An Anti-War Lesson

The tragedy in Syria, now in its 7th year, is inescapable to anyone who cares about what’s happening in the world. We have all been touched by the number of refugees escaping their war torn country, by the number of casualties, by the number of orphans, or wounded who have gone untreated. There’s also another aspect to the devastation of this war. Whether it’s been on the screen or in print, pictures of the destruction of several cities seem unparalleled. I for one have not been aware of a country with as much destruction. I remember WWII pictures of the bombings of Dresden and of London, of the destruction which that war engendered. Still it seems to me the ravage has yet to rival what has happened to Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other Syrian cities less in the news because they are not as much targets in the war. And through it all Bashir al Assad remains president of the country. Is it fitting that he presides over rubble, and deserted, or semi deserted cities? Is he aware of what it is that he now rules, of what he had a hand in creating? He has, as we were recently reminded, stopped at nothing to ensure his continued hold on power. He used chemical weapons before and it seems he has sanctioned yet another use of them.  The use of such weapons and the kind of harm and death they inflict must no doubt be seen by him only in terms of how they can help him hold on to power. The flight, plight and fate of the Syrian people do not seem to matter to him.  Neither does the rubble. It’s the territory.  He is, at least for the present, still president over an area that was once a booming nation. But what is territory without the people, infrastructure, institutions that make up a country? It will be a long time before the war ends and longer before foreign investment aids in rebuilding, and then not without assurances that the political climate has acquired a certain stability regardless of who ends up the leader—a very tall order. We can’t undo what has happened in Syria, but we can learn from it. We can remember the price people pay for war. And when chemical weapons are used, the price civilization pays.  That might even, to a small degree at least, give meaning to the untold suffering of the Syrian people.