Unjust: the U.S. and Syria

shutterstock_82701439 - 2One of the often forgotten precepts of the Christian Just War Theory is, that “Before war is entered upon there must be a reasonable belief that such an action will be successful.”  This is to guard against a futile waste of life and destruction – even if the cause for action may be just.

Some will maintain that President Obama’s request for military strike on Syria does not constitute a war. Quite simply, however, barring legal technicalities any attack on a sovereign nation is a de facto act of war.

The outcome of any war is unpredictable because of unforeseeable variables. However, assessments before engaging in a war must be made on available data as to whether or not the outcome will be successful.  George W. Bush made his decision to enter into the war with Iraq on this basis.  The initial bravado expressed in the infamousMission Accomplished banner is an example of how fallible human calculation can be.  To this day Iraq remains a dangerous place. Thousands of Americans and Iraqis have been killed or maimed because of a radical Islamic insurgency that emerged after Saddam Hussein fell.

President Bush at least had a plan.  He had a neo-con dream of establishing a democracy in a land which had known only brutal dictatorship for years. This utopian vision failed to consider a tribal culture and a religion that are inimical to Western ideals.  Because of this internecine battles in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt will continue despite the best intentions of the United States and her allies.

The pitfalls of engagement in the Middle East, because of the lessons learned in the Bush war, are now more obvious and justifying military intervention is much more difficult.

President Obama is now lobbying Congress for a military strike in Syria to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons on its citizens. As heinous as this is our Representatives in Washington must ask themselves; what is the end-game? And, more importantly; what will be the result?

The insurgents in Syria are believed to be supported by al Qaeda and The Muslim Brotherhood. If we weaken or even destroy the present Syrian regime would another devil worse than the first move into fill the vacuum?  Would there be further blood-shed and further cleansing of Jews and Christians from Syria as is presently happening with Egypt’s Copts and Iraq’s Chaldeans?

Since there seems to be no stomach for another Middle East war on the part of the American people, sixty percent at least; a reluctance in Congress for further U.S. involvement there; and, with little chance of success if we do engage in battle,  any military action would violate The Just War principle cited above.  This is based on the certain loss of life and limb that will occur to both military and civilian populations and the incalculable horror that will ensue no matter which group gains control of Syria.

A lesson can be taken from the U.S. failed war in Viet Nam. In his memoirs, the former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, admitted that the U.S. had no intention to win the war. How many lives both Vietnamese and American were lost to no avail? I can still remember a young man who lived across the street from me being shipped home in a military coffin. His parents took comfort in the belief that he died for a purpose – to save the world from Communism. Years later they became bitter realizing that they had been duped.

As the saying goes, “If we do not know our history, we are bound to repeat it.”


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Chaplain and Research Fellow at Ave Maria Law. Father Michael P. Orsi was ordained for the Diocese of Camden in 1976 and has a broad background in teaching and educational administration. Fr. Orsi has authored or co-authored four books and over 300 articles in more than 45 journals, magazines and newspapers. He has served as Assistant Chancellor, Assistant Vicar for Pastoral Services, Director of Family Life Bureau, and Coordinator of Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Jersey for the Diocese of Camden. He has also served as a member of The Institute for Genomic Research at the University of Pennsylvania and as a member of New Jersey’s Advisory Council on AIDS. Fr. Orsi holds a Doctorate in Education from Fordham University, two Master degrees in Theology from Saint Charles Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts from Cathedral College. He is presently serving as Chaplain and Research Fellow in Law and Religion at Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, Florida. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. In 2005 Fr. Orsi was appointed as a Senior Research Associate to the Linacre Center for Bioethics, London, England. Fr. Orsi co-hosts a weekly radio program The Advocate which discusses law and culture on WDEO-AM 990, WMAX-AM 1440 in metro Detroit and WDEO-FM 98.5 in southwest Florida [also linked at www.avemarialaw.edu].

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