Two million Syrians have now fled their homeland and more than 4 million are displaced internally, Americans are tired of grinding, open-ended wars in the Middle East. Syrian civilians are suffering. The U.S. has been sending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to help; the United Nations says it needs billions.
President Obama said in June that the U.S., would begin supplying arms to moderate rebel groups. Some U.S. officials are wary of providing large quantities of heavy weapons to the rebels, arguing that they are a mixed bag, ranging from secular fighters who favor a democratic Syria to Islamist extremists aligned with al-Qaida. The CIA is training small numbers of rebels in Jordan, and there's talk of calling on the U.S. Army to expand those efforts. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told Congress that building up the rebels could be a more promising option than U.S. military strikes.
the U.S. cannot let Syrian President Bashar Assad go unpunished for his alleged use of chemical weapons last month.
The U.S. action would likely consist of a couple days of cruise missile strikes launched from naval ships in the eastern Mediterranean. Likely targets would be military aircraft and airports, military bases, and perhaps military headquarters and some government buildings.
Critics of the plan claim it is unlikely to alter the course of a war that is currently a stalemate. And, they add, it could have the unintended effect of rallying Syrian public support for Assad.
U.S. firepower has been decisive in removing, or helping remove, several groups and leaders in the past decade, including the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 and Moammar Gadhafi in Libya in 2011. Yet all of those countries remain unstable to this day.
An option that NPR did not include is to do nothing.