The PJ Tatler

Obama Expanding Syria Target List, Telegraphing Every Punch He Plans to Throw

Community organizers make lousy war planners. The New York Times reports today that mission creep is already setting in as President Obama contemplates striking Syria, with or without congressional approval.

WASHINGTON — President Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.

Mr. Obama, officials said, is now determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action on Saturday to seek Congressional approval of his plan.

The strikes would be aimed not at the chemical stockpiles themselves — risking a potential catastrophe — but rather the military units that have stored and prepared the chemical weapons and carried the attacks against Syrian rebels, as well as the headquarters overseeing the effort, and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, military officials said Thursday.

Well, the targeted units now know what they need to do to ensure that they aren’t hit: Move some of their chemical weapon stockpiles to their bases and headquarters in full view of our surveillance.

It’s human shield time in Syria.

Mr. Assad has openly mocked the United States for delaying any military action, and has seized on the pause to move military equipment, troops and documents to civilian neighborhoods, presumably daring Mr. Obama to order strikes that could kill large number of civilians.

“The additional time gives Assad the potential advantage of complicating U.S. targeting by surreptitiously moving people or even chemical munitions into them, aiming to create casualties or chemical release as a direct result of U.S. attacks,” said David A. Deptula, a retired three-star Air Force general who planned the American air campaigns in 2001 in Afghanistan and in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

We’ve seen that movie before. All it will lack this time around is breathless reporting from a bombed “baby milk factory” in Damascus. But I’m sure MSNBC and Al Jazeera will happily step up.