In his May 12 Outlook commentary, “Syria’s war, outside the red lines,” Fouad Ajami cited colonial cartographers, that much-loved scapegoat for crises in the Middle East and Africa, as if there would be no conflict if artificial borders had not been drawn many decades ago. I doubt that would have been the case. History shows that tribal societies have always fought among one another, and the formation of nation-states seemed a development that helped, over hundreds of years, to stem such violence (or at least to reduce it to sporadic, if horrific, outbreaks instead of seasonal, horrific ones). Mr. Ajami himself describes the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites as “millennial, given new life by the Syrian civil war.”

I wonder why he invites a Western power to once more intervene. Tribal societies have to reorganize on their own.

Judy Schaefer, Washington

Fouad Ajami joined a chorus of pundits and politicians calling for U.S. intervention in Syria. No one seems to address the question of how much an intervention would cost and who would pay. I realize that to raise money as an issue may be crass when lives are being lost, but the United States borrowed more than $1 trillion to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the results have not been encouraging. Is this country expected to borrow billions more to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

Future calls for U.S. intervention in a Middle East conflict should offer a proposal to pay for its cost. That cost should not be borne by the U.S. taxpayer.

Joseph E. Lowry, Arlington

The May 10 news article “Kerry warns Russia against selling high-performance missiles to Syria” reported that U.S. officials contend that “delivery of the arms would threaten Israel.” Surface-to-air missiles are defensive weapons and pose no threat to Israel. But they are a threat to Israeli aircraft that bomb Syrian facilities with impunity. The Syrian government has the right to defend its territory from Israeli air attacks.

Jawaharlal Ramnarace, Accokeek