If this is as bad as people say, shouldn't we be doing more than symbolic gestures?

If this is as bad as people say, shouldn't we be doing more than symbolic gestures?

by digby

The Wall Street Journal explains one of the less understood reasons the president is delaying action in Syria:
The delay, in part, reflects a broader U.S. approach rarely discussed publicly but that underpins its decision-making, according to former and current U.S. officials: The Obama administration doesn't want to tip the balance in favor of the opposition for fear the outcome may be even worse for U.S. interests than the current stalemate.

....The administration's view can also be seen in White House planning for limited airstrikes—now awaiting congressional review—to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons. Pentagon planners were instructed not to offer strike options that could help drive Mr. Assad from power: "The big concern is the wrong groups in the opposition would be able to take advantage of it," a senior military officer said. The CIA declined to comment.

Israeli officials have told their American counterparts they would be happy to see its enemies Iran, the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and al Qaeda militants fight until they are weakened, giving moderate rebel forces a chance to play a bigger role in Syria's future. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been particularly outspoken with lawmakers about his concerns that weakening Mr. Assad too much could tip the scales in favor of al Qaeda-linked fighters.
Great. Our leaders are out there calling Assad Hitler and saying we have a Munich Moment, but he's better than the alternative. Does this strike anyone as a tenable proposition? All the chest beating and hand wringing over the horrors of chemical weapons and the humanitarian crisis sounds just a little bit hollow when the only thing you are prepared to do is lob some missiles and call it a day.

The humanitarian crisis is horrifying. But if our consciences are so aroused that we feel the US must take action, but we can't really change anything on the ground, then perhaps we should consider other alternatives, like arranging for refugees to come to the United States and other Western countries. And maybe we should think about how we could spend the money that we're thinking of spending on military to fund it.

My maxim in these situations is: if it's not obvious that violence is the only answer then it's not the answer.

Update: And Haaretz reports this, although it's very hard for me to imagine that the US Military really is so strapped it can't carry out an allegedly limited operation like this. (If it is, we need to do an audit immediately because the taxpayers need to know where those billions have gone)
U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to delay a planned military operation against Syria until the end of the congressional debates was preceded by a warning from the commander of the United States Air Force that a budget cutback in the Pentagon had severely affected the Air Force’s combat preparedness. The commander, General Mark Welsh, issued the warning publicly, in meetings with troops at Air Force bases in Japan and in an interview with Air Force Magazine, the online journal of the Air Force Association.

By promising that the operation would not involve prolonged involvement of ground forces, Obama put most of the burden on the aircraft and missile arrays of the Air Force and the Navy. Welsh’s warning shows that Obama’s reasons for delaying the operation were as much military in nature, as political and international.

Update II:

Q: Do you want to compare this to the Holocaust?

Pelosi: "No ... I think more like Rwanda"

Oh please. A lot of people have been mau-mauing anyone who compares this to the run-up to the Iraq war. And it is different, to be sure. But it's hardly comparable to the Holocaust or Rwanda either. Yes, there was a lot of killing going on in Rwanda and there's a lot of killing going on in Syria. But the world dithered on Rwanda because nobody really gave a damn about a tribal war, not because they were afraid that Islamic terrorists would take over a Middle East military power or draw others into the battle.