The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 17, 2012

Our View: Caution in Syria

The Joplin Globe

— A brutal civil war is raging in Syria, and other countries are taking sides in that fight. Many are calling on the United States to be far more proactive as well. We urge caution, extreme caution, before we leap into that war with our own military power.

Syria is yet again an example of the Arab Spring in action with rebels rising up against autocratic rule. The conflict has both secular and religious overtones as well. We have long opposed the rule of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, a brutal dictator. But what do we know about the forces now opposing Assad and what such forces might do if they overthrow that regime?

We don’t have that answer, just as we did not know exactly what type of regime would emerge in Egypt after the overthrow of President Hosni El Sayed Mubarak. It turned out to be the Muslim Brotherhood, an 80-year-old terrorist organization opposing first a Jewish homeland and now many other Western interests.

American use of power — diplomatic, economic or military — should be used internationally only to promote American national interests. If we have little or no understanding of what type of regime will replace the other in a civil war, then why should we try to influence the outcome?

There is a difference between supporting human rights and using our power to protect those rights. That was the basis for our engagement with military power in Libya, and look at the results. We used significant military power in the Balkans to protect Muslims from the brutality of Serbs. Do you hear any Islamic countries today showing support for America as a result of that intervention? We don’t.

An American-imposed no-fly zone using Turkish bases and American air power is well within our means. But once that air power removes the detested Assad from power, then what?

Until that question can be answered, our government should not attempt use of military power. And we should choose our words carefully.