For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is a renewed push to get other NATO forces involved.However, remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday at a press conference in Paris with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius seem to contradict that assertion. In a very long response to a question from Andrea Mitchell of NBC News about the trouble the administration is having building support for its plans, Kerry repeated his "no boots on the ground" pledge, but went further with an assertion that there would be "no soldiers put at risk" [emphasis added]:
But it’s clear to me as I talk to friends of mine in the Congress that there’s a quick and automatic reaction by people in America – and I understand it – and people here and elsewhere. They hear: Oh my gosh, the President is thinking of a military action against an Arab – a country in the Arab world; here we go again, here’s Iraq, here’s Afghanistan, here we are.To argue that no soldiers would be at risk with aircraft flying bombing runs over Syria would be optimistic at best and more likely outright disingenuous. Kerry's assurance also appears to discount any possible retaliation from Syria.
But no, there will be no boots on the ground, no soldiers put at risk, no lengthy action, no long term – this is not Iraq, it is not Afghanistan, it’s not Libya, it’s not Kosovo. It’s nothing remotely like that.
Kerry also used some colorful language to describe what underlies the resistance to President Obama's plans to respond to Syria:
And people have an automatic sense of disconnect because it is, as Laurent said, far away and all the reasons. I’m not going to rebuild that. But there is an Iraq hangover. There is just a huge doubt in people’s minds, which I completely understand, because we all got burned by that and we’re still paying the price.The president and Secretary Kerry will be conducting a full court press this week, with press interviews, Congressional briefings, a Google hangout, and a presidential address to the nation.
Note: A version of this article first appeared the The Weekly Standard.