News Column

Attack on Syria Is Inevitable, Experts Say

August 30, 2013
uss stout tomahawk missile
The USS Stout fires a Tomahawk cruise missile off Libya in 2011.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's humiliating failure to secure Parliament's support to attack the Syrian government for alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians was an embarrassment for President Obama as well -- but one unlikely to deter him or cost him much politically if he launches an air assault, experts say.

Boston College political science professor Marc Landy said Obama must take action, even without public support, after warning Assad not to employ chemical weapons.

"As long as he does not commit ground troops, the American people will stand by him," Landy said. "I know it's not popular with the public, but the great fear is we'll put boots on the ground. I think as long as casualties are minimal, the country will stand by him."

An Ipsos poll last week showed just 9 percent of Americans support a military response in Syria.

Former Clinton administration official Elaine Kamarck, a scholar at the Brookings Institution on leave from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, said she believes opposition to intervention in Syria is growing in Congress, "but I'm not sure that will have much impact on President Obama."

"The only things under discussion are some strikes that disable the Syrian government's chemical weapons," Kamarck said. "It's not anticipated at all to be a ground invasion. What has everybody freaked out is the memory of Iraq."

Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed yesterday that his nation would defend itself against Western military strikes. U.N. officials said its chemical weapons inspectors will leave within 48 hours carrying information that could be crucial to what happens next.

"Give diplomacy a chance. Stop fighting and start talking," United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said.

The vote rejecting British involvement in Syria "is an embarrassment to both Cameron and Obama," Landy said, "but it's not of great importance, and I think he has to do this. He said there was a red line and they crossed the red line, and an American president must stand by his word on things like this."

Still, Landy said: "It troubles me he didn't consult more with Congress. As a student of American government, I think that's wrong. But the Congress will stand by him, that's the bottom line. He's done this poorly, but he must do it and follow through."

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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