Talk to Congress, Then Take Out Assad

Obama must recognize the Syrian leader has become a threat to U.S. national security.

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Black columns of smoke rise from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood, east of Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. Worries about violence and chemical weapon use in Syria have impacted the stock market.
Black columns of smoke rise from heavy shelling in the Jobar neighborhood, east of Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. Worries about violence and chemical weapon use in Syria have impacted the stock market.

Many suspect – and some are sure – that it continues to be amateur night at the White House on matters of national security. Ironically perhaps, this seems to be the price we paid in 2008 to get out of the Iraq mess.

However, others might think that by now, if there is any learning to be taken from all things Middle East, it is the requirement or necessity to kill off the senior leaderships of the various corrupt family, ethnic, tribal, religious, regional mafias there, if and when they become threats to us. Recent examples of this strategic reality might be Saddam & Sons – even though we should have left Iraq after they were captured or dead - and Osama Bin Laden.

The key requirement here is "if and when they become threats to us." Well, in Washington, that seems to be totally a judgment call, and one colored very heavily by political divides: Some Republican-Democrat, some Liberal–Conservative–Libertarian, some House-Senate but mostly Congressional-Presidential, and all with a heavy dose of media and op-ed spin (some clueless and some thoughtful).

However, there are probably some exceptions to this matrix: For example, when we are attacked, such as we were on 9/11, we have what could be called executive license to respond immediately and with whatever level of force we deem appropriate.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Syria.]

In the past, I have argued that we should have responded strategically on 9/12 – maybe even with small nukes – to neutralize whatever dangerous ungoverned regions we determined had originated the 9/11 plot. And, immediately after 9/11, absolutely no one would have second-guessed or dared criticize such a response.

Had we done this, the last 12 years would have been radically different for us, and we would have a far different order in the Middle East than we do now – most important, one that presented far less of a threat to us.

Disagree? Then consider this: Was the 9/11 attack any less significant – or less strategic – than the Pearl Harbor attack was? It certainly killed more of us. And, don't forget: The probable intended target of the fourth airplane on 9/11 was the Capitol Building or the White House, according to the 9/11 Commission. What would we have done if that had happened, as the 9/11 plotters probably intended? Would that have made a difference?

So, here we are, almost 12 years later, still screwing around with these various corrupt Middle East factions, many who wish us only death and sponsor terror (i.e., Syria) against us world-wide. And, we've allowed a whole new generation of fighters to indoctrinate, train and arm themselves – even more of them are now living among us, preaching their hate and planning violence. For example: How about the terror tactics of the Boston Marathon bombing and the recent targeting of our embassies?

[Vote: Is Obama Right to Ask for Congressional Approval on Bombing Syria?]

Enough of this nonsense!

We desperately need new strategic targeting policies - and technologies - that focus on the senior leaderships of terror sponsors – such as the Assad regime, and the others of which there is no debate on culpability. And, there is very good precedent for this: During the Cold War, we had PD-59, written during the Carter Administration (which was not known for its aggressive policies). It was a strategic doctrine that targeted specifically the senior leadership of the Soviet Union, especially the most senior membership of the Central Communist Party.

So, come on man – let's put an end to amateur night at the White House and take Assad and his cronies out! If we don't, the sad and awful reality of rows of innocent sarin gas victims could appear anywhere in the world – even here.

Daniel Gallington is the senior policy and program adviser at the George C. Marshall Institute in Arlington, Va. He served in senior national security policy positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Department of Justice, and as bipartisan general counsel for the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

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