December 02, 2004

Syrian War Making

According to the Telegraph, Syrian NGOs are raising an army and sending it piecemeal over the border to Iraq to fight for a Baathist restoration.

A network of Syrian mosques is sending men, money and weapons to Iraq, fuelling the insurgency.

An investigation by the Telegraph has shown that Arab volunteers are streaming across the border despite Damascus government claims that it is curbing cross-border terrorism.

Much of the traffic is financed by former members of Saddam Hussein's regime living in the Syrian capital and has the backing of prominent tribal leaders.

If the Syrian government were doing this, it would be an act of war. Since private groups are doing it, they are protected from the consequences of their actions by international law in accordance with the westphalian framework. The traditional westphalian response is to declare war on Syria, replace the Syrian government with one that is capable of restraining this private NGO war network, and move on.

In today's sad political reality, this doesn't seem to be in the cards. So if westphalian solutions are out, what would pre and post westphalian solutions offer us.

Pre-westphalianism would have H. Ross Perot, or some other corporate titan, rent a mercenary company to enter Syria, hang Assad in a public square with a message pinned on him for his successor to do better at controlling the jihadists and go home. This is a solution that would have all sorts of difficulties attached to it in the form of poor coordination, a marked increase in the chance of reprisals and other mayhem on US soil, and all sorts of unpredictable consequences that could spin the world political situation out of control.

That's the past. But what about a future, post-westphalian response?

Unfortunately, post-westphalianism, at least to the extent that it's developed, doesn't yet offer much better than plain jane westphalianism at this juncture. Sure, when Iraq dies down, Syria really has to worry that it's next for a makeover and that makeover will likely have a higher probability of success but there is currently no material advantage in this particular situation of post-westphalianism over westphalianism and a distinct disadvantage in the ability to marshall supplementary forces relative to pre-westphalian practices.

Is there a way to increase our ability to raise ad-hoc forces? I think that we're stumbling our way to it. Private military contractors are increasingly used and we're trying to reign in the bad effects by making their actions subject to the UCMJ. The system's by no means complete but I can see a future where present trends continue into a de-facto or even de-jure invigoration of the letters of marquee and reprisals clause of the Constitution. Close integration with US C4I systems would reduce the amount of trouble that an out of control unit might get into.

So why depend on such irregulars at all? I suspect that there is a pool of manpower out there that would be willing to participate in military operations of a specific duration and type as long as they could be sure that they go home at the end of what they signed up for. This is something that no army really every promises, certainly not the US Armed Forces. Dipping into that sort of pool of manpower, or renting mercenary forces would fit into Dr. Barnett's idea of a plug in military force, though he was thinking of it in terms of the back-end Sys admin force instead of ad-hoc improvements to the Leviathan force.

I think the Leviathan force is just as much in need of plug-ins as the Sys Admin force because of the strategy of parallelization. Al Queda clearly has been trying to stretch forces thin. If we can successfully demonstrate the capability of incorporating temporary units, parallelization becomes much less practical. We're no longer trapped between bulking up and crippling our economy with a massive military infrastructure and running so lean we can't stop our enemies from winning.

Posted by TMLutas at December 2, 2004 02:05 PM