US now has no option but to attack Syria – but to what end other than “feeling good”?

A “feel-good” strike?

After Kerry’s speech yesterday, it is no longer possible for the US not to carry out a strike (else Kerry will have no option but to resign). The UN inspectors left Syria today. Their analyses will take at least two weeks and the US cannot – after Kerry’s assertions yesterday – wait for that. President Obama is due in Sweden next Wednesday on his way to the G20 meeting in Saint Petersburg.

So an attack will surely take place between now and then. Probably tonight. It will be “limited” and targeted according to Obama. It will be in retaliation against those who killed 1429 people by using a nerve agent. The strike will certainly bring comfort to the Syrian rebels (including Al Qaida) and raise their hopes of a deepening intervention. If the strike is limited it is unlikely to be decisive in toppling Assad. It may weaken him. Right now Assad’s forces seem to have the upper hand. So a weakened Assad is likely to lead to the civil war being prolonged – whoever comes out on top.

So what would the objectives of the strike be? And how would success be measured?

It will not get rid of all chemical weapons. It may give pause for thought to future users of chemical weapons but it will only be a limited deterrent to future users (since previous users have not faced any repercussions). If the strike kills more than 1429 people or a significant number of “innocent civilians”, it will be difficult to claim any success.  if the numbers killed are small and the material destruction is limited, it will also provide – paradoxically – succour to Assad in that he has weathered the US-led storm. The only real success would be if the numbers killed are very small but the material destruction is so high that it may prevent Assad or his officers from being so quick to use such weapons again.

Certainly the US and its allies will “feel better”. Anybody killed in the strike will not. Assad will not but his opposition will.

But the risk with a “feel-good” strike is that it will not make the war any shorter and will only lead to further intervention and the risk of strengthening Al Qaida.

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2 Responses to “US now has no option but to attack Syria – but to what end other than “feeling good”?”

  1. Brittius Says:

    Reblogged this on Brittius.com.

  2. Obama blinks, passes the buck to Congress and Kerry looks like a war-monger | The k2p blog Says:

    […] I thought that Kerry’s speech yesterday had effectively closed off all options for […]

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