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Syrian objectives

By Col. Stan Gudmundson

Fri, Sep 13th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

By Stan Gudmundson

Is Obama considering attacking Syria because a precedent has been set in the use of chemical weapons? If this is the case then, unfortunately, the precedent has already been set. Saddam Hussein used chemical agents more than once to slaughter rebellious Kurds in far greater numbers than what has occurred in Syria. Plus, as George Will points out, he used them against them against Iran. Earlier, Egypt used chemical weapons in Yemen.

When Saddam and Egytpians poisoned their enemies, we got a tut-tut here and tut-tut there, and here a tut, there a tut, but not everywhere a tut-tut. The world, who Obama says is responsible for drawing a line in the sand, did nothing. What has happened since?

Inasmuch as we ignored their murderous use before, does that mean the world decided to draw this redline only after these horrendous weapons were used a fourth time? Did the world agree that we all would give a free pass to whoever used them the first few times but hammer number four?

But Obama and his administration is absolutely certain we are told. How so? Aren’t the intelligence agencies the same ones many in this administration criticized during the Bush administration for being unreliable? But now they are absolutely reliable? One of our problems is that there is some uncertainty about who actually used chemical weapons and there is absolutely is uncertainty about the objective of US military action.

Moreover, the track record of this administration’s foreign policy is hardly inspiring. Obama did his best to push out Egypt’s Mubarak Our military forces attacked Libya in spite of the fact that Gadaffi had essentially decided to become the West’s buddy. We abandoned Iraq and created a violent power vacuum that is killing thousands. Arab Spring they called it as a testament to Obama’s messianic “influence” in the Middle East. Not Arab Spring but Arab Ice Age is what we got.

But what is the point? What is the goal? How will we know when we have won? The basic requirement in use of military force is the provision of a clear objective. For example, strategic guidance Eisenhower received before allies invaded Europe during WWII is a perfect example of a simple and clear order. He was directed to cross the English Channel and defeat the Germans.

Lt. Col Allen West, USA (Ret), a former Florida Congressman points out that, “A military campaign needs an objective. We can’t just launch a feel-good bombing campaign to try and save face after President Obama retreated when he was tested...If we wanted to use military force, we should have done it immediately and decisively”.

What sort of strategic direction will Obama give to our military that will have any realistic chance of achieving his objectives? But what are Obama’s objectives? How will we know when they have been achieved? What do we think we are going to accomplish?

And the strategic objective statement says what? Launch cruise missiles against Syria for three hours to make Syrian leadership quake in their boots to allow me (Obama) to save face and let me (Obama) feel good? Or will it be for more like six hours? Launch an all-out air, sea, and land attack to create regime change? Or is there something in between these extremes that can be effective and achievable? Without also creating collateral damage for Israel or starting a much larger regional conflagration.

This crisis is really problematic. It was made far worse by Obama’s drawing of the red line. No serious world leader would or should ever put himself in this position and put the credibility of the country on the line as he did.

Obama has also told the world that Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons. This is a much, much larger problem. Was he serious? If not, then an attack on Syria is pointless. If he is serious, how can he with certainty convince Iran that we will ensure that they not develop nuclear weapons without some sort of military response in Syria?

Lt Col West says, We simply can’t keep going on like this. Our adversaries - China, Iran, North Korea, Russia - are watching us and measuring our weakness while our allies are confused and bewildered.”

Colin Powell once said that “if you break it, you own it.” Is that ultimately where this administration wants to be? Attempting to accomplish nation-building again?

I have come to think that Powell is wrong. We can’t build functioning democratic nations from scratch if the basic materials aren’t there. I am inclined to believe that if we get into another kind of Iraqi or Afghan situation, that we shouldn’t even attempt it.

Make clear from the very beginning that we are going to have regime change and we will attack to do it. As for what sort of regime the defeated wants after we have won the war, that will be up to them. But rest assured we’ll be there, as required, with boots on their ground, airplanes in their sky, and ships in their harbors (if they have any). And if we don’t like the regime and government the defeated comes up with, we’ll provide attitude adjustment and coarse correction as necessary. But we will not attempt to nation-build ourselves. We’ll break it, we’ll break it again and even again if necessary. Therefore, it would be a good idea to do it properly the first time.

It is highly unlikely however, that removing Assad and nation building is Obama’s goal. Other than turning our military into proxy air, navy, and army forces for Al Qaeda, becoming involved in another country’s civil war, and killing what have to be a number of innocent bystanders, what is the point?

But have we made an absolute commitment to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power? Obama’s dingbat foreign policy has us in a serious and dangerous conundrum. We should leave Syria alone but, at the same time, we must ensure Iran’s nuclear ambitions go away.

How? Well, Obama is the genius. He got us into this mess. Now he has to take responsibility and fix it. Let’s be clear about that.

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