A Syrian refugee is pictured at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, July 31, 2012.
On Friday, BI Politics' Josh Barro observed that the Obama administration presented compelling evidence tying an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack to the Syrian government but is "failing to explain why it follows that we should launch a military strike on Syria."
The president has decided that the U.S. should take military action, reportedly involving cruise-missile strikes, against the regime of Bashar al-Assad to uphold the international norm against using poison gas and enforce Obama's blurred “red line.”
Pentagon officials told The Wall Street Journal the planned attack would "deter and degrade" President Bashar al-Assad's security forces.
But that still doesn't answer the key question: "W hat do they think our intervention will do to reduce human suffering in Syria or anywhere else?"
Obama has only said that the U.S. plan "doesn’t, obviously end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria."
But a limited strike, depending on the targets, could reduce human suffering in the 29-month conflict by deterring and degrading Assad's air superiority.
How bombing could, ironically, do some good
That kind of strike — beyond responding to the large scale use of chemical weapons — would potentially curb Assad's relentless bombing of civilians, the flow of supplies from Iran and Russia, and the resupplying of Syrian troops in various areas.
"Specific targets should include the Damascus-area headquarters, barracks and support facilities of the fourth and Republican Guard armored divisions, two units heavily involved in the bombardment of civilian areas," Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank told Agence France-Presse (emphasis ours) .
"Russian and Iranian military and commercial planes arrive daily to offload weapons (some of them advanced air or sea defense systems), ammunition, and personnel, " Interpreter Magazine Editor-in-Chief Michael D. Weiss explained in a detailed piece about degrading Assad.
And a detailed report by Chris Harmer of the Institute of the Study of War notes that only 100 Syrian Air Force fixed-wing planes are operable because all but six of the 27 airbases in Syria are either rebel controlled or fiercely contested.
So, even though the Obama administration hasn't explicitly explained how a limited strike would reduce suffering in Syria, that information is important to the upcoming Congressional debate over a military strike.
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