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Why America's top general is wary of US military intervention in Syria

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast he has doubts about whether US military action in Syria would achieve three key aims.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. He was a guest at the April 30 Monitor Breakfast.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is America's highest-ranking military officer and a key adviser to the president. He was the guest at an April 30 Monitor Breakfast.

Effect of recent Pentagon budget cuts:

"When you have all the resources you need, you no longer have the responsibility to think. So we are thinking. We are trying to think our way through this challenge."

How budget cuts will force the Pentagon to deal with what he calls "bad habits":

"In our acquisition programs ... there is certainly room to become more efficient.... Over the years, our health-care costs have exceeded expectations in [an] unhealthy way.... Even in operations, [there are] times when we probably overinvested."

Calls for US military intervention in Syria:

"Whether the military effect would produce ... an end to the violence, some kind of political reconciliation among the parties, and a stable Syria – that's the reason I've been cautious ... because it is not clear to me that it would produce that outcome."

The threat posed by Al Qaeda:

"The ideology, or the movement, has clearly spread to the Arab peninsula, to the Horn of Africa, to North Africa, to West Africa.... But the Al Qaeda core ... the Al Qaeda senior leadership ... they have been decimated."

Furloughing civilian workers because of sequestration cuts in the budget:

"It's heart-wrenching to me...."

Dangers of giving cash to foreign leaders in war zones:

"You do have to be careful that ... you don't create dependencies."

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