Use caution in response to chem attack by Assad

Pictures and video footage of the aftermath of another chemical weapons attack blamed on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad are hard to take. No one likes to see innocent little children suffering.

Some U.S. response to the atrocity, in which about 40 people died, is necessary. Most nations have foresworn use of chemical weapons, at least on innocent civilians. Assad’s apparent eagerness to use them must not be allowed to be viewed by others as a green light.

But how should the United States respond? Economic sanctions? A military strike such as one launched on a Syrian air base after a previous chemical weapons attack? More widespread armed punishment?

Under no circumstances should President Donald Trump authorize action against Syrian that could lead to wider military involvement there. That would merely cost American lives while achieving nothing worthwhile.

Assad is not going to be forced out of office. His Russian and Iranian backers will ensure that. U.S. action that could bring Americans into conflict with Russian forces could have disastrous consequences.

It may be impossible to prevent Assad from resorting again to the barbarism that helped him and his father retain power in Syria. Perhaps the best bet in this situation is for a coalition of nations, perhaps under United Nations auspices, to find some way to punish Assad economically. Unless some way can be found to harm his military significantly, without danger of wider U.S. involvement, that may be the only option.

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