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Arming the rebels

With noted hesitancy, the United States is increasing its involvement into Syria's civil war. Late last week, President Barack Obama reluctantly agreed to send arms to rebel forces attempting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

That the violence in Syria needs attention is without question. Years of fighting have left almost 93,000 dead, millions displaced, and problems are spilling over into Iraq, Turkey, Jordan Lebanon. There also is credible evidence, according to the White House, that chemical weapons are being used by al-Assad's troops.

That the United States should be involved at all is a question worth asking, in our opinion. Unlike other recent uprisings in the Middle East, the battle for Syria is not a push for democratic reform. It is simply a civil war pitting the well-supplied military loyal to the government against under-armed civilians.

The so-called rebels should benefit greatly from weapons and ammunition coming from the U.S., but we wonder why this isn't being resolved through an international organization such as the United Nations or NATO.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed Obama's decision, then demanded Syria to "grant access to the United Nations to investigate all reports of chemical weapons use."

Obama said the U.S. will not put troops on the ground there, will not send sophisticated weaponry, nor will we attempt to enforce a no-fly zone.

But even limited engagement is too much.

What purpose can be served by choosing sides in another country's civil war? It strikes us that such a move will help create even more enemies than we already have in the region.

The ability to afford such an engagement shouldn't be the deciding factor to intervene but, let's face it, we aren't in the best financial position at the moment. Our national debt has ballooned with wars we couldn't afford in the past decade, and it makes little sense to add even one more dollar to such efforts. Particularly when we're cutting back on services and assistance for our own citizens because of that debt and the lingering spending problem.

We don't want to sound callous or indifferent to the people of Syria, but we simply don't share the president's belief the United States should be involved there at all.

Apparently the best we can hope for is our role is short term -- and that it doesn't expand.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

Son of the late Thomas Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net