US Military: No Good Military Solution to the Syrian Conflict

The American military establishment is very, very wary about getting too deeply involved in direct military action in Syria. In a letter to Congress, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey lays out some potential policy choices, but in so doing exposes the terribly high financial costs that such an effort would entail — without much of a guarantee of success.  From the NYT

The options, which range from training opposition troops to conducting airstrikes and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, are not new. But General Dempsey provided details about the logistics and the costs of each. He noted that long-range strikes on the Syrian government’s military targets would require “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers,” and cost “in the billions.”


“All of these options would likely further the narrow military objective of helping the opposition and placing more pressure on the regime,” General Dempsey wrote. But he added: “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”

A decision to use force “is no less than an act of war,” General Dempsey wrote, warning that “we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.”

UN system has rather adamantly been opposed to the militarization of this conflict by outside forces–be that Russia, Iran or the USA. Ban Ki Moon, Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and before him Kofi Annan have consistently stressed that militarization of the conflict makes it harder to negotiate a political solution. Now, the top official of the most sophisticated military the world has ever seen express deep reservations about prospects for successful intervention in Syria.

If outside military intervention by the USA is not likely to succeed then it seems like the USA and others should follow the UN’s lead and put all its eggs in the diplomacy basket. There is great urgency to de-escalate this conflict, which has now seen population flows akin to post-Genocide Rwanda. A singular focus on military intervention on the part of some members of Congress is diluting efforts to striking a near term diplomatic and political solution to stop the killing. General Dempsey’s missive should prompt some re-evaluation by proponents of military intervention.