Friday, September 13, 2013

No toys in Syria


It did not come to pass.
At least not yet.

After a ride along an anfractuous path, the military action President Obama had threatened against Syria has been postponed indefinitely if not tabled altogether.  This has come about in a way that the Washington Post accurately calls "political science over scare tactics."  I think that's mostly true.  Rather than pander to jingoistic flag-waving that typically raises a president's approval rating, Obama seems to have gone for a political solution, even if Russia is currently getting much of the spotlight (although Obama is not off the hook.  It was dingbattery such as "drawing a red line" that got us into the mess in the first place.)

There is, however, a certain sect within the military that may be outright disappointed at the seeming end to the threat of military strikes.  This let-down does not come from any sort of machismo or bloodthirstiness. Not at all.

They just want to see if the new toys work.

Military engagements, especially low-intensity and short-term operations as Syria certainly was planned to be, are ideal for field testing new weapons systems.  Do these things actually fulfill their intended roles and are we getting our money's worth?  Here's what I mean:

Cyber weapons--we have new computer viruses and malware.  Can we bring down systems of infrastructure such as power grids and financial markets?  Perhaps more importantly, an entire sophisticated air defense system such as the one Syria has?

Agent defeat weapons--these are weapons with the sole intent of taking out weapons of mass destruction.  If you hit a storage dump of chemical weapons with a Tomahawk missile, you'll likely send the deadly stuff spewing everywhere.  Weapons systems such as the CBU-Passive Attack Weapon consist of thousands of metal rods that disperse over the target and penetrate it, allowing the WMD material to spill to the ground.  Another bomb system includes white phosphorous to incinerate it.  The flash from WP can also blind people for days, maybe even permanently.  Neat, huh?

F-22 Raptor--this beautiful fighter aircraft is boasted as being the stealthiest and most highly-maneuverable jet in military history.  But it has not been without its share of problems.  If the F-22 saw combat over Syria, a nation with a top of the line Russian air defense, and came out victorious, it would certainly erase a great many doubts...not mention justify its hefty price tag.

Being as war-weary as most sane Americans, I was not at all eager to launch strikes against Syria...even if I've thought Syria has needed its ass kicked since 1983.  At the same time, national defense is a sad necessity and there is unfortunately no way to fully test a weapon without deploying it.

Let's hope that the test cases are as few and far between as possible.




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