The question of Syria

“Nobody is proposing to send troops to Syria – American troops,” Paul Ryan said. “How would we have done things differently? We wouldn’t have referred to [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad as a reformer while he was using his Russian weapons to slaughter his people.”

Ryan accused the Obama administration of “outsourcing our foreign policy to the U.N.” in confronting Syria’s government, referring to the unsuccessful attempt by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to secure a cease-fire.

Of all the political tumult that has roiled the Arab world since early 2001, Syria has emerged as the most violent and diplomatically challenging for the Obama administration, underscored by the Ryan criticism tonight.

There is a difference on how to engage the Syrian crisis beyond tone or semantics between the Romney-Ryan and Obama-Biden campaigns – and the Republicans have sought to make the difference one that speaks to strength of leadership.

Romney wants to arm Syria’s rebel army, and Obama does not. Romney has said he would work with several Arab nations, most notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in providing the weapons to take on the Syrian army’s tanks and aircraft.

Obama has argued that more and heavier weapons will inflame a civil conflict already spilling over its borders, and will leave armed once Assad is toppled a rebel leadership the United States knows little about. He has sent humanitarian and logistical aid instead.

Biden said, “We are working with the Turks and the Jordanians and the Saudis and others in the region to identify who deserves the aid and when Assad goes – and he will go – who will provide a stable government.”

Scott Wilson is the chief White House correspondent for the Washington Post. Previously, he was the paper’s deputy Assistant Managing Editor/Foreign News after serving as a correspondent in Latin America and in the Middle East.

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