EDITORIAL: Show us clear goals for response to Syria

2013-09-05T00:00:00Z 2013-09-05T11:05:09Z EDITORIAL: Show us clear goals for response to Syria nwitimes.com
September 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As the United States moves closer to military action in Syria, hug your children or grandchildren and remember 9/11. Few people still in school are old enough to have memories of a peacetime America.

America has rightly been characterized as war-weary. It is a reason to be cautious and thoughtful as we consider a response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The use of weapons of mass destruction is inexcusable. Tragic. Horrific. That is not the question.

Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons Aug. 21 in that nation's civil war must not go unpunished. But what form should that punishment take? And who should administer it?

Those are crucial questions the world, not just the United States, must answer.

The ideal time for a very limited surgical strike after Syria crossed the red line President Barack Obama drew would have been shortly after that attack.

But Obama has consulted Congress. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 Wednesday in support of a military strike against Syria. And while Secretary of State John Kerry has carefully said the Obama administration is not seeking to declare war on Syria, that's how it might be perceived.

What are the goals of an attack against Syria?

If justice is to be sought, how about attempting to bring Assad to trial by an international court? That happened with Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia. 

If destroying the weapons of mass destruction is the goal, targeting them with cruise missiles would release their poisons -- the very thing we want to prevent.

If regime change is the goal, what regime would replace Assad's loyalists? Would it be an improvement for the Syrian people, or just a change?

Congress and the Obama administration must be cognizant of the effect bombing Syria could have. The United States has the biggest military budget in the world, but Russia and China are still superpowers -- and Russia supports Assad. We do not want to launch a new Cold War.

What we need is a "coalition of the willing," including some of Syria's neighbors, to share responsibility for achieving whatever goals are finally established.

Action against Syria is inevitable, and necessary, but let's now act cautiously, thoughtfully and in concert with other nations.

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