Where God Weeps: Syria

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Catholic San Francisco News

The situation in Syria is deteriorating. More than 7,500 people have died in the ongoing conflict between the regime of President Bashar Assad and its opponents. The government has shown little mercy, brutally barraging cities such as Homs with shells and rockets; on Thursday, activists said that 17 more people had been killed in the Baba Amr neighborhood of the city, where hundreds have died during a massive monthlong onslaught. As the toll mounts, so do the heart-rending appeals to the world’s conscience: urgent calls for aid, for arms, for military backing to help protect endangered civilians and to assist rebels waging a courageous struggle against a repressive despot.

But as horrible as the events in Syria are, and despite the recurring analogies to genocide in Rwanda and massacres in Bosnia, American intervention is not the answer, at least not now. Whether and when to become enmeshed in another country’s military conflict are among the most difficult questions nations face, and the inclination to move hesitantly and carefully is a sensible one. Even though it is widely acknowledged that Assad is a tyrant and that the bodies piling up are those of victims rather than aggressors, there are plenty of reasons why it might be a mistake for the United States to swoop in with planes or troops, to drop bombs or occupy cities, or even to arm rebels from offstage in an effort to force Assad out of power.