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No-fly zone in Syria 'no less than an act of war,' top general says

In a letter to Congress, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cautions that a no-fly zone in Syria could also be costly, averaging as much as $1 billion per month.

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General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in this June 4 file photo. In a letter to the panel on Monday, he warned of the risks of a US military intervention in Syria.

Larry Downing/Reuters/File

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The nation’s top military officer weighed in on the dangers of a US intervention in Syria, warning that launching a US war there would be extremely costly and could fail to reduce the violence.

A US military foray, should it be ordered by President Obama, could also inadvertently empower extremist groups that do not feel warmly toward America and its policies, noted Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I know that the decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly," he said. "It is no less than an act of war.”  

His comments came in a letter delivered to lawmakers on Monday, written in response to questions from Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, who threatened last week to hold up General Dempsey’s renomination for the top military adviser job if he didn’t answer the queries.

Senator McCain has repeatedly advocated for a no-fly zone over Syria, for example. Dempsey, on the other hand, has cautioned that such a move would likely have only a limited impact on violence, since most of the civilian casualties are being caused by mortars, artillery, and missiles.

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