Some good ideas for a U.S. strategy in Syria?

I really liked some of the ideas retired Army Gen. David Petraeus offered up for Syria.

With the refugee crisis, continued power of ISIS, and arrival of Russian troops, it’s time we do something.

Here were some of his ideas from the article:

In Syria, he said, the United States must commit to protect civilians and rebel forces from Syrian President Bashar Assad, explaining that Assad’s attacks on civilians have “been a principal driver of the radicalization” fueling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the current refugee crisis.

“Sunni Arabs will not be willing partners against the Islamic State unless we commit to protect them and the broader Syrian population against all enemies, not just ISIS,” he said. “We could, for example, tell Assad that the use of barrel bombs must end — and that if they continue, we will stop the Syrian air force from flying. We have that capability.”

Petraeus also called for the “establishment of enclaves” in Syria “protected by coalition airpower” where a moderate force of Sunni rebels could be supported and where displaced persons could take refuge. He called Syria a “geopolitical Chernobyl,” saying the crisis there was “spewing instability and extremism over the region and the rest of the world.”

What do you guys think? And seen any better suggestions?

Oh, and on my last post (Marines seek to keep combat jobs closed to women), you really want to read Old Gyrene’s comment, as well as the response that follows it. The two are worth a post all by themselves. (Here’s the link where it begins.)

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

About me: I write military action books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior USMC Sgt with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business — 9 of them with a newspaper that I started. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

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Marine Corps seeks to keep combat jobs closed to women

This is going to be interesting to watch play out: Marines seek to keep combat jobs closed to women.

Essentially, the Marine Corps will be the lone service fighting this battle, and I say battle because I’ll bet this gets ugly before it’s over.

All other services, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and U.S. Special Operations Command (including the SEALs), have decided women can fight on the frontlines, as long as they meet the standards. As many of you all saw, two women recently graduated Ranger School.

This will be an ugly fight for the Marine Corps. There are huge political implications, as Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has stated he opposes the argument from the Marines. He feels women should be allowed to compete for any Navy or Marine Corps combat jobs.

One member of Congress who served in the Marines has already called for Mabus’s resignation, because he’s refusing to accept the Marine Corps’s recommendation.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said Mabus should resign because he “openly disrespected the Marine Corps as an institution, and he insulted the competency of Marines by disregarding their professional judgment, their combat experience and their quality of leadership.”

I personally don’t believe this is a fight the Marine Corps can win. The media and vast majority of the public has already made its mind up on this subject. Furthermore, women have shown immense bravery on the battlefield, in everything from helo’s to unarmed trucks that have been ambushed.

Additionally, as more and more technology reaches the front line, the physical aspects required by infantry Marines are going to become less and less important. (Crazy military technology… The end of good war stories?)

I was tempted to cop out and not state my opinion on this, but I know some commenter will probably ask, so I’ll just go ahead and say it. I’m what you would call a moderate on this issue.

Frankly, I think most people don’t have a clue what they’re talking about when they discuss this issue. They haven’t served, carried a pack 18 miles, or qualified with a rifle and iron sights at 500 meters. Nor have they been under fire and shared a fighting hole with someone.

But we all know in America, it doesn’t matter if you know what you’re talking about. It’s a democracy, and everyone has a voice and a vote. (And while too few vote, too many scream, but that’s another subject for another day.)

This is an issue where you can make a super strong argument for why the infantry should only be open to men. I’m not even going to bother to list all the reasons. (As a short guy, who was 5’6″ and 125 pounds after boot camp, I used to think the infantry should only be open to larger men, who were at least 5’8″ or 5’10” and like 170 or something in weight. Because size matters when you’re carrying a ton of gear on a long, forced march. Or trying to fireman carry a simulated wounded guy who weighs 220 with all his gear on. I struggled with these physical tasks and lived in the gym to get my weight up to 145 — and eventually 155 — to try to keep up.)

And yet when I’m honest, I did pretty well, despite being so small and undersized. (Served in the infantry, selected Marine of the Quarter for the entire 2nd Marine Division, picked as Honor Graduate of the Corporal’s Course in December 1998, promoted to sergeant within four years, etc.)

Even having survived four years in the infantry, I once made this argument to a fellow Marine about only larger men being allowed to serve in the infantry. By then, I was a sergeant and certainly had his respect. He was a big infantry Marine, and I expected him to agree with me.

But he didn’t. He named several Marines we both knew who were smaller than me and who were tougher than shit and meaner than hell. You would not want to mess with these guys. (I think it’s called Small Man’s Syndrome.)

And he went on to say, “And, bro, if we went by the height and weight standards that you’re suggesting, Audie Murphy would have never even have served.”

For those who don’t know, Audie Murphy was one of the most decorated soldiers in World War II. He was turned down by the Marine Corps for being too small, and eventually joined the Army, where he earned the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, and three Purple Hearts.

Okay, I had to concede my friend had a point. Actually a really strong one.

So bottom line, do men have some physical advantages over women? Absolutely. And yet, if you ask, “Do I know some women who are physically capable of outperforming most men?,” the answer is yes.

When I was in, I knew a female MP at Camp Lejeune who benched 300. Few men can do that. I also have a female friend who runs marathons for fun and just joined the Marine Corps to become an officer.

And we all know Ronda Rousey and a huge list of female fighters who spend more time spilling blood each week than I want to even think about spilling in a year. I get beat up and bruised up too much to even think about that, and that’s just from my Isshin-Ryu karate classes.

So I’m certain my fellow warriors in the infantry will call me a sell out, but I’m afraid the writing is on the wall and the facts are pretty clear. The times, the technology, and the strong case made by so many women who have already served valiantly will ultimately defeat the Marine Corps on this decision. It may take years, but this is a battle that I’m afraid is already decided.

But even having said this, I do not believe the standards should be lowered. And by not lowering the standards, you’re ultimately only going to have a very small number of women actually serving in the infantry. (And those who do will probably quickly come to the realization that most male infantry Marines arrive at: this sucks beyond all description and I can’t wait to get out.)

But until that happens, you can expect a lot of hot-headed commentary from both sides. Now, please keep it kind in the comments, and tell me what you think. Thanks!

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

About me: I write military action books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior USMC Sgt with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business — 9 of them with a newspaper that I started. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.

ISIS is winning

Politico has a great story running right now: ISIL Is Winning — Fourteen years after terror struck the U.S., our strategy to defeat terrorism is failing.

Unfortunately, it’s a pretty long article that most people will probably find too long to read. As such, I thought I’d cut and paste some key graphs from the article.

At the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it seemed like we had terrorism on the run; Osama bin Laden was dead, the Taliban was defeated and officials like CIA director Leon Panetta had proclaimed al Qaeda all but finished. But as we mark on Friday the 14th anniversary of the devastating attacks on the United States, it’s time to admit that the terrorists—at least one specific branch of terrorists—are now winning. And it’s time to admit that our response to the so-called Islamic State has been an abject failure.

Last year, fighters belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group once part of the same organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks stormed into Iraq, conquered half that country, declared itself both a state and a Caliphate and set about to slaughter and enslave thousands of Christians, Shi’a, and members of Islamic minority sects. Fifteen months later, ISIL’s influence has spread far beyond the Levant and Mesopotamia. A thousand foreign recruits converge monthly on its operational cynosure. Hailing from some fifty countries they exceed by a factor of ten the average monthly flow of foreign fighters to Iraq at even the height of the war there a decade ago.

ISIL’s international cadre has also far exceeded the number that gravitated to Afghanistan during and the 1980s and 1990s. That growth creates the same conditions—but on a far vaster magnitude—that led to al Qaeda’s rise and the attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on 9/11.

The temptation to dismiss these developments as primarily “local” phenomena—confined to the perennially violent, unstable Middle East—is further belied both by the growing number of ISIL branches or “provinces” and its continued efforts to radicalize a worldwide stable of “stay-behind” amateurs, whom the group encourages to carry out low-level, lethal attacks in their respective homelands. To date, ISIL has established bases in at least a half-dozen countries: stretching from West and North Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and from the Sinai to South Asia and the Caucasus. And, over the past year alone, ISIL-inspired homegrown attacks have occurred in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France and Belgium.

ISIL is something the world has never seen before. During the summer of 2014, for example, it launched a battalion-sized assault and defeated 30,000 U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers. As the defenders fled, they left behind approximately three military divisions’ worth of equipment, including American-made Humvees and M1 Abrams tanks, totaling tens of millions of dollars. ISIL had already seized large stockpiles of weapons, equipment and cash while fighting in Syria and has recently employed chemical weapons on several occasions. The size, weapons and tactics of ISIL forces—combined with their ability to seize and hold terrain—are arguably unique in the annals of terrorism.

We have to accept that Iraq has ceased to exist as a viable federal union and has now permanently splintered into Sunni, Shi’a and Kurdish enclaves. In these circumstances, our best option is to back the only reliable and militarily capable partners we have there—the Kurds. To date, both the Kurdish Peshmerga and YPG or People’s Protection Unit, its Syrian counterparts, are the only local forces who have demonstrated any effective ability to counter ISIL. Yet, American support of both is hamstrung by a misplaced deference to Turkey’s priorities—a NATO ally who has often proven as unhelpful in the war on terrorism in the Levant as Pakistan has been in South Asia.

I’m pretty much an eternal optimist, but even I can’t really dispute the facts of this article.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

About me:  write military action books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior USMC Sgt with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business — 9 of them with a newspaper that I started. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about American foreign policy, national security, and all things Marine Corps.