Stay out of Syria’s civil war

Written by Baker City Herald Editorial Board September 02, 2013 08:20 am

After more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we’re distressed that Americans need even to consider the possibility that a single member of our military will die or be injured while intervening in Syria’s civil war.

The notion that an attack in Syria by the U.S. and other western allies is the only, or even the best, way to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in that war seems to us an illogical one.

To be sure, diplomatic alternatives offer no guarantee of success, either.

Russia and China, for instance, which don’t seem especially troubled by the actions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, probably would contest proposals to gain United Nations Security Council approval for a ban on weapons shipments or other sanctions against Syria.

But at least those discussions would bring public scrutiny to bear on exactly what’s happening in Syria, and in particular al-Assad’s role in the slaughter of civilians and China’s and Russia’s apparent lack of interest in holding him accountable.

A military attack, by contrast, might well fail to achieve its strategic goals, and it almost certainly would give the Syrian president a potent propaganda tool.

Neither result is likely to hasten the war’s end.

The use of chemical weapons — sarin gas apparently was used in an attack on Aug. 21 — is a serious matter, to be sure.

But we have seen no compelling evidence that Syria’s civil war poses any significant threat to American lives or interests. 

Almost certainly, the only way American military personnel will die in Syria is if President Obama sends them there.

We struggle to understand why he would even consider doing so.

In trying to make the case for a U.S.-led strike, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that he believes Congress will endorse military action.

“We are not going to lose this vote,” Kerry said. “The credibility of the United States is on the line.”

That’s a matter of opinion.

That American lives are on the line is a matter of fact.