Things are moving fast in Syria. Once again it looks as if Assad may have used chemical weapons on his own people. The Syrians and Russians say they didn’t and blamed rebel forces. Predictable action-response-response back stuff when it comes to the Middle East.
What’s not so easily predictable is what will happen next.
There’s definitely a lot of tough talk going from our leadership. President Trump took a disappointed parent tone towards Syria over the attacks. At the U.N., Nikki Haley was very direct blaming not only the Syrians, but the Russians and Iranians as well.
The old template on these things was country do bad, America bombs you, countries ability to do bad set back a while. That won’t work here because there’s one thing, one person, in the way.
Russia’s entry to the war in 2015 put baby in the corner when it comes to U.S. military options and their possible effect on the conflict.
Start with the strategic airstrikes option. These will accomplish little or nothing. This tactic works well for terrorist camps or countries of very limited resources that don’t have the backing of one of the top 3 military powers on the planet. The goal of the strikes would be to even the playing field. In an established government versus upstart rebel situation, the established government has the advantage. They have a living breathing war apparatus. The rebels are a rag-tag bunch with a lot of spirit, but not a lot of big weaponry. The thinking is we come in, take out, say, the Syrian Air Force (which if President Obama had done when he had the chance could have stopped the recent chemical attack) and then the rebels have a fighting chance.
Would have worked then, won’t work now.
The Russians being involved means the Syrians will have an air force even if you take out every runway and airplane in the country. Russia has plenty of aircraft carriers and jets close by that could easily fly in and resume bombing campaigns as they see fit. The other very real danger with bombing Syria are possible casualties of Russian forces embedded with Syrian government forces. Take out some Russian military types and you could end up in a direct military confrontation with Russia. Is Syria worth the chance? I don’t think so. Do you? Bottom line is airstrikes would be little more than symbolic now as any effect wouldn’t be long lasting. The Russians can come in and replace any resources taken out by the bombs and the net effect for the rebels would be zero.
What about ground troops?
I think we all agree that, if you really want to end this thing, it would take ground troops. So many problems with this scenario. Beyond the obvious problems of putting the lives of our young men and women on the line there’s not a clear side to be on in Syria. How convoluted is it? Here, read this and come on back. I’ll wait. If you can identify “the good guys” I’ll be impressed. The other option that’s been discussed with ground troops has been setting up safe zones for the citizens that are still in the middle of the violence. Again, how do you begin to set up safe zones with dozens of factions of government, rebel and ISIL groups embedded everywhere. You can’t tell who’s who.
There are other variances of these options but none of them have a high percentage chance of the desired outcome: Assad is ousted.
For world security, and for the safety of the larger population, the only real win in Syria, at this time, is an Assad and Russian victory. The very hard, costly and painful lesson we’ve learned in the Middle East is our desired best outcome and the realistic best outcome aren’t anywhere close to the same. The Syrian refugee crisis has sent an estimated 4 to 6 million people out of the country. This massive influx has created serious financial issues for many European countries who were already dealing with economic problems. Inside Syria, another 6 million are estimated to be displaced.
12 million people displaced in a country of about 26 million. The violence needs to end.
The best chance of that happening is the government that was in place takes control of the country back. Assad isn’t a nice guy. Under his rule human rights violations are rampant. Unfortunately things have gotten so bad that his winning is the best option. A rebel win was never realistic. You read the list. Who takes control if Assad falls? No Assad and Syria joins Afghanistan in the government of the week club. Not exactly a big victory for the security of the population or the end of a global refugee crisis. The hard truth in Syria is backing the rebels is prolonging a no-win situation. It’s only extending the conflict. Extending the refugee crisis. Extending the endless murder. Wiping out the Syrian air force now comes with great danger of a direct military confrontation with Russia. Troops on the ground make a 3 way shootout, or is it a 6 way shootout? 17 way shootout? Whatever it is, troops on the ground is putting them in a mess where you don’t know who’s shooting at who and for what cause they’re doing it for.
The United States has the most powerful military the world has ever known.
In 2017 Syria, it’s virtually useless in creating anything close to a desirable outcome.