While the administration of the United States is still debating on an appropriate action to take against the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, which is estimated to have killed more than 1,000 people, determining “when” and “how” are absolutely critical when applying the strategy of deterrence.
“But if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way—we send a shot across the bow saying, ‘stop doing this’— that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term,“ President Barack Obama stated in a televised interview this past Wednesday.
While some see President Obama’s policy as prudent and wise, to others, it may signal weakness and indecisiveness in his tackling of future challenges in the Middle East. By showing indecision and disinterest in engaging in an open conflict in the Middle East, and by providing unnecessary justifications for the strike’s purpose and its type and effect, President Obama’s is, in fact, reassuring the Syrian regime that the strike would not be a deadly one—except he only does this to save face.
Subsequently, the counterintuitive effects of such an uncertain stance send an empowering message to the war proxies involved in Syria, such as Iran and Hezbollah, telling them to reassemble more supportive efforts to back Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
President Obama’s fear of the consequences of an open-ended conflict that could draw the US into another war in the Middle East might be comprehensible, especially because it has already led two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, President Obama and U.S. policymakers must realize that the real consequences of such a limited indecisive strike may be more devastating and dangerous than that of a stronger strike, especially when the Shiite allies and Sunni opponents of al-Assad’s regime will be tempted to extend a multifaceted conflict.
The type of minor surgical intervention for which President Obama is calling will empty the arena for non-state actors. This intervention will also provide a good excuse and a testosterone shot for militias in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon to join the conflict forcefully. According to CNN Arabic, some Iranians have already launched a deployment campaign to deploy soldiers to fight in Syria. Likewise, this will attract more fighters, not excluding the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, who are now being chased, and isolated in Egypt, as well as Gulf players, to take side in the conflict for a religious cause. In the long run, this will feed into the ever-widening sectarian gap in the region and will invite more countries to the burning abyss in addition to bringing about unwelcome change.
Hence, some circumstances in the decision-making process require an immediate and momentous set of actions, and as the saying goes “one cannot be a little bit pregnant”, as far as taking actions is concerned. It’s either to be or not to be.
YaLa Young Leaders