Architect of plan for cruise missile strikes against Syria opposes carrying it out

The Cable reports: The United States appears to be closer than ever to deploying a series of surgical strikes on Syrian targets. But a key architect of that strategy is seriously and publicly questioning the wisdom of carrying it out.

In the last 48 hours, U.S. officials leaked plans to several media outlets to fire cruise missiles at Syrian military installations as a warning to the Syrian government not to use its chemical weapons stockpiles again. On Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker, who was briefed by administration officials twice over the weekend, said a U.S. “response is imminent” in Syria. “I think we will respond in a surgical way,” he said. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to set the groundwork for a U.S. military incursion.

Now, a former U.S. Navy planner responsible for outlining an influential and highly-detailed proposal for surgical strikes tells The Cable he has serious misgivings about the plan. He says too much faith is being put into the effectiveness of surgical strikes on Assad’s forces with little discussion of what wider goals such attacks are supposed to achieve.

“Tactical actions in the absence of strategic objectives is usually pointless and often counterproductive,” Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said. “I never intended my analysis of a cruise missile strike option to be advocacy even though some people took it as that.”

“I made it clear that this is a low cost option, but the broader issue is that low cost options don’t do any good unless they are tied to strategic priorities and objectives,” he added. “Any ship officer can launch 30 or 40 Tomahawks. It’s not difficult. The difficulty is explaining to strategic planners how this advances U.S. interests.”

In July, Harmer authored a widely-circulated study showing how the U.S. could degrade key Syrian military installations on the cheap with virtually no risk to U.S. personnel. “It could be done quickly, easily, with no risk whatsoever to American personnel, and a relatively minor cost,” said Harmer. One of the study’s proposals was cruise missile strikes from what are known as TLAMs (Tomahawk land attack missiles) fired from naval vessels in the Mediterranean.

The study immediately struck a chord with hawkish lawmakers on the Hill who were frustrated with the options outlined by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey that required a major commitment by U.S. military forces with a pricetag in the billions. [Continue reading…]

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  1. This is just plain stupid. There is no conclusive proof that chemical weapons were used, yet the hysteria that Assad had used them grows with each minute. The so-called rebel forces wouldn’t let the U.N. Inspectors into the area, instead sniping at them. Makes one wonder just who it is that’s preventing any fact finding there?

  2. Kevin Schmidt says:

    The best “low cost option” would be for the US to transfer half of the war mongering budget to alternative sources of energy production, so they don’t have to continue spewing propaganda that justifies waging immoral, illegal, imperialist wars OF terror on Middle East oil countries.

  3. Muddy Road says:

    Frankly, I don’t believe this article.

    A good soldier would not give up the battle plan in advance. If I am right, this is some kind of propaganda fluff.

    However, it is fact a great majority of the American people do not support a military attack on Syria. They are not buying the WMD scam again, regime change, Oh-the-humanity! of a gas attack, surgical strikes or shock and awe.

    None of it.

    There is still plenty of room for diplomacy and that can certainly be done on the cheap, too.

    Re: Syria attack,

    Just say, no way!

  4. The plan referred to in the Foreign Policy report was published by the Washington think tank, the Institute for the Study of War, at the end of July. It’s not a Pentagon battle plan — it’s simply an analyst’s assessment of what would be involved in attempting to disable the Syrian air force, an objective that the administration has not described as being among its goals in launching an attack.

    At this point, it increasingly appears that the primary goal of an attack on Syria, if it happens, will be to avoid Obama the embarrassment of his “red line” looking like an empty threat. The message to Assad will be: don’t use chemical weapons — and don’t lose them either.

    The most predictable outcome, however, is that Assad will be presented with a golden opportunity to claim that he stood up to American might and America backed down.