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article imageOp-Ed: The cost of military intervention in Syria

By Paul Iddon     Aug 6, 2013 in Politics
Recent accusations made by both Democratic and Republican Senators that General Martin Dempsey has been exaggerating the cost a military intervention into the ongoing Syrian conflict would have for the US gives one an apt moment to reassess the situation.
What has concerned many of those leveling criticism against Dempsey are the Generals comments that limited strikes against Syria would need "hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines" which would in turn cost "billions" to execute.
It has been argued by other sources, particularly the Institute for the Study of War, that the Syrian Air Force and air defense system could be largely destroyed at a relatively low monetary cost — and probably no loss of any military personnel — to the United States. This could be done, contends this institution, by firing a lot of cruise missiles against Syrian air and missile sites from as few as three U.S. Navy ships operating in unison with 24 military aircraft belong to both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy Air Force — probably a similar operation to the proposal of a limited no-fly zone being conducted and enforced by U.S. Air Force F-16 jet fighters over swaths of Syrian territory from air bases in Jordan.
The Syrian Air Force, though made up of relatively retrograde and obsolete Soviet-era MiGs, does have a formidable MiG-29 fighter interceptor fleet and air defense network. Cruise missiles could effectively deal with them, but such a campaign could possibly rile the Russians. Russian intransigence when it comes to opposing any regime change implemented from the outside on Syria means we won't likely see to them tell Assad to f*ck off, like they did to a Taliban delegation sent on behalf of Mullah Omar in 2001 in order to request the Russians assistance to fight against that American intervention, if he asks them for arms and assistance. They could potentially instead fulfill their pledge to deliver sophisticated S-300 air defense missiles batteries to the Damascus regime which would give it the capability to threaten U.S. jets and cruise missiles.
In this writer's humble opinion, General Dempsey has clearly taken the long view on Syria. He has in the past used the American experience in both Lebanon and Iraq to argue against the notion that the conflict can be resolved by a decisive military intervention. The kind of military intervention that Dempsey has in mind would probably be a more Desert Storm-type campaign. Hence an extensive aerial and missile bombardment to degrade and destroy most of Syria's military forces. But not a boots-on-the-ground campaign that will see to Assad's regime being thoroughly dismantled — as was the case in Iraq with the Saddam Hussein regime following the 2003 invasion.
If the ultimate goal is, as it was in Libya, to assist these rebels from the sky to enable them to overthrow the regime themselves then Dempsey's contention that it may be an exorbitantly expensive campaign may very well be vindicated. Such a campaign would after all likely see to thousands of aerial sorties against targets of strategic, as well as tactical, military importance as well as protective aerial umbrellas over large parts of the country — as well as the channeling of arms and ammunition to ensure the rebels are logistically capable of continually engaging in, and gradually making 'progress' in, more street-to-street urban warfare against the army and regime loyalists when going to capture cities like Damascus and Aleppo.
The present administration in Washington isn't even showing any real seriousness when it comes to directly supplying these ragtag rebel groups with arms and munitions. It also has no credibility as a mediator or arbiter in this conflict and certainly isn't ready or willing to put boots on the ground in Syria. This in turn means that anything it does do to intervene in this conflict will be a half-measure at best. But at this stage that would be better than the countless empty promises and reassurances being continually given to the Syrian rebels who are in turn continually being killed in droves fighting the superior Syrian military.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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