- Congressional Support
- Decisive Force
- Commitment to force a good outcome
- A Connection to a Strategic Objective
For example, if we were pursuing a strategy of spreading democratization among Arab nations to drain the swamp of potential terrorists, Syria would be a potential new test case. We could use our air bases in Iraq to support the attack, incorporate the more civilized parts of the rebel forces into a new government, and hunt the Al Qaeda forces in the country until we drive them out to the next target. Oh, wait, we've totally eliminated that possibility, haven't we?
Well, if we adopted a strategy of defeating Russia or Iran it would be worth knocking off Syria to weaken their support (even if it just left a power vacuum). But we don't seem to be doing that.
Instead the goal seems to be taking a moral stance that it's much, much worse for a civilian to be killed by chemical weapons instead of bullets. I don't really see the point to that. The point is the murders, not how efficiently they were carried out.
When I wrote the first draft of this (before going AFK for a week for Worldcon) it looked like this was going to happen without any attempt at getting Congressional authorization. Now, as I try to catch up on the news, the bombing of Syria has apparently been postponed to wait for Congress to return from vacation.
I am totally boggled by a mindset that places vacation schedules as higher priority than decisions over whether to kill people.
There's also statements that the President reserves the right to launch an attack even if Congress rejects authorization. That could give us a heck of a Constitutional crisis. I can't see an impeachment coming out of it (unless pushed by a lot of Democratic senators) but there's a very real question of whether ordering an attack would be a lawful order to the military in those circumstances. This could wind up being adjudicated in the court-martial of some field grade officer who refuses an order (generals do not climb the greasy pole so they can resign dramatically). Not the right way to make such momentous decisions.