American Pride and Morals Are Undermined by Inaction in Syria
I’ve heard many people say that America has no vital national interest in Syria. Well how about this:
When I was an American living in England for 11 years, it struck me that one of the principle differences between my country and the U.K. was the lack of Union Jacks flying from people’s homes and businesses. In America, countless homes and stores have the stars and stripes flying. It’s ubiquitous.
Why the difference? I always believed it was the fact that Americans have immense pride in being American, while other countries don’t celebrate their national heritage as much. Yes, the British do so on special occasions, like a royal wedding. But we Americans do so on ordinary days as well.
The reason: America stands for something. We were the world’s first modern constitutional democracy. We threw off the yoke of a tyrant and established the people’s rule. More recently, we liberated Europe from the tyranny of Nazism, liberated Iraq from the mass murderer Saddam Hussein, and were instrumental in purging Libya of the butcher Gaddafi.
Americans are justly proud of how we embody human liberty. Europe was once part of this alliance, especially in the Second World War where Britain, especially, was exemplary. But since them, the Europeans have taken a cynical approach to liberating incarcerated peoples and preventing genocide.
But what happens to American pride when we begin to watch bodies of gassed children and choose to remain innocent bystanders? What are we to be proud of then? A lofty standard of living? High speed internet? Cheaper gas then Europe?
Americans want to advance their country because they believe in their country. Our national promise is predicated on an affirmation of our values.
I cannot imagine loving America with the same passion that runs through my veins if America doesn’t use its righteous might to protect the innocent and the weak. I will always be a proud American. But that pride stems from the values we espouse and promote.
Yes, I realize we can’t be the world’s policeman. Even our strength and resources are limited. But I come back to a famous Rabbinical teaching in Ethics of Our Fathers that says, “It is not for you to complete the work, but neither can you wash your hands of it, either.” We’re not obligated to intervene in every atrocity. Nor are we capable. But neither can we turn a blind eye to the most egregious violations of human rights. If we do so, then we are misusing the wealth and strength of our nation.
The Rwandan genocide, whose twentieth anniversary is this coming April, was all coordinated from a single radio antenna. The United States was asked to fire a single missile that would have destroyed the transmitter. The Clinton Administration refused because it was spooked by the events of Black Hawk down that transpired a few months earlier in October 1993. But that one missile may have largely prevented a mass atrocity that claimed the lives of nearly one million people.
We are not the world’s policeman. And our national debt is becoming a crisis of its own. But we can afford a few cruise missiles fired at Bashar Assad’s air force and presidential palaces, which will force the tyrant to live in the underground bunkers that should be the abode of monsters who gas their people.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books and will shortly publish “Kosher Lust”. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.