On Friday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that the situation in Syria is intolerable and that President Bashar al-Assad must go, but added that any military operation the Pentagon isplanning would not come without broad support from theinternational community. So far the US and Western powers have been unable to overcomeRussian and Chinese objections to any diplomatic initiatives thatcould pave the way for the use of force in Syria. But even if thatbroad support is forthcoming, the military operation would not bean easy one, or one on par with, say, Libya . From the military option perspective, Syria has a much morerobust surface-to-air missile defense network than did theLibyans, says retired US Air Force Lt. |
Gen. Dave Deptula, a former war planner and the principal airattack planner for Operation Desert Storm , who adds that the Pentagon could use a cyberwarfare attack totake out those air defenses. There are some 130 active surface-to-air (SAM) missile sitesthroughout the country, which are far more daunting than thoseLibya possessed because they stay in a far higher state ofreadiness as a result of the perceived threat they face from Israel , Mr. Deptula notes.
US military drones would be of little use in what the Pentagoncalls a contested air environment since they are easy to shootdown and have no radar-evading capabilities, for example. This is precisely what the so-called fifth generation US militaryfighter jets like the F22 and the F35 are designed to do, saysDeptula, who adds that there s no doubt that the US military couldgo up against a robust air defense system and shut it down. Indeed, most SAM systems are designed to be able to only engage asingle target a time, he adds, which then leads into a countertechnique in terms of saturating their air defenses in order torender them ineffective a swarming of sorts by US militaryair assets. Nor are kinetics in military parlance the only option.
USforces could begin reaching out to rebel fighters, if they haven talready. The Pentagon is also likely looking at cyberattack options, Deptulanotes. We ve come up with ways that can make the target-tracking radarthink it s a GE washing machine that effectively takes it out of service without destroyingit, he says. Operation in the cyber realm are certainly partand parcel of the planning effort. But the question remains to what end and to what purpose?Pentagon planners will no doubt be asking themselves the samething, Deptula adds.
Assad is clearly a leader that needs to bedisposed of the question is what s the best way to do that? Among defense analysts, there is a growing belief that indismantling a state like Syria, the lessons learned of such anoperation will not come from Libya, but rather from Iraq, warnsAram Nerguizian, a fellow with the Center for Strategic andInternational Studies. Much like Iraq, Syria has deep-rooted sectarian, tribal, andsocioeconomic fault lines. But civil war has the potential to lookfar more messy in Syria, and spill out into neighboring countries. Unlike Iraq, Syria has little experience with education reform,institution-building, and structural change, Mr.
Nerguizian adds,noting that it has long been a banana republic grappling withdecades of coup and counter-coup. In the wake of a military intervention by the United States or the larger international community, the sectarian and tribalpressures will all come to a head, Nerguizian says. And whatcomes out of it will be anyone s guess.
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