Saturday, September 7, 2013

Syria: There Are No Half-Measures

Full disclaimer:  We have no business commenting on complex foreign policy matters; it could not be further from our core competence or experience.  That said, we have a tidy solution that's not been discussed in the mainstream.

The prevailing wisdom is that we should either 1) drop a few bombs on a few obvious targets or 2) continue to lecture Assad, "in the strongest way possible" until he’s just too tired of hearing our voice.  Two terrible options that achieve nothing.

The first would be a risky and expensive dog and pony show.  Sure, CNN will show all the bombs exploding and the anti-aircraft gun shooting into the sky, President Obama can come on TV from the Oval Office and puff out his chest, but it’s ultimately a futile exercise.  After all, we've already told Assad what’s going to happen, at some point, maybe.  Any evil mastermind worth the title has already sheltered anything of value in the basements of of Syria’s housing complexes, schools or religious buildings knowing that we wouldn't dare drop bombs anywhere near those sites.

Continuing to use strong language urging Assad to stop is just as bad, if not worse.  It emboldens Assad and others to misbehave knowing that they will get stern lecture, but nothing more.  It’s like asking a kid to go to sleep after a visit to Dairy Queen.  Without proving that you will follow through with serious consequences, there are no words that will make them go to sleep.  Maybe we should take away Assad’s iPad?

So what’s the solution?

Jack Bauer.

OK, in reality it wouldn't be a 5’6” CTU agent with a famous dad, but why can’t we assemble the top SEAL’s and CIA operatives and pull Assad and his lieutenants out of bed and straight to Guantanamo?  What would be a better deterrent to future evil masterminds than pictures of Assad in his florescent orange jumpsuit, nibbling on a cracker in a 5 x 5 cell in a US military base in Cuba?

Perhaps we've watched too many episodes of 24, or installments of the Bourne movies, but isn't this why we have SEALs and the CIA?  If our military and intelligence departments are worth the billions we spend on them every year, shouldn’t we be able to get this done?

It’s risky, no doubt, but if Obama pulled this off he’d be a legend.  He and our bravest soldiers would have saved the lives of countless Syrian’s by taking decisive action, all without dropping a single bomb (although we'd probably need to take out some radar installations, etc).  Sure it would involve “boots on the ground”, but not an army, and for hopefully for only a few hours.

We know this is fantasy - not because we don’t have the troops and intelligence to pull it off, but because we don’t have the political courage to authorize it.  There is no way Obama’s political advisers would sign off on the Jack Bauer plan.  The optics of a failed extraction and a handful of captured or dead soldiers would be too risky for the President.  It would be much safer, politically, to authorize some indiscriminate bomb dropping, or blame Congress for doing nothing at all. If we’re serious about helping the Syrian’s, and we should be, it will require courage and resolve.  There are no half-measures.


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