On April 30, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that imposing a no-fly zone on the Syrian government through U.S. Airforce sorties over Syria would be a daunting but feasible prospect, but he said he doubted the value of the likely outcome.
“The U.S. military has the capability to defeat that system, but it would be a greater challenge, and would take longer and require more resources” than in Libya, Dempsey told reporters.
“The air defense picture in Libya is dramatically different than it is in Syria,” he said. “Syria has five times more air defense systems, some of which are high-end systems, that is to say higher altitude, longer range.”
On Thursday night, and then again on Saturday night, the IAF breezed through those daunting Syrian defense systems by creatively staying above Lebanon and destroying their Syrian targets from a distance. The Syrian airforce, which has proven very effective against civilians on the ground, stayed put and not once challenged those Israeli planes. What does it mean regarding the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s intelligence on Syria?
Sunday night, on “Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace,” Senator John McCain of Arizona said: “I hope the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who has testified repeatedly [that] these air defenses are so tough, we would have such [a hard time there] – the Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it fairly easily.”
McCain noted: “One thing I’ve learned about some of our military leaders, [if] they don’t want to do something, they can invent lots of ways not to do it. The fact is we are capable of taking out their air on the ground with cruise missiles, cratering their runways, where all of these supplies, by the way, from Iran and Russia are coming in by air, and we could obviously also, with the use of Patriot missiles, defend a certain circumscribed area.”
And with his legendary fury, McCain declared: “And to allege somehow that the United States of America can’t do that, means we’ve wasted a hell of a lot of taxpayer dollars.”
Wallace asked: “What can you tell us about the Israeli airstrikes first Thursday night/Friday morning, and a much more extensive airstrike overnight?”
“Well, apparently, the Syrians and Iranians have crossed a red line for the Israelis,” McCain answered, quipping: “Fortunately, the red line that the president of the United States had written was apparently written in disappearing ink.”
“The Obama administration should be cognizant of what George Shultz, former secretary of state, once told me. When he was in the Marines Corps, his drill instructor said, never point a weapon at someone unless you’re ready to pull a trigger,” McCain continued. “First of all, [Obama] shouldn’t have drawn the red line. Second of all, the red lines were a green light to Bashar Assad to do anything short of that. Chemical weapons are terrible, but isn’t it pretty terrible when you launch Scud missiles against your own people, where you massacre over 70,000 peep, drive a million into refugee camps? Those seemed to have been acceptable to this administration, and it’s deplorable.”
“One of the things I worry about is an incremental—I saw this in the Vietnam War—
incremental escalation,” McCain told Wallace. “We need to have a game-changing action. And that is no American boots on the ground, establish a safe zone, and to protect it and to supply weapons to the right people in Syria who are fighting for obviously the things we believe in.”
McCain cautioned: “Every day that goes by, Hezbollah increases their influence and the radical jihadist flow into Syria and the situation becomes more and more tenuous.”
Now, while one has to acknowledge the Senator’s obvious anger at the Administration for failing to live up to its off-the-cuff promises on red lines, the last thing one wants to see is the United States arming the Syrian rebels.
For one thing, how do you tell if the guy you just handed a shoulder Stinger rocket launcher is a good, patriotic Syrian, or an Al Qaeda infiltrator? The last time America armed rebels, in Afghanistan—against the Soviets—they ended up establishing the Mujahedin core of what later became Al Qaeda.
We should cry out to the Administration and to McCain and his fellow Republicans, much as we cried out to the Rabin and Peres government in 1994: for heaven’s sake, don’t give them guns!