President Barack Obama talks with bipartisan congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room at the White House. (Reuters/Larry Downing)
President Obama’s plan to have Congress approve his ill-considered war on behalf of Al Qaeda in Syria will shock everyone, when it happens, with its sheer intensity. Those expecting a “limited” strike against a handful of Syrian military installations, including those involved in delivering chemical weapons, are in for a rude awakening. Instead, what the president will order will be a lot closer to President George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” bombardment of Baghdad before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
That isn’t to say that Obama is planning an invasion of Syria. He’s not. (Although if the state collapses, and Syria descends into chaos, the United States may very well end up with “boots on the ground” and body bags for American soldiers.)
In trying to market his war plans to Congress and the American public, Obama has repeatedly stated that he’s seeking authority for a limited war, and some officials have suggested—especially at the beginning of Obama’s war push—that “the strike,” as the belligerent Secretary of State John Kerry calls it, might involve only a couple of dozen cruise missiles. Don’t believe that for a second.
Even the drafts of resolutions being circulated in Congress suggest that Obama will get the “authority” to wage war against Syria for up to sixty days, with the possibility of an extension. That’s war, folks, not a “strike.”
No longer is the Obama administration arguing that it intends merely to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of sarin gas. Instead, the talk in Washington more and more is about the need to “degrade” Syria’s core military apparatus. In Pentagon lingo, “degrade” means “destroy.” In other words, the object of Obama’s planned war on Syria is to tilt the balance of the conflict to the rebels, many of whom are radical Islamists, extremists of all kinds and Al Qaeda types.
As the Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend, even the initial list of fifty targets to be attacked—and fifty is a lot—has been expanded. And the United States is planning to use not only cruise missiles but other weapons, including bombers, based in both the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, at least. As the Los Angeles Times report, by veteran reported David S. Cloud, puts it:
The Pentagon is preparing for a longer bombardment of Syria than it originally had planned, with a heavy barrage of missile strikes followed soon after by more attacks on targets that the opening salvos missed or failed to destroy, officials said.…
Two U.S. officers said the White House asked for an expanded target list in recent days to include many more than the 50 or so targets on the initial list. As a result, Pentagon planners are weighing whether to use Air Force bombers, in addition to five warships now on patrol in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, to launch cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles from hundreds of miles offshore, well out of range of Syrian air defenses.