Syria: The Most Important Move Is Still Political
Barack Obama can strike if he wants to, and he does want to strike. He could rain 100 million dollars worth of missiles, or he could rain two billion dollars worth of missiles. He has leeway to decide. There will be no American troops on the ground. None are needed.
But the biggest challenge is not all that. That part is done. The biggest challenge is political and it has to do with the Syrian opposition.
The Obama administration has to make a clear case to the Syrian opposition in exile. They have to get their act together. That means cobbling together a united opposition. That means agreeing to an interim president in waiting. Who is that candidate? That means agreeing to elections to a constituent assembly within a year of Assad getting toppled. That means only inviting those groups into the coalition that will agree to lay down their arms once Assad is out.
The transition will have to be smooth. The post-Assad regime ironically will have to secure all the chemical weapons as the first order of business, that and any other weapons of mass destruction.
Unless the Syrian opposition is willing to all this political homework, the Obama administration should attempt only a limited strike, enough to punish Assad but not enough to hand over Syria to the Al Qaeda. The Obama administration has to do all it can - and there is much it can do - to push the Syrian opposition to do all the necessary political homework. Why strike if you are not going to get rid of Assad? We are not attempting a fireworks display.