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Attack on Syria–Many Dimensions

As the Saturday morning quarterbacks seek to portray the coalition missile strikes in ways that support their own agendas it seems necessary to attempt to provide a multi-dimensional view on the strikes.  These dimensions include:

·         The military implications of the strike

·         The diplomatic messages

·         The domestic political reaction

In response to the Syrian attack on its own people using chlorine gas a coalition of British, French and American naval and air forces launched missile attacks against 3 chemical production and storage facilities.  The objective of the attack was two fold:

1.       Seriously degrade/reduce Syria’s chemical weapons capability

2.       Deter Syria from future chemical weapon usage

Reports indicate that the missiles hit and severely damaged their targets.  The ability and methodology used for the attacks indicate the ability to synchronize target engagement between multiple platforms and national assets.  The US attacks came from naval forces in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean ocean.  Air assets launched missiles while over Saudi Arabia and the Mediterranean.  While launching the missiles each element of the attacking force took air defense, naval and cyber efforts to protect the force.  Reportedly all missiles hit their targets while the Syrian missile defense efforts were an abysmal failure.  The Syrians reportedly launched over 40 air defense missiles and none of them successfully engaged a target.  (The Russian disinformation campaign reported that there were 103 missiles and 71 shot down.)

Militarily the mission was accomplished.  However, some pundits are seeking to use this description of the reaction was to be expected as no matter what President Trump and our allies do there will be detractors who are looking for opportunities to speak against the President.

The diplomatic messages of this strike go far beyond the Syrian government.  The clear pronouncement that the intent was not to target Syrian President Assad tells Kim Jung Un of North Korea that the US can accomplish its military objectives without necessarily threatening the regime leadership. (This is not to say that decapitation isn’t an option.)  With the upcoming denuclearization discussions between President Trump and Kim Jun Un it is clear that Kim not necessarily feel personally threatened.

The preparations for the North Korea / United ‘States historic meeting are ongoing using multiple different avenues for the preparation of the meeting.  Reportedly CIA Director/Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo is leading the back channel preparatory talks.  The summit will follow a meeting between Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart.

Israel is touting the strikes as a message for Hezbollah and Hamas.

Russia is certainly evaluating President Trump’s resolve to not condone chemical weapon usage.  The same is true for Iran as the May Iran nuclear agreement review approaches.  John Bolton’s appointment as the National Security Advisor also tends to show an increased hardline by the administration on the major issues facing the United States.  Certainly potential adversaries are viewing this whole set of events as a new entity.

The continuing fight against ISIS may have had an unintentional consequence.  The net winner of ISIS’s destruction is clearly President Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.   The anti- Assad forces were not capable of filling the vacuum created by the damage to ISIS.  The continuing conflict in the region is extremely complex given all of the players.  This has been a subject of previous articles and one that we will return to in the future.

True to form the hard left politicians like Nancy Pelosi are condemning the attacks as uncivilized.  This condemnation is to be expected.  The other side of the aisle has been supportive the attacks.  However, there seems to be a universal return to the discussion of the war fighting powers of the President.  This is a continual power struggle between the executive and the legislature.  This debate is probably more posturing than reality but may continue for several weeks and then return to its traditionally dormant status.

The attack against Syria may be the opening gambit in several future conflicts–Russia‘s desire to increase its posture in the Middle-East, Iran’s goal of forming a Caliphate across the region and its conflict with the Gulf Cooperative Council, and Israel’s continual struggle for survival.  These are all issues we will be watching closely.


  1. Gordon Rottman says:

    I think one lessons that has come out of this is re-learning that military and government officials should never say “Mission Completed.” The media will pounce on this before you have completed the sentence. Why, because to them there is no end, there are no phase lines or mission phases, there are no short-term objectives working toward a final end-state.


  2. Gordon says:

    Dear Colonel Clarke,
    Last night as I watched the news about the British, French, and US attack on the war criminal Assad, I had hope for our tomorrow. Today I am not so hopeful.

    Now, I do not advocate total war against Syria and I was hopeful that last night would be a strong effective use of allied military assets. From what I see today, it was not.

    Yes, I am glad that we did something. What we did is better than doing nothing. However, from what we are learning today, it appears that our targeting was too limited with no strategic objective. It was only a “statement”.

    We are skirting around the real strategic problem and not reversing the disaster that was created by our previous President. Of course, we should not tolerate the use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. We; however, need to do far more than this waste of multi-millions of US taxpayer dollars. We cannot afford to further bankrupt our nation by wasting such expensive weapons only to make a statement. If we are going to expend such expensive weapons only to make a statement to Assad and the world, we continue to be fools. Over the decades the US has wasted our money and assets ineffectively without success for our own National Interests. We have participated in wars and conflicts wasting our personnel, money and resources, in order to make gutless political statements that only reveal our weakness, lack of resolve, and political cowardice. Over the decades our immoral politicians have created a national debt that exceeds 21-trillion dollars. We cannot sustain this waste without obtaining strategic success.

    Therefore, when we use our resources, we must achieve strategic success. We must evaluate the “Cost to Benefit Ratio”. Millions of dollars expended to merely make a statement to Assad is absolute folly and an unsustainable cost to our nation.

    What should we have done? We should have really hurt the Assad regime. We should have wiped out his Air Force, his airfields, and his command and control system along with all chemical agents.

    Why? The real problem is far bigger than just the use of chemical weapons. The real problem is the change in the “Balance of Power” in the Middle East. The Obama Administration caused this change violating the Strategic National Interests of the United States of America. He opened the gate to the Iranians, the Russians, and the Turks, which put Israel in a very vulnerable position. If we do not reverse this situation, I firmly believe that Israel will fall and truly be overrun by the “King of the North” as prophetically revealed in the Book of Daniel, the Book of Revelation, and other Old Testament Prophets.

    What about Russia (quake, quake, fear, and quiver)? They will not do anything significant if we act decisively. We are the fools who empowered Putin and his evil allies. I respect Putin in one sense. He always looks out for the National Interests of Russia and the Neo-Soviets. Everything he does is to rebuild the Neo-Soviet empire. He is not a fool. An evil guy, yes. Make it costly to Russia, they truly cannot afford it. They would lose.

    We remain fools though and are paralyzed by the boogey man. We are masochists. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” Quote Chicken Little

    Your friend,


  3. Gordon NoLastName Is ignorant of the reality of military/ political leadership in the pseudodemocratic USA AND in the modern military imperialist Russian State.

    His commentary above smells like that of a football fan in the cheap seats who never played the game, but who is pontificating on the inept coaching of his alma mater team in the first quarter of the annual recurring game against their traditional # 1 rival.

    The second quarter is about to start. There is still no score. Gordon NLN needs to find a restroom and empty his bladder and his large intestine/colon before the teams change goals (pun intended).

    Gordon and those like him might understand the analogy above.

    You and I and most of your readers know the subject a lot better, Syria is not a football field, it is the home of a culture ten thousand years in existence and every fucking one of them has been highly disputed.

    War in any form, great or small, is NOT a game. Furthermore, in Syria, with involvements of Islam and Israel and Russia and the USA, any small war can quickly become a great (big) war.

    So be it.

    I sure hope Gordon NLN ain’t one of our fellow S&D survivors.

    MJOG in Georgia, 1965


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