The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan largely because they were totally frustrated with their client state's inability to do just about anything that they expected them to do. The people of the former Soviet Union are still suffering the impact of that decision. Russia is still engaged in the continuing kerfluffle in the Caucasus but that at least seems consistent. Chechnya is a small scale version of Afghanistan but Russia has all the cards; we're not arming the Chechens, and the various Islamic cash cows have avoided providing a lot of support beyond prayer and some limited humanitarian. Part of that has to do with the global war on terror's chilling effect on dissident elements in various Islamic nations; part of it has to do with the fact that the Chechens have proven themselves to be basically threats to anybody they don't like very much.
One would have thought that after the almost 12 years of war in Afghanistan with the ongoing unmentioned conflicts in Somalia and Yemen and watching the emerging religious cleansing in Iraq, that we'd have learned to not get involved in another Islamic intramural cluster in Western Asia. The old saw about not getting involved in a land war in Asia really is about the continent of Asia, not just the parts we've already had our asses kicked in. Like it or not, global power projectors, none of our land wars in Asia have turned out well. At best, we've had a draw in Korea lasting almost as long as I've been alive; I guess the Boxer Rebellion turned out ok, and of course, there was Vietnam...But now the US has decided that the Syrian government has crossed a red line and used chemical agents. This horrible crime against humanity that supposedly killed about 200 people in multiple attacks will not stand. (Give me a squad, some .50 cal sniper rifles, Mk19 Automatic grenade launchers, some mortars, some M2 machineguns, a lot of bullets and maybe some close air support -- all of which the Syrians have or at least have the equivalents--and we'll deliver a helluva lot more than 200 casualties if you give us a village or six to take out, if we were the types of guys who slaughter civilians. The Syrian Army doesn't have that squeamish ethical reserve that we have.
McCain and Co. are all in on doing more in Syria and have been for a long time. In fact, the White House let him know that they had decided to start arming the rebels and he went on the Senate floor before the either the President or the White House could make the announcement to complain that the offer of aid was obviously insufficient and we need a no-fly zone and a CAP. Hard for me to see much of an up side, given that once again, they're all evil bastards and whatever we do will turn out wrong. On one side, we have the Assad regime which is a totally awful bunch of psychopaths assisted by Hezbollah another total bunch of psychopaths and funded by the Iranians whose government is almost but not quite in the North Korean government mode of batshit insane. Yeah, anything might be better -- until we look at the rebels, who are a hodgepodge of factions and elements who are opposed to the Assad control because of tyranny and evil and...oh yeah, the Assad family is Alawite, a Shiite sect that is a minority in Syria but seized power back in the day as part of the Baathist movement under this Assad's dad. If you recall the Sadr clan in Iraq fondly, then you'll love the rebels because they represent the mirror image of the Shiites in Iraq. In Syria, the Sunnis are the majority and they've been jerked around unconscionably by the Shiites under the Assad family. So, there are people who are opposed to the regime because the regime is bad and they want to do better; and, there are people who just want to kill the Alawites.
I've been out of the Army for 16 years and seldom worked in my original MOS during it. However, I remained really good at the technical aspects of it, and was in fact distinguished graduate of my advanced course where we focused largely on the technical stuff. I was an expert on Chemical, Biological and Chemical weapons. We did a lot of experimentation with chemical weapons in places like Toole and Dugway, and we have a really good idea of how the lousy things work. So, the news that the Syrians have chemical weapons wasn't surprising to me bu the news that they had used them was pretty surprising, and the way that they've been employed is really weird. They appear to have used them in isolated attacks against small targets with very light casualties resulting. I'd like to know more, just from a student of stupid ways to fight bad guys point of view. The news that they have managed to inflict 150-200 casualties in a war that has killed 93000 people so far with Saran Nerve Agent is absolutely dumbfounding. If some dipshit told me he could take out 200 people in a single attack with nerve agent, I'd refuse to waste the rounds. That simple -- the casualties aren't worth the effort of issuing and safeguarding the munitions or of the bad press resulting in the US now announcing it will arm the rebels while John Napoleon McCain demands we do more. You terrify the rebels, maybe; but you really piss off the Israelis and the Turks and Europe and we've got that red line rhetoric hanging out there. Assad may be a lousy dentist and sit at the head of a politic0-criminal gang of thugs, thieves, torturers and sociopaths; but, he is not stupid. Pissing on the US is just not a great idea because, well, we've been feeling testy lately.
So, who'd be dumb enough to do this? I am not an advocate of everything that happens has a false flag aspect, but I'm pretty open to the idea in this case. The use of the weapon really makes no sense. But, for Israel or Iraq or the Rebels, it makes a lot of sense. There is another possibility, that these numbers are based on the number of people who had their blood tested and showed some sign of a lack of acetyl-cholinesterase, the cause of casualty with nerve agents. There have been multiple attacks and 200 deaths is just not something worth doing; but, 20000 might be worth it. The Islamic reqirement to get bodies buried as soon as possible really works against any scenario of heaps of dead bodies to check; if I wanted to mazimize casualties, I'd have used a persistent agent, VR55 or VX. You have something like motor oil hanging around and in the case of VR55 actually producing significant amounts of vapor casualties as well as contact casualties for anyone who gets a drop on bare skin. There's no upside in a war like this to using an aerosol agent unless you're just using it stupidly out of sheer anally fixated evil stupidity. Which is certainly possible, given the nature of the players in this snake rodeo.
The geo-political aspect of this are pretty obvious -- we need to do something different than rush into the Syrian goat rodeo with all the gusto of a starving middle linebacker going to an all you can eat ribs dinner. My thought is that we take the old Churchillian description of the area as correct, a collection of tribes with flags, and act accordingly. In this case, we need to be very careful about strategic interests of ourselves and our allies. And we need to be very conscious of what looks like a resurgence of the Islamic civil war between Shi'ia and Sunni. There is a belt of Shiite power running from Iran through Iraq to Syria; in Syria, however the balance of population shifts from predominantly Shiite to predominately Sunni. Long range goal for a peaceful solution would probably involve a people and land swap; that probably won't happen, but if the Sunni in Iraq were to move to Syria and the Alawites from Syria to Iraq, then the problem of minority majority would be eliminated.
I'm not sure who is most deserving of aid here -- probably Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon for having to deal with the refugee problem. It would be interesting to have the new Sunni state of Syria declared a demilitarized zone under UN protection, but that probably can't happen. And, I suspect the Iraqi Sunni and the Syrian Sunni would have plenty of conflict; the Alawites and the more traditional Shiites of Iraq and Iran would probably have issues. Probably just degenerate into constant civil war regardless of what we do.
Ireland found some peace after 800 years, but largely because both sides were stuck with an outside mediator they had to trust and to whom they had ties. More importantly, the people of Ireland, especially in Ulster, were sick of fighting, the British were sick of fighting and the people -- the sea in which the IRA and the Orange paramilitaries swam to steal an allusion from cousin Mao -- were desperate for an alternative. In the great clash of Islamic sects, the people respond to the demagogues and the demagogues are even warmed up yet. So, we need to assist Turkey and probably Jordan, and actively quarantine this area of conflict. That would be our strategic interest. I suspect we won't do that, but the idea of US forces, even if primarily Air and perhaps Naval getting involved with a proxy war with Iran -- because of the Shi'ia versus Sunni thing, the financial and weapons support of Iran and the involvement of Hezbollah -- is just not a good idea.
Or, we can get involved in another land war in Asia. It worked so well the last time...After all, if you've done something multiple times with lousy results, doing it again has got to be a good idea.