"Be careful what you wish for. You may get it." -- An ancient Chinese proverb.
As CNBC calculates the costs of Syrian intervention and Foreign Policy assures us that "Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say," Politico has 5 questions for Barack Obama on Syria, among them, "What’s with all these leaks?"
Iran is threatening to rain down destruction on Israel and Israel is dusting off the civilian gas masks once again. This has all the makings of a regional, if not global, war.
But Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal has stumbled into the minefield of unintended consequences and embraced 4th Generation Warfare targeting in an article entitled, "Target Assad. A strike directed straight at the Syrian dictator and his family is the only military option that could hasten the end of the civil war."
Should President Obama decide to order a military strike against Syria, his main order of business must be to kill Bashar Assad. Also, Bashar's brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power. Also, all of the political symbols of the Assad family's power, including all of their official or unofficial residences. The use of chemical weapons against one's own citizens plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein. A civilized world cannot tolerate it. It must demonstrate that the penalty for it will be acutely personal and inescapably fatal.Maybe this strikes some readers as bloody-minded. But I don't see how a president who ran for his second term boasting about how he "got" Osama bin Laden—one bullet to the head and another to the heart—has any grounds to quarrel with the concept.
I like that last line about Obama not having any grounds to quarrel with the concept. But Stephens, Lord love him, has not thought this through. For what is good for goose is surely good for the gander. Obama, by embracing the targeting of enemy war-makers and decision-takers as exemplified by Fourth Generation Warfare, is aiming a precision guided weapon at his own head. This fact cannot be lost upon the Syrians or the Iranians or any of their sleeper cell familiars currently in this country. Indeed, in the modern era politicians have been reluctant to kill their counterparts for fear that, in the words of Malcolm Reynolds, "Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill 'em right back!" This is a relatively unexplored country for American presidents, save for Bill Clinton's unheralded changing of the rules of engagement in 1999 vis-a-vis the recalcitrant Serbs. And of course Milosevic did not try to return the favor for powerful political constraints of his own.
That will not be the case for the Assad regime or, I dare say, the Iranians. Not to put too fine a point on it, but those rules are equally applicable to any would-be tyrant anywhere and it doesn't require cruise missiles, satellites and drones to carry them out. ANY would-be tyrant. ANYWHERE. At ANY time. Including this country in the 21st Century.
Obama, by embracing and extending Clinton's rules of engagement with the Serbians to the war-making and decision-taking elites of his enemies whoever he perceives them to be, will be pointing a gun at his own head, and at those of all the collectivist myrmidons in his administration. If not now, then in the future.
In the context of American liberty -- and conjecturing hypothetically -- I am on record as opposing the assassination of an American president no matter how tyrannical, preferring to save such a person for the war crimes trials that will follow. The same does not extend to the upper echelons of war-makers and decision-takers of such a hypothetical oppressive regime. The Iranians and Syrians, however, being collectivists themselves of their own ilk, will not have my moral or political scruples about killing an American president.