As the Obama administration weighs its options on Syria, there is no shortage of debate over what the United States should–or should not–do next in this escalating civil war.
Critics have blasted the administration’s plan to provide limited small arms to some rebels as “too little, too late.” But on the opposite side, supporters have hailed President Obama’s reserve as “prudent,” in light of Americans’ recent and ongoing involvement in Middle East conflicts.
“The criticism of ‘too little, too late,’ fails to take into account the president’s understandable caution, given our recent experience with entanglements militarily,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, member of the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees, on msnbc Monday. “If we have learned nothing from Afghanistan and from the prior support for the Afghan rebels against the Soviets, it is that we own it if we break it. And the more we are involved, the more we need to be very, very watchful and cautious about how we’re going to be embroiled and entangled.”
Former U.S. Ambassador Marc Ginsberg disagreed, calling limited military aide “the equivalent of going into a tank battle with pea shooters.”
“This tokenism is really not going to help the president or U.S. policy in the long run,” said Ginsberg on msnbc Monday. “I’m really not in favor of it.”
The national debate rages on against the backdrop of the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland, which opened on Monday and where international leaders seem to be just as divided on the issue. While France and Britain succeeded in getting the European Union to allow its ban on supplying arms to Syria to expire, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday that he found some elements of the Syrian opposition worrying, reports The New York Times. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has supported pro-government forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, suggested the day before that arming the rebels would be outright dangerous.
“One hardly should back those who kill their enemies and, you know, eat their organs,” said Putin on Sunday, referring to film footage of an anti-Assad fighter appearing to eat part of a dead government soldier. “Do we want to support these people? Do we want to supply arms to these people?” he asked.
According to a Pew Research Center survey released Monday, six in 10 Americans said opposition forces may be no better than the current government, which U.S. intelligence recently found to have used chemical weapons against its own people. More than 90,000 Syrians have been killed in the past 28 months, reported the U.S. High Commissioner of Human Rights last week.