To Intervene or Not To Intervene… A No Win Situation For the U.S.?


There are many issues that polarize us in the United States.  The list includes: Gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, health care and taxes.  When to use and when to not use military force is another.

The reports that Syria may have used chemical weapons on its own people have some anticipating this debate once again.

No matter the atrocities being committed in certain areas of the world, there are Americans who believe, that in most circumstances, America should not intervene.   One reason is the collateral damage of innocent civilians being killed.  Though not the policy of the U.S., it does occur, and should never be taken lightly.

The argument is then put forth that by our actions to stop evil in conflicts that do not directly involve us, or to defeat terrorism, we are creating more terrorists for the future.

However, on Meet The Press, yesterday, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) raised an interesting counterpoint:

**“… the Syrian people are angry and bitter at the United States. I was in a refugee camp in Jordan, and there are thousands of people and kids, and this woman who’s a schoolteacher said, Senator McCain, you see these children here, they’re going to take revenge on those people who refuse to help them. They’re angry and bitter. And that legacy could last for a long time, too, unless we assist them.”

Before you reach a conclusion about that, please allow me to ask you two things:

First, let’s look at two other polarizing issues in this country: health care and taxes.  There are 35 to 50 million people in America who have do not have health insurance.  Then there are those 1%ers.  The highest income earners, who many feel should be paying higher taxes to help pay for the affordable care act, (Obama Care), and other needs.  Forget whether you agree or disagree with the tax component for a moment.  That is irrelevant to this discussion.

classwarOne look at an Occupy Wall Street rally informs us that there are many in this country that do feel there is inequity between the rich and the poor.  They resent the 1% for doing nothing, or not doing enough, when so many are suffering.  Imagine how the Occupiers would feel about those 1% if instead of lacking health coverage, their family member died in a bomb explosion or chemical attack that they believe we could have stopped?  Is it possible this person would grow up a terrorist?

Second example.   Imagine a gang with guns is harassing you and your family.  While this is going on, out of the corner of your eye, you notice person after person walking by.  Every person that walks by has a gun in his or her hand.  They could attempt to stop the gang harassing you and your family but they don’t.  Two members of your family die.  How do you feel about those people who walked by and did nothing?

Now imagine this occurred in a war-torn foreign land and the surviving victim  is angry and bitter about his loss.  Then a terrorist group comes knocking on his door explaining how “the Great Satin” could have stopped it but they were working with the enemy.  Could this possibly enrage and manipulate this person enough to join their cause?

This isn’t about right and wrong.  It is about perception.  Many will correctly blame the gang committing the actual crime.  But some if not many may either blame or worse will be manipulated into seeking revenge against those who did nothing when they could have done something.

So the dilemma is that the possibility remains that we can create future terrorists by our actions and or by our inaction.

If action or inaction can potentially create a future enemy, with all things being equal, do you think we should defend an innocent family against that gang, terrorists or possible genocide?

This isn’t a call to arms for military action in Syria.  In fact, Senator McCain, in the same paragraph as the one I quoted above also said:

But the worst thing the American– the United States could do right now is put boots on the ground in Syria. That would– that would turn the people against us.

It must be stated that, even if negated, the potential of creating future terrorists or enemies is but one concern over the use of force.  The loss of our own blood and treasure is very real and paramount to such a discussion.

Idealistically, I never believe we should stand by and watch innocents get slaughtered because it happens outside of our borders.  However, practically we are one nation in a sea of many.  Economically we are struggling.  Our own house is not in order.

In the hypothetical example of those people walking past that family that were being terrorized by the gang– They all had guns, but some of them may have been out of bullets.  Doesn’t mean they couldn’t do anything, but it explains why they didn’t want to intervene alone.

flagsMilitarily, when the situation calls for it, there are other countries that can, should and must share certain burdens of responsibility with us.  Our aid, and intervention should always be contingent on:

  • Burden of proof being met.
  • conditions at home.
  • The coalition(s) we are able to form
  • when time permits, exhausting other non military options first.

These are obligations the government owes we the people, before we ask our young men and women to risk their lives.

So there are no easy answers.  Each situation will present unique circumstances.  Depending on the time in history we may have a different ability to help.  Situations are also fluid and minds should be opened to being changed as circumstances change and new evidence presents itself.

When it comes to creating future terrorists, if we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, than we should be free to do what is right independent of that consideration.


**For an entire transcript of the John McCain interview on Meet The Press, click here.