The White House's proposed mission against Syria is fairly modest—in the words of one congressman, it's "barely 5% of what we did in Libya." So why are people worried? "Because things might go wrong," reasons Ezra Klein at the Washington Post. And helpfully, he compiled a list of those things. Here are a few:
- We Could Hit Civilians: The Pentagon is compiling a target list to avoid civilian casualties, but its track record isn't perfect. "Remember when we bombed the pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, or the Chinese embassy in Belgrade?"
- Assad Could Double Down: Desperate regimes tend to kill more civilians, and Assad could even use more chemical weapons "to telegraph defiance to the United States to his supporters, and implacable, unstoppable ruthlessness to the opposition."
- The "Pottery Barn Rule": You break it, you buy it—or in this case, "you bombed it, you own it." As soon as we fire those missiles, we're involved. It will be "much harder for us to say that what happens in Syria isn't our problem." (Side note: Pottery Barn actually just writes off broken merchandise.)
- Assad Falls, All Hell Breaks Loose: One reason for limited strikes "is that though Assad is a monster, we're not sure that he'll be replaced by anyone better." We could end up with chaos—and amidst that chaos, Assad's chemical weapons stockpile could fall into the wrong hands.
And almost all of these scenarios lead to...
- Escalation: "The key fear behind intervening in Syria is that even constrained missions can unexpectedly break free of their limits."
Click for Klein's full column