"What we're talking about is not an open-ended intervention. This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan," President Barack Obama said this weekend in an address to the American public about a possible U.S. military strike in Syria.
That the president knows he must say what the strike in Syria is notsays a great deal about the uphill battle he has faced in making a case for limited military intervention. The ghosts of the Iraq War hover over any Syria action that the United States potentially undertakes.
But Iraq is not Syria. While Americans are exhausted after 12 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which nearly 7,000 U.S. service members were killed, the differences between the two conflicts are worth noting if the case for Syria is to be judged on its merits.
1. Chemical weapons have been deployed.
Unlike Iraq, where evidence supporting the case that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction turned out to be faulty, Syria's arsenal (in this case, chemical weapons, which are considered a form of weapons of mass destruction) is well-documented.
The Obama administration has assembled an extensive collection of evidence, both crowd-sourced and from intelligence sources, that point convincingly to President Bashar al-Assad's forces having gassed innocent civilians. And U.N. investigators are scheduled to share their report soon.
2. The United States has not been alone in condemning the regime and pushing for action.