Dear Mr. President,
Don’t bomb Syria.
Last week my students discussed “Is Germany to blame for the First World War?” Just because one-third of my students are German doesn’t mean they defended Germany’s actions. But on a whole, in my Korean, American, British, Swedish, English, German, Cameroonian, Indonesian, Filipino, Italian, Spanish, Colombian, Russian classroom, students felt that all the countries involved were to blame, with maybe a bit more blame placed on Austria-Hungary.
All of the countries, they believed, had put themselves in a situation that made war inevitable. They had war plans drawn up, just in case. They picked sides and started making decisions based on trying to keep those teams together. They were building armies and ships. And Austria-Hungary was looking for any reason to blow Serbia’s lights out and Franz Ferdinand’s assassination was a good enough reason to go for it.
I then asked “Has there ever been another situation in recent history where a country seemed to be looking for a reason, anything, to go to war with a particular country?” At first they turned their heads a bit sideways, like a dog does when trying to figure out what you are saying. Then a brave soul raised her hand. “Didn’t the US use 9-11 as a reason to eventually go after Iraq?” Then a Brit said he was concern about Syria. A German asked if the US was going to bomb Syria because, maybe, they used chemical weapons. Another raised his voice “Why would the US do this when none of their European allies support this?”
I am lucky. I teach in a happy place. I teach in a world where all children, Muslim or Jew, Russian or American, East and West, get along. They do their homework, they ride safely to and from school on streets not pot marked by war. Their bellies are full and the hallways rumble with laughter. Here in my happy little bubble on my International School campus, all of us seem to live without fear of each other, or fear of being hurt because of where we are from.
But if you bomb Syria, Mr. President, you could upset this balance. Once again I will have to answer for my President’s decisions. Once again I will have to worry about my safety because I am teaching the children of world leaders who agree or disagree with you. I am teaching children whose parents work at corporations that depend on our ability to get along worldwide.
You see, the world is not with you. And when it’s not with you, it’s not with Americans. Americans around the world are put at risk when you decide to send in air strikes far away from your office in Washington DC. And if some country decides to bomb Israel because you bombed Syria, you set a chain reaction in motion that makes America look, once again, like Austria-Hungary before World War I.
I am not saying that we should turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering occurring in Syria. At times we have not done enough to help our African brethren. We ignored Rwanda and Sudan. There, atrocities beyond mention destroyed the lives of thousands. So, why Syria? Why now? What is our goal? Is it to punish Assad? To help the families of those murdered by this chemical weapon strike? Heal our marred reputation? Oil? I’m confused.
I live too close to Syria. And I know there are numerous International School teachers throughout the Middle East hoping that another Tunisia* is not about to happen. And those of us caring for the world’s children in schools like mine; we fear what kind of unrest American involvement in this country could cause.
My students and I don’t have an answer to “How do we deal with Syria?” But we do know what you are about to do is not the answer.
Earlier this week a German boy asked “Why is it that World War I and II were called World wars, but today when there is a conflict with a bunch of countries we don’t call it a World war?” That was a really good question.
I tried to explain that a World War is a Total War. The end game of a Total War is to exhaust every resource you have in annihilating the other side. I said that today an allied force usually goes into a country to stabilize it, not destroy it. His response…”So we ‘save’ a country by killing its people?”
There you have it Mr. President. Killing people does not save people. And by killing more people in Syria you put your people at risk everywhere.
An American teaching History in Germany
*On September 14, 2012, the American Cooperative School of Tunis was overrun by hundreds of protestors and looted. Luckily the director of the school got all the children out before the protestors over took the school.