As a result of the the Syrian regime using sarin gas the Obama administration decided to step up the United States’ involvement in the conflict. As always, when this type of news is announced I’m left asking “what is our end goal?” Without knowing that I can’t even begin to judge the wisdom of any actions.

Do we want to create a free and democratic Syria? Because our track record on that is not good

Do we think slightly upping the pressure will make Assad leave peacefully? If that doesn’t work we have simply increased the number of arms in a bloody civil war.

Do we want the quickest possibly victory for the various rebel groups? Increased aid will not achieve this goal. The fastest way give the rebels victory would be the aggressive use of American air power.

Do we want victory for the rebels or a peaceful partitioning of the country along roughly sectarian lines?

Are we mainly trying to send a message about American power to all the international actors, from Russia to Iran?

Are we trying to create a standard that using chemical weapons will never be tolerated? Create a new de facto international law enforced by American power. While a strange goal, I can understand the long term argument for it. If that is the case though, arming the rebels is the wrong way to send the message. Targeted strikes against Assad and his top people would be better.

At this juncture I have no idea what the real plan is. It seems there has been a loud clamoring in Washington to “do more” so we are simply “doing more.”

Photo by Freedom House under Creative Commons license