One thing it’s clear that limited strikes wouldn’t do is stop Syria’s dictator Bassar al-Assad’s regime from continuing to kill Syrian civilians. If the United States chose to respond, he told PBS, “that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and, you know, it doesn’t, obviously end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria.”
What so-called limited strikes would do, however, is put the United States on the road to further, not-so-limited military action. Obama says he does not want to get “drawn into a long conflict,” but what happens if there are further chemical weapon attacks—in Syria, or, eventually, somewhere else in the world? Presuming that chemical weapons were used in the most recent attack, and that they were used with Assad’s approval, then we know he has already risked international military reprisal once. There’s little reason to think that a round of limited strikes would convince him not to do it again. Assad would essentially be in the same position he was in before. We, meanwhile, would have taken military action—and picked a side in an ugly, bloody civil conflict.
And if Assad deploys chemical weapons again, then what? Another round of “limited” strikes? And after that, another?