Senior Fellow Michael O’Hanlon says that “we’re not after a major military effect” in a strike on Syria. Rather, says O’Hanlon, appearing on Fox News:
The goal here is clearly to cause enough pain and punishment that Assad won’t do this again and that he’ll also get the message that if we have to escalate down the road because he’s foolish and does repeat the offense, then we can do that, too.
O’Hanlon continued that a strike would send a clear message on weapons of mass destruction to not only Assad, but also to Iran’s regime:
The actual military target set, frankly, is almost secondary. … It’s more the indication, the message that you could do even more if necessary that ideally restores deterrence so that he doesn’t do this again and so that the rulers in Iran don’t get the idea over there that they can pursue nuclear weapons with impunity against Mr. Obama’s red line on that weapons of mass destruction issue.
I believe [Assad] will get the message. He’s watched us in Bosnia … he’s watched us in Kosovo … he’s watched us in Iraq [the aerial operations of the 1990s]. He knows that there are a lot of things we can do from the air and if we get serious about doing them, he will lose the war.
Get the latest from Brookings scholars on the developing situation in Syria.