Belmont Club

How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

As J.E. Dyer at the Conservative Optimist notes, the key element in the Syrian crisis that has escaped notice so far is strategic risk. The relevant question as he rightly points out, is not whether the US military can deliver a pinprick blow on Assad. It can.  But the United States must also meet its global responsibilities in addition to handling whatever Syria may portend. It must simultaneously uphold nuclear deterrence, serves as a counterweight to China and Russia in Europe, it provides security for the seas and is the principle shield of the West against terror.

As I pointed out in the post America as Jackie Chan,  the US is like that redoubtable kung fu star in that it must keep all the world’s Ming Jars intact while simultaneously fighting off the bad guys.  Since the armed forces have been severely downsized under Obama, the incremental risk of doing that is much greater now that it has a smaller global design margin. The Syrian operation must pull men off one part of the wall to commit them to another. The total risk is not what can happen in Syria. It is what can happen in Syria plus what can happen in places where the forces have been thinned. Can America keep all the Ming Jars safe while still fighting this bad guy?

Dyer writes:

For Congress, the important question to pose to the military is what level of risk we incur if we go into a moderate-size Syrian operation with the forces we have right now….

In any air-campaign scenario involving Syria, he said, two capabilities likely needed would be F-16CJ Wild Weasels, which are specially configured for suppression of enemy air defenses, and F-22s.

Squadrons of both those capabilities were grounded earlier this year, save for Raptors on deployment to US Pacific Command’s area of responsibility, in order to pay the remainder of the service’s tuition-assistance bills.

If the Syrian operation ends with a pinprick it is pointless. But if it is a prelude to a much larger then what is that larger operation? The situation is made worse because everything has now become relatively more expensive in security terms. The implosion in credibility McCain always talks about now means that the US actually has to actually expend military force where a warning once would have done. America must pay in strategic cash since Obama’s political credit card has been revoked.

How much is that doggie in the window when all the extras and hidden provisions are figured in? Michael Ledeen can’t shake the feeling there are considerations in the Syrian operation beyond the public reason of ‘punishing Assad’ for using chemical weapons.

Messrs Cameron, Hollande and Netanyahu must have weighed in, along with Erdogan, Saudi King Abdullah, and others.

What others? What about the Iranians? We know that Obama sees Iran as the key to “solving” the Syrian mess, and we know that Obama has authorized secret contacts, even before he was elected, and Swiss diplomats are forever brokering meetings and carrying messages back and forth. What if the Iranians offered him a deal? Or perhaps the Omanis, who have been key middlemen in the deals leading to the release of American hostages?

What sort of deal? Many are possible. What if the Iranians, the real rulers of Syria today, offered to betray Assad, replace him with a military junta under their control, and organize a peace conference if the Americans lifted unilateral sanctions?

Obama would certainly be tempted to delay bombing Syria if he were led to believe that a peaceful rabbit could be lifted from a diplomatic top hat by those new moderates in Tehran, or those proven wheelers and dealers in romantic Muscat, wouldn’t he?

I don’t have an answer to How? or Why?

All the great powers are interesting in something. Germany is now open to considering that chemical weapons were used by Assad against civilians. Perhaps most astoundingly the ex-President of Iran has accused Assad of the the same thing just yesterday. “Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said the Syrian government, a strong ally of Tehran, had carried out chemical weapons attacks against its own people, the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency reported on Sunday.” Yet neither the UK nor Germany are joining in the fireworks and, insofar as we know, Iran will probably defend Assad. Whatever moral qualms the Western allies have about chemicals they’re interested enough to do something about it and are in practice treating Syria like a tar baby and Iran is treating Assad like a favored son. Can’t you hear it now? “You do it Obama. We’re right behind you.”

The answer to Dyer’s question about strategic risk must for the present remain — ????. We don’t know how long the Syrian string is until we start pulling on it. The basic reason for our ignorance is that Obama has conducted his policy largely in secret. He’s made deals we can’t even guess at and people are on the hook for what they don’t even know about.

To this day we don’t even know definitively what Benghazi was about, only that it was about a video. And now Obama is going through this enormous exercise to punish Assad for using chemical weapons. It can’t be about the number killed. Anyone who is interested in the tally of claimed civilian deaths in Syria can go to LCCS Syria. Today 118 civilians died. Yesterday there were 39, the day before 72, before that 66 and go back another 24 hours and it was 104. The Syrian civil war goes through about 1,000 lives every two weeks. The idea that Barack Obama is sufficiently outraged about the manner of the latest victims demise when the previous 100,000 deaths did not move him is peculiar indeed. One commenter on Facebook described the proposal to launch an attack based solely on moral outrage with the old Chinese proverb: 脱裤子放屁 which translates to “like taking off your pants to fart” — something ostentatiously and and insanely superfluous.

Just what exactly is Barack Obama up to? Perhaps the greatest benefit of Barack Obama’s recent fall to earth is that it has forced him to explain himself to others; to share a problem with other Constitutional authorities instead of bearing the entire load on the shoulders of his genius. What is President Obama betting the farm on? And how much is that doggie in the window?

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