The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 27, 2013

Respond to Syria with resolve

Why it matters: The Middle East as a region will impact U.S. security, commerce

The Mankato Free Press

---- — As it becomes clear that the Assad regime in Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people, the U.S. must resolve to respond forcefully and in collaboration with our Mideast allies to challenge another oppressive government that violates human rights, and threatens our interests and our friends in the region.

Reports out of the Pentagon suggests some kind of limited military action as early as Thursday that will be far short of ground troops but may involve the use of cruise missiles and other measures to disrupt the regime’s control and use of weapons, including chemical, against its people

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday that the U.S. military was now positioned to take any action on Syria that President Obama orders. The U.S. has four destroyers in the Mediterranean within range of Syrian targets. U.S. warplanes also stand at the ready.

Hagel also said it is becoming clear that the Bashar Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own people in a suburb of Damascas, but the U.S. is awaiting intelligence confirming the matter. The specific military action is not as important as the follow up. We need support from our allies in the region but we also need to ensure the coalition includes all the important players, including Saudi Arabia. There is some doubt among those longtime allies where the U.S. is going sometimes with Middle East policy. We should make that more clear, and Syria is one place to do it.

We’ve rattled our saber with Iran on nuclear threats and now Syria with chemical weapons. If we’re saying “enough is enough” — and we should — then decisive action must follow. We need partners to make it an international effort with the involvement of the U.N. and we need to do that to make sure this action doesn’t seem imperialistic. Those kinds of moves give our enemies in the region ammunition to drum up even more support.

As we move forward we should acknowledge that this is more than a civil war, it’s a battle for control of the region and that any escalation may bring more escalation.

But at some point, our resolve has to go further on our entire Middle East policy. Appeasing dictators is fraught with risk. We have to make decisions on who will be with us and then support those partners unequivocally. At some point we have to realize that having olive branches shot out of our hands is not a way to peace.