This seems an appropriate time to give ‘serious thought’ to moral dilemmas. A simple definition of dilemma is: a required choice between conflicting alternatives. A moral dilemma is never a choice between right and wrong (that choice is obvious); it is a forced choice requiring evaluation and judgment. While moral dilemmas can be either positive or negative, the more apparent moral dilemma is one where there is no desirable outcome, yet the situation demands a choice. This is the current situation we face regarding Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
I don’t presume to know the best answer, but I clearly see the dilemma. The Assad regime is at war with its own people; in its attempt to subdue the rebels it has loosed chemical weapons that have killed thousands of non-combatants, mostly women and children. In the Geneva Accord of post-WWI, nations came to an agreement to ban chemical weapons for use in conflicts. The Assad regime ignored than ban and the world has viewed dying children gasping for breathe and rows and rows of bodies wrapped in shrouds. The question before the world and our nation is: How do we respond to this abomination? There is no ‘good’ alternative and the issue of military retaliation is on the table. We as a people are called upon to choose the course of action. We cannot know the outcome of ANY of the potential choices. The current choice before us seems to be between military reprisals or to do nothing. Either seems abhorrent! It may seem that ‘do nothing’ takes us off the hook—but non-action IS a choice: the choice to squarely face what we know to be morally abhorrent and simply look the other way—ignore it. Is that not what the German public did as the Nazis rounded up Jews and sent them off to concentration camps that ultimately led to gas chambers?
To do nothing is a choice! Yet I ask, are there choices other than: bomb or ignore? If our leaders choose not to use military force, let us not lose our moral outrage, but put all effort into finding another way to retaliate against this monstrous immoral regime.
I believe the biggest challenge of our era is to learn to make moral choices.