OUR OPINION: Talk of American military in Syria opens 9/11 wounds

A moment of silence to commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001, led some of us to reflect on the current situation in Syria.

Tuesday night, President Obama asked the nation to support his plan to attack Syria, saying the Assad regime has crossed a line by using chemical weapons against civilians.

Obama has acknowledged he was elected to end war, not start another one, but war-weary Americans will be hard to convince, especially when we note the eerie parallels between then-President Bush’s justification of weapons of mass destruction for his invasion of Iraq—an excuse he later admitted was a lie.

Obama vowed to get us out of Iraq, and he did, but it wasn’t easy, and we’re not sure we’re better off.

Afghanistan really was harboring terrorists, and our soldiers are still there, but on their way out. We avoided boots on the ground in Egypt and Libya.

Do we really want to get involved in Syria now?

It seems we end one war just to leap feet first into another one.

Obama quoted a veteran who wrote to him: “This nation is sick and tired of war.”

We might add we’re especially tired of wars that aren’t our own.

Maybe it’s just bad timing, a sad coincidence that Obama’s speech falls on the eve of 9/11, but it certainly opens some barely healed wounds.

Now the president is asking us to intervene in Syria’s bloody civil war, a war in which hundreds of thousands have already died.

His argument is that the situation “profoundly changed” when the Syrian government allegedly gassed more than a thousand men, women and children to death.

The use of chemical weapons horrified the world in World War I, and it was banned in 1997, with the US leading the way.

Obama wants to hold that international standard, and he says if we don’t act swiftly in Syria, “Other tyrants will have no reason to think twice,” about using chemical weapons.

Obama knew he was facing a tough fight when he asked Congress to give him approval for military force.

He must have breathed a sigh of relief when Russian Premier Vladimir Putin gave our president a bit of a reprieve by urging diplomacy.

It’s bad news when the Russian bear is the peacemaker and America is the warmonger.

Naturally, Obama prefers the word “peacemaker” to “warmonger,” and he points out, “Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warning and negotiations —but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.”

Obama’s speech showed he is well aware of the issues. He’s aware that Americans are more worried about jobs and economic security at home than they are about foreign attacks.

He also understands we don’t want to become embroiled in a war with no exit strategy.

He said the US would not remove another dictator by force because of lessons learned in Iraq—specifically, the fact that we then become “responsible for all that comes next,” which, if history is any indicator, is all too often chaos.

In the end, however, Obama stands firm in his belief we have to be prepared to take military action: “Sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.”

Should the US take military action in Syria?

We’d like to be able to trust our government to make those hard decisions, but unfortunately, we’re a little jaded.

We’re tempted to quote John Mayer: “We see everything that’s going wrong/with the world and those who lead it/we just feel like we don’t have the means/to rise above and beat it.”

But the question today is, can we afford to sit back and wait for the world to change?

Tell us what you think. Send letters to the editor to us at [email protected].