Monday, December 11, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Prudent step on aid to Syrian rebels

The Obama administration was right to stop short Thursday of committing battlefield aid to the rebels fighting to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. The $60 million package of medical and food assistance that Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Rome will help address the humanitarian crisis of a two-year-old civil war that has killed some 70,000 people, without moving the United States to take on a military role it cannot afford. The administration should resist the pressure from its European allies to intervene more directly, which would only prolong the fighting and add to the regional unrest and misery.

Kerry's announcement came as the Western coalition met in an effort to reach a breakthrough on a civil stalemate that shows no signs of abating. The United States already has provided $385 million in humanitarian aid to the war-torn areas, and another $54 million in nonlethal supplies to the Syrian opposition. The $60 million in new aid will help the rebels operate basic services in the liberated areas — a prelude to opposition forces to establishing their credibility with the local population. The allies also hinted Thursday that a more robust aid package is in the works for the coming weeks.

The money won't go far toward meeting a humanitarian crisis in which an estimated 4 million people have been forced from their homes. But it sends a signal to the Syrian people that the United States is not blind to their plight. And it tells the neighboring states of Turkey and Jordan that the United States recognizes the refugee problem as a global concern. More importantly, the measure will mark the first time that Washington has sent aid directly to the military wing of the opposition. It is an opportunity to test the rebels' competence in handling outside money and managing the heavy demand for civil and emergency services.

The administration was right to avoid the same degree of eagerness that Britain and France have shown to supply the rebels with so-called defensive military assistance, from body armor and armored vehicles to other equipment and training. The nonlethal aid is enough to bring a new sense of legitimacy to the main rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, without locking the coalition with an opposition force that still lacks discipline and ideological unity. Besides, defensive assistance can easily be converted into offensive uses, either by outfitting rebel forces directly or freeing up money for new ammunition and weapons. This is a recipe for increasing the fighting and funneling arms to autonomous rebel groups who come from outside Syria or who have no allegiance to a unified command.

The aid buys some time for the allies and Syria's opposition to build a level of confidence, and for Assad's enablers in Russia to follow through on prodding the Syrian regime toward a political settlement. It provides a front for the coalition to assess the rebels' makeup and capability at closer range. And it discounts, for now, the perception that the rebels are acting as proxies for the West. As tragic as the death toll is, there is no military magic on the horizon for either side. The right course now is to de-escalate the fighting, ramp up the diplomatic pressure on Russia and further isolate Assad. Before the West goes all in, it better know who it's behind.

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Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over state’s rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week won’t make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, it’s obvious that Jeff Vinik’s plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trump’s risky move

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampa’s MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough County’s Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

Editorial: Still waiting for flood insurance fix

It has been 1,979 days since all heck broke loose in the flood insurance industry. Apparently, that just wasn’t enough time for Washington to react. So with the National Flood Insurance Program set to expire on Friday, it’s looking increasingly likel...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17

Editorial: St. Petersburg should raise rates for reclaimed water

Raising rates on reclaimed water in St. Petersburg is an equitable way to spread the pain of paying for millions in fixes to the city’s dilapidated sewer system. The city has no choice but to start charging utility customers more as the sewer bills c...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17