Education State & National News

National Security expert weighs on Syria attacks [podcast]

April 11, 2017

Yesterday on “Pensacola Speaks,” I interviewed Dr. Jacob Shively, an assistant professor in the University of West Florida’s Government Department, about the events in Syria last week.

Dr. Shively has analyzed the national security strategies of Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. He has presented at international and national conferences on topics ranging from U.S. foreign policy, security strategies, cybersecurity and military drones.

Why did Syrian forces use chemical weapons?

“Where they’re fighting, you’ve got quite a mixed bag of rebels along with Syrian forces and the Russians, of course,” said Dr. Shively, who teaches international relations at the University of West Florida.

“The government of Syria, in particular, feels that they are under dramatic siege, and they have gotten to the point over the last couple of years of doing whatever they can to try to finish off this conflict. My sense is that they feel like they’re close to maybe finishing the conflict with everybody distracted by ISIS, and they’ve got a window of opportunity with Russian support.”

What was the U.S. strategy behind its air strike?

Dr. Shively said, “Rather than thinking of this as an expansion of a war or initial statement in a longer military strategy, I think the administration’s agenda was to send a very clear statement that they weren’t going to tolerate this sort of use of chemical weapons, but they weren’t necessarily going to follow up.”

He continued, “It was a very discrete and specific attack on the single base that was probably involved. They’re probably crossing their fingers right now that the Russians and the Syrians get the message and don’t push back and use these weapons again, because if they do, then you’ve got that credibility question of well, do we follow up, do we expand, and so forth. In which case, then maybe it does become a larger strategy, but at this stage, it’s probably a strong diplomatic statement.”

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