Syria: The case has not been built for military response

Syria, in the throws of a miserable civil war, was the stage for the chemical gassing recently of more than a thousand people.

All indications are that Syrian President Bashar Assad is behind the lethal gassing and the needless killing of people over the past two years.

President Obama has been correct in decrying this despicable act and our initial humane reaction, in keeping with the exceptional ideals of this freedom-loving country, is that punishment should be inflicted on the perpetrator.

But world justice, particularly when it involves the Mideast, is never that simple. The past decade should have taught us that.

Does this act pose a direct threat to the United States? What would happen on Day 2 should the United States strike Syria? Can we trust Russia and the United Nations to correctly carry out a measure to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control? Where is the world coalition to support military intervention in Syria?

It’s uncertain Syria’s chemical weapons cache represents a direct threat to the United States. We are reasonably certain Syria and nations friendly with it would not just lie down and take a military strike with no retaliation. The solution of Russia and the United Nations overseeing Syria’s weapons inventory is worth pursuing, but with great caution and detailed monitoring.

Beyond that, there is clearly no support for a military strike from international interests, in the halls of Congress and among the American people.

The president, in a televised speech Tuesday night, somehow managed to call for action against the atrocities and a delay in the House military intervention votes. In the same talk.

President Obama, who was quick to criticize foreign policy decisions of the previous administration both as a senator and since being elected, is finding out foreign policy decisions are not black and white. Or red, as in the “red line” he set down for Syria a year ago when he referred to the use of chemical weapons.

By publicly defining ground rules for Syria, the president painted himself into a corner. And now, with little or no will to respond to Syria from the American people, their elected representatives or the international community, the president’s response looks confusing at best.

And America looks weaker. A president represents not himself but the country in matters involving foreign policy. So we want the president to be strong with these decisions. That is not what the country has gotten with the Syria situation.

Sadly, America cannot stop all world atrocities. And when we seek to respond to them, it requires hard work and solid convictions that prompt the support of the American people, elected officials and much of the international community. Slogans, disjointed speeches and clumsy responses from key foreign policy leaders will never be enough to earn that support. For any president.

We do not support any military actions against Syria at this time.