800px-Flag_of_Syria.svgMAIN ST — No military action in Syria can solve the deeper problems plaguing the region.

That’s the opinion of Robert Gipson, a former U.S. infantryman who was parking his car on Main Street Wednesday afternoon when he was asked by a Daily Press reporter his thoughts on possible military action by the U.S. military.

He said Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and other Arab countries have to figure it out for themselves because they’re more acquainted with the region’s turmoil.

“What’s happening in Syria is absolutely terrible,” Gipson said. “The military is really important, but it’s limited in what it can do.”

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama said he would seek support from Congress for a military strike in response to allegations that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons last month, reportedly killing more than 1,400 civilians. Assad has denied using chemical weapons on his people during a prolonged civil war.

On Wednesday, Obama’s measure cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on a 10-7 vote. The resolution specifically would permit Obama to order a limited military mission against Syria, as long as it doesn’t exceed 90 days and involves no American troops on the ground for combat operations.

The matter will reach the Senate next week.

Obama already has the support from high-ranking Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Since the civil war in Syria began two years ago, a third of the country, or at least 4.5 million people, have been displaced by the fighting. More than 110,000 Syrians have lost their lives since March 2011, according to the latest United Nations figures.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Santa Monica) was among a handful of Congress members who signed a letter to the president last month “expressing unequivocal condemnation over the news that chemical weapons were reportedly used by the government of Syria.”

The letter urged Obama to seek an “affirmative decision of Congress prior to committing any U.S. military engagement to this complex crisis.”

“While the ongoing human rights violations and continued loss of life are horrific, they should not draw us into an unwise war, especially without adhering to our own constitutional requirements,” the letter stated.

Reem Salahi, a civil rights attorney who was recently in Syria to tour refugee camps, said she was ambivalent about the military strike since the U.S. has already intervened less explicitly by providing military aid, weapons and financial aid to the rebels fighting against Assad’s regime.

“For me, I think that rather than discussing this binary discourse of ‘do we strike or do we not strike?’ a more honest discussion [is] on how do we, as an international community, help end the bloodshed and what to do to really bring an end to the bloodshed, the displacement and the refugee crisis?” Salahi said. “What Obama is proposing is not aimed at doing that.”

Others like Alexei Lindes, who lives in Sunset Park, said a military strike is another “power move” for the U.S. military to maintain control over oil resources in the region.

“It’s basically part of the plan there,” Lindes said.

The U.S. just can’t keep looking away anymore, said Chris Kunze, a resident of Venice who was on her way to her daughter’s Santa Monica home Wednesday afternoon. She believes intervention is necessary but, “I don’t think we should go that intently into it.”

“We definitely need to do something to get their [Syrians] attention,” she said. “This is the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Just like in Congress, there are differing opinions across the board within the Santa Monica Democratic Club on what to do in Syria, said Jay Johnson, co-president of the club. Johnson said he was skeptical and studying up on what the latest developments were.

“If you take out the airport runway so they can’t use their airplanes, for instance, that’s selective punishment,” Johnson said. “Things would be damaged, but it would not be hurting people. ”

Councilmember Kevin McKeown said in an e-mail using the military’s might, with the attendant dangers of collateral damage and deaths and the likelihood that such independent action might worsen rather than help the Syrian situation, doesn’t resonate with him.

“Using our nation’s influence within the context of the United Nations to protect civilians from chemical weapon attacks certainly resonates with me,” McKeown said.

Brad Torgan, secretary of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, who was speaking for himself and not the group, supports a military strike, but “no boots on the ground.” Torgan, who last year ran for the 50th Assembly District seat, which includes Santa Monica, said his opinion was in line with the House Republican leadership’s stance.

The White House needs to have a more developed plan, said Robert Pedersen, chairman of the Westside Republicans. He said he saw no end game or strategy in what the president wants to do in Syria.

“Does he want a regime change? No, he doesn’t,” Pedersen said. “We are getting ourselves in the middle of a civil war without thinking it out.”

He suggested the president, like others before him, come on television and explain the rationale behind his decision.

“I think we would like to support the president and certainly if he launches an attack, the country pulls together,” Pedersen said. “This is the time to raise questions.”

Using chemical weapons tugs at the heartstrings for people, said Julie Dad, vice president-membership for the Santa Monica Democratic Club. But she said a military strike won’t solve anything.

“Will it stop Assad from using chemical weapons in the future? Likely not,” Dad said. “Will it provoke him into taking other actions himself? Very likely.”

Dad said the Santa Monica Democratic Club has had a history of not supporting wars, strikes or drone attacks.

“We are very strongly [for] finding peaceful resolution, for having dialogue with the most obstructive of countries,” Dad said. “Otherwise you don’t really have an impact.”

 

ameera@smdp.com

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