“Deep doubts”

WaPo

U.S. military officers have deep doubts about impact, wisdom of a U.S. strike on Syria…the Defense Department has been thrust onto a war footing that has made many in the armed services uneasy, according to interviews with more than a dozen military officers ranging from captains to a four-star general…the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria. Some questioned the use of military force as a punitive measure and suggested that the White House lacks a coherent strategy. If the administration is ambivalent about the wisdom of defeating or crippling the Syrian leader, possibly setting the stage for Damascus to fall to fundamentalist rebels, they said, the military objective of strikes on Assad’s military targets is at best ambiguous.

“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…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 Asad were 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

many in the military are skeptical. Getting drawn into the Syrian war, they fear, could distract the Pentagon in the midst of a vexing mission: its exit from Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are still being killed regularly. A young Army officer who is wrapping up a year-long tour there said soldiers were surprised to learn about the looming strike, calling the prospect “very dangerous.” “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.” 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.”

A retired Central Command officer said the administration’s plan would “gravely disappoint our allies and accomplish little other than to be seen as doing something.” “It will be seen as a half measure by our allies in the Middle East,” the officer said. “Iran and Syria will portray it as proof that the U.S. is unwilling to defend its interests in the region.” Still, some within the military, while apprehensive, support striking Syria.

We think Russia is behind this bold dare to the US, and calculated that the probable responses were (a) no action, or (b) a few days of cruise missiles. But Putin is no fool, and in the long planning phase prior to the gas attack, Russia, Iran and Syria no doubt have made contingency plans in case the US decides to overcommit its forces to a program that is almost the exact opposite of the Powell Doctrine. Each of these countries has vital strategic interests in making the US look like a weak fool, and endless escalation works in their favor, not in America’s.

Thus we’ve been surprised and taken aback that so many experts and conservative talking heads have been beating the war drums, and often mocking those taking an opposite view. There is also reasoned debate on the conservative side of course. This situation is creating strange bedfellows. It’s certainly not a formula for success when the military and the State Department aren’t on the same page so close to potential imminent action.

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