Washington is wrestling with a moral-political-military equation over Syria. The question is how, if at all, Americans might support getting involved.
President Obama’s warning still stands: if Damascus uses – or has used – chemical weapons, it can expect Washington to loosen the brakes placed on intervention so far. Limited air strikes, using drones or setting up a no-fly zone?
There just isn’t any political groundswell in favour of military action.
White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated: “It is our policy that we have not [provided] and are not providing weapons to the Syrian opposition. But we are continuing to review our options.”
Even if there is a political will somewhere, after a decade of losing American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and spending billions of dollars there, now a low profile seems advisable. Analyst Steven Cook with the Council of Foreign Relations think tank suggests that’s just common sense.
Cook said: “The cynical view is that the President is buying time in order to build diplomatic support for some sort of political solution that the two parties in Syria really aren’t interested in.”
Some Republicans are arguing for a muscular intervention to topple the Assad government, which they want to believe could end the fighting.
Cook made a stark prediction: “We are stuck with observing a protracted civil war that is going to kill many more tens of thousands and drive many more tens of thousands of people out of their homes.”
Our correspondent in Washington said: “So far, President Obama’s inaction on Syria has served him well, politically, with most Americans being against any involvement whatsoever. A US intervention at this point would be a no-win situation for Obama and would only prompt Republican attacks, no matter what he decides.”