New Castle News

Editorials

September 17, 2013

Our Opinion: Agreement averts strike on Syria, at least for now

NEW CASTLE — All things considered, we’re glad the United States is taking no direct military action in Syria.

At least not yet. Officials in the Obama administration warned that an agreement forged with Russia over the status of Syria’s chemical weapons is only as good as the actions of Bashar Assad’s regime. The threat of future military moves remains on the table if Syria does not comply.

What to do about Syria in the wake of a confirmed sarin gas attack on civilians poses a problem for the international community. We have held that doing nothing poses risks of its own in terms of encouraging future attacks by Syria and other nations.

But the Obama administration faced a variety of hurdles in its call for military action against Syria. While some of this opposition may have been politically motivated, a very legitimate and practical question loomed over the administration’s efforts:

What, precisely, would be accomplished by a strike on Syria? With the administration saying the intent was not to remove Assad or turn the tide of Syria’s civil war, and the ongoing debate giving the regime time to hide potential targets, it was difficult to define the goal of such a mission.

President Obama is now drawing criticism from several factions, accusing him of looking weak and disorganized in his handling of Syria. No doubt some of this criticism is warranted. But we suspect the Russian proposal — quickly accepted by Syria — to have chemical weapons removed from that country was a result of Obama’s threat of military action.

Perhaps the president achieved a strategic victory of sorts without engaging America’s military.

None of this, of course, does much to resolve Syria’s future. It remains unclear whether the Assad regime will survive the ongoing civil war. Waiting to be addressed is how the world will deal with Assad if it’s formally determined his government gassed its own people.

And even if there is no direct military intervention by the United States or its allies, the option to aid rebel groups continues to be viable. That, however, presents the problem of how to support anti-Assad factions friendly to the West without opening a door for radical Islamic groups.

This is indeed a puzzle for America and its allies. But it’s also one that ultimately must be resolved by Syria and other Middle Eastern nations dealing with similar leadership and power concerns. They must decide if they want societies that thrive and grow and debate issues peacefully, or if they will endure under repressive overlords demanding total control.

The West can aid democratic efforts in these countries, but they cannot dictate them.

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