Should We Intervene in Syria? A Response to Anne-Marie Slaughter

This is a guest post by former guest-blogger and University of Chicago political scientist Paul Staniland:


Anne-Marie Slaughter has a provocative op-ed in today’s New York Times calling for intervention in Syria. She argues that simply arming the opposition will trigger a proxy war. Instead, she advocates creating “no-kill zones” that are explicitly defensive, rather than offensive, in intent: “The key condition for all such assistance, inside or outside Syria, is that it be used defensively.” The problem is that many of her policy suggestions will have the same effects as offensive war. This is regime change by any other name.

Slaughter’s policy recommendations have several components.

First, she advocates arming the opposition to create no-kill zones and humanitarian corridors: local states need to “arm the opposition soldiers with anti-tank, countersniper and portable antiaircraft weapons.” It’s not clear how this is different than the ostensible alternative of arming the opposition; they seem to be precisely the same thing. Moreover, special forces from Qatar, Turkey, and possibly Britain and France would advise and support the Free Syrian Army. This is more aggressive than just arming the opposition.

The second step in the plan is that “Once Syrian government forces were killed, captured or allowed to defect without reprisal, attention would turn to defending and expanding the no-kill zones.” This is obviously a form of offensive military action: “expanding the no-kill zones” means taking and consolidating territorial control through the use of anti-tank, countersniper, and portable antiaircraft weapons. Indeed, the explicit goal is to cause a rupture in the Syrian security forces, which cannot occur unless there is conflict. As she notes, the strategy aims to “weaken and isolate government units charged with attacking particular towns.” Actively weakening and isolating standing conventional forces looks like offensive war, not defensive humanitarian intervention.

Third, Slaughter advocates using Turkish and Arab League “remotely piloted helicopters, either for delivery of cargo and weapons — as America has used them in Afghanistan — or to attack Syrian air defenses and mortars in order to protect the no-kill zones.” Given that most drones have little cargo capacity, in reality this means targeting Syrian air defenses and local conventional forces. Making this strategy unambiguously “defensive” is difficult, since it clearly aims to degrade capabilities central to Syrian regime survival. The difference between offense and defense is often in the eye of the beholder.

Slaughter promises that any offensive actions by the Free Syrian Army would be punished – but who would punish them? The internal logic of her own argument encourages the expansion of FSA control. For the strategy to work, the FSA needs to go on the offensive in order to force crises within the Syrian forces, create more no-kill zones, and liberate targeted cities in order to create some kind of “truce.”

Furthermore, carefully managing and manipulating local armed forces from the outside is extremely difficult. This is why Slaughter’s disclaimer that “revenge attacks would not be tolerated” is difficult to believe: once international powers have thrown their support behind the FSA, its (fractious) forces will have enormous power to create facts on the ground. Figuring out who is responsible for what military actions will be difficult in the fog of war. Indeed, there are reports that the insurgents are already “bringing in defensive and offensive weapons.” Understandably, they have their own agendas that aren’t simple reflection of international desires. The experience of Libya in recent months provides little evidence that the international community is able to tightly control loosely-organized local armed groups.

The Syrian government’s repression is absolutely abhorrent (as this video shows), and advocating the fall of Assad is Slaughter’s prerogative. But let’s not pretend that her preferred strategy is something other than regime change through proxy war. This is a potentially very costly policy (as Marc Lynch points out), and its advocates ought to be forthright about the risks of escalation. Real debate isn’t advanced by delicate euphemisms.

21 Responses to Should We Intervene in Syria? A Response to Anne-Marie Slaughter

  1. CK MacLeod February 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Agree 100% on “let’s not pretend that her preferred strategy is something other than regime change through proxy war.” Problem is that the criticism applies to each and every proposed implementation of “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect”: We act to nullify the sovereignty of a particular government, and pretend that demarcating the action territorially, temporally, legalistically, etc., somehow turns it into something else. The decision to intervene originates in a government’s failure in its primary and definitional justification for existence. Whatever the stated or conscious, or duly formalized intentions of the intervenors, the intervention amounts to the dissolution of the affected government in principle, and, as we have seen again and again, tends toward permanence regarding any particular government, and possibly toward the nation-state itself, which will have great difficulty ever re-constituting itself.

    …Not an argument against all humanitarian intervention, just a beginning point for a “real debate” that attempts to take into account what we’re really doing or attempting to do in these territories that in one way or another, by action or by declaration, we convert into stateless or failed-state zones.

    • D Takaki February 26, 2012 at 2:13 am #

      Addressing the suffering of people when war breaks out is no less a pressing need than response to a hurricane or earthquake. In many ways the people in need are also emotionally traumatized beyond what occurs in a natural disaster. Despite this reality, recent events in Libya as it convulsed illustrate how victims of war are somehow less than a person trapped under tons of concrete due to an earthquake. Nothing more need be said about this inconsistency in international relations.

      It exists.

      R2P is an attempt to address the inconsistencies of this world. Not surprisingly, it is mired in conventions of the past.

      An incomplete Theory of Sovereignty continues to provide points of friction in a world where human rights are coalescing around its failings. The missing pieces are more than missing elements on a table of human periodicity. The dynamics are analogous to the seemingly immiscible realities of General Relativity and the Quantum world where the tiniest “billiard balls” are probabilities. Human rights and the sovereignty of the person exists apart from the contemporary constructs and practices of nation states’ legitimacy and sovereignty.

      In a construct where the consent of the governed is divorced from the exercise of sovereignty, this disingenuous and archaic dialectic will continue to bear the same bitter fruit.

      The treaties that came out of 1648 continue to be the hindering paradigm, as the core was about sovereignty and control. It’s ethos of ‘he who is Regis determines the faith of the country…Cujus regio, ejus religio’…took centuries to solidify within a nation state consensus.

      By August 1914 on the cusp of the Great War there could be no arguments on the legitimacy and sovereignty of the state. That was then, this is now. At the outset of the 21st Century it is time to move past the Treaties of Westphaila. This is not the world of 1648 and both sovereignty and legitimacy have been revisited since.

      In our form of government the people confer legitimacy upon the government. If we truly believe this to be so, and our founding documents declare universality, as does the subsequent Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then sovereignty is also inalienable, if not always expressed in action.

      And speaking directly to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nowhere in its 30 articles is sovereignty addressed, save in the 30th article, which proscribes states limiting these freedoms that are inalienable

      Addressing Sovereignty, not avoiding it, is part of the solution. I suspect that part of the intellectual and legal conundrum the R2P community is looking at is the issue of sovereignty. If sovereignty rest with a sitting government, which subsequently loses, said sovereignty in the eyes of its peers as a result of violence upon it’s people, does Sovereignty suddenly disappear as though it is conferred by the observer(s)? Perhaps the R2P community ought first develop a cohesive understanding of sovereignty in the 21st Century.

      Sovereignty must rest somewhere with human beings, not an enabling document detailing structure or some sort of nation-state intestate transition. There is no probate in the fall of a government; it tends to be highly ad hoc.

      If one deconstructs the placement of government in the moral firmament, a Nation-state is formulated on an Empowering document that a People nominally tied to a Territory have used as an instrument of expressing sovereignty. So where does sovereignty reside? Ultimately it resides not in relation to other nation-states but onto itself. It doesn’t vanish in theoretical intestate plasma.
      It exists, even if not actualized. Sovereignty may be fractured or balkanized, but it nonetheless lies latent or convulsive, within the people.

      To delve further, discard the ideation that sovereignty is a theoretical state and entertain a fluid de facto consignment. The problem is that the paradigmatic diplomatic approach is too structured & inculcated to see the actuality of sovereignty as also an aggregating process. Diplomacy clings to theory during a so deemed ‘intestate’ period. This lacks support. To be a bit tongue in cheek, “Judge” Roy Bean possessed hegemony over a small part of Texas, but that did not make him sovereign. The lack of a moral component distinguishes Roy Bean from a Syrian LCC seeking to preserve life with little or nothing.

      • LFC February 26, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

        Cujus regio ejus religio predates (by quite a long time) the treaties of Westphalia. (see here)

        • D Takaki February 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

          True, but the crux is it set the argument for the next 300 years. BTW, I hated Latin, the Brother who taught us was a sadist.

        • D Takaki February 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

          So then you recall that the Peace of Augsberg wasn’t.
          And all the wars after that led to Westphalia were in good part a
          reflection of the failure to address underlying issues at Augsberg?

          Nice observation, by the way. Lends to the horror of ceaseless war in the denouement of Augsberg… Cujus regio ejus religio was still being fought over during the Spanish Wars of Succession and other related wars up to Westphalia.

  2. D Takaki February 25, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Paul Staniland’s observations are in need of adjustment:

    Para. 1-2 The specification of AT, counter-sniper team materiel, and MANPADs speak directly to the tools needed to protect urban areas from bombardment and then to clear the cordoned area of snipers. Having advisor on the ground to reduce the level of needless dying by armed untrained as well as new or inexperienced rebel commanders learning OJT with other people’s lives is the alternative. I have no doubt you have seen such people using assault rifles like hoses while unnecessarily exposing themselves to hostile fire, and you see no need, and think aggregate deaths and wounding will have a net increase with advisors explaining it’s not about killing as much as prevailing over an opponent? Clearly you have not seen needless death stare you in the face.

    Para.3 Let’s give you some ‘learning’. Protecting a cordoned urban NKZ is a defensive action. Using counter-sniper teams to clear areas to make it safe for everyone is part of the task related to the objective of PUBLIC SAFETY, e.g. NKZs. Killing snipers saves lives and returns civilian control to the streets. Using AT teams to discourage further incursions by SA and Shabiha gangs is defensive.

    Putting people on cleared tall bldgs. so that snipers can’t re-infiltrate is defensive. Communicating situational awareness is defensive and part of civil defense. Disseminating & utilizing real-time fused intelligence product to track SA & Shabiha movements and the interdiction of LOCs to protect NKZs is defensive.

    You posited that this means holding territory in an ignorant understanding of asymmetrical warfare. Only stupid and soon to be dead insurgents would follow your thinking which doesn’t accommodate the possibility that the other guy wants to kill you.

    Your PRIMARY FLAW in strategic reasoning is to begin by thinking this is about capturing territory when it is secondary to PUBLIC SAFETY as legitimizing NKZs and protecting people, all people. The strategic focus is the people, and the objective is PUBLIC SAFETY. Territory is a secondary aspect of an effective strategy of population denial.

    I realize this is perhaps difficult for you to grasp, but R2P isn’t military, NGO, Global Logistics Cluster, Govt Agencies, Communications Technology, or Intelligence products, it all of them and more in varying weaving according to the crisis at hand. Stop looking for a one size fits all Holy Grail; it doesn’t exist.

    Para. 4-5 First, the Kaman Aerospace privately developed K-MAX drone helicopter is capable of sorties delivering 3.5 tons to up to 4 separate locations per sortie.

    As to the SEAD mission, the SIGINT aspect, including using drones to encourage emissions is already underway so the point about SEAD is moot.

    MQ-9 drones are able to lift a 3,750 payload and have MIL-STD-1760 capable pylons. Question, if the rebels don’t control the cargo drones or the MQ-9s, how in hell can they use them as they please against the SA? It is clear you don’t understand drone technology and the command and control of such aircraft.

    Para. 6 Slaughter mentioning revenge attacks is exactly the point. Ultimately, this is a struggle for legitimacy and related sovereignty. The intent is to engage the individual brigades in conjunction with the 14 LCCs who already work with each other. The strategic intent is to address the fractured nature of the armed resistance via this engagement structure.

    By working with the LCCs to maintain influence, if not control over local brigades via intel and materiel carrots plus taking care of local brigade wounded, including air evac, the hard job of post-conflict demobilization will hopefully be less so. This is also why Igla-S MANPADs would be controlled w/ one empty for a fresh unit by a SF advisor.

    Understand part of the Clauswitzian ‘fog of war’ you give reference to is that it is also a tool of conflict. But that is another lesson.

    • A. G. Phillbin March 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

      You cannot maintain “PUBLIC SAFETY” without controlling the territory in which this “PUBLIC” that you claim to want “SAFETY” for lives. All the rest of your argumentation is overeducated gibberish designed to obscure more than it illuminates, and to give a technical gloss of lipstick on an interventionist pig. You have “schooled” the writer in nothing but military-technical sophistry, no doubt learned in a classroom and not by real experience.

  3. SDawson February 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Staniland has some excellent insights.

    • D Takaki February 25, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

      such as?

  4. D Takaki February 26, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    What is reflective of impoverished thinking is to cling to the ideation that a chosen course of action is either R2P or Regime Change, and that the possibility that there might be an inevitability to such a dynamic. That there might also be a causal effect to coercive rule must be a forbidden thought, considering the delicacy of Paul Staniland’s paradigm that R2P and Regime Change are mutually exclusive dynamics.

    What kind of disingenuous pretzel positing is this? It deserves a treatment by Staniland if he is any measure of a serious academic, to explain his questionable assertion which to me is a departure from ‘reality’.

    Clearly, Realists have no imprimatur on reality…eh?

  5. D Takaki February 26, 2012 at 3:54 am #

    The narrative below is not meant to take lightly the tragedy that is Syria. Rather, it is to illustrate conceptual thinking not as reality but as a tool for planning and anticipating reality. One of the remarkable paradigms of international relations academics today is the reluctance to learn from military professional thinking. Velocity is a shaping tool and a qualitative element obvious to military S-3s, but still novel to diplomacy practitioners and observers. Again, this is just a conceptual tool.

    An Uncertain Spring: Carving out the first No Kill Zones

    As an unusually cold winter gave way to an uncertain spring the mountainous, folded border region of northwest Syria remained tense, but for the moment it was free of killing and personal uncertainty. The No Kill Zone was first established in the rising hills of the frontier with the introduction of Saudi and Qatari advisors augmented with civilian contractors. With the advisors came training and a supply of Swedish anti-tank recoilless rifles and complementing matériel. The first Syrian AT, or anti-tank teams formed from the local brigade received an intense burst of training at a facility near Iskenderun, Turkey. They left Syria by crossing the border northwest of Jisr ash Shughur and were put through eight 12-hour days of intense training in killing with the Carl Gustav M-3CG 84mm shoulder-fired recoilless rifle as well as the ability to become recoilless rifle instructors upon their return to Syria.

    After an additional three days in intelligence and communications training, the first teams began infiltrating back into Syria near Urma as Sughra north of Idlib and then deploying along the hill country overlooking the southern approaches to the mountain towns and villages. By finding a series of positions they could rotate through that commanded the roadways below, the AT teams began to discourage Syrian Army patrolling or in the case of shabiha gangs from entering rebel towns and villages.

    When Syrian aircraft were deployed to attack, they were initially driven off by other teams trained at a British base at Dhekelia on Cyprus to use 9K338 Igla-S MANPADs quietly donated by Libya and parceled out by one of the Qatari SF advisors for Idlib Province. The SF teams on the ground controlled the release of the Igla-S.

    The first sorties over the north came shortly after the SA road patrols ceased in the northern areas. SAF ground attack aircraft made their presence known with a two ship attack on the hilly outskirts of Idlib and were met with two teams firing off their missiles. None of the surprised SAF aircraft were downed, but no low level sorties were repeated over the northern areas coming under the control of the locals brigades operating under the LCCs who controlled the war materiel now coming into Syria.

    Perhaps of greater importance, the rebels began receiving crucial real-time intelligence feeds that were jointly managed by the local brigade commander, LCC leadership, and the Saudi or Qatari liaison assigned to the LCC/local brigade.
    By the time high altitude bombing was attempted by the Syrian AF, a top cover SEAD effort maintained by AIM-9 armed MQ-9 Reapers aided by offshore E-2D radar aircraft extended the no fly zone into altitudes the MANPADs could not address. This time a lucky SU-25 was seen trailing smoke in the direction of Latakia. It was, however, the first probable kill recorded by a drone.

    The two ship MQ-9 drone flight that had recorded the sidewinder missile’s near miss had the added benefit of being over territory that had been swept of operational Syrian AD radar sites by local brigade AT teams.

    The rebel AT teams were vectored onto the locations by intelligence generated by EA-6G and other electronic warfare platforms as well as reports from the ground fused into a single geographically delineated product that was continually updated.

    Because snipers had not entered most of the mountain villages, no clearing operations were required once the northern region was cordoned off into a No Kill Zone. The local brigades, the LCCs for Idlib and Saraqib and the Qatari advisor-liaison team began to quickly see that the coordination of the few trained forces currently available was an imperative if the checkpoints on the roadways manned by shabiha and SA were to be removed when needed and SA convoys intercepted in hit and run operations. Real-time intelligence proved to be crucial. Being where the SA wasn’t after an attack was vital to survival in late winter before Aleppo began to distract the SA and shabiha gangs.

    Unfortunately, the introduction of tube and rocket artillery firing from temporary laagers, or firebases set up several kilometers away caused many casualties before US MQ-9 drones equipped with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles interdicted the firing batteries and cut their LOCs. Shortly afterwards the fledgling FSA Air Force received its first wet-leased MQ-9 emblazoned with the new FSA roundel markings and the CH markings on the tail removed. Far more difficult was patiently advising the FSA AF aircraft commander and local brigades to operate as a unit and not to go seeking targets independent of each other. The implicit threat of reduced materiel cooperation ameliorated egos.

    After a rocky start both the local brigade and the FSA AF soon began teaching other local brigades and assigned FSA AF supporting units their drone version of combined arms tactis. It should be noted that the professionalism witnessed at Incirlik AB by the Syrians also served to influence and increase the level of Syrian-Syrian cooperation by example.

    As the rebels extended control south to Hama and east towards Aleppo, the fused intelligence product created with E-2D, E-8C, EA-6G, drone, and NGA-NRO satellite feeds proved a powerful force multiplier when interdicting SA LOCs and targeting sites identified and given air tasking orders at Incirlik AB by FSA AF in conjunction with a safety sign-off by the local brigade and LCC.

    As the SA diverted forces to protect the lines of communication, reliance on less dependable units became necessary, with the attendant desertions by whole units being made possible by the deployment along roadways. This dynamic enabled the eventual isolation of Damascus in the later stages of the conflict. Towards the end, aside from Air Force Intelligence and Security forces, Damascus became dependent on the over-stretched Special Forces, the 4th Armored Division, and the Republican Guard Division as even the shabiha thugs became scarcer in the face of organized resistance and counter-sniper teams.

    The counter-sniper teams were trained by American instructors at Incirlik AB and equipped with .50 cal sniper weapons effective at over a mile, as well as excellent spotter optics and communications gear, and most appreciated, Aerovironment’s hand launched Switchblade drone that the teams used for surveillance and for hard to hit snipers, a terminal kill by the small drone. A video of the first kill by the Switchblade went viral on YouTube and had the unexpected result of discouraging snipers as the tall buildings within the cordons were cleared and snipers continued to be killed by rounds that literally blew the heads off of its victims. Night vision equipment made the clearing operations 24/7 and gave the snipers no surcease in the systematic clearing as counter-sniper teams learned the hard lesson of leaving the high cleared areas with security details that used the heights to maintain security and deny infiltrating snipers’ return to previously cleared structures.

    Inside Idlib counter-sniper teams began providing AT teams overwatch protection in an effective approach to killing tanks by brushing off protecting dismounted SA soldiers and affording AT gunners betters firing positions.

    By early May the matériel flow of small arms munitions, RPG-7 rounds, and Type-76 Chinese made anti-tank mines from Libya became evident as rebels began expending the munitions flow with such abandon that Special Forces advisors had to urge commanders restraint, for basic fire control and public safety, if not the pressure placed on the logistics operations. Needless deaths by civilian combatants due to inexperience or self-inflicted wounds remained high until less experienced civilian soldiers were tasked to necessary but less dangerous work, such as intelligence debriefing and gathering and logistics.

    Instituting counter-intelligence operations against third party players such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qaeda in Iraq, the PKK, and elements of the Iranian Quds Force was instituted less smoothly, and success depended on the particular LCC and special force advisor team on the ground. This inconsistency was evident through much of the conflict, and was a factor in the deaths of two US operatives working with the Sahwa militia along the border region abutting Iraq’s Anbar Province.

    Far more success was achieved in the simple but necessary process of debriefing defecting soldiers for information that went into the hopper and was converted into a growing understanding of the Syrian military’s weaknesses, beginning with a consolidated understanding of its fuel logistics system.

    As the conflict ground on into a hot summer, the LCCs and the FSA concentrated on expanding the number of towns with a security cordon and maintaining their ability to maintain public order and safety by constant interdicting of SA LOCs and logistics with the assistance of timely intelligence products that were actionable.

    There had been rumors that a laptop used by a local brigade that was captured when a FSA soldier was killed had been configured as a Trojan horse, giving entrée to servers operated by Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya, Syrian Air Force Intelligence and Shu’bat al-Mukhabarat al-‘Askariyya, the MI directorate headed by Abdel-Fatah Qudsiyeh. Queries to this effect were raised at the daily briefing held by the Unified Provisional Diplomatic Mission to the Levant, but no response was noted, and the stub of a story was misplaced in the terrible fighting in suburbs around Damascus and near Latakia as Alawis from elsewhere in Syria gathered in the coastal city. By the time the Russian logistics base on the north side of Tartus Harbor was mortared, the lead wasn’t even a memory as the besieged Russians dominated the news cycle for two days.


    What was key to the success of the FSA and the local brigades was the combined effort of the SF advisors and the LCC outreach of the joint consular teams co-assigned with the SF teams to the individual LCC/local brigade. This unorthodox arrangement enabled the FOS Group to accommodate the shifting realities of the conflict and meet the civilian and military needs of communities across Syria. This attention paid to distinct towns & cities allowed the outreach to bridge the tensions evident between towns and neighborhoods. The continual mantra of public safety for all as the distinction took time, but by most accounts, paid off with a less violent ‘post-conflict’ reintegration of the country.

    For the United States, the rapid expansion of the Syrian Embassy staff and co-establishment of the United States Unified Provisional Diplomatic Mission to the Levant allowed for a diplomatic fluidity and coordination that kept pace with changing events on the ground in Syria. Each ‘consulate’ assigned to service a LCC/local brigade geographical unit had a military attaché who worked directly with the SF team on the ground.

    It was, in fact, an attaché with the Idlib consulate who initiated the negotiations that led to a cluster of Alawite villages east of Latakia to declare their area also a No Kill Zone, the first for the Alawite population in Syria.

    Because the intent of the FOS Group in the arming process was to retain influence if not control over the weapons, post-conflict demobilization was integral to the planning process prior to initiating the logistics. Additionally, the LCC was the entity that was the primary recipient of the fuse intelligence products that it then shared with the local brigade commanders and corresponding nascent intelligence unit. The intel units were stewarded by a collection of retired American & British SF communications/intelligence specialists. This structure enabled fast response and at the same time, made the rebels dependent on the advice and intelligence the advisors and consulate FSOs brought to the table.

  6. Michael Turner February 27, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    “… recent events in Libya as it convulsed illustrate how victims of war are somehow less than a person trapped under tons of concrete due to an earthquake. Nothing more need be said about this inconsistency in international relations.”

    Analogy fail.

    This is war, and war is diplomacy by violent means — earthquakes don’t negotiate, they don’t keep killing while holding out for a better deal. A person trapped in a collapsed house might die if not reached soon; a hostage trapped in a house taken captive might live, if negotiations succeed — or if one of the captors defects from the gang. The differences here have nothing to do with the relative status of victims of war vs. natural disasters, and everything to do with the qualitatively different nature of the sources of lethality.

    • D Takaki February 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Before you start with the Carl Von Clauswitz, do you remember his writing in context. Thought so, for if you did, you would see the rejoinder immediately. Go read what you paraphrase.

      Your prose accomplished nothing, but describes & delineates w/o reflection. “The source of lethality”. Now I have to say that was a nice piece of wordcraft.

      Sadly, your tightly written reply never gets around to justifying deliberate inaction. It would benefit from addressing that nice piece of wording to current thinking in military intervention, HA, DR, and the like to see if your thought can hold the cusp, or simply be a jab of no consequence. Promote your position; as we both know, lobbing a shell is v different from engagement. Strut your thoughts and edify us or, shut up, sit down, and wait until you do have constructive thought to share.

      I am interested, since, you are probably aware, there are more than just two ‘sides’ to this conundrum. Share your positive thoughts and edify…

  7. Michael Turner February 27, 2012 at 1:36 am #

    “Again, this is just a conceptual tool.”

    No, it’s not. A software package for battlefield simulation might be a conceptual tool. What you’ve got here is a near-future science fiction story, moreover (with that bit about the “besieged Russian logistics base”) a fiction replete with thinly veiled appeals to Cold War nostalgia. Don’t get me wrong: I’d also really like to besiege a Russian logistics base in Syria with an ammo clip full of acronyms. But here’s what’s really going to win it for the FSA: a critical mass of officers in the Syrian army looking upon their own work, despairing, and either standing down or moving to the other side — just as in every single complete revolution in history. The satellite uplink is mightier than the sword.

    • D Takaki February 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      I have long been an advocate of the application of digital communications to people seeking to recover their sovereignty. No disagreement there. Apparently you are not aware of the long history of ‘fiction’ being used to prompt thinking.

      Most defecting officers are, as you know mostly O-1s – O-3s. Majors and above have trust issues w/ defecting soldiers since there has been more than one incident of defecting officers being planted agents of Syrian Security- Mil Intelligence agencies.

      Some of the help has been gotten from officers who stay behind and become intel assets, a dangerous tasking for them and their families.

      The fighters desperately need competent strategic and tactical advice and communications gear, even before weaps.

    • D Takaki February 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

      Your information on Syrian officers above O-4, where do you source that? There have been a few O-5 & 6s plus a couple of O-7s, but where are you getting your assertive info?

      I have studied a lot of revolutions, and mil is part, but most is dynamics.

      BTW, don’t you think Russian Navy is considering if the logistics base at Tartus should be quietly reduced from 600 to a minimal staff? Or do you think them stupid? Cdr on ground must be concerned, even if Moscow & Sverdlovsk is sanguine at the moment on evacuation.

    • D Takaki February 27, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Besieging a Russian base manned primarily by enlisted ratings and middle grade officers is what you call a good thing. I call it more needless dying. I truly hope the Russian Navy does a quiet draw down of personnel. Have you ever been with a mother who is inconsolable at her loss? So Russian life is worthless?

      Shame on you.

      I don’t take killing lightly; neither should you.

  8. jmdesp February 27, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    > The satellite uplink is mightier than the sword.

    Maybe that’s how much we can really do. Bring more and more communication means there. Also spying drone to bring proofs of who is attacking whom and where. It may dissipate some of the fog of war that Russia and China (and the Syrian government) are currently using to justify their position.

    • D Takaki February 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      The US , with its’ fused intel product, has been watching the killing from a number of platforms and assets. This is lifesaving information we chose not to share with LCCs and local brigades. Instead we pass the popcorn and watch the setting up of 155mm howitzers, see a registering round go in, and then observe the battery firing into a city.

      So we know where they are, what LOCs they use to bring up materiel, and where the arty rounds are landing…and we watch w/o sharing info on a battery swinging into operation…

  9. RA February 28, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    If we intervene, we should go all in.

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