Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon has presented President Obama with "all options for all contingencies" in Syria. "He has seen them, we are prepared... We are ready to go," Hagel told the BBC on Tuesday. But in Washington, there is fairly broad agreement on what option Obama should choose: a limited "surgical" strike. While this would punish Bashar al Assad for using chemical weapons on civilians, some foreign policy analysts say that in the long run, it won't do much to stop his government's violence against civilians. Even so, a strike could come as early as Thursday.
Obama hasn't made a final decision about military action in Syria, The New York Times' Michael R. Gordon and Mark Landler report, but administration officials say he's "likely to order a limited military operation — cruise missiles launched from American destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea at military targets in Syria, for example." He probably won't try to oust Assad or try to "fundamentally alter the nature of the conflict on the ground." In other words, Assad would be punished, but not removed, and the U.S. would not try to help the rebels win.
While there is some disagreement among lawmakers over whether Obama should consult Congress first before taking action, there is remarkably broad agreement about what Obama should do. The U.S. and allies must "take limited military actions," GOP Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said in a statement — "without boots on the ground," the U.S. can "significantly degrade Assad's air power and ballistic missile capabilities and help to establish and defend safe areas on the ground." Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House foreign affairs committee, said on Sunday, "I certainly would do cruise missile strikes. I think you can do that without boots on the ground..." On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk called for the same thing: no "boots on the ground," but "a proportional response with cruise missiles would, I think, be a better way to go." So did GOP Rep. Peter King: "I would say cruise missiles. I would not put American troops on the ground." Republican Sen. Bob Corker said as much on Monday. That follows that he said on Fox News Sunday: "I think we will respond in a surgical way."