Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama Lacks Support to Attack Syria

Apparently, only die-hard progressives like Nancy Pelosi favor attacking Syria--whatever the Dear Leader wants appears to be their motto. However, nearly 80% of Americans think the President should consult with Congress (i.e., obtain Congressional approval) before launching a strike; and even so, 50% are opposed to any sort of military action. Even our closest ally, Great Britain, will not be joining us on this foray.

The Washington Post reports that military officers--of all ranks--are similarly opposed to military intervention in Syria. From that story:
Former and current officers ... said the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria. 
Some questioned the use of military force as a punitive measure and suggested that the White House lacks a coherent strategy. If the administration is ambivalent about the wisdom of defeating or crippling the Syrian leader, possibly setting the stage for Damascus to fall to fundamentalist rebels, they said, the military objective of strikes on Assad’s military targets is at best ambiguous. 
... Marine Lt. Col. Gordon Miller, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned this week of “potentially devastating consequences, including a fresh round of chemical weapons attacks and a military response by Israel.” 
“If President [Assad were] to absorb the strikes and use chemical weapons again, this would be a significant blow to the United States’ credibility and it would be compelled to escalate the assault on Syria to achieve the original objectives,” Miller wrote in a commentary for the think tank. 
... A young Army officer who is wrapping up a year-long tour there said soldiers were surprised to learn about the looming strike, calling the prospect “very dangerous.” 
“I can’t believe the president is even considering it,” said the officer.... “We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”
The Financial Times also points out that such a strike would be a lose/lose proposition for the United States in that it would do little harm to Assad, but would reduce America's position in the Middle-East even further:
Every now and then one of my English-speaking colleagues asks me what Russia will do if the western powers make good on their threats and strike at Syria. My answer is: nothing. 
Russia does not have to do anything, it can just sit quiet. The situation is advantageous to Moscow. Our leaders will be only too happy to see the US start a new war it cannot win.
Consider the options. A land invasion is out of the question. Sustained air bombardment risks the loss of pilots, and would therefore be unacceptable for the public in the west. The likeliest avenue is missile strikes; President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will undoubtedly suffer – but Russia and Iran will be able to make up for any losses. The allies will give Mr Assad a bloody nose and that is it. Punitive strikes cannot bring about a turning point in the hostilities. Any substantial change in the correlation of forces on the ground is not feasible.

So, morally and psychologically, the Assad regime will score points, at least in the eyes of the developing world – and certainly in those of Russia. Propaganda is certain to draw parallels with the intervention in Iraq 10 years ago. It is, of course, very easy to picture the US as a global bully ever bent on inventing pretexts for aggression. Iran will be jubilant. Many people in Syria will be inclined to resist a new imperialist crusade.
Upping the ante is advantageous for Moscow. The more the western powers are involved in the conflict, the more deeply they are immersed, the more opportunities emerge for Russia to back the Assad regime as a “legitimate authority under attack”. Since a land operation can be ruled out, it may appear in the end that not only has Mr Assad survived but also that Moscow and Tehran have won in the global confrontation with the coalition of the west, Turkey and the Arab League.

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