The selling of the Syrian war

September 8, 2013

The Post’s in-depth coverage of pending decisions about Syria has refocused our attention on friends who live there. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s shelling and bombing forced our friends to flee their home in Damascus many months ago. They are now hunkered down with their small children in a remote village near the Jordanian border, their promising careers, indeed their lives, on hold.

But though our hearts go out to them, to the hundreds of thousands in refugee camps and to the tens of thousands whom the Assad regime has killed, we cannot support U.S. intervention in this tragedy. We have witnessed a dozen U.S. engagements in Africa, the Middle East and Asia over recent decades. Our troops have been killed and maimed, our wealth squandered. How many of these have resulted in a lasting positive result? Why should we now believe the United States can help our Syrian friends?

Let’s not repeat these well-intended but fruitless blunders.

Robert F. and Jan L. Allnutt, Bethesda

Something wonderful has happened in Congress as the result of President Obama’s request for authorization for a military strike on Syria. Members seem to be actually thinking about the merits of the president’s plan rather than simply voting for the proposal because they are Democrats or against the proposal because they are Republicans. The political party lines that have crippled Congress’s ability to act are being blurred. Is it too much to ask that this might continue in regard to other pressing matters?

Mary B. Young, Frederick

I’d like to see a senator or representative pose the following question to Secretary of State John F. Kerry: “Mr. Kerry, suppose we tied the authority you’re seeking to any future uses of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Would not that both deter future use of chemical weapons as well as earn international respect and support, possibly even from the United Nations Security Council?”

Robert Meehan, Washington

The administration is using two justifications for using force against Syria:

●A U.S. attack on the Syrian regime would prevent future gas attacks on Syrian civilians.

●A U.S. attack on the Syrian regime would deter regimes in other countries from using poison gas. These are weak justifications.

First point: Even if an attack succeeded in stopping further use of chemical weapons, the regime has abundant non-chemical means to keep killing civilians. Therefore, Syrian civilians would hardly benefit from the attack. The money spent on the attack could instead be used to save the lives of thousands of refugees. 

Second point: In reality, U.S. policy always is case by case and everyone knows that. An attack on Syria today would not set some kind of binding precedent for how the United States would respond if, for example, North Korea — which could respond to an attack by destroying Seoul — used poison gas on its civilians.

Jim Lande, Arlington

The Sept. 4 news article “Obama seeks to rally global support” showed a president doing too little too late to gain international understanding and support for a limited strike. If, as he said, “the world has set a red line” on Syria, then why is the world not backing his planned action? For a president who campaigned in part on a commitment to gain international cooperation, where is the beef? 

Henry J. Kenny, McLean

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