Paddle carefully through troubled Syrian waters

THE PRESIDENT HAS ASKED all of us to say what we think about our involvement in the Syrian Civil War.

It’s very hard to know how to choose among the competing arguments. So we think it’s too early to come to a conclusion, which is essentially the President’s advice, until a US as well as a global consensus can be reached.

There is one fact, however, which should be considered: From the mid to late 1980s in the Ronald Reagan presidency, the US provided crucial intelligence to Iraq about the positions of Iran’s troops in the Iran-Iraq war. At that time President Reagan specifically wrote in reference to a“hole”in the Iraq troop deployment discovered by US intelligence which Iraq was unaware of. If Iran exploited their opportunity it was thought that it might turn the tide of the war in Iran’s favor. Reagan said a victory by Iran was“unacceptable.”

At that time the US government and military at the highest levels was fully aware that Iraq had, would use, had used and would certainly use in this case “chemical weapons.”

There were also syringes found on the battlefield by US military officials, which the Iranian soldiers used to inject antidotes to chemicals.

Recently declassified top secret documents also show that there was real concern that if the Iranians could find a shell which didn’t detonate it could be brought to the United Nations and prove the US was willing to tolerate the use of chemical weapons at that time.

It is interesting that basic facts of international life can prompt such different types of responses. In this case the cold analysis of national interest in the Reagan era would be contrasted with the moral analysis in the Obama era.

Taking the long view seems to favor the high road of today, as rocky as it may be, rather than the low road which “gets you to Scotland quicker,”to quote an old tune.

We favor “punishing” the Syrian government and hopefully replacing it by doing everything possible to arm and train - both militarily and politically - an opposition force which can eventually take effective control and not bite us in return. This would be a much more manageable, prudent and cost-effective response than opening a can of worms which may crawl away in ways we can’t predict. There is no doubt that dictators willing to slaughter their own people to retain power ought to be replaced. But how to go about it is why presidents grey so quickly.

Our simply-stated goal at this critical moment is to be so convincing that Russia agrees in a United Nation’s Security Council vote to proceed with the “punishment.”

There is much more to the equation of what to do today than this bit of history may illuminate. But since President Obama has asked everyone to put their oar in the water in regard to future actions in Syria, we suggest that putting your opinion and questions in writing in the form of letters to the editor - which your representatives can read as testimonials to your involvement and concern - is being asked of you as citizens.

At issue:
US involvement in Syria
Bottom line:
Time for all to weigh in


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