Elizabeth O’Bagy sharing her observations, having been on the ground in Syria a number of times this year:
The Obama administration has emphasized that regime change is not its goal. But a punitive measure undertaken just to send a message would likely produce more harm than good. If the Syrian government is not significantly degraded, a U.S. strike could very well bolster Assad’s position and highlight American weakness, paving the way for continued atrocities.
Instead, any U.S. action should be part of a larger, comprehensive strategy coordinated with our allies that has the ultimate goal of destroying Assad’s military capability while simultaneously empowering the moderate opposition with robust support, including providing them with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon systems. This should be combined with diplomatic and political efforts to first create an international coalition to put pressure on Assad and his supporters, and then working to encourage an intra-Syrian dialogue. Having such a strategy in place would help alleviate the concerns of key allies, like Britain, and ensure greater international support for U.S. action.
The U.S. must make a choice. It can address the problem now, while there is still a large moderate force with some shared U.S. interests, or wait until the conflict has engulfed the entire region. Iran and its proxies will be strengthened, as will al Qaeda and affiliated extremists. Neither of these outcomes serves U.S. strategic interests.