Joint Chiefs Chairman: Military Force Might Not Work In Syria

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters today that U.S. military force might not be appropriate in Syria:

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Tuesday that the military was prepared to take action in Syria after intelligence showed that the Assad regime may have used chemical weapons, but that he isn’t convinced military intervention would produce the desired outcome.

“Whether the military effect would produce the kind of outcome that not just members of Congress but all of us would desire — which is an end to the violence, some kind of political reconciliation among the parties and a stable Syria — that’s the reason I’ve been cautious, is the right word, about the application of the military instrument of power, because it’s not clear to me that it would produce that outcome,” Dempsey said at a lunch with reporters.

“That said, options are ready,” Dempsey said. “If either it becomes clear to me, or I’m ordered to do, so we will act.”

(…)

Dempsey warned that the Syrian situation isn’t quite analogous to Libya just before the fall of Moammar Qaddafi, because of the Syrian army’s superior air force.

“The air defense picture in Libya was dramatically different than it is in Syria,” Dempsey said. “In Syria there are five times more air defense systems, some of which are high end air defense systems. The US military has the capability to defeat that system, but it would be a greater challenge, take longer, and require more resources.”

Dempsey sounded cautious about implementing the no-fly zone for which some members of Congress such as John McCain have argued, saying that there were several disadvantages to doing so.

“To be effective, a no-fly zone would have to have several elements,” Dempsey said. “We would have to knock down some of the integrated air defense system of an adversary.”

“They could in fact take exception to the fact that we were enaciting a no-fly zone and then act outside of their borders,” he said.

“We’re kind of the victims of our own success,” he said. “We’ve made the very difficult look very manageable for a very long time.”

Presumably, this is the same advice that Dempsey is giving to Secretary Hagel and President Obama behind closed doors. As he said, though, his job is to carry out the orders he’s given and if the President decides to become further involved in the mess in Syria, he carry out the orders. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have to.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Quick Takes,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Military force didn’t work in Afghanistan or Iraq, but that didn’t stop us from using it there…