Mideast powder keg

The Middle East is a powder keg. The hatred and conflict over Israel will never end as long as dictators and religious extremists keep stoking the fires for their own purposes. Meanwhile, weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons that are among the most hideous ever devised, are a real threat to the whole world, not just to the U.S.

Syria has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the Middle East. It's bad enough that Syria is one of the very few countries in the world that still hasn't signed and ratified the international Chemical Weapons Convention outlawing such weapons. But now we know the Assad regime has used them to murder thousands of civilians. President Obama and the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are right that no nation should be allowed to use chemical weapons with impunity.

The world needs to help the Middle East enter the 21st century and help moderate Arabs get rid of their dictators and religious fanatics. Maybe war isn't the answer, but neither are isolationism and appeasement. We have to be involved in the Arab Spring uprising, not just sit and watch.

As for our troops, they're all volunteers, and special forces are always gung ho. Nevertheless, President Obama knows better than to send them over there. That won't happen. But if we can cripple Mr. Assad's war machine without sending in troops, as we did in Libya, then we should.

A friend recently told me that our involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts is senseless, driven only by our hunger for oil, not by any humanitarian sensibilities. In my opinion, U.S. involvement in the Middle East is not just about oil, though those who claim otherwise would have a new appreciation of its importance if their the cars didn't start, their lights went out and their houses went cold.

I believe the jury is still out as to whether our recent involvement in the Middle East has been "senseless." It remains to be seen what will happen in Iraq, Libya and Egypt.

Paul Totaro, Baltimore

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