How Not to Deal With Tyrants

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How Not to Deal With Tyrants

The Syria crisis exposes the perilous method this world often uses to solve important problems.

All over the world, tyrants abound, and Syria’s Bashar Assad is the most notorious one of late. Beneath the slew of solutions proposed to try to restrain the Assad regime—sanctions, non-lethal aid to rebels, full-scale invasion, “unbelievably small, limited kind of [military intervention] effort,” and Moscow-brokered deals to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons—underlies a frightening reality: Tyrants are often dealt with only after they commit an egregious atrocity.

Syria has had stockpiles of chemical weapons since the early 1980s. It adopted the 1925 Geneva Protocol in 1968, which “prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in war.” The protocol, however, did not prohibit the development, production or stockpiling of chemical weapons. Also, under the protocol, nations reserved the right to use the prohibited weapons against those nations that were not party to the protocol, or as retaliation if such weapons were used against them. To remedy these shortcomings, the Chemical Weapons Convention was adopted in 1992, and Syria did not ratify it.

The fact of the matter is that nations invest billions of dollars in weapons with the intention of using them in the future. Even if the weapons are developed as a deterrent, that deterrence is only meaningful if a willingness to use them exists. Otherwise, stockpiles of weapons would not deter anyone.

This is partly the reason why the world was agitated when Syria’s civil war began in 2011. With the onset of the conflict, an opportunity arose for Assad, or any of his supporters, to finally use chemical weapons to gain military advantage. Savage use of these weapons on militants or civilians would finally constitute crossing a red line. The world would only seriously react—as it now is—after Syria crossed that line, after poisonous chemical agents were released on people—not before.

This is a dangerous way of dealing with despots.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, former U.S. President George W. Bush blacklisted a handful of nations as the “axis of evil.” A few months later, then Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton added Syria to the exclusive list of rouge, evil nations. This was shortly after 9/11 and after the global war on terror began.

With memories of terror still painfully fresh, U.S. government officials knew they couldn’t afford to wait until the crime before dealing with the criminal. About Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, President Bush asked: “If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today—and we do—does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons?” As the Trumpet reported, there is overwhelming evidence that some of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction were shipped to Syria, adding to its stockpiles.

Of course, the Bush administration bore the brunt of heavy criticism for its strategy of caution and for things that went wrong in the war on terror. It was even criticized for singling out certain nations as evil. Today, those harsh criticisms are paralyzing the world, preventing it from dealing decisively with tyrants.

Conventional military wisdom teaches nations to deal with problems before they explode. The Bible is replete with admonition to solve problems early. It’s a principle of life: A stitch in time saves nine.

The main purposes for Bible prophecy are to show that God lives and rules, and to warn people in advance of calamity so as to save them. In Ezekiel 33:11, our God of love implores, “[W]hy will ye die, O house of Israel?”

Another purpose for Bible prophecy is to inspire us with the fantastic hope of a better world—God’s world—that’s soon to come. Today, it appears rogue nations like Syria and Iran will only be stopped after they commit horrendous crimes. But this sad state of affairs will soon be a thing of the past in the Kingdom of God. For more prescient insight, read our article “Overcoming Evil” and our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow.