Locally and globally, the proof is in the process

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I believe that we are witnessing democracy at its best. We’re watching the wheels turn, slowly and with difficulty, but turning. When we first saw the pictures of the gassed children, I felt perfectly in step with Obama’s view that we needed to strike back.

Then days passed. He sent the debate to Congress. Britain bowed out. I read about the Reagan years, when Saddam Hussein used poison gas on his own people and we did nothing. Not only that, but our government had supplied some of the weaponry that was used in the attacks.

We went into Kosovo for humanitarian reasons, but we didn’t interfere in Congo or Liberia. We invaded Grenada, but we sat on the sidelines as Kim Jong-il starved millions of his people, including children.

I’ve been listening to the debate, the voices saying that an attack on Syria, on any country, always has unintended consequences. When you let loose missiles from thousands of miles away, you cannot know who will suffer and die. The more I process the information, the less sure I am that an attack against Syria, especially a unilateral attack, is in our best interests.

Back and forth, back and forth. What about the moral imperative? What about our promise to Israel that we won’t let Iran produce nuclear weapons? Would failure to act now compromise that promise in the mind of the Israelis? What about the idea that, as Americans, once a crime against humanity has been committed, it is our singular and special responsibility to act?

Back and forth. We lived through the Bush era, and the invasion of Iraq predicated on the existence of weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said it would be a cakewalk, but 4,500 dead Americans later, it was, by all accounts, a tragic mistake.

For those given to action, to pulling the trigger once the target is in sight, this process of debate and discussion and conflicting “eyewitness” reports is excruciating. Granted, it is distressing to feel unsure about launching an attack that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars and untold numbers of lives. Distressing, but necessary and appropriate.
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