Dempsey: Syria Intervention ‘Could Inadvertently Empower Extremists’


According to the nation’s top military officer, direct U.S. intervention in Syria would be extremely costly, risk mission creep, lend itself to unintended consequences, and may be ineffective.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey has written a letter spelling out all the costs and risks of various kinds of U.S. military interventions in Syria. He writes that the decision to take military action shouldn’t be taken “lightly” and that such action would be “no less than an act of war.”

  • Dempsey estimates that “training, advising, and assisting the opposition” would cost “$500 million per year initially,” and perhaps more after that. The risks in this option, he says, “include extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, retaliatory crossborder attacks, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties.”
  • The option of “conducting limited stand-off strikes” would be no small task, as some have suggested. It would require American “force requirements” including “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines, and other enablers,” and “the costs would be in the billions.” The Assad regime may not even be too damaged in this option, Dempsey informed. “Retaliatory attacks are also possible,” he added, “and there is a probability for collateral damage impacting civilians and foreigners inside the country.”
  • Establishing a no-fly zone would cost about $1 billion per month and “would require hundreds of ground and sea-based aircraft, intelligence and electronic warfare support, and enablers for refueling and communications.” “Risks include the loss of U.S. aircraft, which would require us to insert personnel recovery forces,” according to Dempsey. “It may also fail to reduce the violence or shift the momentum because the regime relies overwhelmingly on surface firesmortars, artillery, and missiles.”
  • Setting up “buffer zones” or “safe areas” would require “thousands of U.S. ground forces,” and cost over $1 billion per month. While it could keep civilians safe, it could also put them at more risk if they “become operational bases for extremists” or if the “regime surface fires into the zones.”
  • And finally, gaining control over the chemical weapons sites would require setting up a no-fly zone (with its associated costs), “thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces,” and would cost “well over” $1 billion per month. “Our inability to fully control Syria’s storage and delivery systems could allow extremists to gain better access,” Dempsey added.

After all of those considerations, Dempsey makes clear that even if they all worked, weakening or toppling the regime “is not enough.” The U.S. would then be in the position of cleaning up the mess and that could mean another decade-long nation-building (and probably counter-insurgency) effort.

“We have learned from the past 10 years,” Dempsey writes, “that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state. We must anticipate and be prepared for the unintended consequences of our action. Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.”

To close observers, though, this should be review. Dempsey and other military officials have been repeatedly issuing these warnings about the costs and (in)effectiveness of U.S. intervention in Syria for over a year now.

Here’s Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel outlining some of the big picture risks at a Senate hearing last April:

58 thoughts on “Dempsey: Syria Intervention ‘Could Inadvertently Empower Extremists’”

  1. Thanks this web site is really a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll definitely…find out more here

  2. You're in point of fact a just right webmaster. The website loading speed is amazing. It kind of feels that you're doing any distinctive trick. Moreover, The contents are masterpiece. you have done a fantastic activity on this subject! unusual wedding rings

  3. Well I guess McCain got his answers; I read he was lifting his hold on Dempsey's renomination but I can't imagine McMeanie is happy with what the general had to say. Thanks for the info John! medical life insurance

  4. Wonderful blog post. This is absolute magic from you! I have never seen a more wonderful post than this one. You've really made my day today with this. I hope you keep this up! car polish

  5. There will be an increased dose of some reality TV shows coupled with a non-event they will blow out of proportion with 24/7 coverage, just like the OJ Simpson saga. weight loss

  6. I am very optimistic that this Syrian war will soon come to an end. The authorities should make an amicable agreement to those who are involved on this matter. Blog comments

  7. The USA militarism regime is not the military but those who vote for military to act upon their political and other agendas in countries that they want to building "new nation" and other BS talks, seo

Comments are closed.