Don’t Attack Syria

April 6, 2017

Bashar Assad, continuing his repugnant depredations against his own people, men, women, and children, has just bombed them with ricin nerve gas.  A few grains of this stuff equivalent to a dusting of salt from a salt shaker will kill someone.  Just a few minutes ago (April 6, 2017 at 9:21 PM eastern time) The Washington Post reported the U.S. launched 50 Cruise missile strikes against Syrian military airfields.  Okay, I get it.  An outraged President Trump wants to punish the Syrian military.  He is also—quite correctly I believe—disgusted with President Obama’s policy of “strategic patience”.  This is putting lipstick on a pig, and everyone knows it.  “Strategic patience” means doing nothing.

As an old Air Force intelligence guy I don’t know how far this retaliation will go.  Normally an air force will knock out the enemy’s radar first.  This denies him the ability to see.  Then they will go for the airfields.  Once the enemy can’t see, the air force wants to knock out the enemy’s ability to control the skies.  Once these things are accomplished the enemy is subject to anything from the skies aimed at any targets.

I have no problem that once the Russian Air Force is neutralized we knock out Assad’s chemical warfare facilities.  If President Trump pulls it off successfully I will stand up and cheer and shout out, Bully for Trump.

But I have to caution against introducing American ground troops, and I have a problem with the limited objectives of this operation.  Is it to punish Assad for being a war criminal?  Is it to stop him from gassing civilians?  This, to my mind, is not enough.  Assad is a cancer on the world, and he needs to be removed from office and turned over to his own people for justice for his war crimes.  The Syrian father crying over his babies who have been choked to death with Assad’s handiwork needs to have a say in Assad’s final solution.  It’s the father’s business to seek justice, not ours.

Will Rogers said that diplomacy is what you use to handle a vicious dog until you can find a rock.  I prefer the wisdom of Sun Tzu, the Chinese general who fought in the Warring Period in China 2500 years ago.  Here are a few quotes from this military genius:

All warfare is based on deception.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.

I agree.  Why would anyone want to kill off our beautiful young men and women in arms when we can achieve victory without that cost?  These are youngsters with their whole lives ahead of them.  And I don’t propose the narrow victory President Trump seems to want.  I propose a bigger, honking big victory.  I propose a victory that will change the course of history.  I propose something that will protect innocent noncombatants including children for the decades to come.

I suggest that the Assad regime could not exist without the complicity, civilian aid, and military aid that it gets from Russia and Iran.  To remove that aid would be to sound Assad’s death knell.  Both of these two rascals, Russia and Iran, are vulnerable, but we are not playing those cards.

Let’s start with Russia.  Putin and his kleptocratic oligarchs have robbed Russia blind.  One estimate has it that Putin is worth over $40 billion.  That’s not bad for a government worker.  Let’s threaten to expose him and his ill-gotten gains to his already restive citizens if he doesn’t pull out of Syria.  Let’s find out and publish how much Putin and his oligarchs have and where the boodle is stashed.

The VanEck Vectors Russia ETF (exchange traded fund) holds 26 Russian companies. It trades on the New York Stock Exchange.  SBER Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, is listed not only on an American exchange but on German and British exchanges as well.  The VanEck Vectors Russia Small-Cap ETF (RSXJ) holds 26 smaller Russian companies.  It trades on the New York Stock Exchange as well.  Wouldn’t it be nice if President Trump said to Vladimir Putin, Vlad old pal, get your military forces out of Syria or we will delist all your companies and ETFs from American exchanges?  What’s more we are going to get Britain and Germany to do the same.  Vlad, old buddy, I guess you are going to have to look somewhere else to capitalize your companies.  Try China or maybe Viet Nam.

Russia, as correctly described by Ronald Reagan’s Treasury Secretary and Chief of Staff Donald Regan, is a third-world country with a big army.  Reagan outspent the Soviet Union by deploying a military that required them to spend money all over the place to protect their borders from our aircraft.  Reagan didn’t want them to face ground forces.  The Russians are very good at conscripting and deploying troops for a concentrated battle.  But Russia has a border that cannot be secured against invading aircraft.  It is just too long.  Let’s do that again.  Trump should tell Putin, Vlad, old buddy, we are going to build an air force of stealth fighters so big you will have to quadruple your aircraft detection cost…unless, of course, you pull your forces out of Syria.  What are you doing there anyhow?  What on earth are you trying to achieve other than bankrupting yourself and bringing your youngsters home in body bags?

Then there is freezing Russian accounts in European and American banks.  Putin isn’t storing his ill gotten gains in Russian banks.  Also, oil upon which his economy depends sells in American dollars.  That gives us tremendous leverage over him.

And then there is Iran.  We have an agreement with Iran that benefits them tremendously with no benefit to us.  It is not a treaty.  It is not the law of the land because it was never ratified by the Senate.  Obama would not have dared to try that trick.  Let’s abrogate that one outright.

Then let’s tell Iran to pull their Revolutionary Guard and Quds Force out of Syria or we will freeze up their oil trade and the financing of it.  We will also support the Iranian freedom lovers who have had it up to the eyeballs with their wacko Ayatollahs.  We should also tell them that Kharg Island is in our gun sights.  This terminal in the Persian Gulf has an export capacity of 5 million barrels a day, and 90% of Iranian oil exports flow through it.  Militarily, it’s as vulnerable as can be.  We don’t have to blow it up.  Just conduct some military exercises nearby.

Let’s heed the wisdom of Sun Tzu.  Let’s get the Russians and the Iranians to pull out of Syria.  Then the situation will take care of itself.  Let’s let the fathers of the children murdered by Assad handle Assad.  It won’t be pretty to watch, but it will be just.