Dempsey: Military Must Be Part of Larger Strategy for Syria

25 Jul 2013 | Jim Garamone

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey today called Syria "a human tragedy," and said the international community must work together using all tools of power in Syria.

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

The general predicated 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."

Working collectively would be the best way to intervene in the Syrian civil war, Dempsey said.

"The most convincing argument for everyone to be concerned about Syria is the tragedy that's unfolding," he added.

More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed, 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 that 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 when there is an international crisis. The military instrument may be the first choice 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 added.

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.

Headquarters Marine Corps