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Isles’ lack of support should give Obama pause on Syria

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President Barack Obama should rethink a military strike against Syria over nerve gas attacks if he can’t even get support from his birth state’s congressional Democrats.

Obama is 0-for-Hawaii so far, with U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa opposing military action, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard asking tough questions and Sen. Mazie Hirono studying the facts with a skeptical eye.

With Hanabusa challenging Schatz for his Senate seat in next year’s Democratic primary, there are political implications.

Progressives who oppose further military involvement in the Middle East are a potent force in Democratic primaries, and both candidates covet their support.

But Schatz and Hanabusa are statesmanlike enough that they’d give the president the benefit of the doubt on national security if they saw it as a close call.

Schatz said action in Syria has a "high threshold" after costly U.S. misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. He doesn’t see how a Syrian strike advances peace in the Middle East.

"Though all of us are outraged by the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons, I have concluded that a military strike against Syria is not the answer," he said.

Hanabusa questioned the legal basis for unilateral U.S. action without support from the United Nations or our allies.

"The question is, what is the role of the United States?" she said. "The president has said very clearly that this is not the solution, that even a limited strike, which he’s proposing, is not going to solve the problem. … So my position is, then, why would we do this?"

The point is that Hawaii’s delegation is perhaps the most supportive of Obama in Congress, coming from a state where the president has nearly two-thirds approval.

If our delegates think he’s wrong — and they’re hearing that their constituents who so strongly support Obama think he’s wrong — he needs to consider the possibility that he might, in fact, be wrong.

It’s a shame the rest of the world won’t stand with us against heinous nerve gas attacks by a rogue regime, but that’s the reality and we lack the national resources or moral authority to go it alone as Batman to the world.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, we stumbled into political and cultural situations we didn’t understand with unclear objectives. Syria would be more of the same.

The Obama administration admits Syrian rebels aren’t ready to govern and wouldn’t necessarily be more friendly to U.S. interests than the Assad regime.

The president’s call to send a message to Syria on nerve gas to send a message to Iran and North Korea on nuclear weapons doesn’t track.

Nobody doubts we’d hit back in a big way if weapons of mass destruction were deployed against the U.S. or our allies.

Reach David Shapiro at or

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