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WASHINGTON (RNS) As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime's use of chemical weapons against civilians.


  1. I suspect it is just as well that the politicians are making the decisions. One writer said “…the U.S. is not the sword of God.” Really, who in the last hundred years has been protecting freedom in the world. Is God not interested in freedom? I suggest that he is very interested in freedom. To put down tyranny is always right. True, removing Assad may not eliminate tyranny, but it is certain that if he is not removed tyranny will continue.

    • Well the horrendously evil Soviet Union played an important role against nazi Germany. And while some good consequences have come from US intervention, it hasn’t always ended up well. At least one third of Iraqs Christiahs have had to flee since Saddam was taken out. There is also ample evidence than in our oppositions against truly evil communist dictators, who were certainly imperialists in their own right, that the United States had offered support to some truly evil “far right” dictators as well. After “losing” the Vietnam war, and after the US supported Kuonmingtang lost in China, bother areas have made substantial progress. China and Vietnam have been engaged in market reforms and become more prosperous, while the human rights situation is terrible, it has gotten better, and in Vietnam, citizens are polled as having a higher approval rating of the US, the American people, and the free market system than many European countries. If this much can be done in the absence of successful violent intervention, doesn’t that leave room for considering non violent intervention? Did we really have to, in an act of utilitarian logic kill thousands of civilians in Japan, including in what some have called the heart of Japanese Christianity (Nagasaki), to change that society? If we are going to argue from history we need to have it in proper perspective. World police policies have not always been humane, nor effective.

    • I can think of a few occasions when the U.S. didn’t intervene to defend freedom–in the early 50s, when they put the Shah of Iran back in power; on endless occasions throughout the twentieth century when they supported military dictatorships in Latin America, often supporting the overthrow of elected governments in the process (Arbenz in Guatemala, Goulart in Brazil, Bosch in the Dominican Republic, Allende in Chile); defending a string of dictatorships in their neocolonial war in Vietnam. Not exactly an angel of freedom.

  2. Just war, go don’t go JUST DON’T TAKE MY SON …..
    WW!!< korea, Nicar, Viet, Iraq, afgahn
    Just don't take my son, he is studying to be a …………

  3. I would have certainly enjoyed hearing from a few of the wonderful and smart women thealogians on this topic. Their omission is a loss for all of us. I hope this does not happen again.

    • Arlene Montevecchio

      It is a shame that no female experts (religious leaders or scholars) could not be found for comment on this issue.

      • Lauren Markoe

        We also noted the lack of a female expert before we published this. There are many more men than women in this particular field, and we could not find a female commentator — someone who had written about about just war theory in particular — who was able to comment by our tight deadline. But please know that we will continue to seek a diversity of sources.

  4. Many of these religious experts all seem to assume that Assad was behind the attacks. That has not been proven nor have we seen any strong evidence of the same.
    Secondly, Assad, as bad a guy as he might be, is fighting a rebellion in his country and the U.S. is standing in to help the rebels just as Britain helped the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
    A U.S attack is not about morals it is about world politics and the apparent policy in the Mideast to destabilize all the countries. Do Iraq and Libya have better governments and human rights than before the U.S. and the world got involved?
    I don’t recall Jesus saying anything about “just war” As I recall of my reading he was for peace and against killing. I cannot speak to Judaic war theory but, I think Christians are supposed to be against all killing. “Just War” is just a theory dreamed up so religious leaders could make nice with political leaders. Telling those in power not to kill is not a winning position. True religious leaders promote peace. Ghandi, Jesus, Martin Luther King are fair examples.

  5. How can it be that you did not offer one woman’s perspective??? Are all religious opinions male opinions to you? There is more to justice than war.

    • Rebecca, it’s a very important question, and one we wrestled with. As it turns out, this field is almost entirely dominated by men, but that’s no excuse. We did ask around — repeatedly — for a woman’s voice and came up relatively empty. Again, not an excuse, just more of an explanation. Thanks for writing in.

  6. There are a variety of alternatives to bombing Syria as explained in an article “The Rush to Bomb Syria: Undermining International Law and Risking Wider Law” found at

  1. […] Religion News Service has a good round-up of ethicists and/or experts on the idea of military intervention in Syria’s civil war. Here’s Stanley Hauerwas, because these days if you want to understand the just-war […]

  2. […] The ethics of a Syrian military intervention: The experts respond Aug 29, 2013 “As the Obama administration readies for a probable military strike against Syria, Religion News Service asked a panel of theologians and policy experts whether the U.S. should intervene in Syria in light of the regime’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. Would the “Just War” doctrine justify U.S. military action, and what is America’s moral responsibility?” Responses from: Stanley Hauerwas, Professor emeritus of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School William Galston, Senior fellow, Brookings Institution Qamar-ul Huda, Senior program officer in the Religion & Peacemaking Center of the U.S. Institute of Peace The Rev. Drew Christiansen, Jesuit priest and visiting scholar at Boston College and longtime adviser to the U.S. Catholic Bishops on international affairs Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, Chair of the World Evangelical Alliance’s Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons and author of “The World Is Not Ours To Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good” Rabbi Michael Broyde, Professor of law and senior fellow, Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion Andrew J. Bacevich, Professor of international relations at Boston University Robert Parham, Executive editor of and executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics. […]