Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Looking for Obama's Agenda in Syria

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Looking for Obama's Agenda in Syria

Article excerpt

Many more people around the world are eyeing President Obama for clues as to whether he will take military action in Syria. Their reasons may be sound. March was the deadliest month in the civil war, with more than 6,000 dead. A fifth of Syrians have fled their homes, destabilizing the Middle East.

Overall, the number of killings is now more than 70,000, or about the same as all gun homicides in America over seven years. To many, such mounting numbers demand firm intervention.

Yet this scrutiny of Mr. Obama by others has it all wrong. Much to his credit, the president is eyeing them back. He keeps probing Congress, foreign allies, and the American people on whether they are mentally ready to take action against the ruthless, entrenched regime of Bashar al-Assad.

This isn't "leading from behind." Obama has seen too many wars go wrong in his lifetime without the groundwork of mental preparation. To counter massive evil acts, such as the current war crimes against civilians in Syria, far more people than the president must understand what good they would bring to a situation. Motives must be clear in order to rally the means to achieve them.

The White House has rightly waited for key members of the House and Senate to propose bills that would authorize specific military action in Syria. "Unless we change the dynamic ... Assad will continue to believe he can hold on to power," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D) of New Jersey, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, last week.

From mid-April to mid-May, the president will host separate visits from leaders of four countries already involved in trying to settle the Syrian conflict: the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey. The White House hints that 2013 will be the year for a US focus on Syria.

These visits to the White House by Mideast leaders are aimed at finding common purpose for Syria's future that will uplift the whole region. …

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