Why US Efforts in Syria are Doomed

agalisgv

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As folk may know, the US has been supporting a rebel group, an arm of the Free Syria Army, to go after ISIS in Syria (initially FSA was challenging Asaad, but the US is more concerned with ISIS at this point).

Here's an article discussing how the rebel group is performing in action. It's an incredibly depressing read.
The U.S. campaign to create a new ground force to fight the Islamic State appears to be a flop. The program, designed to train some fifteen thousand Syrians in the course of three years—at a cost of five hundred million dollars—has only a handful of fighters in Syria. “We’re talking four or five,” General Lloyd J. Austin III told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

...Exactly a year ago, President Obama announced a new “comprehensive and sustained” strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, which became known as Operation Inherent Resolve. In Syria, the operation centered on a train-and-equip program for rebels in a “New Syrian Force” to fight on the ground, complemented by American air strikes on ISIS weaponry, facilities, and leaders, and by a social-media campaign to counter ISIS propaganda.

A U.S.-led coalition has now carried out more than twenty-five hundred air strikes on Syria, according to Central Command data, and another four thousand in Iraq. But U.S. officials acknowledge that air power cannot alone destroy ISIS. The cost of all U.S. military operations against the Islamic State—in both countries—has reached about four billion dollars, or more than ten million dollars a day, the Pentagon said last month. The New Syrian Force, meanwhile, barely exists—and has done nothing.

“So we’re counting on our fingers and toes at this point—when we had envisioned fifty-four hundred by the end of the year,” Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat, said, referring to the rebel fighters. She seemed astounded. “It’s time for a new plan.”

...All this comes at a time when Syria’s future borders, and viability, are at stake. Under the pressure of its multifaceted war, the country, widely considered to be the strategic center of the Middle East, has all but disintegrated. Eighty per cent of Syrians now live in poverty. Life expectancy has plummeted by twenty years. Unemployment is nearly sixty per cent. Syria’s economic infrastructure and institutions have been “obliterated,” the Syrian Center for Policy Researchreported earlier this year.
 
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Cachoo

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I remember all of the reports about the rebels before ISIS blew onto the scene. You had those who truly wanted democracy. And then you had those who were much like Bin Laden's group in Afghanistan while the Soviets were there. They certainly fought hard but democracy wasn't in their vocabulary. And there was little cohesion and organization. It seems that was also the problem in Syria. We really don't have a dog in this fight. We might have a puppy.... And now you have the two-headed monster of Assad and ISIS. I would love it if draft-aged men would not leave Syria and instead join those advocating for a free Syria. But I understand why they left. I probably would leave as well. Whatever the answer is I don't want our troops on the ground fighting their fight. That is exactly what ISIS wants.
 

Cachoo

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agalisgv....just curious....do you see any way there is a positive outcome for Syria?
 

agalisgv

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Sorry, I missed this:
agalisgv....just curious....do you see any way there is a positive outcome for Syria?
Honestly? Not really. The only significant rebel support appears to be Al Nusra, and as they share many commonalities with Al Qaeda, I don't see them as a viable alternative to Assad. ISIS isn't challenging Assad much right now, so not coincidentally, Assad isn't challenging them much (more on that below). If I were to guess, I would imagine the primary supporters of moderate rebel forces would be located in the 4.5 million displaced Syrians. But it appears very few are willing to take up arms against Assad or ISIS (that's not a criticism btw).

In today's news, Russia has launched strikes in Syria. While Russia claimed the strikes were against ISIS, it appears they targeted anti-Assad rebel forces instead.
Russia said its strikes today were launched against ISIS. Don't believe it. The strikes reported this morning aren't happening anywhere near ISIS territory and aren't actually hitting ISIS positions, as a look at the following map from theInstitute for the Study of War (ISW) should make clear. In fact, Russia is bombing ISIS'senemies in the Syrian opposition which makes a lot more sense if you understand what Russia is really trying to accomplish. Russia is in Syria to prop up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Moscow's ally. The main threat to Assad is not ISIS, which the Syrian leader has often tolerated, but rather Syria's non-ISIS rebels — including al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise as well as more moderate rebel groups. These rebel groups (along with the Kurds in Syria's north) are also ISIS's main enemies in Syria...Assad has taken advantage of this, tacitly tolerating ISIS in northeastern Syria while focusing his military efforts on the rebels. This was part of what appeared to be adeliberate strategy to encourage extremism in order to discourage foreign intervention against him.

Both Assad and Putin win, in other words, if the West is forced to choose between Assad and ISIS in Syria. Which is part of why Russian airstrikes appear to be targeting ISIS's enemies in Syria — under the pretext of targeting ISIS.
http://www.vox.com/2015/9/30/9423229/russia-bombing-isis-syria

IOW, the Assad regime is basically supporting ISIS to prevent foreign involvement in toppling his regime.
 

Cachoo

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When I saw where Putin was positioning his troops and where ISIS actually has power right now I wonder if he will EVER try to hit ISIS. How can people believe anything he says? The recent "Frontline" documentary should be required viewing when talking about Putin and his motivation to do anything.
 

agalisgv

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From a few months ago (I missed this unfortunately):
On Monday, the U.S. Embassy-Syria tweeted, "Reports indicate that the regime is making air-strikes in support of ISIL's advance on Aleppo, aiding extremists against Syrian population," and further alleged that Assad's forces aligned themselves with the terror group long ago.

"We have long seen that the Asad (sic) regime avoids [Islamic State] lines, in complete contradiction to the regime's claims to be fighting [the Islamic State]," the embassy posted.

The U.S. State Department, in its daily briefing with reporters, repeated that messaging Monday, and added that Assad "does not want to use his forces to root out [the Islamic State's] safe haven in Syria, but really on the contrary, is actively seeking to bolster their position for his own cynical reasons," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/state-syrias-assad-directly-supporting-isis/article/2565466

So maybe there isn't any real difference between ISIS and Assad at this point. That's scary beyond measure.
 

Cachoo

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True. And people wonder about the mass exodus. I've seen so many negative comments aimed at Obama for letting Putin in and I'm just happy Obama kept our ground troops out. It would have been like trying to fight on quicksand. "Quagmire" really fits here.

I just wanted to add that anything Assad tries does not surprise me. How desperate is he if he is trying to use ISIS to his benefit?
 

agalisgv

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Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates have written an op-ed on Putin and Syria, and what the US response should be.
The fact is that Putin is playing a weak hand extraordinarily well because he knows exactly what he wants to do. He is not stabilizing the situation according to our definition of stability. He is defending Russia’s interests by keeping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power. This is not about the Islamic State. Any insurgent group that opposes Russian interests is a terrorist organization to Moscow. We saw this behavior in Ukraine, and now we’re seeing it even more aggressively — with bombing runs and cruise missile strikes — in Syria.

We should not forget that Moscow’s definition of success is not the same as ours. The Russians have shown a willingness to accept and even encourage the creation of so-called failed states and frozen conflicts from Georgia to Moldova to Ukraine. Why should Syria be any different? If Moscow’s “people” can govern only a part of the state but make it impossible for anyone else to govern the rest of it — so be it. And the well-being of the population is not the issue either. The Russian definition of success contains no element of concern for the dismal situation of the Syrian people. Refugees — that’s Europe’s problem. Greater sectarianism — well, it’s the Middle East! Populations attacked with barrel bombs and Assad’s chemicals, supposedly banned in the deal that Moscow itself negotiated — too bad!
Their suggestion:
we have to create our own facts on the ground. No-fly zones and safe harbors for populations are not “half-baked” ideas. They worked before (protecting the Kurds for 12 years under Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror) and warrant serious consideration. We will continue to have refugees until people are safe. Moreover, providing robust support for Kurdish forces, Sunni tribes and what’s left of the Iraqi special forces is not “mumbo-jumbo.” It might just salvage our current, failing strategy. A serious commitment to these steps would also solidify our relationship with Turkey, which is reeling from the implications of Moscow’s intervention. In short, we must create a better military balance of power on the ground if we are to seek a political solution acceptable to us and to our allies.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-to-counter-putin-in-syria/2015/10/08/128fade2-6c66-11e5-b31c-d80d62b53e28_story.html[/quote][/quote]
 

Cachoo

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Condoleezza's area of study was the Soviet Union. Maybe it is time to bring her on board now that Putin is becoming so aggressive. I don't know if she would be interested or not.... And this is neither here nor there but I look at the current crop of Republican candidates for President and would take her over every one of them in an instant. Gates has been a member of Obama's administration. I hope, at least, they give a look-see to his suggestions. The Kurds and the way they have survived might be the single bright light in the whole history of our Iraq involvement. We should be able to learn from that.
 

agalisgv

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FWIW, the US has announced it has scrapped the old plan of arming a rebel army, and is now using a new plan to adopt some of the recommendations outlined in the Rice/Gates op-ed above. Specifically, they will start arming the Kurds and other rebel forces to counter both ISIS and Assad. This will of course bring tensions with Turkey, but recent Russian involvement has forced the issue.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/pentagon-plans-sharp-scaledown-in-efforts-to-train-syrian-rebels/2015/10/09/78a2553c-6e80-11e5-9bfe-e59f5e244f92_story.html

Also, the US announced today it killed a senior Iranian general in Syria today. Supposedly that's a psychological blow to the Assad regime. And finally, ISIS forces are nearing Aleppo. Very bad news.

I don't think Putin views this as fecking it up. I think this is exactly what he wants--bolstering Assad to strengthen a key ally in the region. And so far it's going according to plan.
 

b-man

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FWIW, the US has announced it has scrapped the old plan of arming a rebel army, and is now using a new plan to adopt some of the recommendations outlined in the Rice/Gates op-ed above. Specifically, they will start arming the Kurds and other rebel forces to counter both ISIS and Assad. This will of course bring tensions with Turkey, but recent Russian involvement has forced the issue.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/pentagon-plans-sharp-scaledown-in-efforts-to-train-syrian-rebels/2015/10/09/78a2553c-6e80-11e5-9bfe-e59f5e244f92_story.html

Also, the US announced today it killed a senior Iranian general in Syria today. Supposedly that's a psychological blow to the Assad regime. And finally, ISIS forces are nearing Aleppo. Very bad news.

I don't think Putin views this as fecking it up. I think this is exactly what he wants--bolstering Assad to strengthen a key ally in the region. And so far it's going according to plan.
I am extremely skeptical that Assad is intentionally assisting ISIS. While ISIS may have benefited from Syrian/Russian airstikes, it was probably coincidental. Likely Assad doesn't want a second front against ISIS until closer insurgents have been neutralized.

Agree with about 95% of Rice/Gates assessment.

The US should have established safe/no fly zones long ago. Its more problematic with Russian aircraft in close proximity. With Turkish, US, Russian, Syrian, Israeli aircraft all in the area, how long before an incident occurs?

Heard a radio report yesterday that the US is delivering pallets of ammunition to our allies in Syria (Kurds?). This also should have been done a year ago.

Enjoy most of your posts, Agalisgv, they are almost always on point. well reasoned, timely, etc.
 

Cachoo

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Pallets of our ammunition have the habit of winding up in the hands of the enemy. I would be very careful about that. I certainly want the Kurds to get some help though but this is so risky.

I still see Putin as weak and his entry into Syria as weak. If only he was more dedicated to destroying ISIS instead of anyone we back.
 

b-man

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Pallets of our ammunition have the habit of winding up in the hands of the enemy. I would be very careful about that. I certainly want the Kurds to get some help though but this is so risky.

I still see Putin as weak and his entry into Syria as weak. If only he was more dedicated to destroying ISIS instead of anyone we back.
And how is supplying a few pallets of ammunition risky? I don't see it as risky at all.

I think the Rice/Gates assessment also described Putin playing from a weak hand, although maximizing the Russian position even with a weak hand. Destroying ISIS is not Putin's primary goal (nor is it Obama's). Putin is propping up Assad, as Bashar was in danger of falling, and Iranian help alone appeared insufficient to guarantee survival of the regieme. Putin now has an air base in Syria, which allows the projection of Russian power in the ME and eastern Med. The Russians have largely been out of the ME since the 70's. With Obama deemphasizing the ME, and with strained relations with so many of our long term allies (Saudi, Egypt, Israel); the situation is ripe for Russian adventurism. With little or no concrete resistence from the US or Europe in the Crimea or eastern Ukraine, additional Russian adventures should not come as a surprise.

Heard on the radio today there are Cuban special forces in Syria, presumably flown in on Russian transports. I don't see that as of major significance. However, it is yet another reason supporting my previous opposition on this forum to normalized relations with Cuba. I don't see it in our national interest, or that of the oppressed Cuban people, to make Cuba'a economy more viable if it results, among other things, in Cuban support of Russian ME expansion.
 

Cachoo

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But the bottom line is that Russia was always Syria's ally and Putin feels it necessary to move in to bolster Assad. I don't think that looks like strength at all for either Putin or Assad. But I'm sure it plays well at home. I think I read an article in the Chicago Tribune that suggests he will get to keep his naval base and have a say in some sort of settlement for Assad. I have to tell you though, that my biggest worry is simply keeping American troops out of it. And right now we are so I am relieved and wish Putin luck against ISIS if he actually chooses to engage them regularly. He can talk to everyone in the region. I guess I'm not that worried compared to other areas.

When it comes to Russia I actually worry more about the former Soviet states because I know he wants them back if not in name then in influence. And because of this, over the ME, I'd like to see Rice back in a leadership role in government when it comes to our relations with Russia. I think she could do some good.
 

b-man

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But the bottom line is that Russia was always Syria's ally and Putin feels it necessary to move in to bolster Assad. I don't think that looks like strength at all for either Putin or Assad. But I'm sure it plays well at home. I think I read an article in the Chicago Tribune that suggests he will get to keep his naval base and have a say in some sort of settlement for Assad. I have to tell you though, that my biggest worry is simply keeping American troops out of it. And right now we are so I am relieved and wish Putin luck against ISIS if he actually chooses to engage them regularly. He can talk to everyone in the region. I guess I'm not that worried compared to other areas.

When it comes to Russia I actually worry more about the former Soviet states because I know he wants them back if not in name then in influence. And because of this, over the ME, I'd like to see Rice back in a leadership role in government when it comes to our relations with Russia. I think she could do some good.
Agree with many of your comments. First, as far as US troops, probably 15,000 Marines could substantially destroy ISIS in 6 weeks. but the logistics to re insert them in the area with adequate supplies would be time consuming and expensive, and unless they stayed, it would leave another vacuum for similar ISIS type groups to emerge. However, there is no reason the US should not substantially increase its airstrikes. And there has been no reason since early summer last year. I am not comfortable with the inaction when Christians and yazedis' are continually slaughtered or enslaved. We already have substantial air assets in the area, who could fly from Turkey, Jordan, or naval carriers. Russian is launching as many sorties in a day as the US is in weeks. When Obama says he has an air campaign against ISIS, that is intentionally misleading, said only to give him political cover and to give the impression he and the US is acting, when in reality there are just a few token drones each day.

I agree that Rice is very capable, more knowledgable on foreign policy than any of the Republican candidates, but also more knowledgable than Obama, Biden, Susan Rice, Kerry, Valerie Jarrett, etc; though all in the Administration are now experienced after 7 years of on the job training. I doubt the administration would have any interest in adding Rice, as many have commented that Obama thinks he is always the smartest guy in the room. He would have zero interest in adding a strong willed, extremely knowledeable expert who would disagree with his policies. Remember in the 2012 debates, Obama ridiculed Romney for making comments that Russia was still a threat.
 

Cachoo

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b-man, if I knew that all of those Marines were itching to go I would be in favor of their deployment in a second. The whole idea of voting for Obama was to try and get everyone out. So I'm stuck. I want our troops to stay here unless they want to go and try to destoy ISIL. And Rice, with her expertise, is good news for any administration especially since Putin seems to be carving out his own trail which is neither Communist or Tsarist but something in the middle from what I read.
 

agalisgv

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It looks like Obama is listening to Rice since he took up much of her advice in the recent op-ed.

I agree with b-man that about 15,000 Marines could take out the whole of Isis in short order. The problem is I don't know they could take out ISIS and deal with Assad. And I think Assad would go for broke if US Marines entered as a ground force by getting all the Iranian ground forces he could muster, along with Russian air and ground forces. I don't think 15,000 Marines could handle all that, and I think that's where it would go pretty much immediately.
 

IceAlisa

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b-man

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b-man, if I knew that all of those Marines were itching to go I would be in favor of their deployment in a second. The whole idea of voting for Obama was to try and get everyone out. So I'm stuck. I want our troops to stay here unless they want to go and try to destoy ISIL. And Rice, with her expertise, is good news for any administration especially since Putin seems to be carving out his own trail which is neither Communist or Tsarist but something in the middle from what I read.
I am not advocating the insertion of Marines, just illustrating the possibilities. Suggest you read about the battle of Fallujah in 2004. I am, and have been since last summer, been advocating an increased air campaign. It's expensive, using 1/2 million dollar precision guided munitions to destroy an SUV with a $10K machine gun and a couple insurgents is expensive, but that's the cost of being a superpower in the 21st century. Also, suggest reading the success of slick Willie's air campaign in Serbia in 1999, forcing Serbia to capitulate to US/Nato demands in 2 plus months. That was a serious air campaign, unlike what we are presently doing against ISIS.

Again, I don't dispute the expertise of Rice, but I see zero chance of the Obama administration recruiting her. Republican administrations, when not selecting close associates of the chief executive, almost always appoint diplomats/officials from previous Republican administrations, and Democrats do exactly the same.

I agree with b-man that about 15,000 Marines could take out the whole of Isis in short order. The problem is I don't know they could take out ISIS and deal with Assad. And I think Assad would go for broke if US Marines entered as a ground force by getting all the Iranian ground forces he could muster, along with Russian air and ground forces. I don't think 15,000 Marines could handle all that, and I think that's where it would go pretty much immediately.
What makes you think Assad is not already going for broke against the insurgents in northwest and western Syria. I suspect any local Syrian forces under Assad's control were committed years ago, with no reserves left. He was already in such dire straits that the Russians felt it necessary to intervene. Iranian/Russian ground forces are not under Assad's control, he can beg for help, but it's entirely up to the whim of Iran/Russia what help he actually receives. I doubt there are much more than 5000 Russians curently in Syria. I should note, it is extremely difficult and expensive to move large armies from Russia or Iran to Syria. It took the US months to mobilize necessary forces for the Gulf Wars, and we had far more logistical capabilities than the Russians or Iran. Again, I am not advocating sending Marines to Raqqa, just illustrating the options.

Juan Cole describes a rational Russian strategy that goes deeper than Putin swaggering around:
http://www.juancole.com/2015/10/russias-strategy-approve.html
Great article, Kwanfan. Not to be patronizing, but nice to see a poster with amazing skating knowledge also knowledgable about the political world.
 

agalisgv

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I am, and have been since last summer, been advocating an increased air campaign. It's expensive, using 1/2 million dollar precision guided munitions to destroy an SUV with a $10K machine gun and a couple insurgents is expensive, but that's the cost of being a superpower in the 21st century.
I hear you. My issues are: 1. So what happens when you degrade ISIS? The problem in most ME countries is there's not a viable governing force to come in and effectively govern outside the dictatorial regimes currently in place. Course, that's sorta what dictatorships do--prevent any sort of governing threat from arising. So whenever you take out one heinous group, a power vacuum develops, and an even more heinous group comes forward. So sure, we can take at ISIS. But then we're left with al-Nusra and Assad. Take out al-Nusra, and we have maybe a dozen moderate rebels left, and the Assad regime.

I think it was Israel who determined awhile back that the best outcome was a low-level continued civil war with no victor. Yes, it leaves a failed state, but that was preferable to the alternatives. To me it seems that's the trajectory things are headed because there's no clear pathway forward that doesn't involve major nation-building. And that option leaves to concern #2: we're broke. We just don't have the financial resources to keep this up, particularly when there's no clear goalpost. And I think the current migrant crisis in Europe is making European powers far more reluctant to assist in military campaigns, including airstrikes, because it results in more instability, and more asylum seekers on their doorstep.

Republican administrations, when not selecting close associates of the chief executive, almost always appoint diplomats/officials from previous Republican administrations, and Democrats do exactly the same.
True, but to be fair, Obama kept on Gates as Secretary of Defense. I think there was a reason that piece was coauthored with Gates.
What makes you think Assad is not already going for broke against the insurgents in northwest and western Syria.
I think he is in a way, but I think if he were to see US boots on the ground, he would call in much of the Iranian military forces in a very overt way. I think now they are there, but not at such a overwhelming level that is appears to be Iran's war more than Syria's. I think Assad would dispense with that, and bring over everyone he could get.

But as you say, that's a hypothetical.
 

b-man

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I hear you. My issues are: 1. So what happens when you degrade ISIS? The problem in most ME countries is there's not a viable governing force to come in and effectively govern outside the dictatorial regimes currently in place. Course, that's sorta what dictatorships do--prevent any sort of governing threat from arising. So whenever you take out one heinous group, a power vacuum develops, and an even more heinous group comes forward. So sure, we can take at ISIS. But then we're left with al-Nusra and Assad. Take out al-Nusra, and we have maybe a dozen moderate rebels left, and the Assad regime.

I think it was Israel who determined awhile back that the best outcome was a low-level continued civil war with no victor. Yes, it leaves a failed state, but that was preferable to the alternatives. To me it seems that's the trajectory things are headed because there's no clear pathway forward that doesn't involve major nation-building. And that option leaves to concern #2: we're broke. We just don't have the financial resources to keep this up, particularly when there's no clear goalpost. And I think the current migrant crisis in Europe is making European powers far more reluctant to assist in military campaigns, including airstrikes, because it results in more instability, and more asylum seekers on their doorstep.
Good analysis for the most part. I would say if ISIS were removed or seriously degraded, there could not be a "more heinous" group to replace them. ISIS is as heinous as it gets. And even if there were an equally heinous group to emerge in a year, the current Yazidi or Christian residents of ISIS controlled areas would certainly welcome a period of time, a respite, before they were subjected to further jihadist control with accompanying attrocities. More Yazidis, Christians would have a "decent interval" (also a book lamenting the lack of a "Decent Interval" during the fall of Saigon in '75) to emigrate, if that was their choice.

I think it was Israel who determined awhile back that the best outcome was a low-level continued civil war with no victor. Yes, it leaves a failed state, but that was preferable to the alternatives. To me it seems that's the trajectory things are headed because there's no clear pathway forward that doesn't involve major nation-building. And that option leaves to concern #2: we're broke. We just don't have the financial resources to keep this up, particularly when there's no clear goalpost. And I think the current migrant crisis in Europe is making European powers far more reluctant to assist in military campaigns, including airstrikes, because it results in more instability, and more asylum seekers on their doorstep.
Excellent analysis. I especially like your phrase: low level civil war with no victor, leaving a failed state as preferable to alternatives. Good strategic thinking.

However, I 've heard other pundits say the migrant crisis is in large measure Europe's own failure. The Syrian civil war has been going on for four years in Europe's backyard. The US was late to taking active participation, and Europe has done less than the US. No no-fly zones, no early support for anti Assad forces, no sanctuary for non combatants on the Turkish border, insufficient humanitarian aid to Jordan and Turkey. Those measures could have provided more, not less stability, and reduced the need for migration. And most migrants to Europe are, at least in part, economic migrants, not refugees,as they already had safe haven in Turkey and Jordan, and Lebanon.

True, but to be fair, Obama kept on Gates as Secretary of Defense. I think there was a reason that piece was coauthored with Gates. I think he is in a way, but I think if he were to see US boots on the ground, he would call in much of the Iranian military forces in a very overt way. I think now they are there, but not at such a overwhelming level that is appears to be Iran's war more than Syria's. I think Assad would dispense with that, and bring over everyone he could get.

But as you say, that's a hypothetical.
Perhaps you missed my one point, (or reject it?). I assume Assad has already called in as many Russians and Iranian as he could. Putin and the Ayatollah are in the driver's seat, not Assad. They both have superior economies and superior military forces. If US forces entered eastern Syria, we could speculate without end what the Russian/Iranian response would be. Sure, Assad would call for more Iranians, the Ayatollah would curse the great satan, but I doubt he would be so eager to engage Americans. The Iranians couldn't beat Saddam Hussein in the 80's, and couldn't even decisively beat a small ISIS force in Tikrit this year. The Russians have around 5,000 troops in Syria, not an overwhelming force. And if Iranian forces tried to fly from Iran to Syria to oppose US forces, they could easily be intercepted in the air. But its all moot, Obama isn't sending any ground forces to iraq, let alone Syria.
 

agalisgv

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I assume Assad has already called in as many Russians and Iranian as he could.
Hmm, I wasn't operating under that assumption, but could well be.

Just to clarify, I'm not advocating a prolonged civil war with no victor and essentially a failed state. We currently have that in Somalia, and I don't see that as good (pirating in Gulf of Aden anyone?). But I do think without decisive actions towards....something, that's where Syria is headed.

And to be very un-PC :p, I am feeling a little critical of all the able-bodied young men fleeing Syria without fighting for it. And to hear them say it's the US's job to clean it up for them--no it is not! It's their country for goodness sake! You don't just leave it and ask someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. You want a functioning democracy? Then fight for it! Stop running away to someplace else (searching for countries with the greatest benefits/welfare :shuffle: ) and asking another country across the ocean to fight in your place. If Syrians don't care enough to fight the good fight, I'm not sure why people in the US should. /rant over

That said, I think one of the worst calls Obama has made in his presidency was not emergency air-lifting all the Yazidis out when he could. That's up there with Rwanda IMO.
 

Asli

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And to be very un-PC :p, I am feeling a little critical of all the able-bodied young men fleeing Syria without fighting for it. And to hear them say it's the US's job to clean it up for them--no it is not! It's their country for goodness sake! You don't just leave it and ask someone else to do the heavy lifting for you. You want a functioning democracy? Then fight for it! Stop running away to someplace else (searching for countries with the greatest benefits/welfare :shuffle: ) and asking another country across the ocean to fight in your place. If Syrians don't care enough to fight the good fight, I'm not sure why people in the US should. /rant over
The Syrian army is fighting ISIS, Al-Nusra and other groups. More than 85,000 Syrian soldiers have died. Elsewhere, Syrian Kurdish forces are also fighting ISIS with horrific losses as well.

You cannot blame unarmed civilians for leaving the fighting to soldiers and guerilla forces. Maybe if the country didn't have an army, they could get organised. But Syria does have an army. What would unarmed civilians do against ISIS? Shake their fists at them? One US fighter pilot can do more damage to ISIS than a thousand Syrian civilians could do by sacrificing their lives. Plus the US fighter pilot returns safely to his base.
 

agalisgv

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When you say Syrian army, do you mean Free Syrian army, or Assad's army? Because the latter is definitely not taking on ISIS at this point, and the former is comprised of several rebel groups, many of whom also aren't taking them on.

And in case you missed it, the US has been actively recruiting moderate Syrians to arm and train them to fight ISIS. But after three years and 15 million dollars in training and arms, we have virtually no rebels. Those we've trained have said they are only interested in fighting Assad--not ISIS.

So there are arms and training available--there just isn't the will to do it on the part of Syrian moderates. And while one might not want to be in the military as a career choice, when your family and homeland is threatened, you do what you have to do rather than skipping town and asking someone else to do it for you.
 
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Cachoo

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Thank you to agalisgv and b-man for making this thread the most interesting debate at FSU at the moment imho. Great reading.
 

Asli

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When you say Syrian army, do you mean Free Syrian army, or Assad's army?
Because the latter is definitely not taking on ISIS at this point, and the former is comprised of several rebel groups, many of whom also aren't taking them on.
I mean the regular Syrian army.

Syrian army battles ISIS outside Palmyra.

Kurds, Syrian army battle ISIS in Syria's Hasaka

Syrian army repels ISIS attack on oil fields outside Palmyra.

Massive Syrian-Russian offensive in Hama

These are only a few of the news items that come up, but I leave it there because everyone has Google.

And in case you missed it, the US has been actively recruiting moderate Syrians to arm and train them to fight ISIS. But after three years and 15 million dollars in training and arms, we have virtually no rebels. Those we've trained have said they are only interested in fighting Assad--not ISIS.
OMG there was no way I could miss that bit of farce! :rofl: Part of it happened in my own country. The press had a field day and the news anchors could hardly keep a straight face reporting it, until people started getting killed because of this genius plan.

Apparently the plan was to choose 15,000 "moderate" Syrians - that selection process was doubtful in the first place - give them military training, arm them and then just throw them across the border into Syria where they would have automatically integrated the (inexistant) moderate opposition. This is impossible in so many ways that I don't even know where to start. For instance, why should any existing Syrian opposition groups accept fighters who have been trained 1. by the US and 2. in Turkey? Also, how can we know that these "moderates" are not actually spies for ISIS or Al Nusra? This programme has been highly publicised, so how can one imagine that these organisations won't make it a priority to get their members into the program?

The result? Initially only 54 "moderates" were trained. The first group of 17 guerillas who were thrown into Syria were arrested by Al Nusra - without firing a single shot - on charges of conspiring with the US. Al Nusra made a propaganda video with some of them. We don't know whether they are dead or alive. The very next day, Al-Nusra found the rest of the group in their garrison in a village, killed 5, wounded 16 and arrested 8 more fighters. The 8 fighters left of the program, together with the wounded, had to flee to the Kurdish zone in Afrin under air support from the US. Al-Nusra knew exactly where to find those fighters. Is anyone shocked? :rolleyes:

So there are arms and training available--there just isn't the will to do it on the part of Syrian moderates. And while one might not want to be in the military as a career choice, when your family and homeland is threatened, you do what you have to do rather than skipping town and asking someone else to do it for you.
I understand what you are saying. I come from a culture where that would be the case. We have an inflated sense of nationalism and independence. The one time that that was threatened in about 800 years, when the army was dismantled and there were basically no arms, the whole population fought against the most powerful countries of the time and actually won. Is that good? It was useful at the time, but ultra-nationalism is a double-edged sword.

Anyway, this is not the case with Syria. I'm not saying that Syrians don't love their country or are not brave. Just that they are not used to independence and nationhood in the first place. The Republic of Syria as it is now only exists since 1963 and all but 7 years of this time they have been ruled by the Assad family. I wonder how different that has been from being ruled by the Ottomans or the French. In any case, the feeling of being in power and of deciding your country's fate may not be as strong in Syria as it is in some other countries. Maybe in this culture the instinct is to survive and save your family while one ruler follows the other.

I hope that doesn't sound condescending in any way, because it's not meant to. We don't choose where we are born, we are all shaped by our culture.
 

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