Headlines everywhere you turn either assert or question an impending U. S. military strike of some sort against Syria in the coming days. Tensions are rising globally as threats, counter-threats, and diplomatic entreaties are voiced by concerned parties. But how likely is an American military strike on Syria? As the Obama administration seems to be taking a tougher line against the Middle Eastern nation over the alleged use of chemical weapons against opposition forces and civilians by the Syrian government and/or its military, the chances of at least some form of military intervention occurring seems almost a certainty. But one expert maintains that such a strike will be "limited" and "symbolic" and will most likely do nothing to effect a regime change in Damascus.
AFP reported (via Yahoo News) Aug. 29 that French General Vincent Desportes, former director of the Ecole de Guerre military training academy, believes the strikes, which would be carried out by the U. S. and its allies (and likely with the approval of the United Nations), would be "more symbolic than military."
He explained: "It is a question of reestablishing the West's credibility by doing something. The declared 'red line' cannot be crossed to this degree without something being done, otherwise all US credibility would be lost, particularly where Iran is concerned."
He added: "But it should not be too much, because if President Assad dies or if the regime collapses, that would lead to a terrible bloodbath, chaos on a national scale. It would be another strategic failure, the like of what was seen in Libya."
The attack on Libya, which began with missile and air strikes by the United States, Great Britain, France, and Canada in March of 2011, was done with the voiced approval of the United Nations. The military intervention that bolstered resistance against the dictatorial regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi would become a lengthy and messy international affair. Although Gadhafi would eventually be ousted from as Libya's ruler, the transition of power became a political morass.
Desportes suggests that a second Libya should be avoided at all costs.
Other experts agree, including Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank. He told AFP that military strikes against Syria should target Damascus military facilities of the Fourth and Republican Guard armored divisions, due to their alleged involvement in the chemical attacks on civilians.
"Allied forces should also strike higher-level military and intelligence headquarters and command-and-control facilities associated with military operations around the capital," he said.
American and allied forces have been amassing off the eastern Mediterranean coastline for a week. Reports of Syrian government forces under President Bashar al-Assad using deadly force and even chemical weapons against civilian populations have filtered through -- via news reports and social media -- from the war-torn nation for months. But it was several reports from agencies like the internationally respected Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) that pushed the U. S. and the United Nations to consider action against Syria when, as reported by Yahoo News, the humanitarian organization noted that Damascus hospitals supported by their group reported treating some 3,600 patients “displaying neurotoxic symptoms in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21, 2013.”
The organization further reported that of that number, 355 had died.
Horrific videos and photos posted on social media sites like Facebook seemed to corroborate the stories of the alleged chemical attack.
Assad and the Syrian government have denied any involvement in an attack using chemical weapons.
Although much of the language coming from the Obama administration has been guardedly tough, it would appear that current sentiment is leaning toward a military strike.
In an interview with PBS Newshour that aired Wednesday, President Obama admitted that with gathered intelligence and analysis, "we have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out." Reports suggest that a "shot across the bow" approach might be in the offing, but the president said he wanted an "international response." No decision had been made on the matter, though, and he also noted that there was no interest, should there actually be a military strike, in having an "open-ended conflict" with Syria.
If such measures are actualized, surgical, limited, strategic military strikes by the U. S. and its allies would likely be the best course of action for all concerned, experts note, providing both the stability and continuity of a government still in power as well as a warning shot to the Assad regime that affirms that America and its allies, not to mention the likely support of the United Nations, will not hesitate to use military force to halt deadly chemical attacks on civilian populations.
Whether or not such a limited military strike against Syria might escalate into something more involved remains to be seen. And all of it hinges on whether or not a U. S.-led strike actually occurs, something that by no means is a certainty. But if outward appearances are an indication, a military strike on Syria has passed out of the "if" zone and into the uncertain area of "when."