Max Boot’s April 10 Tuesday Opinion column, “The bankruptcy of U.S. policy on Assad,” spoke to a bitter truth: Only Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with the help of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah, has the military capacity to bring most of the country under control, contemplate an accommodation with the Kurds, subdue the violence and end the carnage that his forces and those of his opponents have visited upon the Syrian people for the past seven years.
Despite U.S. and other efforts to create unity of purpose among the various factions opposed to Mr. Assad, their forces squandered their potential in personal, ideological and ethnic disputes and infighting, engaged in their own appalling acts and helped create a vacuum that Islamist extremists from throughout the Muslim world were quick to exploit.
Now, after more than 400,000 casualties and millions of refugees and internally displaced people, the international community is left with the unpalatable prospect of dealing with a government whose mishandling of the peaceful protest movement that emerged during the Arab Spring transformed Syria into a battleground on which domestic and regional forces, including a number with a history of terrorist acts, have been competing to gain the upper hand. Our objective must be an end to the bloodshed. The sooner the carnage ends, the sooner the refugees and internally displaced can return home to begin rebuilding their lives, easing the strains on Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and other host countries, and the sooner the international community can begin to grapple with the political implications of Mr. Assad’s continued tenure.
Christopher Ross, Washington
The writer was U.S. ambassador to Syria from 1991 to 1998.
Most experts agree that President Trump’s strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities will do little or nothing to alter the course of the Syrian civil war. Given Russia’s alliance with Syria and given the overall complexity of the conflict, it would seem that military interventions of the type undertaken on Friday are futile.
We are at a moment in history where diplomacy — not missile strikes — is called for. Yet, at present, we are without a secretary of state. CIA Director Mike Pompeo might not be confirmed for secretary of state, and there are rumblings that he’s too hawkish for the job. Additionally, the upper echelons of the State Department are sorely depleted. Yet diplomacy is of the utmost importance right now. A concerted international diplomatic effort spearheaded by the United States is needed to end the bloodshed in Syria and, in so doing, to help bring some measure of stability to the Middle East.
Herb Guggenheim, Rockville
Elizabeth Bruenig’s April 13 Friday Opinion commentary, “Is Trump capable of waging a just war?,” made a profound observation on this president’s “gleeful indifference.” His life apparently has never been touched by war, yet he recently asked why steps were taken to spare danger to an enemy combatant’s family.
My father was in World War II and Vietnam. The United States does not always possess the so-called high ground, but what happens when we abandon it? “Gleeful indifference” could be applied to what this president thinks about the suffering of poor people and people of color and perhaps the Constitution.
Steve Jones, Kensington