Last week, I was too busy to listen to the news. I did not have time or brain space to think about the implications of what was going on, though I felt guilty every time I changed the channel.
It was not just busyness. There was disbelief as one military action followed another.
I also felt helpless. Could anyone make the American president see the danger? There was a BBC news piece that showed him walking up the steps of a plane with his back to the camera while the reporter speculated that he might well turn his back on international objections to his actions.
The use of chemical weapons on civilians is horrifying. Scenes from Syria disturb us again and again. We wish for peace and wonder how that troubling civil war will come to an end. In one way, bombing the air field from which, we assume, the plane that dropped the chemical weapons flew might feel satisfying. Something was done in response.
But I do not think it was a good response. For one thing, the airport was up and running again in a few days. It was not a very effective strike More troubling to me is the fact that it was a unilateral American action. It was so quick it does not seem to have been carefully thought out. And Russian planes were at that airport so that tensions between the U.S. and Russia were increased.
A few days later, a huge bomb was dropped on an ISIS target in Afghanistan. An American official assured the world that this was done with Afghani co-operation and no civilian casualties.
Again, I am troubled. Yes, ISIS is a problem, but the destruction of one facility may encourage a retaliatory strike back. And the timing is a problem: the military must have known about this site for a long time. Did the strike on Syria make it easier for someone to get the "go ahead" on this strike? How much pressure was exerted in order to get the Afghan government to agree?
Given the level of destruction a huge bomb would cause how can anyone know who was killed. Even in a military facility, there are cooks and cleaners. In a remote facility, there can easily be children because if mom is cooking for the soldiers, her nursing child needs to be near.
And what is going on with the deployment of an aircraft carrier and other ships to the Korean peninsula? Yes, North Korea has tested unarmed missiles. And yes, those tests mean that their capability of delivering a bomb is increasing. But so far it is more show than anything else. Every test they send up has landed in the ocean.
It is true that North Korea is claiming they can stand up to the American military giant. They are acting like a bully. But in my experience, is you challenge a bully they will fight back. If you back a bully into a corner, they will use violence to push their way out. Sending a strong military force to the Korean peninsula is a good way to get North Korea to use force to show they are not weak.
There was too much military action in that one week.
Fortunately, there are other voices. In the US, members of congress have reminded the president and the public that while the president has the power to take decisive action on their own to protect the country, ongoing military action requires the agreement of congress. President Trump is required, by the laws that elected him, to consult.
Other countries will be re-assessing the American leadership. Japan, China, Russia, and others will be carefully measuring their words. Conversations in the corridors at the U.N. will be tense but careful.
Which brings me back to Canada. We are not helpless. We can ask our ambassador to the U.N. to object to unilateral military actions. We can ask our prime minister to engage in the conversation about appropriate international engagements. We can remind each other that cheering for the military is substantially different from cheering for a sports team. We can re-energize the conversation about peace.
Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister, and writer living near Walters Falls.