Monday, September 02, 2013

Dickinson Syria Panel

This evening I ventured over to this panel on Syria at Dickinson College, which featured as presenters two political science professors, Ed Webb and Neil Diamant, as well as former congressman and admiral Joe Sestak.  I was struck by the fact that all three panelists supported military action against Syria, mainly basing themselves on the idea that President Obama had drawn a red line and that therefore he had to stick with it to maintain credibility.

Sestak went into some details as to how he thought an actual operation would unfold, with it being specifically a limited and focuses cruise missile assault undertaken mainly to say we did it, but with little lasting impact on the conflict other than to hopefully deter further use of chemical weapons.  During the question-and-answer session, several Dickinson students wondered how a minimal attack just to say we did something would actually have deterrent effect, which seems to be the nub of the whole issue, recently expressed by Gary Sick here.  One is placing an awful lot of faith in military planners to get everything just so, with the saving grace perhaps being that evidence from intercepts suggests that the massive attack of last week was seen as a mistake made by a commander on the ground rather than something calculated by the regime.  Because military analysis is not something I'm good at, I don't blog much about Syria, but my own thought is to wonder whether the right move might be to target the specific unit which used the chemical weapons, thus serving notice to other Syrian officers who might be in a position to carry out or refuse orders in the future.

One other point:  In the comments to the Patriot-News article, the journalist claimed Diamant said that "the Middle East is played for keeps in which the weak perish" is an "Islamic perspective."  Diamant said no such thing.  She probably meant to type "Israeli" for "Islamic," as that was the gist of Diamant's account of Israeli security thinking.  It is, of course, an additional issue why Israeli views so often get panelist billing when, say, Turkish ones do not, though I assume in this case it was because the event was put together on short notice and he was someone willing to speak who had something to say and who would make up a panel of three.



Blogger Ed Webb said...

I don't support a US attack so much as see it as inevitable.

Thanks for the heads-up about the Patriot News report. Sue misquoted me as well as Neil.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Brian Ulrich said...

Ahh...I missed that nuance in your comments. Sorry.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Ed Webb said...

Not a problem at all.

The point of consensus I thought was clearest was that the US Government has no strategy on Syria.

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one seems to have mentioned in any articles that I found why the artillery battery HAD chemical weapons near by? I believe the Syrian Government assured the world that they we under lock and key in secure facilities.

I doubt individual Commanders had the authority to release these weapons from secure faculties.

I did read that the area the weapons were used in was near a clover leaf of the major highways in Syria, and that the rebels were aiming for this juncture of the highways.

To be brief, I believe the weapons were allowed to be on-site near the artillery and were to be used as a last resort if key areas were to be overrun.

Chemical weapon effects can last awhile, therefore it is also a deterrent to the rebels not to move back into that area.


Don Wallace

8:58 AM  

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