Friday, August 30, 2013

American-Led Strike in Syria Risks Return to Reckless Cowboy Era

American-Led Strike in Syria Risks Return to Reckless Cowboy Era

But what is being prepared -- by most accounts a two-day bombardment of Syrian installations with cruise missiles fired from American destroyers -- is an act of war. It may well prove to be a justified act of war, provided it is supported by a community of nations and based on credible intelligence. But war is what this is.
War, it ought to go without saying, is a risky, unpredictable pursuit. You fire missiles at another country and people will die. If we have learned anything from the past decade, it's that military campaigns have unintended consequences. We could miss the intended targets or learn that the things we were aiming at had other uses than those we understood. We could provoke a strike on Israel from Iran. We could incite unforeseen violence from the Assad regime. And when one of those things happens and some fresh hell breaks loose, genuine moral leadership capable of speaking for international norms had best be supported by more than a couple of far-flung allies going along on a ride that has not been adequately mapped out.
For Obama, this poorly sold, as-yet ill-defined intervention into another seething conflict in the Middle East presents grave risks: He could wind up representing the sort of American power defined by his predecessor, the shoot first-contemplate later mode of operation that has served no interests beyond the Islamist militants for whom such violence functions as a valuable recruiting aid.