The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 30, 2013

Our View: Cautious approach correct

The Joplin Globe

— Republicans in Washington continue pushing President Obama to take more aggressive action with regard to Syria, where a two-year-old civil war has killed 70,000 people so far.

Demands for Obama to do something followed revelations that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, most likely used sarin gas on his own people. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona both argued over the weekend that U.S. failure to intervene in Syria will only embolden Iran and North Korea.

Obama has called the use of chemical weapons his “red line” for action, meaning it will trigger an unspecified American response.

Graham, McCain and others would like see the United States possibly arming rebels and/or establishing a no-fly zone to neutralize Syria’s air defenses.

No one is talking about sending in U.S. troops, but the history of war is the history of escalation. The United States has not found itself immune to this tendency. Every step we take in that region, whether it is increasing military aid or increasing our role as the sky police, is fraught with peril.

The president is right to take a cautious approach for a number of reasons.

Let’s dismiss outright the argument that our failure to intervene in Syria will embolden North Korea and Iran; from everything we have seen, those rogue nations were fully emboldened years ago.

Meanwhile, a weekend story in the New York Times makes it clear that the rebels some people want to arm are far from being U.S. allies. Some have ties to al-Qaida. One has even been declared a terrorist organization by the United States.

“Across Syria, rebel-held areas are dotted with Islamic courts staffed by lawyers and clerics, and by fighting brigades led by extremists. Even the Supreme Military Council, the umbrella rebel organization whose formation the West had hoped would sideline radical groups, is stocked with commanders who want to infuse Islamic law into a future Syrian government,” the Times concluded.

“Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”

Nowhere, then, is there sufficient justification for any intervention beyond basic humanitarian aid for the refugees and victims of the civil war.