Updated (6:30 p.m. Wednesday): After this editorial was printed, Rep. Bill Shuster announced Tuesday night, he does not support using U.S. military force to attack Syria. His complete statement follows this editorial.
The question that should be in the forefront as Americans reflect on this 12th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon is whether this country truly is in command of the lessons that should have been learned in the years since that deadly day.
People of this nation are war weary as a result of the protracted military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, yet the weeks since Aug. 21 have been dominated by the question of whether the U.S. should launch another attack - this one on Syria.
It was on that day last month that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad allegedly carried out a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 civilians, including more than 400 children, in the suburbs of Damascus.
As unconscionable as that use of chemical weapons was, events of the past dozen years, especially in Iraq, have provided ample evidence of how unintended consequences could be the product of a well-intentioned operation, if the United States were to carry out an attack on the Assad government.
Events in the Middle East have proven numerous times, even in the years preceding Sept. 11, 2001, that clear-cut results are not as guaranteed as they might seem to be.
It's impossible to predict what might evolve in the wake of a U.S. missile attack even if aimed solely at punishing Assad.
At the same time, there is the question of how many Syrian civilians, including children, might die as a result of a U.S. strike, no matter how well-planned to avoid such a result.
But the possible ramifications of the U.S. pulling back from its threat of military action are important grounds for concern as well.
If the U.S. balks at a military attack, it could signal to rogue nations and terrorist organizations that they can employ weapons of mass destruction without consequence, possibly planting the seeds for an eventual chemical attack against this country - a possible 9/11-like event with many casualties.
Retreating from the threats of retaliatory action that have been dominant since Aug. 21 also could project the message that there is too much division within this country to back up U.S. declarations about severe consequences for what the Assad regime dared to wreak.
That would signify a victory for Assad.
However, the view of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th, reported in an article in last Wednesday's Mirror, merits serious contemplation as well. Shuster, pointing to evidence that al-Qaida fighters are among the broad rebel movement that has fought Assad for more than two years, said, "I've got to have assurance that, if we bomb him, it won't weaken him to the point that al-Qaida [gets access to his chemical weapons]. If they get them, that's a much bigger problem."
Al-Qaida remains a serious threat a dozen years after 9/11.
This anniversary of the 2001 attacks therefore is not one without deep concern, about mankind's inhumanity, as demonstrated by Assad, and especially about the question of whether U.S. leaders will make the right decision regarding how to respond to that inhumanity.
People of central Pennsylvania should reflect on Sept. 11, 2001, today, but they also should reflect on much more.
There is no greater decision an elected official can make than whether or not to send our armed forces into conflict. As the representative of the 9th District of Pennsylvania to the US House of Representatives, it is my duty to make decisions on national security based on what is in the national interests of the United States of America.
After numerous briefings from national security experts and members of the President's national security team, including the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs, and the Director of National Security, along with an outpouring of feedback from my constituents, I have made the decision that I will oppose authorizing the President to use military force in Syria.
I am convinced that such action is not in our national security interest. Military intervention would likely result in entangling the U.S. in a chaotic and complicated civil war with already 100,000 casualties, and a ruthless dictator on one side, and rebel groups that include al Qaeda and Islamic extremists on the other. President Bashar al Assad, who has killed thousands of his own people, last month used chemical weapons to kill another 1,400 civilians- a clear violation of international law.
The objectives and effectiveness of a targeted military strike in Syria are unclear and uncertain. I fear that weakening the Assad regime will result in weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the rebels, such as al Qaeda and only make the situation in Syria worse. Further, involvement by the US will not end the war
With all the evidence at hand, it is not in our national interest to become embroiled in Syria?s messy civil war. While I strongly condemn Assad?s use of chemical weapons, I do not support a military intervention in Syria. I will vote no on the resolution authorizing the President to use force in Syria.?