Our View: It’s Syria, not Iraq

DKS Editors

The memory of the American public tends to be short — especially in times of national security and foreign threat — despite history’s well-established tendency to repeat itself.

But it has never been this short. Not even a generation past, a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan is fresh in our minds as we contemplate helping the rebels with a direct military strike on Syria.

It’s easy to understand our — and our president’s — hesitancy.

Similarities between Iraq and Syria exist. Saddam Hussein gassed his own people just like Bashar al-Assad. In fact, last Wednesday’s massacre that killed 355 and injured thousands was the most devastating attack on one’s own people since Hussein’s multiple attacks in the late 1980s.

Both are Middle East nations of relatively the same size and population that have a complex history of turmoil and sectarian violence since they were created after WWI.

The problem is, that’s about where the similarities end. It’s troubling to equate the two for the convenient purpose of “learning from history.” The purpose of this potential war carries a little less weight than it did after 9/11.

Syria never attacked us, and the average American citizen will likely not be affected by another massacre of innocent people. We have Iraq and Afghanistan veterans facing unprecedented — and increasingly public — challenges ranging from complex mental scars, finding a job and learning to live without arms and legs.

In the past week, as the world watched for some sort of military strike on Syria, everyone asked themselves the same question: Are we ready for another war?

It’s a tough sell, and that has no doubt contributed to a delay in action. For almost 30 months, rebels in Syria have struggled to oust Assad’s regime without any direct help from powerful Western nations wary of what would happen should the weapons and aid fall into the wrong hands.

But one year ago, President Obama indicated a “red line” that Assad has undeniably crossed. While another war is not an option, neither is further inaction because we don’t want to think about it. The question of another war could actually be restated: Should we care about what’s happening in Syria?

We think we should. As citizens far removed from the intricacies of chemical weapons, United Nations inspections and Middle East foreign policy, we should at the very least understand that this is different from Iraq.

If something can be done as a unified force and backed by the international community — and without a repeat of history — let’s do it.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose names are listed above.