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Presidents quickly realize that while a single act might destroy the world they live in, no one single decision can make life suddenly better or can turn history around for the good.- Lyndon B. Johnson

I am not a Middle East expert.

In fact to gain a better sense of what has been happening with the Syrian civil war, I’ve had to refer to sources like these and this one, too.

Yup, ostensibly I had to check out ‘Conflict Dynamics in Syria for Dummies.’

These ‘cliff notes’ are a helpful way for non-wonks and regional specialists to catch-up to speed. But they can also be slightly misleading in their simplicity, especially when trying to solve complicated conflict dynamics in Syria.

Still, I have real concerns about the possibility of U.S. ‘engagement’ in Syria. There are four things in particular that I find disconcerting that I want to note here.

First, I am disappointed that despite the humanitarian crisis associated with the civil war– the 2,021,430 refugees and 100,000 deaths; it took the alleged use of chemical weapons to publicly contemplate interventions in Syria, or to try to galvanize international support to do so.

Yes, the U.S. should be prudent about international ‘entanglements’ and violating a nation’s sovereignty, but the scale of the problem and human suffering of the refugees should have been difficult to ignore.

Second, what is up with haranguing the President and accusing him of “dithering?” Since when does contemplating an issue equate weakness?

Should leaders be decisive, yes, but do wise leaders seek counsel and explore their options before coming to an informed conclusion, ideally.

There are many reasons for us not to attack Syria. Several of these questions are pertinent to vital U.S. interests and warrant careful consideration.

There are also relevant “Just War” questions that should be used to calibrate our approach if the U.S. were to decide that violent intervention is absolutely necessary.

Remember, immediate action now can have LASTING repercussions.

The third thing that upsets me is this false dichotomy the U.S. citizens are being presented with between not responding to the conflict at all and launching missile strikes. There IS an …”alternative to bombing [that] is not “looking the other way.”

I applaud Senator Rep. Chris Smith for thinking and raising “non-lethal ways of holding people to account” in Syria.

I also was happy to hear Secretary Kerry’s unintended suggestion that President Bashar al-Assad could turn in his chemical weapons and avoid U.S. cruise missiles.

You cannot make a credible decision, if there are not diverse and sound options being considered.

Fourth, I do not believe that the U.S. should go forward without support from a critical mass of UN member countries and Syria’s neighbors. Contrary to this professional opinion, I am not convinced that “there will be no resolution [in Syria] without American leadership.”

And even if I looked passed the hubris, and agreed that yes, the world needs the U.S. to take the lead— any sustainable effort to address challenges in Syria would require a united collation of countries.

The USA and the international community at large should learn the lessons from Rwanda.

To be clear, no, I am not equating the lack of response in Syria to the failure to act in the face of genocide, but the point that instability in Rwanda, upset fragile regional dynamics that were already precarious.

You have to bear in mind that there are “More Syrians are now displaced than any other nationality. More than 97% of Syria’s refugees are being hosted by countries in the surrounding region.” UNHCR said that the influx was “placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures, economies and societies.”

Not to be all Vietnam war-ish, but the crisis in Syria and the implications of it could create a destabilizing regional ‘domino‘ effect that the U.S. should be worried about.

My overall opinion is this: right now is a defining time –not just for U.S. statesmen and soldiers, but our world.

It should not be taken lightly.

Our response to the crisis in Syria is an opportunity for the international arena to respond thoughtfully to yet another instance of civil war and state fragility.

To do so effectively, the U.S. needs to muster astute diplomacy, strengthened forms of regional and global cooperation, and an American public that thinks things through assiduously before allowing our leaders to intervene.

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