- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman says the time has come for a “limited campaign of U.S.-led air strikes” that target Syrian President Bashar Assad’s planes, helicopters and missiles, in order to bolster the rebel forces trying to topple him.

Mr. Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-independent who ran for vice president with Al Gore in 2000, said that it is not too late for the U.S. to “salvage” its approach toward Syria, but that “time is running out” and arming the rebel groups is no longer enough to “alter the trajectory of the conflict.”

“What is required now is a limited campaign of U.S.-led air strikes to neutralize Assad’s planes, helicopters and ballistic missiles, which are being used to terrorize the Syrian population,” Mr. Lieberman said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed posted on the newspaper’s website Tuesday evening. “Taking such a step would not require the U.S. to act unilaterally, nor would it involve any American boots on the ground.”

The Obama administration has been reluctant to arm Syria rebels out of the fear that the weapons would end up in the hands of Islamist elements in the opposition, and that doing so could pull the U.S. into a proxy war.

The pressure, though, has been building on the White House to change its policy with the death toll climbing past 70,000, according to the United Nations. Mr. Lieberman warned that if Syria “becomes a failed state, the biggest winner will be al Qaeda” and “our allies will be the losers.”

Mr. Lieberman developed a reputation for being a military hawk on Capitol Hill, often teaming up with Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina in calling for the nation to have a more muscular foreign policy. But he opted against running for a fifth term in the Senate and left office earlier this year.

Mr. Lieberman said in the op-ed that the U.S. could use Patriot missile defense batteries along the Turkish-Syria border to counter the Scud missiles that have been “raining down indiscriminately on the towns and cities in northern Syria.”

“It is often said that the longer the conflict in Syria grinds on, the worse the situation on the ground grows,” Mr. Lieberman said. “That is true. But it is equally true that the longer the U.S. refuses to lead, the higher the cost will be when America ultimately decides it must get involved because of the country’s vital national interests at stake in Syria.”

“Rather than waiting for proof that Assad has used his chemical weapons, the United States should introduce its own game-changer to the conflict: strong, decisive leadership,” he said.

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