Panetta And DoD Plain As Plain Can Be On Syria

Is it better the second time around? Leon Panetta and CJCS Dempsey again warn Congress about American intervention in Syria. Substantively and atmospherically, words now echo those of Bob Gates and Admiral Mullen over Libya. Recall Messrs. Gates and Mullen explained that a Libyan ‘no-fly zone’ would be tantamount to a full scale military assault and the post-Khaddafi scenario not thought through.

Predictably,McCain and a die hard group of Neocons push mindless bellicosity. More important politically are liberal pundits and policy advocates calling for sanctuary zones, special forces, drones, military assistance to regime opponents, etc. These voices, more than Neocons by all accounts, persuaded Obama to overrule Gates and Mullen and strike Libya.

Panetta and Dempsey explain what you, Dear Reader, have been saying for some time. Sanctuary spaces, no-fly zones or other calls face sophisticated Syrian air defenses, a 600,000 strong army, targets commingled, and solid officer corps tribal loyalties. Logistics even for a drone footprint let alone special forces non-trivial if not out right complicated.

Panetta could have channeled Gates when testifying:

The fundamental issue that is before us is whether or not the United States will go in and act unilaterally in that part of the world, and engage in another war in the Muslim world unilaterally. Or whether or not we will work with others in determining what action we take.

He mentioned that DoD is now preparing specific scenarios and planning.

Humanitarian interventionists are not easily brushed off, now misusing “Justification to Protect” rubrics. Cable news and Twitter push emotional video. Former Obama official Ann-Marie Slaughter, sensing war fatigue and disillusionment with Libya now cloaks her call for intervention using Realist language.

The mantra of those opposed to intervention is ‘Syria is not Libya.’ In fact, Syria is far more strategically located than Libya, and a lengthy civil war there would be much more dangerous to our interests. America has a major stake in helping Syria’s neighbors stop the killing.

It’s true that Obama went to war in Libya notwithstanding Gates and Mullen’s misgivings. And he did so without even bothering to seek congressional approval. Libya was Goldilocks again. American logistical and C4ISR support for Europeans the middle ground between doing nothing and overt (non-JSOC) boots on the ground. Libya also proved the hard part is what is never planned for – the aftermath.

Syria is different, Slaughter’s phrasings notwithstanding. We could all make a list. On the other hand, AgitProp priorities matter, too, given Iran. Neocons, for example,see regime change in Syria as an indirect blow to Tehran. Egyptian and Libyan realities inconvenient.

Ultimately, as with Obama’s decision to attack Libya, ultimately all of the above is merely a piece of the puzzle. Panetta and Dempsey have had their say. What would a Goldilocks do?

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