What's going on in Syria is horrific. By all means Assad has no intentions of giving up power and as his regime seems to be, if not exactly a puppet of, then at least has the strongest backing of Iran. To say that Syria is a problem is an understatement. Not just for the constant massacres that are taking place but they are one of the main pipelines for Iran to get things through to Hezbollah. Indeed at the height of the Insurgency in Iraq, most of the foreign fighters were funneling through Syria. At one point there were even a few cross border raids to get HVTs or eliminate weapons cashes.
But now we have another problem. Namely that we have (yet another) apparently pro-democracy movement in Syria, and we have a regime that is slaughtering its own people left and right. I won't even bother to point out the parallels to Iraq, that would (sadly) turn every comment left into partisan bickering. We as Americans hate seeing this kind of stuff, and we as Americans sadly know that the EU, and the UN even NATO will do jack and shit about it. We saw the same in Darfur, Libya, Somalia, Uganda, Liberia, Vietnam, Korea. . . you name the place that has had some sort of turmoil in the last say 70 years and it has been America leading the charge to make right wrongs.
There's just a few tiny problems there. First off, is the money. Its nearly unthinkable that we would actually have to ask this question seeing as we've just fought a decade long war with no real effort on the part of MOST of the nation. . . but since there has been about $5 TRILLION in debt added in just the last three years alone, and the DoD is about to have its budget ruinously slashed. . . where exactly are you planning to get the money to pay for this? Even if you use only air strikes do you realize how much a Tomahawk Cruise Missile costs? To say nothing of a B-52 fully loaded dropping independently targeted GPS guided bombs? Lets look at the kind of gas that would be needed to support the fighter escort, to say nothing of the actual bombers. The B-2 Spirit is stationed in Missouri. They have to fly all the way around the world, drop their bombs then fly to Diego Garcia, or another tightly controlled port. Airstrikes look good on CNN because it appears that no one (at least no one we care about) gets hurt, but that simply isn't the case. Also one slight problem. Airstrikes, for all their pinpoint accuracy are indiscriminate. Once released they can't stop if they see children.
If we do go into Syria, we will have to put "boots on the ground". Soldiers and Marines are used to it, but we're desperately needing an infusion of cash to repair or replace all the vehicles that have been going almost non-stop for close to 11 years now. In Peace time you would take your vehicles to the field maybe once a business quarter, and aside from routine stuff, like driving around post, you really didn't sue them that much. You could have vehicles that were made in '83 but that would be ok because aside from starting them every Monday for a PMCS (Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services) they would never leave the motor pool! But try doing Ops in a combat zone. The same HMMWV that had never given you so much a slash (maintenance code for fault but not dead-lined) on your dash 10 (the PMCS manual) were routinely dead-lined and because they were mission essential ran into the ground then torn apart for parts. Even the MRAPs are starting to show wear and they have their own problems.
Any ground invasion (which I'm sure Obama wants to avoid like the plague) would require upwards of 150,000 troops, but that's actually a pretty light number. I actually think it would take closer to 200,000, just to avoid some of the mistakes made early on in Iraq. Anyone that does the math can tell you that the Army and Marine Corps can do it, but to do so would stretch their manpower dangerously thin. Keep in mind this is still with looming Reduction In Force coming. You are going to lose a lot of combat experienced NCOs and Officers to this coming round of RIFs, which unless Congress acts right now, are going to happen. The force would essentially be crippled before the fight, and the continuing manpower issues would only get worse.
Now all this is on the assumption that Iran doesn't get involved, which knowing them, is not a good bet. Add to that the fact that the region is already teetering on chaos with the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood and a lot of other nastiness, post "Arab Spring". Any action taken to overthrow the regime of Syria will upset so many competing interests that its not entirely clear what will happen. If we support the rebels, we need to be very careful that we know who we're supporting. Politically speaking the whole thing is such a mess its a wonder anyone is seriously considering getting involved.
Regardless of the realities of it, our political leaders will do what they will. The military will salute smartly and after scratching their heads for a long while try to make it happen. I think it will be air strike and naval bombardment intensive, and few if any actual ground troops. That is assuming there is any actual military action. I would like to point out, that a lot of the commentators, talking heads, and policy makers that were against Iraq, seem to be for Syria, and while I would like to slap each one of them and ask the difference I know that would do little if any good. There are times where you can see orders coming. Orders you know are wrong, and are powerless to do anything but obey them. This, I think, will be one of those times.