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SPOTLIGHT
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Syrian unrest

Published on -3/20/2013, 9:45 AM

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With U.S. combat troops out of Iraq and scheduled to leave Afghanistan, there has been a growing need for a new military target. When a country has made the presumptuous claim to be the world's policeman and backs it up with overwhelming resources dedicated to personnel and weaponry, it's tough to be idle for long.

We had thought the nation's new bogeyman would be found in the Far East, as President Barack Obama had indicated America would be building up strength in that region.

It appears a more familiar hotspot will become the nation's new focus: The Middle East. In particular, Syria.

Sandwiched between Turkey and Iraq and also sharing borders with Lebanon and Jordan, Syria is in crisis mode. A civil war there is entering its third year, with an estimated 70,000 dead, more than 1 million refugees and 2.5 million people internally displaced. Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime is being challenged by rebels loosely grouped as the Syrian National Coalition throughout most of the country.

A recent chemical attack in the northern village of Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province that killed more than 30 people has brought accusations from both sides, the Russian-backed Assad government and the U.S.-supported rebels.

If confirmed, the U.S. might have its new battleground. President Obama has declared that the use, deployment or transfer of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that, if crossed, could result in military intervention.

It is common knowledge Syria possesses one of the world's largest arsenals of chemical weapons. As such, destabilization of the nation could result in unfortunate results.

However, we can't help but imagine military strikes by the U.S. would resolve any internal strife. Our track record of the past few decades has proven we can bring countries to their knees but not fix the issues that caused their own civil unrest. We should not take the Syrian situation as an all-or-nothing battle for control of their weapons.

If the humanitarian crisis compels the international community to act -- fine. Unilateral moves by the United States, or even coordinated with neighboring Israel, would be a misguided effort. There are too many internal issues in Syria we are in no position to address, and there are too many internal issues in our own country going untended, to act on any "red line."

We need to quit feeding the military-industrial complex merely because it's hungry. Allow NATO and the U.N. address the civil war in Syria.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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