I have to say that I am struggling on so many levels with the situation in Syria and on even more with those around me who are accusing our nation of 'war-mongering' and bemoaning the fact that we're merely 'looking for a fight' and here's why:
I can remember the travesty of international justice and the frustrations of UN Forces' commanders when they were rendered impotent in the humanitarian role of protecting civilians in Both Rwanda and Bosnia (take a look at 'Hotel Rwanda' and think back to the Balkan conflict to see what I mean).
I struggle to come to terms with a world where Saddam Hussein managed to deal so effectively with the Shia population that was the Marsh Arabs through draining of their homelands and the use of chemical weapons (and that means that 'yes' he did have weapons of mass destruction at some stage) against those of Kurdish descent (how many people even know of Halabja which remembers the twenty-fifth anniversary of it's bombing with chemical weapons this year?).
In Psalm 82 (v.3-4) we find this:
'Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.'
What we have before us is something that today we call the 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P) and it is something that supports the intent of the passage above and, existing closely in tune with the heartbeat of God, resonates with all descent people (theist and non-theist).
It is not rabble-rousing, nor jingoistic or vote-catching. What it brings into focus is three elements that need to be considered and these are presented to us in the images of those dead or dying we see broadcast onto our television screens from Syria.
There are three considerations:
It is the duty of each and every state to protect their people from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity; and the duty of the international community to assist in the prevention of these acts.
Where evidence exists that such atrocities are occurring because the state is unable, or unwilling, to act to stop them then once all peaceful means have been exhausted other, more militarily robust means, are all that remain.
In a nutshell, this is the bottom line:
If a nation cannot, or will not, protect it's own people then the international community must act to ensure that this protection is afforded and when all else fails it is acceptable for them to do so by use of military force.
This is the situation before us with regard to Syria and should the UN Security Council decide that this is the place that has been reached by the current crisis (and it is a crisis) then there are many steps before we find ourselves with a 'boots on the ground' scenario, but this is the ultimate destination should more peaceful ways fail.
It would help the situation greatly to have the Russians become a little more obviously engaged in what is right rather than the protection of their ally (and sales market) in defending Syria. The steps open would be trade embargos (which would hit Russia), sanctions (such as those which have stopped North Korea getting ski lifts - now that's a thought to savour isn't it?) and other restrictions and political strategies.
It's not a swift route, and it never should be, because military action is a last resort rather than a kneejerk (after all whilst politicians start wars it's the armed forces who stop them and pay dearly for treaties written in their blood).
So we need to stop responding with our own kneejerk responses and stop the 'warmongering' cries - because R2P is a balanced, measured and slow process which has nothing to do with regime changes (a mistake that we saw perhaps with Iraq) or dogma, doctrine or national interest (and I mean other nations, not the nation where the problems are occurring). What R2P demands is a strong constitution and a desire to make real the words, 'NEVER AGAIN' true for every nation across the globe - for genocide and the use of weapons of mass destruction must be opposed globally, always and everywhere without let, hindrance, bias or favour.
So tomorrow when the British government discuss the option regarding Syria, use your heads and think; your knees and pray and remember that those who would have peace must train armies and be willing to use them - as the last resort.
Sadly civil wars see ruling powers act against civilian populations using the might of the government machinery (and military might) and the danger is that in supporting the citizens we might just be supporting the self-same terrorists who will turn on us later (remember Russian and Mujahedin and who armed them only to have the same arms turned on our troops by the same people now?).
We need to read, test the news reports and understand the situations and, when what we see on our televisions occurs, act in a right and proper way as nations and as the members of those nations who are part of the international community.
Pray for peace -work for peace- be ready to engage the wicked if (or perhaps when) this is seen to have failed.
Simples or what?