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Opinion: Arguing Against 'Limited' Strikes On The Assad Regime

September 3, 2013

Arguing against "Limited" Strikes on the Assad Regime

by Daniel Pipes
August 28, 2013
Cross-posted from National Review Online, The Corner

Warfare is a very serious business whose first imperative is to deploy force to win – rather than to punish, make a statement, establish a symbolic point, or preen about one's morality.

Yet, these latter are precisely what several Western states will accomplish if they respond to the Syrian government's apparent use of chemical weapons against civilians with "limited" strikes lasting one or two days against fewer than fifty sites. Briefly lobbing American, British, and other missiles against the regime without a concomitant readiness to deploy ground troops will neither overthrow the government nor change the course of the war. It will, however, allow Westerners to feel good about themselves.

It will also entail real dangers. Bashar al-Assad's notorious incompetence means his response cannot be anticipated. Western strikes could, among other possibilities, inadvertently lead to increased regime attacks on civilians, violence against Israel, an activation of sleeper cells in Western countries, or heightened dependence on Tehran. Surviving the strikes also permits Assad to boast that he defeated the United States.

In other words, the imminent attack entails few potential benefits but many potential drawbacks. As such, it neatly encapsulates the Obama administration's failed foreign policy. (August 28, 2013)

August 29, 2013 update: A satiric piece by Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker, "Obama Promises Syria Strike Will Have No Objective," nicely captures the absurdity of what's being proposed against the Assad government.

Attempting to quell criticism of his proposal for a limited military mission in Syria, President Obama floated a more modest strategy today, saying that any U.S. action in Syria would have "no objective whatsoever." "Let me be clear," he said in an interview on CNN. "Our goal will not be to effect régime change, or alter the balance of power in Syria, or bring the civil war there to an end. We will simply do something random there for one or two days and then leave."

When U.S. allies responded with howls of protest, saying that two days was too open-ended, White House spokesman Jay Carney responded with assurances

that the President was willing to scale down the U.S. mission to "twenty-four hours, thirty-six tops." "It may take twenty-four hours, but it could also take twelve," Mr. Carney said. "Maybe we get in there, take a look around, and get out right away. But however long it takes, one thing will not change: this mission will have no point. The President is resolute about that."

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