Three Choices on Syria

Michael Weston:  Nando Nando Nando You’re dead.  You just don’t know it yet.

Burn Notice Things Unseen 2013


Monday we talked about why I oppose strikes in Syria (because it aids Islamic Rebels). Yesterday I put up a dissenting view from longtime reader and commenter Proud to serve. (It’s vital to show the use of Chemical weapons has a terrible cost)

Both points are valid so the problem is this:

How do you punish Syria for the use of Chemical Weapons while not enabling the rebels?

I’ve thought about this and as far as I can figure there are three options.

#1 The Big way

#2 The small way

#3. The Tiny Way

Let’s examine all three in order

#1. The Big Way

The United States would declare war on Syria and invade both via Israel & the Mediterranean Sea. The United States would slowly prepare an invasion force over the course of 3-6 months building up troops in the area and giving Syria the option to

1. Surrender their chemical stockpiles

2. Remove the Assad family (Perhaps a UN protectorate until free elections)

at which point we would call the whole thing off.

The advantages of such a move is clear:

1. A US invasion would assure that the chemical stockpiles would not fall into the wrong hands

2. The Al Qaeda/Islamists who wish to take over Syria would be checkmated.  Instead of being in a position to take the country they would have to fight us to get it.

3. Such an invasion would become a “kill zone” for Hamas, Hezbollah & Al Qaeda. It would be a place where our enemies would instead of striking at civilian targets would be engaged against the single most powerful military in history.

4. Given the amount of time it took to actually take Iraq out there is every possibility that Assad would take the US (even under this president) seriously and choose to give in either willingly or overthrown by his generals hoping to make a deal.

5.  Such a move would re-assert US power globally while making it extremely clear that any use of WMD would be the death knell for any two bit dictator who chooses to use them.

6.  It would not only solve the problem with killing people with chemical weapons it would stop the whole damn thing.

If your priority is US prestige and deterrent in the long run this is in fact the best way to do this but there are many arguments against.

1. The Public: The US public does not support such an action. Culturally we are not the country that liberated Europe & deterred the Soviets. The people simply do not want this war and when you go to war against the will of your people, it generally ends bad

2. The Army: I’ve talked to service personal who have told me the Army is not in a postilion to fight a war in Syria. In terms of morale our forces are dealing with massive social change while still exhausted from fights where we simply have not be able to trust the people we would be fighting for.

3. The Cost: Financially we are not in a position to pay for such a war. It would be a long term situation with even higher costs in the long term.

4. The Russians: Unlike Iraq & Afghanistan Syria is a Russian client state. It is highly unlikely that the Russians will sit still and let us take out their best ally in the area.

5.  The UN:  I suspect the UN would not be up to the task of administrating Syria until an election as they have proven to be rather feckless over recent years.

Do I think we could pull this off? Yes it’s likely but the price would be high and it wouldn’t be pretty. Even worse as has been the case for the last decade the highest costs would be paid by a tiny percentage of our population willing to make the fight.

For those worried at the very suggestion of such a thing don’t be.  The odds of this administration going with this choice are as high as me permanently replacing Rush Limbaugh on the EIB network.

2.  The small way

Rather than striking at military assets target personal assets of the dictator Assad both physical and financial.

One of the basic truths of dictators is they are pretty much interested in their own comfort and well being.  They don’t give a damn if thousands of people die including their own troops, but if they aren’t sleeping in a comfortable bed, drinking the best wines, eating the best food and dressed in their 10,000 suits that’s something they take notice in.

This is done in two ways.

1.   We publicly destroy the biggest and most prominent palace and/or residence of Assad and make it clear (both in public and through private channels) that any repeat of this behavior will result in the destruction of the next two remaining, then the next three etc until he finds himself lucky to find a Holiday Inn Express willing to put him up.

2.  We go after his foreign assets, every dollar, every assets around the world until Assad can’t afford to order a Dr. Who CD without shaking his tip jar.

Like the military option this has clear advantages:

1.  The damage is limited to the person most directly responsible for the use of WMD.

2. It doesn’t aid any of the Islamists who are trying to take over the government.

3.  It’s cost effective

4.  It puts very few if any US forces at risk

5.  It doesn’t preclude the use of the Big Way if necessary.

and like the big way it has several drawbacks

1.  It a small cost to pay for hundreds of lives.

2.  It doesn’t have a huge impact.  Going from 8 palaces to 7 or even 6 or 5 is an annoyance, not a hardship

3.  The small nature of such a strike may be used as a propaganda to suggest the lack of resolve or strength of the US by our foes worldwide.

4.  It gives the precedent of a “mulligan” on WMD.   A dictator might calculate that the loss of a palace or two is worth the price to send a message on the battlefield or worse to protestors or political opponents.  In fact such a dictator might after such a strike boast about his willingness to stand up and take strikes from the most powerful nation in history.

5.  Assad may have already converted or hidden financial assets in anticipation of this.

This is both a low risk and low reward  The deterrent value is highly dependent on the person you are dealing with.

3.  The Tiny Way

Kill Assad or put a price on his head

The US can present its evidence declare that Assad has used chemical weapons in violation of international law and declare that the policy of the US is to kill him or to reward the person who does.

As with the other methods there are advantages and disadvantages.

1.  The punishment for the offense is directed at the person who ordered it

2.  It is a life for the lives his actions cost.

3.  The sight of the dead, burned or destroyed body of Assad is something that every single dictator considering the use of Chemical or biological weapons will have in their mind when they consider giving the order.

4.  Even if you fail to kill Assad in an age of drone warfare it means that he can not show his face, sleep in the same bed or enjoy any of the perks or powers of his dictatorship.  He becomes Bin Laden without the cave

5.  It becomes almost impossible for a dictator to rule a nation while constantly in hiding.  It slowly destroys his command and control

6.  This creates a HUGE incentive to his generals to do the dirty work for us both for the financial reward and in fear that when the bomb or drone comes said general will die with him.

7.  It doesn’t reward the Islamists fighting Assad’s government.

8.  It’s the cheapest choice pricewise

And of course there are disadvantages

1.  This is a HUGE departure from international norms of acceptable behavior

2.  Once such a declaration is made the target is likely to surround themselves with human shields and the choice has to be made to kill him anyway (the right choice) or no.

3.  If the target chooses to go into hiding it may take months or years to carry out the attack.

4.  There is a real possibility that the opponents of a dictator or ruler will use chemical weapons and slaughter thousands in order to turn their opponent into a target.


All of these three choices would directly assert the principle that the use of WMD carries a price to not only Assad but any person or country who considers deploying them.  Each of them have drawbacks but empowering Islamists in the Middle East in any way shape or form is not one of them.

And I have an odd feeling that it is the reason why none of these options are acceptable to the administration.


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