Obama Admin at War over Syria
Jeffrey Goldberg says debate is white-hot inside the Obama administration over whether to use U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria’s airbases.
According to Goldberg’s sources, Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for immediate and sustained airstrikes to punish Bashar Assad’s regime for using chemical weapons against rebels. Earlier, President Barack Obama had said that such use would justify an increased American response to the rising number of deaths in the war.
But Kerry’s airstrikes idea was shot down in a tense Situation Room exchange by Army General Martin Dempsey, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Pentagon estimates that at least 700 sorties would be needed to effectively destroy the airfields. That increases the probability an American pilot would be shot down, killed or taken as a prisoner of war.
The dilemma on Syria is this: No one wants the conflict to turn into another occasion of genocide like Rwanda or Darfur, but no one is eager to get involved in a fight where the choice of ally is either the Hezbollah-aligned regime or the al-Qaeda-aligned rebels.
So far, the Defense Department is winning the argument. The absence of a clear definition of victory means the Obama administration likely won’t do much else than send small arms and ammo to the rebels – a symbolic gesture that won’t do much to change the course of the war.
Considering the information available, that’s probably the best move to make.