War birds lessons of conflict: Matt's Memo

Shorebirds battle at Southwick.


is call and response. There is action and reaction. There is violence and retribution. One week ago it seemed the President of the United States was poised to give the order for a powerful military attack on Syrian targets. It was to be pay back for a chemical weapons attack from President Assad's regime against his own people. We anticipated an Oval Office address to the nation. Like it or not, the action would have been a swift reaction to the actions of an enemy leader. It was the response to Syria's call.

Now the calendar has flipped to a new month, a new season and a more detailed discussion of the reasons for attacking. The additional time has led to greater deliberation of the complex matrix of interests involved in the Syrian crisis. The waters have been muddied.

Last weekend I sat on the shore of Lake Ontario and watched a diverse group of shore birds go about their business. The serenity of their quiet presence suddenly was awoken when a scrap of food was tossed their way. The smallest of birds attempted to move quietly and swiftly to the food, hardly being noticed. Then wings flapped. Birds squawked. Beaks pecked.

The formerly unnoticed little skirmishes became apparent. Bigger birds swooped in. They appeared to be enforcers. Instantly, the battle between the grander birds seemed more relevant than the originators of the conflict.

The simplicity of nature allows the strong to survive and rule the day. The biggest gull of the bunch gets the food and struts away. There is no concern for political fall out back at the nest. There is no concern about neighboring flocks waging an attack.

Our human conflicts are not as simplistic. The quicker the action the clearer the path may appear. The longer deliberation discovers complexity. We must also hope the greater consideration ultimately achieves better insight and resolution.

The President may instinctually harbor some regret that he did not move briskly forward with action against Syria. On the other hand we do not exist in the wild. Playing the role of the bigger bird in a civilized culture requires due deliberation and consideration. At times it also requires one to act.

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