THE BLOG
09/04/2013 03:25 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2013

For What It's Worth: Time to Stop the Drumbeats for Syrian Action

"This is not going to end well." That was my first thought when I read the news about the Senate's proposed 60/30-day engagement language outlining President Obama's options in Syria: Sixty days of approved action, with a 30-day kicker. And after watching the Senate hearings, "This is not going to end well" became my second thought. There are too many drumbeats building up behind some form of military action in Syria, and the tempo of those drums is reaching a nearly hysteric level.

That incessant thundering drive is drowning out the public's sensible questions, which is, I think, what the president wants, and what more members of Congress are beginning to want, too. I'm reminded of an old Buffalo Springfield song, "For What It's Worth," in which the chorus is, "It's time to stop, hey what's that sound?/Everybody look... what's goin' down?"

It's time to stop and look at just what is happening here. The Congress finally got what it's ached for -- a chance to play field marshal in a war. With every Member of Congress now an armchair tactician, the upcoming Syrian assault is beginning to look a lot like Lyndon Johnson's and Robert McNamara's war, where civilian leaders wrested military decisions from the generals in Vietnam and made battlefield decision from the safe remove of the Oval Office.

Yes, I know that the Secretary of State and a number of Senators and Representatives are veterans -- experienced warfighters and prisoner-of-war heroes -- and I respect them and applaud them for what they bring to the debate table (although I do wish John McCain had not chosen the Senate hearing as a time to play virtual poker... awkward move, Senator). But the reality is that commanders in the field will have to execute the plan now being whipped up by the president and the Congress, and that just isn't right.

All the parties need to step back and look at what they are doing. They are rushing into a war we don't need, we don't want, and we can't win. A few cratered airfields, a blow to Bashar al-Assad's command-and-control network, the demolition of long-evacuated government buildings will not make one iota of difference absent a long-term strategy -- and even then the question, "What is our goal?" has not been satisfactorily answered.

Once the launch commands are executed and the missiles head toward their targets, the conflict in Syria will take on a whole new and larger dimension, one filled with unexpected and untestable consequences. The late physicist Wolfgang Pauli, noted for his blunt dismissals of poorly-crafted theses, had a particularly pointed phrase for any unevaluatable theory that was so bad, "It's not even wrong."

There is something happening here, and what it is, sad to say, is crystal clear: a rush to avenge the unavengable, at a price that is unsustainable, for an outcome that is unimaginable. It's time to stop and look at what's going down, before it's too late.

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