Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that military action was an option in dealing with Syria, but he and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey sounded really reluctant about it in their testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. In addition to a far more complicated political situation than the United States faced before starting air strikes in Libya, Syria is a much stronger enemy.
The Panetta quote leading Bloomberg's report on Wednesday's committee meeting certainly leaves the door open for war: "We are reviewing all possible additional steps that can be taken with our international partners to support efforts to protect the Syrian people, end the violence, and ensure regional stability, including potential military options if necessary." But elsewhere in his testimony to the committee headed by Sen. John McCain (who has already called for air strikes), Panetta sounded like military involvement in Syria was the last thing he wanted. "What doesn't make sense is to take unilateral action right now," he said, according to the Associated Press. And Dempsey outlined Syria's strengths as a military power, comparing it to Libya last year at this time:
Dempsey said among the military options are enforcement of a no-fly zone and humanitarian relief. He said a long-term, sustained air campaign would pose a challenge because Syria's air defenses are five times more sophisticated than Libya's. He said Syria's chemical and biological weapons stockpile is 100 times larger than Libya's.