Sunday, September 1, 2013

Syria and Sociopathy

While thinking about Syria, I ran across this anti-war music video by Serj Tankien called "Empty Walls:"

It's a wonderful, horrific, powerful song, set to an equally powerful video, with recognizeable iconographic images and stories imitated by naive and innocent children. Ostensibly, this is to symbolize the wider American public that sees a picture of war cleansed from the harsh images, it's true nature hidden behind euphemisms and glamour.

I'm not sure that's the real crime of the crazy, neoconservative war-hawks, those bloodthirsty sociopaths wanting to take us to war yet again. Serj Tankien did a beautiful job creatively showing the dangers of warfare; more specifically, of our participation. What then, does non-participation look like? My guess is that it would look something like this...

These images are as much a reason to intervene and attempt to put an end to this scale of death and suffering as they are an argument against war; perhaps greater, in fact. In it's two-and-a-half years, the Syrian Civil War has claimed approximately 100,000 lives so far. To put this in perspective, the Bosnian Genocide of the early 1990's claimed 8,373 Bosniac lives, and no chemical weapons were used.

There are those who say "it's not our fight." This would be equally true were they to be sitting on a bus and witness a rape-murder take place across the aisle and not lift a finger to stop it. Such a bus-rider would rightly earn the title of "sociopath," at least from me, for that kind of blatant disregard for human life, even though they really do have no legal obligation to do anything. Those who oppose the war in Syria are (for the most part) clearly not sociopaths, but I think they are missing the connection between this kind of hypothetical situation and the potential war we're looking at. The geographical, cultural, and political barriers between the Syrian public and ourselves don't make them any different than a fellow bus-rider in their humanity.

An intervention will almost certainly be difficult; there will be deaths, there will be mistakes, there will be embarrassing moments, and worst of all, there will be self-righteous armchair-philosophers pointing out the inevitable pains and failures of military operations and saying "aha! we told you so," as if their alternative, watching Syria tear itself into oblivion, would have been the morally superior option. There will be speculations about ulterior motives, about oil, or Monsanto, or the Freemasons, or the Bilderbergs, or whatever. There will even be people who say, "you, who advocated intervention, you have Syrian blood on your hands." In international politics, these kinds of slanderous equivocations and hindsight cherry-picked claims to intellectual victory seems to be the price of action, but the price of inaction is far worse: dislocation, disruption, pain, death, and despair for real people. Not for us, this time, but for thousands of very real humans.

No one is asking you to pick up a rifle and go off to Syria. We have plenty of people who have volunteered, of their own free will, to do that for you. I did, my brother did, and countless other people who were willing to put their life on the line for principle have done this so you don't have to. If you don't want to go off and fight, that's okay. But if you find yourself thinking "but it's my tax money!," I want you to add one more element to our bus-rape thought experiment. Suppose you're sitting next to a gentleman who, on seeing the rape-attack commence, seems decidedly opposed to getting tangled up in the whole mess. "That's alright," you think. "I'll do it myself." You get up to go and save the poor woman.

"Hold it right there!" says the man. "We're covered by the same insurance company. If you go over there and get injured, I could lose money. It's not our fight. Don't go over there on my dime."

It is for people like this that Jonathan Swift wrote his modest proposal. I hear that babies are delicious, you anti-war pragmatists.