How best to help Syria

May 5, 2013

Regarding the May 2 editorial “A policy without coherence”:

While I appreciate the premise of The Post’s argument with respect to the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria, I was slightly taken aback by the certainty with which the editorial endorsed the no-fly zone option.

Just last week, the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, expressed deep concerns about the effectiveness of such a no-fly zone. Syria is certainly no Libya. Gen. Dempsey rightly pointed out that Syria’s air-defense capabilities are much more sophisticated than Libya’s and that setting up a no-fly zone would require a significantly more sustained and robust effort. Further, he pointed out that about 10 percent of the casualties in the conflict have been sustained by air power, with a much greater percentage by “direct fire or artillery.” And here is what the general posited as a follow-up to that statistic: “So, the question then becomes, if you eliminate one capability of a potential adversary, will you be inclined to find yourself in a position to be asked to do more against the rest?”

The no-fly zone option is understandably tempting, but it may not be the panacea for Syria’s bloody civil war. It deserves much greater scrutiny and discussion before being wholeheartedly endorsed.

Katina Slavkova, Washington

The Post argued that President Obama needs to implement stronger opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, in particular calling for a U.S.-led no-fly zone and surgical bombings to ground the Syrian air force.

However, because of a lack of international support for such an undertaking, the United States would have to take the burden almost entirely upon itself. Without allies, the United States would be drawn into a protracted effort to both engage Syrian forces and provide stability in the region until the opposition could form an effective government, which could take years. The risks of committing to this policy outweigh the benefits, as the United States and its citizens are not ready for another war so soon after Iraq and Afghanistan.

Colin Schreiner, Los Altos Hills, Calif.

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