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Lessons from Syria: The Long and Short of It

One of the dominant headlines in August and September involves the conflict in Syria. The government is suspected of using chemical weapons against its own people in its battle with rebel forces — an atrocity that continues to be addressed by the United Nations and countries worldwide.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Syria: No War, No Victor," at YouGov.com, Sept. 11, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Do Ordinary Syrians Want the U.S. to Intervene?" at YouGov.com, Sept. 13, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Could Syria strike back if United States, allies, attack?" at CNN.com, Sept. 2, 2013.]

There is typically a line that should not be crossed when it comes to conflict. With personal arguments, there is a fine line between the decibels one can reach before a discussion becomes a shouting match. In the criminal justice system, there are misdemeanors and felonies, and a certain line for which crimes are punishable by death. Those lines often move depending on where the defendant is prosecuted and the variables related to the crime.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Englewood Woman Sentenced to 28 Months in Federal Prison for Failure to Pay Over $4.7 Million in Employment Taxes," at Justice.gov, Sept. 12, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Yahoo CEO fears defying NSA could mean prison," at FoxNews.com, Sept. 12, 2013.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, "Richmond man gets 9 years for pulling gun on parking attendant," at The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sept. 13, 2013.]

Many of the bad decisions we make can lead to self-destructive behaviors intended to accomplish a short-term goal that, as a result, can wreck a long-term strategy. For example, the way stealing gum or soda from a dime store on a dare can wreck a teenager’s future. Or how taking steroids to enhance performance can derail a professional athlete’s career. Or the way using chemical warfare instead of plain old guns and ammunition in a civil dispute can ignite a global military strike.

But closer to home, reckless spending can wreak havoc on a long-term financial strategy. For example, spending more than you should on an expensive vacation — or taking too many of those expensive vacations during your working years.

Perhaps the lesson we can take from Syria’s actions is that we should temper our penchant for extreme behaviors to accomplish our goals. Just as you wouldn’t risk your annual income at Atlantic City for the chance to fund your retirement, you shouldn’t indulge in extravagant spending on a regular basis.

There’s always room for exceptions. Occasionally, you go all out for a special vacation — just not every year. Perhaps you raise your voice during an argument once in a blue moon, but choose your battles carefully for greater impact. We could all use a reminder that by focusing on long-term goals, we can avoid sabotaging our efforts for a short-term fix. Let’s hope that’s a lesson that Syria learns.

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