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SPOTLIGHT
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Crisis in Syria

Published on -8/30/2013, 10:30 AM

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In 2002, then Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama said this about the use of military force in Iraq: "I know that invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst rather than best impulses in the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars; I am opposed to dumb wars."

In 2007, then presidential candidate Obama offered this: "... because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11."

Fast forward to today, and now second-term President Obama is preparing to launch missiles at Syria with or without the support of either Congress or the United Nations.

Understanding that experience and a change in jobs have the ability to change one's perspective, we would offer the current move has the same likelihood to fan the Middle East flames.

While U.N. inspectors are still on the ground, and likely only able to report if chemical weapons were used -- not who used them, it strikes us as premature for the United States to take unilateral action. The president appears confident last week's chemical attack did occur and that it was authorized by Bashar Assad's government forces.

That might be the case, but we don't see how this can be America's sole responsibility. It needs to fall under an international body such as the U.N. (which Russia will prevent) or perhaps NATO (without the assistance of Britain, whose Parliament voted to deny that country's involvement).

This country does not need to be the enforcer of international standards and protocols on its own. There is simply too much at stake, and the known risks alone should make the president hesitant.

We would agree with President Obama that Syria needs to suffer international consequences. Lobbing U.S. cruise missiles into the already war-torn region will merely add to the suffering citizens there encounter on a daily basis.

That the purported attack that killed more than perhaps 1,300 Syrians was brutal and inhumane is without question. Of course, most of the actions in that country's civil war during the past two years is hard for any humanitarian to swallow. The conflict between the government and rebel forces have left more than 100,000 dead and has displaced millions.

To their credit, members of both parties in Congress are urging restraint until Obama outlines the legal justification for even a limited military strike, details of the case identifying Assad as masterminding the chemical attack, the objectives of further U.S. involvement, and how we could afford any new mission.

Calls for restraint have come from both House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. That pairing alone suggests to us this is not yet another case of being against anything the president is attempting.

We would add even more subjects to be explained before the president moves forward such as for other support countries that might suffer retaliatory strikes from the Syrian government, or how we expand the military's scope of operations while sequestration is purposefully downsizing capabilities.

The United States should not sit idly while atrocities take place in Syria, that much we agree with.

At the same time, we long for the old Barack Obama who used to demand the same explanations Congress now has of him. We would urge the president to take his finger off the trigger and engage support before firing even one missile.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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