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Obama ignoring pressure on Syria

Editorial

Pressure is mounting for the United States to take stronger action in Syria, but so far President Barack Obama is showing reluctance to do anything. Even talk about it.

Some time back, Obama drew a “red line” for the Syrian government, saying that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government against Syria’s own people would not be tolerated by the United States. Evidence is mounting that hundreds of people in Syria have been subjected to gassing, the reports of which have drawn a comment from the White House that it was “appalled” by the thought of such actions.

The administration’s response, however, is not to take action, but to await a higher level of confirmation that chemical attacks have transpired and to demand that U.N. inspectors be given immediate access to the site where the attacks were reported to have occurred.

Earlier, the U.S. investigated charges that the Asaad regime used chemical weapons. After months of investigation, U.S. officials said they could only conclusively determine that Syria had used some saran gas the previous year.

Syrian ally Russia, meanwhile, has suggested that any gas that was used likely came from anti-government forces who are trying to get international support to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

After the criticism in many world circles that his predecessor, President George W. Bush, was too quick to send in troops, it’s no surprise that Obama has opted to take a slow, deliberate approach. But combined with the United States’ muddled policy with Egypt, the Obama administration is beginning to look indecisive and perhaps even paralyzed when it comes to dealing with troublesome spots in the world.

If that image takes hold, allies will grow concerned over their relationship with the United States and nations like Iran and North Korea will see no need to come to the bargaining table, figuring a declawed, toothless tiger can do little more than toss out an occasional unenforceable roar.

The fact is that taking any action in Syria would be unpopular in the United States. After a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the last thing most Americans want is for the U.S. to get involved in another situation that could escalate into military intervention. Even the photos and videos circulating on the Internet are doing little to sway public opinion. It’s easier to head over to an entertainment website or watch a vacuous reality TV show than to dwell on the thought of human suffering.

While the United States is often criticized by other nations, they also look to us to lead when wrongs are being done in the world. We’re being looked at again to show leadership, but we’re choosing instead to use stalling tactics.

Perhaps that is what’s happening. Perhaps the policy now is to employ copious amounts of red tape in making decisions, set confirmation standards that are unobtainable, give meaningless soundbites, and stand to the side until the situation works itself out.

After all, it’s no trouble to declare a “red line” has been drawn. There’s only trouble if you actually decide to enforce it.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board