The American people are already deeply suspicious of launching military airstrikes against the Assad regime. So I can’t imagine comments like these are going to help the current administration win them over:
Secretary of State John Kerry said an “unbelievably small, limited” military strike will be enough to halt Syria’s use of chemical weapons and hasten a political settlement to the 2 1/2-year civil war.
As Congress got set to debate a U.S. intervention, Kerry sought to reassure the public that the Obama administration won’t let a Syrian campaign evolve into a years-long commitment with ground troops, like the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We’re not talking about war, we’re not going to war,” Kerry said in a press conference in London today after a three- day mission to Europe. He spoke of a “limited, very targeted, very short-term effort.”
GOP Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) blasted Kerry’s comments this morning on “Morning Joe” (via Politico):
“I don’t understand what he means by that,” Rogers said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday. “I don’t think describing the size or effort of what our target sets are or what ship fires what missile is in our national security interest, candidly. And again, this is part of the problem. That’s a very confusing message — certainly a confusing message to me that he would offer that as somebody who believes this is in our national security interest.”
William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, also chimed in:
“I am worried, though, the administration has done such a bad job of making its case,” Kristol said. “John Kerry in London to reassure the British and Europeans said … we’re not talking about war. It would be very targeted, very short-termed. Then he said it would be an ‘unbelievably small,’ limited kind of effort.’”
Kristol slammed Kerry’s remarks, saying he is “shaken in his support.”
“Now we have the secretary of State saying, ‘Well, we went to Congress, it was so important to go to Congress, for an unbelievably small limited strike.’ Even I can see why reasonable people on the Hill, and I think it’s unfair to characterize them all as isolationists or irresponsible, reasonable people on the Hill can say is that really better than nothing?” Kristol said.
Indeed. What’s the point? If the airstrikes against the Syrian regime are going to be so “unbelievably small” as to accomplish little or nothing-- a seemingly symbolic gesture that gives Obama political cover for issuing his ill-fated red-line proclamation -- then why even bother? I mean, is it really worth risking a confrontation with, say, Russia and/or China if the conflict unexpectedly escalates once the U.S. military starts launching bombs? The staunchest opponents of intervention argue rather persuasively that we must not intervene in Syria because, well, it’s not in our national security interests, and that attacking Assad will only benefit the rebels -- many of whom are al-Qaida affiliated and anti-American. These are important points to consider. And yet Secretary Kerry seems to be making the case for war…so that our president can “check the box” and say he Did Something to hold Bashar-al Assad responsible for alleged war crimes. This will not do.
The president will speak to the nation tomorrow night presumably about why we must launch airstrikes against Syria. And for his sake, I hope his arguments are a lot more cogent and comprehensible than those of his Secretary of State. After all, his legacy could be at stake.