It has been nearly three years since the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured Mosul and advanced rapidly through a number of major population centers in northern Iraq, triggering a major U.S.-led internationalization of the conflict between the jihadist group and the myriad opponents to its attempt to establish territorial supremacy in Iraq and Syria. Read More
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The deployment of a major Russian expeditionary force to Syria in late September resulted in a flurry of public attention and heated rumors. Read More
The start of U.S. airstrikes in Syria early Tuesday morning local time marks a major expansion of the air campaign begun in northern Iraq to target the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL). Read More
Punk rock is no stranger violent politics. From decrying statist militarism to embracing revolutionary upheaval to reveling in the nihilistic specter of nuclear war, the genre has a lot to say about conflict. Read More
After a major chemical attack in the Ghouta area of Damascus, Syria, the United States and many of its allies struggled to find a response. Attempting to enforce its “red line”, America sought to conduct a series of limited strikes against the Syrian regime to deter future chemical warfare and degrade its capability to conduct it.
Yet steadfast allies such as Britain balked at attack, while the domestic outcry at home force the administration of President Barack Obama into requesting a vote on an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF)—which stood little chance of passing in Congress. Read More
Last week Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined American military options in Syria, in response to a threatened hold on his reconfirmation by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and a letter signed by McCain and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.). Both senators are proponents of American intervention in Syria, and both are frustrated by what they believe is the administration’s slow and limited decision to intervene in Syria’s conflict. The traditions of American civil-military relations make uniformed discussions of military options in politically charged issues—especially in a public forum—a delicate issue. Nevertheless, in order to secure a second term as JCS chairman, and in response to a formal request, Dempsey presented an unclassified assessment of five options for American military involvement in Syria. Read More
As the United States begins providing arms to Syrian rebels , it enters an increasingly complex arena of arms-trafficking and proxy warfare. The highly factionalized Syrian rebellion and the combined third-party actors supporting it—often with competing aims—mean U.S. attempts to shape the Syrian conflict through military support will depend not simply on American resources and intentions, but the dynamics of the civil war and the network of actors that facilitates its logistics. With the U.S. role in Syrian arms-trafficking shifting from one of restraint to one of support, the difficulties encountered in producing viable political outcomes in Syria are likely to persist. Read More
After years of debate and increased involvement in the training and logistical support of Syrian rebel forces, the U.S. government authorized the CIA to begin directly arming opponents of the Bashar al Assad regime. Casualties from Syria’s civil war already number at least 93,000 according to some sources, and millions of Syrians are now refugees or internally displaced.
Meanwhile, the United States now confirms that Syria used chemical weapons in a number of instances, at a small scale that many fear may escalate. Chemical-weapons use provided rhetorical justification to this policy decision, but is not the entire reality of the matter. Internal pressure and Free Syrian Army leadership’s refusal to participate in a new round of negotiations at Geneva without U.S. weapons played a major role. Unfortunately for the United States and the administration, neither the known particulars of the U.S. plan, nor the concept of providing arms to rebel forces generally, appears likely to turn the war’s tide or secure lasting U.S. influence in Syria. Read More
With the human toll mounting, the United States getting more involved in training, aid, and arms transfers, and continued calls for intervention, U.S. policymakers are grappling with the administration’s relatively non-interventionist stance on Syria. U.S. concerns about the increasing power of jihadist groups within rebel ranks, the possibility of loose chemical weapons, and the overarching desire to shorten the conflict remain. How has the course of events changed the logic of a no-fly zone, or intervention to secure chemical weapons? Read More