Considering All the Options
So, let me get this straight: President Barack Obama says we absolutely, positively must attack Syria in retaliation for that county’s alleged use of poison gas against its own people.
To be meaningful, a U.S. assault would have to weaken dictator Bashar Assad’s armed forces. That could allow rebels to prevail against him during the civil war.
Rebel forces, including quite a few elements of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, would then take over the country – including Assad’s stocks of chemical weapons. Anyone want to venture a guess as to how the terrorists would use those armaments?
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are framing their request for congressional approval of an attack on Syria in very simple terms. It amounts to them saying Syria has been bad and needs to be punished.
Now, they are adding that if we don’t attack Syria, the U.S. won’t have any credibility with Iran and North Korea.
Would that the situation were that simple. But nothing is ever that simple. A few thoughts one wonders whether anyone in Washington has had:
- Assad has nothing to lose. He figures that if the rebels win, he’s a dead man. So what if he retaliates against a U.S. missile strike by igniting a regional war, perhaps by dropping some sarin gas into Tel Aviv?
- What if Assad throws a real temper tantrum and orders his generals to empty the sarin warehouses by killing even more Syrian civilians? How would we respond to that?
- What if, while Congress is debating the matter, Assad’s friends in Iran are sending him some of their medium-range missiles – some specifically designed to destroy ships – for use against the handful of U.S. destroyers that may be used to launch cruise missiles against Syria?
- It wasn’t at all difficult for terrorists in Libya to destroy a U.S. mission in Benghazi last year, killing four Americans in the process. Are we really certain Assad’s operatives haven’t picked a vulnerable embassy or consulate somewhere else in the world?
- How certain are we that Assad hasn’t already sent a few thousand school children to live in the hangars at Syrian airbases? Remember, our own government says Assad isn’t above slaughtering innocent youngsters.
- What if our cruise missiles miss, so to speak? That is, what if Assad has had time to disperse and conceal his military forces so that a U.S. attack does little harm to them? Talk about losing credibility with North Korea and Iran …
- It’s always possible Obama plans to use manned aircraft, perhaps from aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea or even from bases in the U.S., to attack Syria. What happens if the Syrians (or the Iranians) get lucky and shoot a few of them down?
- What if U.S. forces administer a real pounding to Assad’s army and air force, and he continues to use chemical weapons against the rebels? Think about it: If his conventional military might is weakened, he might decide he has no choice but to use more sarin.
- Has anyone even thought about a diplomatic solution? It is not in Russia’s best interests for the Assad regime to fall. Could Vladimir Putin be persuaded to convince Assad he should provide a pledge not to use chemical weapons again – in exchange for his own survival?
- Finally, are we really certain it was Assad’s forces who launched gas attacks on their own people?
Now, I’m not a military man or a diplomat. I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. But I do know that I haven’t heard most of them addressed by anyone in Obama’s administration. I haven’t heard of anyone even asking some of them.
What’s that? Even discussing such possibilities could give Assad ideas? Don’t be naive. In a vicious part of the world, Assad has gained a reputation for ruthlessness. Rest assured, he’s considering all his options.
Myer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.