Intervention becoming murkier

Guest Editorial
The best thing President Barack Obama did about the Syrian crisis was to submit his proposed military intervention to a national debate. The factors for and against an attack are complex, and the forces in the Syrian civil war make it difficult to choose sides.

Obama has pushed for a limited strike against the Syrian government because of two chemical weapons attacks against Syrians. The latest one in late August reportedly killed more than 1,400 people in the suburbs of Damascus.

The depravity of such crimes against humanity ought to have easily justified an attack against the government of Bashar al-Assad, an argument the Obama administration is using to justify a U.S. assault. The trouble is, the rebel forces aren’t much better.

News of an atrocity Syrian rebels committed surfaced last week. A photo the New York Times published Thursday shows rebels preparing to execute Syrian soldiers kneeling before them.

A still from a video purported to have been smuggled out of Syria, it documents the seven prisoners being shot one by one. It is a graphic account of a war crime reportedly committed in the spring of 2012, but it isn’t the first report of war crimes committed by rebels as well as government forces.

Despite this new revelation, the president insists punishing the Assad regime and effectively siding with the rebels is the way America should proceed.

“There are times where we have to make hard choices if we’re going to stand up for the things we care about,” Obama said Sept. 6 during the G-20 global economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“I was under no illusions when I embarked on this path, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

In his speech Sept. 10, the president made his case to Congress and the American people. With renewed suspicions that the rebels are just as bloodthirsty as the Syrian government, there also is their political makeup.

The growing role of al-Qaida militants within the rebels’ ranks presents a predicament: Opposing the Assad regime and its Hezbollah allies effectively could mean throwing in with America’s terrorist foes.

At least a national debate could help to inform a decision to go forward with the Syrian strike or explore some other means of preventing future chemical weapons attacks. Give the president credit for supporting this vital discussion.