America has a deep abiding faith in military violence. Even American liberals usually believe, when there is trouble in the world, unilateral violent intervention is our only real option. “Well, we need to do something!” is almost a universal mantra. Consequently, our foreign policy statements sound more like WWE Wrestling commercials than sane balanced analysis. When we cast the world into heroes and villians, violence is never far behind. As we consider blundering into the Syrian conflict, for once, we might consider who our allies would be in that struggle.

Recently, a Syrian rebel leader was filmed cutting out and eating the heart of a Syrian soldier. A 15 year old boy was executed for making atheistic statements after being kidnapped by rebels and tortured for 24 hours. He was shot in front of his parents. Some of the rebel leaders have ties to Al Qaeda, who we are still fighting elsewhere in the world. To spend trillions of dollars to rid the world of a terrorist organization and then, at the same time, to side with them on a different battle front cannot possibly be consistant policy.

Lasting peace requires an infrastructure of global co-operation. It would be very nice to rid the world of the Syrian dictator Assad, but international pressure feels like a rubber sword so long as everyone knows America stands ready to pounce. The situation in Syria is heartbreaking and complex. A foreign policy based on painting political figures as simplistic heroes and villains is not mature or even sane. There were lessons to be learned from the Iraq disaster. Saddam Hussein was cast as a villain one year, only to become an ally a few years later, and then as a villain again. Instead of exploring every diplomatic option, the U.S. rushed to war in the name of the Iraqi people who are still devastated years afterward.

War is sometimes necessary, but democracy cannot breathe the rancid air of empire and live for long. If America wants to teach democracy to the world, then we must model it. We must must submit to international law if we wish to call others to it. Nations who consistenly say, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” cannot provide an ethical model for the world. Our world does not consist of heroes and villians, but of the competing interests of our one human species.