February 25th, 2012
01:16 AM ET

Letters to the President #1132: 'The Syrian situation'

Reporter's Note: I write to President Obama all the time. He doesn’t answer. I assume he is busy.

Dear Mr. President,

Certainly I don’t need to tell you that the situation in Syria appears to be growing more desperate by the day. The pressure on the city of Homs seems chaotic, crushing, inhumane really; and it is heart wrenching to imagine the terror and real danger some people there are facing at this very moment.

And yet, for all that, I can imagine how difficult it must be as a president to decide what, if anything, we should do.

In the heat of the moment, the temptation to rush forward in the name of humanity, decency, justice, and human rights is enormous. But I fear such emotions and thoughts are better suited to those of us who don’t actually have the power to do such things, because the reality is always fraught with unimaginable difficulties and unintended consequences. Plenty of times in the past, governments have stepped into distant conflicts in the name of doing “what is right” only to find over time that the long term consequences were far messier than anticipated, and the temporary good of intervention wound up washed away in the years of bad that followed.

I suppose I sound cruel; as if I don’t really take seriously the suffering of people there, or as if I would favor a paralysis by analysis in which neither we nor any other nations might act. I don’t mean it that way.

I guess what I am saying is this: I certainly hope something can be done to help end the carnage there, and yet for all the ideas that all of us seem to have about what we’d do if we were President…I’m glad this decision is yours. It is truly difficult and freighted with uncertainty. No president wants to step too directly into the affairs of another nation too soon; and neither does any president want to stand by too long while a great crime against humanity itself is underway. Best of luck with your deliberations on the matter.