Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey maintains that a limited U.S. strike against Syria is unlikely to achieve our political objectives — and could make the situation worse.
In an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box" Tuesday morning, McCaffrey said he is "grateful" that President Barack Obama has decided to seek approval from Congress before launching a strike.
"He had no support on this unilateral limited strike, not from NATO, the Arab League. Jordan and Egypt denounced it," said McCaffrey, the former head of the U.S. Southern Command who now heads the consulting firm McCaffrey Associates.
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"I think the president has enormous latitude as commander in chief to do anything he wants. The question is, what will happen if we conduct this strike? I think if he has the legitimacy of Congress, at least it will have more credibility in trying to influence Assad's thinking.
"The bottom line is, this is an internal civil war fight to the death between a Shiite minority supported by the Christians and what is increasingly an extremist jihadist Sunni uprising. What should we do about it? That's really the question Congress needs to take up."
McCaffrey has asserted that if Obama does not get approval from Congress and does not launch a strike, it would not hurt his credibility or that of the United States whatsoever.
"I think the credibility of the U.S. is based on 2.3 million men and women in the armed forces, backed by the largest economy on the face of the earth, and our value system," he told "Squawk Box."
He acknowledged it is "clear" the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack.
"The only question at stake is, will a limited military strike achieve our political purpose? I think it is unlikely to be the case."
As to why the United States has been slow in arming the rebels, McCaffrey said we have "had a hard time figuring out who the good guys are versus the bad guys."
"Still, it seems to me, rather than conduct a limited ineffectual strike, go ahead and arm them if you want to allow these people to protect themselves."
He added that if a limited strike is "not going to have a positive objective, there is no reason to stir the hornet's nest. That can make it worse.
"If you will not take effective military action, and you think it might worsen it, you shouldn't take military action."
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