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OUR VIEW: Let Syrians fight their own fight

In 1965, as political tensions escalated in southeast Asia and specifically in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson assured America that he was thoroughly against sending U.S. troops abroad to fight a war that had nothing to do with our country.

"We are not about to send American boys 9,000 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves," Johnson said during a nationally televised speech.

Of course, America did jump into Vietnam, and we did it during Johnson's tenure. What a morass it turned out to be.

We can't help but think of Johnson's words these days, as President Obama urges Congress to approve striking Syria after that country's government allegedly used deadly gasses on rebel forces.

The world generally agrees that using toxic gas is fiendish, since its effects are torturous on combatants. Gas also often affects innocent bystanders, and the president says that's the case in Syria.

Although we appreciate that President Obama has asked for the opinion of Congress, we don't think Congress should approve any sort of retaliatory military strike on Syria. Others agree, including the United States' chief ally, Great Britain, whose parliament has decided against joining this fight if America moves forward.

If it's true that Syrian President Bashar Assad has used gas against his own people, punishment is in order. Dictators should not be allowed to attack innocents with impunity. But non-military means of punishment -- sanctions and embargoes, for instance -- seem more appropriate for a country like ours, which has little at stake in this fight.

There is no great political gain from striking Syria with American missiles. No American lives are at stake, and no economic advantage will come from it. There is no land to be gained through conquest, and no threat to our own interests or lands currently exists.

Meanwhile, it's sure to be expensive, and irrefutable evidence of the alleged gas attack still has not surfaced.

Some politicians -- including Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain -- have given assurances that no American boots will ever hit the ground in Syria.

How can we be so sure?

Wouldn't Lyndon Johnson have made the same promise 50 years ago?

South Dakota is a fighting state. Our state's National Guard has answered the bell time and again as America has become a worldwide police force.

We predict that if the United States follows through with a missile strike, Syria will counter with its own attack. Inevitably, boots will hit the ground in a conflict that does not concern us.

History has shown that South Dakota National Guard units generally get involved in these scrapes, in one form or another.

Don't strike Syria. Our troops have had enough overseas fighting.

Let Syrians figure it out on their own.