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Dempsey: Military Must Be Part of Larger Strategy for Syria

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

LASK, Poland, July 24, 2013 – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey today called Syria “a human tragedy,” and said any military effort there must be tied together with diplomatic and economic instruments of power.

In his first public comment by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Syria since release of a letter detailing five military options in the civil war there, the chairman spoke to reporters covering his visit to a Polish air base hosting an American aviation detachment.

Responding to reporters’ questions, the general prefaced his remarks on Syria by saying it is one of the most complex issues he has studied in his 39 years of military service. “My job as a military leader is to provide options and then to make sure that the men and women whom we may ask to do it are ready to do what we ask them to do,” Dempsey said. “That’s my focus at this point.”

It is not just Americans who are concerned about the war in Syria, he noted. “The most convincing argument for everyone to be concerned about Syria is the tragedy that’s unfolding,” the general said.

More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed in the on-going conflict, according to the United Nations. U.N. officials said the Syrian civil war has led to the world’s worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees said that more than 1.5 million Syrians have fled the country and millions more have fled their homes, but are still in the nation.

“There is a compelling argument for the international community to sit up, take notice and try to contribute,” the general said.

The chairman said many people look to the military instrument as the first choice in an international crisis. This may be because “we are so well-organized, we are so agile and we are so well-trained,” he said.

“But before I would recommend a military solution to this issue, because of the complexity and the myriad actors that are involved, I would have to be convinced that the aftermath of military action would not lead to a failed state in which the suffering would be worse,” he said.

Dempsey emphasized he is not suggesting the international community do nothing about Syria. “I’m suggesting that we need a strategy to tie military options together with the other instruments of power to include the diplomatic and economic,” he said. Dempsey repeatedly has stated that ultimately, the decision to intervene militarily is one for elected leaders.

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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels With Dempsey

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