Landis said he thinks it would be a mistake for Obama to bring the United States further into the conflict. U.S. forces could quickly overwhelm the Syrian military, but toppling Assad would leave Syria in a state of chaos, Landis said.
The United States doesn't have a partner in the region with which to form any kind of provisional government once the conflict was over, Landis said. The anti-Assad movement isn't a unified force, and more than 1,000 militias would be left vying for power. The strongest of those groups are anti-American Islamist militias with ties to al-Qaida, he said.
“There isn't a clear command and control that's accountable,” Landis said. “Syria could get worse, and that's what people need to be reminded of.”
But Oklahoma City University political science professor Mohamed Daadaoui, a Middle East specialist, said he doesn't think a narrowly targeted strike designed to punish Assad for using chemical weapons would be effective.
The use of chemical weapons against civilians is reprehensible, but the U.S. and other Western nations should push for a negotiated settlement between the Assad regime and the rebel forces, Daadaoui said.
A limited attack wouldn't degrade Assad's forces enough to amount to more than anything but a symbolic strike, he said. A negotiated settlement wouldn't satisfy everyone, he said, but it would be a more viable solution than a targeted military strike.
Daadaoui said he expects to see the U.S. launch cruise missiles against the Assad regime. After that, he said, he thinks the conflict will continue as it had before.
“I don't think that's going to resolve anything,” he said. “I think it's going to make things more difficult for the civilians that are already suffering.”