Flunking Klown Kollege,and now, as if he's determined to prove that he can sink lower than even my lowest expectations, Obama is ready to go to war. Now I have no objection in principle to his choice of Syria. I pretty much regard the entire Middle East as a sinkhole that we're better off without. A bunch of corrupt kleptocracies, and fanatical enemies of humanity and democracy that have gotten rich because a bunch of diatoms died there a hundred million years ago. However, going to war is a serious business, and while it's fun to play games in which you lob missiles at one another, it's one thing to do it in a $40 game, and another to use million dollar missiles.
During the Bush era you heard people talk about
exit strategy, and no doubt they thought they were quite profound, but that's really an incorrect way to think about war. Churchill defined his goal, his exit strategy, as
victory. Now that's a bit clearer than going in, creating a muddle, and getting out, which is what
exit strategy seems to imply. I'm not going to pretend that I'm a profound student of international affairs. I'm no Henry Kissinger, although I doubt if I'd be as bad as John Kerry or Hilary Clinton. So lets look at why this operation is a bad idea.
- intelligence—The spy agencies exist not just to keep track of your political enemies in the opposition party, but also to keep track of your country's enemies. It's not enough to rely on snaring bad guys e-mails and listening in on their phone calls. You need HumInt (Human Intelligence) as well as SigInt (Signals Intelligence) and all the other little Ints that are out there. Concretely, in terms of Syria, there should have been, and there may well have been, assets in the various resistance movements at the beginning of the resistance. Money, weapons, and so forth should have been funneled covertly to the groups that were non-Islamist, and were pro-democracy with the aim of replacing Assad with a pro-democratic, pro-Western, regime. This is cheaper than waiting several years, drawing notional lines in the sand, and then lobbing a few missiles helter-skelter.
- Goals—These should be clear. What do you hope achieve? Is the goal you're pursuing the one that you should be pursuing, or should it be a different one? The Second World War had properly defined goals: the destruction of the military forces of Germany and Japan, and the replacement of their governments. The first Gulf war had a properly defined goal, the removal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. That goal was achieved, but it was the wrong goal, and should have been the removal of Saddam, the destruction of his army and his government, and the replacement of the government by one friendly to US interests. Two of those goals were achieved in the Second Gulf War, but a friendly government was not achieved in either Iraq or Afghanistan. So just what are Obama's goals in attacking Syria?
- Means—Firing missiles, unless they are nuclear missiles, will accomplish precious little, and telegraphing your moves ahead of time, unless it is deliberate misinformation is a bad idea. Wars are won by the destruction of the enemies armies. That means boots on the ground.
- Converting your enemies into your friends—This is a long term project. You can't just go in, kill a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand, people, and then pull out, and leave your former enemies to themselves. Even a cursory reading of The Prince, or The Discourses will show the importance of establishing colonies so that your people occupy and intermingle with the conquered peoples. The modern way to do this would be to establish bases in the occupied country, and promote mingling among the troops and populace. The models for this are probably post-war Germany and Japan.
your militarydoes the work, and takes the risks that you are too cowardly to share.