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U.S. must respond to Syria's chemical weapons

While many would argue that there are no rules in war, I feel that a terrible line was crossed with the use of poison gas munitions by the government of Syria on its own civilians. Such wide-scale barbarism demands a U.S. military response, regardless of whether it is in our national interest in its strictest definition, because only we can, and it is clearly the right thing to do.

The fact that many of the rebels are anti-American religious fundamentalist is no reason to let a Hitler slaughter civilians if we can help stop him. I am not calling for an American invasion, just a strong military message that such behavior is unacceptable to us, the same way we regard the use of nuclear weapons in battle. The sixth Article of Maryland's Constitution makes plain where I think we should stand: "All persons invested with the Legislative or Executive powers of Government are the Trustees of the Public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct: Wherefore, whenever the ends of Government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the People may, and of right ought, to reform the old, or establish a new Government; the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind."

It is possible that any military action would make our homeland even more of a target for international terrorism, but if this act goes unpunished it will have been proved effective to everyone. That means that someday soon our own forces will be dying on the battlefield again in this horrible way. Israel is already in danger; it is just next door, after all. I do not want the world to move in that direction, not even for Islamic fundamentalists who hate us. Eventually, the opposition there will be forced to respond in kind. And worldwide, all combat will quickly graduate from chemical warfare to biological agents and dirty bombs.

Rather than working through Congress and the United Nations, Secretary of State John Kerry should just negotiate for the endorsement of the Arab League. A brief, surgical campaign of missile and drone attacks on Syrian military assets like airports, missile batteries, and supply depots is in order. President Barack Obama would only be enforcing the consequences of "crossing the red line" he vowed there would be. Maybe more importantly, such an attack would speak loudly to Iran about our seriousness regarding a deadline for their underground nuclear program. I do not care if some members of Congress or those in other countries disapprove. President Obama does not need to decide the outcome of this war, but he can surely help the people, the way France and the Netherlands helped our own newborn revolution when it faced extinction at the hands of a relentless despot.

Now that the Arab Spring has passed into a grizzly winter, it is well past the ideal moment for the U.S. to start acting on behalf of the principles we claim to live by. The judgment that George W. Bush badly fumbled his stewardship of the nation's trust in wartime is widespread. However, history also teaches us that it would be a terrible mistake for the country to listen to its isolationists once a threatening international conflict has already begun. One thing is certain, if we wait for American public opinion to make this decision there will be no native born Syrians left there for us to assist.

J.B. Salganik, Owings Mills

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