Simultaneously, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a key advocate for intervention in Syria, was talking about mistakes made in Iraq.
More about that later.
On Thursday, McCain and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on President Obama to “degrade the Assad regime’s air power and to support Turkey if they are willing to establish a safe zone inside of Syria’s northern border.”
They described as a “credible” option using U.S. Patriot air defense systems based across the border in Turkey to shoot down pro-Assad, Syrian aircraft and Scud missiles.
They added that Gen. James Mattis, the retiring head of Central Command, said during an Armed Services hearing that “precision airstrikes” could knock out “a fair amount” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s aircraft on the ground along with Scud missile batteries. They didn’t mention what would happen if Assad responded by attacking the Patriot missile sites in Turkey or used Syrian air defense systems against the United States or allied aircraft making airstrikes.
The senators also did not indicate how they would establish a haven in Syria but said their plan “would require neither putting U.S. troops on the ground nor acting unilaterally.”
They also omitted Mattis’s hesitancy toward giving arms to the Assad opposition because “the situation is so complex.” He said he would need “some degree of confidence that the weapons that we would . . . [give would] not be going to” our enemies.
While the two senators were proposing their “limited military options,” Reps. Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.), ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) introduced a more ambitious measure, the Free Syria Act of 2013.
A draft of the bill says Obama “should provide appropriate military assistance, including arms, training, and intelligence support, for Syrian opposition” who are “appropriately vetted and are directed only to forces that support the establishment of a democratic and peaceful Syria.”
The measure also provides for non-lethal military assistance as well as economic assistance to a post-Assad government.
That latter assistance would be available for “(1) Developing or strengthening democratic institutions and processes. (2) Short-term economic and political stabilization. (3) Reconstructing or revitalizing basic infrastructure.”
Funding would be whatever was appropriately needed, with no amounts specified.
Let’s for a moment forget how difficult or costly providing military support to the “good” Syrian opposition would be and concentrate on post-Assad Syria. Also, let’s remember the issues that arose from a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq and post-Gaddafi Libya. And, of course, there are the current issues in post-Taliban Afghanistan.