“You better be damn sure, as sure as you can be, before you get into something, because once you’re into it, there isn’t any backing out, whether it’s a no-fly zone, safe zone, protect these — whatever it is,” Hagel said later during questioning. “Once you’re in, you can’t unwind it. You can’t just say, well, it’s not going as well as I thought it would go, so we’re going to get out.”
Gen. Dempsey said in his testimony that “before we take action, we have to be prepared for what comes next,” referring to the limited ability of the Washington to shape the reality on the ground even if the advice of people like John McCain is followed and the US military takes action to topple Assad.
“The use of force, especially in circumstances where ethnic and religious factors dominate is unlikely to produce predictable outcomes,” he said, adding that “unintended consequences are the rule with military interventions of this sort.”
While the Obama administration has acted to bolster the Syrian rebel opposition, sending non-lethal aid directly and lethal aid indirectly through client states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, I’ve argued this is largely a pittance for public consumption so that Obama gets to display his disapproval for the Assad regime’s violence and placate concerns of “humanitarian interventionists.” If it were more than this, the administration would undoubtedly already have sent what is called “decisive aid” – that is, weapons that would at least level the playing field between the rebels and the Syrian military.
Additionally, there are other policies which negate these actions, including the Obama administration’s decision to send the CIA to work with Iraq’s security forces to stem the flow of Islamist fighters going into Syria to join the rebellion. This is an example of Obama working with Maliki, a virtual ally of Assad, to fight the very militants the Assad regime is fighting.
As former CIA official and Antiwar.com columnist Philip Giraldi has said, “Obama has come around to the view that regime change is more fraught with dangers than letting Assad remain.” There is even some reason to believe that the war in Syria is draining the resources and credibility of Washington’s geo-political foes (Iran, Russia, etc.), thus serving as a further disincentive for direct military action by the US.