Syria -- to strike or not to strike

Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with a Russian newspaper in Damascus on Monday.
(SANA / Associated Press)

After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, many Americans developed an aversion to military conflict known as the Vietnam Syndrome. That apparently was cured after a U.S.-led coalition’s decisive victory in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, giving way to several smaller overseas interventions throughout the 1990s.

Judging by the roughly 100 letters we received this week on a possible U.S. military strike against Syria, it’s fair to say another strain of the Vietnam Syndrome is spreading; perhaps it’d be more accurate to call it the Iraq Syndrome.

Almost all of the readers who weighed in on Syria raised strong objections to a U.S.-led attack on Bashar Assad’s government; several letters (including one on this page) drew parallels to the run-up to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Some said President Obama gave himself no choice by declaring the use of chemical weapons in Syria a “red line.”


Here is a roundup of those responses.

—Paul Thornton, letters editor

A handful of readers, like Ed and Nancy Weiss of Westlake Village, said Obama must first get permission from Congress:

“Why does Obama’s drumbeat for military intervention in Syria’s civil war sound just the same as Bush’s 2003 argument for invading Iraq? For the sake of argument, let’s say Syria has used chemical weapons. As terrible as that is for their people, why does that mean we have to interfere in their civil war?

“We find ourselves in the weird position of agreeing with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Congress should have to approve this action.

“If this action is good for our country, then both parties should be in on the decision on what to do.”

Bill Cool of Corona del Mar cited Obama’s own statements on the Iraq war:

“Nearly six years ago, then-Sen. Obama said, ‘The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.’

“In 2007, discussing a possible war with Iran, then-Sen. Joe Biden said, ‘The president has no constitutional authority to take this country to war against a country of 70 million people unless we’re attacked or unless there is proof that we are about to be attacked.’

“Most Americans agree that Bush was wrong to invade Iraq. I hope Obama will not attack another country just to save face.”

Mar Vista resident Evan Puziss was one of just six readers writing in who favored a military strike:

“The worst thing that can be done is nothing, which would put chemical warfare back on the table.

“Not even the Nazis gassed combatants, and when they gassed civilians, they were treated like the criminals they were.

“This is why it is important for America not to act alone. This is not about our individual national security but the progress, however pathetic and halting, of the human race. We dare not do nothing.”


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