'This Week' Panel: Syria Strike Plan

Martha Raddatz, Ret. Gen. James Cartwright and Vali Nasr on U.S. strike plans on Syria.
6:47 | 09/01/13

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Transcript for 'This Week' Panel: Syria Strike Plan
Thank you. Let's analyze this with our panel of experts, martha raddatz just returned from middle east, general james cartwright. And vali nasr, and author of this book, the dispensable nation, american foreign policy in retreat. Martha, we heard secretary kerry say there this is not iraq. But I was very struck by an interview you did earlier this month with general dempsey where he said that the shadow of iraq hangs heavy over the military leaders. I think it does. They look at it all the time. And it hangs over the american public. The idea that the public and the military is war weary. The american public and the military is war-wise. They have been through this before. What struck me this week in listening to the president and secretary kerry saying this will not be an open-ended commitment. I don't know how you say that. This could be a chronic problem. Their mission, if it's narrowed to deter and prevent any use of chemical weapons, what if they do it again? You would have to go back and attack again. I think it's pretty hard to say it wouldn't be open-ended in some way. And general defrp sigh told you the application of force rarely produces -- never produces the outcome we seek. You have been in the situation room when the decisions are made. Take us inside this conversation between the president and general dempsey. He comes to him and says, hey, we've ramped this up, but can we hold off on a strike? It starts at the tactical level. Can the forces of posture stay on station for a month or two months until we go to congress, until a decision is reached ? And the answer to that is yes, they can do that. The second question is, will the targets stay that they have used or planned to carry out this strategy? Will they be there when we go? Orb moved and be someplace else? And again, most of the targets associated with the limited strike are fixed. Buildings, facilities, areas, so they're going to be there. Try to detail as best you can, what the targets are. We're not going to strike the stockpiles of chemical weapons. No, you would not want to strike that because the dispersal of the gases and chemicals would affect large areas around that activity. But you want to touch in the idea of prevent, which I don't think is possible, but the idea of deterring the use of the chemicals in the future. You want to go at the facilities. Go at the places where production is done. Go at the places where potentially they would move across channels of communication, bridges, things like that, that would allow them to move it. They're looking at the command and control in this area. So the question becomes, are those targets going to be valid a month from now? Or will they be moved ? They're not going to move. And we havearly indications from syria, the assad regime is declaring victory. I wonder how this is seen in the rest of the region. The president says going to congress is a sign of strength, is that the way it's seen in the middle east? If the congress decides quickly, yes. But the perception is that the decision is thrown into the gridlock of american politics, and that doesn't give the sense that assad would think if he did this again, there would be an easy decision, or our allies would think that south america ready to make a quick decision. This is going to be effective. We can only shore up our credibility, if we make timely decisions, and then if we act in an appropriate time manner and effectively. Right now that's not the perception. What would an effective strike be? We have to have quick decision-making. An effective strike cannot be declared ahead of time that it's going to be limited. That will not change the course of the war. Every time we make the decisions, it's going to be a -- going through the whole process of american domestic political wrangling. That does not make a case for deterrence for assad. It does seem that the white house and administration are trying to walk a fine line here. They want to punish assad, but ensure the american public we're not getting in any deeper. But I was struck by something that was said, you can be a little bit pregnant with strikes like this. It is true. It's a fine line and opens up the possibility of what in the world is the strategy? What's the long-term strategy? You were getting to that. What are we trying to do eventually with this narrow strike, and what will the effect of that strike be not only here at home but in syria. But the entire region. Now he's forcing, essentially, congress, to walk the red line that he drew. And general dempsey, is it fair to conclude, I have seen a fair amount of reporting, that the military overall is skeptical of the effectiveness of very limited strikes like this? Historically, trying to punish someone with a limited strike has not been an effective deterrent. And so the question becomes, what is the strategy? Are we trying to punish and then are we trying to deter from use of the chemicals in the future and retaliation in the future? If that's the case, then what is the -- what is the appropriate target set, what is the appropriate military action that would at least lead us in that direction? One of the things the region has seen is a president who has done just about everything he can to avoid getting excessively entangled in the middle east. To get entangled at all. And I think that's still his message. He wants to punish assad because he violated the red line. We don't want to get involved in syria. We don't have a view about how the war ends. We're not articulating what is at stake here. We're still not engaged. And the message to assad also is we don't to want get engaged. We talk about deter rents. But the critical one is american decisiveness and commitment to the region. And unless and until that's there, we're not impressing our allies or really threatening assad. He has to go back to the red line comment the president made. Everyone heard that and knows what it means. Everybody knows what that means. But even if he hadn't made that comment, event in the face of these pictures, and more than a few syrians gassed, including children, I wonder if he'd act

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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