President Obama is looking into the possibility of using military force to help protect the people of Syria, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Dempsey, who was joined by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in a hearing with the committee, made clear that the administration still believed that diplomatic and economic pressure was the best way to help protect Syrians from President Bashar al-Assad’s troops. The step came after Sen. John McCain became the first senator to openly call for military action on Monday, saying it was the “only realistic way” to stop the ongoing violence that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 7,500 civilians over the last year. But Panetta said force could spark a civil war and lead to an even worse situation. Both Dempsey and Panetta assured the committee that the Syria situation is far different than the one in Libya—saying the Syrians have four to five times the size air force as Gaddafi’s army had.
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