New Castle News

Editorials

September 6, 2013

Our Opinion: World fails to jump on anti-Assad bandwagon

NEW CASTLE — President Obama has scored a victory of sorts with a Senate panel accepting military action in Syria.

But that’s a far cry from the broad-based international support such a mission demands. We note the rationale for striking Syria is to deter the future use of chemical weapons by that country and others. If the rest of the world lacks the incentive to join the Obama administration’s call, what’s the point?

It has been disheartening to watch the president and top members of his administration try to make the case in Washington and around the globe for action against the Syrian government. The Assad regime’s employment of sarin gas against its own people should have sparked widespread outrage.

Yet the response was muted, with hesitancy, uncertainty and doubts about claims the Syrian government was responsible gaining prominence.

The failure to build international consensus against the Assad government ultimately rests with the president. After all, he had previously put his own — and the nation’s — prestige at stake by warning of dire consequences if chemical weapons were used in Syria’s civil war.

With such a declaration, the administration should have been pressing its case globally, in preparation for the possibility Syria would wage chemical warfare. That effort alone would have served as a deterrent, and if an attack came anyway, a quick response would have been possible.

Now, the Syrian regime has time to prepare for any attack, including the movement of its chemical weapons supplies in order to hide them. Giving Syria an extended warning means that any attack is likely to have a diminished impact.

In reviewing all of this, it’s important to ask why the international community is so reticent about taking a strong stand against Syria. The reasons vary.

One factor is the skepticism regarding evidence of chemical weapons use. The invasion of Iraq on the grounds Saddam Hussein was hiding his chemical arsenal is still fresh in the world’s memory.

But probably the main consideration is the lack of meaningful reforms in other Arab nations where long-time dictatorships have been overthrown in recent years. In countries such as Libya and Egypt the so-called Arab Spring hasn’t exactly led to peace and democracy.

And while Obama is dealing with critics who think he’s being too aggressive, others say he should have intervened in Syria much earlier. The rebels in Syria’s civil war, who seem to have a mix of motives, range from moderate reformers to Islamic radicals. Interventionists argue that had the United States actively supported the right rebels earlier, it would have thwarted radical interests in Syria.

Maybe, but we note that identifying the good guys and bad guys in the region is problematical. America’s long-time lack of constructive engagement in much of the Middle East leaves it with limited insight.

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