The administration's planned strike on Syria is increasingly opposed by many in a U.S. military coping with the scars of two long wars, a rapidly shrinking budget and soldiers saying we're "tired, stretched thin and broke."
That sentiment was expressed by an active-duty soldier with a rank of Sergeant First Class in an email to Rep. Justin Amash. The Michigan Republican has been receiving, compiling and tweeting emails from current and former service members now being asked to commit to an ill-defined mission with an unclear goal in support of rebels mostly linked to al-Qaida and other unfriendly interests.
"The message I consistently hear: Please vote no on military action against Syria," Amash tweeted. Most objections relate to the lack of a clear objective in striking Syria and the muddled line between anti-government rebels and al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists.
The backlash against boots on the ground or even wings in the air has exploded on social media. Many in the military are posting photos of themselves holding signs stating they'd refuse to fight on the same side as al-Qaida in Syria. The photos went viral, with one post alone generating more than 16,000 shares on Facebook.
"Our involvement in Syria is so dangerous on so many levels, and the 21st century American vet is more keen to this than anybody," Business Insider's Paul Szoldra quotes former Cpl. Jack Mandaville, a Marine Corps infantry veteran with three deployments to Iraq. "It boggles my mind that we are being ignored."
A decade of involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many of the rank and file seeing the fruits of their victories squandered by the Obama administration's precipitous, ideologically driven withdrawals, raises the question why we should bother about Syria.
In a blistering editorial in the Washington Post, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College, touches on the growing discontent among military leaders regarding Obama's reckless combination of dithering and bravado on Syria.
"They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration's attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense," Scales opines. "None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective."
According to Scales, the military is privately "outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about 'red lines.' " The rank-and-file, in other words, are outraged that their blood may be shed just to save presidential face.
The military can't afford any sustained campaign against Syria without the kind of supplemental appropriation then-Sen. John Kerry was for before he was against in Iraq. That fact, and the potential dangers of mission creep, were highlighted in a July 19 letter by Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to Sen. Carl Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Dempsey wrote then that using "lethal force to prevent the use or proliferation of chemical weapons" could cost "well over $1 billion per month." He also wrote that controlling chemical weapons would require more resources than just air and cruise-missile strikes. He said it would need to be coupled with "thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces" to secure critical sites.
Sounds like boots on the ground to us.
During a hearing on Syria in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez asked Kerry if there would be any possibility of ground troops entering Syria at some point.
Kerry said the administration had "no desire" to put boots on the ground. But he hinted it could happen in the event "Syria imploded . . . or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else."
Then Kerry added, "I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to the president of the United States to secure our country."
Well, many in the military do, saying their boots aren't made for walking on Syrian soil in a war we can't afford, particularly if it means dying for al-Qaida. They are saying, "Hell, no, we shouldn't go."