Earlier today Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center and one of the leaders of the R2P interventionist current in foreign policy thinking, tweeted a link to John Mccain’s call for military intervention in Syria with the message that it should be “judged on its merits”, not on whether people liked McCain or not. The trouble is, on its merits Mccain’s statement is long on aspiration but short on actual details. And the devil is definitely in the details.
Syria is not Bosnia – McCain’s chosen comparison – or yet Libya. Any intervention there would have to be closer to the one in Iraq, and we all know how swimmingly that went. Syria’s air defenses, according to General Dempsey, are five times denser than Libya’s, over a smaller area. Russia reportedly just upgraded Syria’s air defense radars, showing that it’s willing to take concrete military action to preserve assad’s regime. Dempsey also said that, because the US is the only nation with the ability to degrade such a tight air defense net, it would be going it alone no matter who was nominally an ally. DefSec Panetta admits there would be “severe collateral damage” because Syria’s major defense centers are all in built up areas. And according to CNN, the US military estimates it would take upwards of 75,000 ground troops – i.e. an invasion – just to secure Syria’s chemical and biological WMD stockpiles. No wonder the DoD is pushing back hard on calls to intervene. I asked Shadi Hamid about all of this by twitter. So far, he’s had no comment.
Just as Iraq and Libya interventionists had no real conception of what would be involved in military action, or in the aftermath of such action, advocates of “doing something” in Syria are likewise ignorant of the way the real world works.