Mark Perry writes: When asked by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) during Senate testimony on Tuesday what the United States is “seeking” in Syria, Gen. Martin Dempsey had nothing to say. “I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking,” he replied. Secretary of State John Kerry jumped in to answer for Dempsey, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman’s response to the senator’s question was noted, approvingly, by many at the Pentagon as something less than an endorsement of President Barack Obama’s Syria policy.
If Obama orders the military into action in Syria, the response will be unflinching. But there’s a discernible discomfort among recently retired generals and military intellectuals, echoed more quietly within the serving ranks, over fighting “wars of choice.” Then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed this disquiet during a widely circulated address at West Point in April of 2008, when he cited the three axioms taught by legendary military tutor Maj. Gen. Fox Conner to guide decisions about when the U.S. should go to war: The U.S., Conner had said, should never fight unless it has to, never fight alone, and never fight for long.
It’s not known whether “Marty” Dempsey, as he is known within the top brass, embraces Conner’s principles, but it’s clear that he’s quietly asking the same questions over intervention in Syria: Is this war absolutely necessary; will we have to go it alone; and when does it end? They’re good questions, although Dempsey’s senior colleagues and close friends say his cautious counsel isn’t being sufficiently heeded in the White House. [Continue reading…]