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Attacking Syria Is Entirely Unnecessary

Stephen Walt remarks on how Obama has allowed himself to be pulled into attacking Syria:

What is most striking about this affair is how Obama seems to have been dragged, reluctantly, into doing something that he clearly didn’t want to do. He probably knows bombing Syria won’t solve anything or move us closer to a political settlement. But he’s been facing a constant drumbeat of pressure from liberal interventionists and other hawks, as well as the disjointed Syrian opposition and some of our allies in the region. He foolishly drew a “red line” a few months back, so now he’s getting taunted with the old canard about the need to “restore U.S. credibility.” This last argument is especially silly: If being willing to use force was the litmus test of a president’s credibility, Obama is in no danger whatsoever. Or has everyone just forgotten about his decision to escalate in Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya, and all those drone strikes?

This is what seems to have happened, and this quite an indictment of Obama. If the “credibility” argument is nonsense, and it is, how ridiculous is Obama’s willingness to make policy decisions on the basis of it? If Obama knows that the military action he’s about to order is useless, it is that much more indefensible if he proceeds to order it. The fact that the attack will be brief and relatively low-risk for U.S. forces is its only redeeming feature. An attack on Syria has the potential to trigger retaliation, lead to military escalation, or possibly even spark a regional war, and yet it is entirely unnecessary for U.S. or allied security. Obama’s readiness to use force obviously isn’t in doubt, but each time he yields to the impulse to intervene militarily when no U.S. interests are at stake his reputation on foreign policy takes a well-deserved hit.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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