REUTERS/SanaAll signs coming out of the White House indicate that America will strike Syria in the coming days.
And according to one eminent geopolitical expert, the choice is largely unavoidable at this point.
Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, told Business Insider that the U.S. "has to respond given international norms against the use of chemical weapons" because the "costs of not responding at this point are too high."
Those costs include letting down key allies, losing credibility on a key human rights issue, and condoning the tactical use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or other rulers.
Bremmer, who thinks that cruise missile strikes with the potential of allied air strikes is the most likely action, said that now it's a matter of choosing targets that would deter Assad from using chemical weapons in the future.
"The U.S. is determining the minimum threshold of force for enforcing the 'red line' — and they'll surely make explicit the consequences of further chemical strikes, etc. — without full intervention in the war," Bremmer told BI.
The U.S. has decided that it does not need United Nations or NATO approval for a strike, Kevin Baron of Defense One reports. Instead, it will attempt rely on backing from a "coalition of the willing" that includes the Arab League and Turkey as well as France, the UK, and Germany.
“In certain circumstances we can bypass it, but international law does exist," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio on Monday. "The only one that is not on the table is to not do anything.”
Bremmer echoed Fabius' point that the most recent chemical attack — which killed hundreds and caused "neurotoxic symptoms" in thousands — cannot be ignored.
"When Germany says something has to be done, something has to be done," Bremmer said.
Harmer, a former U.S. Navy planner who creates highly-detailed proposals for surgical strikes, argues that the reported strike plan "will be ineffective unless it is part of a coherent, properly resourced effort towards achieving clearly articulated U.S. strategic aims in Syria."
This may be because, as Bremmer told BI, that "it is not necessarily in U.S. or Israeli interest for the action to lead to the toppling of Assad ... but that's not the case of many countries (e.g. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) that are aligned with the US in taking military action."
Nevertheless, that doesn't mean the U.S. doesn't have strategic objectives. Harmer explains them as "helping the moderate and more secular elements of the opposition defeat both the Iranian-backed Assad regime and the al Qaeda-affiliated extremists who threaten to hijack the rebellion."
What to watch for: Not surgical strikes on delivery systems but buildup in Turkey/Jordan for weapons-running/FSA training.— michaeldweiss (@michaeldweiss) August 26, 2013
The first without the second is merely symbolic. The second in conjunction with the first means US getting serious.— michaeldweiss (@michaeldweiss) August 26, 2013
"It is extremely hard to keep intervention limited — that's why the Obama administration has been so unwilling to engage over the past two year," Bremmer told BI. "That reality hasn't suddenly changed with the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government."
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