Top Generals: Obama's Delay Helps Syria's Assad

Monday, 02 Sep 2013 01:10 PM

By David A. Patten

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Top former U.S. military leaders on Monday took strong exception to President Obama’s insistence that an American strike on Syria “will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now,” warning any delay gives strongman Bashar Assad time to use civilians as “human shields” to protect his key military assets.

Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who commanded the armored blitzkrieg that devastated Saddam Hussein’s tank columns in Operation Desert Storm, told Fox News he “totally supported” President Obama’s decision to seek congressional support for striking Syria, because the president “was so far out on a limb it was pathetic.”

Urgent: Should U.S. Strike Syria? Vote Here

No international organization has endorsed the proposed attack, which is intended to send a signal to Assad that use of chemical weapons against his own people will not be tolerated.

Asked however if the delay would offer Assad advantages, McCaffrey replied: “Oh yeah, without question. The most important one of which is psychological, and to further weaken the potential for President Obama to put together a coalition -- never mind dispersing his military forces, moving helicopters and artillery units into populated areas.”

Syria is using the respite prior to the return of Congress from its summer recess on Sept. 9 to appeal the United Nations to intervene to block any cruise-missile barrage from the U.S. military.

Also Monday another top military leader, retired four-star Gen. Jack M. Keane, noted that previous presidents have on multiple occasions authorized military strikes without waiting for congressional authorization.

“Waiting this period of time,” said Keane. “I think it moves the advantage to our opponents.”

Keane, the key military architect of former President George W. Bush’s successful “surge” strategy in Iraq that President Obama opposed, told Fox: “Eventually we’ll get around to delivering a blow. I’m hoping with this amount of time, we’ll move more resources into the region and deliver actually a more significant blow than what we would have done had we executed it a couple of weeks ago.”

Those concerns appeared to echo those of Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a recent letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who serves as chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Armed Services.

Dempsey wrote in July that even a limited, stand-off strike could involve “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines … depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions.”

He added “There is a risk that the regime could withstand limited strikes by dispersing its assets. Retaliatory attacks are also possible, and there is a probability for collateral damage impacting civilians and foreigners inside the country.”

Pentagon officials have said anonymously that their ability to track Syrian weapons will enable them to execute the mission regardless of any delay. But Charles Wald, the retired Air Force general who designed the successful invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, predicted that Assad will use civilians as human shields to prevent destruction of his rocket launchers and artillery.

“It’s almost immoral to give the enemy more time to prepare,” Wald told USA Today.

McCaffrey, despite his support for the decision to seek congressional authorization, told Fox that a limited military strike “probably will not achieve our political purpose.”

In fact, McCaffrey warned that a half-hearted military attack might even leave Assad more emboldened.

Urgent: Should U.S. Strike Syria? Vote Here

“If you communicate clearly that we’re just signaling to you, that you’re not at risk, then military options are really ineffectual, and probably worsen the situation,” McCaffrey said.




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