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Saturday, September 7, 2013: Poison gas, Maine hospitals and military action

Unintended Consequences

Ninety-nine years ago, on June 28, a young Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip assassinated the Austro-Hungarian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Serbia had achieved independence after centuries of Ottoman Turk rule, and Serbian nationalists chafed at the continued rule of fellow Serbs in Bosnia by the Hapsburg Empire of Austro-Hungary.

The unintended consequence of this seeming isolated incident came from the Hapsburg response demanding that the Serbian government assume responsibility and formally apologize to Austro-Hungary. When the latter deemed the Serbian response insufficient, war on Serbia ensued to assure the empire’s “credibility,” and the rest is history. A chain of alliances across Europe sided for or against Serbia or the Hapsburgs, and World War I erupted in August (it was called the World War or the “War to end wars”).The introduction of poison gas into trench warfare was so horrific that post war nations took steps to condemn its use, though never formally proclaiming it a violation of International Law.

Parallels to current events in Syria are striking. We see proper moral outrage at the use of poison gas, this time against a civilian as well as a military target and a call to punish the offender. Again, diverse national as well as ancient religious and economic interests intervene to set the stage for regional and even larger and more chaotic results.

Hope springs eternal that Congress and a civilized international community will take heed of the lessons of history and find an appropriate course of action before we unleash a irreversible rush to regional conflict.

James B. Wagner


Losing credibility

I’m watching a rapidly growing list of government folks from House Speaker John Boehner to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi who are going to get not only embarrassed but devastated if the contradictory evidence should prove correct about the chemical attack in Syria. Our government’s proclaimed “global leadership” will lose all credibility.

Eliot Chandler


Winners and losers

I know some BDN articles are light on facts and a sloppy wet kiss to Gov. Paul LePage and his cronies. The article from the Sept. 4 BDN, “Maine hospitals are (finally) going to be paid,” didn’t disappoint. In screaming black headlines, we were treated to two thirds of the Republican gang of apologists putting their usual spin on things, taking all the alleged credit, while anything relating to a Democrat was not at all in evidence.

Insurance companies and six- and seven-figure hospital CEOs win again — as evidenced by the $287 million Eastern Maine Medical Center expansion in the same paper. Maine taxpayers and insurance company victims lose.

Jim Burns


Vote against bombing

Outrage is not a policy. There are plenty of actions by nations that are repulsive and violate international norms. Use of chemical weapons is certainly one, but there are many others. If we start down the road of taking unilateral military action to punish the perpetrators, where do we stop?

The U.S. is not, cannot, and should not be the world’s policeman and enforcer. Broadly based and widely honored economic sanctions against nations and individual leaders should be put in place, while negotiations take place. The International Criminal Court has been created to deal with international violators. It is deeply regrettable that the U.S. has resisted rather than supported the ICC. Any military action should have broad-based international support via the U.N. Security Council and the regional organizations most closely involved, none of which has happened in this case.

What will happen the day after a “limited” U.S. military attack? Members of Congress should ask proponents of military action what the possible Syrian responses might be, and how the U.S. will prevent escalation of our involvement. Attacks on U.S. embassies and citizens? Increase in al-Qaida adherents? Growth in anti-U.S. sentiment in the Arab world? Undercutting moderate Iranians seeking better relations with the U.S. and negotiations on the nuclear issue?

A U.S. military strike in Syria is a formula for sucking our country into a disastrous third war in the Middle East in this new century. When will we ever learn?

Edward F. Snyder

Bar Harbor

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