Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

Outside View: Geopolitics 101 -- Don't lose wars!
by Harlan Ullman
Washington (UPI) Feb 19, 2013

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Prior to entering national office, politicians of all stripes and especially U.S. presidents-elect and members of Congress should take a short course in Geopolitics 101.

That course would have but two warnings: Don't start wars you can't win and above all don't lose wars. One would think that is common sense bit it isn't.

The United States' wartime scorecard isn't impressive with one major exception. Along with allies, the United States won the big one -- World War II. Korea was at best a draw. Vietnam, and let's not forget that was a war of choice, went to the other side. Grenada didn't count. Gulf War One was a tactical victory.

But Afghanistan and Iraq have turned out badly so far. Defeats were for political reasons in wars that couldn't be won even by the world's most powerful military force.

That record should give pause to politicians considering military action whether under a declaration of war or a congressional authorization to use military force. Every war the United States has initiated more or less unilaterally has led to failure of one kind or another.

In a "what if" moment, had the George W. Bush administration made capturing or killing Osama bin Laden a higher priority than overthrowing the Taliban, obviously history might have been different. Had the United States not intervened in Iraq ...But it did.

Today, the horror in Syria and its civil war continues with unconscionable slaughter of civilians and no end or settlement in sight. The Geneva talks have failed. Both the Assad regime and the Syrian opposition believe they are winning. Hence, there is little leverage to force either side to accommodate and accept some compromise.

Assad has the support of Russia and Iran. With ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5-plus-1 to reach a verifiable agreement that would keep Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Syria could be a spoiler. The likelihood is that securing an agreement will take precedence over attempts to muscle Iran out of Syria -- a tactic unlikely to succeed regardless.

The Syrian opposition is riddled with Islamists and foreign fighters. The U.S. State Department estimates about 7,000 foreign jihadis are already in Syria, some or many with Western passports. The Free Syrian Army has dismissed its first head of the Supreme Military Council, Brig. Salim Idriss. While arming and training the opposition seem sensible courses of action, that radicals and extremists could seize control of the movement, topple Bashar Assad and end up running Syria are prospects not to be easily discarded.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are actively engaged in supporting the opposition with funding. Syria has become an intra and interwar surrogate for the Sunni-Shiite vendetta with the Alawite minority against the Sunni majority and Iran versus Saudi Arabia in what is a 21st-century variant of the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s with Franco's fascists supported by Nazi Germany fighting Spain's socialists and communists supported by Soviet Russia.

Humanitarian arguments and the collapse of Syrian peace talks are understandably forcing the Obama administration to reconsider its policy alternatives. Both the president and Secretary of State John Kerry have publicly admitted that the current policy isn't working. But the prospects are bleak.

This column has outlined a series of policy choices that range from bad to worse. Training and arming the opposition carries the risks noted above. Establishing safe havens and no-fly zones will require a robust military commitment even without deploying ground forces. Attacking Assad's air bases to remove his helicopter and fighter-bomber advantages in essence is an act of war. And who would do the attacking?

Both the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress didn't and wouldn't endorse military strikes last fall. British Prime Minister David Cameron was rebuffed by the Commons and U.S. President Barack Obama chose not to request approval to use military force from Capitol Hill. Circumstances change. Perhaps the sight of barrel bombs on Aleppo and Homs will change opinions. But if so, what can be done?

That gets back to Geopolitics 101. Is the United States or any combination of outside powers prepared to wage war over Syria? That is the crucial question.

If the answer is "Yes," then the "what next" question of what a post-civil war Syria would require to assure a measure of stability and absence of violence must be answered.

If outside powers are unwilling or unable to address these questions, the best that can be done is on the margins. Humanitarian aid, judicial action to designate individuals on both sides as war criminals and the bully pulpit are insufficient. Arming and training is at best a palliative and not a cure.

And we must remember that the only thing worse than starting a war is losing it. Unfortunately, that is a warning we tend to forget.

(Harlan Ullman is chairman of the Killowen Group, which advises leaders of government and business, and senior adviser at Washington's Atlantic Council.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)


Related Links

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Kerry discusses Middle East peace in Paris talks
Paris (AFP) Feb 19, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry met Wednesday with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas as he seeks progress in his quest for a Middle East peace deal. The top US diplomat has spent months trying to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for resolving their decades-old conflict, but the negotiations have shown little sign of progress, with each side blaming the other. ... read more

First US missile shield destroyer arrives in Europe

NATO gets first US destroyer for missile shield

Israel to help India develop missile defense shield

Israel shoots down rocket fired from Gaza: reports

Israel FM slams 'warmongering' Iran's missile tests

Iran says will not negotiate missile programme

Raytheon receives Maverick missile contract from South Korea

USAF Selects LockMart To Integrate Air Operations and Missile Defense Assets

Dutch scientists flap to the future with 'insect' drone

Small drones hit US regulatory turbulence

MQ-8C Fire Scout Completes First Flight

ARCA is developing a high performance unmanned aerial vehicle

US Marines Reach Milestone For New General Dynamics-built Aviation CCS

MUOS Satellite Tests Show Extensive Reach In Polar Communications Capability

Space squadron optimizes wideband communication constellations

GA-ASI and Northrop Showcase Unmanned Electronic Attack Capabilities

China soldiers too big for outdated tanks: report

From gas to submarines, Great War was crucible for deadly innovation

Researcher: Nazis experimented with mosquitoes as weapons

Indonesia takes final delivery of BMP-3F vehicles

BAE Systems counts cost of US defence cuts

Russia FM talks weapons, Syria during Iraq visit

Irregularities found in Colombian military contracts: official

Russia's defense talks with Egypt part of regional arms drive

Obama throws support behind Dalai Lama, Tibet rights

Australia endorses 'code of conduct' for South China Sea

Obama, Putin speak after Ukraine deal

China, Japan need dialogue to avoid 'miscalculations': US general

Molecular Traffic Jam Makes Water Move Faster through Nanochannels

Physicists at Mainz University build pilot prototype of a single ion heat engine

Quantum dots provide complete control of photons

New boron nanomaterial may be possible

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.