Ezra Klein interviews Senator Coons (D-Del) who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee about Syrian intervention. Senator Coons is rather trusting of President Obama based on Mr Obama’s clear reluctance to get involved in the Syrian conflict.
Nonetheless, Senator Coon makes it very clear that bombing chemical munitions is a very bad idea:
But I think it’s commonly accepted we can’t and shouldn’t directly strike his chemical weapons stores. That would send up a plume that would kill many people. So we can’t and won’t strike those stores. But we can strike the things used to deliver them. The military unit, the rocket launches, the delivery capability. We can strike things that don’t move like runways and jets and helicopters that can’t be hidden.
The Senator also points out one of the things that was bad about the Iraq invasion: there was no handover of power, rather there was a destruction of power and the terrible chaos that followed for about a year afterward.
When we invaded Iraq and wiped out the civil infrastructure, the military, the folks who run water and sewer systems, we ended up having to be the police and civil servants for most of a decade. Overthrowing Assad would require a multinational force like that to go in and try and secure the stockpiles.
This is consistent with the Pentagon estimate from late 2012. The New York Times:
The Pentagon has told the Obama administration that any military effort to seize Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would require upward of 75,000 troops, amid increasing concern that the militant group Hezbollah has set up small training camps close to some of the chemical weapons depots, according to senior American officials.
Finally, General Dempsey in his letter to Senator Levin from July of this year reports that controlling chemical weapons requires ground troops:
This option uses lethal force to prevent the use or proliferation of chemical weapons. We do this by destroying portions of Syria’s massive stockpile, interdicting its movement and delivery, or by seizing and securing program components. At a minimum, this option would call for a no-fly zone as well as air and missile strikes involving hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers. Thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces would be needed to assault and secure critical sites. Costs could also average well over one billion dollars per month. The impact would be the control of some, but not all chemical weapons. It would also help prevent their further proliferation into the hands of extremist groups. Our inability to fully control Syria’s storage and delivery systems could allow extremists to gain better access. Risks are similar to the no-fly zone with the added risk of U.S. boots on the ground.