Military’s qualms about war with Syria

Our military leaders have some major qualms about attacking Syria.  From Ernest Londono, U.S. military officers have deep doubts about impact, wisdom of a U.S. strike on Syria – The Washington Post:

The Obama administration’s plan to launch a military strike against Syria is being received with serious reservations by many in the U.S. military, which is coping with the scars of two lengthy wars and a rapidly contracting budget, according to current and former officers.

Having assumed for months that the United States was unlikely to intervene militarily in Syria, the Defense Department has been thrust onto a war footing that has made many in the armed services uneasy, according to interviews with more than a dozen military officers ranging from captains to a four-star general.

Former and current officers, many with the painful lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan on their minds, said the main reservations concern the potential unintended consequences of launching cruise missiles against Syria. .  . .

“There’s a broad naivete in the political class about America’s obligations in foreign policy issues, and scary simplicity about the effects that employing American military power can achieve,” said retired Lt. Gen. Gregory S. Newbold, who served as director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the run-up to the Iraq war, noting that many of his contemporaries are alarmed by the plan.

Marine Lt. Col. Gordon Miller, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, warned this week of “potentially devastating consequences, including a fresh round of chemical weapons attacks and a military response by Israel.”

“If President [Bashar al-Assad] were to absorb the strikes and use chemical weapons again, this would be a significant blow to the United States’ credibility and it would be compelled to escalate the assault on Syria to achieve the original objectives,” Miller wrote in a commentary for the think tank.. . .

“I can’t believe the president is even considering it,” said [an unnamed]  officer, who like most officers interviewed for this story agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because military personnel are reluctant to criticize policymakers while military campaigns are being planned. “We have been fighting the last 10 years a counterinsurgency war. Syria has modern weaponry. We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned in great detail about the risks and pitfalls of U.S. military intervention in Syria.

“As we weigh our options, we should be able to conclude with some confidence that use of force will move us toward the intended outcome,” Dempsey wrote last month in a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”. . .

“It has branded in me the idea that the use of military power must be part of an overall strategic solution that includes international partners and a whole of government,” he said in the Aug. 4 interview. “Simply the application of force rarely produces and, in fact, maybe never produces the outcome we seek.” . . .

“What is the political end state we’re trying to achieve?” said a retired senior officer involved in Middle East operational planning who said his concerns are widely shared by active-duty military leaders. “I don’t know what it is. We say it’s not regime change. If it’s punishment, there are other ways to punish.”

This from the people who plan and fight our wars:  “Broad naivete.”  “Scary simplicity.”  “We would have to retrain for a conventional war.”  “Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”  “What is the political end state we’re trying to achieve?”  And, most starkly, “Simply the application of force rarely produces and, in fact, maybe never produces the outcome we seek.”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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