Thoughts & Views: Do we cross this ‘red line’?

Every day the civilian casualties mount in war-torn Syria, with an estimated 1,000 deaths blamed on chemical weapons, allegedly used by the Assad regime, or so we’re told by President Obama.

The President wants to send “a shot across the bow” to show the U.S. means business when we say we’re horrified that a government would gas its own citizens to stay in power.

And Sen. Robert Menendez (D-Union City) has got the President’s back, saying that while it’s nice to try and saddle up Congress for the ride, he shouldn’t wait too long for a consensus before firing those missiles.

Maybe don’t even wait for the U.N. inspectors to document the deadly deed before striking, the congressman suggested.

Congressional Republicans and many Democrats – recalling how lawmakers were misled by previous administrations into deadly forays into Iraq and Vietnam – are demanding that the President show convincing proof that the Assad government plotted to use sarin gas against insurgents.

In Russia, Putin – who has been an ally of Assad – says nothing while the British Parliament rejects the Prime Minister’s call to arms.

Meanwhile, the numbers of the dead in Syria continue to rise, with an estimated 100,000 people having been killed in the two years that the country’s civil war has raged.

That ugly fact, alone, should rouse the international community into action to stop the bloodshed and destruction of cities. But this isn’t the first time that empty words have greeted wanton acts of violence and the slaughter of innocents around the globe. Remember Rawanda, the former Yugoslavia, the government-sanctioned indiscriminate sexual attacks on women in Somalia (even Doctors Without Borders have abandoned that country out of fear of lawlessness), the drug cartels’ killings in Mexico and elsewhere, the gassing of millions of Jews, political dissidents and gypsies in Nazi Germany, all the way back to the Crusades.

Geopolitical experts predict that any blow struck by the U.S. against Syria could ignite a powder keg in the region, with Iran poised to invade Israel as a retaliatory move and Syria’s neighbors warring on ethnic lines.

Many Americans, fed up with hopeless and costly military interventions and what they perceive as too many senseless deaths of U.S. military personnel, say that we should give up the notion of being the world’s policeman, that we shouldn’t be sticking our nose into other nations’ business.

Of course, with technology making the world smaller all the time, it will hardly be a surprise to Syria’s government if the U.S. decides to send that “warning shot” from one of our carriers in the region. With all the posturing going on by both sides, the whole controversy has taken on the trappings of a promotion for a WBC championship bout.

In the end, though, neither side will be a “winner” from more killing; we can talk all we want about implanting the ideals of democracy in Syria, Egypt, Iraq or Afghanistan but the roots of ethnic divisiveness seem so deep in that part of the world that American military intervention alone – even assuming the best of intentions – may simply be misguided and lead to even more tragic consequences.

If we really want “stability” in the Middle East, is it going to be accomplished through the threat of U.S. military force and the workings of the CIA?

Or should we continue to hope for – in the spirit of Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations concept – and work toward global cooperation among nations to achieve world peace?

Take your pick.

– Ron Leir

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