Congress, vote no to Syria strikes

We’re glad President Obama has asked Congress to decide whether the United States should send its military to Syria for strikes against the government there. It’s a tough call for the American people as a whole, and as with other tough national decisions, the better way to make it is the more democratic way.

We urge the North Country’s U.S. representative, Bill Owens, and New York’s U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, to vote against intervening in Syria’s civil war.

Yes, chemical weapons are horrible, as the world learned nearly a century ago in World War I. It is important for the international community to prevent and stop their use.

But let’s keep in mind why chemical weapons are terrible: They kill people by the hundreds, sometimes by the thousands. If we try to discipline the Syrian government by killing more hundreds or thousands of people, we are not part of the solution.

Our endgame must be peace – free peace, not a peace imposed by militaristic control. We saw in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places that our intervention did not bring this and also created new troubles in those countries as well as our own.

The achievement wasn’t worth the cost.

Perhaps even more than in those countries, whatever may be reasonably achieved by intervening in Syria is not worth the cost.

For one thing, the side we would defend – the rebels – is dubious. There are reportedly militants from all over the Arab world on that side, some of them perhaps the same ones who fought against our soldiers in Iraq.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week – while he was in the Adirondacks, by the way – urged Western nations to “take sides” in Syria and beyond against the forces that attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. In Egypt, he would side with a military government against the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, but in Syria, he would side with the loosely bonded Arab rebels against the military regime. That doesn’t make sense to us. It apparently didn’t to the British Parliament, either, which voted against intervening in Syria.

Hopefully the U.S. Congress will do likewise.

But we don’t think the U.S. should ignore or not care about Syria’s brutal civil war and the atrocious things being done there. We just need to seek means of action that do not mirror what is wrong, means that make things better rather than worse.

Peacemaking is not for the fearful. Rather, it requires at least as much bravery and sacrifice as military action. It also, painfully, requires much patience and determination to keep doing the right thing no matter what others do. That is the path we hope Congress chooses for our nation.