The urge for civility in war is noble and worthy. In an epic poem written over 2,500 years ago, even Homer recounts a Trojan War where the two warring armies stop to allow each other to claim their dead. Leaving them out in the open would be a moral travesty.
That said, once the Greeks conquer Troy, dropping Trojan babies from the high walls becomes a common practice. We are left to suppose that moral warfare is a matter of perspective.
So too is President Obama’s appeal to bomb Syria for its use of chemical warfare both noble and a matter of perspective.
I am a traditionalist. So, if our leader gives the order to bomb or go to war, then I don’t see much point in doing anything else or griping. But the president has waded into the sticky and fickle territory of public opinion, perhaps because he owes so much to it. Thus, we are left with a matter of perspective: Why doesn’t the public feel the urgency and nobility in bombing some country out there called Syria that did bad things with bad weapons?
To that, I offer a narrative: Imagine that Syria had a neighbor. Let’s call it Tyria. Tyria has a really good relationship with the United States. There is free trade with few restrictions. We buy their stuff; they buy our stuff. It’s great.
But Tyria, it turns out, is a lot like its neighbor Syria. It’s not really democratic and squashes any serious democracy advocates. Tyria doesn’t use chemical weapons, usually just harassment, torture, or old fashioned murder. Also, unlike Syria, Tyria tortures and kills people frequently for their religious beliefs. Tyria has also admitted that it takes people against their will, steals their organs, and sells them for top dollar on the international market.
Now, if President Obama looks Joe American in the eye and says bombing Syria is the right thing to do, Joe may be somewhat puzzled. “Did I miss something or is this guy looking at me a shyster?” he might ask himself. “Can’t we just get along with Syria like we do with Tyria?”
As you may have guessed, Tyria is an allegory for China and the tyrannical bloodstained Communist Party that’s hijacked China since 1949. Our close economic relationship with China undermines the U.S. government’s moral high ground and eats away at the integrity of our founding principles.
This tyranny is much closer to home than Syria—just look at your “Made in China” toys, shirt, and computer. My advice to President Obama: As the leader of the free world, do whatever you must with Syria. But, remember the responsibilities, however inconvenient, that the title entails. If Joe American cries foul and says, “Hey you think I’m a schmuck?” then it’s probably because your iPod and his iPod are made in a far more tyrannical state.
Evan Mantyk is an English teacher in New York and president of the Society of Classical Poets.