I've been thinking a great deal lately about March, 2003. It seems hard to believe that the Iraq War started over 10 years ago. At the time, America was still smarting from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a day that the Detroit Free Press appropriately dubbed "America's Darkest Day." Our country was figure-headed by then President George W. Bush, who's aggressive stance on terrorism had won both accolades and recriminations, depending upon who you were speaking with. But when Congress voted to support the invasion of Iraq, one thing was abundantly clear: The President had the support of the Congress and the American people -- ostensibly because it was the right thing to do. After all, weapons of mass destruction in the hands to a third-world tyrant couldn't be allowed, could they? Little did we all know that this fundamental argument that was used by President Bush in justifying America's entry into the Iraq War—the claim that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction—would turn out to be false.
I'm a little dumb-struck by the similarities, and the differences, in the situation we're looking at today. Like 10 years ago, we have a third-world tyrant who not only possesses, but has used a weapon of mass destruction on his own people--women, children, and innocent civilians, not enemy combatants. One would think that the justification for an attack on Syria with the intent of eliminating this threat to humanity would be easily justified in the face of mounting empirical evidence that Sarin gas has been used to quell a rebel uprising.
But it's not happening. Our Congress is reticent at best to support a U.S. decision to enter into a limited conflict with Syria. And the general population seems unwilling to support such an action. So what has changed? We supported precisely such an action 10 years agoin Iraq, even when the evidence was non-existent that WMD's existed, much less that they had actually been used. The evidence of WMD's having been used in Syria is, in contrast, strong and incontrovertible.
I'm looking for a good reason for this abrupt change in behavior, but I'm not finding one. Could it be politics? Could the difference really be as callous as Republicans vs. Democrats in command? Or, even worse, a black President vs. a White one? I sure hope not. Because, if that is the case, then America has really completely lost its moral compass.
I'm a life-long liberal soul. I've never been a huge fan of American aggressiveness. Nor have I ever been a huge proponent of America's growing role as the "international policeman." But, strangely enough, I find myself conflicted in this case. I really want to support any action that would prevent any government from using chemical warfare agents -- especially on noncombatants. But I'm struck by how many people refuse to support this -- or perhaps more succinctly, I don't understand how anyone could not support such a noble cause.