Friday, August 30, 2013

Syria Is a No Win Situation, but US Has a Responsibility to Respond

The last couple of days I have had several of my students talking about the Syria situation.  Some are thinking that we are going to have World War III, some were just curious about the whole situation.  Today on the way home, I heard Al Franken this afternoon on MPR as I head home from work who said that he felt the US had to respond.
“This cannot be allowed to stand,” he said in an interview. “Now, this again is not about another land war in the Middle East. This is about a strike that is going to either use cruise missiles or bombers, so this is not about U.S. troops on the ground.”
He was also quoted as saying, rightly, that there was no good situation in this.  I think he is right.  You can stand back and watch a leader commit mass killings without some kind of consequences.  Both GOP state representatives seem to believe that the President should call back Congress and give them an opportunity to debate the action even though they seem to support some kind of action.

 "We need to define what the objectives are and what the end game is. Americans and South Dakotans are weary of war." South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem tells us while she has heard the Obama Administration may launch an attack, she has not heard anything from the administration involving specifics. "We want to make sure that if action is taken against Syria that we know what the plan is all the way through." 
 "This deal in Syria has gotten really out of hand." South Dakota Senator John Thune tells me, it is clear something has to be done. "The use of chemical weapons is something that really elevates this."
A lot of people on both sides don't want the US involved at all in the Syrian conflict.  The left wants no involvement in US wars and an end to all conflict.  The right feels that there is no direct and tangible US interest involved, so no US resources should be put at risk (especially the lives of military personal).  

While we can try to claim the Prime Directive and say that this is Syria's war, we tried that several times before and it usually lead to more bloodshed that spilled over to others and eventually dragged in the US in a much larger conflict.  We have also been to eager to get involved in a conflict over a possible future threats that have been a huge mistake because of a lack of a clear goal and strange restraints of action.

I liken the decision that Obama must make to that of what was occurring in the Balkans in 1998.  Then President Clinton had a difficult choice to make about an air campaign to against the Serbian forces.  Then too, we had a Democratic President that seemed a bit more hawkish than Republicans, but the overall mood in Washington was a mixed mood.
Overall, the sentiment in Congress is more complicated. Several Republicans, including Gordon Smith of Oregon, John McCain of Arizona and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as well as Democrats including Thomas Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader, and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, have expressed support for air strikes to end the killings.
In the end, I think a response is needed, but I also think that a good debate would be healthy if it is done quickly and both sides can focus on the issue and not try to turn it into a "oppose the President no matter what" or "do whatever the President wants no matter what."  The President must provide a clear case against the Syrian regime and should have a clear goal in mind with the action.

To do nothing and call it Syria's problem is to say that the victims of the chemical attack have no human worth.  To do nothing simply encourages the Syrian regime to 

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