Center for Strategic Communication

[by Lynn C. Rees]

If, right this second, you could push that tempting Easy Button over there and launch our top secret stash of ophthalmologist-seeking cruise missiles to kill every man, woman, child, and goat related by blood, association, or unlucky proximity to Boy Asad, it would have zero political impact on the war over Syria.

Beheading strikes have marginal persuasive value unless you can reliably find and kill uncooperatives who fail to become cooperatives. American military history from Arnold to Tecumseh to Santa Anna to Jeff Davis to Cochise to Geronimo to Aguinaldo to Villa to Sandino to Castro to Noriega to Saddam to Kaddafy to Bin Laden shows our ability to behead reliably is wildly unreliable. Even if we could reliably kill enemy leaders on demand, there’s no guarantee that killing will have favorable political effects. As Clemenceau may have observed and multitudes of al-Kyyda Number Threes can attest, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men” (many of them headless). This war already has one ready example of a beheading strike. Enduring political impact: zero.

There are suggestions that we conspicuously target Boy Azzad-themed buildings with “symbolic importance” as a way to shock and awe someone, anyone, into surrender. If a true demonstration of ability to hit ‘em where you (supposedly) ain’t, the political impact can be profound. However conspicuous, blowing up Boy Azod’s presidential palace, his Old Man’s or Big Brother’s graves, or even his presidential goat’s presidential stable, when no one doubts you could blow up any empty building or tent or camel in the world at any time, will have zero political effect unless you conspicuously miss it. These days, accidental hits get more airplay (e.g. blowing up embassies (no, they haven’t forgotten)). Accidental hit or near miss, photogenic Madam Asod will stand next to it, in front of the cameras for YouTube, and mock you. Those are the risks you run when conspicuously targeting motionless monuments of massive masonry. And the mockery is deserved, especially if you’ve just spent the last twenty years boasting about how antiseptic and networky your precision guided munitions are.

Robert D. Kaplan wrote of Old Man Azodd’s takeover of Syria:

An Alawi ruling Syria is like an untouchable becoming maharajah in India or a Jew becoming tsar in Russia—an unprecedented development shocking to the majority population which had monopolized power for so many centuries.

If Boy Asadd and minions fell victim to those ophthalmologist seeking missiles twenty minutes from now, the Alahhwyytes would quickly stand up some other mustache in his place. As long as any Alawy keeps any kind of grip on their high end warfighting brass ring, they will brutally fight to defend it down to the last Syrian. The alternative, as already demonstrated, is, as Xenophon wrote of the Spartan helots, “they would gladly eat their masters raw”. The Allahwites realize this more than anyone: they used to be the helots.

Half measures like cruise missling camels and empty tents in fit of D.C. pique by D.C. clique will do nothing good. Half measures are worse than tragedy and far worse than a mistake: they will be low and contemptible farce. The only way to break Boy Assad and friends is to break the Syrian state. This involves a relentless and unyielding intention to attrit the Syrian army down to street thug level and kill any Syrians that disagree with American political goals.

Since neither this administration in particular (nor any post-WWI United States in general) has credibly shown that they can do that, it’s best that they hold back for now. If they’re determined to intervene, that intervention will be much easier politically if the massacres start on cue and if the massacres prove to be telegenically more shocking than what you get at the local matinee.

Waiting patiently like this is unlikely: the people ruling this country aren’t any better at starting a war properly than they are at anything else.

Farewell, a long farewell to Syria, my fair province. Thou art an infidel’s (enemy’s) now. Peace be with you, O Syria – what a beautiful land you will be for the enemy hands.

— attributed to Heraclius, c. AD 637