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The Debate Over Striking Syria

By Taylor Marvin

USN photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Carmichael Yepez

USN photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Carmichael Yepez

At Political Violence @ a Glance, today I collected arguments for and against the apparently-immanent US-led strikes on Syrian regime targets. Unfortunately at 800 words length constraints meant that I was unable to include all the writing and analysis I’ve been reading on the subject, so if you’re interested here’s further links:

At the Monkey Cage Erik Voeten and Erica Chenoweth link to various political scientists thoughts on the matter. Peter Feaver speculates on why Assad would use chemical weapons, a particularly puzzling question given the regime’s apparent recent military momentum at the expense of the rebels. Feaver suggests that the regime possibly doubted the administration’s commitment to punishing chemical attacks or did not realize just how horrific the Ghouta attack would be, the first a mechanism I discussed in May.

The Smoke-Filled Room’s Chris Clary endorses “modest” military force in Syria, subscribing to the argument that US/UK/FR airpower should be used to cancel out the military advantage Assad has apparently gained from CW use.

Daniel Soloman looks at what he terms an “immanent disaster.”

John Mueller, author of Atomic Obsession and noted WMD skeptic, argued in FA last April that the Obama administration should walk back from its anti-chemical weapons red line.

Brent Sasley argues at PVG that the Obama administration’s apparent military response to the Ghouta attack isn’t about enforcing the international anti-chemical weapons norm, which isn’t in danger — I subscribe to this theory.

Stephen Walt wants President Obama to publicly admit that striking Syria would have little practical affect and attempt to leverage this admission into pressuring Russia and China into a renewed diplomatic offensive.

Last weekend Fred Kaplan attempted to examine the logic of President Obama’s apparent change of heart on intervention, citing the desire to avoid empty threats, the importance of enforcing the anti-chemical weapons norm, and Obama’s personal commitment to international norms.

Via Karolina Lula, the NTI’s overview of Syrian chemical weapons is a useful resource.

Update: The UK appears to not be joining any potential strikes.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Interesting post, I can associate with some of your ideals, baring this in mind, this may be of interest to you:

    August 29, 2013
  2. The UK possibly not joining in a strike on Syria is probably the best news that has come out around the issue so far. (Such are the dark clouds that we should consider this a silver lining.)

    September 2, 2013
  3. I’m sure Cameron’s setback in Parliament is at least partially responsible for Obama decision to (apparently) wait for congressional approval. Even if strikes don’t have broad international support (unlike other recent US military actions) British, French, and Turkish support would allow the administration to pretend that they did. The high-profile removal of British support would have destroyed this fiction.

    September 3, 2013

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