Unintended consequences. This is one of the great dangers of the ever-increasing, never-ceasing political activities of utopian do-gooders. Statists from across the political spectrum never seem to consider the secondary effects that emanate from their primary, stated objectives. This often has the result of taking a bad situation and making it worse. Case in point: the campaign to democratize the Middle East by overthrowing it’s dictators.
During the past decade the United States has had a strong hand in overthrowing the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, and Muammar Gaddafi. The Obama Administration is now attempting to do the same with Bashar Assad in Syria. To one degree or another, Islamic extremists have actually gained strength in each of the nations represented. Even in Iraq where Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations suffered significant defeats, jihadist groups are resurgent with “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” recently joining forces with Syria’s “Jabhat-al-Nusra” to form the “Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria.”
The West’s efforts to make the Middle East safe for democracy has had the net effect of making these nations more dangerous for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The sad reality is that the same brutal power and influence these “strongmen” used to restrict freedoms and amass wealth for themselves also included the ability to keep jihadist organizations in check. Now that these dictators have been removed, Islamist persecution of Christians has increased exponentially.
As I have commented upon before in this space, Islamists are currently engaged in a “religious cleansing” of Christians in Syria. Jabhat-al-Nusra, mentioned above, has been designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department and yet al-Nusra is one of several factions enjoying American support under the umbrella designation of “the rebels in Syria.” In fact, the AP reported last week that “an al-Nusra fighter blew himself up at a regime checkpoint at the entrance to the mountain village.” This village is the “ancient Christian village” of Maaloula which is presently a war zone. According to a nun in the village, the convent has become a place of refuge for 100 residents in need of shelter. Meanwhile, the convent’s 27 orphans were whisked away to enjoy the relative safety of nearby caves.
In an attempt to assuage the concerns of Americans who are deeply troubled at the prospect of allying ourselves with these “rebels,” Secretary of State John Kerry announced that only “maybe 15-25% might be, in one group or another, who are what we would deem to be bad guys.” Our allies in the region are attempting to funnel support to the “moderate” rebels, Kerry explained. Forgive us, Mr. Secretary, is these numbers do very little to lessen the revulsion felt over the notion of working hand-in-hand with these rebels in the form of cash, weaponry, missile strikes, and, more than likely, eventual “boots on the ground.” Secretary Kerry’s view is by no means the majority view as other intelligence experts indicate that it is the extremist elements that are beginning to outnumber and have greater influence than the so-called moderate ones.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of “Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians,” translates Arabic-language news sources in order to provide a fuller context to happenings in the Middle East. Reporting on the Maaloula attack, Ibrahim writes, “Arabic news agency Al Hadath gives more information concerning this latest terror attack on Syria’s Christians, specifically how the al-Qaeda linked rebels ‘terrorized the Christians, threatening to be avenged on them after the triumph of the revolution.'” Ibrahim continues, “Thus al-Qaeda terrorists eagerly await U.S. assistance against the Syrian government, so they can subjugate if not slaughter Syria’s Christians, secularists, and non-Muslims – even as the Obama administration tries to justify war on Syria by absurdly evoking ‘human rights’ of Syrians on the one hand, and lying about al-Qaeda’s presence in Syria on the other.”
Such a scenario is easily anticipated in light of the on-going brutalization of Christians at the hands of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Islamists in Egypt. The persecution of Egyptian Christians continues to be one of the primary examples of the unintended consequences of “regime change” throughout the Middle East. We have every indication to believe that the situation would become even worse for Christians in Syria if “the rebels” are successful in overthrowing Assad.
Is this really the future we want to help create for the Christians of Syria? It’s not too late for our elected officials in Congress to hear from us before we commit ourselves to another war in the Middle East, a war that will certainly have devastating unintended consequences for our brothers and sisters in Christ. As always, “continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3 NIV).
The Christian Left in America is missing in action on the West’s imminent military strikes against the Syrian regime. As of this writing, Sojourners, a prominent face of the so-called evangelical left, has not posted a single item in response to President Obama’s decision this week to strike Syria. This is not surprising considering the broader movement the press calls the anti-war left has, for all intents and purposes, disappeared since the Obama Administration came to power.
This is a President who campaigned as the anti-war candidate and was celebrated by the evangelical left for it. I’m reminded of then-candidate-Obama’s words during the 2008 campaign: “I believed it [war in Iraq] was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.” Yesterday Obama was disturbed that we would allow ourselves to be distracted from fighting Al Qaeda yet today we prepare to enter a war allied with Al Qaeda against Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.
Jim Wallis of Sojourners was deeply engaged in the opposition to the war in Iraq. In an article entitled, “Iraq: It’s Finally Over–And It Was Wrong,” Wallis wrote, “From the outset, this war was fought on false pretenses, with false information, and for false purposes. And the official decisions to argue for this war and then to carry it out represented the height of political and moral irresponsibility—especially when we see the failed results and consider both the human and financial costs.” Will a similar standard be applied to President Obama’s wars? That question has already been answered: no.
In addition to his aggressive drone strike policy, President Obama has committed troops to several engagements during his presidency with almost no complaint from organizations such as Sojourners. In October of 2011, President Obama sent troops to Uganda and South Sudan to join the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army. Obama deployed anti-missile batteries to the Turkey-Syria border to protect against shelling from Syria in January of 2013. In February of this year the President deployed American personnel and drones to Niger to support French missions in Mali. Obama again deployed troops in April, this time to Jordan, in preparation for military action in Syria. Obama committed troops once again in June to deploy to Egypt as part of a “peace-keeping” mission. Add to these troop deployments the hundreds of missile strikes from the President’s weapon of choice, the drone, and it’s difficult to understand the disappearance of the anti-war left.
A possible explanation could be that these Christians are more “anti-GOP” than they are “anti-war” and they really don’t want to rock the boat while their guy is in office. He’s carrying out the Lord’s work, after all. Some unpleasantries must be overlooked on behalf of the greater good. Case in point: San Diego’s “Filthy Filner.”
“In a city where Democrats have been starved out of the mayor’s office for decades, many progressives in a position to stop or impede him were willing to overlook Filner’s reputation because he was a champion of liberal causes. ‘It’s a cost-benefit analysis,’ explained David Rolland, editor of San Diego City Beat. ‘He’s a jerk, but his politics, from our standpoint, were right on the money.'”
So those who accuse their opponents of waging a war on women were willing to overlook repeated unwanted sexual advances, to put it mildly, against women because the offender championed the right causes. This phenomenon seems to be the reason why the same Christians who put Obama in office over opposition to the war in Iraq are unwilling to speak out against his interventionist policies in Syria and elsewhere.
However, before the Christian Right becomes hoarse from yelling “hypocrites!,” we need to ask ourselves, are we doing the same thing? I mean, this war in Syria is a “bad war,” right? In a related discussion a friend of mine quipped, “It’s like 2003 again, except with the teams flipped.” I think he’s right but why? Have conservative Christians seen the error of their ways and adopted a pacifistic ideology? Or, is it simply because “our guy” isn’t in office? I believe that if Mitt Romney were in office proposing the same military interventions as Barack Obama, conservative Christians would largely support them.
If it is 2003 all over again except with the teams flipped, what does that mean for the state of politics and representative government in America? If we would support military strikes in Syria if Romney had won the election, what does that say about us? Was Iraq truly a good war while Syria is a bad one? If so, why? Was the war in Iraq immoral enough to protest in the streets but hundreds of drone strikes throughout the world and military intervention in Syria is not? If the answer is “no” then where are the anti-war protests? What exactly are the principles we would never compromise no matter which party is in power?
The debate over military intervention in Syria (or the lack thereof) is an excellent occasion for soul-searching by Christians of all political persuasions. We cannot change our principles each time a politician changes office. Let us take a stand based on our convictions rather than the priorities of any one political party.