The top U.S. general has set out five options for military intervention in Syria in a non-classified letter made public Monday.
Despite outlining the options, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey stressed that the decision of whether to go to war was one for civilian leaders.
In his July 19 letter, he pointed out that the use of the options would be a political decision that should not be carried out lightly and would be, “no less than an act of war.”
The options range from nonlethal intelligence and weapons training to a boots-on-the-ground plan to “assault and secure” the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons.
His letter was addressed to Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin, included him being mindful of ongoing deliberations over whether to intervene militarily against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Dempsey wrote that such a decision is “a political one that our nation entrusts to its civilian leaders.”
But his letter -- which was -- also detailed risks, such as the empowering of extremists and retaliatory strikes by the regime.
The letter also carried an ominous warning for a nation weary of war after more than a decade of armed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next,” he wrote. “Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
The United States is currently providing humanitarian assistance and non-lethal aid to rebel groups battling to oust Assad.
President Barack Obama’s administration promised an expansion of military aid to Syria’s rebel forces in June after accusing the regime of using chemical weapons, but such aid has yet to be disbursed.
Beyond training, Dempsey said the United States could conduct lethal stand-off strikes that would degrade the regime’s air defenses as well as ground, missile and naval forces.
Such an option would require hundreds of aircraft and ships and, “depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions.”