What, if anything, can U.S. intervention accomplish?
WASHINGTON — Questions are swirling about the endgame as the Obama administration prepares for a likely strike against Syria as punishment for an alleged chemical weapons attack in its civil war.
National security experts and some officials question whether a limited strike can have any lasting impact on Syrian President Bashar Assad, or whether it will simply harden Assad's resolve. And it's not clear how much the military operation could help the beleaguered and splintered Syrian opposition, or lessen concerns that hard-line rebels may not support America if they do seize control of the country.
A limited, short-term operation, however, may be a compromise between military leaders, who have warned against entering a civil war, and a White House determined to show that President Obama meant it when he said last year that the use of chemical weapons would cross a red line.
The broader objective is to damage the Syrian government's military and weapons enough to make it difficult to conduct more chemical weapons attacks, and to make Assad think twice about using chemical weapons again.
Senior national security leaders met again at the White House on Tuesday as the administration moved closer to an almost certain attack on Syria in the days ahead. The most likely military action would be to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles off warships in the Mediterranean Sea. The Navy last week moved a fourth destroyer into the eastern Mediterranean.
The looming military action has spurred debate over what the administration hopes to gain and whether a limited military campaign — either several hours or a couple of days — could do much to further the overall goal of ousting Assad from power or moving Syria toward a more democratic government. The administration says it isn't aiming that high in whatever action unfolds.
“The options we are considering are not about regime change,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Anthony Cordesman, a national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is skeptical that U.S. action will make a lasting difference.
“You can impact targets that have political value and military value,” he said. “But it doesn't shape the outcome or provide security for the people, and it certainly doesn't deter Assad from going on. At the end of it, it's a little more like winning a schoolyard fight than accomplishing anything of strategic meaning.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Russia seeks 10 years in prison for Putin foe Navalny
- Clashes delay rescue of Yazidis off Mt. Sinjar
- Pakistan resumes executions in response to Taliban school massacre
- How are migrants sneaking into the EU? Through Hungary
- In Mideast, refugee babies left stateless
- Korean-American aid worker charged in China
- Taliban siege at Pakistani school ends with 141 dead
- Hope for better days in Pakistan shattered in school attack
- At U.N. climate talks, a crack in rich-poor barrier
- Faced with few options, Japan gives Abe more time to fix economy
- Vatican praises nuns in fence-mending report