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View Diary: Can You Destroy all of Syria's Chemical Weapons? (44 comments)

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  •  No one is talking about targeting (7+ / 0-)

    the chemical stockpiles directly anyway, as the risks to the population would be too great.

    Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

    by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 09:14:23 PM PDT

    •  What would they target then? /nt (0+ / 0-)

      Civil Men Are For Civil Rights

      by mimi on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 09:20:33 PM PDT

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      •  Delivery systems. (4+ / 0-)

        Those chemicals are delivered to the intended target by bombs or rockets. Eliminate or degrade runways, planes, rocket launchers, and the Assad regime has fewer options to poison its citizens.

        Someone who knows more than I do should now take over to discuss the US capability and the likelihood of seriously degrading Syria's delivery system.

        “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” ― Chief Seattle

        by SoCalSal on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 09:28:42 PM PDT

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        •  what kind of delivery system did they use? (1+ / 0-)
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          Whoever launched the attacks (be it Assad or the rebels) inside Syria by Syrians on other Syrians?  They needed big missiles  and planes to accomplish that?

          Would that mean they only care to destroy those delivery systems that could carry those chemical weapons to neighboring countries? They don't care for inner Syrian usage without using sophisticated delivery systems?

          Civil Men Are For Civil Rights

          by mimi on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 09:49:36 PM PDT

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        •  Chemical launchers can be small & portable (5+ / 0-)

          I saw a photo of what was allegedly a launcher used in the attack being tested by a UN technician.    It was a stick about four feet tall.    I'm certainly no expert, but I believe that any mortar shell can carry chemical weapons instead of explosives.

          What I get from the article is that supporting a revolution against Syria might not have been such a bright idea afterall...

          •  Why do we assume that we target chemical weapons (0+ / 0-)

            My expectation would be that we take out communications and control first with a combination of hacking and EMP.

            Next up planes, trains and automobiles, tanks, trucks, cranes, bulldozers, backhoes, trackhoes, excavators, construction equipment and delivery systems

            The MI all of it from Homs up the coast to Turkey and targets along it within about 14 =15 miles of the Med with naval bombardment until there's nothing left to do but make the rubble bounce.

            The M5, Routes, 5, 7 and 110 for the first twenty miles out of Damascus with Tomahawks.

            Following that telephone repeater stations, land lines, fiber optic pull stations, power substations, power plants.

            Then there are the traditional bridges, ports, airports, warehouses, factories, armories, police stations,  fire stations,

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 07:47:08 AM PDT

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        •  I think they'll start with the first stages of (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SoCalSal, Lawrence, mimi

          creating a "no-fly zone". Radar, anti-aircraft batteries, possibly airfields, possibly some communications infrastructure.

          This will really get the Syrian Army's attention.

          They've made the point that Syria made a rational if cold-blooded tactical decision to use CW to clear the Damascus suburbs after they'd tried and failed to do it by other means.

          This response would change the Syrians cost-benefit assessment. Hopefully they'd see that further use of CW would only lead them closer to a "no-fly" situation.

          Then after they have rendered Syrian skies safe for their aircraft, they might continue to go after delivery systems.

          I think they're working to get the Syrian generals to finally throw Assad under the bus and start looking for a political solution.

          You can't make this stuff up.

          by David54 on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 10:27:40 PM PDT

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          •  This will not go like you think it will. (3+ / 0-)
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            CroneWit, SoCalSal, mimi

            Syria is not Afghanistan. It's not even Iraq.

            For the Russians, Syria is a last vital toe-hold of influence in the Middle East, crucial to their sense of still being a 'great power'. They will absolutely not permit Assad's regime to collapse without a stiff fight.

            The latest generation of Russian surface to air missiles are extremely dangerous, and very difficult to jam or evade. The Russians have surely made such weapons available to Assad, because it's vital to them to maintain this client State. The Russians would also dearly love to give the U.S. military a bloody nose; their international arms sales have suffered because of the repeated drubbings delivered by U.S. forces to Russian-armed military forces.

            The U.S. military has two choices. They can launch a wave of cruise missiles that will blow up stuff and look good on the evening news without accomplishing anything militarily useful. Or, they can engage in a very intensive campaign to degrade Syria's air defenses, followed by an even more intensive campaign against Assad's military, including its chemical weapons delivery systems. But this will be grueling, enormously expensive, immensely destructive to Syrian cities, and certain to fail. Remember, the Air Force couldn't destroy a handful of Saddam Hussein's SCUD's in the middle of a desert. They're not going to be able to even dent Assad's capacity to launch further chemical weapon attacks.

            In the process the U.S. is going to lose some planes and pilots, guaranteed. The latest generation Russian SAMs are lethal. As soon as American planes are shot down, and captured pilots paraded for the cameras, this is going to go from very bad to much worse.

            It'll cripple the rest of Obama's term in office, because he will be mocked and derided as the second coming of Jimmy Carter.

            •  Why use planes (1+ / 0-)
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              We have accurate missiles with adequate range that can be delivered from our fleet docked right off the coast.

              The Russians and Chinese are not going to go to war with the US, they won't have adequate resources in the region or for that matter bases. The Cold War is long gone.

              My suspicion is all the firepower stuff is already obsolete, made so by computer hacking, EMP drone based intelligence, highly accurate universal comprehensive targeting and other stuff that is virtually impossible to defend against.

              Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

              by rktect on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 07:53:12 AM PDT

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              •  Nope. Don't be seduced by technology. (2+ / 0-)
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                rktect, mimi

                A stockpile of rockets loaded with Sarin gas in a hidden bunker is not going to be undone by computer hacking or little predator drones.

                Tomahawk cruise missiles carry 1,000 lb. warheads at speeds of 450 kts. and are incapable of penetrating a concrete bunker. They are incapable of hitting a mobile target as they fly to pre-programmed GPS locations. They are useless against anything you can load in a truck and drive down the street.

                All the other missiles the U.S. Navy carries are defensive, and they have not really been tested in combat, with the notable exception of the disastrous downing of an Iranian civil airliner packed with civilians in the 1980s.

                People are far too smug and sanguine about this stuff; "anchored off shore"? Golly, I hope not. A modern Israeli corvette was severely damaged by a Russian-built surface to surface missile launched from the shore of Lebanon by Hezbollah, for gosh sakes. Assad and the Russians may be tempted to 'send a message' by launching a late-generation Russian-built anti-ship missile at any U.S. ships that get too close to Syria's shoreline.

                One famous military quote is that 'no plan every survives its first encounter with the enemy'. A pithier formulation is that 'the enemy gets a vote too'. Assad and his Russian sponsors are very unlikely to be as conveniently stupid and inert as Saddam Hussein was. I am very much afraid that we are in for a rude surprise.

                •  Why would you go after the CW (1+ / 0-)
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                  Just take out the command and control with hacking and EMP weapons first, next use naval bombardment, drones and tomahawks to take out the construction equipment, bulldozers, backhoes, trackhoes, cranes, excavators, the dump trucks, tractor trailers roads, bridges, repeater stations, substations, the M1 and M5 until nothing wants to risk moving. Then take out the planes trains and automobiles, the delivery systems of the delivery systems.

                  Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

                  by rktect on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 08:56:28 AM PDT

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                  •  Not enough missiles in the world... (1+ / 0-)
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                    to knock out every bulldozer and backhoe. It's attempting to use a sledgehammer to kill a gnat; not only grotesque overkill, it's ineffective.

                    'Naval bombardment'? Nope. The U.S. retired its battleships. What we've got left are billion dollar destroyers with a single 5" gun, fragile as an eggshell and far too vulnerable to risk sailing within gun range of the Syrian coast. Remember the U.S.S. Cole? Nearly sunk by two guys with an explosive-packed small boat.

                    'EMP weapons'? Nope. (Unless you mean detonating a nuclear warhead, which speaks for itself.) The U.S. does have bombs that disperse clouds of fine metal fibers to short out power plants, but that won't impede Syrian chemical weapons, it'll just further torment civilians.

                    There is not a technological fix for this problem! That obsession with a technological fix is precisely what led the U.S. down the road to failure in Vietnam (just google 'Igloo White' and see what I mean). There was a great article in Atlantic last year about this delusion as well, highlighting how the Pentagon was blowing untold billions of dollars in the fight against IED's on extremely expensive high-tech failures, when the most effective solution was very experienced master sergeants who knew what to look for. No profit in that for military contractors, so the only solution with any promise was completely ignored.

                    The only 'command and control system' you need to launch a Sarin gas rocket attack on a suburb full of civilians is a hand-carried written note delivered to two guys with a Katyusha-loaded truck.

                    •  Obama is being told the US military can do the job (0+ / 0-)

                      without boots on the ground, no fly zones, extensive civilian casualties, and collateral damage.

                      I think of Obama as more of a hands on community organizer working better with the very experience master sergeants who know what they are doing than with the war profiteers and mercenaries of the MIC under Bush Cheney.

                      I'm expecting him to actually prevail in Congress coopting the Hawks in the Senate and then prevail in the NSA getting them to identify every button pusher Assad has and have them waking up to blue screens as the missiles come in on the delivery systems of the delivery systems.

                      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

                      by rktect on Tue Sep 03, 2013 at 03:51:35 PM PDT

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            •  I disagree. (0+ / 0-)

              I heard some analysts say that the Russian naval installation is "rusted", "not significant", etc.
              There was a panel at Brookings  last week. It was on cspan.
              It's probable that we are negotiating with Russia to preserve their interests.
              I know the S-A missiles represent a threat. I don't know that they're that significant.
              Syria's cities are already in ruin, thanks to Assad.

              Certain to fail.
              If it's certain to fail, they won't do it. That's what all the discussion in the DOD is all about.
              The USAF couldn't find those scuds in the first gulf war. Things have changed since then. There is probably no one working harder to figure out a path to a political solution to this than the US military, either.
              It's not all neocon, all the time, anymore.

              You're fantasizing a worst case scenario, which will also be the end of hope for thousands of innocent Syrians.

              I'm not at all sure how it will turn out. I just outlined what I thought would be the strategy, if they do it.
              That is also the necessary first step to creating "safe havens" for refugees, as well, which is desperately needed.
              I hope your projection of a victory of your brother Assad is incorrect.

              You can't make this stuff up.

              by David54 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 07:55:14 AM PDT

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              •  'your brother Assad'. (1+ / 0-)
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                Nice shabby ad-hominem touch there. Shame on you. Sorry if I'm pointing out some inconvenient truths here.

                The Russian Navy is indeed decaying.
                But that's not what I'm talking about.

                The Soviet Navy spent untold billions of Rubles bulking up to confront the U.S. Navy, expanded to a colossal and unsustainable size including some really scary-dangerous technologies (like insane liquid bismuth/lead reactor cooling systems in the Alfa class nuclear subs, egads) and collapsed in rusting ruins when the Soviet Union crashed.

                However, the Russians have fielded a range of extremely effective advanced SAM's over the past decade, and they have yet to be encountered in combat by Western forces. Younger folks may not remember this, but in 1973 the Israeli Air Force suffered severe losses to the SA-6 missile system that had not previously been encountered in combat. They suffered even heavier losses to ZSU-23 gun systems when they attempted to fly below the SA-6's engagement altitude. I'd love to be wrong, but the realities of military technology and tactics basically guarantee that this will not go well.

                There are a number of things modern air forces can achieve. Locating and surgically destroying delivery systems for chemical weapons that are concealed in densely populated urban areas is not one of them. And the tactics necessary to locate and destroy such targets- loitering at low to medium altitudes while searching for them- will make U.S. tactical aircraft extremely vulnerable to SAM's.

                •  That's why I think they'll go after radar, etc. (0+ / 0-)

                  I don't think they'll hit the CW system first.
                  They are making the point that the Syrian army made a calculated tactical move to use CW. They weighed the cost-benefit.
                  I think they will try to change that cost-benefit calculation so that the Syrians know that if they use them again they're going to wind up with a "no-fly zone".

                  That seems to be the only way to be "limited" and "effective".

                  You can't make this stuff up.

                  by David54 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:13:46 AM PDT

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                •  Sorry about the "brother Assad" remark. I expected (0+ / 0-)

                  to be hr'ed over it. I was pissed.

                  You can't make this stuff up.

                  by David54 on Mon Sep 02, 2013 at 10:15:11 AM PDT

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                  •  Thanks. We all get hot when we care about stuff (1+ / 0-)
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                    I still believe quite strongly that any military 'intervention' in Syria is going to be a clusterfuck. There is no 'good side' in the conflict, and the application of high explosives from the sky is most unlikely to prevent more civilian deaths. It almost reminds one of the debate about whether Allied forces should have bombed the Nazi concentration camps. At the end of the day you really can't protect civilians without a large force on the ground, and even then a lot of them may be killed in the process.

                    Moreover, by this point the U.S. has 'telegraphed its punch' by announcing an intention to strike so far in advance. Assad's forces would have to be brain dead to expose themselves at this point. Rather, we have now given them both incentive and opportunity to attempt ambushing U.S. air strikes with decoy targets and SAM's.

        •  Utterly pointless and futile. (3+ / 0-)
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          SoCalSal, CroneWit, mimi

          During the first Gulf War, the U.S. Air Force devoted massive resources to hunting for Iraqi mobile SCUD missiles. Despite essentially ideal circumstances (as in, missile launchers out in the middle of the empty desert in Western Iraq) the result was a colossal failure. Very few launchers were located, even fewer were destroyed, and SCUD missiles continued to fall on Israel and Saudi Arabia.

          Today the U.S. Air Force is considerably smaller, with far fewer combat aircraft. It will have very little access to 'friendly' bases for any attack on Syria. The Assad regime has had many weeks to conceal their delivery systems in the middle of dense urban areas, where they will be virtually impossible to find, and impossible to destroy without massive civilian casualties.

          This has FAIL written all over it.

          Honestly, this is the biggest foreign policy mystery of our age: why do some people not comprehend that there are problems for which there is no military solution?

      •  What I've heard is most likely is (3+ / 0-)
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        SoCalSal, alain2112, mimi

        Assad's air defenses and related military targets. But I don't know the details. If there is a way to hamper his ability to deliver the chemical weapons, without risking exposure of the chemicals themselves, that might make sense.

        Gondwana has always been at war with Laurasia.

        by AaronInSanDiego on Sun Sep 01, 2013 at 09:30:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  "command and control" facilities (1+ / 0-)
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        in other words, Assad's military headquarters, radar installations, or whatever.

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