Stanley Hauerwas on Military Intervention in Syria

Stanley Hauerwas has weighed in on military intervention in Syria. I have typically ignored Hauerwas on the subject of war, but he has convinced me that America truly is addicted to military conflict. It doesn’t seem to matter who occupies the White House. Every President wants a war. So many war crimes have been committed in Syria by all sides in the conflict. Tens of thousands have already lost their lives. Why is it suddenly morally imperative for the U.S. to intervene?

Here’s a snippet from Hauerwas’s interview:

Well, I think no one knows what humanitarian intervention means. If I were a person who was non-American, I would think humanitarian intervention is just another name for United States imperialism. And you could make a very good case for that.

Gassing noncombatants is obviously a terrible thing, but to make a distinction between conventional and nonconventional weapons strikes me as arbitrary. The kind of shelling that was going on in Aleppo is just as destructive as the use of a gas, so it’s not clear to me why you draw the red line here. It’s kind of left over from WWI and the use of gas there and the 1925 treaty.

And then — humanitarian intervention. You have to ask what is the relationship between that and “just war”? How has the US made itself an agent in this conflict? I don’t see on “just war” grounds how the US has been attacked. I suppose in realist terms, you’d say that the US is a status quo power. It wants to keep conflicts under control because as a status quo power, any conflict has the possibility of weakening our power. But that’s not humanitarian intervention. That’s just straight self-interested international behavior. And it seems to me you can say a lot in favor of that more realist view, which I think would lead you probably to not intervene, rather than to intervene.

Read the entire Atlantic interview.

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13 Responses to Stanley Hauerwas on Military Intervention in Syria

  1. To intervene on humanitarian grounds, we’d have to really be imperialistic (which we manifestly are not, if he’s talking about imperialism as in building an empire). As for actually BEING imperialistic and taking the place over and making everyone play nice, I KNOW we don’t have it in us. We don’t know how to do that, whatever good intentions we might have toward Syria (and that’s assuming intentions would be noble — something of a long shot). Our government can’t accomplish anything without messing it up. Stay out of Syria. I don’t like the killing any more than anyone else, but there are no good guys in this conflict. We can’t fix it.


  2. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    I hope that all Americans who disagree with intervention in Syria will write to their congressional representatives this weekend and ask them to vote against intervention.


  3. markbasil says:

    Fr Aidan, why do you usually ignore Hauerwas on the subject of war?


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      At the time I was reading him, I was not a pacifist nor did I share his belief that America needed war to maintain and renew its identity. I’m still not a pacifist, but … I’m starting to think Hauerwas may be right about America.


      • I’m not sure about that. It could be, but don’t let your press deceive you. Polling showa the Syrian “intervention” war idea as hugely unpopular. The people of America do not want this war, but it may be shoved down our throats by politicians. 😦


      • William says:

        My high school history teacher often advanced a similar thesis about America’s need for war. According to him, it was something America (meaning the powers, elected and unelected, that run the nation, not the general citizenry) discovered it needed during/after WWII.


      • Hmm, okay, that makes more sense. Thanks, William — I can see how someone might advance that theory and how politicians might believe it.


  4. Pingback: The Horror of Syria | Riverside Church

  5. DJ says:

    A good source for a better understanding about American’s addiction to war, read Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.


  6. markbasil says:

    Fr Aidan and any other Christians who wish to avoid further bloodshed, please see the Orthodox Peace Fellowship Syria statement and consider signing:
    In Christ’s peace;
    -Mark Basil


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