who pays the piper . . .

I may be the only liberal I know who would advocate Serious Repercussions for Syria right now. (All right, one of two, but we share enough DNA that it almost doesn’t count.)

I think wars have their place. Honestly and truly, I believe there is such a thing as a just war, a right war. I also believe we don’t recognise the difference between a right war and a wrong one. The United States has gotten itself into so many wrong wars that those who prefer to avoid more of them simply say “All war is wrong.” While there must be some genuine, stop-needless-killing pacifists in the lot, I doubt they’re the majority.

Because if you want to stop needless killing, my dears, you must oppose Mr Assad and his government of thugs.

Not content merely to shell the opposition, they conduct mass executions. Nobody is safe. Men, women, children, it makes no difference. Only express an opinion contrary to the party line and you’re next. You could call this a genocide the same way you’d call what happened in Cambodia a genocide. You’re either with Assad or against him.

Shelling comes from far away, an impersonal hit. Lob a bomb and wait for the boom. Not so an execution. It takes a real malice to line people up and shoot them. How these soldiers must hate the people, that they can disregard the humanity that links them all. Or do they still see people? Do they only see targets? In which case there will be much sickness among those troops, sooner or later.

That is a wrong war. That is killing for killing’s sake. “Shut up,” the soldier says with each pull of the trigger. To go in and stop him is a right war. To stop Assad, I should say; though the soldiers display a disturbing lack of empathy in their actions, they do not hold their own strings. They have a puppetmaster and are dancing to his tune.

But we are not willing to wage this war. Then what shall we do? Even Russia is upset, Russia that supported Syria during the massacres in Baba Amr. Iran, perhaps, hesitates. Very well; if we wish to maintain cordial relations with Iran, perhaps we should pay Mr Ahmadinejad a visit with some photographs. Some videos, even. I know there are stalwarts documenting the atrocities because they are posting the documentation to Facebook.

(I wonder if Zuckerberg ever envisioned his site hosting proof of martyrdom?)

Diplomacy is failing the people of Syria. If we cannot use diplomacy to end this killing, then we may need to do some killing of our own. Yes, I know what war is. Death to end death. Or you could ask me how to be truly ruthless, as by now a quick death may be too good for Assad. Too kind. I am not a pacifist. I think no less of pacifists; I simply can’t be one.

However he pays, Assad must pay the piper. The tune he calls must end. How shall we end it, if not by ending his regime? And how shall we end his regime, if not by force?

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