Dempsey: Syria Intervention ‘Could Inadvertently Empower Extremists’

John Glaser, July 23, 2013

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According to the nation’s top military officer, direct U.S. intervention in Syria would be extremely costly, risk mission creep, lend itself to unintended consequences, and may be ineffective.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey has written a letter spelling out all the costs and risks of various kinds of U.S. military interventions in Syria. He writes that the decision to take military action shouldn’t be taken “lightly” and that such action would be “no less than an act of war.”

  • Dempsey estimates that “training, advising, and assisting the opposition” would cost “$500 million per year initially,” and perhaps more after that. The risks in this option, he says, “include extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, retaliatory crossborder attacks, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties.”
  • The option of “conducting limited stand-off strikes” would be no small task, as some have suggested. It would require American “force requirements” including “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers,” and “the costs would be in the billions.” The Assad regime may not even be too damaged in this option, Dempsey informed. “Retaliatory attacks are also possible,” he added, “and there is a probability for collateral damage impacting civilians and foreigners inside the country.”
  • Establishing a no-fly zone would cost about $1 billion per month and “would require hundreds of ground and sea-based aircraft, intelligence and electronic warfare support, and enablers for refueling and communications.” “Risks include the loss of U.S. aircraft, which would require us to insert personnel recovery forces,” according to Dempsey. “It may also fail to reduce the violence or shift the momentum because the regime relies overwhelmingly on surface firesmortars, artillery, and missiles.”
  • Setting up “buffer zones” or “safe areas” would require “thousands of U.S. ground forces,” and cost over $1 billion per month. While it could keep civilians safe, it could also put them at more risk if they “become operational bases for extremists” or if the “regime surface fires into the zones.”
  • And finally, gaining control over the chemical weapons sites would require setting up a no-fly zone (with its associated costs), “thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces,” and would cost “well over” $1 billion per month. “Our inability to fully control Syria’s storage and delivery systems could allow extremists to gain better access,” Dempsey added.

After all of those considerations, Dempsey makes clear that even if they all worked, weakening or toppling the regime “is not enough.” The U.S. would then be in the position of cleaning up the mess and that could mean another decade-long nation-building (and probably counter-insurgency) effort.

“We have learned from the past 10 years,” Dempsey writes, “that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state. We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action. Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.”

To close observers, though, this should be review. Dempsey and other military officials have been repeatedly issuing these warnings about the costs and (in)effectiveness of U.S. intervention in Syria for over a year now.

Here’s Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel outlining some of the big picture risks at a Senate hearing last April:




40 Responses to “Dempsey: Syria Intervention ‘Could Inadvertently Empower Extremists’”

  1. Well I guess McCain got his answers; I read he was lifting his hold on Dempsey's renomination but I can't imagine McMeanie is happy with what the general had to say. Thanks for the info John!

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  4. [...] Print This | Share This | Send a letter to the editor | Letters | Antiwar Forum [...]

  5. Glaser,

    If you haven't noticed, there's a lot of double talk going on. News flash: Dempsey's first option listed is already underway.

    There was news just yesterday the powers that be in the US Congress are now apparently "okay" with Obama's new 'plan' to 'openly' and "directly arm" the so-called 'Syrian rebels'–an effort tentatively scheduled to 'officially' kick-off in August.

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/07/

    Its also been reported the US. via the CIA, is already "training" so-called "Syrian rebels" in Jordan.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/10/us-syri

    Additionally, it's important to note there are already hundreds of US troops currently in Jordan right now.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jun/22/9

    Moreover, General Martin Dempsey explained just last Thursday the US "has not been inactive" in Syria, and that he supports "building the military capability" of the so-called 'Syrian rebels'–which is "intervention" and pursuit of a "Military Solution".

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/clip/4460099

  6. I'm glad someone has learned something from the last 10 years. However, Congress is immune from learning. What Dempsey hasn't realized that it wouldn't be "inadvertently", it's just what the neocon puppets in Congress want.

  7. The USA militarism regime is not the military but those who vote for military to act upon their political and other agendas in countries that they want to building "new nation" and other BS talks, without considering the costs or other social matters involved, yet they get their paycheck by the end of the month, now if more of Americans become homeless or million of Syrian are killed in process, that's not their job nor their concerns, like Madeline Albright, after a million of Iraqi baby's died due to USA and NATO embargo where these baby's become the victim of such inhuman act she said that she didn't care. Now these people have no conscious, nor they see themselves as human, they are the superpower counting on their militarism regime for that paycheck.

  8. everything says no no no, but john mccain says go go go.

  9. Rubbish double talk. Arming of terrorist groups is alrady going on. There are no domestic armed rebels, only foreign groups. There is an open knowledge that many countries with good relations to US who have salafi population are encouraged to send "volunteers". Numbers of those killed are usually known, not numbers of those that went. Balkans are recruitment grounds, so is any place on earth where Saudi funded Salafis are present. And we know they are extremists, and we know all about them. Secoind, "direct: intervention could "inadvertenly" empower the terroists? So, Mr. Doublespeak, we are only concerned with the kind of intervention that could directly link US and the terrorists and their deeds. So, doing it the way it is done today, we can pretend that they are not supported by our weapons? And thus, not be responsible for the most bestial of crimes these psychopats do every day?

  10. [...] See the original post here: Dempsey: Syria Intervention 'Could Inadvertently Empower … [...]

  11. Extremism all depends upon where you are seated (lying or standing) at the time, with whom, and where.

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  14. Since when does the US care about money, lives, an unintended consequences when deploying our military assets? Bianca is right on her "doublespeak" comment.

  15. Basically reading this content readers will agree with this as it is real and it’s nice to read from a blogger that’s telling it for all to think about

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  17. Well I guess McCain got his answers; I read he was lifting his hold on Dempsey's renomination but I can't imagine McMeanie is happy with what the general had to say. Thanks for the info John!

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  19. [...] the dangers of direct military action. “We have learned from the past 10 years,” Dempsey said last month, “that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without [...]

  20. [...] the dangers of direct military action. “We have learned from the past 10 years,” Dempsey said last month, “that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without [...]

  21. [...] of direct military action. “We have learned from the past 10 years,” Dempsey said last month, “that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without [...]

  22. These would be troops I would support. The German, British and French soldiers who temporarily ceased fighting during Christmas 1914 were already sick of the war that started the previous August that had debilitated into stalemate trench warfare and many must have realized the fallacy of the mutual slaughter of their White European brethren.

  23. Had the war ended then and there, many things would have been different–in this alternate history, in addition to millions of people not dying, there might not have been a Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, no 'Lusitania' sinking in 1915, the USA certainly would not have become involved, no Versailles Treaty to cripple, bankrupt and humiliate Germany. Also a young Austrian soldier serving in the German Army named Adolf Hitler would have mustered out and probably become an artist or architect instead of going into politics as a result of the Versailles Treaty.

  24. Even if the war ended in 1918 when it did, there might not have been a Second World War if that awful treaty with its war guilt laid at the feet of Germany and the economically devastating "reparations" forced on the German people had not been put into effect. Hard to say, but the zionists and banksters already had their plan for world domination underway prior to 1914 and creating wars are one of their major means toward that end.

  25. " Why can’t we have holidays and parades for them, those real people who chose to do something besides take the war that was offered them?"

    Well we could, I mean holidays I don't know, I don't expect the empire to make a national holiday of "anti-empire day" anytime soon unfortunately. But parades, what is involved? Applying for a city permit for the peace parade or the honor the truce parade? We could.

  26. And now there are those who want to memorialize the survivors. We have developed the same disease that poisoned the Germans, it's called 'militarism'. The cure is still the same …WAR.

  27. Same reason the USA has been doing this since its inception, kicked into high gear since 1945: to install and support governments that keep poor people in their place so they and their resources can be robbed by US international corporations.

  28. Most of the democracies the USA has overthrown (over 30) have been in Latin America. We can look at every single case, as William Blum does in "Rogue State"; they're all the same. The USA is an authoritarian empire with fascist satellites put and kept in place to rob other countries and enrich itself.

  29. Obama is doing this as we speak. No "cold war". The terrorist Obama supported a fascist military coup in Honduras in 2009 to overthrow their democracy and replace it with an authoritarian military dictatorship that has reversed all the social gains won back by the population after decades of US-backed authoritarianism, and Obama's supporting the dictatorship there to this day, in defiance of the whole world. Like all US imperialists, he hates democracy (control by the people). He is democracy's antithesis.

  30. Mr. Glaser: Thank you for this totally true article, it would be interesting if the American people would know about this situation, but leave up to the Corporate media to twist things around. Only peaceful nations such as in Scandanavia for example, know and get the accumulative benefits of peace, since is much more interesting to built than to destroy; If true peace would come to Colombia, Colombia it self would go into a cycle of creativity and progress that would perhaps be, much more beneficial to the United States than this bloody war.

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  32. Pretty much and plenty of conservatives who all of a sudden cry fowl over Obama's spying programs had and still have no problems supporting the statist drug war. thankx

  33. Mr. Glaser: Thank you for this totally true article, it would be interesting if the American people would know about this situation thanks, is bubblegum casting legitimate

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  35. I am very optimistic that this Syrian war will soon come to an end. The authorities should make an amicable agreement to those who are involved on this matter.

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  38. There was virtually no legal basis for what the U.S. ended up doing in Libya. There ended up being no net benefit for Libyans or for U.S. interests as defined by Washington. It was a failure and its consequences continue to haunt us.

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