Some U.S. Military Officers Not Happy With Syrian War Prep

U.S. military leery of President Obama's plan to strike Bashar Assad

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Demonstrators protesting possible U.S. military action in Syria in Chicago on Saturday

At the Pentagon, they call it “shaping the battlefield.” It’s shorthand for taking steps, military and otherwise, before launching an attack. In the long drumbeat of war prior to a possible attack on Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons last month, the Obama Administration — starting with the President himself — has fumbled this critical prewar phase.

That’s led to a fair amount of private grumbling among active-duty military officers, and public criticism from those who have retired. They don’t like going to war with squishy objectives like preventing Bashar Assad’s government from using chemical weapons. They express concern — if the initial attack isn’t substantial enough — that Syria could use such agents again. So there is stepped-up military planning for a strike that could be double the size contemplated two weeks ago, spread over 72 hours and calling in B-2 or other warplanes to deliver bigger bombs than those atop Tomahawk cruise missiles.

But it may be too late to convince the nation, the Congress and the military that war is the right choice, right now. Obama boxed himself in with his stark declaration of a “red line” against Syria’s chemical-weapons use last year. Then he seemed to punt when he said — following Assad’s alleged use on Aug. 21 — that he actually only wanted to fire a “shot across the bow” to convince Assad not to do it again. When the British Parliament voted down its nation’s military involvement on Aug. 29, the President responded by calling a time-out, to seek congressional approval — after his Administration had been banging the war drums, loudly, for more than a week.

(MORE: Syrian Opposition Leaders Interested in Making Case Before Congress)

“It is a confusing mess, up to this point,” Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, the Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “This cannot be about Barack Obama. It has to be about what is in the best interests of the United States of America.”

Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff, made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows, warning of the message Iran would take away from Congress failing to authorize the use of military force against Syria. The West believes Iran is close to producing a nuclear weapon — a second “red line” Obama has said he would not let Tehran cross.

“If Congress wants to hold the Assad regime to account, and if Congress wants to make sure that the Iranians, Hizballah and others understand that you cannot have greater operating space to pursue weapons of mass destruction like the nuclear program in Iran, then they have to vote ‘yes’ for this resolution,” McDonough told CBS. But some military officers play down the parallels between the two, suggesting they’re not equivalent.

Robert Scales, a retired two-star Army general, onetime commandant of the Army War College and military historian, launched a rhetorical volley of his own against Obama’s planning in a blistering opinion column in Friday’s Washington Post, summing up the views of his military cohort:

They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama Administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective.

Those are harsh words, but on Sunday Scales made clear he and his fellow retired and still serving military officers are having no second thoughts, chastened by their experience in Iraq. “They think they are being rolled again and don’t want that to happen,” Scales says. “There is a sense that this is a Beltway war. Get very far west from Reston [Virginia] and Gaithersburg [Maryland] and the climate changes dramatically.”

The President’s speech to the nation on Tuesday night may be his last chance to get it right.

If he’s convincing, and wins congressional backing, he’ll get a chance to launch a military attack, with all the perils that entails. If he fails — regardless of what he does following such a defeat — his Administration will be wounded, perhaps mortally, for the rest of his presidency.

MORE: With Obama Overseas, Prospects Dim on Congressional Syria Action

50 comments
mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Frankly I don't think Sodom America has what it takes to beat Syria. Our homosexualized US Military has been in Afghanistan for 10+ years and can't seem to beat a handful of Muslim terrorists armed with nothing but stone age weapons.

DocA
DocA

DocA :  I like the statement that they are " embarrassed to be associated with the Obama administration's attempt to craft a plan that makes strategic sense." When will the professional well paid and cared for warriors begin to understand that more war death and destruction is not the solution... and that what all people really want is peace..not more more death. Why don't we try to come up with some.. um,  ma be off the wall idea that would bring all of the waring parties into one space ..where they could sit face to face in a safe and secure location..and work out their differences with  open and honest discussion..Is this not the main thrust of the United Nations mission ? Of course we would also have to put aside all of the interwoven political and economic interests of the real players in the game..  Exactly who are they? I think we know the answer to that question..!!What is really going on here anyway..!! What value do we place on life over economic gain?? Hasn't this been the main question for thousands of years? My question is ..."Isn't it time for a real change ?" 

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

There's nothing wrong with the rest of the article but this:

 If he fails — regardless of what he does following such a defeat — his Administration will be wounded, perhaps mortally, for the rest of his presidency.

Is utter claptrap. If Congress doesn't approve a war resolution Obama will have dodged a bullet. In case you have failed to notice the only test of Obama's Presidency that matters is whether Congressional intransigence will get better or worse in 2014. 



cent-fan
cent-fan

“It is a confusing mess, up to this point,” Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, the Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “This cannot be about Barack Obama. It has to be about what is in the best interests of the United States of America.”

  If a small nuclear device were used inside Syria by Assad would that be a US concern?  How about germ warfare?  A few more thousand dead of Syrians by the hand of Syrians.  Is that still "just a civil war" or should we take notice?  Gas chambers?  Ovens?  Concentration camps?  Anyone worried?

   If a well equipped military uses state of the art weapons to kill a mass of random people, even their own people, in a large area then maybe it means somebody has more power and less brains to use it then they should... and that should concern the whole world.

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

Tepub brass seeing that they aren't being called for involvement and thus a quicker step up the ladder and TIME went searching to find them!!

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

Neuroman
Neuroman

This administration appear to be complete amateurs. Here they are claiming that their is little risk of escalation. What a joke. What is the response if the "limited strike" is meet with another chemical attack? What is the response if Assad attacks a US ship which he would have every right to do? What is the risk Russia decides to defend its substantial economic and military interests in the region? When you are talking about the sovereignty of a nation and leader with substantial military capability such as Assad, none of these are out of the realm of possibility. Personally, I think we may be better off with a President "wounded" from a Congressional rebuke than if Obama gets a pass to continue his experimental foreign policy where he can try something, see what happens and then decide (speak, wring hands, delay, ignore advice from experts, speak again, delay, act then hope) what is next.

Chelliah
Chelliah

Has the US forgotten the use of Agent Orange in its attack on Vietnam where children continue to be born deformed even after 40 years.

He that is without sin cast the first stone.

JeffLong
JeffLong

The US government is corrupt to the core!! They are not for the people or by the people. Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin owned by the Federal Reserve. We need a non-violent revolution to take the power back and get these parasites out of the government!

MohammadShafiqKhan
MohammadShafiqKhan

Watch what America is doing with Muslims of the world. Leaked Documents: U.S. Framed Syria in Chemical Weapons Attack Watch what.  
http://www.ForbiddenKnowledgeTV.com/page/24370.html (If the video is dropped write to me on shafiqifs@gmail.com I will send you the video) 

Now see the rationality of America & United Nations. 

The monk responsible for killing of Muslims in Myanmar is free and is openly campaigning for genocide of Muslims. Muslims have no police protection in Myanmar and Myanmar Government is just not answerable to international community according to America & United Nations. Read & see.  
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23846632 and  
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23874521

But America is free to attack Syria against international laws as no self defense is involved or authorization of United Nations is needed. 

ClemKadoodlehopper
ClemKadoodlehopper

So we have the "nose picker in Chief" doing Sunday afternoon quarterbacking from the comfort of DC.  Saying "no boots on the ground".  We've all heard that before.  Anyone remember when the US Air Force had no funds for flying their Sorties back in May of this year?  It was kind of a big deal.  How about the US Navy not setting the Carriers out because they didn't have money for fuel?  No?  You don't remember any of this?  And now you want to send Carriers, Missiles to Syria to say, "You're a Bad Boy" to President Assad.  Cost?  Well a typical cruise will run about 1$Billion there and back again, Now the missiles, say we fire 20 of them at 250$million apiece, there's another 5$Billion.  So our hero wants to spend 6$ Billion, we haven't got to say something everyone already knows, because it won't accomplish a thing.  Oh yeah, that's using your brain.

AbigailSmith
AbigailSmith

Obama, Kerry, et al. admit that they "embellished" the evidence they were presenting to Congress.  They admit that the classified info is WAY LESS convincing.  Obama says it is "common sense" that Assad used CW.  But Obama is wrong.  This is Iraq, redux. 

The anti-West Syrian rebels used Sarin gas in May 2013, according to Reuters. They probably did this, too.  But regardless, striking Syria is WRONG.  It makes no sense to attack Syria.  If we care about Syrian citizens, we can launch a humanitarian program to help the refugees suffering in the desert.

This is a proxy war for Israel.  That's why the IAPAC is sending 250 lobbyists to Congress today, to twist arms.  Why should we agree to being used in this way?   We risk all kinds of unintended consequences, including WW3.

If we topple Assad, then anti-west rebels have control of the CW.  Otherwise, we need a massive US ground invasion to secure the CW.

Congress must vote NO.   Obama is trying to save face, but this is the wrong way to go about it.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

UN inspectors should return to Syria to investigate alleged use of chemical weapons - Lavrov

The UN inspectors should finalize the investigation into the cases of use of chemical weapon in Syria, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after the meeting. The Russian minister stressed "it is necessary to investigate most thoroughly all the reports on use of chemical weapon."

"We consider as important and timely the statement made by the UN Secretary General that the experts, who investigated the cases of chemical weapon’s use in Syria, should return to that country and finalize their work in compliance with the earlier agreements," Lavrov said.

"We have agreed to insist on having the UN inspectors return to finalize their work on all cases of chemical weapons use," the Russian minister said.

"The UN Secretary General has assured us he will return the inspectors soon," Lavrov added. "We have suspicions somebody may set back the intention, and we shall insist firmly that the inspectors finalize their work."
Read more: http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_09_09/UN-inspectors-should-return-to-Syria-to-investigate-alleged-use-of-chemical-weapons-Lavrov-1928/

fmoolten
fmoolten

Obama's reference to "a shot across the bow" was misguided, but the strategy since then has been clear, cogent, and logical.  It will be to degrade the Syrian military significantly, including many resources that can't be hidden or protected no matter how much time Assad is given.  The objective is also clear - to create a clear disincentive to tyrannical regimes - Iran, North Korea, Syria in the future - against mass slaughter inflicted on their own people and others, particularly using weapons that are so cruel and indiscriminate that they are the subject of a universal prohibition.  A limited strike is likely to succeed in deterring at least some future uses of these weapons.  This is because chemical warfare is relatively ineffective in achieving military objectives, and so even a moderate cost imposed on a regime in terms of damage to its military may make their use not worth the cost.  The cost of doing nothing is harder to quantify, but is likely to be huge in terms of lives lost worldwide and eventual if not immediate threats to the United States.

I expect the President has this in mind as he finalizes plans for the strike.  It's not clear to me that he will be stronger with congressional approval than without it, since his flexibility if he acts alone will be greater than if Congress, in its political maneuvering, has saddled him with an authorization entangled in a multitude of attached strings.  I don't think he can persuade a majority of the public to support the attack in advance, but support may grow afterwards.  In any case, leadership entails understanding a need to act with the judgment of history in mind rather than simply the results of opinion polls.  I think history will judge his action favorably in the long run, despite the inevitable short term denunciations.  History's judgment on Congress may be less charitable.



ShamsAci
ShamsAci

Mr. Obama should care to listen to others opinion on attacking Syria, for example, US military who know more about the strategy of wars than he does.

JebediahBush
JebediahBush

Ah, these are the same idiot Generals that took USA into Iraq... Talk about Amateur hour!  Same Generals that bad mouthed Clinton, but seems he got it right in Bosnia, no boots on the ground... Todays Generals are just politicians, they don't know anything about War.

JuanViche
JuanViche

Oh-bomb-a-nation, Kerry zombie and co. need to go to proverbial hell instead of keeping up the effort to try to take us there. Let's take some action.

Sledgehammer Alert: Calling Congress to stop USA Warmongering in Syria!

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/09/stop-usa-warmongering-in-syria-sledgehammer-alert-call-on-congress-to-vote-no-on-any-usa-airstrike-b.html


The possibility of realizing energy independence

http://tekgnosis.typepad.com/tekgnosis/2013/08/the-possibility-of-realizing-energy-independence.html

littleredtop
littleredtop

This whole Syria thing is the result of another instance of Obama mouthing off.  He does this all the time and the American people are getting tired of it.  He did it when his friend was arrested in Boston, again regarding the Martin shooting and of course with regard to Syria.  This is what happens when you put an "empty suit" into the highest elected office of the land.  The mistakes aren't Obama's - the mistake was ours. 

texdrake
texdrake

Last time I checked it wasn't the President's job to prep the military for war.  If the pentagon isn't happy with the preparations maybe they should start looking in the mirror

gysgt213
gysgt213

"Those are harsh words, but on Sunday Scales made clear he and his fellow retired and still serving military officers are having no second thoughts, chastened by their experience in Iraq. “They think they are being rolled again and don’t want that to happen,” Scales says."

This makes no sense. 


ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

According to Bob Scales, most of the military are against the Syrian military operation. Even as a civilian I could see the stupidity of a plan revealing to your enemy, the duration, the intensity and the half hearted way of doing it. Assad is free to do it the do what he is doing the next day. What happens if he uses the chemical weapons as he will surely do ? What happens if the blowback that Iran and its surrogates will attack Israel and American citizens ? Will Obama provide lawyers for the Muslim terrorists as he did the Boston bomber ?


docroco
docroco

The reason for the confusion is that the whole idea of attacking Syria is misbegotten.  Although there is clearly more evidence of wrong-doing by Syria than the totally cooked-up case Bush made against Iraq, the Syrian situation does not justify an attack.  There are so many good reasons NOT to start this war and so little reason for starting it that it is perfectly natural that military planning for it is muddled.  

FinnyNettle
FinnyNettle

@mary.waterton  Because we were doing SO much better before "Don't ask don't tell" was repealed all of 2 years ago.

anon76
anon76

@Chelliah 

What is your argument here?  That since the US did something wrong 40 years ago, it is now OK for others to do so?  We also dropped a pair of atomic bombs on cities nearly 70 years ago- are you eager to see those actions repeated as well?

The use of chemical weapons has been banned for the better part of 90 years by multitudes of international treaties.  If leaders of states are able to use such weapons with impunity, then it seriously undermines international law, regardless of what happened in Vietnam 40 years ago.

Chelliah
Chelliah

@MohammadShafiqKhan You complain that this is an attack on Muslims. Why are  Whaabis and Sunnis killing Shias.

More Muslims are killed by fellow Muslims. And recently Muslims are killing Christians in Syria and Egypt and in other Muslim areas like Nigeria.

anon76
anon76

@ClemKadoodlehopper 

What the heck is a "Sunday afternoon quarterback"?  Isn't that just a quarterback?

And what's wrong with a president leading from DC?  In your mind do you think that Roosevelt was the first one to wheel himself out of the LCs at Normandy?

anon76
anon76

@AbigailSmith 

Hmm.  You've provided no links for your Reuters claims (claims that are strongly refuted), you ignore the fact that the US is actually footing the largest portion of the bill for the refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, etc. (done through the UN, as it should be), and you mischaracterize the President's approach by implying he wants to topple Assad (he in fact has said that military action would not be intended to remove Assad).

I have no doubt that you sincerely want us to stay out of this conflict, but your argument for staying out isn't all that compelling.

Chelliah
Chelliah

@fmoolten Why not use Agent Orange which the US happily used in Vietnam. and the after effects are still being felt today.

JeffLong
JeffLong

@fmoolten You sound like a government troll. These are wars of aggression for oil. We all know it and were all tired of it. Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin owned by the Federal Reserve. We need a non-violent revolution to take the power back and get these parasites out of the government!



ClemKadoodlehopper
ClemKadoodlehopper

@JebediahBush Really JB?  Then how did those 20 soldiers die?  Must have been magic.  You shouldn't talk about things as if you understand them, when clearly you do not.  Why don't you talk to General Brown or the 20,000 Americans that were in Bosnia.  Jesus you frigging Armchair Warriors sicken me.

DrinkerOfTheRye
DrinkerOfTheRye

@JebediahBush Of course they aren't the same Generals,  generals only serve about 4-10 years as generals so those responsible for planing the Clinton wars and the Bush wars are retired now.  GEN Dempsey and GEN Odierno are some of the few remaining and they were division commanders in Iraq, not strategic planners.  Clinton put "boots on the ground" both in Bosnia as well as Kosovo (where we still have some boots on the ground.

Neuroman
Neuroman

@texdrake You need to bone up a little bit on the responsibilities of the Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States of America. Obama is fumbling the ball left and right and it is making EVERYONE with any common sense pretty darned nervous.

Neuroman
Neuroman

@gysgt213 Thanks for the post. I am scratching my head over that one as well.

ReneDemonteverde
ReneDemonteverde

@docroco At least Bush was respected and feared than this spineless, cowardly, dithering, indecisive metrosexual you call President. Going to a war looking for the first exit available is a stupid way of doing it as well as your stupid post.

docroco
docroco

@anon76 @Chelliah Since the argument being made by our government is a totally self-righteous one -- ie Syria has been bad and evil and has breached norms of warfare -- then how we behave and have behaved DOES impinge on its validity.  Thus our past history of the use of these kinds of weapons does matter.  

And it's not just about atomic bombs and napalm and agent orange.  Have you forgotten that we invaded Iraq and ignited a civil war that resulted in over 100,000 Iraqi deaths?  Do you think that those deaths are OK, just because either we didn't directly cause (all of) them or because they were deaths by nice clean armaments like bullets and bombs?

Last, if, as you say, the world condemned chemical/biological weapons 90 years ago, then we shouldn't have used then in either WWII or Vietnam.  SO we can't suddenly take the high road now and be credible.


ClemKadoodlehopper
ClemKadoodlehopper

@anon76 @ClemKadoodlehopper Someone with no experience other than voyeuristic.  No hands on experience.  If you're asking me if Roosevelt was competent to run a war, no he wasn't.  But he did hire people with practical experience.  I could read you his cabinet, most with wartime credentials.  The difference is you get O-7's and better with zero practical experience in battlefield tactics.  They make for lousy commanders.  Look at the evidence.

fmoolten
fmoolten

@docroco @fmoolten That's very doubtful.  Airfields, aircraft, radar, railroads, infrastructure, etc can be replaced eventually at a significant cost, assuming Russia is willing and can afford a full replacement, but not in time to avert a significant military disadvantage to the Syrian regime in its struggle with the rebels.

anon76
anon76

@JeffLong

Uh, there is no oil in Syria, and whatever resources are available could not be secured with the kind of strike that is being discussed.  This is the exact opposite of an oil war- a limited strike in a zero resource state with every plan (excepting President McCain's) predicated on not getting stuck in.

gysgt213
gysgt213

@Neuroman @gysgt213 I am thinking the word "no" is not supposed to be there.  But I would hope the author would clarify. 

jason024
jason024

@ReneDemonteverde @docroco

I will agree with the feared part. Nobody in the world knew what Bush was going to do next. Blindly going into Iraq and Afghanistan are reasons for people to be on edge. 

 I would much rather have a rational president who thinks through a response than an idiot who goes into a war (with boots on the ground) without thinking it through. 

docroco
docroco

@ReneDemonteverde @docroco Bush was not respected by me, though certainly feared as in "what stupid thing will he do or say next?"  War is not to be entered into lightly and certainly not without a CLEAR justification and CLEAR danger to us.  Not sure what you find stupid about my post or about that sentiment.


docroco
docroco

@fmoolten @docroco We've already claimed limited involvement -- therefore not nearly all the infrastructure you mentioned is likely to be damaged.  

Neuroman
Neuroman

@docroco @ReneDemonteverde It looks like you, two, are in violent agreement with each other. We have become so divided with Obama's political approach to governing that we don't even recognize it when we agree on something.