U.S. intervention in Syria likely has a time limit

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a statement about the use of chemical weapons in Syria at the Department of State August 26, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Kerry said that chemical weapons had been used to kill scores of people during the ongoing civil war in Syria and that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had used shelling to destroy the evidence.

The crisis in Syria deepens as reports arise that the government is using chemical weapons against its civilians. Syria denies the allegations, but that hasn't stopped the international community from making swift response.

President Obama has not made a final decision on military intervention in the country, but senior American officials say that missile strikes could be ordered as early as Thursday.

"There needs to be a signal sent to the international community that the use of these types of weapons are beyond the pale and that there would indeed be consquences as a result of using them," says Steven Cooka senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Although military intervention would be a dramatic move for the U.S. administration, the airstrikes would probably only last two or three days.

Cook says the time constraint is meant to signal to the American people that the United States is not getting too heavily involved in the Middle East again. But Cook says, the Obama administration also doesn't want to get too deeply entrenched.

"This is a brutal, terrible civil war with many different factions fighting and it's clear that the President has put restrictions on the military operations in hopes of not being drawn further into the conflict," Cook says.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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