My senator Bill Nelson’s support for bombing Syria (and a response)

Bookworm asked me to post an exchange I had with my Senator, Bill Nelson.

I wrote an e-mail to Senator Nelson to express my opposition to bombing Syria.  Here is his response:

Dear Mr. Underwood:
     Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the situation in Syria.
     I think everyone can agree that the use of chemical weapons there is cause for moral outrage.
     Some argue against a U.S. response. But I agree with President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and many of the GOP leaders, such as Senators McCain and Graham, that it’s in our nation’s best interest to hold accountable a dictator who uses weapons of mass destruction and slaughters innocents.
     We also believe we should limit our nation’s direct military involvement.
     I very much appreciated hearing from you on this important issue. Varied perspectives help me to be a better public servant. Thank you.
                                   Bill Nelson
  And here is my response, which Bookworm asked me to share:

Thank you for your explanation of your position on attacking Syria.  However, I must respectfully disagree.  Yes, everyone can agree that a country’s use of chemical weapons on its own people is a moral outrage.  It does not follow, however, that we should take matters into our own hands and unilaterally commit an act of war against that country.  If moral outrage were the criteria, we would be attacking dozens of countries a year.Consider if Syria, or any other country, decided that capital punishment was a moral outrage and decided to attack our country because we still execute people.  They would have as much right to do so as we do to bomb Syria.  Yet surely you would consider it both wrong and an act of war against the United States if they actually did so.

Also, it is a fantasy to think that we can commit a blatant act of war against another nation in a “limited” way.  Especially in the Middle East, as we have learned the hard way in Afghanistan and Iraq, “limited” actions have a way of producing unlimited consequences.

Please reconsider your position.  America is neither the world’s policeman nor its judge, jury and executioner on issues of moral outrage.  If we act at all to “punish” Syria, it should be under the banner of the United Nations, not the United States.

I should mention that I’m really not a fan of the United Nations.  But if the international community is ever to act to enforce “moral” norms, the United Nations is the only organization that could possibly claim a legitimate right to do so.  Certainly, the United States, acting unilaterally, may not claim such legitimacy.

I hope Bookworm will add her comments here, to get the conversation started.