Last week, the usual senatorial suspects, John McCain, R‐Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Lieberman, I‐Conn. — who have rarely met a foreign war they didn’t like — called for arming the Syrian opposition and launching airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“The only way to stop Assad’s campaign of slaughter,” the senators insisted, “is for the United States to take tangible steps with our friends and allies to help the Syrian opposition change the military balance of power on the ground.”
Our “friends and allies” won’t be much help. A confidential NATO report on the Libyan campaign, recently obtained by the New York Times, admits our European alliance partners lacked the technological capability to carry out such interventions unless the U.S. carries all the weight. American forces provided the vast bulk of some 7,000 precision‐guided bombs and missiles showered on Libya during the intervention, which President Obama refused to call a “war” (“kinetic military action” was the preferred jargon).
Moreover, as American officials noted, it would be much harder to topple Assad via airstrikes than it was with Gadhafi, given Syria’s superior air defenses. An attempt to stop the bloodshed in Syria could risk increasing regional chaos. As my colleague Doug Bandow points out, “Damascus possesses abundant supplies of biological and chemical weapons, including cyanide, mustard gas and sarin nerve agents. The consequences of their use by the regime and “leakage” to terrorist groups could be catastrophic.”
Still, Obama’s Pentagon has, somewhat reluctantly, begun contingency planning for military operations. Here we go again?
Not all of the rank and file are on board with the idea that the U.S. military should serve as the shock troops of international benevolence. A recent Navy Times article features sailors roundly mocking the “Global Force for Good” slogan: “ ‘It sounds like a catchphrase for a bunch of superheroes,’ said Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate Randy Whitney, just one of the sailors who invoked the 1970’s cartoon classic ‘Super Friends.’ ‘Do they plan on moving all the Navy’s Pentagon offices to the Hall of Justice?’ ”
Our Constitution envisions a narrower role for the U.S. military than one that would have it responding to “trouble alerts” worldwide. U.S. armed forces exist for “the common defence… of the United States,” the better to secure the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” as the Preamble puts it.
“Global Force for Good”? What’s wrong with “Don’t Tread on Me”?