Sunday, November 19, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: On Syria, exercise caution

RECOMMENDED READING


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: Good for Tampa council member Frank Reddick to appeal for community help to solve Seminole Heights killings

As the sole black member of the Tampa City Council, Frank Reddick was moved Thursday to make a special appeal for help in solving four recent murders in the racially mixed neighborhood of Southeast Seminole Heights. "I’m pleading to my brothers. You ...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

Editorial: It’s time to renew community’s commitment to Tampa Theatre

New attention to downtown Tampa as a place to live, work and play is transforming the area at a dizzying pace. Credit goes to recent projects, both public and private, such as the Tampa River Walk, new residential towers, a University of South Florid...
Published: 11/17/17
Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

Editorial: Rays opening offer on stadium sounds too low

The Rays definitely like Ybor City, and Ybor City seems to like the Rays. So what could possibly come between this match made in baseball stadium heaven? Hundreds (and hundreds and hundreds) of millions of dollars. Rays owner Stu Sternberg told Times...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

Editorial: Wage hike for contractors’ labor misguided

St. Petersburg City Council members are poised to raise the minimum wage for contractors who do business with the city, a well-intended but misguided ordinance that should be reconsidered. The hourly minimum wage undoubtedly needs to rise — for every...
Published: 11/16/17

Editorial: Make workplaces welcoming, not just free of harassment

A federal trial began last week in the sex discrimination case that a former firefighter lodged against the city of Tampa. Tanja Vidovic describes a locker-room culture at Tampa Fire Rescue that created a two-tier system — one for men, another for wo...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Editorial: Firing a critic of his handling of the sewer crisis is a bad early step in Kriseman’s new term

Barely a week after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman promised to unite the city following a bitter and divisive campaign, his administration has fired an employee who dared to criticize him. It seems Kriseman’s own mantra of "moving St. Pete forwar...
Published: 11/15/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

Editorial: USF’s billion-dollar moment

The University of South Florida recently surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal, continuing a current trend of exceeding expectations. At 61 years old — barely middle age among higher education institutions — USF has grown up quickly. It now boast...
Published: 11/14/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

Editorial: Vets should not have to wait years for benefits

American military members hurt in service to their country should not have to wait a lifetime for the benefits they deserve. But that’s a reality of the disability process at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which hasn’t made payi...
Published: 11/14/17

Editorial: Deputies’ rescue reflects best in law enforcement

The bravery two Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies showed a week ago is a credit to them and reflects the professionalism of the office.Deputies Benjamin Thompson and Trent Migues responded at dusk Nov. 11 after 82-year-old Leona Evans of Webster...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/17/17

Another voice: An untrustworthy deal with Russia

President Donald Trump’s latest defense of Russian leader Vladimir Putin included — along with a bow to his denials of meddling in the U.S. election — an appeal to pragmatism. "Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,"...
Published: 11/13/17
Updated: 11/14/17