Karl Douglass: More at stake than reputation

September 8, 2013 

Almost every fight I saw growing up started for one of two reasons. A kid wanted to either earn a reputation or protect a reputation.

Kids are not the only ones who sometime feel the need to "protect their reps." A lot of adults have the same issue. When adults feel the need to protect their reputations, unlike kids, they are not limited to fist fighting on the playground. They can defame, defraud and debilitate.

And, in some cases, they can start wars.

On the playground, all you need to get a couple kids going is for one to challenge the other with the phrase, "What are you going to do about it?" When President Obama spoke in Stockholm on Wednesday, he said, "as much as we are criticized, when bad stuff happens around the world, the first question is what the United States is going to do about it? That's true on every -- every issue. It's true in Libya. It's true in Rwanda. It's true in Sierra Leone. It's now true in Syria."

So, America is being challenged with an age old playground taunt. Is that reason enough to use force in Syria? If it is the only reason, the answer is no.

However, it is not the only reason.

Another reason is the Chemical Weapons Convention. The CWC not only prohibits the use of chemical weapons but has led to the destruction of almost 80% of all chemical weapons around the globe. A total of 189 countries have ratified the CWC to include Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan as well as the United States and Russia.

The CWC derives its strength from the common agreement of the countries who have signed. It is self-policing.

What happens when self-policing doesn't work? What happens when those who agree decide that the rules we set don't apply this time?

When that happens, we find ourselves asking the question from the playground, "What are you going to do about it?"

Whether the current proposal on what the United States should do about the use of chemical weapons in Syria is the right one can and should be debated. However, the fact that something should be done is abundantly clear. If no one does anything, the efforts to rid the globe of chemical weapons will rapidly come undone and the consequences could be more far reaching than any we can imagine.

So, despite what it looks like, there is much more at stake in this debate than just protecting America's reputation.

Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.

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