In light of recent evidence that chemical weapons may have been used in Syria, President Barack Obama is now considering more concrete action to aid the rebels fighting President Bashar Assad. The country's civil war has been raging for more than two years, but the United States has remained hesitant to involve itself in another overseas conflict.
Yet now that Obama's self-proclaimed "red line"on Syria – the use of chemical weapons – has likely been crossed, the president must weigh if, how and when to become involved. He said Tuesday there isn't enough evidence to determine next steps, and the administration needs more information first about how chemical weapons were used, and by whom:
When I am making decisions about America's national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I've got to make sure I've got the facts … That's what the American people would expect. And if we end up rushing to judgment without hard effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in a position where we can't mobilize the international community.
Officials also said Tuesday they are considering sending weapons to arm the Syrian rebels fighting Assad, but are also pursuing diplomatic negotiations. It's estimated that more than 70,000 people have been killed so far in the conflict, and other nations in the region have urged the United States to step in and coordinate efforts to unseat Assad.
But some say it is already too late for the United States to successfully intervene to stop the bloodshed. Writing for U.S. News, American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Rubin said Obama's lack of action caused the situation to spiral out of control:
Republicans are right to want to restore American credibility, but shaming Obama into military action is unwise. There is a conceit in Washington that debates need never end, but ground truth shifts with time. True, Obama might have helped moderates and prevented tens of thousands of deaths had he authorized a no-fly zone and decapitating airstrikes a year and a half ago, but to ignore radicalization of the Syrian opposition in the intervening months is foolish. Groups whom American diplomats meet have little influence on the ground, where al-Qaida-affiliated radicals increasingly hold sway.
The United States seems to have little appetite for another war, and the scars from the false information leading to the war in Iraq remain fresh. In a poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports, only 17 percent of Americans supported more direct involvement by the United States in Syria.
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