Gen. Dempsey Outlines Military Options in Syria, Warns of "Deeper Involvement"


Credit: Secretary of Defense/wikimedia

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, has written a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, outlining five possible military options in Syria.

The five options are:

  • training, advising and assisting the opposition
  • conducting limited stand-off strikes
  • establish a no-fly zone
  • establish buffer zones
  • control chemical weapons

In his letter Dempsey warns that any engagement in Syria could cost billions of dollars and would be "no less than an act of war." According to Dempsey, the first option (training, assisting, and advising Assad's opposition) would be the cheapest option at around $500 million a year, while the other four options would cost about $1 billion a month each.

Read Dempsey's letter in full below:

The U.S. could soon be sending weapons to rebels in Syria. Today, Reuters reported that the Obama administration's plan to arm rebels in Syria would go ahead now that Congressional concerns have been addressed. Some members of Congress were understandably concerned that weapons sent to rebels in Syria could end up in the hands of the more unpleasant elements of Assad's opposition. According to Reuters, both the House and Senate intelligence committees have agreed to the administration's plans. Unsurprisingly, committee hearings on arming Assad's opposition are classified.  

In his letter Dempsey says that going forward with providing rebels with assistance carries risks:

Risks include extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, retaliatory cross- border attacks, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties.

Dempsey ends his letter saying that once military action is taken in Syria that the U.S. should be prepared for what comes next and that the U.S. should work within the law and, if possible, with allies. Dempsey also says that "deeper involvement is hard to avoid."

As the Obama administration goes forward with its plan to arm rebels in Syria (a plan a majority of Americans oppose) remember the following: the country's highest ranking military officer has warned of deeper involvement in the region and of the possibility that extremists could benefit from the U.S. providing assistance to Assad's opposition. Whatever the fallout of U.S. involvement in Syria, legislators cannot claim to have not been warned.  

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  1. What’s our goal in Syria? I mean, what outcome are we trying to get to? I don’t see it. At all.

    1. That’s classified.

    2. Drive the Russians out of the med completely, defend Israel from attacks/kidnapping/saboteurs from the North, deprive Iran of an ally, prevent the destabilization of Turkey.

      And none of those goals are realistically achievable.

      1. They might be, but the effort it would take, not to mention the escalation with Russia. . .are these things this government is wiling to do? By half-assed meddling, we get a lot of the downside without much chance of any upside.

        Is there anything this administration can do competently in domestic or international affairs?

        1. Is there anything this administration can do competently in domestic or international affairs?

          There’s a 3rd category, the existence of which is classified, that they’re really good at.

        2. They throw some top-shelf concert parties.

        3. Don’t forget “Helping Sunni and Shiite jihadis kill each other.”

          1. And since jihadis are largely n+1 sons, who otherwise would stay at home and raise domestic mischief, it helps stabilize friendly regimes like Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and other governments in the MidEast/N. Africa resting on the consent of the governed.

            Jesus, can’t we stay home already?

      2. All of them are very achievable, if you are willing to do it. The Russians are not going to get in a nuclear war over Assad. And Assad would have no chance of standing up to US force. He would be dead or in prison in a week after t he US intervened. And whatever government replaced him, would not be an ally of Iran, although probably not an ally of ours.

        I am not sure this will have an effect on Turkey one way or another. What is not achievable is building some kind of stable democracy. But those things you list can be achieved.

        1. “All of them are very achievable, if you are willing to do it. The Russians are not going to get in a nuclear war over Assad.”

          No, but they might get in a convention war over Assad, and who knows where it goes from there. You wouldn’t think some assholes in Serbia would be worth a World War over either, but all it takes is a lot of tension and a pretext.

          1. I’m not terribly concerned about a war with Russia, as they’d be destroyed economically right off the bat as their oil sales disappeared. But why mess around with that?

            I say we give Russia a somewhat subdued Afghanistan in exchange for them getting out of the Middle East.

          2. they might get in a convention war

            Convention wars are the worst. Although that was nothing compared to the time Comic Con declared war on Trek Con.

        2. The Russians are motivated to get a base in the Med. They’ll make a deal with someone if they lose Syria.

          People will always attack Israel, including whichever militant group dominates Syria.

          And Turkey will go unstable because it’s an attempt to recreate an ethnically based version of the French Republic despite having at least 2 major ethnic groups that don’t see themselves as Turks.

          Even if everything went “right” in Syria, it would still be futile.

          1. I am more depressed about Turkey than Syria….crap.

    3. I think it is to stop the killing and stabilize the place. Of course to do that would require a full on Iraq style occupation. And Obama has neither the will nor the political support to do that.

      There have been 110,000 people give or take killed in this civil war. That is half the number of Iraqis killed during the entire US occupation and civil war. The numbers of dead are getting staggering and it is turning into a real humanitarian disaster.

      That shouldn’t necessarily matter to US interests except that the President has made stopping this war a matter of credibility for both the US and the international community. He should have said nothing. Instead, he keeps shooting his mouth off and is going to end up engaging in some half assed response like he did in Libya only with worse results.

      1. “That is half the number of Iraqis killed during the entire US occupation and civil war.”

        I’m not sure that makes the point you thin it makes.

        1. It makes the exact point I was making. Half as many people have died in a bit over a year in Syria as died in 8 years in Iraq. The truth is Iraq wasn’t particularly bloody as civil wars go. Syria is much bloodier and worse than anything that happened in Iraq. But admitting that fact requires admitting that the US was a positive influence on the situation. And we all know, that can never be the case in Peacenik land.

    4. Nation-building!

    5. What’s our goal in Syria? I mean, what outcome are we trying to get to? I don’t see it. At all.

      Define “our” and “we”.

      1. Sadly, I mean the government that purportedly operates in our name.

        1. I don’t recall them asking for my opinion on any of this shit.

          1. Obama was clear: We are the government, and the government is us. Therefore, your opinion is being exercised right now.

            1. “Therefore, your opinion is being exercised excised right now.”

              FIFY FYTW

    6. What’s our goal in Syria? I mean, what outcome are we trying to get to? I don’t see it. At all.

      Obama’s peace prize needs to occasionally be watered with the blood of some people… this represents another opportunity.

    7. What’s our goal in Syria?

      I think Tom Hanks captured it best:

      Chung Mee: Opium is my business. The bridge mean more traffic. More traffic mean more money. More money mean more power.
      Lawrence Bourne III: Yeah, well, before I commit any of that to memory, would there be anything in this for me?
      Chung Mee: Speed is important in business. Time is money.
      Lawrence Bourne III: You said opium was money.
      Chung Mee: Money is Money.
      Lawrence Bourne III: Well then, what is time again?

    8. The goal is clear;
      1. Spend as many American dollars as possible on advanced weapon systems blowing up hard targets.
      2. Get high quality footage of explosions on CCN as often as possible.
      3. Wag the dog.
      4. Up the “Defense” budget 20% next year to justify.

  2. Option 6: Do nothing.

    1. And Tonio beat me to it; why isn’t there a “don’t get fucking involved” option?

      1. Oh, it’s an option. One that’s been discarded.

      2. Because DO SOMETHING.

        1. “Not our problem. Sorry.”

      3. (clutches pearls) We must do something! Each of options 1-5 is something. Therefore, we must do one of them.

        1. We must do something. Cross-posting is something.

          1. I am going to pat my head and rub my belly at the same time and then declare victory!

          2. ProL, have the Doctor taken away to the Agony Booth for cross posting. Also, shave that goatee.

            1. When I shave in the Mirror Universe, I use Gillette Fusion/ProGlide Power Razor/Agonizer for the closest shaves and the best quality negative reinforcement.

              1. (powers up Tantalus Device, lazily targets ProL)

                1. Ow! Oh, yeah? Nomad, the biological unit Episiarch has committed error. Please sterilize.

                  1. That unit’s mind was in chaos.

        2. Each of options 1-5 is something. Therefore, we must do one of them.

          In that case, why not do all five? Then we won’t be just doing something, we’ll be doing five somethings. That’s 5 times moar bettar!

      4. Because Option 6 is a Koch Brothers plot.

        By the way, Tonio, I will henceforth refer to the Libertarian option or plan for ANYTHING, ever in the future, forever and ever, amen, as “Option 6”.

        I’ll give credit when practical. Because “Option 6” sounds cool and just ever so slightly sinister.

        1. Taggart: I got it! I got it!

          Hedley Lamarr: You do?

          Taggart: We’ll work up a Number 6 on ’em.

          Hedley Lamarr: [frowns] “Number 6”? I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that one.

          Taggart: Well, that’s where we go a-ridin’ into town, a-whompin’ and a-whumpin’ every livin’ thing that moves within an inch of its life. Except the women folks, of course.

          Hedley Lamarr: You spare the women?

          Taggart: Naw, we rape the shit out of them at the Number Six Dance later on.

          Hedley Lamarr: Marvelous!

      5. Option 6 is a political option. It’s not a military option. There is a specific reason why it would not appear on a document from the Pentagon.

        1. You are absolutely correct. My bad.

          1. I’ll bet Option 6 doesn’t appear on any administration documents anywhere, for anything…

    2. “You are…Number 6.”

      Now report to the Island for re-education.

    3. Option 6 is sending Bloomberg to Syria, which is actually better than doing nothing.

      1. Send Ray Kelly along to stop n’ frisk the rebels for illegal weapons.

        1. It is assumed that Bloomy takes is blue army with him to subdue the local population with stop-n-frisk.

      2. See? It works. “Option 6″… it’s officially a meme. With me at least.

  3. There’s no Syrian von Stauffenberg? One would think that with 100,000 dead already and no end in sight, some “rebel” would be willing to take out Assad in exchange for his own life. Presidents, generals, etc. are always reachable at some point.

    1. And then what? Assad is not alone, he has many supporters who support him if for nothing else because they see themselves hanging from lamp posts if they don’t win.

      1. Maybe #3 goes to rebels and offers to betray #2 in exchange for a flight to Geneva and a fat bank account? Better options than USA sending in the 101st Airborne.

        1. 101st Airborne. How quaint. We can drone the Assad administration without risking a single American life. You do remember the chest-pounding and crowing from progressive-nobel-peace-prize land about the success in Libya?

    2. “take out Assad in exchange for his own life”

      According to Wikipedia, von Stauffenberg “returned to the briefing room, where he placed the briefcase [with the bomb] under the conference table, as close as he could to Hitler. Some minutes later, he excused himself and left the room. After his exit, the briefcase was moved by Colonel Heinz Brandt.”

      If he’d stayed in the room, the briefcase would have stayed where it was, and Hitler would have been blown to smithereens, along with von Stauffenberg. Escaping did von Stauffenberg no good, since he ended up getting shot anyway.

      Now, as to Assad, he is obviously a murderous tyrant, but unlike the German plotters, his opposition seem to be bad news, too.

      1. What’s our goal in Syria? I mean, what outcome are we trying to get to? I don’t see it. At all.

        Considering that he nearly (arguably) pulled off a coup later by implementing Valkyrie, it wasn’t a total loss. And we assume that Hitler survived solely because the bag moved. It’s possible Hitler still would have survived (although admittedly less likely).

        1. But what if Hitler had sustained an eye injury and started wearing an eyepatch? Hitler with an eyepatch might have been unbeatable. I mean, it worked for von Stauffenberg.

          1. People with eye patches do cut a dashing figure…

          2. I’d rather the eye was the only part of Hitler that survived.

            But then it would have been like the Lich eye in D&D – just waiting to take over a host and return to the world of the living.

            God, I just had a nerdgasm!

            1. I think it would be more like the leader’s nose in Sleeper.

  4. Well, it certainly is understandable how the Obama administration might consider itself compelled to get militarily involved in Syria. After all, we’re seeing exactly the same kinds of mass demonstrations we always see when the public demands that the U.S. go to war against a country that poses absolutely zero threat to the U.S. You know, the same uprisings that demanded the the Civil War, the Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam war, Grenada, Panama, the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, etc. When the public yells “WAR!”, the government has an obligation to comply and, if they don’t, the public has every right to vote their asses out of office.

    I mean, what’s the president to do? Is he just going to ignore the popular consensus that, with the ending of our occupation of Iraq, we’re one war short of where were were just a couple years ago? If the U.S. continues to lose ground at this rate, we’ll be at peace within a decade or so. The military industrial complex will crumble and we’ll all be speaking Arabic.

    1. Now just think for a minute-We can make this war so big-so BIG
      The more people we kill in this war, the more the economy will prosper
      We can get rid of practically everybody on your dole queue if we plan this right.
      Take every loafer on welfare right off our computer rolls

    2. Is the public really demanding war with Syria. It seems this is being stirred up by the usual suspects – the folks who want to “project American power” all over the world, even if it makes the situation worse.

      1. I was being sarcastic. I don’t think the public ever demands war. At least, not until the government cooks up some story to inflame their anger (like, say, a “Gulf of Tonkin incident”).

        1. “I don’t think the public ever demands war.”

          Really? What is your temporal frame of reference here?

        2. “I was being sarcastic.”

          Oops, 1000 pardons.

        3. I don’t think the public ever demands war.

          Did you mean to say “…for humanitarian reasons”?

          1. No. War, especially as engaged in by the U.S., has been almost universally a government initiated action. The support of the public usually comes only in response to a sales pitch by the government which has already decided on war. “Humanitarian reasons” is just one such sales strategy, like when we “liberated” Iraq in Operation Iraqi Freedom (as if liberating people from their government is a proper role for the U.S. government).

            With regard to Syria, the sales pitch has already been going on for some time. The rebellion going on there just gives the U.S. an excuse to get involved in their internal politics.

      2. Eddie, I think Dave was being sarcastic.

        1. Oops.

  5. Why allow Assad’s regime, with Russian and Iranian backing to go door to door dragging out jihadists and executing them?
    First we destroy Assad and then set up a puppet regime that relies on our drones to blast entire families in their homes to bits. A much more civilized method.

  6. In his letter Dempsey warns that any engagement in Syria could cost billions of dollars and would be “no less than an act of war.”

    Ha! Then we just won’t *declare* war! Nanner-nanner!

    1. Dempsey ends his letter saying that … the U.S. should work within the law

      Oh, and FTS!

  7. training, advising and assisting the opposition

    Gee, that’s worked out so well in the past… /sarc

    Whatever the fallout of U.S. involvement in Syria, legislators cannot claim to have not been warned.

    Oh they can claim whatever they want. They shouldn’t be believed when they do, but unfortunately I’m sure a lot of people, let’s call these people “morons” will believe them. Because morons will believe pretty anything they hear without question.

    1. I believe virtually everything I read.…

  8. At least he’s not advocating Plan R.

  9. “I was elected to Lead, not to read!”

    “That’s the beauty Mr. President, just pick one. You’ll have complete deniability.”

    “Ok, three.”



    “There is no six.”




    “Four it is, sir.”

  10. training, advising and assisting the opposition

    This is not one option, and need not cost anywhere near $500 million a year. If we want to topple Assad, all we may need to do is to locate him, his high command, and his top military assets on a map, and feed that map to the opposition.

    Of course, that, or even a decapitation strike by B-2s, might not help our interests in the long run. The least bad option now may be a partitioning Syria into various ethnic and religious enclaves.

  11. … And the US’ track record for “picking the right side” in other countries’ problems and wars has been….


    And this time it will be different? Line up, folks and put your money on the betting line.

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