OBAMA ON SYRIA
Until the recent potential game-changer of a chemical weapons agreement with Syria and international inspectors, the president had essentially 3 options, all of them not good, in this most intractable situation:
- refrain from anything but rebukes to Assad and perhaps mobilize an international coalition of criticism through allies, NATO, the UN or unilaterally.
- upside– less risk of being called militaristic (and perhaps hypocritical because of past opposition to US adventurism or military intervention in the Middle East
- downside– open to criticism on humanitarian grounds (use of chemical weapons and the Government’s killing of perhaps 100,000 of its own citizens, some rebels but also many “civilians”) during the past two years; and on the practical grounds of having stepped back from his own pledge to act forcefully if chemical weapons were used
- A graduated approach implying diplomacy, moral suasion, but also symbolic force, such as strikes on military sites in Syria, command and control faculties, areas less risky for civilian losses, but a definite shot across the bow
*the upside And downside of such a response would be that it would make a clear statement to the Assad government that the US and allies would not tolerate such escalation but also being left vulnerable to criticism of “an act of war” and the opening of a perhaps deepening military involvement, criticism coming hypocritically from some of the same people in Congress who supported Afghanistan and, especially, Iraq at various levels
- A more forceful military response, probably only with an international force and then likely only after a particularly egregious Non-chemical slaughter of civilians; this seems unlikely, unless a faction in the rebel forces with moderate credentials (and ideally a leader with some stature or gravitas) emerges?
* A fourth option of course, would be to do nothing; if that is in fact an optional at all