The Israeli strike in Syria has given Syria hawks their latest bad talking point in favor of war. Richard Cohen uses it today:
As for the use of air power, the Israelis seem to hit targets in Syria with impunity — probably from outside Syrian airspace — with no reports or even Syrian claims of downed planes. Why the Pentagon insists this country cannot just as easily do the same [bold mine-DL] is a trillion-dollar question.
Of course, the Pentagon doesn’t claim that the U.S. “cannot” use air power in Syria. As I noted in the last post, Gen. Dempsey acknowledged that establishing a no-fly zone could be done, but it wouldn’t be easy and it likely wouldn’t do what Cohen and other Syria hawks expect from it. The more important point here is that doing “the same” as what Israel just did isn’t what Cohen and other Syria hawks demand from the administration. What Cohen et al. want is a much more aggressive, prolonged, riskier military action carried out over Syria, and the worst part is that some of them don’t even seem to understand the difference.
Today’s New York Times article on administration policy in Syria touched on why the comparison between the Israeli strike and a proposed no-fly zone is wrong:
“There’s a huge difference between taking out a handful of targets and establishing a no-fly zone over all or parts of a country for a certain period of time,” said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the Air Force’s former top intelligence official who planned the American air campaigns in 2001 in Afghanistan and in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
General Deptula said he did not have details about the airstrikes over the weekend, but said it was likely they were carried out by so-called stand-off weapons that allowed Israeli warplanes to fire at targets inside Syria without crossing into Syrian airspace.
He also distinguished the goal of the Israeli attacks from whatever no-fly zone the United States and its allies might establish. If the targets of the Israeli strikes were long-range missiles capable of reaching Israeli cities, as American officials said over the weekend, then Israeli officials would be responding to a direct threat to national security, General Deptula said. A no-fly zone established to protect Syrian civilians would almost certainly be a much more ambitious and riskier mission [bold mine-DL].