Top Billing! Peter J. Munson –The Responsibility of Civilian Policy Advocates: Syria and R2P
….Surely, it cannot be as bad as all that, you might say. True. It may not be as bad as I say, but it will surely be more messy than the glib op-ed that Anne-Marie Slaughter threw together for the New York Times last week. CNN reports that the military is looking at using as many as 75,000 troops just to secure potential Syrian chemical weapons sites. The realities of a Syrian intervention are far messy than Dr. Slaughter is willing to countenance in her infantile fantasy masquerading as policy prescription. Therein lies the rub. Dr. Slaughter is a respected policy elite and people take her ideas seriously. Therefore, she has a responsibility to be honest and open in her advocacy with regard to the risks and complexities of her proposal. Dr. Slaughter tweeted a few weeks ago that those outside of government could partake in one-sided advocacy, leaving policy-makers in government to sort out the details. This is the height of irresponsibility. Essentially, she is saying that people like her are free to sell the American people on a policy in NYT op-eds without fully disclosing the costs and complexities, leaving the unhappy recipients in government with the task of dealing with the unstated costs and risks, while public debate shaped by dishonest people like her has closed off some of their policy options.Slaughter states that simply arming the opposition would lead to destabilizing civil war. However, arming the Free Syrian Army to create “no-kill zones,” that is enabling the FSA to control swathes of territory just within the sovereign borders of Syria would somehow bring an end to the butchery. Not mentioned is how the FSA would take or hold this territory against the likely violent disagreement of the regime. We are talking about battle here. Not potshots against regime forces, but the taking and holding of territory. This is not just glossed over in the Slaughter plan, but completely ignored. She speaks blithely of the use of special forces to enable the FSA, and how they could enable the FSA to cordon population centers and rid them of snipers. What you don’t see here is the bloody battle and likely airstrikes needed to push the bulk of the regime forces away from these population centers to be cordoned. Nor does it discuss the brutal and psychologically exhausting game of counter-sniper operations.
….I have long supported the mission both in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it troubles me to no end to see that progress is mired in choosing the wrong weapons to deal with what nature, geography, and a people, who only understand the ancient pre-religious tenets of revenge and blood honor, to guide their every move; has seen our best hopes dashed on the rocks of reality. As politically in-correct as it might sound, looking back at the original strategy of surgical strikes, should have also carried the accompanied effort to risk what ever troops necessary in the beginning, too capture or kill every leader from Osama, to the entire Taliban and AQ leadership. Then make it crystal clear that any future sanctuaries would bring a rain of carpet bombing upon that region until all are gone. That, as harsh as it sounds strategy, would send a “straightforward” message in a language all Afghan’s and their allied cohorts understand, and have used to settle disputes for millenniums. An old friend and mentor, whose military and historical credentials are as deep as the sea, predicted the outcome the US is currently experiencing and a decade ago, suggested the most politically in-correct path, would have resulted in surgically cutting out the cancer, much like we rely on radiation and surgery as proven tools. Then following up with check-ups and changes in behavior to keep the cancer from returning. Finally, if the cancer of terrorism returns, more surgery, and if needed, doses of radiation to kill those dangerous cells.
….This scenario sounds utterly practicable as part of a theory conjured up in the comfort of the ivory tower. But in practice, Western military technology cannot stop messy civil wars in foreign lands. Ending the internal conflict in Syria and producing a peaceful aftermath would entail a long-term American commitment to armed nation building. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should have made this clear. Armed nation building isn’t done in eight or eleven years but eighty or a hundred years beyond.
But here is where good strategy should kick in. Good strategy might and probably should discern that in these kinds of civil wars, considering U.S. security interests, using military force is not the solution. Force might be a good option if Americans were willing to stay for generations, but then strategy might also determine that a prolonged engagement is simply not worth it.
The increasing calls for U.S. military intervention in Syria are misguided and dangerous