The Syrian issue facing Congress, the U.S., indeed the whole world community, is one of the most complex questions in international relations. When is it proper for one nation to interfere in the affairs of another? At what point does respect for one nation's right to self determination yield to concern for the rights of oppressed and endangered individuals?
It's the same question people face when they see something bad happening - a parent screaming at a kid in a store, some man slapping his girlfriend, someone shoplifting. When should we step forward and get involved, when should we mind our own business?
When are we our brother's keeper?
In the case of Syria, the evidence seems clear that chemical warfare, the kind that has been banned by international agreement for years, was used against civilians, and it is also obvious that the Syrian government is responsible for the deadly attack.
The international community, with the exception of Syria's friends and apologists, is horrified. Some want to call in the U.N. and let them handle it, but with Russia holding veto power in the U.N.?Security Council, that will result in no action. Others want someone, like the U.S., to do something, but don't want to get involved themselves.
The United States has been placed in a position, in part by our president's "red line" statements, and in part by the expectations of others, where we are expected to be the enforcer, the one who steps up.
It is not a popular decision. We have done more than our share of world policing; in fact, many think we have done too much.
Congress must consider the consequences of our taking action, and the consequences of taking no action. If we do take action, many nations in the Middle East will consider us bullies, but if we don't, many nations will consider us weak.
There are few clear guidelines for this decision. Congress has a tough decision ahead, and it will need to muster all the statesmanship it can as it makes it.