Friday, August 30, 2013

Syria 2: The Dangers of an Internal Mindset and Groupthink

It is all too easy for an Administration to become locked into an internal mindset in such situations, even starting from the best intentions.

Here, we have:

1) A vicious regime, for whom the current murderous occurrences are tantalizing close to attribution--but still unproven;

2) A verbal commitment to act upon these occurrences--with the failure to act having potential consequences upon the dangerous actions of another regime;

3) A strong moral stance by the President and key advisers that adds additional pressure for such action.

However, we also have:

1) A group of rebels who have taken significant and rapidly increasingly losses, who would benefit from precisely such a conclusion;

2) A lack of conclusive evidence, and some evidence that appears to contradict regime responsibility for the acts in East Ghoula;

3) Two regimes that would benefit significantly from action based on conclusions that are found to be incorrect;

4) The now oft-seen and often severe unintended consequences of such action.

It is possible to be seen as strong, responsive, and morally consequential without military action at this point. The absence of conclusive evidence *at this point* is precisely the basis on which to found such a response.

The response should be unambiguous and clear: We are willing to act with clear, great, targeted severity in the face of this more conclusive evidence.

To act before such evidence meets a standard of beyond reasonable doubt is to endanger the very concerns of the President and the Administration at this point, as:

1) It causes the President to appear as if he must act before the facts have been determined--not strong, but acting for fear of being perceived as weak, rather than with the patient strength of acting upon conclusive evidence;

2) It creates the higher probability that the Administration will be proven to be wrong on the basis for such action, making the bar for later, more demonstrably proven and necessary actions significantly higher.

The Administration's message should be unequivocal, unambiguous and clear: 

Should the evidence under review prove that the regime is responsible for the attacks in East Ghoula, there will be a military response sufficient to warn the regime of severe consequences of such acts. 
Any other such acts will receive a similar response.  

However, in the absence of this proof, the Administration must continue to determine its acts regarding this regime with the means, measures and severity commensurate to its other acts against its people and the geopolitical and domestic interests of our nation.