The big topic on today's opinion pages: Syria. A sampling of what's out there:
- We absolutely cannot intervene in Syria without UN Security Council authorization, write Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro in the New York Times. There is no direct threat to any NATO member, so reprehensible as it may seem, we must wait for approval. Remember, before the UN and its rules, there "was almost constant war."
- In the Washington Post, Matt Miller brings up six "qualms" he has about the situation. The first: "What about the first 100,000 people Assad killed over two and a half years? What message are we sending to tyrants about the world’s willingness to look away from regular old mass murder within their own borders? ... Our whole approach still feels uncomfortably close to saying 'we’d really prefer you stick with the machine guns, if you don’t mind.'"
- Striking Syria is not a good idea for President Obama, writes Robert Reich at Salon. And it's also not critical for the Middle East's future: "In fact, a strike on Syria may well cause more havoc in that tinder-box region of the world by unleashing still more hatred for America, the West, and for Israel, and more recruits to terrorism," he writes. And then there's the fact that, "once we take military action, any subsequent failure to follow up or prevent gains by the other side is seen as an even larger sign of our weakness, further emboldening our enemies."
- And, despite the fact that Obama clearly said the use of chemical weapons was a "red line," the president has the right to change his mind, writes Charlie Cook in the National Journal. Obama's decision to seek congressional approval before making a move suggests he "was following the admonition of Shakespeare's Falstaff in Henry IV that discretion is the better part of valor," Cook writes. "Should a president make a statement, no matter how ill-advised it might be, then say, 'Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' regardless of the circumstances and just to be consistent?"
- Roger Cohen disagrees: "Red lines matter," he writes in the New York Times, and this one "must be upheld" just as American red lines were upheld during World War II and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- Also in the Times, Thomas L. Friedman offers up his plan for a Syria response: Further arm and train the Free Syrian Army, then "use every diplomatic tool we have to shame Assad, his wife, Asma, his murderous brother Maher, and every member of his cabinet or military whom we can identify as being involved in this gas attack," he writes. "Do not underestimate how much of a deterrent it can be for the world community to put the mark of Cain on their foreheads so they know that they and their families can never again travel anywhere except to North Korea, Iran, and Vladimir Putin’s dacha."