Despite the longstanding American tradition of civilian and political control of the military, it’s not uncommon for politicians to seek cover for their warmongering by forcing public war endorsements from military officers in the name of “information.” Thus Republican US Senator John McCain’s little temper tantrum versus General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for refusing to take the endorsement bait.
Unfortunately for McCain, that bait had to be slathered in the camouflage of a request for Dempsey’s “unvarnished opinion,” and Dempsey has finally given McCain what he claims to want (but really doesn’t):
The Pentagon’s top officer said in a letter released Monday that U.S. intervention in the 2-year-old civil war in Syria would probably strengthen the rebels and put intense pressure on the government there, but he warned that even limited military involvement could backfire. … “Should the regime institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey’s warning was pre-saged by a similar statment from David Shedd, Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency:
If Mr Assad clings to power, “he will be a more ruthless leader who will live with a legacy of tens of thousands of his civilians killed,” he said.
But if he was ousted, Mr Shedd predicted a widening sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims that would tear Syria apart “for years to come.”
Mr Shedd noted that al-Qaeda in Iraq, a force that was almost wiped out by US forces in 2007, has been revived by its role in the conflict. “Al-Qaeda Iraq will emerge stronger as a result of its experiences inside Syria,” he said.
And the cost to US taxpayers? The starting bid, for a mere “no-fly zone” operation, is $1 billion a month.