Monday, October 27, 2008

US attack on Syria

If any good fight will do, why not pick one with the weakest US adversary in the region? IHT reports on a potentially serious incident of aggression by the US against Syria:
U.S. military helicopters attacked an area along Syria's border with Iraq Sunday, killing eight people, the Syrian government said, condemning what it called "serious aggression."

The raid, which a U.S. military official in Washington confirmed, indicated the desert frontier between the two countries remains a key battleground 5 1/2 years into the Iraq war. The U.S. official said the attack targeted elements of a robust foreign fighter logistics network and that due to Syrian inaction the U.S. was now "taking matters into our own hands."
The US newspaper's lede to the story almost makes the attack sound routine. It was not. The BBC report gets straight to point (well, it almost gets to the point):
Syria has said American troops carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people - if the claims are true then this will be the first military incursion by the US into Syrian territory from Iraq.

But its timing is curious, coming right at the end of the Bush administration's period of office and at a moment when many of America's European allies - like Britain and France - are trying to broaden their ties with Damascus.

Whatever the local military factors involved in this US operation, it would be unthinkable to imagine that an incursion into Syria would not require a policy decision at a high-level.
"What could lie behind Syria raid?" was the headline to this BBC story. Strangely, the BBC article does not actually spell out what is actually so curious about the timing of the attack. The article concludes, "With the Bush administration on the way out, this US military incursion may represent something of a parting shot against the Syrians. " A parting shot? What is that supposed to mean? If the article had concerned the military actions of a third-world country's leadership facing an election in just over one week, don't you suppose the BBC report would have spelled out the "curiosity" for its readers a tad more explicitly?

The one area McCain still has an edge over Obama is on national security and the Commander-in-Chief thing. Certainly, whacking Israel's enemy the week before the election cannot hurt the Republican effort to win over elderly Jewish voters residing in the swing state of Florida. If the situation escalates further, it could give McCain a platform to go into "hawk warrior overdrive mode," which would surely win him further support.

Reports of the attack on Syria suggest that if the Bush Administration chooses to go further down this road, it looks as if the mainstream news media will continue to sleepwalk, acting as if Pentagon propaganda sources can be relied upon, and that this White House would never put political expediency before security.


  1. If it's not true, then you apologize, ok?

  2. Just curious, why have you discounted the idea that it was operationally prudent to make this strike at this time? Do you have some info/evidence that you left out of the post?

  3. J-P,

    I have little doubt there must have some kind of tactical (operational) justification for the engagement.

    But I don't see how the tactical benefits of such a strike outweigh negatives and risks in terms of US regional strategy. Nevertheless the White House gave approval.

    Gen. Petreus is said to have wanted to discuss cooperation with the Syrian government but the Bush Admin prevented him from partaking in such dialogue. That the US has not worked harder to gain Syria's cooperation is a sad commentary on the situation.

    Operational justifications for crossing the border and smoking out militants are longstanding, the question is why suddenly did the US act now?


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