News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 9, 2013

EDITORIAL: Address Syria with caution

U.S. must seek prudent approach

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The U.S. Congress convenes today after its late-summer recess to tackle an ominous question — what to do, if anything, about the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against its opponents in the country’s ongoing civil war.

President Obama, who’s having his own problems navigating this complex and difficult issue, is calling for military strikes against Syria in response to the chemical attacks. But rather than strike quickly on his own, he asked Congress to debate the matter and lend its support for the action.

Whether Congress will ultimately support or oppose the president’s call to action is far from certain. Americans are understandably weary of war in the Middle East, but they understand the moral principles involved in standing against the use of weapons of mass destruction, and most believe chemical warfare, especially as it affects innocent civilians, rises to that level.

Still, there are reasons to be skeptical of the president’s overall strategy and whether a limited strike against Syria will accomplish much of anything. In fact, there are legitimate concerns that such an action could actually have negative, unintended consequences.

Such are the pitfalls of getting involved in any Middle East mess, whether it be in Syria, Egypt, Libya or any other area that my erupt in the future. It is often impossible to ascertain which side should even be considered the enemy.

Polls indicate the American people at this point are opposed to Obama’s proposal for military action in Syria. The president will try to persuade them otherwise when he lays out his case in a TV address Tuesday night.

Indiana’s U.S. Sen. Dan Coats was in Terre Haute last Friday and spoke with the Tribune-Star’s Editorial Board about the difficult decision that lies ahead. He said he believes the president’s decision to include Congress in the debate was the right one, and he’s anxious to begin collecting information that will help him make his own decision on whether or not to vote to support the president’s proposal for military action.

“I want to support my commander-in-chief, and I want to support the credibility of the United States,” Coats said. “But if I don’t have a good sense of a plan that makes sense, then that credibility could be further lessened rather than strengthened if you do the wrong thing.”

The caution being shown by Coats is prudent, proper and pushes politics aside. We hope more members of Congress take that measured, responsible approach. The president must continue to make his case and explain his strategy. Reaching the right answer will be difficult, but careful consideration is the only acceptable way to seek it.