Friday, September 6, 2013

Dear Mr. President

I think everyone knows I can be counted upon to have a strong response to political questions facing our nation today.  In the past few weeks, I've been flitting around the internet, leaving "opinion droppings" on Facebook pages and NPR news stories.  Eventually I felt compelled to craft a letter to the president.  Here it is:

Dear Mr. President:

I’m sure you’ve received a deluge of letters from citizens concerned about the Syria situation.  I can’t hope that mine will even reach your eyes, much less change the course of events by a micro-millimeter.  Still, I would not be doing my duty as a citizen of the United States, and a human being, if I didn’t add mine to the millions of voices crying out for a non-military response to the use of sarin on non-combatants in Syria.

I’m not one of those who will assert that no “red line" has been crossed by the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Of course a line has been crossed.   Chemical weapons are truly some of the most frightening weapons of mass destruction invented by man.  Nuclear weapons, while deadly and devastating, serve as their own deterrent.   But chemicals are the stuff of science fiction doomsday scenarios:   weapons that kill people while leaving the real estate intact.  They seem perfectly designed to be unleashed on the faceless masses never considered entirely human by despotic rulers.  The world needs to enforce the ban of these weapons, and to punish regimes that use them.

That being said, I believe we have to examine two things about a response to the sarin attack in Syria:  who needs to respond, and what the response should be. 

The answer to the first question is, “The world  needs to respond.”  Chemical weapons threaten the entire world, not just the United States.  Unfortunately, in this case, the world appears to have tired of war, at least in the Middle East, with its political, religious and economic entanglements.  The global sentiment seems to have settled upon two reactions:  1.) non-response in order not to interrupt the flow of oil out of/arms into the area and 2.) non-response with a sort of “Let them go ahead and kill each other and good riddance to them” attitude.  It is also unfortunate that, since 2003, the foreign policy of the United States herself has helped demonstrate that military entanglements in that area do not end well.  Is it any wonder no one wants to get involved?

But the world must be made to understand that use of WMDs on non-combatants cannot be ignored.  As nation after nation violates that treaty with no significant reaction from the global community, the use of chemical weapons will expand.  This is NOT a “Ho-hum, it’s their problem” moment.  Someone has to take that message to the world, Mr. President.  I believe you and Secretary of State Kerry can fill that role.  You have substantially more political capital on the international scene than you do here at home.  I beg you to use it.  BE the protector of the innocent.  Make that case to world leaders.  Do not give up until they listen.

Now, let’s examine the world’s response to the use of chemical weapons.  What should it be?  Frankly, I don’t know.  I don’t think we have yet crafted appropriate punishments for world leaders who step out of the bounds of “humane” warfare (if ever there was a contradiction in terms, that is it…)  How can a military response be appropriate?  How can killing and destruction be counted upon to stop killing and destruction? Here in this country, we’ve adopted the philosophy that if you hit a child who does wrong, all that teaches the child is how to hit.  How much more can this apply to interactions between nations of the world?  We have to step away from the “Might Makes Right” default reaction to global injustice.

The United States is, arguably, the biggest fish in the pond right now.  Though the foreign policy high jinks of the Bush administration considerably damaged our reputation around the world, I do not believe it is impossible to polish our tarnished reputation and take a message of the strength of peace to the global community.  Perhaps the world needs to stand in solidarity to aid the Syrian people in the least military way possible.  Instead of shaking our fists and pounding on the rogue leaders, perhaps we need to focus our efforts upon stretching out those hands to aid the innocent.

Bombing and missiles do not aid the innocent.  Economic sanctions don’t either.  What is the answer?  I don’t know.  But there are people out there—yourself included—who are more learned about world politics than I.  We the People count upon YOU to make every effort to think outside the box, to not fall back upon the same tired old military and economic “solutions” that don’t solve anything.  We are counting upon you to craft a plan.  Not just a response. 

Thank you, Mr. President.  I believe we can depend upon you to do the right thing.                 



  1. After 1963 as our role in Vietnam expanded and MLK tried to expand the non violent civil rights campaign into the north he ran into a growing wall of opposition from young African Americans and refrain was often "why should we use non violent means to gain our goals when our country doesn't." and by the way I just got my draft notice.

    After all these years it still makes my blood boil when men like the Neocon Bill Kristol beat the war drums even though they never wore the uniform or stood in harms's way.

    Ironically the best description of the a society built on the dreams of King and the liberation theologians might be The Fifth Sacred Thing. Written by a pagan who uses the craft name Starhawk. It's far from a perfect piece of writing but she does weave a marvelous possibility. I don't have an answer, but maybe Syria's neighbors need to get off THEIR behinds and deal with their neighbor instead waiting for us to do it. They have the most to lose. And to to gain. Maybe it's the losing that scares them as the seeds of rebellion spread and we forget that it's as much a conflict between different branches of Islam. Sunni against Alawite (related to the Shiites). And wars of religion are always the worst.

  2. Well said! Thank you. I wrote the POTUS as well, and those who serve in Congress.