The drumbeats of war in Syria are getting louder. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that a military strike could come as early as Thursday, noting the military is “ready to go” and has “moved assets in place” in case President Obama gives the green light.
And a green light for military action looks all but assured at this point.
Any strike would likely involve cruise missiles or long-range bombers hitting some of these 35 key Syrian military targets over the course of two days. To be clear, this strike would not seek to tip the balance of power of the Syrian civil war in favor of one side or another, and would be more surgical in its objectives.
For Syrians who are suffering from last week’s chemical weapons attack, intervention could not come sooner. Doctors are rapidly running out of atropine, the most common drug used to combat nerve agents.
For Americans, the thought of war after 12 and counting in Iraq and Afghanistan is a hard pill to swallow. About 60% of Americans say the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Only 9% of Americans say the United States should act militarily.
Could intervention help save civilian lives? Absolutely.
But there are also political and economic consequences to consider.
1. An Alliance With Al-Qaeda
Here’s the kicker: They say politics makes strange bedfellows, but intervention would also mean a U.S. alliance with Al-Qaeda.
There are numerious known Al-Qaeda elements within the rebel camps fighting Bashar al-Assad. The most prolific of these seem to be the Al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has come across from neighboring Iraq. ISIS controls key areas of Syria, has carried out vicious attacks against the Assad regime, and is among the most elite band of fighters in the country.
It was only a matter of time before Al-Qaeda groups inserted themselves in Syria. As the Daily Beast outlines: "In every conflict in which jihadists participate, they quickly become the most dominant fighting force. Several factors account for their supremacy in Syria. Experience from other conflicts — including Chechnya, Iraq, and Mali — provides them with an institutional knowledge of fighting that local combatants often lack. They are frequently the most courageous warriors on the battlefield. Their martial spirit attracts the admiration of locals who seek to join their elite band of brothers. Today American intelligence agencies believe more than 6,000 foreigners are fighting in Syria."
2. War With Iran?
Geopolitically, Iran has vowed to retaliate by attacking Israel. Israelis are already lining up at gas-mask distribution centers across the country in anticipation. Russia and China are also not happy.
3. Expect Higher Gas Prices
Economically, a strike could significantly push up oil prices and send equities worldwide sharply lower. Which would eventually mean higher prices across the economy. European stocks have already dropped to a six-week low.
During the 2011 Libya crisis, U.S. gasoline prices increased nearly 33 cents in two weeks, the second-biggest two-week jump in the history of the gasoline market. Of course, Libya is a major oil supplier, while Syria has only limited oil resources.
4. Obama Would Out Himself As a Hypocrite
Politically, it would be a huge flip-flop for President Obama – just read what he had to say about presidential war powers back in 2007:
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat,” Obama told the Boston Globe.
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