A man reacts in front of houses destroyed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
The people who brought you the war in Iraq (and the 2008 surge) are trying their best to start one in Syria, too. Not that there isn’t already violence in Syria, where a civil war in raging. So far, however, President Obama has refrained from escalating the conflict by providing arms, especially heavy weapons and missiles, to the rebels. But the hawks, neoconservatives and right-wing military types are demanding war. Unfortunately, a heck of a lot of Democrats are joining the war cries, too.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, two über-hawks—Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute and General Jack Keane—call for outright bombing of Syria, targeting its airfields.
A cleaner and more decisive option is to strike Syrian aircraft and the regime’s key airfields through which Iranian and Russian weapons are flowing to government forces. If American forces use standoff cruise missiles and B-2 stealth bombers for these strikes, they will be out of the enemy’s reach.
The airfields are Assad’s lifeline of support from Iran and Russia, and without them he’s in real trouble. Syria’s air force will be severely degraded if the U.S. pursues this option, but Syrian planes won’t be entirely grounded because airfields can be repaired. As a result, these operations would need to be sustained for a period of time to preclude repairs.
Pletka and Keane also support the idea of giving Manpads, those high-tech, portable and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles to “moderate” rebels, though how exactly they propose to make sure that only moderates, and not Al Qaeda, get them is beyond me:
To successfully target Assad’s air power, one option is to outfit moderate rebel units vetted by the CIA with man-portable antiaircraft missiles, otherwise known as Manpads. Providing more moderate rebels with Manpads is a reasonable choice, though unlikely to be decisive because time is on Assad’s side. There is also a risk that the weapons could be diverted to al Qaeda-related groups. Despite that risk, however, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former CIA Director David Petraeus recommended this strategy last summer.
That’s the suggestion, from Petraeus and Clinton, that the White House overruled.
The hawks, naturally, are up in arms over the proposed peace conference on Syria that is being organized jointly, under United Nations auspices, by the United States and Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry is having a devil of a time corralling the fractious rebels into attending the conference. Meanwhile, as I reported earlier this week, the government of President Bashar al-Assad is making significant military gains on the ground.