The Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph, Aug. 30, 2013
According to President Barack Obama, the theory behind a military response to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons against its people is that it would teach Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a lesson.
Said Obama during a Wednesday, Aug. 28 interview with the PBS News Hour:
"And if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about -- but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this, that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term, and may have a positive impact on our national security over the long term and may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians."
The notion of targeted missile strikes seems like both too much, yet somehow not enough.
Would limited missile strikes be better than sending in U.S. troops to get bogged down in another country's civil war? Certainly. In that light, a restrained response is welcome.
But at the same time, lobbing a few missiles into Damascus also seems like the foreign-policy equivalent of the NCAA suspending Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for a half against a 30-point underdog. It would be taking action strictly for its own sake, compelled by the belief that you have to do something, but knowing it's not likely to make much difference, It's the ol' "better than nothing" approach to foreign policy.
But is it really? What if we use missiles and Assad continues to use chemical weapons against his people, which doesn't seem particularly far-fetched. He's used them once already and he's a man trying desperately to keep his grip on power. And if he uses them again? What then? More missiles?
We agree that the use of chemical weapons is an abomination, but the response being contemplated seems to be that of a nation substituting a military response for the absence of genuine foreign policy.
The Telegraph feels military action in Syria is unacceptable. If the president decides to proceed, how he goes about it seems particularly important, starting with assembling a strong international coalition.
He also should make his case to the full Congress before taking any action. While the War Powers Resolution only requires him to report after-the-fact, we think he should go to Capitol Hill beforehand. Because as long as he's in "better-than-nothing" mode, the president might as well honor its corollary, "It can't hurt."
It could even help. Besides, if we're going to put American prestige on the line abroad, it would be nice if the president would consult -- ahead of time -- the people who represent us.