Local residents weigh in on Syrian conflict

President Barack Obama meets with senators John McCain, R-Ariz. and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, in the Oval Office to discuss Syria. National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice also took part in the meeting.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Recent polls show the majority of the nation’s population feels a military strike against Syria is a bad idea.

While some local area residents agree with that stance, others, including a retired four-star general, argue a strike is necessary.

A poll by ABC News/Washington Post shows that 59 percent of Americans do not support the resolution going before Congress that, if passed, would allow military intervention against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad was accused by several nations of ordering an Aug. 21 attack using chemical weapons – and specifically sarin gas – against Syrian rebels.

U.S. officials put the number of related deaths at 1,429 civilians, which includes 426 children. 

While Assad has denied any involvement, officials from the United States, Great Britain, and France are saying the evidence suggests he was not only aware of the attack, but likely gave the order. 

In response, President Barack Obama is advocating for a military strike that he says would target chemical weapons facilities. 

The potential strike has received mixed support across the political aisle with such Republicans as U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. calling for the strike. Others like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. voted against action in the recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting, where the resolution passed 10-7.

Whether or not similar support is found when the resolution goes before Congress will only be told with time, with the earliest potential vote coming today.

Despite the usual bickering in Washington D.C., it’s not a surprise that Republicans and Democrats are putting aside party affiliation in this instance, says Oro Valley resident Bill Adler.

“It’s a moral issue,” he said. “Obama has made the case that whether you agree or disagree with a strike, we (the United States) have an integrity issue here, and that we can’t be seen as drawing a red line and then hesitating. In defending the image of the country, politicians are setting aside their differences.”

That doesn’t mean the after-effect of a strike wouldn’t resurrect a well-drawn party line, Adler continued.

“We’ve seen those types of repercussions in the Iraq War, where Democrats voted to enter Iraq, and then saw the mess, and then there was plenty of fault to find,” he said. “Once a strike happens, whether there is success or lack thereof, you’ll likely see the same thing again from both sides.”

That type of finger-pointing could also occur between the United States and Russia should a strike occur, given the two nations’ deteriorating relationship in recent months and the fact Russian President Vladimir Putin, a political supporter of Assad, has warned against U.S. military action in Syria.

While Obama and other leaders say an attack is necessary to uphold the country’s stance against the use of chemical weapons, Adler says a different solution would be preferable.

 “Many Americans feel morally compelled to react, but personally I don’t feel a military reaction is a way to enforce a moral feeling. I think a diplomatic approach is sufficient, and I don’t think we need to potentially kill people through collateral damage because we are morally outraged.”

Adler says much of that diplomatic approach would relate to repairing the relationship with Putin, and in turn stopping Russia from providing Assad with weapons, as has been the case.

The resolution being spearheaded by Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry would bar the use of U.S. ground troops for combat operations. Kerry recently stated that Obama is not asking the nation to go to war, but some feel his distinction of war come with a gray area.

“When you are lobbing missiles into a country, that’s war,” said Oro Valley resident John Flanagan.

Flanagan says the timing of the strike, as well as the lack of international support should be more carefully considered before an attack is authorized.

“You had 100,000 people die from guns in Syria, and now that 1,500 or so have died with gas, you’re finally seeing a reaction,” he said. “I’m just not convinced a reaction is a good idea. We have little support from the United Nations or allies.”

Splendido resident John Wickham, a retired Four-Star General, thinks it is imperative the United States takes action in Syria, but only after the due process is given and congressional approval achieved.

To not attack would jeopardize the legitimacy of the Geneva Convention treaty banning chemical weapons, which in turn might encourage other nations to use such weapons, Wickham says.

“If we do not act, who will?” he said. “And further, if we do not act, will our national security interests and those of allies be affected by rogue nations and groups in the future? It is essential, in my view, that strong military action take place.”

Like the opinion of so many others, Wickham says placing troops on the ground would be a “disaster.”

“That would draw us into a civil war whose outcome we cannot predict, and we have little influence over the outcome,” he said. “Our missile strikes can do the job quite effectively.”

Do you think the U.S. should strike Syria? Visit explorernews.com to take our online poll. 

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