Remember that "red line" President Obama drew on Syria and chemical weapons? Perhaps it's more of a dotted line.
At least twice since the president made the remark in August 2012 that the use of poison gas in the Syrian civil war would be a game-changer in the U.S. decision on whether to intervene militarily, Bashar Assad's forces appear to have crossed that line. So far, no U.S. missiles have been lobbed toward Damascus.
Several readers have noticed.
Only now it looks as if the Obama administration will follow through on its threat of military action against Assad. With the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq still clear in the public's memories, the prospect of another war appears to make Americans uneasy. Reader opinion so far on a Syria strike -- of nearly 100 letters, only a handful call for action -- reflects that war-weariness.
Many readers have blamed the crisis with Syria on Obama drawing that red line: Go to war and the U.S. saves face while risking more lives; don't and we save American blood and treasure while tarnishing our credibility. Some have been blunt, saying that because Syria apparently crossed the red line, the U.S. must act.
Here is a selection of those letters.
Los Angeles resident Judith Markoff Hansen says U.S. credibility is at stake:
"Regarding our anguishing choice to make in Syria, Obama did back himself into a corner by drawing a red line. He must act to save his credibility, even when his choices are bad, worse or worst.
"I think he should announce that because of this atrocity, the U.S. will send powerful arms to the rebel fighters immediately. Then we must hope our guns don't end up getting used on us."
Judy Watson of Lancaster draws a red line for Obama:
"In August 2012, Obama gave Syria a red line. In August 2013, Syria crossed it. Contempt?
"What now, Mr. President?"
Nelson Marans of Silver Spring, Md., says our inaction is a failure:
"While early intervention on the side of the opponents of Assad might have resulted in the overthrow of that regime, the price to be paid now for entering the conflict is much higher.
"However, there is no doubt that, even at this late date, we should intervene to overthrow a government that has no compunction about gassing its opponents.
"Unfortunately, Obama continues with comforting words but no action, with the international community awaiting for U.S. leadership. Certainly the intervention will not come from the U.N., with opposition to any action by Russia and China.
"We have failed miserably by our wordy and meaningless statements and lack of response, as an unspeakable tragedy has occurred."
Eric Saudi of Altadena says Obama should look to President Reagan:
"After rattling our sabers and drawing a line in the sand, Obama needs to save face somehow. At this point, I would take a page out of Ronald Reagan's playbook against the late Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, a strategy I call 'I know where you live.'
"Just as Kadafi was personally responsible for the taking of American lives, so too is Assad personally responsible for the death of many of his own people. Reagan bombed Kadafi at his personal compound. Likewise, Obama should quickly strike Assad's compounds, vacation homes, airports and suspected weapons sites.
"Put Assad and his family on the run. What develops from there, so be it."