Syrian crisis and possible U.S. strike deserve debate

Syrian crisis and possible U.S. strike deserve debate

September 6th, 2013 in Opinion Times

We should thank President Barack Obama, the guy who gets criticized if he does and criticized if he doesn't.

Why? For saying that Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war crosses his red line and the world's red line.

More importantly, we should thank him for outlining a plan of action, especially given the vacuum of world reaction. Most of all, we should thank him for asking Congress to debate his plan.

Our president knows we're war weary. He's war weary -- probably much more so than the rest of the nation.

Asking Congress to talk it through with him -- and us -- and to share and shape the massive responsibility that goes with giving an order to make missile strikes is both wise and just.

So far, a Senate panel is backing a proposed strike. The House is being the House -- read here, partisan, divided, delaying, dismissive. Pick your adjective.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, bolstered by our own Sen. Bob Corker, backed legislation for a use of force against Assad's government on a 10-7 vote. The legislation, which would rule out U.S. combat operations on the ground, was toughened at the last minute Wednesday to include a pledge of support for "decisive changes to the present military balance of power" in Syria's civil war.

"Whether you like the president or not, others are watching and he is the commander-in-chief of our country," said Corker, a Republican. The measure is expected to reach the Senate floor next week. Sen Rand Paul, a Kentucky conservative with tea party ties, is threatening a filibuster.

The House has no timetable for consideration of the plan. Generally the House, controlled by Republicans, is against anything the president is for. House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he supports the president's plan but he won't whip votes for it.

Whatever the eventual outcome, the president did the right thing by investigating the allegations of chemical weapons use. When he became convinced the claims were real and were ordered and orchestrated by the Assad regime, he again did the right thing by forming and stating a plan -- a narrowly tailored military response to enforce the moral prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

War is never pretty. We hope this Syrian civil war ends soon -- preferably without more death, and with or without any U.S. action beyond the rhetoric already expounded.

Obama has offered both a condemnation of chemical warfare, and a plan to punish it. May our Congress be so brave as to at least debate the matter, politics aside, and help Americans better understand what's going on and what's at stake.

What would be more just would be a similar step forward within the leadership of the United Nations.