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Hot Topic: Should the U.S. strike Syria?

The Monitor has received considerable mail from local readers about the possibility of a U.S. strike on Syria. Here’s a sampling:

On Syria, least lethal action is best

President Obama has the chance to distinguish his actions from past presidents who were keen to rush us to war and often on false pretexts. He also has an opportunity to show what kind of a person he is. The president has three options in Syria: avoid military action and step up diplomacy by directing world attention to Russian President Vladimir Putin who has abetted a dictator guilty of slaughtering children; conduct a directed strike that will eliminate some of the bad guys; or more indiscriminately bomb a number of more general targets and risk killing innocent civilians including children, while the ruling thugs remain safe in their bunkers.

We should all take this opportunity to contact our federal representatives and ask that they counsel the least lethal action. Let us keep in mind that this Syrian situation is very complicated with civil wars breaking out within larger civil war.

BILL COHEN

Bow

Strong reservations

With all the debate going on about whether we should attack Syria, I’m wondering what the liberal establishment is thinking. After decades of peace at any price marches, demonstrations, sit-ins and whatnot, how do they really feel about their champion, President Obama, threatening actions which more resemble a conservative administration? Is Obama wrong or does he reflect an acquired reality that world problems are seldom simplistic and our presidents often face tough decisions that can be second-guessed by anyone who cares to?

Now, I’m a conservative but I have strong reservations about getting involved in a confusing civil war in the Middle East. Who are the good guys, if any? And if we do get involved, who will be grateful to us for doing so? I read that the Saudis want us to do something, likewise Jordan and most of the Arab League. Are they going to partner with us or let us do the dirty work and stand back so later they can distance themselves from any unintended consequences?

Apparently the plan is to launch some cruise missiles, standing off at arms length, but what is the goal? Sending a message? We’ve sent messages before, but darn little changes over there. We pick a side, arm and train them, and next thing we know our “friends” are our enemies. So where is the wonderful United Nations while human rights are being violated and poison gas is killing innocents? Standing back alongside of the Arab League, not getting its hands dirty.

Time for Obama to draw another line in the sand and tell both those organizations to man up, sign on or don’t look for America to be the sucker for their cowardliness.

STEVE EARLE

Hill

We can’t dabble at war

One hundred thousand people have died in the Syrian conflict, and rightly or wrongly, the United States and the rest of the world has pretty much sat on its hands, other than providing some humanitarian aid. Tens of thousands more have been injured, many maimed permanently. And now we’re going to dabble at war from a distance by sending a few $1 million missiles into Syria because 1,400 more have died from the use of chemical weapons? Here, take that you big bully!

That’s not likely to be very effective. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will get up the next day and eat breakfast as usual. And what of those who die in the missile attacks?

Where’s the morality there, even if the numbers are low?

We should have learned by now that you can’t dabble at war. The moral thing might be to do another Iraq – but more intelligently this time – but there are very few of us who have the stomach for that. In the meantime, we should stop drawing red lines in the international sand and work diplomatically on getting all of the civilized world to apply the kind of sanctions on Syria that will affect its leadership.

JOHN V. KJELLMAN

Henniker

Let’s put our money where our mouth is

Let’s face it, President Obama made a tactical unforced error by unnecessarily drawing a line in the sand on Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria. But this could turn into a strategic plus if his country and Congress support his limited use of military force to teach Assad (and other deviants in the region like Iran and al-Qaida) that the United States is a world leader that keeps its word. The world is watching to see if the US is a paper tiger! We can’t let down our friends, the Sunni nations like Jordan and Turkey (suffering from overflowing Syrian refugees), and our only reliable Middle East ally, Israel, which I’m sure is providing intelligence to make U.S. surgical missile strikes against chemical warfare assets effective and with minimum civilian casualties.

If the expected retaliation to U.S. attacks occurs in the form of Hezbollah violence against Israel, Israel will defeat them –not only in Israel but also within Syria as well. This will directly help the Syrian rebels beat Assad to build a more representative government (not perfect democracy). This after all is the main purpose of American policy.

I predict that after appropriate heated debate, Congress will support Obama’s necessary strike against a tyrant’s criminal use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians. But most important, U.S. inaction will embolden enemies like Iran and Syria and let down our own supporters like Sunni Arab countries (Jordan) but most importantly our allies like Israel.

Let’s put our money where our mouth is and act like the indispensable world leader we are – despite criticism from jealous powers like Russia and China.

JACK SAUNDERS

Holderness

Time for a new approach

There is no question that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime should not be tolerated. However, a U.S.-led unilateral attack is bad idea. Such a response is dangerous and costly.

There is no future for our country if we stay the course of policing the globe. It will drain all of our resources. It is time for a different approach. Every nation in the world should take responsibility for stopping crimes against humanity and the environment. Every nation should be strongly encouraged to participate in discussions and decisions of global consequence. U.S. taxpayers cannot continue to carry the burden of more than 40 percent of total global military spending.

President Obama could lead our country and the world on a new course by supporting the International Criminal Court, an independent, permanent court that is not part of the United Nations. It is committed to fairness and due process. One hundred twenty-two of approximately 196 countries endorse its purpose and jurisdiction. The United States is not a participant. Instead of leading our nation into yet another war, Obama could lead the United States toward full support of the ICC, perhaps changing the course of our military involvement and finding a more effective and long-term solution for dealing with international crimes.

The need of a world court that is respected and supported by all nations including the United States cannot be denied. Its time has come. Imagine an end to the U.S. policy of going it alone. Imagine a future that doesn’t burden our children with the debts of war and policing the world. Imagine if every nation took responsibility in stopping international criminals. Call the president and tell him to change course: 202-456-1111.

DONNA BAKER-HARTWELL

East Andover

There must be accountability for mass murder of children

After the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we decided that the use of weapons of mass destruction was unacceptable. We recognized that these weapons do not discriminate between the willing participants of war and those innocent, nonwilling victims of these weapons.

In Syria, we have seen yet another example of this sort of brutal atrocity. This is not about choosing sides in Syria or committing to war but, rather, a limited effort to restrict Bashar al-Assad’s ability to repeat this sort of horror. If this goal can be achieved without boots on the ground, then we have a moral obligation to use the tools that we have invested so much of our economic output in to achieve this goal.

According to U.S. intelligence estimates, this attack resulted in 1,429 deaths among which 426 were children. Of those children, what was their offense? How can a child be held accountable for the acts of the willing participants? What if this was your child? If you oppose even a non-boots-on-the-ground response, consider losing your own child in such a brutal manner. Take a few minutes to review the gruesome, gut-wrenching images of children in the spastic throes of death that are circulating on YouTube. Perhaps such a response might persuade Assad to reflect on the fate of the only other despot to use these sorts of weapons, Saddam Hussein. There must be accountability for acts such as the mass murder of children.

JEFF FIELD

Loudon

We are not the world’s police

I have heard this one before. The last time was George W. Bush rattling his saber about weapons of mass destruction and burkas. Now it is President Obama about chemical weapons and the long-suffering Syrian people. While I am opposed to any government repressing its people, I am also opposed to our government’s unilateral reliance on war to solve these problems.

Unemployment is still rampant and “the working poor” describes more and more of my fellow citizens every day. While we hemorrhage money in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, taxpayers keep losing their homes and Wall Street bankers keep putting more financial distance between themselves and the rest of us.

Our largest industry should not be warfare. Our tax dollars should be used to solve the health-care crisis, to raise our schools back up to a world-class level, and to help the working poor revert to the strong middle class that used to exist in this country.

I am not writing this letter thinking that Obama will hear my small voice, but to hopefully catch the ear of the Democratic leadership here in Concord. I have worked for both Obama campaigns but don’t think that I am going to keep volunteering my time, energy and vote to support the military industrial complex. If there is a case to be made, don’t just make it to Congress, make it to the world. If the case is compelling, then let all nations take unified military action. It is time for the United States to stop being the self-appointed world police.

JONATHAN COHEN

Concord

In defense of the rule of law

What should the United States do regarding Syria? We should not, of course, ignore the atrocities as we did in the 1980s when our buddy Saddam Hussein was gassing Iranians and Iraqi Kurds. Above all, we should not, even with congressional approval, attack Syria. It would be plainly illegal, a clear violation of the UN charter.

U.S. international vigilantism over the last couple of decades has already done quite enough to damage international respect for the rule of law which is, after all, humanity’s only real hope for long-term survival in this nuclear age. It would be much wiser to take the case against Syria’s apparent atrocities to the International Criminal Court. Of course we couldn’t do that; the United States is not a member of the ICC treaty. (We signed on in 1991, but “unsigned” just before our invasion of Iraq.)

But the U.N. Security Council can, just as it did a few years ago regarding the crimes of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, now serving 50 years in prison for war crimes. If President Obama were to take his chemical weapons evidence to the UN Security Council, and the evidence is found to be as strong as Obama says, there’s a good chance that the council would refer war crimes charges against Bashar al-Assad to the ICC for trial. If Syria were not found guilty, or if (say) Russia used the veto, at least Obama would have upheld the rule of law. And that’s no small thing.

RAY PERKINS

Concord

Same old, same old

Why is it that as soon as they are faced with an international challenge, our “leaders” fall back on the military, even after criticizing the previous administration for the same? How many more Syrians will die to punish Bashar al-Assad for murdering Syrians? Can’t President Obama gather the world community to hold Assad accountable in some other way?

FRED PORTNOY

Canterbury

Impose a cease-fire

What if the international community imposed a cease-fire on all sides in Syria? Move from your positions, you get hit, regardless of your affiliation. This could bring Russia and China on board, if the stated goal would be to bring about a breathing space for negotiations to begin, something they say they want. Also, a buffer zone could be established in the north of the country alongside the border of Turkey and the Southern border with Jordan. Only unarmed civilians would be allowed in.

As part of a New Hampshire delegation to Azerbaijan and Turkey recently, I was told by a high-ranking Turkish deputy that the Turkish military, if asked by the United States, would be willing and able to create such a haven and protect it. The goal of establishing a cease-fire should allow more countries to join the United States, and the United Nations might also come on board. This could all be done without any U.S. boots on the ground.

Rep. MARIO RATZKI

East Andover

Unforeseen consequences

To the Monitor’s Sept. 3 editorial posing 10 difficult questions for our lawmakers to answer on Syria, I would add another. Suppose things don’t work out quite as the president plans?

The president promises that his threatened acts of war against Syria “would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.” But in July General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussing possible U.S. military intervention in Syria, said “We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action.” For example, he said, “Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control. . . . Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”

Iran and Syria have both threatened Israel if we attack. Russia says a U.S. attack would be “catastrophic” and has sent its latest anti-ship missiles to Syria. What if Syria sinks one of our ships? The BBC is already speaking of “Obama’s Syrian Mission Creep” and our “amnesia” about how we got involved in previous wars. The unforeseen consequences of our “limited” action could set the Middle East ablaze and engulf us in yet another war.

MICHAEL FAIELLA

Northwood

Protecting children abroad

Like most Americans, I am deeply divided over the prospect of military intervention in Syria. If the country acts, it will be criticized. If it fails to act, it will be criticized. In either event, it is President Obama who will take the lion’s share of blame.

He has quite rightly sought the consent of Congress. Some who have called for a debate now criticize the president for not taking military action already. I applaud the president’s restraint after the Iraq debacle. Although I always support negotiation over military confrontation, unlike Iraq, there is a clear and present danger this time around. Those who support action against a nuclear Iran should be equally troubled by the chemical weapons of Syria. Every measure should be taken including military options to weaken the Bashar al-Assad regime. The evidence of weapons of mass destruction can be seen by all.

We cannot support the killing of children in Damascus any more than we should tolerate the use of high-capacity assault weapons in Newtown, Aurora and Columbine. The same principles of protecting children should be enforced at home as well as abroad.

FRANK WARMAN

Hopkinton

How quickly Kerry forgets

Secretary of State John Kerry recently gave an impassioned speech on why our country must attack Syria. He cited the alleged chemical weapons use by the Assad regime that killed 1,400 people, including many were children. Kerry has called this chemical attack a “crime against humanity” and a “moral obscenity.”

Has Vietnam war veteran Kerry forgotten about the heinous crimes against humanity that the Pentagon carried out against innocent people with Agent Orange during the Vietnam war? According to the Vietnam Red Cross our government’s chemical warfare in Vietnam killed 400,000 people and caused birth defects in 500,000 children. Many died from starvation since crops were targeted. Those exposed to Agent Orange have suffered from miscarriages, cancer, blindness, mental illnesses, birth deformities, and much more. Even now, five decades later, the toxic dioxin-laden Agent Orange chemical is still killing and maiming Vietnamese.

With this history, how can our leaders wag a moral finger at any other nation over chemical warfare use? If President Obama and Kerry are so concerned about morality in warfare, why haven’t they had our country endorse the Ottawa Landmine Ban Treaty? Only a handful of mostly despotic countries (including Syria) have not signed onto this treaty.

JOHN MEINHOLD

Portsmouth

Very good post John, you hit the nail on the head.

Jack Saunders, why is the death of 1,400 by Sarin gas of greater import and threat to our security than the death of 100,000 Syrians as a result of conventional war? Many children were included in the 100,000. If I had my choice of how I'm going to "go," I'd take the gas over being bombed, either from afar or by a suicide bomber. Obama has got us all in a box over his red line comments, we need the cooperation of the International community to help us get out. Going it alone with missile strikes in Syria will not do it. By the way, be wary of Section 5 of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution on Syria, voted for by our very own Senator Shaheen. If approved by Congress, it would provide very expansive authority for military action in Syria.

This is what is left after 4 years of Hillary globe trotting at our expense - 100% NOTHING accomplished

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