Syrian Civil War
As if it wasn't already bad enough that there's an uprising in progress there, one of the last of the so-called "Arab Spring". Bashar Assad has decided to cling to power through any means necessary and over the course of the last year or so has resorted to slaughtering thousands of innocent people in the process of trying to avoid being ousted. So long as the Syrians were able to contain this to their own territory, it seems the world was willing to give Assad a pass.
Things changed a few weeks ago though. The Syrians hired some mercenaries who have been systematically eliminating the populations of several villages in the most hotly contested areas. The most visible incident of this happening earlier this month when over 100 women and children were butchered in their homes. All the while, the government trying to blame it on "terrorists". The only terrorists here are the Assad regime.
Somewhere in all this it's been revealed that the US has been arming the rebels, and the Russians are sending ships full of helicopter gunships and other large weapons. It has, for all intents and purposes, become a proxy war rivaling those of the Cold War. Even this could have been ignored and left to the Arabs to deal with though. As much as it pains man of us here in the US to see this sort of thing happening.
Syria decided they want to poke the Turks during all of this. So as a gesture of their stupidity, they've now shot down two Turkish F4 fighters. The Turks are of course understandably angry about this and want blood. Nobody could blame them for this. What the Syrians may have failed to realize though is that Turkey is now in a position to enact the NATO defense treaty alliance because Syria has committed an act of war against them.
The situation has turned much uglier than it was just one week ago. Barack Obama needs to put down his golf clubs and deal with this once and for all. This isn't a situation like Libya where we had no business poking our noses into it. The Syrians have raised the stakes, and quite possibly did it on Iran's behalf to see if we'd even respond. Well that time has come. Putin and the Russians need to back off, Assad needs to step down or be forced out at the point of OUR guns. Waiting around to debate this is only going to result in more innocents being butchered in their homes and make NATO look weak.
RIP United States of America
July 1776 - November 2012.
Also, only the one F4 shot down. There was a shot at a second plane, which I've read elsewhere wasn't an F4 but something else, but it missed. Which does not, I think we can agree, make it all that much better.
All that said, I remain ambivilent about US military action in Syria, though perhaps less so than in days of yore. Variously:
- I am unconvinced by the "look weak" argument. One jet in and of itself isn't much unless it's in the Gulf of Tonkin, which we're not. I can think of plenty of far more egregious actions than this that did not lead to war, though if you're looking for a pretext I imagine this would do.
- I am, however, sympathetic to the "Assad is an evil butcher" fact. That having been said, I have concerns.
- Unlike Libya, Syria has a fairly robust military, and very much to the point, one of the more potent air defense networks not owned by a major power. If we're going to do in Assad, the whole thing is going to look a lot more like Iraq in 1991 than Libya, which is to say it's going to be a major undertaking in which our side takes casualties and spends an asston of money.
- I'm pretty concerned about end states. Driving out
Which is to say, if the adventure turns out to be "US gets involved in another 10 years of non-stop Black Hawk Down super happy fun times", I gotta say that I really think we should give the whole thing a pass.
Or maybe the Syrian rebels got a whole lot more organized since last I checked.
Turkey is seeking to invoke Article 5 of the NATO Alliance Treaty. The one that more or less says "an attack on one is an attack on all". Weak or not, it is what it is, and if Turkey invoked and NATO slinks away with tail firmly tucked, it won't look good.
It's precisely because Syria has a robust military that they're able to kill 14,000 and counting. It isn't helping that Russia is handing them high end weapons and vehicles to deploy said weapons on. So one thing we'd need to do is tell Putin to knock it off.
Yes, were a ground invasion of Syria to happen, there would be causalities. I don't know what part of "it's war" doesn't involve that. I usually stop listening to anyone on the news who cries that a US soldier might die in a fight. It happens. The military knows it happens.
As far as end state and exit strategy stuff, it's folly to think we can be in and out of anywhere in the Middle East on a time table of months or a few years. Bush knew this, and he flat out told people we'd be in Iraq for 10-20 years minimum. I'm not sure why anyone thinks we can go drop a few bombs and be done with it.
The best option of course is the one nobody wants to talk about. Assad gets a bullet to the head in the dead of night thanks to a Seal team. In, out, nobody knows we've been there until daybreak when they find the guy slumped over his chair or something.
Second best is we arm the rebels to the teeth and just let them all kill each other while we help Turkey and Iraq secure their borders.
Obviously if Turkey invokes Article 5, that's going to be that, especially given our own Article 5 track record. That said, it is a decidedly more flimsy pretext than 9/11 was, though I suppose you could make the argument that by those standards most are.
Also, what you and I understand about military action and what most Americans, including our political leaders understand about military action seem to be two entirely seperate things. I'm pretty sure Obama and Hillary Clinton at the least know what they'd be getting into with a Syrian incursion, but I hold no such faith in the Congress, and I definitely don't hold a lot of faith in the public to have the collective will to undertake any sort of Syrian incursion. Especially not after Iraq.
Point being, it isn't really clear to me that the most likely very tenuous gains to be made are worth another Iraq-scale war given the other commitments on the national plate at the moment, absent an actual Article 5 invocation.
Too, I don't think simply assassinating Assad gets you anything other than more chaos. Assad dies, his forces probably collapse, and you probably end up with 2004 Iraq or Somalia, this time without what little moderation the Americans can provide. You're just trading one set of problems for a whole other set of even worse problems.
Arming the rebels does seem to be the way to go at this point, though.
Wars have been started on weaker pretenses than this. At least there's an actual verifiable act of aggression to go along with it. Not like Libya where it was basically "Qaddafi sucks, let's kill him".
Way I figure it, if we're going to commit to a ground invasion, we do the prudent thing and position ourselves somewhere along Syria's eastern border and once the shitstorm is over, simply use that as a means to blockade Iran from messing around over there. As long as the Iraqi's don't get pissed or something.
If Assad's forces collapse, that chaos benefits the rebels. So an assassination has merit. There's also the very real possibility that the Syrian army would simply stop fighting. There's already word that a few hundred Syrian soldiers crossed the border into Turkey and defected once they got there. It sounds to me like they may be sick of all this and are looking for a way out.
Trouble with going through the east is, I'm pretty sure we no longer have very much combat power over there, and most of that whole area is completely empty desert, which makes things a whole lot worse. Getting it through Saudi Arabia/Iraq would seem to be a much heftier logistical problem than just going south out of Turkey. Also, one wonders how many of the guys rolling around in tanks would actually be Turks rather than Americans.
The trouble with your assassination plan, I think, is that it presumes the rebels have a great deal more command and control capacity than they actually appear to. If the rebels actually had the leadership and the dudes to simply take over from Assad, they wouldn't need us to intervene on their behalf. So I think it winds up like what you got when Saddam went into hiding and the central pillar of authority collapsed - every guy who can scrape together ten dudes and an RPG tube does his own thing until they can't anymore.
Which is to say that in order to have an orderly transition of power, there's got to be somebody to orderly transition to, and I'm not sure that guy exists necessarily.
I could not agree more. Home grown regime change will work longer term more so than anything we can ever give them. When we pull out of Afghanistan i reckon it will be less than 10 years before that place is Taliban once again, for this very reason. They don't want the changes we gave them, they just don't own it.
I hope so, i also hope we start to give them support as well, like what happened in Libya.
I'm not sure a full blown no-fly zone will work in this case, as Syria maintains a decent air force that's a credible threat. Unlike what Sadaam and Qaddafi had.
Pretty sure shooting down an Israeli jet wouldn't have gone over well at all there guys. I think we all know Israel wouldn't have called NATO for help, they'd have gone and laid holy hell on the Syrians for it instead. Syria should be considering itself lucky Israel is keeping a low profile during all this and staying out of the way as much as they can.
If it had been an Israeli jet, it wouldn't have been shot down of course. The very suggestion is ridiculous.
It would have been quite embarrassing for the Turks to lose a plane if Syria hadn't been otherwise occupied, but in this situation it's downright improbable. My guess is that a game of chicken, with the intention of provoking a pretext for an intervention, went horribly wrong, probably due to a technical malfunction.
I saw some comparisons in this thread between Syria and Iraq in 1991. This comparison misses the fact the Syria is an extremely poor country with a small population. Syria produces very little oil - not enough for export - and about half the country is desert. On top of that, it has been held back by an out dated soviet model centralized economy, and has been politically and economically isolated for a long time now. Iraq in 1991 had substantial oil wealth, and a large (but very poorly equipped) army left over from a decade long war with Iran that had ended only a few years before. Really, there is no comparison. Iraq was weak, Syria is a lot weaker. It's a threat only to its own people, not to its neighbors.
The point I'm trying to make there is that, assuming a NATO intervention, such an intervention can't be thought of as being just like Libya - the Libyan armed forces were a joke, whereas the Syrian armed forces are demonstrably not. The closest analogy America has to that sort of situation is probably the Gulf War, which required multiple corps-level ground forces and a really large air campaign.
The point, then, is that any NATO Syrian intervention will have to be thought of in a much more serious manner than the Libyan one - somebody's going to have to show up with a bunch of divisions of guys, and somebody's going to have to show up with a whole bunch of planes, and they're going to have to wear down a very considerable air defense network, invade and deal with however much of the Syrian army is a going concern, and then stick around to provide peacekeeping forces.
Which is all to say that that sort of conflict would resemble in many ways Iraq in 1991/2004 (air campaign, ground invasion, occupation forces maybe involving a radical insurgency) than Libya or Afghanistan in 2001 (cursory air campaigns, local troops versus weak enemy armies). That's the extent of the point.
I'm all for helping the Syrian people, but intervention probably won't do that. Arming the rebels is probably the best approach for now.
Also, Syria's suggestion that they mistook the Turkish Jet for an Israeli one is comical beyond belief. As if Assad's cronies would ever even dare.
It's pretty obvious that Syria knew who they were shooting at and that was a desperate ploy to try and weasel out of the situation. Turkey isn't run by fools.
LOL, i wonder if they hired Cratylus for this job.
Employer, US State Department
Position Held, Forum Troll.