Editorial Pro | America must act on Syria

September 5, 2013 

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday.

The onus is now on Congress to respond in the face of Syria’s Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb.

This newspaper urges all members to set aside partisan differences and consider this issue at its most fundamental levels.

An egregious act of mass murder has occurred. More than 1,400 have died, and the international community offers little more than empty condemnations.

If America’s core values do not include an unyielding opposition to the use of chemical weapons, then what do we stand for as a nation?

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, echoed the anxieties of many opponents on the left by saying: “We don’t have the money to take on everybody’s war. I really feel for what’s going on there, but we have to do it with caution and with understanding about what we are going for.”

No one proposes intervention in all wars. Syria is an exceptional case in which a weapon of mass destruction — most likely sarin gas — has been deployed with apparent disregard for the civilian population.

Chemical weapons are banned under international law because they inflict profound and almost inescapable human suffering. Those who breathe in chemical gas either die or suffer horrible internal injuries.

On the right, the arguments range from a thinly veiled effort to oppose President Barack Obama — no matter what he proposes — to an isolationist view that any issue beyond U.S. borders is someone else’s problem.

Given the recent complaints about the supposed decline of American leadership and influence abroad, the isolationist argument rings hollow.

Many warn of unforeseen consequences if the U.S. attacks.

No one can predict and defend against all scenarios, but a series of cruise missile or drone strikes on Syrian air bases and command centers poses minimal risk to U.S. personnel. No ground troops would be involved.

In 2007, Israel launched a surgical strike that destroyed a secret Syrian nuclear complex under construction. Twice this year, Israel has launched aerial attacks on Syrian military convoys thought to be supplying Hezbollah. Neither the Damascus regime nor Hezbollah responded.

Consider the unforeseen consequences if the U.S. fails to act.

Syria would probably feel it has a green light to launch more chemical attacks and might go the extra step of giving chemicals to its Hezbollah allies. Iran would certainly feel emboldened to proceed with nuclear weapons development, correctly reasoning that U.S. threats are meaningless.

International silence or hand-wringing reluctance must not become the standard that guides this nation’s actions.

Leadership sometimes means stepping forward for what’s right, even when no one else follows.

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