Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Syria update, Buddhist blogs, and dialogue [UPDATED]
In selling a war to a skeptical public and/or Congress, one needs to move swiftly. The President and the Secretary of State are very eager to drop bombs on Syria, nominally in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in Ghouta a couple of weeks ago. Many suspect this is also a proxy war with Iran. While the President has, commendably, agreed to allow Congress to debate and vote on authorizing the military strike, he and Secretary Kerry are campaigning hard for political support, making an emotional public case and securing the endorsement of congressional leaders among Republicans (Senators McCain and Graham are on board, as is Speaker of the House Boehner) and Democrats (Nancy Pelosi is IN).
Curiously, the president initially described the policy as one that would not change the military balance of power in Syria. Yet Senator McCain is now claiming that the president's plan would, in fact, have the affect of holding down the regime so the rebels can win. So it is not clear, at this point, whether the policy is to intervene in the civil war or not.
And who do we believe, anyway? It's hard not to feel like these people are just going to do what they want regardless of what their words say. In which case, it doesn't really matter whether the battle plan is open ended or has clear objectives, right?
If it seems that a conversation with power is impossible, we can at least, talk to each other. But sometimes that's difficult, too.
One man who has been struggling with what to make of this is James Ford, a Zen priest and Unitarian Universalist minister who blogs at Monkey Mind. On Sunday, he blogged his sermon on Syria and the case for a punitive military strike on Syria, "One Continuous Mistake." It's a good piece, both as a sermon and as an essay, laying out his personal struggle with the information and the moral question in a straightforward way. Although I do not agree with his conclusion, it is a piece well worth reading (click that link).
Here is where James arrives by the piece's end: "I’ve decided, for the moment, the least evil stance is to not oppose these called for attacks that might degrade the Syrian dictator’s forces, to demonstrate that poison gas must not be reintroduced into modern conflict."
I submitted a reply in the blog's comment section which was polite and on-topic, but refuted that conclusion. In fact, I did not even contradict anything he said, but only wrote about some aspects that he omitted from his analysis.
[UPDATE: Here, I wondered if this was deliberate or not, noting two possibilities. One: "for whatever reason, he has declined to 'approve' [my comment]. He has allowed four comments to appear, as I write this, three of which agree with him and a fourth one that "agrees and disagrees." But another possibility was a problem with the blog's platform, noting that I had commented on two Buddhist blogs, both on the Patheos platform, and on both these blogs my replies never surfaced.
On September 4, both bloggers report that it was the latter. Patheos apparently changed how the user handles comments. I am pleased to know it was that, and not part of the sad pattern I've experienced previously on Buddhist-oriented blogs that censor comments in order to control the discourse on their pages. About those previous experienced, I wrote the following in the original post, which we now resume... -Alg, 9/4/13]
By the way, what is it with Buddhist blogs and censorship? Years ago, I had this experience on Barbara O'Brien's "About Buddhism" blog and gave up bothering to participate in comments there. This week, TWO Buddhist blogs defended a U.S. attack on Syria, and my comments (which I promise were friendly and on-topic) were properly submitted yet never appeared. There are three other Buddhist blogs I haven't even bothered to follow lately that exhibited a tendency to control the discourse on their comment pages the way Barbara did on hers. Which they can do, of course, but what's up with that?
As a matter of fact, I have only run into this behavior on Buddhist blogs. I'm sure it goes on elsewhere, too, but this has been my experience.
But hey, I have my own blog, so I'll respond here. I did not keep a copy of the comment I submitted to James's blog but I can re-summarize the points here. The next post will be a response to James's blog, which -- I want to say again -- is meant in the spirit of dialogue. Because here at the Burning House, while we have a few general ground rules, we encourage dialogue.