Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Obama's Limited Strike on Syria: To Win, Place -- or Show?

Daniel Pipes has a blog post today, Arguing against "Limited" Strikes on the Assad Regime:
Warfare is a very serious business whose first imperative is to deploy force to win – rather than to punish, make a statement, establish a symbolic point, or preen about one's morality.
Pipes warns of the dangers of Assad's multiple possible responses:
  • The strikes could lead to increased attacks on civilians
  • Assad might carry through on the threat to attack Israel
  • Sleeper cells in the West might be activated
  • Syria might be driven even further into Iran's corner
  • Surviving the attack allows Assad to claim victory over the US
Bottom line, a superficial attack like the one that the Obama administration seems to be leaning towards
will neither overthrow the government nor change the course of the war. It will, however, allow Westerners to feel good about themselves
Assad Lots of options in response to a limited strike
Credit: Wiki Commons

With this in mind, it is worthwhile recalling how Gen. Martin Dempsey Lays Out US Military Options for Syria. Back in July, he discussed various options. On limited strikes, General Dempsey wrote the following:
Conduct Limited Stand-off Strikes. This option uses lethal force to strike targets that enable the regime to conduct military operations, proliferate advanced weapons, and defend itself. Potential targets include high-value regime air defense, air, ground, missile, and naval forces as well as the supporting military facilities and command nodes. Stand-off air and missile systems could be used to strike hundreds of targets at a tempo of our choosing. Force requirements would include hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers. Depending on duration, the costs would be in the billions. Over time, the impact would be the significant degradation of regime capabilities and an increase in regime desertions. There is a risk that the regime could withstand limited strikes by dispersing its assets. Retaliatory attacks are also possible, and there is a probability for collateral damage impacting civilians and foreigners inside the country.[Hat tip: Jim Geraghty]
Note that General Dempsey's idea of limited strikes entails "hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers" -- which does not appear to be what Obama has in mind.

If Pipes is right and the planned strike is intended more for appearances sake than to actually accomplish something, then the potential backlash that Pipes suggests are a real concern, considering the minimal utility gained from such a US attack.

And that should put us as much on edge waiting to see what Obama has in mind as Assad.


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