Barack Obama’s Logic for Bombing Syria: The United States Will Seek to Put an End to Bashar Assad’s Use of Chemical Weapons.
The parallels with Syria are obvious. In this case too, an American president, after much reluctance, seems to be considering the use of force but can’t get authorization from the U.N. because of Russia’s (and China’s) certain veto. The pressures to act have swelled in recent days, with the growing evidence—gleaned not just from Syrian rebels but also from independent physicians’ groups and U.S. intelligence—that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons, killing more than 1,000 civilians.
But where can Obama turn for the legitimacy of a multinational alliance? Nobody has yet said, but a possible answer is, once again, NATO—this time led perhaps by Turkey, the alliance’s easternmost member, whose leaders are very concerned by the growing death toll and instability in Syria just across their southern border.
The weapons that NATO used—and, more important, did not use—in Kosovo are also likely to appeal to President Obama. Clinton was insistent that no U.S. ground troops be sent to aid the Albanians and told his commanders to keep from losing a single American in the fight, if possible.
And so, the Kosovo campaign was, from America’s vantage, strictly an air war. (Just two U.S. servicemen were killed, and not in battle but in an Apache helicopter that crashed during an exercise.) The air war went on for what seemed, at the time, an eternity—78 days. More than 1,000 NATO planes (including the first Predator drones) flew a total of 38,000 combat sorties. The bombs—most of them dropped from altitudes of 10,000 feet and higher, to avoid air-defense batteries—seemed to have no effect on Milosevic’s actions until the final days of the campaign, and so NATO’s commanders kept adjusting and expanding the target list, which ranged from military bases, factories, and electrical power plants to individual Serbian tanks on the battlefield.