If you were worried about the U.S. invading another Muslim country, you can breathe easy for now. On Thursday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. would not send troops to Syria or launch a unilateral intervention.
"At this point in time, congressman, a decision is that we will not have any boots on the ground and that that we will not act unilaterally in that part of the world," said Gen. Martin Dempsey. If you've been looking for clarity from the Obama administration on the parameters of its commitment in Syria, like we have, it was a helpful testimony. Since the beginning of the month, the U.S. had steadily-increased its involvement in the country, sending $25 million in humanitarian aid to the rebels, giving them satellite communications equipment and night-vision goggles. With the Friends of Syria coalition growing increasingly aggressive in its support of the Syrian opposition, it wasn't clear where the U.S. stood
The sad reality of Dempsey's statements is that everything is resting on the U.N.'s peace plan now. While Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem pledged today in Beijing that his country would implement the six-point plan with special envoy Kofi Annan, Syria has given no sign that that's the case. The Associated Press' Bassem Mroue reports that troops "fired bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters Friday," according to activist reports throughout Syria. In video published this morning, The Daily Telegraph shows Syrian security forces continue to pound the opposition stronghold of Homs.
The situation is distressing but in yesterday's testimony, it appears the generals understand that with Syria's sizable military capabilities, diplomacy remains the best option. "This is not Libya," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, appearing beside Dempsey. "In Libya, there was widespread international support in the Arab world and elsewhere, and a clear Security Council authorization for military intervention, and NATO was authorized to act on that. No such consensus currently exists regarding Syria."
As it stands, it looks like continued violence in Syria is going to be the new norm—and it appears Dempsey realizes that. "I think we're in for 10 or 15 years of instability in a region that has already been characterized by instability."