No good option


The war in Syria continues to boil, and American politicians continue to fulminate. But people on Capitol Hill and in the media who say President Obama must “do something” cannot clearly say what that something is.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) said: “We need to have a game-changing action, and that is: No American boots on the ground, establish a safe zone and protect it, and supply weapons to the right people in Syria, who are fighting, obviously, for the things we believe.”

It doesn’t take a professor of logic to see the massive holes in this statement. How do we establish a safe zone and defend it with no boots on the ground? What exactly would we be defending, to what end, and for how long?

How do we keep this defensive action from widening into larger military involvement? How do we determine who are the “right people” to arm? And what if we are wrong?

Some experts say there are no right people fighting “for the things we believe” in Syria. It is possible, some would say likely, that many of the rebels are no more humane and democratic than the tyrant they are fighting against.

There are times when the civilized world must intervene, based on humanitarian considerations. But it must be the whole civilized would, and there must be a mechanism that represents an entity larger than one nation, however well meaning or powerful that nation might be — a mechanism such as NATO or the United Nations.

The intervention must have a clear goal. There must be a pathway to success. And there must be an exit strategy.

None of this now exists in Syria. No amount of hyperventilation by members of Congress or the media will produce what is lacking: a reasonable option for the United States — a policy that will save more lives than it takes.

President Obama is not being indecisive, but wise. He is slow on the trigger because he knows there are no good options. As commander in chief, he is responsible for every soldier who might die in Syria. How does he look the spouse or parent of such a soldier in the eye? What does he say the soldier died for?

Mr. Obama must be able to say: This is the way we plan to make life better in Syria. This is our cause. Until we have such a way and a cause, the President should continue to resist the war cries.