PERILOUS PUZZLE: ATTACKING SYRIA, WHAT IS TO GAIN? WHAT ARE THE RISKS & HOW SHOULD IT BE DONE?

Lockheed-to-continue-Tomahawk-workI have received a ton of email asking me to address the current situation in Syria. I was one of the very first to drive home the dire realities surrounding Syria’s Chemical Weapons, Russia’s unique strategic interests in the country and I adamantly called for a preemptive strike on Syrian chemical weapons facilities once the country was clearly falling into chaos. Well, a lot of time has passed since then and now Syria is mired in an incredibly brutal and seemingly unending civil war. One that has massive implications in the region and around the world.

It is becoming quite clear that the Arab Spring has turned into the Arab Winter, and that its instability has been spreading rapidly. Countries who were traditionally stability brokers in the region (in modern times at least), including Egypt and Jordan, are on the brink of their own civil wars. Just the thought of Egypt or Jordon becoming totally destabilized was once something found more in a geo-political thriller novel than in reality. Sadly, this is no longer true. Within this vacuum of authority, these nations’ split personalities, with democracy and tolerance standing off against the gloom of Islamic fundamentalism, are all primed for major conflict as these two extremes of philosophy, which span everything from religion to popular culture, are almost totally irreconcilable, especially for societies walking into the bright light of personal freedom after decades of repulsive dictatorships. The bottom line is that if people have called this region a powder keg before the Arab Spring, then today it is akin to broom closet that is jointly used for smoke breaks and TNT storage.

_69528672_syria_who_supports_who_464-01The Syrian Civil war is incredibly complicated. Regionally you have Iraq to East, Jordan to the south (which suddenly is on the brink itself), Lebanon to the west, Israel to the South West and NATO partner Turkey to the North. Basically Syria is one volatile piece of property. With its location and its geo-political posture, Syria is in many ways tied to Lebanon and the ever stronger Hezbollah militant Islamist organization which lords over that country. Hezbollah is also amongst Israel’s biggest foes as it really is an Iranian franchise. Then, as you back up a bit, you have Iran and the US, who albeit they do not share a border with Syria, in many ways they are the higher powers that fight via proxy using many of these actors in the region. Through Syria, Iran supplies Hezbollah with mountains of munitions, from AK-47s to Silkworm anti-ship missiles. In other words, Syria is Hezbollah’s middle-man when it comes to arms and monetary support for their operations in Lebanon and thus against Israel. America on the other hand serves a similar function via its most prominent ally in the region, Israel. To a lessor extent the same thing could be said concerning Jordan, Egypt (at least in the past) and Saudi Arabia. In so many ways the current foreign policy gauntlet that is the Middle East is reminiscent of the Cold War, where low intensity conflict exists as more of a pressure reliever than to satisfy any actual military objective. In other words, small-time external and internal conflicts exist to the degree that they do in these countries so that they do not explode far outside their boundaries geographically and in terms of the magnitude, frequency of the severity military tactics used. It is almost as if a certain amount of hatred fueled violence has to be fulfilled periodically to stave off all out war throughout the region. This seems especially true in regards to Israel and its neighbors.

Beyond the global and regional picture you have the micro political, religious, and tribal fissures within each country, and these nations are/were often only held together by a strong-man tyrant. These dictators regularly utilized tried and true police state methods, to keep such flagrant differences amongst the populace from turning bloody and threatening their personal stability. Although they are brutal maniacs, losing these bastard rulers changes the political, cultural and even religious dynamics of their formal fiefdom to the point that if, or when, the repressive dam that keeps the populace’s inward and outward angst contained crumbles and long-time disputes amongst neighbors, regional sub-cultures and political mindsets thunder out in a crashing crescendo, whole nations can implode into civil war. The reality is, that in many of these Arab nations, who often have been ruled for decades by tyrants, the populations are so fragmented and disparate in their religious and anthropological affiliations that little remains in common. Thus democracy, or even a hybrid form of it, will most likely take years, if not decades to materialize.

RSNN1102GC---532c_1451841aThink about it, we occupied Iraq for almost a decade, spent over a trillion dollars there, directly ran their interim government and helped hands on in forming their constitution, and today democracy, or at least a loose and fragile form of it, hangs by a thread. When you compare that to Syria today, a place that the US has only a deeply clandestine presence, a place where the government has committed atrocities against its own people almost daily, and a place where war rages in the middle of bazaars and burnt out apartment buildings, one has to ask themselves what chance does Syria have at becoming a democracy that is at least more favorable to the west and not an Iranian puppet? Then take into account that the rebel forces are really a hodgepodge group of brave but untrained fighters with many different objectives (Senator McCain’s sell job that by and large the Syrian Rebels are under control of a great pro western general is unbelievable), it seems like it would take a miracle to bring about pro-western sectarian progress at anything but a snails pace. In the meantime there will be lots of blood spilled, power struggles both internally and externally, and incredible uncertainty brought to a region which cannot really bear any more instability.

All this brings us to the military operation that could be underway anytime in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.  After years of the Obama Administration barely addressing the Syrian issue, as if it was a fly trap they did not want to land on, the confirmed use of chemical weapons on a less than wide, but more the narrow, scale has brought Mr. Obama and his generals apparently to the point of “lock and load.” In what seems to have already of started as either the most brilliant military feint in decades or the worst way to run a military operation ever, the Obama White House has thoroughly leaked the scale of the attack and the general time and political risk that would be gambled on said attack. So either this blunder of leaks and disclosure before a military operation is Mr. Obama’s strategy at making the enemy think that the pending attack will be much less invasive than it really will be, or this may be the beginning of the most bureaucratic and politically calculated military operation of all time. Regardless of the White House’s appallingly loose lips, let’s look at the potential options available when it comes to responding to Syria’s use of WMD on its own people.

mber_along_with_other_aircrafts_from_the_Air_Force,_Navy_and_Marine_Corps_fly_over_the_Kitty_Hawk,_Ronald_Reagan_and_Abraham_Lincoln_Carrier_Strike_groups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPTION #1- “Limited Response Light”: Under this possibility America attacks with the absolute lowest possibility of fallout throughout the region and at home politically. This would be a very limited and even superficial attack. Such an operation would be executed using almost entirely standoff weaponry, supported by standoff electronic jamming and cyber attack. This attack would be about as non-invasive as possible and would not put US personnel directly over, or even near Syrian air space. Targets would be limited to chemical weapons storage and production facilities (the ones that store separate elements of the gas before they are mixed into a single warhead), fixed targets including any major Syrian military units or infrastructure associated with unconventional artillery bombardment or sustainment of chemical weapons, and major command and control nodes that could facilitate the use of chemical weapons may also be on this list. Finally, the unit that had launched these weapons during last week’s attack would most likely have its headquarters leveled. I see maybe 50-70 targets here. Probably using 90-125 standoff munitions, mostly TLAMs (Tomahawk cruise missiles) fired off any of four guided missile destroyers, one guided missile cruiser and two fast attack subs currently in the area. Additionally, the USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group could use its Hornets and Super Hornets to fire some JASSM, JSOW, and SLAM standoff weaponry if requested. The same is true for USAF aircraft operating out of Turkey (if their government approves) and Italy, as well RAF fighters flying out of Cyprus (if the Royal Air Force is allowed to participate). Once again, assets outside of the US Navy would be surplus capability. I would not be surprised if a strike this small would be almost entirely a US Navy operation, with very limited international participation if any at all (possibly the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy but even this is highly doubtful). Such a light campaign would last 18-36 hours depending on what develops once the attack commences and what the bomb damage assessments look like after the initial strike. This type of action would be just a slap on the hand to Assad and would mainly act as political cover that the Administration “fulfilled its word” and “did something” to deter future uses of WMD against innocent civilians.

OPTION #2- “Limited Response Heavy”: The same target set as above but expanded to include all known major military command and control facilities and communications nodes and Syrian military aircraft and support infrastructure that could be used to deploy chemical weapons. These would include everything from medium helicopter units all the way to fast jets squadrons, their associated facilities and runways. Such an expanded response could be justified as almost any tactical aircraft theoretically could pose a threat to civilians as a chemical weapons delivery platform. This expanded target list could be executed entirely with standoff weaponry, but airfield attack at this level would be best performed by the B-2 Spirit, especially in light of its new capabilities. A single B-2A Spirit can carry 80 independently targeted 500lb GPS guided munitions (JDAMs). This means one pass near one airfield could take out dozens and dozens of hangars, revetments and support infrastructure. Consequently this also means aircraft. 80 targets, one airfield, one plane. A pair of B-2s could attack two airfields, destroying 40 individual targets at each site, while also cratering the runways with eight BLU-109 equipped JDAMs at each site. So theoretically, a pair of B-2s, if staged against two air bases, could hit 80 separate objects and small buildings with pinpoint accuracy while another B-2 puts 16 very deep and large holes in the airfield’s runways. Mix and match loadouts as you like, but you get the picture. I would guess there are maybe 5-7 airfields in Syria worth attacking with this level of firepower.

Such an operation would probably necessitate that during the opening standoff weapons barrage, let’s call it the “first night” initial attack, that key fixed elements of Syria’s integrated air defense network, including fixed surface to air missile sites, were destroyed along with rest of the target sets described above. This would allow for the B-2s to operate (along with standoff electronic jamming support and electronic warfare, cyber espionage and hacking) against airfields and even strategic targets on “night two” or “night three” of a theoretical campaign.

Such an expanded target set, probably around 175 to 225 targets, not counting airfields if those are left to the B-2s, would probably take 250-300 standoff munitions launched far beyond Syria’s borders. Such a strike would also help level the playing field for the rebels in a conventional way as it would largely leave the Syrian combat aviation forces out of the fight and the nation’s command and control networks in tatters, not to mention a major psychological boost for the rebels. Additionally, going after all major fixed targets related to Syria’s integrated air defense network, especially those along proposed B-2 attack routes and in and around targeted airfield, would provide a tactical “foothold” over the country for follow up attacks, re-attacks, and even a broader bombardment campaign. It would also help Israel in the case that they have a unilateral reason to strike targets in Syria as they have done many times before, although Syria’s air defense network has never stopped them even when it was fully intact.

OPTION #3: “The Libya Model”: This would be a large and extensive air campaign that would build up over time as effects on the ground are analyzed, and eventually would grow into a full on sustained operation utilizing manned and unmanned assets over Syrian territory. Like Libya, which took a UN resolution and extrapolated its meaning to fit the maximum amount of force one could legally justify via utilizing the protection of civilians as a blank check clause to go after any regime and military targets. In other words, although the resolution sounded defensive in nature, it was used to enact offensive operations. Under this mode, strike coordination and reconnaissance (SCAR) would be the name of the game for aircrews in an attempt to search for and destroy Assad’s fielded units and their equipment. Basically this is a defacto regime change policy just like we saw in Libya. Such a campaign would feature combined arms/joint service coordination, and could last weeks or months depending on the political support back home and Syria’s rebel forces’ ability to take the capitol and oust Assad once and for all. This is not the Afghanistan model as it does not directly use any (at least disclosed) boots on the ground for forward air control/JTAC duties while attached to indigenous units. It is a “boots off” approach to close air support painted on a canvas of strategic attack.

These three options give us a place to jump off the military operations tangent and into a deeper section of the main subject matter in question: should we even attack at all? What is would be the risk and what can be gained?

chemical-weaponsI could write page after page on all the facets of this incredibly challenging problem, especially in relation to the US actually putting bombs on Syrian territory. The justification for this engagement is that chemical weapons have been used robustly (strange term, but hang with me) against Assad’s own people. After the Saddam’s last use of chemical weapons against his own people we proclaimed “never again.” Then President Obama drew the famous “red line” for Assad, basically telling him that if uses, or distributes to non-state actors, chemical weapons then it would mean the US is getting involved and it would hurt. Well, the reality is that Assad has most likely been using these weapons in small doses over the last six months, and yes we knew about it. But last week a barrage of chemical warheads killed somewhere between 1200-1600 citizens in a suburb of Damascus. The US says they have a intercepted the communications on the 21st of August ordering the attacks but the evidence is still slow to come out, and some of it never will as it is classified to protect the sources. None the less, someone gassed civilians on a fairly large-scale. I find it odd that apparently a little WMD use is ok, but once you hit a certain amount of body bags the flag goes up? Historians will debate why this confrontation did not happen the first time we knew these weapons were used as it could have saved lives. Oh well, we cannot turn back time and we are where we are I guess. It is just one more piece of evidence that shows just how much the Obama Administration wanted to avoid this situation we are currently in.

Without having access to all the intelligence, finding out who ordered this attack really does matter, not so much that it happened, at least as Obama’s “gray area” foreign policy style seems to dictate. I think it is a little ridiculous to think that a country stocked heavily with such weaponry, which has been mired in a brutal civil war for years, has a perfectly effective and obedient command and control protocol still intact. Who is not to say that a commanding officer decided he had enough and launched the attack, or even someone within Assad’s hawkish inner circle? Some would even argue that the chemical attack last week was actually ordered by Assad to get the US involved in hopes that nationalism, anti-Americanism, and Islamic Fundamentalism would steer the focus away from the embattled central government and could lead to a wider regional conflict.

The bombing of Syria by US forces could very well get Iran directly involved and would give Assad a reason to retaliate against the US by attacking local allies, namely Israel. Let’s be honest, in a country where America has never been promoted as anything but awful, having US bombs dropping onto Syrian dirt would be about the best chance Assad has at changing the present stale-mate like equation. It would be a large gamble, but nobody knows just what is happening within Assad’s cabinet after two years of bloody internal conflict. Meanwhile others say that the attack was made by Syrian rebels to get the US involved in hopes of breaking the ongoing stalemate status quo that the insurrection is currently mired in.

What we need to know is if Obama’s “red line” was just that, a point of absolute departure, or a trip wire for deeper evaluation. I have a feeling that just how to spin the “red line” statement, regardless of what happens next, is a major point of debate within the West Wing as this is written. If Assad did not order the attack, if it was a rogue agent within his military command, a disgruntled colonel on the ground, Al Qaeda or any other possible player, no matter how fantastical, do we still launch the missiles? Also, one must raise the question, if this conflict has already killed over 100,000 people in Syria, a country of 22 million people, which would be like 1.5 MILLION Asyria-1mericans dying, how does another thousand or so dying of different means deserves a military response?

Assuming that the Administration decides to attack, what can actually come of it, both in negative and positive outcomes via our interests in the region? On one hand an attack would tell the world that the “red line” actually matters and that use of WMD, especially against one’s own populace will result in a third-party retaliation. Let’s be honest, this is a good thing. It is an investment in the world’s stability and in humanity overall. These deranged megalomaniacs have to know that if they try to exterminate in mass using, weapons purposely built to do so, there will be a response. In fact not doing anything will set a history changing precedent when it comes to these weapons that we could pay for, or mankind could pay for, down the line on a much larger and more deadly scale.

Make no mistake, if Obama went with option one listed above, “limited response light” as I call it, then the statement made by such an attack will be weak to the point of being even reckless. Taking away a madman’s arsenal of max extinction alone, after he has already employed it, is an impotent position to take, and will be nothing but a bee sting when you think about Assad’s larger problems. Option number two, which I call “limited response heavy,” will be much more effective at letting those who would actually use this horrific weaponry know that you will not only lose your arsenal but you will also lose much more if the orders are given to deploy them against civilians. At the same time, this option leaves open the possibility, both in the tyrant’s mind and for US military commanders and the White House, to escalate the operation into a much wider mission, one that smells strongly of regimalg-khadafy-jpge change (see option #3 the Libya model). Maybe putting up an EC-130 off of Syria’s coast and replaying the Gaddafi cell phone death tape over and over on all Syrian TV would work well at letting Assad know that the choice is his to make after option #2 is executed. Either back off or end up like Libya’s ex-strong man, the choice is his.

Sadly, it looks like that if Obama does anything it will be option number one, a weak and highly restrained attack that attempts at taking the chemical weapons out of the equation while also providing a deterrent at their further use, although an almost non-existent one. The return on investment would be quite low for the US, and the risks of making the situation worse than it currently is would be very real. As I have stated years ago, long before all the “experts” were yapping through their “crystal balls” on cable news, that this should have been dealt with immediately once the protests turned into a massacres and the rebel uprising took hold. These weapons were far less dispersed then, and from what I have heard, the vast majority were not in a unitary state. In other words they were not mixed with other essential elements and assembled into warheads. Now, much of the arsenal has been distributed or moved, exactly as I knew would happen. So even attacking fixed targets related to Assad’s chemical weapons program today will not cleanse his forces of their destructive power in full, or even close to it. In other words, option number one should have been exsyria_suspected_production_sites_of_chemical_weapons_map_640_001ecuted 16 months ago, not now, long after widespread dispersal of these weapons in their warhead state and especially after they have actually been used on the Syrian people.

By avoiding this issue when it could have been best dealt with, the Obama Administration is left with less options and much more risk. Considering there is a full on civil war occurring in Syria, a country known to be the middleman for weapons and financial support between Iran and Lebanon’s extremist Hezbollah militia/political group, it is pretty safe to say that these weapons, at least some of them, will migrate into the hands of anti-Israeli militia and/or terror groups. Remember Gadhafi’s Libya and his 15,000 shoulder fired surface to air missiles? Well that conflict resulted in thousands of those missiles missing (as predicted here before the hostiles began), some of which have migrated into extremist ran northern Mali and even into Syria. So the idea that Al Qaeda and Hezbollah have the potential to go “shopping” for WMD in a region where they have a huge presence is extremely alarming. In fact, even the thought of Hezbollah launching chemical warheads on rockets into Israel brings up visions of an all out regional conflict. Israel will not see thousands of its citizens laying dead in their own vomit without responding in a massive and widespread manner. In other words, the very thought of even a small portion of Assad’s WMD stockpile getting in the hands of hardcore anti-Israeli extremist groups, and even Al Qaeda, is just two dark of a thought to really extrapolate. If such an event did occur, it would probably ruin Obama’s legacy as the repercussions could change the world as we know it.

On a grander scale, America’s clout is on the line to some degree, as is our ever deteriorating relationship with Putin’s Russia. In fact news just broke tonight that Putin has ordered Russian warships into the Eastern Mediterranean. Remember what is truly at stake for Putin, Russia’s only Mediterranean port in Tartus, Syria, an absolutely key component of Putin’s plan to revive the Russian Navy into a power projecting flotilla. One to be feared like in the Soviet glory days. As Assad goes so does Russia key strategic port. To say that the stakes for Russia are high would be a huge understatement here. Above that the layers of proxy warfare get even thicker, with Iran and the US potentially squaring off vis-à-vis Syria. Once again, Iran’s closest ally and their key middleman for their anti-Israeli operators in Lebanon is Syria. Losing Syria would be a catastrophic blow to Iran and it would cut off Hezbollah in Lebanon from arms and other material to a large degree. This is a reason for Iran to back Assad, and even possibly avenge him with all they have got, and it is also a great reason for America to remove him from power. Once again, high stakes here folks.

syria-assad_2285802bWhat about a retaliation from Assad after an American attack? Assad could order suspected sleeper terror cells to activate against US interests. Cyber attacks could prove financially damaging or even physically crippling as the Syrian Electric Army is nothing to ignore. Additionally, with Iran’s help, Hezbollah could be ordered to attack Israel in order to take the focus off of Assad and in hopes to galvanize the fragmented Syrian populace against Israel instead of Assad. This is precisely how a regional conflict could be ignited, and with all the insecurity already in the region and a still unstable world economy, such an event would be damning not just for those involved, but for the world as a whole.

One also must ask themselves just who would be stepping into power if Assad were to end up like Gaddafi? Clearly extremist elements are a substantial part of the Rebel forces, the fact that Senator McCain calls this untrue after almost every other source says the opposite is very alarming by the way, and we also know that Al Qaeda is highly active in the country. So if there were a power vacuum, in a country swimming in angst and weaponry, would the civil war just morph into an even more brutal and fragmented conflict as disparate forces vie for power? Imagine the revenge killings of the country’s ruling Alawite minority, of which Assad is a member? Could trying to avenge one humanitarian atrocity just pave the way for a larger and more protracted one? In fact I see no short-term political outcome in that country that is positive. The most likely outcome, at least with the USA’s current involvement in the conflict, will be a Syria engulfed in conflict for some time to come, regardless of if Assad and his stooges are still breathing.

In the end this whole situation could be gamed out with so many different outcomes and plausibilities, many of which are startlingly horrible, that even the most optimistic mind has to take a second to realize how fragile, and how dire the situation already is. There are simply to many variables to adequately predict what any one cause’s effect will be. This is a fantastic reason for doing nothing at all, instead simply telling the world that America does not see a strategic advantage by attacking Syria at this time, in any way, no matter how much force could be applied. Syria is a kicked over hornets nest, floating I a pool of gasoline, laying on the floor in an industrial welding facility. It is so volatile that the question of action may have already passed, with dire results awaiting us down the road.

So what would I do in this situation, assuming I inherited Obama’s “red line” rhetoric and the asinine decision not to obliterate as many of Syria’s chemical weapons right as the country was clearly destabilizing? That is a very, very hard question. Here is the best way I can answer it:

1377783823000-EPA-SYRIA-UN-INSPECTORSConsidering Assad has already begun moving his weapons, most likely into Mosques and schoolyard, I would first give UN inspectors and the international community time to prove that this chemical attack happened. I could care less if there is a coalition behind us, in fact I believe in this situation, unless they are from Arab states, it hinders our latitude and pace of operations. I am sick of “symbolic” alliances that do nothing but complicate operations and slow down path to accomplishing objectives. What I don’t want is America to return to the sickening years of George Bush’s cowboy foreign policy. It was an embarrassment to the world. Unless we have real-time and clear intelligence, I am talking COMINT intercepts or similar, not third-party here-say, that another attack is imminent, than I would take my sweet time to find out the undeniable facts that the world can clearly see and settle upon. The specter of Iraq and the intelligence blunder/sell job that preceded it, have come home to roost. International partners, and average Americans, are sick of these costly wars. The idea that a certain amount of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles will fix any geo-political problem is tired and inaccurate propaganda. Furthermore, NATO and others saw what America got in return in Libya. Benghazi and its horrific imagery and following cover-up has nullified what was something of a strategic win in there. Simply put, people are not buying the interventionist shtick anymore. Neo-cons and George W. Bush threw much of our credibility and our hard-won military intervention “batting average” in the garbage and we have a long, long time to go in order to get it back. Some would say they are sick of people who “apologize” for America. That is all fine and good, but when massive mistakes are made, ones where thousands of soldiers come home without eyes and limbs, or in body bags, and civilians die in the process, apologies are more than necessary.

I would also stop blurting out our battle plan and time of attack to the world as if these things are of far less importance compared to political gamesmanship. Obama looks like a total amateur running a shop like this when people’s lives and the success of a highly volatile mission are on the line. In fact I cannot fathom how this White House could just plot along while everything from targets to scope of mission are openly discussed in press briefings! One would think that this is some type of feint via disinformation, and that a larger scale attack, as described in option three, were really planned. The sad thing is that this is surely not the case with this Administration, their leaks are purely from lack of discipline and understanding of military operations. The whole cabinet needs to be sequestered to read Tsun Tsu’s Art of War together, as not telling the enemy every detail of your attack is kind of a key element of successful military campaign!

What President Obama should do is tell Assad that we have the ability to strike his country at will, and right now every target is on the table, including political ones, and that we will choose to attack at the time of our choosing if we think we can better the situation for Syria and its neighbors. In the meantime I would start surrounding Assad with conventional firepower, make it at least look like that we are willing to go full in if we decide to. I would forward deploy B-2 Bombers to Diego Garcia in a very public manner, along with F-22s in Turkey, Cyprus or even Jordan. If I had a SR-71 Blackbird I would dash across his country in the middle of the night and sonic boom the hell out of him to let him know we are there, an F-22 would work in modern times. It is old school psychological warfare, but it says that his borders and airspace defenses mean nothing to us and he is completely vulnerable to our military capabilities.

If the recent chemical attack was ordered by Assad, and it was clear that more attacks are highly probable, I would not go to the UN to get denied like fools by Russia and China in an attempt to gain a resolution, I would talk to NATO discreetly and see where their interests lie. Regardless of their response I would utilize the most flexible and logical option number two, “limited response heavy,” then I would initiate the attack and I would not give one iota of information about what the mission is aimed at not accomplishing, simply what it is aimed at accomplishing which is:

1.) To destroy all known Syrian stockpiles of WMD and precursor elements, as well as their means of production.

2.) To eliminate all fixed targets that could delivery or facilitate delivery of chemical weapons. Everything on the table here including all air assets, artillery, related units headquarters and armories, and command and control nodes. Once again this includes all fixed and rotary wing aircraft and their enabling facilities such as fuel dumps and runways.

3.) Kinetically and electronically dismantle all fixed components of Syria’s integrated air defense system. This includes early warning radars, command and control nodes, and surface to air missile batteries. This would not include active suppression of enemy air defense operations by manned assets. Targets would only be prosecuted that are known and by standoff weaponry.

4.) Once these three goals are accomplished America’s tactical job is over in Syria for the time being and possibly for the foreseeable future, it will be up to Assad to choose our next move. The President should make it clear that if he even tries WMD again, from whatever is left over after surviving the initial attack, than the escalation of force latter will hit its third rung which is option number three, “the Libyan model” of regime change, primarily via precision bombardment from the air. The President should also make it clear that regime targets and decapitations strikes will have top priority if Assad chooses to use his WMD again or attack a neighboring country.

SyrianFighterPlane2908eHopefully the destruction of Assad’s air forces and the elimination of large amounts of chemical weapons will give the rebels a boost in breaking the current stalemate. If we decide to remove Assad from power, than we have already secured a large majority of air dominance, and Assad will recognize just how easy the next step could be executed by the US armed forces, a step focused on his demise. If he does not attempt another chemical barrage than I would leave the conventional Syrian civil war to those who are fighting it on the ground and I would be very skeptical about supplying small arms beyond AK-47s and ammunition to the rebels, especially not armor-piercing rockets like Senator McCain wants. Such weapons are extremely dangerous in Al Qaeda hands.

I truly believe that the plan laid out above is the best logical and incremental policy to enact going forward. It offers clear and obtainable goals, and an exit strategy from the conflict, while also leaving the battlefield uniquely shaped for future contingency operations. Additionally, the American public is so sick of bombing Arab countries that not putting out a flexible strategy based on incremental escalation and clear objectives will end in a political disaster back here at home.

There are absolutely no easy answers concerning this incredibly volatile issue, but I think the one I laid out above is about as good as it gets. Stay tuned for more developments…

What are your thoughts? Please sound in on the comment section below!

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10 Responses to PERILOUS PUZZLE: ATTACKING SYRIA, WHAT IS TO GAIN? WHAT ARE THE RISKS & HOW SHOULD IT BE DONE?

  1. Steve says:

    I see them launching SEAD strikes from Incirlik and other bases in the area, with B-2s coming from Anderson or Whiteman following in to open the door for Tomahawk strikes. Syrian defenses would wipe out a lot of incoming Tomahawks I suspect, but with B-2s you have JASSM that can hit fixed defenses farther in, near the deeper targets.

  2. Nick Sheridan says:

    Still going thru the article, but am loving the depth of analysis. cheers nick

  3. nico says:

    Wow, awesome article and I haven’t even finished it yet! Will take more than one reading to let it all soak in.

  4. Ian Hall says:

    Wow Ty, what a well thought out and well argued piece of writing and research. Sadly as we know the RAF and Royal Navy will not be joining you. Whilst both would be handy from a military point of view to have another security council member joining the USA would have significant political support.

  5. Captain Quint says:

    What to do?

    Not a damned thing.

    Syria has not attacked the United States nor is such an attack imminent. If Obama wants to go to war with Syria he needs to go to congress and ask for a declaration of war. The decision to go to war is the responsibility of congress, not the president (with exception such as nuclear attack etc).

    There is nothing in Syria that is worth 1 drop of American blood or 1 cent of American treasure. If they want to fight and gas each other so be it.

    If the US insists on sticking its nose in another conflict then it had better accept the consequences. If we’re targeting Damascus we better not whine and act all horrified and shocked when Washington is targeted back.

    You would think after the abysmal failures of and lethal blowback from US interventionism post cold war the US would learn the lesson. US foreign policy is utter insanity.

    Not to mention the fact that the US is broke and on the edge of historic financial disaster. Spending billions of dollars we don’t have to bomb a country which hasn’t attacked us? Madness. Absolute madness.

    CQ

  6. Andrew Campbell says:

    Excellent analysis, just feel I have to commend you on your excellent summary of the dynamics at play in this very intricate situation. I think that the administration was caught out by Putin’s posturing and trying to get the UN on side early on. Like you said, early intervention would have saved lives and at least leaved the field for the rebels. Now, Syria is in a protracted civil war and at a guess its usually the grizzliest and most determined that tend to win those.

  7. AspenTwoZero says:

    This is why I come to your site. Thank you, Ty!

  8. Amby says:

    Captain Quint said it all: let the shiites and sunnis kill each other and don’t intervene.

    Hezbollah against Al-Quaida, that’s fine with me. Syria has become a force consumming focus point for international djihad so we should just stand by and watch them butcher each other… as long as it stays within Syria’s border.

    In addition, the West has nothing to do with that civilo-religious war. This is not just a dictator butching his own people, it’s a messy religious war. What we could do instead is work on a two state solution: one Sunni and one Alaouite-Druze-Shiite. Sadly, there would surely be some ethnic cleasing and the West may have to broker a deal with Assad (meaning he would stay) but at least it would prevent the obvious incoming aftermath : the genocide of the loosing side.

    And as CQ pointed, we are broke!

    Amby

  9. Todd Frohwirth says:

    I’d forgotten that you wanted the chemical weapons bombed when the civil war started. You’re developing a nice track record of being correct.

  10. Shane says:

    Thats the best analysis i’ve read yet. I really hope the Obama administration has read The Art of War, and this is a masterful deception. You never telegraph your intentions in war.

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