What US newspaper editorialists are saying about Syria

September 4, 2013 

Editorial roundup

What newspapers around the country are saying:

The Dallas Morning News:

The onus is now on Congress to respond in the face of Syria’s Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb. This newspaper urges all members to set aside partisan differences and consider this issue at its most fundamental levels.

An egregious act of mass murder has occurred. More than 1,400 have died, and the international community offers little more than empty condemnations. If America’s core values do not include an unyielding opposition to the use of chemical weapons, then what do we stand for as a nation?

San Jose Mercury News:

As members of Congress begin to debate whether the U.S. military should launch an attack on Syria, it’s increasingly important that the American people be in the loop.

If President Barack Obama succeeds in getting congressional approval, which he was wise to seek, the rationale for the action and the expected outcome for U.S. interests need to be clear to everyone.

Echoes of Iraq hang heavily over this decision. A full and open debate – particularly as our normally staunch ally, Great Britain, has decided to remain on the sideline – can only strengthen the country.

The Seattle Times:

President Obama put Congress in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar position. He is asking lawmakers to make a decision and be held accountable for their action. Obama wants Congress to endorse his plan for an airstrike against Syria for the government’s use of chemical weapons against its citizens.

Turning to ask Congress for its support was a deft political move. Congress is quick to criticize the president, but reluctant to act – on anything.

Congress, including Washington’s own congressional delegation, should be willing to say “no.” Did Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan teach any lessons?

Chicago Tribune:

The notion of demanding that the U.N. Security Council act is an option that, oddly, the White House evidently has abandoned without seriously trying. As a result, Russian President Vladimir Putin gets free rein: He can criticize what he portrays as a war-mongering U.S. president without having to veto a U.N. resolution against Russia’s unappealing client, Syrian President Bashar Assad.

We’d like to see Obama step off his plane in Russia this week for the Group of 20 meeting and announce that he is asking the Security Council for immediate consideration of a resolution against Syria. At the very least, a hard push for U.N. condemnation of Syria’s abominations would allow the Obama administration to say that it had tried, however belatedly, to build something more than the current Coalition of One.

We aren’t under the illusion that a resolution over the mass slaughter of civilians, by poison gas and other means, would win Security Council approval or that, even if it did, anything meaningful would come of it.

We would, though, like to see whether Russia, or perhaps China, actually would veto such a resolution. That is, we’d like to see whether Putin wants to take ownership of what is happening in Syria, those gruesome scenes of writhing children included.

Los Angeles Times:

Last week, the Obama administration was signaling that it would take unilateral military action against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad for what the administration insists was the deliberate use of chemical weapons to kill hundreds of civilians.

We agree with Obama that convincing proof of widespread use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government justifies a military response – designed not to overthrow Assad but to punish him for defying a century-old understanding about the particular abhorrence of chemical weapons. But we were critical of the president for his seeming indifference to the importance of obtaining assent from Congress for military actions that do not address an imminent threat to the United States.

Obama has now rectified that flaw in his approach. But there is a danger that in securing the needed majorities, the president might agree to more drastic action than is necessary. We found it ominous that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime proponent of U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war, said after a meeting with Obama on Monday that he was now confident the president was planning an attack “a little more robust than I thought.”

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