ISSUE | OBAMA AND THE ISLAMIC STATE

Restraint isn't 'cowardice'

I've never met a military man who didn't think the answer to most world conflicts was more military action by the United States.

Retired Marine Col. Paul McHale goes beyond the pale by calling President Obama's caution in Syria "cowardice" ("In face of Islamic State, Obama offers cowardice," Sunday). Hardly. The country is exhausted after 14 years of war, most of it derived from the ill-conceived debacle in Iraq. Few Americans have a stomach for thousands more casualties in yet another Middle East ground war.

I see the president's plan as one of persuading partners in the Middle East to fight the land war while the United States supports them from the air. He understands the threat of ISIS, but he has also seen how fruitless our military efforts have been in Iraq and Afghanistan in the face of insurgencies. Appropriately, we are looking to our partners to do some of the heavy lifting in Syria. That is good judgment, not cowardice.

|Charles Glackin, Philadelphia, strategicfollies@hotmail.com

Calling out the president

Recognition should go to Paul McHale for openly stating a fact that much too often goes ignored out of respect for the office of the president of the United States. We have as president an Ivy League-educated orator with an outstanding and powerfully resounding voice, but very limited perception of foreign policy and no ability to distinguish the "good guys" from the "bad guys."

We have all watched Obama cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin and literally inviting him to share in military operations in Iraq and Syria. That was dumbfounding; the only thing Putin is interested in is protecting his puppet, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which is exactly what he did.

Putin was the single reason that Obama never lifted a finger to help those beleaguered and oppressed people in Syria four years ago and refused to supply arms to the rebels who were standing up to Assad. We also watched while Obama did nothing when Assad crossed Obama's "red line" and killed innocent people with poisonous gas.

|Jim O'Keefe, Philadelphia

ISSUE | PA. BUDGET

Stressful times

It is essential for our state representatives, senators, and governor to recognize how the tensions and anxieties caused by the lack of a state operating budget affects the lives of the citizens of Pennsylvania. Rep Pamela A. DeLissio's call for a mediator is right on target ("Time for a mediator," Sunday). Nothing is being accomplished in the budget process that is in the interest of the ordinary voter. A seasoned mediator can open the ears of those whose ears are closed.

|John F.X. Lieb, Philadelphia, jlieb596@yahoo.com

ISSUE | REFUGEES

Moral obligation

As Sisters of St. Joseph whose mission is the unity of all people with God and with one another, we support Gov. Wolf's commitment to accept Syrian refugees into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and we invite other governors to reexamine their stances.

We fully affirm the need for appropriate screening procedures. At the same time, we affirm our moral obligation to care for our sisters and brothers in need who are fleeing unspeakable atrocities. In a country rich with resources, let us open our hearts in compassion and follow the beatitudes of Jesus Christ: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35).

|Sister Anne Myers, congregational president, Sisters of St. Joseph, Philadelphia

ISSUE | MIDDLE EAST

Mixed signals

I disagree with John B. Quigley's commentary ("U.S. military vs. Islamic State?" Nov. 24), specifically, that the lack of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict "bears a direct relation to the carnage in Paris." This problem has nothing to do with the Islamic State's goal of creating a caliphate. Should Israel disappear from the map tomorrow, the underlying Shia-Sunni animosity would remain, and ISIS's goal would be unchanged.

Al-Qaeda and ISIS cite the Arab-Israeli standoff to appeal to anti-Semites. Their aim is to distract the world from their true objective. It startled me to see Quigley swallowing their bait.

|Joseph A. Liebreich, King of Prussia

Keeping U.S. boots out of Syria is best

Paul McHale's commentary perfectly expressed our common anger and frustration in the face of ISIS terrorism and its globalization. But what McHale avoided was any idea of what additional tactics President Obama should undertake to end ISIS without leaving a vacuum that too many capable ISIS wannabes would rush to fill, just as ISIS supplanted al-Qaeda.

I applaud Obama's hesitation to commit boots on the ground when there is no strategy for what follows "victory" that does not require decades of increasingly odious occupation. Have we learned nothing from Afghanistan and Iraq?

Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to provide air support to "friendly" rebels, engage Arab countries and others in the fight, build an international coalition, and seek a negotiated agreement for the future governance of Syria remain our best hope for the future of Syria and the end of ISIS terrorism.

|Leroy Forney, Philadelphia, leeforney@yahoo.com

Analysis fails to provide options

Paul McHale offered a sober analysis of President Obama's foreign policy as it relates to the Isamic State. He clearly outlined what the future of international warfare might legally require in fighting the threat of Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, all he said was that the laws of international warfare will need to be adjusted for the reality of the 21st century.

That may be necessary, but he did not provide any thoughts about what must be done at the present time, in military terms, within the framework of existing international law. In mentioning the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which Osama bin Laden was killed, he hinted at what might be done, but that is a far cry from fighting ISIS, which now has a worldwide front. I consider criticism without offering alternatives to be hollow.

|Steven Barrer, Huntingdon Valley, sjbarrer@gmail.com