We need to embrace civic nationalism

By Melissa Chappell - Guest Columnist

While there are many humanitarian crises afoot in our world, one of the greatest is that which continues to unfold in the city of Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo has had no shortage of news coverage as Syria’s president, Bashir al-Asaad, has been intent on crushing opposing forces in the besieged city.

While Western allies have been sharply critical of Russia’s alliance with Syria in this tragic affair, no one has stepped forward to militarily confront the offenders. A ceasefire, brokered between the United States and Russia so that Aleppo might have access to humanitarian aid, was a disastrous failure.

Since then, the UN has attempted to resume aid to Aleppo. However, the siege of Aleppo has made the city nearly impenetrable as Russian and Syrian forces drop bombs and chlorine gas on countless hospitals, schools and communities, killing children among thousands of other innocents.

Much has been said about the relative silence of the international community in the face of this tragedy. One writer, Marwan Bishara, points to the rising tide of “aggressive nationalism” as the reason for lack of impetus to act on behalf of Aleppo.

Leaders far too concerned with themselves, and their own state of affairs, are loath to involve themselves in the plight of 250,000 souls hunkering down in the beleaguered city. Bishara quotes W.B. Yeats, “The best of all lack conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (www.aljazeera.com).

While Mr. Bishara’s point is well taken, he takes pains to place Mr. Obama in his cast of self-serving nationalistic characters who lack the conviction to act. True, it seems that with the recent election our nation may yet move towards a certain nationalism, but one can hardly describe it as being so at the present time.

Therefore, this writer rejects the idea that Mr. Obama, as well as some of our closer Western allies, refrain from military action in Syria because of aggressive nationalistic fervor. On the contrary, David Davenport writes that U.S. military action in Syria is prohibited by the international norms put forth in the UN charter.

Only two circumstances for military action against another country exist: 1) in the case of self-defense, and 2) when “authorized by the Security Council ‘to maintain or restore international peace and security’.” (www.Forbes.com). Russia, since it is allied with Syria, has vetoed this alternative. Therefore, it is the Russian veto which may be preventing military action in Syria (Ibid).

However, the international directive in the UN Charter does not excuse Western allies from inaction. On Thanksgiving Day, the people of Aleppo sent a message to the world pleading for help. If military assistance is not possible, they asked at least for humanitarian aid.

Perhaps a demilitarized humanitarian corridor to supply water stations, hospitals, schools and civil defense could be implemented. If this is not possible, then air drop humanitarian aid into Aleppo using U.S. led coalition warplanes. (www.cnn.com).

The writer of this essay is not only a concerned citizen, but a Christian. There was a time long ago when a man was crucified in a junkyard bay and the world stood by and did nothing. Now the Western allies are held hostage by the veto of one tyrannical country and the world stands by again. The Christ is crucified again, only this time on the rubble heap called Aleppo.

But because this is Christ, there is hope. There must be hope. We see it in the young men of that torn city, the White Helmets, who risk their own lives to save others after devastating bombing raids. Such selflessness can be an example for the world.

Considering our most recent election, we may very well experience the rising tide of a certain brand of nationalism in our own country. If the American people are not watchful, we may be led down a road of isolationism which would make certain places in our world vulnerable to powers whose intentions are not for the good of humanity.

The United States need not reject nationalism, but let us seek instead a more civic nationalism, the kind that brings the best of America to the world, the “shining city on a hill”, the America that brought the Peace Corps to the world, the America that is selfless and outward looking, not inward looking and pessimistic; the America that air drops hope into the world, not cynicism.

The people of Aleppo have sent us a message. Dare we not heed it?

By Melissa Chappell

Guest Columnist

Melissa Chappell lives in Pomaria.

Melissa Chappell lives in Pomaria.