On Syria, a weak strike is better than none

Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures during his joint news conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London September 9, 2013.

Article Highlights

  • Syrian rebels and their supporters would view a U.S. failure to act as abandonment of their cause.

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  • Inaction is likely to strengthen Assad, Iran, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda.

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  • Obama makes a mistake by defining both the strike and its justification exclusively in terms of punishing Assad for using chemical weapons.

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The idea is gaining ground in some circles that an excessively limited strike against Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons program would undermine U.S. credibility and interests more than would a decision not to strike. On its face, this argument is appealing: After all the buildup and expressions of moral indignation, supporters of intervention would, of course, feel let down by a weak attack. Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers would no doubt declare that they have once again defeated the great superpower. And the media may fill with questions about the United States' strength and determination.

But even a weak strike is more in line with U.S. interests than a refusal to strike or, worse, congressional action blocking any attack. Not just U.S. credibility but also the will of the Syrian opposition is at stake.

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