Michael Gerson: Syria: U.S. paralyzed by fear of unintended consequences

Published: Friday, Feb. 21 2014 12:00 a.m. MST

Updated: Thursday, Feb. 20 2014 9:39 p.m. MST

Take out the Syrian planes and helicopters? President Obama was once on the verge of aerial strikes — always a grim, final option, and a risky escalation. But he might decide that the final option has been reached, to stop the barrel bombs from being dropped on neighborhoods and to push back the range of regime attacks to the reach of their artillery.

With Russia blocking any decisive action at the United Nations, any mix of these approaches would require a coalition of the willing. But there are a number of nations — including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan and France — that seem to be willing. America is not alone; it has simply not led. And a paralyzing fear of unintended consequences, it turns out, can result in massive unintended consequences.

Michael Gerson's email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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