An imminent U.S. strike on Syrian government targets in response to the alleged gassing of civilians last week has the potential to draw the United States into the country's civil war, former U.S. officials said Tuesday, warning that history doesn't bode well for such limited retaliatory interventions.
The best historical parallels - the 1998 cruise missile strikes on targets in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan - are rife with unintended consequences and feature little success.
"The one thing we should learn is you can't get a little bit pregnant," said retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was at the helm of U.S. Central Command when the Pentagon launched cruise missiles at suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan and weapons facilities in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. "If you do a one-and-done and say you're going to repeat it if unacceptable things happen, you might find these people keep doing unacceptable things. It will suck you in."
"The problem with Syria is that it's bombing in the absence of a political plan," said Hill, who worries that the government of President Bashar al-Assad could respond with even more chemical attacks. "I think we're opening a big door. Every time you drop bombs on something, you can't entirely predict the results."
Christopher Harmer, a former Navy planner who is an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said a quick military campaign that is not accompanied by a clear end goal is a terrible idea.
"Conducting a punitive attack that does not fundamentally alter the balance of power is in my opinion worse than doing nothing," said Harmer, who last month drafted a report outlining how cruise missile strikes could degrade Syria's air force and air defenses. U.S. bombs raining down on Damascus could boost Assad's standing, giving credence that the war he is waging is one against external threats.
"The way he has been defining himself now becomes true," Harmer said. "It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."
David Fuller's view I discussed this
at some length yesterday and return to the subject because it is a growing risk,
not least for suffering, innocent citizens in the Middle East but also for the
global economy. Additionally, it is not unrealistic to imagine that various
al-Qaeda cells in the Middle East and elsewhere would welcome a US-led military
strike. Photos of more dead members of the public following a foreign attack
will obviously not go down well on the Arab street, but they will certainly
reinvigorate the terrorists' recruitment drive, as we have seen before.
This will lead to eventual reprisal attacks, initially against moderate Arabs and Israelis. These would be followed by more plots against soft Western targets, potentially similar to 9/11, 7/11, and more individual attempts to blow up airplanes in flight. There would also be an increase in smaller, albeit potentially horrific attacks such as this year's bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15th. Since 9/11, Western counterterrorist efforts have been successful in discovering and preventing most Islamist terrorist attacks. However, the process is hugely expensive, compromises our freedoms, slows commerce and can never prevent every attack.
Additionally, Fullermoney has frequently described spikes in the price of crude oil as a 'game changer' and major threat to global GDP growth. The recent price rise for WTI (weekly & daily) and especially Brent (weekly & daily) is already a headwind and this danger has certainly not passed, although some release of US goverment reserves or a production increase from Saudi Arabia would be likely if prices looked like spiking higher. Meanwhile, among industrialised economies those of Europe and the Asia Pacific region are most affected by the current rise in oil prices. Moreover, some major oil producers welcome the recent price rise, not least Russia's Vladimir Putin, judging from his recent rhetoric.