Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

September 9, 2013

What is America’s mission in Syria, anyway?

The use of chemical weapons by Syria’s military on Aug. 21 against civilians was an inhuman act of barbarism. It was an atrocity against the norms of our civilized world.

The weapon used by Assad’s Syria was Sarin Gas, a nerve agent that is colorless and odorless.

The only warning that the victims would have conceivably have gotten was the rocket or shell landing without a significant explosion.     

But there are concerns that need to be satisfied before any punitive operation should go forward. Both Secretary Kerry and President Obama have said that “Time is on our side.”

The Syrian military commanders are not stupid! As the last round was fired; those launchers were on the move and dispersed throughout Syria.

Where are those launchers now? What about the other delivery systems?

To be truly effective all of Assad’s forces have to be targeted; but is the President willing to risk the collateral damage that would surely follow such an attack?

These weapons systems are going to be located in mosques, markets, schools and hospitals. The worst result for this action is to have a photo of an artillery piece surrounded by dead children in a school yard.

But time is on our side, right Mr. President?

Another concern is equally distressing, who would our strikes help? It has been reported that there are jihadists among the opposition?

The very last outcome we would want is to have our actions benefit al-Qaeda or another similar Islamist organization.

But equally distressing is a photograph of Syrian rebels executing seven captured Syrian soldiers. Are these rebels from the “Free Syrian Army” or al-Qaeda? We really don’t know who we would be helping take over this troubled land.

Who are the good guys, Mr. President?

A similar concern is our credibility. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick!” TR may have never set a “red line” for the use of chemical weapons.

But rest assured if such a line was to drawn for him and it was crossed he would act swiftly and deceivably. There would have been no surgical pinprick shot at the evil dictator.

If coalitions need to be built to accomplish the goals of the red line they need to be built as the line is set. It is far too late to build the coalition of willing nations after the atrocity happens.

Uncoordinated or ill-timed operations in response to these thuggish acts are seen more as a sign of weakness rather than strength or that our motivation for these actions is for domestic political reasons.

Mr. President, you need to own this operation.

It is a sad fact of war but people are killed inadvertently in combat. But there are other unintended consequences. What will Syria’s allies do in response to our actions?

Russia may bluster and threaten, but what about Iran? What would we do in response to an Iranian attack on Israel or worse here in the U.S.?

Right now there is no clearly defined goal for military action in Syria. What are we trying to accomplish with this attack? Punitive actions, like Pershing’s expedition into Mexico, seldom see success.

So what constitutes victory for these attacks?

If we are attacking Syria to destroy 1,000 tons of chemical weapons a few missile strikes won’t do the job. A shot across the bow will miss its target. A pinprick missile strike is a waste of time and resources;

It is going to require more than a handful of troops in harm’s way to accomplish that mission. What is the mission, Mr. President?

Jeff Robinette

Cumberland

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