Obama, US Military Victory, and the Real “Red Line” in Syria

The thing that really bothers me in all the back and forth surrounding the American strike on the Assad Regime debate, and the Democratic Party aligned media spin of what the meaning of words “Red Line” mean, is how off-point from the interests of the American people it all is. The Assad regime’s use of Nerve Gas isn’t the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Deploying those Clinton era spin techniques over the definition of “Red Line” is the political equivalent of pointing and yelling “_Squirrel_!”

The bottom line is that if the Assad regime of Syria survives on the strength of chemical weapons of mass destruction, an incredibly dangerous to American national security situation will come to pass. The Chemical Weapons Convention will be dead, publicly murdered and discredited similar to the way the Kellogg-Briant Pact against war was in the face of Nazi rearmament. There will be an arms race for chemical weapons of mass destruction in the Mid-East & elsewhere. That will require the US military to rearm with either lethal chemicals or with tactical nukes — with all the costs that requires both financial and moral — in order to maintain a credible deterrent for future conventional military operations.

The issue with the Assad Regime’s use of chemical weapons of mass destruction is the Assad regime . The only fit punishment, one that will prevent catalytic proliferation of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction around the world, is the Assad Regime’s over throw. That overthrow is readily obtainable by American military forces and can be achieved without a single boot on the ground, nor a single foreign ally.

The fact that the Obama Administration is unwilling use grasp those means, and to politically justify their use with the same sort of weapons of mass destruction argument that Pres. George W. Bush deployed to justify regime change in Iraq, is the real strategic “Red Line” for Syria. It is a Red Line that the American people chose in electing a Democratic Senate in 2006 and in both electing and reelecting Pres. Obama (and a Democratic Senate) in 2008 and 2012.

It is a “Red Line” that has to be erased by competent and principled Presidential leadership that forthrightly explains the threat, continually over time, if Americans are to continue enjoying — its admittedly rapidly declining — freedom from police state surveillance at home.

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Marching Upcountry with Xenophon

The Xenophon Roundtable is coming to it’s conclusion. While we may see a few more “final” posts this week, for the most part, we have had our say. This was the third roundtable hosted by Chicago Boyz and the discussion was different in character from the first two because The Anabasis of Cyrus is of a different nature than On War or Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd. The first two books dealt with military theory but The Anabasis was not written by a professor of strategic studies or of military history, which Frans Osinga and even Carl von Clausewitz were. By contrast, Xenophon was an Athenian aristocrat at odds with democratic times, a brave soldier of fortune and foremost, a student of Socrates.

Xenophon the Socratic soldier and admirer of Sparta would never have written a book like On War because the character of war would have been of less interest to him than the character of men who waged it. Or at least the character of the Greeks who waged war and that of the leaders of the barbarian armies, Cyrus, Tissaphernes and Artaxerxes (ordinary, individual, barbarians are of no consequence to Xenophon except insofar as they are instrumental in carrying out the designs of their leaders). And their character at war and in peace were inseparable and constant, though having different effects, as Xenophon explained in his passages on Clearchus and his captains and his paean to Cyrus the Younger. It has been remarked in this roundtable by Joseph Fouche that Xenophon was thoroughly Greek in his attitude toward the barbarians which Joseph Fouche called a “mirror image” to the attitude of Herodotus toward the Others of the East. I agree, to an extent. The countervailing example though is Cyrus, on whom Xenophon lavished praise with so heavy a hand that it must have struck Athenian eyes as bordering on sycophancy toward a would-be basileus. Few Greek writers, other than Herodotus, were ever so generous with their pen to a barbarian.

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The Temptation of Xenophon

The Anabasis of Cyrus, Book VI. Chapter 1.

“As they were thinking about all this, they began to turn to Xenophon. The captains approached him and said that army was of this judgment, and each showed his goodwill and tried to persuade him to undertake the rule. Now in some ways Xenophon wished for this, for he believed that in this way he would obtain greater honor for himself in the eyes of his friends; his own name would be greater when he should arrive in the city; and perchance he could become the cause of some good to the army.”

Leadership often brings with it opportunity, and by nature, leaders tend to be people who have in their characters, an ample amount of ambition. Most people tend to lose their heads when such opportunities arise and permit their ego satisfaction become a driver of their decision-making process. That stupid but ambitious officers are dangerous is an oft remarked truism, variously attributed to a constellation of German generals and field marshals. Xenophon was anything but stupid. Instead he had an intuitive, statesmanlike, grasp of the larger political realities of the Greek world even as he discerned the temper of the hoplite and peltast soldiers in the army to be one of shortsighted enthusiasm for his leadership that could wane when it created difficulties or danger.

Xenophon’s response to the soldiers also demonstrated the keen calculation of self-interest along with political realism:

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Xenophon Roundtable: Politics in a Bottle

Carl von Clausewitz famously asserted that war is the continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means. The Anabasis of Cyrus puts this assertion to the test, reducing the phenomenon of war to a single petri dish filled with Ten Thousand wayward Greeks. The Ten Thousand descend into Mesopotamia for a purely political purpose: Cyrus the Younger wants his brother’s throne. Cyrus calculates that a quick strike into the political heartland of the Persian empire will allow him to catch his brother at a disadvantage. The initial descent is calculated to roll from Asia Minor down to Babylon with such momentum that Artaxerxes II’s political decision loop would be overwhelmed. Most of the political impact that Cyrus’s military strategy is calculated to produce will be produced by strategic shock alone.

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Xenophon Roundtable: More Rhythmic Echos

The Anabasis of Cyrus could also be titled “The Long Retreat” because it best describes the result of a failed campaign. The army made up of mercenaries had been strategically defeated when Cyrus followed by their generals, were killed by the Persians. Their story evolved from being a trapped army, to one that mounted a successful fighting retreat north to the Black Sea, where finding themselves among Greek colonies they began to fracture and lose the cohesiveness that had been their hallmark up to that point. Xenophon’s speech at the confluence of the Tigris and Zapatas Rivers had been the catalyst that launched and sustained their march. Later, as they began to bicker, it was again Xenophon who would call on his Socratic reasoning to cement the fractures and sooth the wounded pride in a final effort to gain their homeland.

The theme of this story continues to reappear down through history when circumstance has found a sizable military force faced with the decision to surrender, or make a fighting retreat, against man and nature.

Earlier, the names of Epaminondas, Sherman and Patton were advanced to show how the rhythm of Xenophon’s Anabasis had resonated with these generals as they prepared, and led their armies in successful campaigns. There are other generals in history whose leadership and tasks more closely mirrored the march of the Ten Thousand. Men like Moore, Slim, Stillwell and Alessandri, are less known because their achievements have faded in the passage of time and still carry the faint stench of defeat.

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