Obama must make sure Syrian strike is surgical

The White House’s insistence that regime change is not among the options being considered as a response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against the civilian population should reassure Americans worried about mission creep.

Polls continue to show little public support for this nation’s involvement in the Syrian civil uprising. The American-led military invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003 have been costly in terms of troops and others killed or injured and money spent.

The overthrow of the Islamic extremist Taliban rulers in Afghanistan and of Iraqi military dictator Saddam Hussein have been overshadowed by the reality that instability continues to be the order of the day in the two countries. Deeply seated ethnic and religious rivalries have not ended just because the U.S. and its European allies made freedom the political flavor of the day. The democratically elected governments in Kabul and Baghdad are on thin ice and in danger of being toppled by extremist groups aligned with terror organizations.

This has led the American public to question whether the U.S. is getting into another losing proposition by supporting the rebels who have been trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for nearly three years.

More than 100,000 Syrians have died, and the Assad regime does not seem to be weakening. Instead, government forces have been ruthless in their attacks on the rebels and civilians viewed as supporting the uprising.

The Obama administration’s insistence that Assad perpetrated a large-scale chemical weapons attack on innocent Iraqis, including women and children — it is releasing intercepted communications aimed at bolstering its claim — has a ring of truth. More than 1,300 Iraqis were killed in the poison-gas assault.

And, given that President Obama had warned earlier this year that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” crossed by Assad, the U.S. cannot ignore the crimes against humanity perpetrated by government forces.

A military response is justified, but it must be surgical. Targeting the Syrian government’s military installations would send a strong message.

Obama is right in taking his time and building support among America’s European allies and even Arab countries that view Assad as a threat.

U.N. inspectors

The British government of Prime Minister David Cameron insists that the use of chemical weapons cannot be ignored and that a military response is justified. However, Cameron is willing to wait until the United Nations’ weapons inspectors, who were reluctantly permitted access to Ground Zero, have completed their task and issue their report.

British and American intelligence officials, while unable to show that Assad actually gave the order for poison gas to be used, say they have enough evidence to connect the inhumane act to the government in Damascus.

While it would be ideal if the U.N. Security Council voted to approve a military strike, Russia’s refusal to go along means there won’t be a green light.

Nonetheless, law-abiding nations that have strong records of human rights cannot sit idly by while Bashar al-Assad commits crimes against the people of Syria that violate international norms.

He must be dissuaded from using chemical weapons again.

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