About two years ago a popular uprising began in Syria against the dictatorial government of Bashar al-Assad. Since then, the Syrian government has killed over 100,000 of its own citizens in order to retain power and control of the country. Lately, the world’s attention has been more focused on Syria because Assad launched a chemical weapons attack against his own people killing hundreds. Will the U.S. respond? Will the world respond? As of this writing there has been no action. I would like to offer you five things that we can learn from what has been transpiring in Syria.
1. Israel is often made the scapegoat of Arab problems. Assad, president of Syria announced this week that if he is attacked in response to the gas attack that he inflicted on his own people, he will retaliate by attacking Israel. Really?
In 1991, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. led a coalition of nations in an effort to oust Iraq from Kuwait. The deadline for Iraq’s retreat was January 15 after which the coalition forces threatened to take military action. Iraq did not budge and on January 17 the coalition began its offensive against the Iraqi’s ultimately forcing them out of Kuwait.
What was Iraq’s response to the coalition forces? Attack Israel of course! Thirty nine SCUD missiles were launched at Israel over the course of the war. Israel chose not to respond and allowed the coalition to battle Iraq. The feeling of the U.S was that if Israel entered the war it would rally the Arab states behind Saddam and the Iraqi’s. So Israel sat on her hands as she received blow after blow.
Two years ago, sharks were attacking swimmers in Egyptian waters. Israel was blamed. Really, she was! Egypt claimed that is was some sinister Zionist plot.
The corollary to all of this is lesson two.
2. Progress and growth only comes from taking personal responsibility for your own life. While it may be a lot easier to blame your parents, your boss, or your circumstances, in the long run this will get you absolutely nowhere. Even if you are right and it really is someone else’s fault, you will not achieve what you want in life by focusing on the guilty parties.
As long as the Arab countries continue to blame Israel for their problems, there will never be progress in the Middle East. End of story.
3. Killing your own people is okay, as long as you use conventional methods. No one seemed to care much that Assad murdered over 100,000 of his countrymen over the last two years until he started using unconventional weapons. The lesson that can be drawn from here is that had he continued to use only conventional weapons, he could have done so unfettered by pesky countries trying to ruin the party. Obviously I mean this tongue in cheek but seriously, why did no one care that he was killing people until now? Suddenly everyone is up in arms!
4. There is a moral obligation to fight evil. The question we all need to ask ourselves is: What kind of a world do we want to live in? It is a lot simpler to put on blinders and ignore the injustices and suffering when you are not suffering. So we can live selfishly and ignore what is going on in Syria and other parts of the world, or we can choose to do the right thing. It is not always simple to know what the right thing is, so we need to pray to God to give us clarity. However, the option of choosing to live in my own world is not moral. In Judaism we have an expression that is loosely translated as “a righteous person in a fur coat.” Meaning he thinks he is righteous but only worries about keeping himself warm.
5. Weakness emboldens evil. Countries like Iran and North Korea are looking on. How the world reacts will either encourage or discourage them from proceeding on their evil paths. Above we discussed the moral obligation to fight evil. Lesson five is the ramifications of that decision. The world needs good, ethical leadership because if we don’t have it, the vacuum created will be filled. It is kind of like parenting. Your kids watch your reaction to their behavior. If they can get away with eating junk food before dinner, they will. If you react they will learn that they can’t just raid the pantry when they want. Not that kids are evil, but you get the point.
While Israel and the world waits to see how the events in Syria will unfold, we must remember that at the end of the day, we must pray. It is not about the guns, tanks and planes---these are all just tools. We must ask God for clarity and pray for the safety of all good, peace loving people wherever they may be. People here in Israel are preparing for the worst case scenario by getting gas masks and sealing a room in their homes. Knowing that this is the land that the Bible says that the eyes of the Lord is on it from the beginning of the year until the end of the year (Deuteronomy 11:12), brings us great comfort and confidence.