In my Sunday column, I argued that events are pushing President Obama toward a bigger role in aiding rebel forces in Syria’s civil war -- not direct military intervention, perhaps, but certainly more direct help for the insurgents. Yes, I wrote, it’s a slippery slope, but the U.S. interests in that part of the world are so great that it's dangerous to stand by.
But wait, readers responded; what about all the reasons getting involved in Syria would be dangerous?
In the view of the Obama administration, those objections appear to be eroding. Obama’s point man on Syria, Ambassador Robert Ford, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week and dismissed many of the objections that have been raised against sending weapons to the rebels. A year ago, Ford acknowledged, the United States didn’t know much about who the rebels were; but now, he said, “there are good people that we could work with,” including Brig. Gen. Salam Idris, the rebel coalition’s military commander. And where the United States once couldn’t be sure whether its aid might fall into the wrong hands, Ford said, officials now believe they have ways to monitor where the supplies go.
When Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) asked Ford to explain why the United States should get involved in another messy Middle Eastern conflict, Ford listed a series of strategic reasons -- not humanitarianism or democracy promotion. First, he said, there’s the issue of what happens to Syria’s chemical weapons if Bashar Assad’s regime collapses. There’s the prospect that Syria could turn into a safe haven for terrorists allied with Al Qaeda. And Syria’s war is causing real problems for its neighbors, including three major U.S. allies: Turkey, Israel and Jordan.