Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Punish Syria for crossing ‘red line’

 

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

There are plenty of reasons to avoid U.S. military intervention in Syria: We’re not the policeman of the world. It’s easy to get in, but hard to get out. The war-weary American people don’t want any part of it.

These are all sound reasons. The misadventure in Iraq remains a painful reminder of the dangers of jumping into a military conflict in the Middle East.

Yet despite all of these objections, the case for a direct and meaningful U.S. response is compelling. The colossal contempt for world opinion shown by Syria’s Bashar Assad cannot be ignored. The regime’s atrocities represent a direct challenge to U.S. leadership and credibility. This country’s vital national interests are at stake.

The humanitarian dimension of this crisis should be self-evident. To stand idly by while a despotic regime commits mass murder with the most lethal weapons against its own people would constitute a rejection of everything the United States claims to stand for.

To do so even after repeated warnings that such actions would trigger a response would further signal weakness. The Obama administration must back up its words when push comes to shove, no matter how much it wants to avoid involvement.

Given the mass slaughter against civilians in Syria and President Obama’s declaration of a “red line” against the use of chemical and biological weapons, the United States has no choice but to follow through with a military response or see its standing in the world diminished. The president once declared that the use of chemical weapons would constitute a “game changer.”

Today, like it or not, the game has decidedly changed.

Beyond the moral issue is American self-interest. Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons capability is the greatest threat in the region. Time and again President Obama has warned Iran that the United States and its allies would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. The mullahs in Tehran are carefully watching the president’s response in Syria, Iran’s ally.

If the White House backs down, Iranian leaders who believe the United States is bluffing on the nuclear issue would feel vindicated. Israel — the country with the most to lose from a nuclear Iran — would feel more isolated and alone than ever.

The U.S. response in Syria should be limited and narrowly defined. No boots on the ground, no unilateral action.

Sending troops into Syria would be a mistake. Regime change is not the immediate objective. A cruise missile strike against military targets would be more appropriate and proportional as a way of punishing the Assad government for actions it was explicitly warned not to undertake. A next step should be to work with allies to find Assad’s stash of chemical weapons.

The United States should not waste time seeking U.N. support for a retaliatory strike. It would be blocked by Russia. Forming a coalition with Britain, France and other countries that have condemned Syria’s government would amply demonstrate international resolve.

Deepening American involvement in yet another Middle East conflict goes against President Obama’s instincts — and ours. Unemployment should be his principal focus. But events have a way of intruding on presidential agendas. In this instance, it’s unavoidable. Syria’s brazen disregard for humanitarian norms cannot go unanswered.

Read more Editorials stories from the Miami Herald

  • Worth a thousand words

    The Miami Herald Editorial Board shares the viewpoints of cartoonists from across the country in this Saturday feature called “Worth a Thousand Words.”

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    Legislative lunacy

    OUR OPINION: Lawmakers shouldn’t cut funds for front lines of mental healthcare

  •  
Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) goes up to shoot against Philadelphia 76ers' Evan Turner (12) and Spencer Hawes (00) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Jan. 17, 2014, in Philadelphia.

    Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    The Heat unites us

    OUR OPINION: Team will take us all along in its quest for a third NBA championship

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category