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Assessing The Syrian Airstrike

[ Posted Monday, April 10th, 2017 – 16:41 PDT ]

Late last week, President Donald Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield, in an escalation of the United States' participation in the Syrian civil war. While it's still too early to come to a definitive conclusion about the effect this airstrike had -- in either the military situation, the foreign policy of the Trump administration, or the raw domestic politics involved, a few preliminary assessments can now be made.

 

Military effect

The U.S. Navy launched 59 cruise missiles at the Syrian airfield, of which 58 successfully hit their targets (one malfunctioned on launch). That sounds like a lot of firepower, but to the American military, this was nothing more than a "pinprick" attack.

Cruise missiles have the benefit of not putting any American lives at risk during the attack itself, of course. Launching such missiles from hundreds of miles away means there is zero risk to American military pilots or troops, because neither participated in the attack. The drawback to cruise missiles, as opposed to a more traditional bombing raid, is that they have a limited payload. The warheads on such missiles only weigh 1,000 pounds, which is half of what standard bombs can deliver. Cruise missiles are also rather expensive, when compared to the price of fuel for fighter jets and bombers. So a massive bombing raid would likely have caused more damage to the airfield, but at a much higher risk to American military personnel.

The missile raid did achieve one military objective, from all reports. There were no Russian troops killed or injured in the attack, which isn't too surprising since we warned them in advance to stay away from the areas of the airfield we were targeting.

Beyond not killing Russians, the military effectiveness of the raid is a rather mixed picture. The Pentagon wasn't openly bragging about how many Syrian aircraft had been taken out of commission, which is a good indicator that we didn't really make much of a dent in the total assets of the Syrian air force. In fact, most of the damage assessment that was released to the public came from the Russians -- hastily-shot video from the day after. This showed (to state the obvious) what the Russians and Syrians wanted the world to see, so it quite likely didn't tell the whole story. Propaganda always has to be seen skeptically, no matter who it comes from, after all. The Russian footage was shot with an eye towards minimizing the world's perception of the damage, in other words.

We did not attempt to "crater the runways," which quite likely would have taken a whole lot more cruise missiles than were used in the raid. This allowed the Syrians to release videos of takeoffs and landings from the airfield within roughly a day of the raid. This was also propaganda, but without targeting the runways it was probably inevitable.

What we did apparently target instead were the support facilities -- fuel dumps, repair facilities, and the like. Bunkers which may have held chemical weapons were not targeted because it might have dispersed the chemicals to the surrounding civilian population. None of this damage was really highlighted in the Syrian or Russian films released afterwards, but if we did destroy enough of the support facilities it will mean the airfield becomes a lot less useful until repairs are completed.

All of this shows why this is being called a "pinprick" attack. General destruction of the entire airfield -- enough to put it out of commission for months or even years -- was not one of the mission's objectives. If it had been, we would have risked killing Russian military members and being blamed for a giant cloud of nerve gas released as a result of the attack. But the damage done was quite likely more serious than the Russians and the Syrians presented in their propaganda videos.

 

Foreign policy effect

The effect on the Trump administration's foreign policy is pretty hard to judge, at least at the moment. Trying to figure out Trump's foreign policy is an exercise that might be labeled: "Who do you believe?" Trump's foreign policy pronouncements border on the incoherent, at least when measured by what he promised it would be while campaigning. But digging deeper doesn't really add much clarity at all, because top Trump advisors have been pretty contradictory as well.

During the campaign, Trump promised an "America First" outlook to the world. This would mean avoiding getting entangled in the Syrian civil war, for one -- and Trump made a lot of political hay over the fact that his outlook was so different than the other Republicans', and (later) Hillary Clinton's. Of course, at the same time Trump was promising to "bomb the (expletive)" out of the Islamic State, which also got big cheers from the crowds. So it's not that surprising that even though Trump absolutely reversed his position by conducting the raid, so far most of his supporters don't seem to mind the contradiction.

Just a week before the raid was launched, a major shift in American foreign policy towards Syria was rolled out. We were no longer concerned with whether or not Bashar Al Assad stayed in power or not, instead that would be "up to the Syrian people." This pronouncement -- by multiple Trump senior advisors -- was met with astonishment and incredulity among hawks in the Republican Party. John McCain and Lindsey Graham both had some pretty scathing things to say about it (as both are wont to do, at times).

Then the chemical attack happened. Trump was obviously affected by how it was portrayed on cable television, which led to a complete reversal in America's Syrian policy. The raid was hastily assembled and launched in retaliation.

This kind of haste may make sense politically (more on that in a moment), but in terms of foreign policy it left all kinds of questions unanswered. Where was the proof that the Assad government was behind the attack? Where was the presentation to the United Nations, justifying an American response? There wasn't time for any of that sort of thing, obviously. This led to some grumbling from Congress, who wasn't consulted, and some further international grumbling, since there was no iron-clad case for military action under international law and treaties.

Since then, there hasn't been much in the way of clarity from the White House, either. Even watching U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the Sunday morning political this weekend only showed that the Trump foreign policy apparatus doesn't exactly speak with one voice on much of anything.

Are we now committed to removing Assad from power? Well, it depends on who you listen to and how you parse their statements. Will the focus of the American military effort in Syria change? It's hard to tell. Mostly, the picture Haley and Tillerson were projecting was that this was a one-off, stand-alone military response to a single event. Both Tillerson and Haley have noticeably backed away from the "Syrian people will decide whether Assad stays" reasoning they were using previously, but without replacing it with much in the way of any new and cohesive Syrian policy.

 

Political effect

Speaking just in terms of American domestic politics, Nikki Haley emerged stronger, Donald Trump emerged slightly stronger, and Rex Tillerson emerged.

OK, I admit, I couldn't resist that one. Taking them in reverse order, Tillerson up to this point has been almost a non-entity both on the world stage and in the American media. This was by design, not by accident. Tillerson not only has been showing utter disdain for the media up to this point (not holding regular State Department media briefings at all, really), but he's also been institutionally aloof from his own department. Most senior staff at the State Department either hasn't been hired or has actively been fired since Tillerson took over. Even the ones that do still exist don't have much in the way of access to him. Trump's first budget request also showed enormous disdain for the State Department, in proposing its budget be slashed by roughly a third. Tillerson emerged from this cocoon on Sunday, and gave his first real media interviews since he's been on the job. His upcoming trip to Russia will be closely watched, so it's likely he won't be able to hide in the shadows as much, in the near future.

As far as politics goes, it is still too early to tell whether Trump will get much of a polling bump from the Syrian raid. He did appear decisive in launching the raid so quickly, you have to at least give him that. But so far, he's only up a couple of job approval points. The traditional "rally 'round the president" effect (which usually happens whenever America launches a military attack) seems to have worked for him in a minor way, but it remains to be seen how big a bump he'll get -- and how long it'll last. Public opinion takes time to gel, and then further time is taken conducting the polls and interpreting the data. So we won't really be able to see how much political benefit Trump reaps until the end of this week, at the earliest. Also, Trump has created so many distractions as president that it's really hard to tell how long any bump will last -- will the American public even remember the raid in two or three weeks, with everything else that's going on? It's an open question.

Nikki Haley may have gained the biggest political boost of anyone over the past few days. Since Haley works in New York, she's got some physical distance from the Trump White House (and all its baggage), and she seems content to chart her own political course, almost independently of what the president or the White House is saying. She showed this independence fairly early on, but with the attention the Syrian raid drew she now seems like the strongest voice on foreign policy in the entire Trump administration (even including Trump himself). Haley is reportedly considering a future run at the presidency herself, so many see her as "checking the box" on foreign policy experience now in preparation for such a run (since governors have limited opportunities to gain such experience).

There were two other political effects from the raid worth noting. The first is that the Trump administration has at least partially changed the media narrative of their Russian ties. All the drip-drip-drip revelations of the unfolding Russian investigations were painting a pretty ugly picture up to this point -- one of Trump and his team being nothing short of Russian stooges, in essence. It's harder to paint that picture now that Trump has approved an attack on Russia's ally Syria.

I should mention that at the present time I refuse to draw any further conclusions about the shift in such perceptions. There is a lot of theorizing (on both the left and the right) as to what really could have been going on to convince Trump to launch such an attack. So far, though, we simply don't have enough information to leap to any nefarious conclusions. If there was some sort of grand scheme hidden in the Syrian attack, political or otherwise, time will probably tell us what really happened. Since the Trump White House seems to leak like a poorly-functioning sieve, this likely won't take all that long to occur. For now, I'm only focusing on the short-term effects the raid has so far had.

The last political effect worth mentioning is the utter hypocrisy emanating from just about every Republican member of Congress. They are currently bending over backwards in an attempt to explain why Trump's raid was in any way different than what Barack Obama proposed to them four years ago. Back then, they universally derided the idea of pinprick attacks in response to chemical weapons (Obama's plan for such an attack was reportedly a lot more robust than what Trump just accomplished, in fact). Obama gave Congress a chance to weigh in, and they refused to do so, to their shame (both Republican and Democratic shame, I hasten to point out). Now, Republicans can't say enough good things about the idea of pinprick attacks on Syria, of course. Such nakedly partisan hypocrisy is almost to be expected, but that doesn't make it any less notable when it happens, of course.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

57 Comments on “Assessing The Syrian Airstrike”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    What responsibilities attach to the title of Leader of the Free World, in general, and with respect to the human rights violations by the Syrian regime, in particular?

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @Liz,

    Merkel tried to admit as many refugees as possible to Germany, in spite of a fair amount of domestic backlash. She said that the pinprick strike in response to chemical weapons attacks was "understandable."

    wait, did you mean some other "Leader of the Free World?"

    JL

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    A01 [174]

    If it wasn't Sarin, we enter the realm of chemical weapons which are less technically difficult to produce.

    * There were eyewitness reports of white clouds, but you can rule out mustard gas due to the lack of external blistering on the victims.

    * There were eyewitness reports of blue-yellow and green-yellow clouds, and doctors reported a smell of bleach on some of the victims... you definitely cannot rule out chlorine, yet chlorine does not produce the pinpoint pupils reported by multiple physicians on multiple victims.

    * There were eyewitness reports of smelling nothing... yet dozens of deaths, pinpoint pupils, and multiple symptoms indicative of exposure to Sarin or other organophosphorus chemical. VX evaporates slowly so it's not likely been used here because you'd be seeing long-term effects.

    You mentioned eyewitness accounts.
    Are you referring to the eyewitness accounts from al Qaida rebels of the attack, or just the eyewitness accounts of the doctors and journalists of the aftermath?

    I factored in every report I could find of victims who survived and physicians who treated them.

    Do you support an investigation?

    Always. Environmental samples, biological samples, and interviews... leave no stone unturned.

    What do you think about the reported record of chemical attacks by al Qaida in Syria?

    They primarily use crude gas and I don't believe have the capability to produce nerve gas.

    Do you consider the reported doubts raised in the intelligence community about who was responsible for the chemical attack in Ghouta (which supposedly influenced Obama's decision not to bomb in 2013) relevant?

    Relevant then. Now? Hmmmmmm. I don't know.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-rxScnvTug

    To me, this all seems like 2002, 2003.
    Claims by an administration, evil dictator who must be guilty, "evidence" reported by an unquestioning gung ho media, Hillary on board... ah, the memories.

    And the sad big picture. We arm the "moderate rebels."

    Reagan armed the Mujahideen, Islamic Jihadists, in their fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He dedicated the Space Shuttle Columbia to them in 1982 and called them the equivalents to our Founding Fathers... the Taliban.

    We armed Iran against Iraq. We armed Iraq against Iran. We armed Saddam with chemical weapons. We know he had weapons of mass destruction because we gave them to him.

    We armed bin Laden.

    We are fighting with Iran in Iraq.
    We are fighting against Iran in Yemen.
    ___________________

    In other news: They arrested a Russian hacker in Barcelona, Spain today at the request of the FBI -- criminal division. Stay tuned. :)

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Nice, Joshua.

    It's very hard for me to think of Trump as the leader of the free world, too. And, so, I don't.

    It's also hard to think of the US as having any promise to offer the world but, I haven't given up on that, yet.

    I just hope that America can recover from the Trump administration and that the tenure of this administration will be as short as possible.

    Now, back to my question. Do you think that assuming the position of leader of the free world compels a country that makes such an assumption to accept certain responsibilities and, if so, what should those responsibilities entail?

  5. [5] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    14th paragraph- word missing

    "Even watching U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the Sunday morning political ____ this weekend"

    ... political shows this weekend...

    maybe chat fests?

    A

  6. [6] 
    Kick wrote:

    A01 [205] {moved forward}

    I suggested that Dems are such wusses they would give Republicans the power of the filibuster back if they regained the Senate?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/democrats-discuss-restoring-filibuster_us_58ebdfa3e4b0ca64d91848e4?jvi&

    OMG. This is infuriating. Who needs a haircut when this is enough to make you pull your hair out?

    I think you used the word aggravating Kick.

    A. Infuriating
    B. Frustrating
    C. Aggravating
    D. AOTA

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    [6]

    What relevance does this have to assessing the US airstrike on Syria?

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    EM [7]

    What relevance does this have to assessing the US airstrike on Syria?

    Anyone remember who keeps telling me to stop posting on old threads? I will give y'all a hint. Her name rhymes with Melizabeth Killer.

    Oops. Too big a hint?

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heh.

    Well, it's never good practice to comment on old threads, you know.

  10. [10] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    Nice column.

    I think technically a cruise missile that malfunctions could put lives at risk, but luckily did not.

    There was a mention that ISIS took advantage of the cruise missile prick to launch an attack on Palmyra... since the air base was where support for the Syrian troops came from... haven't seen any media reports if they were successful though.

    But since the Syrian army is the second most effective force against ISIS in Syria (after the Kurds), Trump's action potentially benefitting them is a military effect.

    After the lambasting for the seeming ineffectiveness of the raid, there were claims today by the Pentagon that they destroyed 20% of Syria's airplanes.
    There were other claims that only nonfunctioning planes were destroyed... and who knows what is true there.

    "Bunkers which may have held chemical weapons were not targeted because it might have dispersed the chemicals to the surrounding civilian population."

    I see the qualifiers in there, but...

    "... and being blamed for a giant cloud of nerve gas released as a result of the attack."

    ... that one sort of seems like assuming facts not in evidence.

    "Where was the proof that the Assad government was behind the attack? Where was the presentation to the United Nations, justifying an American response?"

    Beautiful... and thank you!

    Regarding Haley-
    "but with the attention the Syrian raid drew she now seems like the strongest voice on foreign policy in the entire Trump administration (even including Trump himself)."

    Strongest?
    I think that word implies positives which I'm not seeing.
    She's supposed to be a diplomat, not a salesperson for the neocon agenda. And she didn't seem to have it together in the unscripted appearance.
    She does seem to have a better grasp of English than Trump, at least as far as stringing coherent sentences together.

    I would have liked to see a mention of the potential negative political effects for Democrats for their support for Trump... the anti-war left did manage small protests against Trump's act of war in 7 cities and they do make up part of the Democratic base, or at least potential voters not available to Repubs... but that's really a different column.

    A

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, that goes especially for threads that have a three-day shelf life! :)

  12. [12] 
    altohone wrote:

    Kick
    6

    Truly baffling isn't it.

    Republicans stole a seat on the Supreme Court, and Dems want to give them the power to do it again.

    I don't know if it's stupidity or open corruption, but it sure isn't going to motivate voters next time they use the SCOTUS argument the way Hillary tried and failed to do.

    A

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:

    EM [9]

    Well, it's never good practice to comment on old threads, you know.

    I have it on good authority from.... Melizabeth Killer.

    Shhhhhh. No one tell her that "Killer" is a compliment. :)

  14. [14] 
    altohone wrote:

    Kick
    6 again

    "D. AOTA"?

    American Occupational Therapy Association?
    Asia and Oceania Thyroid Association?

    Obviously joking, but I don't know the reference.

    A

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    All of the above.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Now, can we get to subject at hand and address the topic de jour??

  17. [17] 
    Kick wrote:

    A01 [14]

    "D. AOTA"?

    American Occupational Therapy Association?.... NOPE.
    Asia and Oceania Thyroid Association?.... NOPE.

    Obviously joking, but I don't know the reference.

    Oh, Punk! *facepalm*

    See EM's answer in [15] above. They don't call her "Killer" for nothing. ;)

  18. [18] 
    altohone wrote:

    Kick
    3

    I don't know about other neurotoxins, but the Sarin claim was made about the 2013 chemical attack in Ghouta too.
    There may be something similar but easier to make and handle?

    Scott Ritter mentioned "low-grade Sarin" in that article... I don't know if that's technically easier to produce. That stuff is not one of the areas I know much about.

    But it is also a fact that both ISIS and al Qaida have former members of both Saddam's and Assad's regimes with knowledge and experience in such weapons.

    On eyewitness accounts, I don't trust those from "rebels"... which is why I was asking.
    Their claims about the air strike are central to the "evidence"... and that doesn't sit well.

    Very glad you support an investigation.
    I hope we get one.
    And I hope more people push for one.

    As for the relevance of previous chemical attacks by al Qaida in Syria, it does show a willingness to use them, and they did try to blame Assad for them.
    To me, that's a big reason for my skepticism about the latest attack.
    And it's a fly in the ointment for the "only Assad could have done it" argument.

    "And the sad big picture. We arm the "moderate rebels."

    Reagan armed the Mujahideen, Islamic Jihadists, in their fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He dedicated the Space Shuttle Columbia to them in 1982 and called them the equivalents to our Founding Fathers... the Taliban.

    We armed Iran against Iraq. We armed Iraq against Iran. We armed Saddam with chemical weapons. We know he had weapons of mass destruction because we gave them to him.

    We armed bin Laden.

    We are fighting with Iran in Iraq.
    We are fighting against Iran in Yemen."

    Big chunk of a quote there... but a Shining City on a Hill deserves to see it twice.
    We are exceptional.

    (Though technically, there have been assertions, but thus far zero evidence presented that the Houthis in Yemen have received anything but moral support from Iran.)

    A

  19. [19] 
    altohone wrote:

    Liz, Kick
    16, 17

    Ughhhhh!

    I'm going to blame that one on my dog... or hackers... or Putin.

    Maybe lack of sleep?

    No.
    It was Google.
    Really.
    I tried looking it up.
    You think those groups aren't real.

    I know... facepalm is right.

    A

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heh.

  21. [21] 
    altohone wrote:

    chazzzbrown
    delayed response to comment 213 from FTP

    Excellent comment, and I support your conclusion too.

    There are holes to fill in.

    I still think the al Qaida "rebels" launching the attack right after a nearby air strike wouldn't be difficult.

    I hope we get an investigation.

    A

  22. [22] 
    altohone wrote:

    Liz, Kick

    Did you catch the end of the previous thread?

    It's so bizarre it's funny.

    Good night.

    A

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Sad!

  24. [24] 
    michale wrote:

    As far as politics goes, it is still too early to tell whether Trump will get much of a polling bump from the Syrian raid.

    A good bump has already begun. His poll numbers went up by more than a solid point..

    Time will tell where this leads..

    I should mention that at the present time I refuse to draw any further conclusions about the shift in such perceptions. There is a lot of theorizing (on both the left and the right) as to what really could have been going on to convince Trump to launch such an attack. So far, though, we simply don't have enough information to leap to any nefarious conclusions.

    Of course, that doesn't stop the WPG from doing EXACTLY that.. :D

    Back then, they universally derided the idea of pinprick attacks in response to chemical weapons (Obama's plan for such an attack was reportedly a lot more robust than what Trump just accomplished, in fact). Obama gave Congress a chance to weigh in, and they refused to do so, to their shame (both Republican and Democratic shame, I hasten to point out). Now, Republicans can't say enough good things about the idea of pinprick attacks on Syria, of course. Such nakedly partisan hypocrisy is almost to be expected, but that doesn't make it any less notable when it happens, of course.

    You are, of course, dead on ballz accurate on GOP hypocrisy.. While the Democrats positively WALLOW in hypocrisy, the Right can be assured to have their moments as well...

    But, here's the take-away..

    In a military situation, a LEADER doesn't worry about what others say or do when it comes to doing the right thing..

    If Obama had a response to Assad crossing Obama's red line and Obama knew it was the right thing to do, HE SHOULD HAVE DONE IT.. With or without "permission"..

    It's what a REAL leader does..

    Ironic, though.. Some people have claimed that Obama didn't launch the strike against Assad because it wasn't clear that Assad was guilty..

    You seem to be saying that Obama had a plan to strike, but didn't because Congress wouldn't authorise it..

    I wish ya'all would get yer spins straight. :D

    All in all, a great assessment, CW...

  25. [25] 
    michale wrote:

    Embattled Gov. Robert Bentley this afternoon agreed to a deal that forced him to resign the office of governor, plead guilty to two misdemeanors and agree to never again hold public office.
    http://www.al.com/news/montgomery/index.ssf/2017/04/alabama_gov_robert_bentley_res_1.html#incart_big-photo

    Republicans... :eyeroll:

  26. [26] 
    michale wrote:

    Trump terrifies the Kremlin: Russia admits it is 'extremely worried' he will attack Kim Jong-un after North Korea warns it has US bases 'in its nuclear sights' and China deploys troops to its border
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4400100/North-Korea-warns-ready-war-U-S-deployed-warships.html#ixzz4dwWgM8vL

    BUT!!?? BUT!!!??

    Trump and Putin are bestest bed buddies!!!!

    Fanatical Left Wing hysteria.. :eyeroll:

  27. [27] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CW - This article was excellent and timely. I just have a couple of minor comments.

    "The drawback to cruise missiles, as opposed to a more traditional bombing raid, is that they have a limited payload."

    Accuracy has made payload much less important than it used to be. When you can reliably chuck a warhead thru a window, you can kill targets with just the kinetic energy of in a slug of concrete moving at 500 mph. The French Air Force chose to kill Kadafi's tanks that way.

    "Cruise missiles are also rather expensive, when compared to the price of fuel for fighter jets and bombers."

    Fuel is just one of many costs in the care and feeding of manned aircraft. Cost analysis is notoriously arcane, so I'll just note the following about relative overhead: cruise missiles live comfortably on destroyers and submarines, jets live on aircraft carriers.

    "General destruction of the entire airfield -- enough to put it out of commission for months or even years -- was not one of the mission's objectives."

    Putting an airfield out of commission for months or years is pretty difficult. Runways are easy to repair, permanent buildings can be replaced by tents and prefab, replacement equipment and personnel can be brought in. Russian doctrine and Russian equipment (the Syrian's use both) emphasizes field maintainability under austere conditions. Compare and contrast the undercarriages of Russian vs US aircraft. Russian wheels etc. are bigger, and some even have mud flaps - all for use on makeshift runways. Look at the air intakes of modern Migs - fitted with foreign object screens. Russian aircraft are simpler and easier to maintain than Western counterparts.

    All the is somewhat esoteric. The Syrian Air Force is small and doesn't/can't do much. Syria and it's military have fallen apart, and the Russians are stepping in to prop up their client.

  28. [28] 
    TheStig wrote:

    One thing I forgot to mention.

    The Russian S-400 air defense system (their best) has been deployed in Syria. It is supposed to be capable against cruise missiles. So far as I can tell from news reports, it was not used to bring down the US Tomahawks. That's interesting.

  29. [29] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @TS,

    so, what you're saying is that the russians knew the strike was mainly for show and they played along?

    JL

  30. [30] 
    TheStig wrote:

    NYpoet22-29

    That is one interpretation.

    Another is that Russians concluded the base just wasn't worth trying to defend.

    The S-400 is untested in combat. Use would reveal a lot of operational information to the West, which would aid in devising countermeasures. Air defense systems also have a nasty habit of under-performing in combat. That would embarrass the Russians and hurt sales (Russia is actively marketing the system).

    Why risk the above downsides to defend a militarily marginal airbase?

  31. [31] 
    michale wrote:

    President Trump to China..

    "Reign in North Korea or we will!"

    Gods, it's great to have a POTUS who actually has a pair of brass ones, eh!!???

  32. [32] 
    altohone wrote:

    TS
    from last comment on FTP

    Scott Ritter and pretty much all the critics of the claims leading up to the war in Iraq were called "conspiracy theorists" and a lot worse...

    ... and when it turns out there is a conspiracy, the charge loses power and meaning.

    If you don't want to risk being lumped into such a category, I fully understand and won't even ask you to support an investigation.

    That said, Ritter did mention "low grade Sarin" as a possibility, so you seemed to be making an unintentional straw man argument.

    Would you support going to war in Syria and risk war with Russia based on what is currently known?

    A

  33. [33] 
    John M wrote:

    Michale wrote:

    "President Trump to China..

    "Reign in North Korea or we will!"

    Gods, it's great to have a POTUS who actually has a pair of brass ones, eh!!???"

    And just how does he propose to do that??? His options are very limited. All he has done is add more sanctions. Anything more than just the bluster he has shown so far would require real military action. That path either leads to the destruction of a major allied capital, Seoul, which is only 30 some miles from North Korean artillery with millions of deaths, or a potential North Korean nuclear attack on Japan etc.

    So lets stop the macho posturing Michale and consider some real policies, constraints, and consequences. Not be like Trump just making feel good tweets and heap praise on him for what amounts to empty threats like Obama's "red line" comment. This is after all, supposed to be the real world.

  34. [34] 
    michale wrote:

    So lets stop the macho posturing Michale and consider some real policies, constraints, and consequences.

    You mean the "real policies, constraints and consequences" of the last 3 or 4 decades??

    Yea, they have worked REAL well so far... :^/

    What you don't seem to understand or, more accurately, what your ideology refuses to allow you to concede is that bullies like Kim Un only understand one thing.

    Destroy a few missile launch sites and fuel storage areas and a few of Un's playthings and see how fast the little shit turns tail...

    The days of Democrats namby pamby cuddling and cowardly Leading From Behind is over, my friend..

    Ya'all had yer chance and ya'all blew it...

    It's time that REAL leaders take over and do what needs to be done...

  35. [35] 
    michale wrote:

    That path either leads to the destruction of a major allied capital, Seoul, which is only 30 some miles from North Korean artillery with millions of deaths, or a potential North Korean nuclear attack on Japan etc.

    So, you're letting the enemy call the shots and prevent you from doing what you know to be morally right...

    There's a word for that. Begins with C...

  36. [36] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Alto-32

    I fully support an in depth, independent forensic investigation of the Khan Shaykhun incident.

  37. [37] 
    altohone wrote:

    TS
    36

    Excellent.

    I think that's four of us here now.
    Maybe five with CW?

    A

  38. [38] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    WOW...That is all I can say... WOW...

    http://edition.cnn.com/2017/04/11/politics/spicer-hitler-assad/index.html

    Just breathtaking and ....WOW.

  39. [39] 
    LeaningBlue wrote:

    A cautionary tale almost in real time.

    The story starts with this:

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:1iKYl9EZJQQJ:english.chinamil.com.cn/view/2017-04/07/content_7554618.htm+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    On its face, that is the Google cache of the China Military website as of 22:47 EDT last night. It's self-verifying that chinamil is "Authorized by the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and sponsored by the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily," The linked commentary describes a bombshell PRC foreign policy opinion.

    But it was quickly gone from the site in real time. And the linked text includes the forecast "The DPRK will freak out if its nuclear facilities are destroyed."

    Such is life in the era of information on the internet.

  40. [40] 
    Kick wrote:

    A01 [19]

    I'm going to blame that one on my dog... or hackers... or Putin.

    I know... facepalm is right.

    I was just teasing you for something I facepalm myself for all the time. I think what happens is that you're looking for something more substantial where it's just somebody being too lazy to type out something simple.

    IOW, you were expecting more out of me! :)

  41. [41] 
    Kick wrote:

    A01 [22]

    Did you catch the end of the previous thread?

    It's so bizarre it's funny.

    Yikes! Oh, well. I just didn't think it was fair to say that EM was thrilled about HRC losing. *shrug*

  42. [42] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Not only was it not fair to say that EM was thrilled about HRC losing, it was an unmitigated falsehood.

  43. [43] 
    John M wrote:

    Michale wrote:

    "Yea, they have worked REAL well so far... :^/"

    Yes they have. I am so glad you agree with me. Since those policies have in fact, prevented another war taking place on the Korean peninsula for the past 60 years, since the 1950's, and have allowed South Korea to develop into the democratic economic powerhouse that it is today. So I would say they have been VERY successful.

  44. [44] 
    John M wrote:

    Michale wrote:

    "Destroy a few missile launch sites and fuel storage areas and a few of Un's playthings and see how fast the little shit turns tail..."

    Or let's see how a frightened, cornered, irrational animal with it's back to the wall, whose concern is regime survival and loss of face, reacts when presented with no good way out left to it by its main enemy and therefore has nothing more to lose. Yeah, that's a great experiment to roll the dice on. Given that the north in the past has not hesitated to seize an American ship and hold it and its crew hostage, kidnap Japanese civilians, fire upon South Korean civilians and military, and hack U.S. soldiers to death in the demilitarized zone. Doesn't sound like someone who would turn tail to me.

  45. [45] 
    John M wrote:

    Michale wrote:

    "So, you're letting the enemy call the shots and prevent you from doing what you know to be morally right...

    There's a word for that. Begins with C..."

    Not at all. The morally right thing to do is to prevent war and to take diplomacy as far as possible, until all else fails, and even then think twice to make sure there really is a vital national security issue at stake, and have a plan for the aftermath. Just like John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis when he chose a naval blockade over an immediate airstrike on the missile bases, giving him and the Soviet leader time to work out a peaceful resolution.

    You;re right, there is a word for that, that begins with "C" and it's called REAL COURAGE.

  46. [46] 
    John M wrote:

    Elizabeth wrote:

    "What responsibilities attach to the title of Leader of the Free World, in general."

    Well, we can try to come up with several.

    1.) Guaranteeing world peace and leading the effort to protect friends and allies from aggression. (I.E. Nations should not invade one another because they covet territory. Iraq vs Kuwait in the first Gulf War)

    2.) Promoting Human Rights (I.E. Nations should not be able to get away with internal genocide a la the Holocaust and Nazi Germany.)

    3.) Insuring the Rule Of Law (Diplomacy as an alternative to conflict, I.E. the United Nations and World Trade Organization.)

    4.) Promoting the concept of Freedom of Navigation in International waters. (I.E. China and claims to the South China Sea, in violation of World Court Rulings.)

    5.) Contributing to the response to disasters both natural and manmade and leading the effort to try to alleviate Human suffering. (I.E. Famine, Earthquakes, major epidemics.)

  47. [47] 
    michale wrote:

    Yes they have. I am so glad you agree with me. Since those policies have in fact, prevented another war taking place on the Korean peninsula for the past 60 years, since the 1950's, and have allowed South Korea to develop into the democratic economic powerhouse that it is today. So I would say they have been VERY successful.

    And yet, allowed a rogue dictatorship to possess nuclear weapons and develop ICBM technology to lob them where ever..

    Your idea of "successful" leaves a LOT to be desired..

  48. [48] 
    michale wrote:

    ot at all. The morally right thing to do is to prevent war and to take diplomacy as far as possible, until all else fails, and even then think twice to make sure there really is a vital national security issue at stake, and have a plan for the aftermath.

    Even if it means a fanatic demagouge like Kim Un acquires the ultimate in destructive weaponry??

    Let's face the facts here..

    Nothing has been done about North Korea due to one thing and one thing alone..

    Cowardice...

    What you describe is a PEACE AT ANY COST mentality...

    "Peace, TRUE peace, is not the absence of conflict, it is the presence of justice"

    What you describe is nothing but slavery...

  49. [49] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I fully support an in depth, independent forensic investigation of the Khan Shaykhun incident.

    i support that too. gathering more evidence can only ever be helpful. however, i strongly disagree with assertions that there is somehow not enough evidence already to make a reasonably accurate assessment as to who was most likely responsible.

    i'm perfectly comfortable with it currently being reported as an attack by assad, since journalists don't have enough space in their columns to refer to the chemical attack as "the gas attack whose reported effects are similar to those of the chemical agent sarin, generally attributed to the assad regime, which is highly probable based on all on-site evidence and eyewitness reports to independent journalists, and for which no on-site evidence has yet been found to exist in support of any alternate theory."

    that's not the same as suggesting that further investigation would not be useful or justified.

    JL

  50. [50] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @alto,

    if you're saying that the evidence found so far does not justify our military response, i can respect and understand that point of view, although i disagree. however, if you're suggesting that the evidence found so far is somehow non-directional, suspect or inconclusive, i think that's insane. these are legitimate journalists who went there, not cover-up agents sent by isis to frame the assad regime. i don't have the time or energy to cite every article i've read and what each reporter found, but you can use google as well as i can.

    JL

  51. [51] 
    altohone wrote:

    nypoet
    49, 50

    Your support for an investigation is welcome.

    Journalists ARE using terms like "allegedly", so I'm not really sure who it is you are referring to who is blaming Assad. I don't consider TV presenters journalists, and don't watch much TV, so that may be what you are referring to?
    Only politicians and talking heads are failing the ethical claims test from what I've seen.

    Since we don't actually know that Assad is responsible, and supporting Trump for anything undeserved is against your interests (from what I can tell), I don't understand why you would support Trump's response before an investigation could occur.
    My faith in such claims has been shattered, and nothing has happened to restore it, so don't take my lack of understanding personally.

    The crucial evidence supporting the "Assad is responsible" narrative seems to hinge on claims from al Qaida "rebels", so again, I don't think it's insane to question it.

    There weren't any journalists on the ground during the attack, and they aren't actually qualified as investigators in determining responsibility from what they saw in the aftermath.

    It would be a safe assumption on your part that I've been reading most of what you've been reading as far as the reporting goes... not all of the same stuff I'm sure... and I haven't seen anything conclusive being reported.

    I've been following the events in Syria closely since long before the "civil war" began through the present, including from foreign media. Often there were perspectives and facts not available or even hinted at by our mainstream media.

    It was information from those outlets that had me opposing the US policy of arming and funding the "rebels" and the proposed attack on Syria when Obama was our president.
    For example, about six months after the conflict started, the NYT reported the CIA covert effort in collaboration with Saudi Arabia to aid the "rebels" working out of Jordan, but the details and extent of that effort came from Israeli and Lebanese media. And the effort wasn't publicly acknowledged by Obama until almost three years later, and he made claims that contradicted what had been reported... downplaying US involvement.

    I hope we get a thorough investigation.

    There should be remains of the munitions used, and if they aren't the type used to drop chemical bombs from planes, or if they can't find anything, I hope you will reconsider your position.

    A

  52. [52] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    [41] Kick -

    You must have missed Elizabeth's constant references to: "If only HRC had listened to me" as if she is the fount of all knowledge political. A week has not gone by when Elizabeth hasn't found an opportunity to castigate one or other of the Clintons. It's her way of saying she was right all along and she's revelling in it, can't let a chance go by to tell everyone yet again.

  53. [53] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    [38] Good trickle -

    Spicer said this during Passover too and only a day or so after announcing that Russia is now an American ally.

  54. [54] 
    michale wrote:

    Spicer said this during Passover too and only a day or so after announcing that Russia is now an American ally.

    And Obama scoffed at the idea that Russia was a geo-political foe...

    So??

  55. [55] 
    Kick wrote:

    Mopshell -- Spicer said this during Passover too and only a day or so after announcing that Russia is now an American ally.

    michale -- And Obama scoffed at the idea that Russia was a geo-political foe...

    So??

    No, he didn't. Obama scoffed at the idea that the BIGGEST geopolitical threat facing America was Russia. At the time Willard Romney said it, Russia wasn't the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, and that's why he backed off on his stupid statement.

    If you're going to deflect to another subject that's completely unrelated to a post, you could at least endeavor to deflect to a fact.

  56. [56] 
    michale wrote:

    No, he didn't. Obama scoffed at the idea that the BIGGEST geopolitical threat facing America was Russia.

    That's your interpretation of the event colored by Party fanaticism...

    If you're going to deflect to another subject that's completely unrelated to a post, you could at least endeavor to deflect to a fact.

    I did.. You just didn't like it because it was inconvenient to your Party zealotry...

  57. [57] 
    Kick wrote:

    michale [56]

    That's your interpretation of the event colored by Party fanaticism...

    Your answer to pretty much everything, right? That's actually what happened.

    I did.. You just didn't like it because it was inconvenient to your Party zealotry...

    Well, I'll give you props for NOT insisting you didn't deflect to another subject. :) But Obama never scoffed at the idea that Russia was "a geo-political foe," Obama just busted Romney in the third debate for claiming that Russia was our "No. 1 geopolitical foe." In a debate exchange about al-Qaida, Obama attacked Romney for calling Russia “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe," and Obama told Romney the 1980s wanted their foreign policy back. Obviously, Obama considered al-Qaida to be our No. 1 geopolitical foe at that time. Things change.

    Republicans years later whining that Romney was correct because of something that happened after that time still doesn't make Romney correct. North Korea has ranked right up there too for decades now.

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