In an extraordinary series of disclosures this week, Obama administration officials said that the United States will launch only cruise missile strikes in Syria. The attacks will last roughly two or three days. And the administration’s goal will be to punish President Bashar al-Assad, not remove him from power.
But those clear efforts to placate opponents of military action appear to be failing. Warnings of “another Iraq” are fueling opposition to the use of force on both sides of the Atlantic. And the Obama administration’s contradictory record on secrecy is coming back to haunt it.
In Washington on Wednesday, one-third of the members of Congress asked that they be allowed to vote on any use of American force. In London on Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron's effort to gain support in Parliament for strikes failed, despite the release of an intelligence assessment which said Assad had used chemical weapons fourteen times since 2012.
The risks are high but President Barack Obama should follow Cameron’s example. Obama should allow the U.N. inspectors to complete their work, unveil any U.S. evidence of Syrian government involvement in chemical attacks and give Congress an opportunity to vote on the use of force.
Post-Iraq skepticism of American military action is extraordinarily high. Obama should lead an open debate that helps restore confidence in the public's control over the use of military force.