Free Markets, Free People

An attack destined to fail

One of the first things any military commander must do is define the mission clearly and succinctly. It must have a goal and that goal must be achievable with the assets the commander is willing or able to commit to the mission.

What it shouldn’t be is some nebulous one-over-the-world hand wave of a mission driven by politics and open to interpretation. Unfortunately, it appears that’s precisely the type mission the Obama administration is ginning up for Syria according to the NY Times:

President Obama is considering military action against Syria that is intended to “deter and degrade” President Bashar al-Assad’s government’s ability to launch chemical weapons, but is not aimed at ousting Mr. Assad from power or forcing him to the negotiating table, administration officials said Tuesday.

“Deter and degrade” are open to interpretation and Syria could and likely would initiate another chemical attack after the US attacks just to point out that they’re neither deterred or degraded.

Here’s the problem:

The strikes would instead be aimed at military units that have carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the rockets and artillery that have launched the attacks, according to the options being reviewed within the administration.

An American official said that the initial target lists included fewer than 50 sites, including air bases where Syria’s Russian-made attack helicopters are deployed. The list includes command and control centers as well as a variety of conventional military targets.

A) We’ve told them where we’ll strike.  Since it is a limited strike and it is going to be against specific units, Syria has the option of dispersing them, an option I’m sure they’ll take.  They’ll also likely disperse them in to highly populated urban areas where they can.

B) We’ve told them what we’re going to strike.  Since they have thousands of artillery pieces capable of firing chemical shells, it is unlikely a limited strike is going to even seriously dent that capability.  Moving artillery into the cities would likely deter the US more than the US would deter Syria.  Helicopters can be moved as well.  They don’t need long runways. Other aircraft will be dispersed  And finally, command and control are easily moved and dispersed.

C) We’ve told them how we’re going to strike.  It is clear that if an attack does happen it is not something that is supported by the majority of the American people for various reasons.  Couple that with a seemingly risk averse commander and you can pretty well define how this will happen – missiles.  Specifically Tomahawk missiles.  Given our history of their use, you can pretty much guess at what and where they’ll be aimed.

D) We’ve pretty well told them it won’t be much of a strike.

Perhaps two to three missiles would be aimed at each site, a far more limited unleashing of American military power than past air campaigns over Kosovo or Libya.

Result?

Well even the administration knows this is a recipe for failure so they immediately engage is a classic attempt to lower expectations:

Some of the targets would be “dual use” systems, like artillery that is capable of firing chemical weapons as well as conventional rounds. Taking out those artillery batteries would degrade to some extent the government’s conventional force — but would hardly cripple Mr. Assad’s sizable military infrastructure and forces unless the air campaign went on for days or even weeks.

The goal of the operation is “not about regime change,” a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said Tuesday. Seeking to reassure the public that the United States would not be drawn into a civil war in the Middle East, and perhaps to lower expectations of what the attack might accomplish, Obama administration officials acknowledged that their action would not accomplish Mr. Obama’s repeated demand that Mr. Assad step down.

And what would we accomplish?  Well likely the opposite of what we hoped would happen – deterrence and degradation.  Assad would be invited to prove the US wasn’t successful in either by doing what?  Using chemical weapons once again.  His reasoning would be that since he’s being accused of doing so, and supposedly punished for doing so, there’s no reason not to do it again.

Then what?

~McQ

13 Responses to An attack destined to fail

  • http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-08-27/meet-saudi-arabias-bandar-bin-sultan-puppetmaster-behind-syrian-war

    As in 1914, marginalized lunatics precipitate a crisis, and the utterly stupid leaders of major powers lead us into a war that will serve no one’s interests?

  • We have R2P – Responsibility to Prop-up Obama’s tough talk.
     
    And now to provide ‘legitmate’ cover for our intervention, we’re letting Assad know we can/have/do eavesdrop on conversations between the Syrian Ministry of Defense and front line bio-chem equipped units in the Syrian army (everyone knows we try, but always helpful for them to know whatever they might be doing to thwart us ISN’T working).
     
    Maybe we should let the New York times publish the strike force TOE and operational orders too.

  • You know, your post has points I haven’t seen elsewhere. This attack might accomplish the exact opposite of the goals they’ve given for it: Assad isn’t punished or deterred in any significant way, Obama and the U.S. look impotent and not powerful for Assad crossing Obama’s “red line”, and Assad is actually given an additional incentive to use chemical weapons because of the attack.

  • The left opposes war with Syria. Obama is a centrist establishment Democrat. Stop laughing! He is! So shut up about Bill Ayers, his stated preference for single payer, his stated position that the president can’t do what he’s about to do without congressional authorization, his out of control EPA, his “you’ve made enough money” comments, his “you didn’t build that” comments, his liberation theology pastor, and a few other teensy weensy things that might suggest he’s a bit of a leftist. Nope. He’s not. I decree it, in the name of quantum spirituality and my godlike powers of political science.

    Obama thinks like me, and he’s doing good and necessary things in the Middle East. How can you post-traumatic stress ex-military basket cases think you can analyze and criticize his results? Oh, sure, you think you know strategy and tactics and stuff, and he doesn’t have that military background, thank goodness. But with that christlike visage and that upturned chin and those perfect pants creases, you just know that he’s so, so much smarter than people like you.

    So I’m sure he’s taken all these things into consideration and has a plan to address them. So shut up about what I said about Bush and Iraq and how hypocritical it is to even consider that I might support Obama now, even though he’s bypassing Congress. Just shut up about that. He’s a pragmatic moderate, I’m a pragmatic moderate, and he thinks like me, so if he thinks it’s a good idea, it must be. I don’t have to know the details – I’m sure with all the stuff he knows, and his brilliance and pragmatic moderation, he just knows intuitively what to do.

    So do I support going to war in Syria? I haven’t really said one way or another have I? I did say that only the true left opposes war with Syria, and I claim that I’m not a leftist, so you might think you can draw the conclusion that I’ve turned into a warmonger and are ready for Obama to blow the guts out of those Syrians.

    But war is pretty icky, so I reserve the right to come back and claim that I opposed it all along. Which has nothing to do with the giant magenta caterpillars with Sarah Palin’s face and ample bosom, who are over there chanting “War is unhealthy for children and other living things.”

    And that doesn’t either make me a squish with no principles. Or an unthinking robot who goes along with anything Obama does because he’s so dreamy. It just makes me pragmatic. I pull my chin and look at all points of view, even those of sterile, inbred, ex-military basket cases, and somehow always decide that Obama is right and the rest of you are wrong.

    To wrap things up, let me just reiterate so you guys know how wrong you are about everything. We’re a democracy, and shut up about the republic stuff. Markets don’t automatically adjust themselves – they need the guiding hand of wise pragmatic moderates who are definitely not leftists even though we think government should control the market and that bureaucrats are wonderful people who must reign in, or rain in, or whatever it is, those mean corporate people who have too much money.

    Because our whole system is corrupted by the money. Especially because they don’t give enough of it to brilliant professors of political science who somehow couldn’t find a slot at a reputable university. Or to abused pizza workers who have to steal pizzas to compensate.

    But I’m happy about it all because of my quantum spirituality and the fact that I can use my mind to direct the future through non-local quantum projection stuff in Dilbert spaces. Hey, when I say I live a magical life, I mean it.

    All the best quantum physicists agree with me about this, so you grunt physicist types better not bring up Srohumdinger or Hoosenberg or any of those dead guys. You should be getting your quantum physics opinions from the Dalai Lama, like I do.

  • Here, I thought that the Iraq War was the last battle to be waged after spending an extended period of time to mass forces on the border of an adversary.
    Is it really necessary to telegraph the entire battle plan on advance ?

  • I’m rooting hard core for this to fail. The boy king (emphasis on BOY and call me a racist for all I care) deserves the pile of cr_ap he’s about to step in

  • “And what would we accomplish?”
     
    Obama gets to say, “See, I TOLD him to stop.”  He doesn’t want to be mocked anymore.
     
    A U.S. official briefed on the potential military strike on Syria said the White House is playing a difficult balancing act, seeking to launch a firm attack on President Bashar Assad’s government forces without it being so devastating it would prompt a response from Syria’s allies, according to The Los Angles Times.
    “They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” the U.S. official reportedly told the Times.
    The official added the White House was probing a strike with a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked.”

    • Yes, Obama has to knock-out the regime without much collateral damage to Al Queda so that the terrorists can seamlessly fill the power vacuum just like they did in Egypt…

    • “just muscular enough not to get mocked.”
      In other words, it is not about “them” (Syrians) and “them” dying, it is about “us” (Obama) looking good.

      • About the only thing Baghdad Barry hasn’t offered as justification is the idea that if he had a Syrian wife and child they could have been killed by Assad.
         
        it’s always about Barry the boy king.