Why oppose a popular airstrike?

The USS Porter conducts strike operations against a target in Syria on April 7, 2017. Navy photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Ford Williams.

Why oppose a popular airstrike?

By Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach

 On the night of April 6, the U.S. attacked a Syrian military installation with 59 missiles. President Trump said that the airstrike was in response to a chemical weapons attack a few days earlier in Idlib province.

Many members of Congress immediately came out in support of the airstrike, saying it was a proportional response and what the U.S. should have done after a chemical weapons attack in 2013. This favorable response was echoed by many in the media as well.

With so many eager to support this show of force, why did Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) issue a letter and action alert opposing it?

  • The use of military force is contrary to our Anabaptist beliefs. Fundamentally, we believe that Jesus taught us to seek nonviolent ways to respond to violent situations. We follow the One who taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to put away the sword (Matthew 26:52).

As the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective says, “We witness to all people that violence is not the will of God.” In addition, our experience of working in places of conflict around the world have also shown that violence is often the least creative and least effective strategy. 

  • The airstrike was against U.S. law and international law. S. law requires that a president get congressional approval for entering into hostilities except in the case of a “national emergency.” The airstrike also cannot reasonably be covered by the authorization that Congress approved in 2001 against al Qaeda.

With regard to international law, countries can only attack another sovereign state in self-defense or with the approval of the United Nations Security Council. Neither condition was met with this attack, nor had an investigation into this use of chemical weapons even started. It may feel good to policymakers to strike a base that was purportedly used to carry out a chemical weapons attack. But it is still illegal to do so.

  • The airstrike continues—and does not help to end–the cycle of violence in Syria. There have been countless, unspeakable acts of violence during more than six years of brutal war. During the same week as the chemical weapons attack, ISIS executed several dozen people, and several villages experienced heavy bombardment and shelling. Reports indicate that several weeks earlier dozens of civilians were killed by two U.S. airstrikes near Raqqa.

MCC hears strongly from Syrians that they want all of this violence, by all sides, to stop. Rather than seeing one side as “good” and another as “bad,” we must state our strong opposition to the use of violence by all sides. A robust process of diplomacy and dialogue is the only way this war will come permanently to an end.

Today, take a few minutes to tell your government representatives that you strongly oppose any more military actions in Syria and that instead you want them to support diplomacy and to address the root causes driving the conflict. Take time also to pray for the people of Syria and for all those who are involved in this conflict. Finally, please give generously to MCC’s Syria and Iraq crisis response, so that MCC can continue to provide hope and comfort to those who are suffering.