If Syrian government should go, who follows?

Among the most perceptive and at the same time worrisome comments made on the prospect of U.S. military action against Syria was one by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

“We have no friends on either side of this,” Manchin commented.

Manchin is correct about that. He and other members of Congress should keep that in mind as they discuss whether to approve President Barack Obama’s request for use of military force against Syria.

Obama has asked for what amounts to at least a limited declaration of war against Syria after U.S. officials concluded that regime used chemical weapons against its own people. Hundreds, including many children, perished.

Use of chemical weapons crossed a “red line” Obama set for Syrian leader Bashar Assad. But Syria has crossed other red lines in the past, through its state sponsorship of terrorist organizations.

While the Syrian government has been an enemy of peace for decades, many of the rebels fighting it are no friends of the United States either. It is known that large swaths of territory from which rebels have ousted government forces are controlled by terrorists, including al-Qaida.

Forcing the Assad government out could open the door for another regime equally as objectionable. As Americans learned after aiding the Taliban to defeat Russian troops in Afghanistan, conflicts in that region often are not between factions friendly to this nation.

A variety of factors should be considered by lawmakers debating Obama’s request. This is a situation in which there are no really good options. Picking the one least likely to blow up in our faces, perhaps literally, should be the goal of thoughtful senators and representatives.

An old saying – “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” – allegedly originated in the Middle East. But, as Manchin stresses, it is not necessarily true in this situation.