Question of the Week – Is US Involvement in Syria A Necessary Humanitarian Mission, Or A Folly?

President Obama committed the United States to supplying weapons to Syrian rebels fighting against that nation’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Obama told the listeners to the Charlie Rose program on PBS that the commitment was not open-ended, and that we would not “slip-slide” our way “into deeper and deeper” involvement in the war.

On June 22 Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the subject after a meeting in Doha, Qatar with foreign ministers from Qatar, Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. The group agreed to take “urgent practical steps to support” the opposition rebels in Syria. According to Kerry, those nations agreed to step-up their military support, and he said that the United States would contribute in a way that would “have an impact on the ground.” Kerry emphasized that the increase was needed to respond “to what Iran and Hezbollah are doing.”

On the other hand, Andrew Sullivan in wrote in The Dish “once you start arming one side of a civil war, you become part of that war; the other side may target you. The United States will be seen as a Sunni power fighting Shiites…” and would be taking a stand on “the sectarian fault line of the Muslim world… We should have zero interest in that ancient religious dispute; zero.”

According to David Rohde of Reuters, the “United States’ options go beyond doing nothing in Syria or launching an American ground invasion. Arming one side in a conflict, as occurred in Bosnia, can help produce a diplomatic settlement… The U.S. should view (the Syrian rebel) moderates as allies, listen to them, and bolster their standing.”

The London Times editorialized that “the West has prevaricated (and it is) time to help moderate rebels defend themselves from Assad’s slaughter…. Syria is awash with weapons and with the blood of innocents… Providing moderate rebel leaders with the means to defend themselves and civilians in rebel-held areas is the least bad option left to the west after two years of drift.”

Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) expressed his opposition: “It is easy to see why President Obama has chosen to act. A humanitarian crisis. A strategic interest. A uniquely American blend of goodness and power that tells us that we can, we must, make things better. But here is the rub: It is not enough for there to be a will. There also has to be a way … Today in Syria, I do not believe there is that way, and I do not believe this Congress should give the president the ability to escalate America’s role in the Syrian conflict without a clear set of goals and clear sense that we can achieve these goals.”

Murphy joined Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-KY) in a move to cut off funding to the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies for operations in Syria.

What do you think: Should the United States join with allies to arm Syrian Rebels in their struggle against the oppression of their government? Or, even though recognizing the humanitarian disaster in Syria, should we refrain from entering another nation’s civil war?

Please go to The Pub to post your answer and enter the discussion.