A Cordesman’s ‘How-to succeed in ‘Expeditionary Diplomacy”



[RCP] “… Libya and Syria are only the start. The political, religious, economic, and social upheavals in the Islamic and Arab worlds are virtually certain to produce a decade or more of instability and similar armed power struggles. The United States will be forced into an expeditionary diplomacy and have to make hard choices about the best way to intervene……. Much of the ability of ruthless authoritarian regimes to survive depends on their ability to use superior military force. As the United States found in Afghanistan, however, it is possible to offset much of this advantage by transferring “equalizers” like the Stinger man-portable antiaircraft missile (MANPAD).

In a totally different context, Israel suddenly faced massive problems in fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon when Iran gave them advanced man-portable antitank guided weapons (ATGMs) like the AT-4 Kornet. As the United States has found to its cost, even short-range rockets and mortars can make a major difference, as can bombs and explosives.

Whether myth or reality, the Colt Arms Company is reported to have advertised that “God made man, but Samuel Colt made them equal.” Light “smart weapons” can have much the same effect, as can limited transfers of short-range artillery devices and bomb-making materials. The U.S. problem with mortars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Israeli problem with rockets, and the growing challenge of bombs and improved explosive devices (IEDs) are all cases in point.

This helps explain why countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar have talked to the United States about giving the Syrian Liberation Army (SLA) and other “moderate” Syrian forces such weapons. A dictator-controlled military force like Bashar al-Assad’s will still have the advantage in more advanced weapons, but it would face massive problems in using such force against a better-armed mass popular uprising.

A popular insurgency could then inflict far more serious casualties with far less risk of collateral damage and losses on its own side, as well as have far more motivation to persist. It will be able to create its own safe zones, take advantage of “no fly” or “no move” zones enforced with limited uses of U.S. or allied force, and be able to quickly become far more effective with limited training by U.S. or other Special Forces…

At the same time, the risks of transferred weapons falling into the wrong hands are clear…. Another clear risk is that extremist networks centered around al Qaeda … could rapidly transfer such weapons far outside the region in which they were originally supposed to be used: allied territory or that of the United States. The risks that such weapons could be turned on the United States and its allies are critical, and we and our allies are far less willing to bear the political costs or casualties of “incidents” than extremists and dictators if things go wrong.
(But, & here’s the GOOD NEWS)There do, however, seem to be technological solutions that could largely reduce the risk of transferring such equalizers. As pocket cameras with a global positioning system (GPS) show, a small chip can be inserted into these weapons that could continuously read their location once activated. If such a chip was tied to a device that disabled the weapon if it moved to the wrong area, it would greatly reduce the risk of its falling into the wrong hands. (Brilliant… Hugely costly & not full proof, but Brilliant!)….

One thing is clear. The United States should not remain trapped in the dilemmas it faces in Syria or remain forced into the kind of hollow posturing both U.S. presidential candidates now bring to dealing with this issue. We need practical answers for both the military and political dimensions of what promises to be a decade of “expeditionary diplomacy,” and these are tools that would be cheap and often help do the job.”

%d bloggers like this: