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Letters: Back-and-forth on Syria policy

September 21, 2013

Re "Bait-and-switch on Syria," Opinion, Sept. 17

Jonah Goldberg argues that the Obama administration changed its policy goal on Syria from ousting President Bashar Assad to eliminating chemical weapons in the hands of the government. He writes that the former policy goal is "now dead."

This is wrong. Secretary of State John F. Kerry faced these very questions in a joint news conference with U.S. allies in Paris the day before Goldberg's Op-Ed appeared. He pointedly said, "Nothing in what we have done is meant to offer any notion to Assad that there's any legitimacy" to his role as leader.

What altered priorities was the chemical attack alleged to have been perpetrated by the Syrian government that killed more than 1,000 people. That raised an immediate issue: What to do about eliminating chemical weapons in the hands of Assad? The seriousness with which Washington prepared for a military strike was surely a major reason the Russians pushed Assad to agree to disarm.

There is still much that can go wrong, but Goldberg unfairly criticizes the Obama administration for pushing chemical weapons up its agenda after the Syrian people were attacked.

Larry Caldwell


The writer, a political science professor at Occidental College, teaches courses on national security.

One wonders whether "the curse of chemical weapons" is something facing all of humanity or just what keeps Goldberg (yet again) from scoring points against Obama.

Who cares whether there are flip-flops or contradictory policies? I'd rather have a president who changes his mind and takes time to make the correct decision than someone who takes the advice of shoot-from-the-hip politicians like Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.

Robert McEwen



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