President Obama has repeatedly said that any military action in Syria would be a "limited" operation to punish Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and deter him from again using chemical weapons. His proposal seems too similar to the failed efforts of President Clinton in 1998 to punish Saddam Hussein for violating U.N. sanctions over the development of weapons of mass destruction.
Following four days of missile strikes, Saddam emerged unscathed and emboldened. His reign of defiance continued unabated. Five years later, Iraq and the United States went to war.
Despite this administration’s assurances that a limited strike will not lead to a military escalation, there are no guarantees. What if our strikes fail to deter Assad from committing future atrocities? Will we intervene again? We also cannot ignore that such an attack on another country is an act of war.
Furthermore, the president has known about the growing threats in Syria and throughout the region for years, yet he continues to dismantle our military and reduce its ability to deter and defeat those threats. The president cannot have it both ways – gutting the military and still expecting it to be able to protect our national security.
If this conflict escalates and Assad attacks our partners and allies, our military may not have the resources, capabilities or readiness to respond appropriately. Already we’re on a path in which, as Gen. Dempsey warned, the force may become "so degraded and so unready," it would be "immoral to use the force."
For all of the meetings and speeches over the last two weeks, the president still has yet to explain a strategy for what he wants to achieve in Syria and the Middle East or the budget to back it. How can President Obama expect Congress to authorize an act of war without answering these fundamental questions?
The president’s insistence on military action without a long-term strategy and proper funding is destined to repeat the failures of President Clinton’s misadventure in Iraq. Tactical strikes masquerading as strategy is not a substitute for an effective foreign policy. It failed to deter a brutal tyrant in 1998, and it will fail to deter Assad today.