Any U.S. bombing mission in Syria is unlikely to effectively protect civilians and runs the risk of instigating a regional war and greater U.S. involvement, according to a study just published by the RAND Corporation.
“Destroying or grounding the Syrian air force is operationally feasible but would have only marginal benefits for protecting civilians,” the report’s press release explains, and “any airpower option would involve substantial risks of escalation by third parties, or could lead to greater U.S. military involvement in Syria.”
The study also finds that “merely punishing the Assad regime for using chemical weapons is not likely to be an effective deterrent.”
The Obama administration’s key selling point to the public for a new war on Syria has been that it will be limited and won’t include boots on the ground. Syria will not become America’s quagmire like Iraq and Afghanistan were, they promise.
But even if these claims are sincere, it’s not something Washington is likely to be able to control following airstrikes that carry unforeseeable consequences. And then, the messier it gets, the more the U.S. will own the problem.
“The U.S. and its allies can certainly conduct an operationally successful air campaign in Syria,” said Karl Mueller, author of the RAND report. “But each of these aerial intervention options has the potential to escalate or expand the conflict, and could lead to unwelcome responses from Assad’s allies or to wider or deeper U.S. military involvement.”