniversary we commemorated just a few days ago.  As Martin Luther King said 50 years ago from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: we cannot walk alone.

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