By Devon Dick
On Monday, the United States of America (USA) Congress debated whether to authorise President Barack Obama to launch military action in response to the assault on August 21 involving the alleged use of chemical agents against the Syrian people by Bashar Al-Assad, the president of Syria.
This is a good move by Obama. It is a serious decision to engage in military strike against another country. In addition, he should take this intention of military action to the United Nations (UN) Security Council. It should not be a coalition of the few, but rather the majority, especially with Obama's missteps with the drone policy.
Obama is wary of the UN Security Council because of 'paralysis'. This is true because of the structure of the UN Security Council, which gives veto powers to five countries, namely, USA, Russia, China, France, and United Kingdom. Veto rights were designed to promote unanimity on resolutions, but it can become anti-democratic when one country can prevent justifiable action. What is needed is a two-thirds majority or simple majority for military action. In addition, there should be a role for the International Court of Justice when heads of government commit genocide against its citizens. Even as we await the UN inspectors' report and wait on the reform of the UN Security Council, Obama should take it to the floor of the UN and act on a majority vote, and also await the report of the UN inspectors.
Valdmir Putin, president of Russia, should not call for a resolution at the UN Security Council only and ask for more evidence about the use of chemical gas, but should tell the world if the use of chemical gas would be a red line that would trigger military action. Russia's call for Syria to give up chemical weapons is a good idea.
INACTION CAN BE CRUEL
The 100,000 deaths of civilians and six million refugees is a Syrian crisis. The alleged chemical attack took place in the Ghouta, said to favour opposition forces. US Secretary of State John Kerry said samples from hair and blood gathered had tested positive for 'sarin'. There needs to be a response if it is true that a government or opposition is killing its citizens senselessly and brutally. Inaction can also be cruel.
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried to kill German dictator Adolf Hitler but failed. It is believed that had he succeeded, he would have saved the lives of five million Jews whom Hitler killed. If military strike can prevent net thousands of deaths, then it could be a just war.
This is difficult decision. American-German Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) argued that violence was "not intrinsically immoral" and neither was non-violence intrinsically good. This leading theologian argued that it depended on the circumstances and the social consequences. He argued that if the object of the violence desired the greatest good for the greatest number of persons, then in those instances violence was not intrinsically evil.
There ought to be a response from the Jamaican Government to deter use of chemical weapons because it will be a world catastrophe. Any dictator who would use chemical weapons against its people should know that the international community is resolute. We need to pray and fast that all countries would shun chemical weapons and work towards the dismantling of nuclear weapons and prevent wars.
In 1988, the Iraqi government killed 5,000 Iraqi Kurds in Halabja using chemical weapons, and the world did nothing and Iraq is now a mess. If chemical weapons were used then, the international community should act decisively, based on a majority decision.
Devon M. Dick, PhD, is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew and author of 'Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building', and 'The Cross and the Machete'. Send comments to columns@gleanerjm.