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The writer has served as a senior trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he litigated denaturalization and deportation cases against men who assisted in Nazi persecution.
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Seeing parallels to previous wars
The situation in Syria is beginning to look like the Spanish Civil War, in which outside interests piggybacked on the internal conflict. The royal “legitimate” government was a cause célèbre for not only Liberal types but communists and later Russia. Franco’s right-wing rebels were helped by German and Italian fascist “volunteers,” and their tanks and air power, while the League of Nations sat ineffectively by.
When legitimate help is not forthcoming, each side becomes more vulnerable to radicals, who will use the conflict to further their own ends. So, in Syria, brutal Alawite sect president Bashar Assad gets help not only from old pal Russia, which wants to retain its interests in the region, but from Alawite sympathizers Shiite Iran. The Arab Spring-inspired, democratically inclined rebels, a mixed group that got little outside help, in despair have let Al-Qaida and other Sunni radicals assist. Now even Egypt is calling for a no-fly zone and a war on the Alawite Assad!
The West, which could have intervened decisively earlier (as it did in Libya), thereby gaining the gratitude of the people, only now is beginning to offer real help. A little too late, perhaps?
MICHAEL MAYER, Lakeville
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President Obama cites “conclusive and irrefutable evidence” that Assad used chemical weapons. Similar “conclusive and irrefutable evidence” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were cited by the previous administration — and it proved to be wrong. Are we sliding down the slippery slope once again? What does “high certainty” mean? Why hasn’t the president documented, published and presented this “conclusive” evidence to the American people and the world before committing the United States to another regional conflict?
ANDY PAKALNS, St. Paul
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.