It’s not every day that you see a writer assert that the way to solve a crisis in one country is to conduct military strikes in a different one. However, that is precisely the argument that Anne-Marie Slaughter makes at Project Syndicate regarding Syria and Ukraine. According to Slaughter, the problem now is that Russian president Vladimir Putin feels as though he can act virtually without constraints in Ukraine. And so the answer is to use military force against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, as “shots fired by the US in Syria will echo loudly in Russia.” In her words:
It is time for US President Barack Obama to demonstrate that he can order the offensive use of force in circumstances other than secret drone attacks or covert operations. The result will change the strategic calculus not only in Damascus, but also in Moscow.
Leave aside the fact that Obama has done exactly that on more than one occasion: in the 2009 “surge” in Afghanistan, and in the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya. The more basic flaw is that there is no reason to think that bombing Syria would do anything to meaningfully change Putin’s calculus in Ukraine. Slaughter never even clearly describes the causal mechanism by which she thinks that it would. The closest that she comes is when she says: