As Israel strikes military targets in Syria, hoping to take out missiles it says are Lebanon-bound and could soon land in the hands of Hezbollah terrorists, U.S. President Barack Obama remains cautious.
The first strike took place early Friday, May 3, and the second, on Sunday morning. During a press conference in Costa Rica on Friday published on the White House website, Obama said his administration has been acting with international partners to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. The United States has also requested a United Nations investigation into Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
“But in terms of any additional steps that we take,” Obama said, “it’s going to be based on, number one, the facts on the ground. Number two, it’s going to be based on what’s in the interest of the American people and our national security.”
“I’m going to make those decisions based on the best evidence and after careful consultation—because when we rush into things, when we leap before we look, then not only do we pay a price, but oftentimes we see unintended consequences on the ground,” Obama said.
Political science professor at California State University–Saint Marcos Dr. Kent Bolton considers how Israel’s attack might motivate U.S. action.
“While the Israelis doubtlessly acted on their own best interest (as they define it) they may have had secondary motivation in forcing … Obama’s hand,” wrote Bolton in a blog post on May 3. He pointed out that when Israel raided Syria in 2007 to take out a nuclear reactor that had a connection to North Korea, then-President George W. Bush did not support the attack.
Michael E. O’Hanlon, Director of Research, Foreign Policy at Brookings, said that Obama’s caution is wise.
“Obama is right to be wary of putting U.S. credibility on the line when there is no clear exit strategy,” wrote O’Hanlon in a Brookings article on May 3.
The war-weary nation does not want to follow the same path it took in Iraq or Afghanistan, O’Hanlon said. Rather, it should follow the same course it took in Bosnia.
O’Hanlon said the soft partitions established in Bosnia after the United States bombed Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian militias held up well after the conflict.
“It wasn’t perfect, but 18 years later, Serbs, Muslims, and Croats have not gone back to war.”
In Syria, a similar model would give Assad’s Alawite minority and the Kurds each a section of the country, and the main central cities would be shared, O’Hanlon said.
“The Syrian insurgency is a motley bunch that includes al-Qaeda-linked extremists,” O’Hanlon said. “The overthrow of Assad would no more end Syria’s war than the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 brought peaceful bliss to Iraq.”