Thursday, January 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: On Syria, exercise caution

The announcement that the United States and Russia will hold an international conference on the Syrian civil war should quiet calls by Senate hawks for U.S. military intervention on behalf of the rebels. It is far from assured that Russia, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is suddenly serious about stopping a two-year-old war that has killed 70,000 people. But exhausting the search for a political solution is better than adding firepower on the ground, which will only increase the death toll, harden Assad's resolve and push Russia further away from being helpful.

Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain and others are goading President Barack Obama to supply the rebels with direct military aid. Their line of thinking is that the United States could alter the balance of the war by arming the rebels and by using airstrikes against Syrian military assets — without the risk of putting American boots on the ground. It is a tidy narrative that ignores the reality of escalating military conflict; would the United States, for example, not encroach upon Syrian soil to rescue a downed American pilot? And it avoids the larger question of why the United States should take ownership of what's already a murky and complex security crisis.

Obama brought this problem partly upon himself by declaring in August that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrians would constitute a "red line" that would prompt the administration to rethink its opposition to arming the rebels. It was an off-the-cuff remark that was a mistake, but that lapse in judgment should not lead to a more serious one. The United States has increased nonlethal military aid and humanitarian assistance, and the White House is considering a range of direct military support in the wake of allegations that Assad's forces used chemical weapons on the Syrian people. The substance of those charges is unclear, and there are reports, too, that the rebels may have used sarin gas.

The administration needs to nail down the facts on whether either side used the nerve agent. If the Iraq War taught us anything, it is to get the intelligence right before the United States commits its forces, treasury and credibility on a military campaign to oust a foreign regime. Obama needs to explain what America's interests in Syria are and how they are promoted by a rebel movement that has no unifying structure or shared ideology.

The announcement Tuesday of the international conference with Russia to be held later this month buys the United States some time. McCain and others who favor a military route should not be so quick to use Obama's poor choice of words to force another military adventure. At the very least, the White House needs time to think through such a strategy and to build a broader international coalition. Americans also need to better understand the ramifications of flooding more arms into the porous security environment of the Mideast. If a decade of war taught this nation anything, it's the need for caution and a level head.

Comments
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18