We (Elmira Star-Gazette) asked District 23 candidates: What should the U.S. role be in the expanding conflict in Syria and Iraq? Would you support re-deploying U.S. combat troops to that region?
Both candidates see ISIL as a significant threat and approve a military response. Both equivocate–no American soldiers now, but maybe later. Both would degrade and defeat ISIL, but neither suggests a way to do that.
Reed: America must stand up to jihadi radicals
Robertson: Mission must not involve troops
After more than a decade of war, Americans are rightly concerned about the possibility of another long-term, extended conflict in Iraq and Syria. But we also have the responsibility to respond —together with international partners — in conflicts where Americans are threatened, and terrorist organizations grow in strength.
We have the responsibility to respond in conflicts where Americans are threatened, and terrorist organizations grow in strength? Always? Perhaps we should be judicious about that.
I am pleased with the multilateral, international approach we have taken to dismantling ISIL. By engaging our allies in the region and in Europe, rather than taking action unilaterally, we have set an important precedent about how we will face new conflicts that cross national boundaries. Just like in Libya, our military is leading a coalition that has a clear, defined goal.
Misery loves the company of international partners, but many Americans might not agree about having had a clear, defined goal for intervention in Libya or in the Levant.
Proposals to change our goal from dismantling ISIL to engaging in the Syrian civil war are a different story altogether. Such an involvement would likely involve troops on the ground. As our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us, it can be very hard to get out of such a conflict once we have gotten involved. I would not put our young women and men into harm’s way or spend taxpayer dollars in that effort, which is why I oppose getting involved in the wider Syrian civil war.
It is hard too see how we can fight ISIL in Syria without being involved in the wider Syrian civil war. That is the nub of our problem there.
America must lead by example. We should offer encouragement to people in repressive societies that peaceful change is possible. We should let those whose families face violence in their homes know that a better future is possible. We should engage in cultural and economic exchanges, through NGOs and government programs, to achieve real success in combating the problems that impoverish and hold back whole countries. Only then can we make tragedies like the Syrian civil war less likely in the first place.
Conflict in Syria grows out of ancient religious, ethnic, and class rivalries. Cultural and economic exchanges are fine, but they would not have caused lions and lambs to lie down together in Syria.
© William Hungerford – October 2014