Following reports of a large-scale chemical weapons strike, pressure is mounting on the United States and its Western allies to act to halt the violence in Syria.
But, with politicians and public alike loathe to get sucked into another drawn out land war in the Middle East, what military options remain on the table?
And so far it's been GEN Dempsey as the voice of reason.
Effectively ruling out U.S. cruise missile attacks and other options that wouldn't require U.S. troops on the ground, Gen. Martin Dempsey said in a letter to a congressman that the military is clearly capable of taking out Syrian President Bashar Assad's air force and shifting the balance of the Arab country's 2½-year war back toward the armed opposition.
But he said such an approach would plunge the United States deep into another war in the Arab world and offer no strategy for peace in a nation plagued by ethnic rivalries.
"Syria today is not about choosing between two sides but rather about choosing one among many sides," Dempsey said in the letter Aug. 19 to Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. "It is my belief that the side we choose must be ready to promote their interests and ours when the balance shifts in their favor. Today, they are not."
The reality is that you cannot effect change on the ground without putting troops on the ground. Kosovo, Libya, and 10+ years of no-fly zones over Iraq have taught us that lesson. Are we prepared to put troops on the ground in Syria? Hard to believe we would.