Will Obama go solo on Syria?

posted at 12:01 pm on August 30, 2013 by Bruce McQuain

The likely answer is “yes” since it appears the administration is of the opinion that if it doesn’t act, it will appear weak and ineffective.  Demagoguery and ego have combined to get us to this point. There seems no way out without a military response. However, the question remains how effective any strike on Syria will be in reality if it is, as the President has said, short, limited and tailored (just muscular enough not to be mocked).

After leaking the proposed plan all over the place it is unsurprising that what most of us knew would happen has begun to happen in Syria:

In recent days, U.S. intelligence agencies and the Pentagon have watched with alarm as Mr. Assad has taken advantage of the Western deliberations to spread out his forces, complicating U.S. planning for strikes.

“We know [Assad] has been dispersing assets,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the intelligence.

U.S. officials said Mr. Assad has moved assets such as military helicopters and artillery pieces around the country, forcing a U.S. recalibration of the possible military response.

If Mr. Obama sticks with what originally was a finite set of prospective military and intelligence targets, officials said, then cruise-missile strikes would cause less damage than originally intended because at least some of the targets have been taken out of the line of fire.

Officials said Mr. Obama could adjust to Mr. Assad’s tactics by expanding the number of strikes to hit more targets, but doing so could increase the risk that U.S. cruise missiles will cause unintended damage, including civilian casualties, officials said.

Another senior official said the dispersal of Mr. Assad’s military assets was “certainly detrimental” to target planning.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, US military officers have deep concerns over a strike on Syria:

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.

The potential consequences of a U.S. strike include a retaliatory attack by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah — which supports Assad — on Israel, as well as cyberattacks on U.S. targets and infrastructure, U.S. military officials said.

And it also stirs the possibility of terror attacks on US embassies, interests abroad and even the homeland.  Gen. Mattis is correct.  If the US strikes Syria, then the US takes ownership of this war.  By that I mean if Assad then uses chemical weapons again, we’re in a position of having no choice but to address their use again.

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.”

“If President Asadwere to absorb the strikes and use chemical weapons again, this would be a significant blow to the United States’ credibility and it would be compelled to escalate the assault on Syria to achieve the original objectives,” Miller wrote in a commentary for the think tank.

An acceptable risk?

Even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has tried to warn the administration off of this path:

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.”

Dempsey has not spoken publicly about the administration’s planned strike on Syria, and it is unclear to what extent his position shifted after last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack. Dempsey said this month in an interview with ABC News that the lessons of Iraq weigh heavily on his calculations regarding Syria.

“It has branded in me the idea that the use of military power must be part of an overall strategic solution that includes international partners and a whole of government,” he said in the Aug. 4 interview. “The application of force rarely produces and, in fact, maybe never produces the outcome we seek.”

But the application of force seems to be the only tool in the Obama bag at the moment.  And Dempsey is correct.  It isn’t particularly difficult for the US to reach out and swat someone.  But what is and always has been difficult is to predict what will follow such an application of force.  The law of unintended consequences has a terrible history of rearing its ugly head each and every time force is applied in this manner.

As for the critical question, the question that all military operational planners ask first and then tailor a plan to achieve … well there is no obvious answer.

“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.” The former senior officer said that those who are expressing alarm at the risks inherent in the plan “are not being heard other than in a pro-forma manner.”.

The administration can’t answer that question and has provided no guidance about endstate to those stuck planning this misadventure. And, as noted, while there may be a semblance of debate, in fact the administration is likely going through the motions of “listening to all sides” when, in fact, the decision to act militarily has been decided.  It is down to how big or how small the strike will be.  And, as we see above, Assad is doing everything he can to make Obama’s deliberations and decision making as difficult as he can

~McQ


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Comment pages: 1 2

whos’ playing Archduke Ferdinand in this saga???

ted c on August 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Kerry… The Bloviating Buffoon.

/Oops, that applies to Obama as well.

Key West Reader on August 30, 2013 at 1:11 PM

How many photographs in the next couple of weeks will be showing the very thoughtful president weighing his options, and carrying that oppressive load of concern…

right2bright on August 30, 2013 at 1:11 PM

Why is Kerry making the case instead of Obama?
So he won’t get blamed

cmsinaz on August 30, 2013 at 1:06 PM

More leading from behind….

Seriously, it’s part of his MO. He will campaign, sell, and blather about inconsequential things, but when it is consequential, he will not lead.

Athos on August 30, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Ted Cruz, soooo great!!!

He’ll have to eat alone in the congressional cafeteria. The weasels from the left/right hate him :)

Schadenfreude on August 30, 2013 at 1:14 PM

I wonder if Kerry is thinking he is the President given this address?

So, how did Barack do on the front nine this morning?

Athos on August 30, 2013 at 1:14 PM

I’m just going to throw this out there, I wonder how much of the Brits vote was because they just don’t trust Obama and his administration to do the right thing?

bflat879 on August 30, 2013 at 1:15 PM

We have a president who does what he says he’ll do
Kerry

Lololol

cmsinaz on August 30, 2013 at 1:15 PM

This is like watching a horror movie. You know what is going to happen and you are yelling at the screen trying to warn the characters. There are no adults in charge of this once great country. It is so sad what has happened to us. We have allowed a bunch of spoiled children with diseased brains to attempt to manage this great country.

retiredeagle on August 30, 2013 at 1:15 PM

What a bold statement
-andrea Mitchell

Let the lsm fawning begin…. laid out a strong case

cmsinaz on August 30, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Yepper Athos

cmsinaz on August 30, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Where’s Scooter? Why didn’t he give this speech? Is he afraid of us? Or, are we beneath his contempt?

He thinks he’s Mussolini.

kingsjester on August 30, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Yepper coffeelover

cmsinaz on August 30, 2013 at 1:21 PM

this is just making me even more disgusted, more angry and even more sad.

CoffeeLover on August 30, 2013 at 1:21 PM

We have a president who does what he says he’ll do
Kerry

Lololol

cmsinaz on August 30, 2013 at 1:15 PM

+ 11ty.

antipc on August 30, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Operation Mockfark

Schadenfreude on August 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Oh yeah the msdnc talking heads loved Kerry s speech

cmsinaz on August 30, 2013 at 1:25 PM

On Kerry’s speechRalph Peters…melodrama is not a strategy…hypocrisy is stunning….

Fox

CoffeeLover on August 30, 2013 at 1:26 PM

Frist of all we simply can’t afford these stupid political wars and second, this incredibly vague boondoggle has absolutely no utility. Again Obama is using our scarce resources and sacrificing our youth to bail his butt out of this failed presidency. And by the way, how many people do you think he’ll be able to coerce into Obamacare while he’s hiding behind the fog of this phony diversion. And for goodness sake keep that freaking Kerry out of our faces. These are sad times.

rplat on August 30, 2013 at 1:26 PM

I’m just going to throw this out there, I wonder how much of the Brits vote was because they just don’t trust Obama and his administration to do the right thing?

bflat879 on August 30, 2013 at 1:15 PM

From this morning’s Telegraph – a report on PM Cameron’s stunning Parliamentary loss…

It took Jack Straw in the Commons yesterday to sum up the mood. What, he asked, would a missile strike achieve? Obama’s language is peculiar: he talks about sending a “shot across the bows”. This is defined as a warning that inflicts no damage, which can’t be what he means: the only point of firing missiles would be to hit something. Kill someone, perhaps a few Syrian conscripts. Perhaps civilians.

So what exactly does the president have in mind, and what is the mission is Britain being asked to join? It’s very easy to get into military action, said Blair’s former foreign secretary, and very hard to extract oneself from it. “I have the scars,” he said.

Obama’s own careless, feckless words helped convince members to vote against joining the US in a symbolic action…and just like in this country, people are asking tough questions about taking this next step.

Athos on August 30, 2013 at 1:39 PM

They have to impeach him, if he doesn’t. If he does, he’ll lose the vote.

In the case of this President is that it will never happen. Unlike the Republican elders, Senator Barry Goldwater, Senator Hugh Scott, and House Minority Leader John Rhodes, who went to President Richard Nixon on 7 August 1974 and told him to resign or he would be impeached, convicted, and removed from office, there are no counterparts on the Democrats’ side. Hell, it took 14 victims before Maerose Prizzi FINALLY called for Filthy Filner’s resignation and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz wouldn’t even comment on Anthony ‘Have you seen my weiner, lately?’ Weiner saying, ‘We can’t be weighing in on every single race.’

I’ll save the reader the LITANY of statements made by both Pelosi and DWS on a single race involving one Mark Foley.

More importantly, l1ly-white American Gothic, he, who hears voices of Mitt Romney not paying taxes and wonders whether Senator Tim Scott’s opposition to Obamacare is based on race, controls the Senate. No Senate leader, who once referred to Obama as a ‘l1ght-sk1nned African-American with no N3gr0 dialect, unless he wanted to have one’ is going to the White House to tell the first black President anything other than ‘I’ve got your back and keep doing what you’re doing no matter how unconstitutional and how many courts slap you down.’1

Bear in mind, the Republican had 55 seats in the Senate in 1999. On PERJURY – ostensibly, the easiest case against President Clinton – they could only manage to get 45 votes to convict. On the other charge, OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE, 50 Senators voted to convict and remove.

Not one, single Democrat in the Senate voted to convict and remove Bill ‘I did not have sex with that woman, Ms Lewinsky….Well, yes, I did, but now I have to get back to work for the American people’ Clinton. Both votes fell far short of the necessary 67 to convict and remove.

Toni Morrison may have dubbed William Jefferson Clinton ‘The First Black President,’ but, luv, he had nothing on Barack Hussein Obama, who has been called ‘The First Black (Gay) President.’ Never. You. Mind. Dr Cornel West, who called him ‘The First Bi-Racial President of the United States.’

Regardless of what one calls him, unless President Barack Hussein Obama is found in bed with a dead girl, a live boy, AND STRANGLING MICHELLE, SASHA, AND MALIA on live television, the Democrats in the Senate will NEVER, EVER, EVAH vote to impeach, convict and remove him.

But, in 1,240 days from now, he’s going to either walk out of the White House of his on volition or he shall be carried out…

Americans won’t tolerate dictators.

If you want to get ALL Democrats to impeach, convict and remove a sitting Supreme Court Justice or President, make him Clarence Thomas or Tim Scott.

1: As President Andrew Jackson said, in the wake of Chief Justice John Marshall’s decision in Worcester v Georgia wherein he voided the criminal conviction of Worcester for having been on Indian land and held that the states have no authority on such lands, ‘Well, John Marshall has made his decision. Now, let him enforce it.’

Despite the full fire and brimstone of President Jackson, within three months, the State of Georgia had capitulated and the rest of the Union followed suit. Of course, the year was 1832, so it did not prevent, in whole, Jackson’s final fury in the Trail of Tears, but it did give some tribes the necessary legal basis upon which to resist this most immoral act from another Democratic tyrant.

Resist We Much on August 30, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Not to miss this irony.

Pelosi went to make nice with Asaad, against the Bush admin’s wishes.

Now she is the ‘hawk’ against Asaad, the harlot and scumhag.

Schadenfreude on August 30, 2013 at 1:50 PM

Some more on-the-way-to-the-golf-course remarks from Teh SCOAMT are incoming per Fox News.

Steve Eggleston on August 30, 2013 at 1:55 PM

The likely answer is “yes” since it appears the administration is of the opinion that if it doesn’t act, it will appear weak and ineffective.

This ship has sailed. Example: see allies support.

DDay on August 30, 2013 at 1:55 PM

What is so dishonest about the Democrat R2P Hawks is that 1300 killed by gas, which is a tragedy, is enough to send the US to war, but the hundreds of thousands in gulags in China and North Korea aren’t.

All humans have rights, but some human rights are more equal than other, especially when they have the primary possibility of helping Obama ‘Save Face.’

Resist We Much on August 30, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Schad, Her Thighness called Assad a ‘reformer.’

Resist We Much on August 30, 2013 at 2:00 PM

He is going to kill innocents just to save face.

bopbottle on August 30, 2013 at 2:01 PM

What is so dishonest about the Democrat R2P Hawks is that 1300 killed by gas, which is a tragedy, is enough to send the US to war, but the hundreds of thousands in gulags in China and North Korea aren’t.

All humans have rights, but some human rights are more equal than other, especially when they have the primary possibility of helping Obama ‘Save Face.’

Resist We Much on August 30, 2013 at 1:59 PM

The ChiComs and NorKs have been the traditional allies of the modern Rat Party. The Rats have apparently decided that Al Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood are more likely to wipe out Israel sooner than the Iranians.

Steve Eggleston on August 30, 2013 at 2:05 PM

This man is completely evil. He and his minions have no compunction in killing people,whether our own or others, just to satisfy political and ego ends. Our culture surely has died. But we should not be surprised,,the party of death is who they are,,,whether it is babies in the womb or barely out of it,,,death panels for old people,,,,ambassadors who get in the way,,patriots and soldiers who give all to protect,,,,or gay church members who may know something.

retiredeagle on August 30, 2013 at 2:07 PM

Why isn’t Obama berating these “obstructionist” countries that don’t support his foolhardy plans? Like he does the House Republicans when they do their job of providing checks and balances to his stupidity?

Oxymoron on August 30, 2013 at 2:08 PM

Boy do I wish we had that cowboy back in the White House. Remember when we had 40 allies and discussed such matters with the American people, Congress and even the UN? But now with smart diplomacy all that is a thing of the past.

Fred 2 on August 30, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Teddy said speak brazenly and carry a limp dick. Obama is just following that long dead Republican.

burt on August 30, 2013 at 2:41 PM

whos’ playing Archduke Ferdinand in this saga???

ted c on August 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM

I was looking for the general Westmoreland character in this potentially bloody Kabuki fubar.
And can I get a prediction date on Kerry’s chin meeting the front bus tire?

onomo on August 30, 2013 at 2:43 PM

false flag failure.

fatlibertarianinokc on August 30, 2013 at 2:45 PM

It won’t be solo..

Reggie will be right behind him.

LegendHasIt on August 30, 2013 at 2:53 PM

This is nightmarish. It’s not even our fight but Obama the imperious incompetent is going to produce God knows what evil consequences. France & Britain are much closer to Syria but they are not nearly as stupid as Obama and will let us stick our dumb necks out.

It’s a fight to the death in Syria and the rebels well expected atrocities – it’s their fight, their choice. But we out of some stupid bleeding heart sentiment are suppose to be the policeman of the world. Obama’s bravado vs our interests. We lose.

Chessplayer on August 30, 2013 at 3:02 PM

Mr. Obama has leisurely traipsed across the Mideast and pandered to the regions leaders since his first inauguration. He’s treated them to seemingly fascinating ideas and lofty promises.

Now almost six years later there is nothing but a string of foolish decisions, broken promises, feckless diplomacy,empty gestures and murdered Americans. That is the result of an Obama Doctrine which has made America and the world more dangerous through his incompetence, naivete and an ideological foolishness long proved empty and unwise.

Mr. Obama has no credibility or respect already because of these repeated misadventures and a quizzical disinterest in established facts and history. His utopian views and casual disdain for easily predicted outcomes is not only dangerous, but is generously lacking in an ability to see what would otherwise be evident to most. It is a modus operandi historic in its lack of presidential qualities.

No, Mr. Obama. A clear plurality of this country does not want your war. We do not see the national interest or casus belli that will surely bring a wider and more dangerous conflict. What we do see is six years of dangerous fecklessness, now punctuated by your new personal need to “prove something”.

I won’t watch my family, friends and neighbors die for your ego, which you’ve appeared to put above country, reason and a Constitution for which you have repeatedly shown nothing but contempt.

Marcus Traianus on August 30, 2013 at 3:23 PM

Flashback: Obama Promised Libyan War Would Only Take Days, Not Months

#Pinocchio

#No2Syria

Resist We Much on August 30, 2013 at 3:31 PM

The likely answer is “yes” since it appears the administration is of the opinion that if it doesn’t act, it will appear weak and ineffective.

It already does.

Nothing this incompetent megalomaniac can do will change that. He’s on the level of Kim Jong-un regarding his ego.

Insanity? …….Not, yet. I just hope he’s out of office before that hits.

avagreen on August 30, 2013 at 4:29 PM

Wagging the Dog!

lhuffman34 on August 30, 2013 at 4:49 PM

Somehow the word ‘Amateur’ …just …doesn’t quite get it here.

My favorite part is the utter shock and disbelief that he must be feeling right now. …”But! I’m Obama! I’m ‘The One’! Everyone loves me!…why aren’t you all doing what I say?! ..I’m The One!”

apparently no one told him, “Hey Slick…you can’t spit in someone’s face for a few years, and then expect them to come crawling at your beck and call.”

Painted himself into a corner, and doesn’t even know how.

Smartest Guy In The Room. heh.

a5minmajor on August 30, 2013 at 5:12 PM

Wagging the Dog!

lhuffman34 on August 30, 2013 at 4:49 PM

Obama’s Dilemma: Wag the dog…or eat it?

Resist We Much on August 30, 2013 at 5:30 PM

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Obama if nothing else is a fense sitting indecicve pollo taking politition. In the end he will do only what the public opinion tells him to do. BUT BUT he has a very, very dangerious ego that may push him over the edge. He can not stand to be mocked and mocking him is what Seria and much of the world is doing. In the military we are all sowarn to obey the orders of our superios. Each year that you are in the military you attend a class that came from Mi Lay in Viet Nam. You are only oblicated to obey “LAWFULL ORDERS”. It is your duty to disobey “UNLAWFULL ORDERS”. Of course be carefull. If your right, your a hero. If your wroung you go to jail. I bring this up because this may just be the firt time in our history when our Military leaders may need to be reminded of their duty to disobey “UNLAWFULL ORDERS”.

jpcpt03 on August 30, 2013 at 5:33 PM

I remember Victor Davis Hanson (Savior Generals) spoke about General Ridgeway (Korean War) who apprently told the powers that be on the question about going into Vietnam, “bad idea to go into Vietnam”. After we were in, he was asked about withdrawal and apparently said, “bad idea to go into Vietnam, worse idea to withdraw”.

I think Obama thought that he could just draw a ‘red line’ and Syria would never dare to cross it (after all the US was mighty?). Likely his advisors thought that too. Never occurred to them or never seriously entertained the thought of what would he do if they dared to.

Now he thinks he has to do something and with that ‘red line’ he (and his advisors) may feel that they can’t do nothing. If he does nothing, he may find or believe that his capacity to do what he wants will be severely diminished. Alternately, if he goes in and it eventually (note I said eventually) becomes a disaster or serious quagmire, he may not really care too much so long as it takes two or three years to become that (ala Bush before the Surge) because either he will have done what he wanted domestically or he won’t. It won’t matter anymore.

Russ808 on August 30, 2013 at 5:49 PM

Obama’s new book “My Own Private Syria” or “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Reward Our Enemies Who Killed 3000 Americans On 911.”

MaiDee on August 30, 2013 at 7:00 PM

New Steyn…

An Accidental War

Resist We Much on August 30, 2013 at 8:36 PM

this is just making me even more disgusted, more angry and even more sad.

CoffeeLover on August 30, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Me too.

dogsoldier on August 30, 2013 at 8:44 PM

Meanwhile, US military officers have deep concerns over a strike on Syria.

No sh!t.

First, we don’t need another war. And make no mistake about it, this would be a clear and unambiguous act of war. We will be at war with Syria after this.

Second, it will be a waste of weapons and money. It will be militarily ineffective and useless.

Third, it will probably kill some innocents. And for what?

Fourth, every time we use our hi-tech weapons our enemies learn something about them they did not know before.

Fifth, no one in the region with thank us. Quite the contrary.

And so on and so forth.

farsighted on August 30, 2013 at 8:50 PM

Gen. Mattis is correct. If the US strikes Syria, then the US takes ownership of this war. By that I mean if Assad then uses chemical weapons again, we’re in a position of having no choice but to address their use again.

It goes beyond that.

We will be blamed for whatever bad happens in Syria after this. No matter what it is. That’s how they roll in the ME.

farsighted on August 30, 2013 at 8:53 PM

“Nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of” — New York Times, April 28, 2013

Syrian rebels pledge loyalty to al-Qaeda — USA Today, April 11, 2013

nazo311 on August 30, 2013 at 11:15 PM

“…since it appears the administration is of the opinion that if it doesn’t act, it will appear weak and ineffective.”

Sorry, Obama, that is already settled science. It is obvious to the world that you are incapable of effective, decisive, or sensible action.

{^_^}

herself on August 31, 2013 at 4:23 AM

No one has used the word “swagger” to describe Obama, have they?

Murphy9 on August 31, 2013 at 4:42 AM

With members from both sides of Congress working to reign in the 0bamanation I looked for a reason explaining why 0bama would go unilateral again, and I found it!

Some see Syria as edge for Obama in fiscal showdown

The White House has been banking on defense hawks within the GOP breaking ranks with Tea Party conservatives and embracing a debt deal that includes some higher taxes and reverses cuts to domestic programs.

War to keep Americans impoverished. Leave it to a Democrat …

DannoJyd on August 31, 2013 at 10:30 AM

Many of our previous Presidents surround themselves with people of good intelligence and advice but this one surrounded himself with friends and thugs much to his own ignorant choices. Problem is, he is unable to blame anyone.

mixplix on August 31, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Likely his advisors thought that too.

Susan Rice? I’m sure she thought that. She has no idea how the middle east works. The more you try to impose your will on someone from the ME who has power, they try to hold on that much harder.

Patriot Vet on September 1, 2013 at 9:52 AM

If President Obama be allowed to go solo on Syria, will all of U.S be ready to impeach President Obama; to prevent retaliation?

MSGTAS on September 2, 2013 at 8:49 AM

I don’t trust obama one bit on his Syria desires.
obama lied about benghazi
and is still hiding the truth

and now says syria is a threat to america.

I DONT THINK SO.

Lets let the europeans and other arab countries deal with this situation not America.

sniffles1999 on September 3, 2013 at 12:33 PM

Do people actually know who the rebels are
some of them are
al-queada the folks who brought america 9/11

chechna extremests the folks who brought the boston marathon bombers.

jabhat al-nusra another islamist extremist group

ahrar al-sham another islamist extremist group

so obama wants to provide air support to help al-queda take power in syria, and thats in americas best interest.

sniffles1999 on September 3, 2013 at 12:37 PM

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