The Obama administration is sending a consistent stream of mixed messages that leaves members of the U.S. military scratching their heads over what a possible mission in Syria would entail according to retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney.
"Well, I'm thinking confusion," said McInerney, when asked to describe the mindset of the military as administration statements evolve. "No sound objectives, no clear guidance to the military. I'm thinking large force deployment to 'unbelievably small.' So it is very conflicting with no objectives. If you don't have an objective, then what are you trying to accomplish?"
And the general told WND the message is confusing because the administration is constantly shifting in what any action is designed to accomplish.
"I don't think they know what they want to do. I think they got swept into this because the president made that off-hand remark about a red line and then all of a sudden he had to justify it. When he lost the British parliament support, he really lost all the international support. Without international support, he really saw his case crumbling," said McInerney, who noted that Obama's red line comment was not only ill-advised but not even grounded in any weapons treaties.
"A red line, even with the international agreement against chemical warfare, there were never any red lines in these proclamations, And so now all of a sudden the president made one and that's what has gotten him in trouble. Yet, even after he made it, they didn't even go out and come up with a plan with the allies – NATO, U.N., Russia, Chinese, etc., to get them out of it. So now they're bailing water very, very fast," he said.
On Tuesday, Obama said he wanted to delay any congressional votes authorizing force in Syria to allow a diplomatic approach to play out, now that Russia has suggested Syria give up its chemical weapons to avoid a strike. The development could be welcome news for the administration, but Russian President Vladimir Putin says the U.S. must take military action off the table before and formal agreement on Syrian weapons is begun.
"Putin threw in that counter-proposal that we renounce the military option, which makes the president delighted. He probably asked him to put that in there because he knows he's not going to get that kind of support on Capitol Hill," said McInerney, who sees a bigger problem developing in all this.
"Now we given the entire control of this operation to the Russians. Are we going to have blue helmets in there securing these chemical weapon storage sites? What will that do in a civil war that has been going on two-and-a-half years? It really puts Bashar Assad in the driver's seat as far as Syria goes because now the U.N. will be supporting him," said McInerney. "The French want to make it a U.N. Security Council issue. Then you have the auspices of the U.N. overarching this particular agreement. So it takes away all of the U.S. flexibility."
McInerney said the lack of defined objectives prevents him from backing any military action in Syria. He said the best path would be to covertly fund the rebels we know to be moderate to the exclusion of the more radical elements, including groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood.