Last Thursday, I was asked to appear on CNN to discuss the burgeoning humanitarian crisis in Syria. Truth be told, I almost said no to the invitation -- and for a bad reason. While I do not believe there is evidence to suggest an attack on Syria will make anything better, I felt somewhat conflicted about what I thought the United States should specifically do in the wake of a chemical attack in that country. I reflexively assumed that such ambivalence disqualifies anyone from expressing any opinion, especially in a cable TV realm that often seeks to portray every debate as a battle between crystal-clear absolutisms.
But, of course, in this kind of situation, there really is only one absolute truth: What's happening in Syria is a human rights atrocity. Almost everything else, and especially the proper course of action, is all opinion, some of it at least fact-based, measured and informed, but much of it purely ideological. And pretending otherwise -- pretending that there is one indisputably correct, pro-intervention path forward -- is the most ideological position of all. In fact, such absolutism is beyond mere ideology -- it is theology.
Ultimately, I accepted CNN's invitation, and the process of pondering four questions helped prepare me for that discussion. These questions do not focus on the very legitimate concerns about the financial expense and risk to U.S. troops that are involved in an attack on Syria. Instead, they focus on the moral questions about the whole concept of humanitarian military intervention. Considering them clarified some things for me. Perhaps they will for you too as you watch today's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing about a possible attack on Syria. Here they are:
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