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Letter: A Strike Will Achieve Nothing

To the Editor:

The only reason the United States should intervene militarily in another country is if our national interests there are crucial, and the only justification for intervention is a real expectation that our intervention will have a good result.

Our interest in Syria is clear. Just imagine the alternatives: a Shiite axis, armed by Russia, and stretching from Iran to Lebanon, or chaos with al-Qaida in the mix. But intervention cannot be justified, since there is no expectation that anything we can do will improve the situation in any way. President Obama has proposed a limited strike on Syria. He sees the need for a forceful show of opposition to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons. I think he also wants to remind all the parties of our interests and capabilities. These are sensible goals. But they do not justify the actions he advocates.

Cruise missiles would blow up a few buildings and kill a few scores of people, but the lack of a permanent effect would merely underline our limitations. These limitations are real. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that we cannot manipulate successful outcomes in the ethnically and religiously divided countries of the Middle East. The Arab Spring has demonstrated how difficult it is for Middle Easterners themselves to build democracy. No American intervention, armed or otherwise, will change these facts.

What can we do? The best way to limit the evils of the Syrian war and make our power felt is to shore up our ally, Turkey, and friendly Jordan. And the best way to demonstrate our good-will would be to provide greatly expanded humanitarian aid, both to the rebels fighting against the Assad regime in Syria and to the huge refugee camps smoldering with discomfort and resentment in neighboring countries. This would be expensive, but remember, the Iraq war cost us $100 billion a year. And that’s only the money. If we proceed with a strike, what I have proposed is still the best second act. The statement will have been made. Following that, we can work on securing the future.

Steve Rounds