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Originally published Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 4:42 PM

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Editorial: Obama’s valid caution on Syria

President Obama is endlessly second-guessed on how to respond to Syria’s civil war. His critics offer no credible insights, records or histories.

Seattle Times Editorial

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NO one is looking to U.S. Sen. John McCain for advice on how to respond to the civil war in Syria, but that does not keep the Arizona Republican off the talk shows.

Partisan pressure on the Obama White House to do something in Syria — anything — has reached the point that Karl Rove, GOP fundraiser and former adviser to President Bush, turns up on Fox News to explain how it should be done.

Nothing presumably is stopping Britain or France or any collection of European allies from challenging Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his Alawite religious minority that clings to power. Obama is appropriately reluctant to put the U.S. in the forefront of another Middle East conflict.

Nothing about the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan or tensions with Iran or older confrontations with Lebanon suggest the U.S. has a particular credibility in the region or recipe for political or military resolutions.

Helping the rebels in Syria means helping whom? By some counts there are 1,000 militias in the region. Provide weapons to whom? A similar lack of coherency has frustrated humanitarian relief efforts.

Israel’s airstrikes in Syria have a link to stopping Iranian arms reaching the Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia. A case for a direct national interest can be made, however it complicates the larger picture.

Those hectoring the Obama administration call for all sorts of military intervention, most of which go beyond their job descriptions. Creation of a no-fly zone over Syria is easier to talk about than impose.

Secretary of State John Kerry is consulting with Russia, Syria’s ally, about what might be done. Russia and China have pushed back on U.N. efforts pointed at the Assad regime.

America never lacks the military might to respond. What has been missing is the restraint not to react.

Obama is calling the shots. His instinct to involve a united effort with a commitment of resources by others is correct. So is the desire to push for political solutions, which must accompany any military response.


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