Thursday, September 5, 2013

'The West Wing' - Art Imitating Life...Again


This scene from the 'West Wing' came to mind in light of the proposed resolution in support of military action against Syria. The resolution is in support of President Barack Obama's call for limited missile strikes against Syria because of President Bashar al-Assad use of chemical weapons against his own people. It is indeed, a dilemma. Great Britain's Parliament has refused to support the action with the United States and it's far from a mortal lock - even though expected - that Congress will give the President the support he is requesting. Congress actually probably will, but a lack of strong support for the resolution could weaken the President's hand. 

What's particularly interesting are the role reversals here. Chief of Staff Leo McGarry (played by the late John Spencer), is actually arguing the point of the Administration. President Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen), gives voice to those who are more cautious position. Instead of a despotic ruler slaughtering his own people, a government harboring suspected terrorists is the target. The President is being urged to take action. He is being much too deliberate in the eyes of the country. The Chief of Staff is strongly urging the President to take action. The tension, drama and passion portrayed by these two extraordinary actors, highlights the conundrum of our own present day dilemma. 

I always tend to lean against anything that smacks of war. I believe all diplomatic and political options should be exhausted before we sacrifice or take human life. I'm sure that sounds naive. But our misadventures in Iraq and the blood spilled and treasure spent in Afghanistan should make us cautious. 

I don't know if limited military strikes are realistic. I don't see how they won't lead to war. I don't understand how we don't have money for education, food stamps, unemployment insurance, jobs programs, health care, housing and social service for the homeless, but we have money to take unilateral action military action. Part of the reason for the deficits that have left these programs vulnerable are the billions of dollars we have spent in wars we have been fighting for ten years. 

As intemperate and inappropriate as Leo McGarry's outburst may be, he has a point, 'We don't always know how it ends!' That's pretty much true regarding the military consequences of the actions being proposed. We know how it ends for some of our most vulnerable citizens if this escalates to war. 


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