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Re Syria: Say “We Can Do Better than Bombs!”

by Susan C. Strong

Right now our country and the world are in an uproar over President Obama’s plan to bomb Syria. Whatever his real, behind the scenes reasons may be, we the people must deal with the issue in the way it is being framed for the public. Because Congress decides next week whether or not to authorize military action, Washington needs to hear that we want much better ways of dealing with any and all Syrians using poison gas.

The biggest challenge for us now is finding succinct ways to say that in ways our leaders can hear. Americans always like “to do things better.” Already there are a lot of detailed, well-researched proposals for how to better enforce international law re this particular use of poison gas. See…for a one page handout in simple language, and the home page at for in-depth alternatives, plus tools for lobbying, op-ed writing and so on.

Beyond that level, “better” should also include the U.S. leading a breakthrough to new international norms for dealing with war criminals. If we want other countries to obey international law, we must model that ourselves. We are the people who believe in the rule of law, in democracy, in civilian-led law and order, aren’t we? No other countries or peoples in the world approve of poison gas. So far the world is with us, and it is time for Mr. Obama to listen to the people of the world about what to do next. The moment Dwight D. Eisenhower predicted has come. He said,” I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.”

I know President Obama has just said he has heard about alternatives, and they don’t impress him. But maybe he and our Congress need to hear again what we have to say:

•    We can do better than bombs! Change course, Mr. Obama!  

•    Change course, Mr. Obama! Bombs backfire!

 Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director of The Metaphor Project,, and author of our new book, Move Our Message: How to Get America’s Ear.  The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages since 1997. Follow Susan on Twitter @SusanCStrong.

Originally posted to SusanCStrong on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 04:18 PM PDT.

Also republished by Political Language and Messaging.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You are suggesting that there are alternatives but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rich in PA, boran2

    not proposing any.

    •  She does refer us to a web page. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, boran2

      If you go there, you can read an incredibly funny article, although its authors probably didn't mean it to be funny.

      So what to do now? Invasion is the wrong course because it merely inflames the violence further, both within Syria and without. We must exhaust the following paths first before seeking a military course of action. Convene all the stakeholders who have a say with Syria’s al-Assad and who can put pressure on the president. That means more than just Russia, our go-to on the Geneva II peace talks. That means everyone from Iran, Lebanon, and Hezbollah, to the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. These are the entities that have entry into the Syrian president’s inner circle. If we truly want al-Assad to act differently, we have to talk to those who have sway.
      There's more. I recommend it to everyone.

      You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

      by Rich in PA on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 04:38:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  they appear to be: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      - persuade Russia to step in.
      - persuade the UN to step in.
      - persuade the League of Arab States to step in.

  •  You're fighting evil with worthless words. (0+ / 0-)

    We look back at previous instances of this kind of response, and we shake our heads at their lack of engagement with reality.  Maybe your efforts will be remembered more fondly but I don't really see why.

    You know, I sometimes think if I could see, I'd be kicking a lot of ass. -Stevie Wonder at the Glastonbury Festival, 2010

    by Rich in PA on Fri Sep 06, 2013 at 04:36:58 PM PDT

  •  Your non-bomb response is diplomacy? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I assume your broken link to a one-sheet explanation was to this .PDF?  With the exception of convening the most hefty state signers of the chemical weapons ban treaty for a confab, it appears that the Administration is already engaged in the suggested activities.  I don't know that their efforts will find a very receptive audience when bombing Assad's military is the only response on the agenda, though.

    I agree:  getting powerful nations to settle on an international process for bringing "those responsible" (without indicting anyone upfront) would be a valuable alternative to precipitous bombing without a strategic goal or a defined measure of "success" to the exercise.  Such multilateral agreement on "consequences" would also serve to clarify that "international norm" we keep hearing so much about.

  •  A Critique of Congressional rationale for bombing (0+ / 0-)

    This morning I opened up the paper to find that both of my senators are intent on voting for bombing, despite being flooded with constituent pleas to vote no. The senators' reasons:

    l. "We can't close our eyes to Assad's violation of international law."

    My comment: No one is suggesting we should close our eyes! Bombing alone is a lot different from keeping our eyes open! We need to rally the world to take more effective action that is also legal.

    2. "America's morality, credibility, and reputation are on the line, so we have to bomb or be seen as a paper tiger."

    My comment: America is already seen as a heavily armed paper tiger, whose morality, credibility and reputation have been destroyed by two recent wars in which we invaded, destroyed everything in sight, & killed uncounted numbers of the victim country's citizens (in Iraq their 100,000 plus, contrasted with our 4000 +-), but did not improve the situation much or at all. Bombs fail!

    3. "This will be a limited action".

    My comment: War is irrational, by definition out of control, and I don't think any honest person truly believes that a bombing raid on Syria will stay limited. What hokum! Attacking a country with allies is not the same thing as drone attacks on individuals without armies! We should take into account this possibility: a single bombing raid will not really stop Assad, and he will just go on to do more, while we will have lost the support of many in the international community who join us now in being horrified at the use of poison gas on the Syrian people. These countries can be mobilized for more effective action than bombing raids, if we will reach out to them with better options.

    Stop the groupthink, Senators!

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