Debate Club

Should the Obama Administration Do More in Syria?

Should the Obama Administration Do More in Syria?

The Obama administration last week told members of Congress that it believes the Bashar Assad regime in Syria "has used chemical weapons on a small scale" during its ongoing battle with various rebel groups. "We believe that the Assad regime maintains custody of these weapons and has demonstrated a willingness to escalate its horrific use of violence against the Syrian people," the letter said.

Last year, President Obama said that the potential use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime represented a "red line" that, if crossed, would entice more U.S. involvement in the conflict. "We have been very clear to the Assad regime -- but also to other players on the ground -- that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized," Obama said. "That would change my calculus; that would change my equation."

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday called for Syria to allow weapons inspectors into the country in order to "establish the facts and clear up all the doubts" regarding the use of chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, which disrupts the nervous system of its victims, ultimately paralyzing and suffocating them.

Over the weekend, several members of Congress called on the administration to back up its tough talk with action. "The problem is, you know, the president has laid down the line," said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. "And it can't be a dotted line. It can't be anything other than a red line."

Some lawmakers are calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Syria and for the U.S. to arm Syrian rebels (a situation complicated by the fact that, as the New York Times reported on Sunday, "More than two years of violence have radicalized the armed opposition fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, leaving few groups that both share the political vision of the United States and have the military might to push it forward.")

But even the most hawkish of U.S. lawmakers are not ready for Obama to commit troops just yet. "The worst thing the United States could do right now is put boots on the ground in Syria," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

So should the Obama administration be doing more now that Syria may have crossed its "red line"? Here's the Debate Club's take:


The Arguments

#1
35 Pts
Obama's Dithering Let the Syrian Situation Spiral

No – Obama's Dithering Let the Syrian Situation Spiral

Michael Rubin Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

#2
-7 Pts
U.S. Must Launch a Diplomatic Offensive in Syria

Yes – U.S. Must Launch a Diplomatic Offensive in Syria

Peter Juul Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund

#3
-21 Pts
Obama's 'Red Line' Rhetoric Needs a Revision

Yes – Obama's 'Red Line' Rhetoric Needs a Revision

Elizabeth H. Prodromou Director of International Relations at the Hellenic American Leadership Council

#4
-25 Pts
How the U.S. Can Tip the Scales Against Assad

Yes – How the U.S. Can Tip the Scales Against Assad

Robert Menendez Democratic Senator from New Jersey

#5
-27 Pts
Failure to Enforce the Red Line on Syria Will Embolden Assad

Yes – Failure to Enforce the Red Line on Syria Will Embolden Assad

Charles Dunne Director of Middle East and North Africa Programs at Freedom House

#6
-28 Pts
U.S. Can and Should Bolster the Syrian Opposition

Yes – U.S. Can and Should Bolster the Syrian Opposition

Daniel Byman Research Director of the Saban Center at Brookings


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