More Trouble in the Eastern Mediterranean

U.S. Intervention or Not, the Sea is Already Boiling

The USS Barry, seen here firing a Tomahawk Missile during Operation Odyssey Dawn, has moved into position off the coast of Syria. U.S. Navy

So far, public debate about the intervention in Syria has centered on the immediate scope and aims of any U.S.-led military operation, and whether the U.S. Congress should be involved. But no matter how the possible intervention and its aftermath play out, one thing is certain: the eastern Mediterranean -- where exploratory drilling has unearthed vast reserves of natural gas, and where competition over the rights to tap those resources is already fierce -- will become less stable. 

For now, the least bad outcome seems to be a prolonged stalemate. And that is the most likely outcome, at least in the short term, if the United States indeed opts for limited military strikes. By definition, punitive cruise missile strikes seek to change an opponent's strategy without necessarily depleting that opponent’s capabilities. By raising the costs of bad behavior -- say, by damaging airstrips and bombing the

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