Posted tagged ‘fog of war’

The Fog Of Syria

April 8, 2017

President Trump ordered a military strike against a Syrian airbase in response to horrific pictures of a Syrian Government suspected Sarin gas attack on defenseless Syrian civilians. Initially most members of Congress welcomed the action and those who did not, kept quiet because the tide of public opinion was demanding some US response. Now as the dust is settling, other voices are being raised. Hmmm.

Supporters of President Trump’s actions (actually the specific plans are the product of the Defense Department, not the President) describe the airbase attack as proportional and an appropriate first step. Supporters are also quick to say they hope this action was not be lost on the North Koreans or the Chinese. No more President Obama – Mr Nice Guy – foreign policy, they say. Hmmm.

Other observers point out that the Sarin gas may have come from stock piles held by terrorists and were released when an errant bomb hit the stash. Possible, and an extremely important point if true. But, rebel held chemical weapons seems highly unlikely while Syria has already admitted to possessing chemical weapons in the past.

What’s next?

Bashar Assad’s opponents point out that innocent civilians are dying everyday when Syrian forces drop conventional barrel bombs. What is the difference (gas or bombs) for defenseless people?

This line of reasoning supports the US taking further steps, like disabling other airbases, establishing no fly zones, or even partitioning Syria thereby liberating areas for Assad opponents to set up government. Sound reasonable?

No sooner have such proposals been made than others point out that ISIS, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other similar groups make up some of those who think one of the partitioned Syrian areas would be just fine for their control. Is that what President Trump is thinking?

Yesterday, about 150 protesters blocked traffic in Philadelphia as a protest against President Trump’s Syrian airstrike. The protesters were against the use of force. I wonder what these people think about the nature of the Syrian civil war?

Former President Obama assessed the Syrian situation as one not amenable to western, non-Muslim intervention. Peace would return to the Middle East only when local leaders agreed to live together in harmony. Obama was willing to supply training and coordinating help but severely limited the direct US fighting involvement.

Under Obama, the US policy was still pregnant, but much less than obvious than a full fledged occupation.

Some foreign policy wonks describe the Syrian conflict as a proxy war for the Iranian-Saudi relationship. With Russia’s involvement, there is the possibility of a resumption of the old East-West proxy wars. And some only see the Syrian mess as a conflict between Sunni and Shiite or a battle waged by a greedy authoritarian family against a poor population. Hmmm.

Former President Obama’s strategy may have been wise but it did not “feel” good, it was not decisive in nature. President Trump’s quick and timely response feels better. Only time will reveal whether President Trump has acted wisely or whether his actions will help or hinder a resolution to the Syrian civil war.

Not much is clear in the Syrian fog of war.

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Fog of Snow

February 10, 2010

The term “Fog of War” has been traced to Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz, and more recently to former Secretary of Defense Robert S McNamara. The term tries to explain the inherent uncertainty contained in any military engagement. Von Clausewitz used the term to explain military strategies and McNamara used it to explain how the US got bogged down in Vietnam. The public thinks more of the term as a sign of the Government’s inability or incompetence to win a conflict over a inferior military opponent.

I am wondering whether a new term, “Fog of Snow” might now emerge. Nature has buffeted the east coast this year and dumped more snow on Washington, DC than in recent years. The City has been crippled with latest two feet fall of snow.   Government buildings have been forced to remain closed this week due to road conditions. Today it is snowing again with between one and two feet more snow expected. I am wondering how long it is going to take for the media to pick up on the “inability or incompetence” of our Government to clear the snow and return to business?

I am sure the Obama Administration wants the roads cleared and wants the routine government machinery (the sea of offices) staffed again. But much like his political agenda, just wanting it to happen is not enough. Making it happen takes a different type of leadership.

(Under “W” one could reasonably think that “W” did not care whether Government workers showed up or not.  No government was good government in those days).

To be sure most of the snow filled roads and streets are not the Federal Government’s responsibility to clear. Just as getting Democrats and Republicans to act responsibly and productively in Congress is not the Obama Administration’s responsibility. But if not President Obama, then who? Congress is a separate and equal branch of Government, and States and Local authorities march to their own drums. The President, however, can go directly to the people who count, the citizens, and speak about what needs to happen and why. The President can also nationalize resources or provide emergency coordinators who in tern can bring these resources to bare on any issue.

Snow is not the work of Presidents but keeping the wheels of Government moving is.