What’s more, he has warned, any Pentagon foray directed by the president could have the unintended consequences of miring US troops more deeply in the Syrian conflict.
As lawmakers weigh options, “We must also understand risk,” Gen. Dempsey warned in a July letter in response to Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, which he was required to provide in order to be reconfirmed for his current position. “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
This came after a testy exchange in which Dempsey speculated that perhaps Senator McCain blamed him for the decision not to act earlier in Syria.
“Senator, somehow you’ve got me portrayed as the – you know, the one who’s holding back from our use of military force inside Syria,” he said. That decision, he noted, belongs to President Obama.
McCain had been advocating for the establishment of a no-fly zone, while Dempsey cautioned that the cost of such a move would be considerable – averaging as much as $1 billion per month – and likely have only a limited impact on violence in the country, since most of the civilian casualties are being caused by mortars, artillery, and missiles.
But with the recent increased confidence in the White House that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his people, the calculus has changed for many in Washington.