Syrians are killing each other, military and civilian, children as well as the aged. It is uncomfortable to watch.
But like it or not, here in the United States, President Obama cannot push a button, end the slaughter and bring peace.
A group of Americans has been pressing for U.S. military involvement. They start with the supplying of arms to the Assad opposition with the implied promise that there would be additional support, starting with the application of air power.
While the Obama administration has remained focused on trying to reach a diplomatic solution with the aid of the United Nations and other countries, the president’s critics, some for political reasons, have called for tougher measures.
Almost three months ago, a familiar trio began banging the drum for more aggressive action. On March 6, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) called on Obama to supply the opposition with arms and “help organize an international effort to protect civilian population centers in Syria through air strikes on Assad’s forces.”
In the wake of last weekend’s news of the massacre of 100 Syrian adults and children in the village of Houla, Mitt Romney on Monday issued a statement that accused the president of a “lack of leadership” and urged “more assertive measures to end the Assad regime.” Romney called for the United States to “work with partners to arm the opposition so they can defend themselves.” The Republican presidential challenger did not go as far as McCain, Graham and Lieberman and call for airstrikes. But he did not spell out how he would “arm the opposition” or say whether his “more assertive measures” included providing air support.
Meanwhile the media this week have regularly pressed government officials on whether preparations are underway for the United States to adopt the military option in Syria.
On Monday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CBS News that “diplomatic pressure should always precede any discussions about military options.”
He added: “We will be prepared to provide [military] options if asked to do so.”
Asked, “Will anything short of military action make a real impact there,” meaning Syria, his answer was, “that’s always a question.”
The next day Dempsey’s remarks became a focus of Pentagon reporters’ questions to George Little, spokesman for Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
Little said: “When it comes to military options, again, the focus remains on the diplomatic and economic track. But at the end of the day, we in the Department of Defense have a responsibility to look at the full spectrum of options and to make them available if they’re requested.”
Given the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is no surprise that there has not been a call for U.S. troops on the ground.