Albany Herald: Presidential confusion on Syria stance

May 6, 2013 

A new poll conducted by Reuters/Ipros shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not want to see this country's military involved in the Syrian civil war that has raged since 2011.

The poll, released Wednesday, shows that 61 percent of Americans contacted oppose involvement of any kind in the Middle Eastern country while only 10 percent favor American action against Syria.

Still smarting from the loss of U.S. soldiers' lives and billions upon billions of dollars spent on a war in Iraq that our military became involved in based on false claims that that country's leaders were producing weapons of mass destruction, Americans are dead-set against involvement in Syria, even, the poll showed, if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has, as reported, used chemical weapons against members of the faction opposing his leadership.

More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in the two years of bloody fighting, and another 1.2 million have become refugees.

For his part, President Obama has wisely promised not to make a commitment to American military intervention in Syria unless there is clear evidence of the use of chemical weapons, but the president clouded his stance on the matter by declaring that evidence of such use would cross a "red line." The implied threat has left world leaders pondering exactly where America stands as evidence points to use of such weapons by Assad and pressure mounts for intervention by the world's most powerful nations.

Since he campaigned on promises to end American military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, promises he has been painfully slow to keep, it's easy to see why Obama's mixed signals have so confounded American citizens as well as the rest of the world. The president has been criticized for creating false hope of American intervention among Syria's victims of war and for spouting rhetoric that implies a get-tough stance that has been effectively negated by an alarming level of uncertainty.

While we support Obama's pledge not to jump the gun on American involvement in Syria without definitive proof of the use of chemical weapons -- and then only if American lives or interests are threatened -- we feel that the president has undermined the country's position among world leaders and among Middle Eastern radicals who are emboldened by his waffling through veiled threats that he obviously has no current intention of backing with action.

For a politician who earned two terms in the world's most powerful office largely through his skills as a speaker, Obama's expression of his administration's stance on Syria has been nothing if not a huge disappointment. The American people -- and America's global allies -- have every right to expect better of their elected leader.

-- Albany Herald

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