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.


11 thoughts on “Some good ideas for a U.S. strategy in Syria?

  1. It’s really hard for me to comment on this. It hits a little too close to home in terms of work. But I can say back when the civil war began I was astounded that we were NOT providing rebels with support; we toppled Saddam and ‘liberated’ Iraq when it wasn’t quite asked for. And here were people saying “hey we’re in the midst of a violent uprising to overthrow our dictator. Little help??”

    Met with skepticism by a war-weary government. I’m not saying we should have invaded. But we could have tried to help sooner and in a meaningful way. Unfortunately it is what it is right now, and for General is right: this conflict has the potential trial to go geopolitically nuclear and cause SERIOUS worldwide repercussions.

    Syria and ISIL/Daesh will be stuck as the dirty proxy-war in an uncertain and far more volatile Middle East.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s helpful to look at the big picture here, and not just today’s big picture, but historically. Since WW2 this region has been a powder keg that flared up from time to time but was manageable (relatively speaking) because of Israel’s military superiority and its nuclear arsenal, which the Arabs knew they would use if pushed to the brink. The Russians were only willing to go so far in backing their proxies because if a Red Army division marching on Tel Aviv got vaporized by an Israeli tactical nuke, Moscow would have to retaliate, and the commissars knew what would happen then.

    The fundamental nature of the conflict changed after the Yom Kippur War, which was another Israeli victory. It seems to me the Arab leaders realized at that point that they could never defeat Israel in a conventional military conflict, and their Soviet sponsors were not willing to give them nuclear weapons, and so they settled down. Egypt even went so far as to sign a peace treaty with its mortal enemy. When you go 0-for-4, I suppose it’s logical to start looking for a different solution.

    But after that we had the rise of the terrorist and asymmetrical warfare against Israel in particular and against US interests in the region in general. Iran has replaced Russia (at least until very recently) as the prime purveyor of this form of war against Israel.

    In hindsight it was only a matter of time before the Muslim dictatorships began to crumble, and without other dictators to step into the breach, chaos results. That’s what we have now, and chaotic situations are much more difficult to manage because they are, after all, chaotic. Making things worse was our horrid mismanagement of Iraq after the ’03 invasion. Say what you will about the reasons we went in, the fact is we went in and after toppling Saddam we had a chance to put a much more responsible government in place. We damn near botched that but things were actually starting to work out. Nobody should be surprised that things started going south again once we withdrew our troops at the end of ’11. We never withdrew our troops from Germany, Japan or South Korea, and those regions have remained stable to this day. We withdrew from South Vietnam and watched our ally get overrun. Now the same is happening in Iraq.

    So, what to do? The American public has no stomach for another heavy military commitment in that quicksand and I can’t blame anybody for feeling that way. Air strikes may have slowed the enemy down but they certainly haven’t been stopped, much less “degraded and destroyed.” (I guess they really weren’t a JV team after all, were they?) Now the Russians are getting into the action, raising the stakes considerably. Whatever we ultimately do, one thing’s for sure: nothing at all of any consequence will happen until January 20, 2017, at the earliest.


    • That’s some great analysis, David. And this is a particularly scary line: “Whatever we ultimately do, one thing’s for sure: nothing at all of any consequence will happen until January 20, 2017, at the earliest.”

      And it’s sadly probably true.


  3. ( Stan, that was March 2012 )

    By the way, Matt’s documentary on Netflix “Point and Shoot” is a must see. But read also the commentary on each article in the pdf above. I don’t know who decided to pdf these 3 articles from SOFREP but I’m glad they did.

    To understand that region, not just military and int’l affairs, read Jenkins’ ” The Lost History of Christianity “. The New Testament was originally written in Greek, then those Christians in the Western Med translated their Bible into Latin, around the same time East of that Greek stronghold decided to translate their Greek Bible into Syriac– that’s the Peshitta ( Vulgate in Latin ) Bible.

    Our Bellwether in that part of the world are these Eastern Christians. So had our DoS, DoD and other gov’t agencies done their jobs, they should’ve had a tight pulse on these specific Arabs (and other non-Muslim Arabs out there).

    When Tweeddle Dee and Tweeddle Dum, that’s Powers & Clinton, decided to help out the Libyan rebels, they didn’t really have a bellwether population from which to divine future outcomes– no Christian populations exist.

    With Egypt, it’s the Copts, but those guys are so downtrodden that it’s also hard to read. Egypt, unlike in Libya, course corrected itself pretty quickly. Good for them. Libya’s still a mess.

    Syria was not an ally like Egypt, but Basher Al-Assad’s regime outlawed ninja outfits for women in schools and gov’t offices. So they’re fighting the same fight we’re fighting. That should’ve been a tell. No one paid attention.

    The fight is against the Salafi movement. If the read was that Assad was at least on our side with this issue, we should’ve done a double take and see if we can work with them– which would’ve been a resounding yes.

    The Syrian gov’t is minority rule, it’s like that because if the majority ruled those minorities — Christians, Alawis, Druze, Kurds, etc. would be extinct. People are playing for keeps now over there.

    So when the Arab Spring hit Syria, we should’ve read Assad and his gov’t, then read the Christians in that country, who unlike the Copts in Egypt hold high positions of power in the military, gov’t & private sectors– the only place like that in the entire Middle East that can boast so.

    It’s too late, Russia’s in Syria now. Iran’s in Iraq, and we control the air– which is a waste of fire power and jet fuel if you ask me. The only contribution we can make at this point is to divert those refugees to Saudi Arabia– ‘ar-‘ar, northern KSA already boasts a big Syrian population.

    Remember this whole Wahhabi stuff (later re-branded to Salafism) is from Saudi Arabia, thanks to our very own petro-dollars, Saudi princes had more money than they knew what to do with– hence all the orgies in Europe with money to spare for Wahhabis sent out to the world.

    We missed the opportunity to work with Basher Al-Assad, the Syrians were our natural allies (their Islam was more Sufi). Oh well.

    We have bigger fish to fry, focus on China. Let Russia and Iran handle that region from now on. We’ll just play the containment game.

    These fracking and oil drillings of late, thanks to Pres. Obama (sarcasm there), has made us oil dependent yes– we’re exporting. But if you look at where all pipelines lead it’s all to the coasts, to be shipped out to China and that region– cuz they pay more.

    So if we can keep all that oil and natural gas (drilled from our own backyards, with plenty of people getting sick), might as well keep ’em for our use, and go head to head with China in like 15-20 yrs.

    Stan, the Middle East is gone. Best to let ’em go. The only country worth helping right now is Oman,


    • I actually saw that documentary. Was really good.

      “It’s too late, Russia’s in Syria now. Iran’s in Iraq, and we control the air– which is a waste of fire power and jet fuel if you ask me.”

      I’m not sure that it’s ever too late, when you have an army as big as ours, but I see your point. It’s definitely almost too late.

      And that’s an interesting concept about focusing on China. Hadn’t seen anyone advocating such an idea, so as usual, you’ve brought up some original ideas.

      Thanks for commenting, as always!


      • Our game over there these days is also by proxy.

        The question is who’s our proxy? Iraq, no. Turkey, no. Saudi Arabia, no. Lebanon, no– that’s the next one to go. Israel, no– they have their own problems. Egypt, no– too far from the action. Jordan, yes and no– but they’re like KSA hedging their bets. Syria was suppose to be it– at least vis a vis Salafi tide. But we blew that.

        So how are we fighting for?

        The bigger question is if we went back in, what would be our mission? Same as Iraq? Let’s face it there’s no more Iraq. It’ll have to be divided 3 ways, Shias, Kurds and Sunnis. Do we really want to be in the middle of that?

        ISIS estimates are from 50,000 to 100,000 fighters. If you check out the military figures of the region, if those surrounding countries really wanted to wipe out ISIS they could, numbers in their favor. Why aren’t they? They want us there again. Screw them should be our answer.

        I have no doubt we can get rid of ISIS quickly, it’s what happens next that worries me.

        We got China to worry about, let them fix their own mess.

        China’s buying up land in the West Coast ( I’m sure in your neck of the woods as well ), PLA front companies are incorporated over here doing some shady stuff, they’re consolidating their power in Asia, Cyber security, etc. to me they’re an existential threat.

        While we’re chasing small time terrorists, these guys are gonna “RED DAWN” us, without even parachuting on the ground, cuz theirs is an economic, shadow kinda war.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good info. I’ll start looking into this some. Having done no research on it, though, even assuming they bought up much of our land and companies, I’m not sure what change they could create.

          We’re still a democracy that can vote and a country filled with people who carry guns.


          • That’s the kicker, Stan. I don’t know either– most of our existential threats have been from within, ie. Civil War, that stuff Gen. Smedley Butler was involved in, etc.

            What happens when a whole country focuses its sights directly on us, and brings to bear everything it has at its disposal. If the nature is economic, then a bunch of us with guns is already too late

            ( and as we’ve seen in the last 20 yrs, and clearly of late, voting can be controlled by a few– easier at the local/state levels, but will be easier at the national level as time goes ),

            We’ll need to get ahead of this. And I’m not seeing that at all.

            Kissinger and Luttwak’s books are a good start. China’s ours, man, that’s historically been the Marine’s problem set– by default, the rest of Asia.


Comments are always welcome!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s