A few weeks ago, I read Lynne Olson's Those Angry Days, which is subtitled Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941. It's a fascinating study of how reluctant Americans were to enter into war with Nazi Germany—some because they were Nazi sympathizers, and others because they felt it wasn't America's business to get involved with other nations. If you are at all interested in history, I'd encourage you to read it; in retrospect, our involvement in World War II seems so unavoidable, but Olson does a very good job of explaining all the hard work and happenstance that went into preparing the nation for war. It's a well-written and well-researched history book that should definitely get more attention.
In addition, the book was illuminating because it provided an important context to a modern issue. In a lot of ways, I could never wrap my head around an isolationist America. I first started paying attention to our role in the world during the 1990s, and during that time, we always considered ourselves world leaders, the primary actors on the global stage. And the internet has made it possible to know exactly what's happening on the other side of the world in real time, which provides us with more of an incentive to take action. Of course we have to take action; we're America. It's what we do.
Which brings me to Syria. Let me be clear: I'm not comparing Syria to Nazi Germany. The reason I bring the book up is that after reading Those Angry Days, I can more easily understand why the American public is now leaning toward not taking action; we've had enough of these misadventures, our self-image has been sorely tested, and, some would say, we don't see anything in it for us. I don't think that dropping bombs is going to solve anything. I don't support President Obama's plan for bombing Syria; I think targeted air strikes are not nearly as neat and clean as the military—and televised media—would like you to believe. We shouldn't try to solve the killing of innocents with the killing of more innocents.
But the fact remains that people are dying. Innocent people. Children. Lots of them. Isn't the whole point of civilization to protect the weak and the innocent from bullies? Shouldn't we all want to save humanity from itself? I do not want to bomb the hell out of Syria. I don't think that's the answer. But I can't understand civilized nations wanting to completely turn their back on Syria, either*.
I haven't written about this because I don't know what to do. I only know what I don't want to happen, and that's not especially constructive, here. Is the solution UN peacekeeping troops? Is there anything an alliance of nations could do that wouldn't involve stacking additional violence on top of the violence that has already happened? I don't know. I don't know if anyone knows. But can we really sit back and let the death toll rise without doing anything at all, just for the sake of our own bruised national ego? I'm surprised and disappointed that President Obama thinks the solution can be found with bombs, and with forsaking the rest of the world. But I'm also surprised and disappointed in those Americans who think the deaths of tens of thousands of people is not our problem.
* There are those who say that we should clean up our own problems here at home before we go abroad and try to fix other peoples' problems. but I think that's mostly a bullshit defense. First of all, I don't think this Congress is particularly interested in fixing our problems—gun control, crumbling infrastructure, shitty education system letting down a whole generation of young Americans—and second of all, a nation of humans can work together to solve more than one problem. Especially since I think any solutions with Syria should be reached with an alliance of nations, not just us.