Dear Mr. President:
I’d like to express my views about the current crisis in Syria and my concerns about the appropriate response by the United States. From news reports, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the U.S. will take some form of retaliatory military action. I’m deeply concerned about the situation in Syria and throughout the Middle East. However, I fear that any sort of military action by the United States has far greater potential to further aggravate the problem than contribute towards a solution.
I am a Democrat and a strong supporter of yours and realize that you’ve been put in a situation that isn’t of your choosing, with very poor options as to what the U.S. should do. I certainly agree that the use of chemical weapons cannot be condoned or ignored and that, absent some action by the U.S. and the international community, it’s likely that the Syrian regime will continue to commit further atrocities against innocent civilians.
I recognize that American power, prestige and vital national interests are at stake and we must act. However, any action we take must be consistent with our position as the leader of the free world and with our ideals of freedom, human rights, respect for the rule of law, and a firm commitment to fostering world peace, international cooperation, and the right of all people for peaceful self-determination as to their own society and government.
In addition to being a concerned citizen and a supporter and admirer of yours, I’m also a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, awarded the Purple Heart and several decorations for valor, including two Silver Stars, the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal for Valor and the Presidential Unit Citation. I know the cost of war but also appreciate the necessity of taking a stand when required despite the inherent risks, living up to the solemn oath taken both by you and by me to protect and defend our country.
It’s obvious to me, and should be to you, that we can’t force our ideals and values on other nations or societies by military force. The only way we can lead is by example. With regard to foreign affairs, we can only do so effectively through diplomacy and cooperation with responsible members of the international community.
I know how reluctant you have been to intervene in Syria, despite the horrible tragedy of the civil war taking place there and suffering of the Syrian people. However, it seems to me that the horror of the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians is intentionally aimed at forcing the U.S. to act against against our national interests and those of our allies, not in their favor.
The reality is that we mostly likely can accomplish nothing positive or of lasting effect through the sort of limited military action that is now being discussed. By doing so, the potential damage to our international reputation and to our ability to have any positive influence on achieving peaceful diplomatic solutions to the situation in Syria, as well as the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations, the crisis in Egypt, and the turmoil in other areas of the Middle East, as well as countering Islamic terrorism throughout the world, are all likely to suffer if we intervene militarily in Syria, particularly if we do so without very strong international support and participation.
Under the circumstances, particularly without the support of Great Britain and against the strong opposition of Russia and China, we are undertaking a grave risk with almost no possibility of achieving or even making the smallest contribution towards a positive outcome.
It’s unfortunate that you were forced by circumstances to make a public statement last year that the use of chemical weapons would be crossing a line that would force the U.S. to take action. We know that there have already been several times when the Syrians have made limited use of these weapons and the U.S. did not act. Now that there has been a large scale, undeniable use of these weapons resulting in the slaughter of so many innocent civilians, it seems that you are being forced to make a decision and take action against Syria despite all of the reasons why it is against our nation interests to do so.
You cannot let personal or national pride force you to “keep your word” to take military action when it is so clearly going to fail to accomplish anything worthwhile and at the same time is almost certain to further inflame regional conflicts not just in Syria but throughout the Middle East.
In short, Mr. President, with all due respect and with my sincere, personal admiration of your character and your desire to do the right thing, I urge you to abandon any thought of immediate military intervention, no matter how limited or how justified, in the Syrian conflict.
The United States must seek international consensus and cooperation
regarding an appropriate course of action. We cannot and must not go it alone down this perilous path of military action. As you well know, might does not make right. The only possible course of action for the United States with any possibility of success towards influencing peace and stability in the Middle East is through aggressive, effective diplomacy.
Mr. President, we have nothing to gain and everything to loose by military intervention in Syria. Please consider the consequences, at home and abroad. Take the long view. Don’t react to this provocation, no matter how morally repulsive and how much pressure is put on you to intervene. It’s the wrong course to take.
I have a great deal of confidence in you and your senior advisors, particularly in Secretary Kerry. Give him the job, along with every effort you can make personally, to work with our allies and with all responsible members of the international community, including Russia and China, to build consensus and to bring an end to this crisis through diplomatic means, if possible. Only in the event of utter failure, should military action be considered and, even then, only as a part of a truly international military effort with majority support of the member countries of the United Nations as well as the support the U.S. Congress and the American people.
Whether or not you can see it from your somewhat isolated position in the White House, you don’t have the necessary domestic or international support to take meaningful military action at the present time. Listen to the voices of opposition and of reason. In this case, they really are reasonable and are reason to abandon any immediate effort towards military intervention.
James R. Scarborough
San Ramón de Tres Rios, Cartago, Costa Rica
and Somerville, Massachusetts