The Campaign Spot

Notes on Our Upcoming Odd, Brief, Announced War

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Notes on Our Upcoming War With Syria

1. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to the BBC:

The secretary also said that he thought it was “pretty clear that chemical weapons were used against people in Syria,” and he believes that “the intelligence will conclude that it wasn’t the rebels who used it, and there’ll probably be pretty good intelligence to show that the Syria [sic] government was responsible.”

Ahem. “Probably”?

Don’t get me wrong, I think Assad’s regime is the one who used the chemical weapons, too. But I’m just some schmo, not the Secretary of Defense.

Say, United Nations, you’ve got inspectors on the ground. What can you tell us?

The U.N.’s special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi says evidence suggests that some kind of chemical “substance” was used in an attack that killed hundreds of people, but said any military strike on Syria must have U.N. Security Council approval.

The United Nations: always so helpful!

2. Back in late July, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, laid out in unclassified fashion the U.S. military’s options for Syria in a letter to Congress. In that letter:

Conduct Limited Stand-off Strikes. This option uses lethal force to strike targets that enable the regime to conduct military operations, proliferate advanced weapons, and defend itself. Potential targets include high-value regime air defense, air, ground, missile, and naval forces as well as the supporting military facilities and command nodes. Stand-off air and missile systems could be used to strike hundreds of targets at a tempo of our choosing. Force requirements would include hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers. Depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions. Over time, the impact would be the significant degradation of regime capabilities and an increase in regime desertions. There is a risk that the regime could withstand limited strikes by dispersing its assets. Retaliatory attacks are also possible, and there is a probability for collateral damage impacting civilians and foreigners inside the country.

Presuming we launch attacks in the coming days (the media helpfully points out Thursday is the day we’re likely to begin) . . . whatever happened to needing “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines” and so on?

The only person who’s noticed this, as far as I can tell, is NR’s Bing West:

He has asserted that hundreds of ships were needed to strike Syria. Whether he was acting on his own or as the White House messenger in relaying an extreme statement to justify inaction, he has lost face in the region and among the other members of the Joint Chiefs.

Did Dempsey think this would be a bad idea, and exaggerate the number of resources needed in order to discourage Congressional support for strikes in Syria?

3. Eliot Abrams, on NRO this morning:

Two things have been notable about the Syrian civil war. First, real American security interests are at stake in Syria and have been from the start. Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah, which together have an enormous amount of American blood on their hands, have sent troops to Syria to win a war there. Russia has provided a constant flow of arms to the regime. They all consider their control of Syria important, and they are right: If they lose the control they have through Bashar Assad, their position in the entire Middle East is badly weakened — and ours is strengthened. This is a proxy war, with them on one side, and American allies — Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — on the other. It is in the interest of the United States to win this fight, and we should want Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia to lose.

4. Stuart Varney, business correspondent for Fox News Channel and possessor of one of the most distinguished-sounding accents in the news business, thinks that gas prices will jump 20 cents per gallon as soon as military action begins.

5. John Ekdahl Jr., over at Ace of Spades, turns the wayback machine to 2007:

Presidential hopeful Delaware Sen. Joe Biden stated unequivocally that he will move to impeach President Bush if he bombs Iran without first gaining congressional approval.

“The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach,” said Biden, whose words were followed by a raucous applause from the local audience.

Biden said he is in the process of meeting with constitutional law experts to prepare a legal memorandum saying as much and intends to send it to the president.

I wonder how long it took before someone told him the impeachment process begins in the House of Representatives.

Note that if we bomb Syria in the near future — heck, bombs may be falling by the time you read this — this will be the second time President Obama initiated significant military action without a vote in Congress, the first time being Libya.

I suppose there’s a big question about how you define “significant military action,” President Obama sent troops to Uganda and South Sudan in October 2011, Chad in December 2012; the Turkish-Syrian border in January 2013, Niger in February 2013, Jordan in April 2013, Egypt in June 2013, and so on.

But not Benghazi on the night of September 11.


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