Syria … a summary

I did not know the analysis by Roger Mickelson was waiting for me while I worked on my last post about the same subject.  My piece was amateurish at best, Roger’s is full of facts and educated reasoning.  Read about Roger’s qualifications or bona fides  at the end of his article.

Syria…a summary                               by Roger Mickelson      09/07/2013

Background. The Fertile Crescent has hosted wars throughout written history. Adversaries sought wealth, power, and, since the beginnings of Islam, ideological domination. Islam, as with most religions, has been subject to schisms, most notably the Sunni-Shia fundamental belief systems…and there are many more splinter groups, particularly those fundamentalist and extremist religious sects that seek to return to the Muslim foundations 1300 years ago.

This underlying conflict environment, the failure of the Caliphate, and the arbitrary creation of national borders after World War I that were and are inconsistent with ethnic and tribal concentrated populations led to increasingly violent conflicts over the last century. Kings and autocratic dictators used internal oppression to maintain what looked like stability, but the most recent eruptions of insurrection, violent overthrows of despotic leaders, and the covert instigation by Islamic extremists (e.g., al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood) led to the so-called Arab Spring series of supposedly sectarian revolts that morphed into ideological civil wars. Some of these have been localized; others involve external actors and allies.

Situation. Syria was and is yet another case of minority-governed, oppressive regimes in the region. It has been a key ally in the region, aligned with Iran to support Shia-influenced Islamic extremists (e.g., Hizb ‘Allah, Hamas) throughout the region with weapons, supplies, political and military advice, and promises for more of the same. Influenced in part by other nations (e.g., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar) with economic and other concerns in the area, Syria plays a central role in the Mid-East. An unstable Syria is a problem for everyone. And it isn’t a simple problem.

The outbreak of the armed conflict by insurgents, economically repressed citizens, and subtle religious ideologues led to the deaths of more than 100,000 civilians, the exodus of 2,000,000 people, and the displacement within Syria of another 1,000,000 or so refugees out of the country. Revolts naturally trigger violent responses by threatened governments, and “President” Bashar al-Assad harshly responded to the uprising by “the people.”

Aside from the political posturing and appeals to emotion in the current debate,

  • No vital US national interests are at risk; this is a fully sufficient reason to refrain from any US military action against Syria.
  • Any US military action in reaction to the internal Syrian civil war is an act of war against a foreign, sovereign nation.
  • The American public does not support US military action against Syria.
  • There are no stated objectives in proposed military actions.
  • The supposed Allied support is eroding daily; no one else wants to use their military forces against Syria.
  • Any limited US unilateral military action will be ineffective and escalatory.
  • Support of dissident factions constitutes US support of some Islamic extremists, our enemies throughout the world.
  • Collateral casualties will result from long-range strikes, causing a worldwide outcry against the US.
  • Iran, Russia, and Arab nations friendly to Syria are likely to retaliate.
  • Syria will respond with cyber and terrorist attacks on the US at home and abroad.
  • The alleged use of lethal chemical weapons violates international agreements.
  • Therefore, international, multi-national sanctions are needed, but Russia will block UN actions against Syria.
  • The United States continues to ignore the earlier 100,000 civilian deaths in Syria, similar to the avoidance of action in Africa, where more than a million have been killed.
  • There is a humanitarian “feeling” that the US should “do something,” but delaying consideration of any action violates the principle of war about surprise and proposing a very limited military action violates the principle of war about mass.
  • The vast preponderance of circumstances, history, sovereignty, and facts show that the United States must take no unilateral or even allied military actions. If the “feel good” pressures to act must be sated, political, economic, and social elements of national power should be brought to bear; military power is a last resort, not an easy, knee-jerk first resort.
  • This is clearly and simply a distraction from looming US domestic issues (e.g., budget, health care, debt, unemployment, elections), diverting the public from more relevant topics.

Colonel Roger Mickelson (US Army, Retired) is President of The Military Conflict Institute, an international group of experienced foreign affairs, national security strategy, diplomatic, and military experts who seek to foster public understanding of the nature of military conflict. The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the institute.