On April 4, a chemical attack in Syria killed an estimated 100 individuals—including at least 10 children—and injured over 400 people. President Donald J. Trump, who previously argued against direct involvement in Syria, condemned these actions. On April 6, in what many are calling a surprising and confusing shift in foreign policy, he launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase. This marks the first direct U.S. attack against President Bashar al-Assad.
In defense of these strikes, President Trump argued that “it is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” Many, however, are wondering if direct involvement in the Syrian maelstrom is the best response.
Piling violence on violence is not a strategy toward peace; it is a dangerous reflex that opens new vectors of chaos in Syria that could just prolong the suffering.
While images of the dead and injured in this part of the world may be disturbing, they should not always move policymakers to immediate action. Discernment is necessary to discover what compassion requires. Sometimes it requires attention to suffering while admitting our own powerlessness rather than a response that is not practically or morally defensible. Piling violence on violence is not a strategy toward peace; it is a dangerous reflex that opens new vectors of chaos in Syria that could just prolong and broaden the suffering.There is no clear solution in Syria. In a joint statement released a day after the chemical attack, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo and Bishop Oscar Cantú condemned these attacks and suggested a starting point. They urged “the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.” The bishops reiterated the words of Pope Francis, reminding us that while there is no easy solution in this part of the world, it is our duty as Christians to focus on “a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.”