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The Red Moral Line in Syria

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The current moral argument regarding Syria is limited.

The red line of chemical weapons is plotted on a wider graph of violence. Morality is relevant to the whole graph, not just the red line. For too long, innocent Syrian people have suffered greatly and lost lives at the violent hands of the regime. The means by which they are being killed, chemical weapons, is disgraceful - but the fact that they are being killed at all is the deeper moral issue.

Where should the red lines of morality lie in an enlightened civilisation? Killing innocent civilians using one form of violence? I'd like to tell my daughter that we are more than that.

And when our perceived red line is crossed, how should we respond?

One of the proposed responses to the use of chemical weapons - a certain type of violence - is more violence. This does not seem to be the behaviour of an enlightened civilisation.

As Gandhi said, 'An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.' History and logic teaches us that violence leads to more violence and suffering. Applying nonviolent methods is a much more effective form of peacemaking. In the last 100 years alone, the nonviolent movement has helped free over 3.3 billion people.

One of the key barriers to universal diplomatic pressure on Syria is the question of proof regarding the regime's responsibility. If there is unambiguous visual proof of responsibility, spread through the mainstream media channels, Syria's allies would be forced to re-evaluate their positions. The public pressure would be too great - and domestic election votes could be at stake.

What if all concerned countries sent trained teams of humanitarians, armed with video cameras on the ground? Of course, sending in surveillance to another country isn't without it's own moral dimensions, but it is incalculably less harmful than sending in bombs. Human rights video organisation Witness is one of many to embrace the role of technology in bringing about justice.

When we reject violence in all its forms, our response to violence will never again be violence. We will look at the many ways in which we can respond to urgent human suffering, without risking our own dignity and credibility in the process. In the face of violence, we will show our children how to use the many nonviolent tools in their armoury. (Dr Gene Sharp's 198 nonviolent methods is a strong place to start.)

I believe we need to have a broader debate as a society about where our red lines lie, and how we reflect that moral position through our policies and decisions. Only then will we learn the lessons of the past, and truly do justice to those we wish to help.