Friday, September 6, 2013

10 things that could go very wrong if we attack Syria

The White House’s proposed strikes on Syria almost couldn’t be more limited. They’re likely to cost in the millions of dollars rather than the billions of dollars, and no U.S. lives are likely to be in danger. It’s “barely five percent of what we did in Libya,” says Rep. Brad Sherman.

And it’s not just the White House. The congressional authorization of force — if one ever passes — will expressly forbid committing ground troops. So even if the Obama administration wanted to escalate sharply, they’d need to persuade a reluctant Congress to pass a new law allowing them to do so.

So why is there so much debate over such a seemingly costless endeavor? Because things might go wrong. In particular, these 10 things could go wrong:

In this Nov. 29, 2012 photo, night falls on a Syrian rebel-controlled area as destroyed buildings are seen on Sa’ar street after airstrikes targeted the area last week, killing dozens in Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)

Night falls on a Syrian rebel-controlled area of Aleppo in 2012 after airstrikes targeted the area, killing dozens. (Narciso Contreras/AP).

1) Our strikes could result in heavy civilian casualties. It would be the bitterest of ironies if we struck Syria to punish Assad’s barbarism only to end up killing thousands of innocent civilians ourselves.  The Pentagon is working up a target list with the express intent of limiting Syrian casualties. But the intelligence behind that list could be wrong — remember when we bombed the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, or the Chinese embassy in Belgrade? — and we could hit a building full of civilians. Or a missile could malfunction. Or Assad could move civilians into the way of our strikes expressly to secure a propaganda coup.
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