This entire Syria episode is quite fishy. Obama, who is (I am reasonably certain) a reluctant hawk – playing the part because he knows he must if he wants to keep his job and see any of his life-long pension – finally steps up with his red line interpretation, exactly as one would expect the neo-cons would hope he finally would do.
But not so fast. Instead of overwhelming support from a chicken-hawk Congress, a pliant ally, and willing military (as well as a second Nobel Peace Prize), Obama is being isolated: by Boehner, who I believe never met a war he didn’t like; by the British, who previously never failed to do their part in moving the war-dialogue forward; and now even by his own military:
The Obama administration’s plan to launch a military strike against Syria is being received with serious reservations by many in the U.S. military, which is coping with the scars of two lengthy wars and a rapidly contracting budget, according to current and former officers.
“There’s a broad naivete in the political class about America’s obligations in foreign policy issues, and scary simplicity about the effects that employing American military power can achieve,” said retired Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold, who served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the run-up to the Iraq war, noting that many of his contemporaries are alarmed by the plan.
The criticism is not confined to the retired:
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.”
Some choose to speak anonymously:
“I can’t believe the president is even considering it,” said the officer, who like most officers interviewed for this story agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because military personnel are reluctant to criticize policymakers while military campaigns are being planned. “We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”
Others more openly, although cautiously:
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned in great detail about the risks and pitfalls of U.S. military intervention in Syria.
“As we weigh our options, we should be able to conclude with some confidence that use of force will move us toward the intended outcome,” Dempsey wrote last month in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
Even the recently retired can speak more freely:
The recently retired head of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, said last month at a security conference that the United States has “no moral obligation to do the impossible” in Syria. “If Americans take ownership of this, this is going to be a full-throated, very, very serious war,” said Mattis, who as Centcom chief oversaw planning for a range of U.S. military responses in Syria.
Another anonymous source:
“What is the political end state we’re trying to achieve?” said a retired senior officer involved in Middle East operational planning who said his concerns are widely shared by active-duty military leaders. “I don’t know what it is. We say it’s not regime change. If it’s punishment, there are other ways to punish.”
That the press also is openly publishing these cautionary comments is also telling. Real or make-believe, the use of anonymous sources to criticize what has previously been worshipped neocon SOP is telling.
There is something more going on here. It is possible that there are some who want Obama to do more: not just a few cruise missiles, but an all-out attack on Syrian – and therefore Iranian-backed – positions. This is possible. But then why the negative (or at least questioning) comments from Boehner? Why weren’t a handful of British MPs strong-armed to swing the vote? And why so many military voices calling for, not an application of overwhelming force, but instead, the consideration of no force?
Yes, there is something more going on here…and it smells like something aimed at embarrassing Obama.
But what? And why?