Alternative options for Syria (Part I): Why we need them

A week ago it looked like we were going to get to trash another countries air defense systems and lob some cruise missiles at a few strategically placed targets. I always thought that was a bad option1. This week, we are hammering out the details of a diplomatic arrangement for Syria to give up their chemical weapons. Even if this initiative is successful, the war will continue, the international community will continue to pretend that while twitching bodies expiring from chemical attacks are bad, torn up and dismembered bodies from indiscriminate artillery strikes are acceptable, U.S. sanctions will remain in place and in fact, the U.S. will have lost some of its best strategic options that can do more damage then a few well placed CALCMs. I am very skeptical about the mechanics of this deal. Like any good Blackstone consultant, the first thing to pop into my head is how we can ensure compliance. The munitions are most likely dispersed and how do we ensure that every single pound of toxic goo2 is accounted for, particularly without blowing some of our intel agencies sources and methods. Once it is accounted for, how do we maintain accountability? Obviously through the use of inspectors, which will place U.N. or other individuals at great risk. But oddly, compliance is the smallest bit of the equation, with security and disposal paramount. I’m not a chemical weapons expert, but from my understanding of people more knowledgeable than I (weirdly, a ton of my commissioning class wound up branching chemical corps), you either have to flash heat it using specialized facilities or for some of the munitions, the gas can be rendered inert with a specific chemical. Of course, this requires multi-million dollar facilities whose construction in a country under war is probably not the most logical option. Furthermore, because the munitions have to be separated from the warhead at these sites, the process paints a big red bullseye for anyone willing to disrupt the process, steal chemical weapons or detonate them in place. Of course we could always ship the munitions out of the country, because convoying sensitive weapons through areas populated by terrorist elements who desperately want them is totally a good idea. As for the site security, do we really trust the Syrian Army to secure them and remain in compliance with the terms? If not, are U.N. peace keepers capable of such a mission in this hostile environment? If not the U.N., that leaves either the U.S. or Russia. Given that the Russians helped develop Syria’s chemical arsenal, even if they are trust-worthy I don’t think their military is capable and disciplined enough to be trusted with this mission. As for the U.S. providing security, what ever happened to no boots on the ground?     1Not my article obviously, but it’s pretty in line with my thinking and saves me some carpel tunnel syndrome. Plus it’s a good read. Minus his stab on the drone campaign. 2Clearly a technical...

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