Attack on Syria: Knowns and Unknowns

TLAM launch from USS Ross DDG-71. There are no lights on deck; that illumination is all from the rocket booster.

As we write these words, the US responded to a Syrian escalation in the Syrian Civil War with a series of cruise missile strikes on a single Syrian air base.

Here is what we know:

  1. More than 14 hours after the attack (which took place at 0440 local on Sharyat Airfield, 2040 EDT) the US has not released any BDA of the target, despite presence of real-time ISR assets in the theater. The implication is that the strike’s effects were relatively inconsequential.
  2. 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (ship-launched cruise missiles) struck targets. As this is an odd number, it seems probable that there was one or more launch or guidance failures. (In case of a guidance failure, SOF may be hunting an errant missile deep in enemy territory).
  3. Targets were, per the only Pentagon statement yet, “aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars,” but…
  4. “Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line.  U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.” By notifying the Russians and Syrians in advance, planners ensured an ineffective strike. Aircraft are highly mobile, and it’s probable that airworthy machines were scrambled to other sites.

USS Porter, DDG-78, launches TLAMs

One thing that was not struck was the Syrian chemical weapons storage facility, almost certainly because it is Russian-staffed. Syria has long stockpiled and employed chemical and biological weapons, but has no indigenous development capability and relied on the world’s leading exporter of these pariah weapons, Russia, for the capability and the materials. It’s quite unlikely that Assad conducted the 4 April chemical attack on civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, without Russian aid, guidance and approval. It is also possible that Russian airmen and chemical officers actually led and conducted the attack.

Since World War II, Soviet and Russian, and Soviet or Russian-sponsored regimes, have been the primary if not sole employers of prohibited chemical and biological weapons. Generally, in accordance with Soviet and Russian doctrine, they have used them to exterminate civilian populations in insurgent regions.

There have also been a number of mishaps within Russian and former Soviet territory from slipshod handling of these weapons.

The Justification

According to statements from DOD and President Trump, the attack was in response to the most recent of many Syrian chemical attacks on population centers. (See graphic). 79 people, most if not all civilians, including 20 children were killed in the attack. The US had threatened counterstrikes for chemical warfare use before, but Assad and Russia called then-President Obama’s bluff, and he did nothing.

There are essentially three factions remaining in the Syrian Civil War, all of which are hostile to the United States. There is the Alawite de-facto monarchy of Bashar Assad, who inherited the country from his father and is a lifelong Russian client. His support comes from those of the elite who have not left, from ethnic and religious minorities, and from moderate Moslems. There is the ISIS faction, whose objectives and motivations are well-understood. And there are anti-Assad, anti-ISIS rebels, almost all of whom are Islamists whose differences with ISIS are more a matter of “who, whom” than policy or religion. The original moderate “Arab Spring” resistance, never numerous on the ground (but easily accessible to Western reporters via Twitter), was quickly and ruthlessly exterminated by Assad during a period of characteristic Obama dithering, which meant that by the time the US was arming rebels, they were arming al-Qaeda affiliates who are considerably worse for Syria and the world than Assad — and he’s the guy who gases his own people.

The Politics

Democrats are already lining up against the strikes and the forces that carried them out; lost to memory is the Red Line of Obama days (which Democrats may have tolerated because it was always empty bluster). The Democrats have done something uncharacteristically smart for either of our blockheaded political parties, in using Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a very very rare infantry combat veteran in Congress, as their spokesman on the issue.

The Slippery Slope vs. the Ineffectual Pinprick

Moulton did say one thing that rings true:

“War doesn’t get any easier than what he did last night, throwing a few Tomahawks at a foreign country,” Moulton said Friday on CNN’s “New Day.”

“We don’t really know what we’re fighting for in Syria. And fundamentally, that’s just not fair to our troops.”

Moulton implied that boots on the ground may be required, and if so, why? His implication is that we are embarked upon a slippery slope to yet another war, and further, that he and other Copperheads Democrats will, characteristically, oppose and undermine the effort.

As far as that goes, he is probably right about the weakness of the attack. (Reuters says Syria reports six killed on the airbase; it was a bad night to be SDO). It’s reminiscent of the pinprick attacks that then-President Clinton launched on Afghanistan and Sudan to drive Monica Lewinsky out of the news cycle, which wound up only encouraging Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

It is extremely unlikely that it will deter despots from using their Russian-supplied weapons of mass destruction on their own or neighboring populations, and the probability is approximately zero that it will deter the Russians from continuing to produce and supply these weapons to the world’s pariah regimes.

What We Don’t Know

Here are a few questions that we don’t know the answers to right now:

  1. How will the Russians react? Probably in something approximately howling rage, especially if any of their nerve gas techs were whacked.
  2. Did the missiles actually hit anything of value? We know they can’t have hit anything of more value to Assad than his Russian alliance, the only thing keeping him from the fate of Qaddafi at this time. But have they disrupted any of his war-making capability? Lack of traffic from the Pentagon suggests no. Instead, they were parallel to the Clinton strikes, blowing up empty mud huts and bleachers and calling it a “terrorist camp.” (Terrorist camps don’t kill people. Terrorists kill people.” Likewise, targeting Hardened Aircraft Shelters that don’t have aircraft in them is a waste of multimillion-dollar missiles.
  3. Is this a one-off strike (in which case Moulton may be right about ineffectual) or the start of a campaign (in which case he may be right about “quagmire,” a Washington term for quagmires in a Republican administration).
  4. What’s next? That’s the question nobody knows the answer to.

We do live in interesting times.

Update

World reactions are pouring in and the New York Times published this graphic of who’s in favor and who isn’t.

Not surprisingly, the opponents are Bashar Assad and his two allies, Putin and the ayatollahs. North Korea is probably opposed too, but this isn’t the day they have Internet.

 

72 thoughts on “Attack on Syria: Knowns and Unknowns

  1. S

    IF it actually was Assad’s faction, and IF it actually was a chemical attack……much more info is needed, from trustworthy sources. Might be a long wait. In the meantime, I wonder what really happened that we’re not supposed to look at. It can’t be Stockholm, where another Mennonite sacrament was administered via truck.

    Reply
  2. John M.

    Can you define the acronyms BDA, ISR and SDO? TLAM I sorted out.

    Also, you closed a quote where I think you meant to close a paren:

    ‘Terrorists kill people.”’

    -John M.

    Reply
    1. Hognose Post author

      BDA: Bomb Damage Assessment. Did we hit it? Did we destroy or damage it? How bad? (Precursor to the big Q: Do we have to hit it again?)

      ISR: Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance. A catch word for “eyes on” which could be human or machine or any combination thereof.

      SDO: Staff Duty Officer. “You’ve got the duty tonight, Abdul. Here’s the CO’s phone number and the duty procedures book. We’re not expecting anything.”

      TLAM: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, a conventional-warhead cruise missile deployed against surface targets.

      Reply
  3. John M.

    “79 people, most if not all civilians, including 20 children were killed in the attack.”

    Is it your belief that the general narrative about this is correct, that Syria did gas its people? I’m open to the idea, but call me skeptical.

    “Since World War II, Soviet and Russian, and Soviet or Russian-sponsored regimes, have been the primary if not sole employers of prohibited chemical and biological weapons.”

    Wasn’t Saddam our guy when he gassed the Kurds in ’88?

    -John M.

    Reply
    1. robroysimmons

      SOF for what its worth did an investigation about Gulf War Syndrome and if that is true or not it did seem the writer uncovered some Iraqi shells with English writing on them.

      In the good news department for using American NBC weapons he did get the rope.

      Reply
      1. Kirk

        And, as to that “Shells marked in english” meaning that they were American munitions? LOL…

        Saddam bought the majority of his shit on the open market from people like the Belgians, the Dutch, and the Germans–All of whom marked a bunch of their shit to NATO standards. I forget where I saw it, but there was a report back around 2003 discussing the source for a bunch of this shit, and the deal was that the Belgian manufacturer of those shells had basically copied the US design for 155mm gas-carrying shell, and sold that on to the Iraqis.

        There was so much shit in Iraq that was shady, so far as violation of sanctions and international restrictions that it isn’t even funny. I’m pretty sure we had the goods on a bunch of our “allies”, and that a large part of the reason why a bunch of them shut the hell up and started playing the music along with us during the post-conflict period was that we blackmailed the ever-loving f**k out of them. Friends of mine who were on the assessment teams let it be known that they’d found stuff that if it had become public knowledge would have led to the fall of several “allied” governments in Europe and elsewhere.

        The Euros were fully in the bag for Saddam; the whole oil-for-food thing should have been termed “Oil-for-bribes”, because he’d successfully suborned about everyone in on the game, from the UN on down to a couple of local governments in Europe.

        Which was, in the final analysis, why we did Iraq in the first place: It wasn’t the WMD, really–It was the way the sanctions regime was collapsing, thanks in large part to our “allies”, and due to the fact that the whole system of restraints on his regime was untenable in terms of keeping it going. The Saudis wanted us out of Saudi Arabia, and their proxy against Iran back–Which, I suspect, had a metric fuck-ton to do with why all those hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis with clean passports.

        Virtually none of what you saw or see in the press, in terms of analysis, is worth shit. About all you can rely on is that some of the bare, basic facts they report might be accurate, for a given value of “accurate”, and that the analysis of what went on or why it happened is worth jack and shit.

        Reply
        1. Hognose Post author

          Iraqi and Iranian stuff is often marked in English, although the Iranians will also supply just about anything with no markings, or spurious markings.

          Reply
          1. robroysimmons

            That makes sense, I’m just repeating the gist of the SOF article which was heavy on proving Gulf War Syndrome via exposure to NBC weapons

          2. Kirk

            Little story about the whole “Gulf War Syndrome” thing… I don’t know, specifically, what caused that stuff, but I am pretty sure that there was exposure to chemical agents over there, and that at least some of it happened because of our own stupidity.

            At the end of the combat phase of the war, we blew up a lot of really big munitions dumps. The guys who were sent in to do that were some of my fellow Combat Engineers, and of course, God love them, they aren’t the brightest guys on the ‘effing planet. The orders to go do this destruction of Iraqi ordnance dumps was sent down from on high, and they went out and did it. Now, supposedly, the Engineers were told that “Hey, this stuff has been cleared by EOD, it’s safe to blow…”. So, they went in and did it. The EOD guys I know who were on scene back then say that they swept the dumps for booby traps and so forth, and had never passed word up to higher that the dumps were “safe to blow”. In the rush, this little distinction didn’t get caught, and our guys went out and did their thing, making big bangs in the desert.

            Now, what’s interesting, here? One of the guys I know who was over there, and who suffered from symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome was one of the Engineers who went into the bunkers and set the charges. I ran into him about two-three years after the fight, talked to him a bit, got caught up on his health issues which had gotten him medically retired at that point, and accepted an invitation to go have dinner with him and his family. While I’m there, he hauls out his photo albums, from Desert Storm, and shows ’em to me, because he’s got pictures of mutual friends of ours who were killed over there. As I’m going through, one series of snapshots I found flatly blew my mind, because it shows him in a bunker with his arm wrapped around shells on a pallet that’s painted to match Warsaw Pact color codes for chemical munitions. And, ohbytheway, he’s in MOPP 0, with no protective gear on…

            Now, understand this: He and I both went to a pretty high-speed unit-run squad leader’s course in Germany that our unit ran as a prelim to BNCOC, and the whole “EOD/What to do with unexploded munitions” thing was pretty well harped on by the guy who ran the course, a true genius-level Master Sergeant. That’s where I remembered the color codes from, some eight years later. And, if I remember right, that stuff was coded for one of the nerve agents, and there he was with his arm around it, wearing a freakin’ T-shirt.

            I looked at that picture, looked at him, and was like “You f**king idiot… Here you are, bitching about the Army screwing your life up with Gulf War Syndrome, and you did it to yourself…”. When I pointed that out to him, he was not a happy camper, at all. He’d never noticed the paint job on the shells, anywhere along the line. His only defense for his idiocy? “They told us it was clear, and OK to blow…”.

            Dude never did pay attention in class.

            Ran that one by some EOD guys I know who were on-scene, during that time frame, and they were all like “Uhh… We didn’t OK shit for demolition… The idiots over at the HQ we reported to are the ones who did that shit, all we told them was that the dumps were clear of booby-traps…”.

            So, at least a part of the whole “Gulf War Syndrome” was self-inflicted, I believe. Guys that wired those dumps for demolition should have recognized what they were looking at, but at least some of them got so caught up in the “We’re gonna make a big bang…” buck fever that they lost their bubble. And, we got what we got… I don’t doubt but that there were actual exposures to a lot of nasty shit, because of that series of misadventures.

          3. Sommerbiwak

            China and Yugoslavia ans South Africa also marked exports in english. Without a deep analysis of the object in question it is very hard to say where they came from. A chekical analysis of the alloys, paints etc. used may give leads where e.g. a grenade shell originated.

            english markings mean nothing really.

    2. Kirk

      Saddam, I’m afraid for the narrative, was never “our guy”. The relationship we had with him was opportunistic, and driven by the threat Iran posed to Gulf Arab oilfields.

      As far as anyone could say it, Saddam was a Kuwaiti/Saudi Arabian proxy in their battle against Iran, as well as being a Soviet client.

      My read on the history of this whole thing has always been that Jimmy Carter was a bought and paid for shill for the Saudis, who thought that if they could strip Iran away from the US, things would work out for them. Unfortunately, getting rid of the Shah created a bigger threat, and they used Saddam to serve as a proxy to fight the new Iranian nightmare. Then, when it was all over, and Saddam said “Hey, it’s bad enough we bled away Iraqi lives like water, but if you think we’re repaying those loans you made to me to finance the whole deal, you’re wrong…”. Thus, the whole Desert Storm thing.

      The Democrats have been causing problems for our foreign policy in this region for decades, and the chickens have come home to roost several times. Of course, the Republicans haven’t done much better–I still think that Bush should have delivered ultimatums to Riyadh and Abottabad, and then glassed them both if they didn’t comply. The whole “ju-jitsu” series of moves he pulled by going after Afghanistan and Iraq pretty much ignored who the real perpetrators were, and engaged us in conflict with the second-order effectors instead. And, given that he couldn’t guarantee that the US government would maintain commitment to his long-term strategy, well… We shouldn’t have done it, that way. His inability to address the constant attacks on his policies in the media, and by the backstabbing Democrat politicians were what led, in large part, to Obama–Someone who should have remained a second-rate Chicago political hack, had Bush been doing his job properly.

      I honestly still don’t understand what the hell Bush thought he was doing, by allowing the belief to spring up that we were going to be in and out of Iraq or Afghanistan in a matter of months. Everyone I worked around on active duty who knew anything about that shit at all…? Well, we were saying that Iraq would be another case like Germany, with a necessary fifty-year presence required to reform the culture. Anything else would have been like fighting WWII, removing Hitler, and then turning the place over to the toxic coterie surrounding him all over again… To do Iraq properly was a fifty-year job, minimum. And, we see that today…

      Reply
      1. bloke_from_ohio

        I spent some quality time hanging out with some of the planners charged with figuring this stuff out over there. The story I heard was that campaign plan in 2003 had a place holder for the “post victory” phase of operations. It literally read something like “Annex yet to be written.” While I firmly believe our adventures in the levant have been doomed regardless of how well we actually planned them, it is instructive that we did not even bother when we kicked it off.

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        1. Kirk

          Most of the crap you’re going to hear from the guys who were in the military at the time and involved in the planning will be along the lines of “Yeah, we knew better, but the politicians didn’t want to hear it, and they stopped us from laying out what we knew needed to be done…”.

          There’s the aspect of what the political side was saying/doing vs. what the professional military knew was going to have to be done, and I think that Bush et al done fucked up by basically doing the Underpants Gnomes thing, and going “Step 1: Invade Iraq. Step 2: Remove Hussein. Step 3:????? Step 4: Peace and comity throughout the Middle East.”

          But, none of the pros thought that Step 3 was anything less than a fifty-year job. If they tell you otherwise, they either were dangerously naive, uninformed, or lying to you. That whole “In-and-out in a few months/years…” thing just got the raised eyebrows and “Yeah, suuuuuuuure we’ll be able to do that…” from anyone I was around.

          I think the Bush plan would have worked, over the long haul, had he sold it properly, and gotten the rest of the country on board to make the commitment. Unfortunately, he didn’t–And, maybe it would have taken on a bit of a quantum effect, in that if he’d said what he was doing, the mere statement would have queered the deal with the Arabs and the rest…

          Of course, my analysis could be entirely wrong, and some of the facts I’ve think I’ve got may in fact be wrong. This is why I’m not a politician, but I’ll say this much: I don’t think the “conventional wisdom”, as espoused by our media and others in the elite, is even partially “correct and true”. There are a lot of facts and things I personally witnessed that obviate what they’ve been saying for years, and if you actually pay attention to what they’ve been saying, they’ve contradicted themselves so much that it’s not even funny. They only get away with it because they have the ability to set the narrative, and ignore the fact of what they’ve said on the same subject in the past.

          Reply
        2. Hognose Post author

          I saw the first-take postwar plan for Afghanistan. It would have worked, but it was not what Big Green wanted. They wanted a bigger war, not the one that was won by 1 Jan 02.

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          1. AlanH

            When the north was abandoned after four weeks, and the Taliban “Foreign Minister” wrote, “we left because they were dropping bombs. Very big bombs,” then we had done our job. Drive the basta4ds mad. Tell them if they again allow the training of terrorists, jihadis-for-export, we’ll come back with even bigger bombs. Go home.

            Generals and politicians seem to always think one success will be followed by another, and so mission creep steps forward to accommodate their delusions.

            Iraq was an entirely different concept, and the narratives spun by the pols and pros had nothing to do with the driving motivations. And Iraq was the place we needed to stay, should have staid, it would have paid to stay. The origin wasn’t about terrorism, but about protection the Saudis, especially, Saddam’s true desire. The Emirates, Kuwait, and Persian issues only reinforced the value. Or so I and others thought.

          2. Paul Rain

            It would have been more effective to drop a nuke on Islamabad, rather than try and reform their cousins.

          3. Steve M.

            Hognose,

            As an outsider, I have always been rather impressed by what was accomplished in Afghanistan by 2002. By all accounts, it was a success. I hope it gets the recoginition it deserves. I do not think it has yet.

            Big Green couldn’t stand by so they had to get involved. Then they screwed it all up. When I read on the subject, it really just pisses me off. I can’t imagine how aggravating it was for you and the other guys that did the work.

          4. Hognose Post author

            Imagine how it feels when you have a whole valley so plugged in that it lights up like a Christmas tree when a single TB SUV convoy comes into the area, only to have an 82nd Airborne unit, a bunch of high-potential but low-experienced privates directly led by strong sergeants and lieutenants who are a match for the privates in everything (in my experience there is no likelihood the average BA graduate knows more than the average HS graduate for at least the last 20 years), and their S-2 shop has told them that everyone in a black turban is a TB, and, no $#!+, it’s a tribe where adult men wear dark, mostly black, turbans by tradition.

            Your intel sources and/or their family members wind up PUC’d, and good luck getting them out of the detainee holding point.

            It gets better. Now you go back to that village where everybody just loved the hell out of America to they point where they’d have voted for George Bush, and you’re the guy who promised them American friendship just before Uncle Abdul got strip-searched and thrown in a helicopter, for all they know never to be seen again, by Americans.

            Meanwhile the 82nd guys are pissed… nobody in any of these formerly friendly villages shot at ’em, so nobody gets a CIB. To which we said, “Keep it up guys, next time for sure.”

      2. John M.

        “I still think that Bush should have delivered ultimatums to Riyadh and Abottabad…”

        So, technically Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan. Abbottabad is just where Osama hung out. :)

        -John M.

        Reply
        1. Kirk

          Abottabad is where the ISI has most of its assets, and where you apply pressure–That’s where their families are. And since they are the ones who were running Afghanistan through their proxies in the Taliban…

          Anyone thinking that a.) the Pakistani government in Islamabad really meant shit to what was going on in Afghanistan or that b.) the ISI didn’t at least know well ahead of time what was going to happen on 9/11…? Well, they’re remarkably uninformed.

          We have been really delusional about dealing with Pakistan–We keep talking to the government in Islamabad like it means something, and the reality is that the real power in the country is hidden within the ISI, who has been waging a very effective proxy war with us using the Pakistani government and the Taliban as cut-outs.

          Reply
          1. robroysimmons

            I’ll keep it short, so far a 27 year long war and losing strategically.

            The fusion of Mildorks and Multiculturalists and no relief in sight

            God is not with us anymore than he was with the Landsers in 1944

          2. Hognose Post author

            Most countries have an army, it used to be said that the Pakistani Army had a country, but then Zia went islamist, and now the mullahs and madrassas have an army that has a country.

            And, oh yeah, nukes. This will not end well.

          3. Hognose Post author

            Russia’s little minions have been a-editing. They state that CIA funding and the operation began before the Russian invasion… hah. There were about five people in CIA who could find Afghanistan on a map, and only three of them knew what the issues were, and only one of them had been there. The station in the Embassy there (before the Afghans and their Russian advisors whacked the Ambassador) was targeted at the USSR, not Afganistan internally. In other words, the officers rotating through there were out to recruit intelligence agents among the Russian expats and diplomats, not interested in Afghan doings except as required by their State cover job.

            But they did a half-assed job of editing because they then note that CIA funding for Operation Cyclone began in 1980.

            Can’t the FSB get good help any more? Or are they all assigned to babysit the Syrian mukhabarat?

  4. robroysimmons

    The “have been” being not publicly confirmed only hypothesized accounts of “yellow rain” in SE Asian and Mycotoxins in AfPak during their failed attempt at Pashtun enlightenment.

    Am I wrong?

    Of course I am not a land warfare legal specialist in any sense of the meaning, but I so love to sort thru propaganda bullshit. And it seems the oddest things always show up in the strangest places. I watched this documentary of an Israeli heart specialist who was going way out of his way to save some Arab kid from the Gaza. So part of this drama took place during the first attack on Gaza and lo and behold they had videoed air burst white phosphorous, and to an artillery dude it looked cool as hell seeing FFE WP with VT or time fuzes. Of course that never happened.

    Reply
    1. archy

      ***Of course I am not a land warfare legal specialist in any sense of the meaning, but I so love to sort thru propaganda bullshit.***

      Speaking of which, I hear the German troops have been throwing Belgian babies up in the air, and catching them on their bayonets. Howzabout we send a couple of TLAMs through the window of Angela Merkel’s office to show our displeasure with the wicked Huns. It’s in the name of all humanity, after all!

      http://tomatobubble.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/nformation.jpg

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  5. PilotMKN

    “What We Don’t Know”

    You dont know that Assad did this. He had nothing to gain and everthing to lose. On the flip side, the rebels had an immense gain to be had from Western intervention since they are in the process of losing.

    You also left out a few factions: Turkey and the Kurds come to mind.

    Reply
    1. morokko

      Ethnic and religious cleansing or intimidation can be accomplished by quieter conventional means, which are well rehearsed by the such run of the mill Arabic dictatorship like Assads. Besides, Assad can not afford to completely burn bridges between himself and majority of Syrian population, if he wants to rule more than desert, to this point he issued various pardons to rebels, there were also exchanges of
      populace between him and rebels in various territories via “humanitarian corridors”. Recently remnants of his army, Iranian led militias and Hezbollah with the technical help of Russians did quite well against islamists, so gassing random civilians appears to be unnecessary. Also the question is what Iranians and Russians would gain by conducting chemical attack? At this point Assad is so dependent on them that he probably could not make individual decision about using WMDs.
      I would like to be wrong, but we may see staged chemical attacks in immediate future, just to induce US to get itself more and more involved in ME. At some point pin pricking just wont do, especially if, say, barrel of sarin placed by unknown hands would blow up in Haifa or Brussels. That means another few millions of more or less real refugees in EU, which will make it either collapse or go for speedy transformation into modern travesty of Carolingian Empire with Ze Kaiser elected by oligarchs and bureaucrats.
      Also the interesting question is if and how many missiles were intercepted by Syrian and Russian AA – Russians say that about 20 had hit their targets.

      Reply
      1. Paul Rain

        Assad is not a shit-tier Arab. He is an Allawite, of Syrian ethnic descent.

        Yes, his wife may be of Sunni and somewhat Gulf Arab descent, but she’s got a banging bod, so presumably mostly real Syrian.

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  6. Boat Guy

    I’m growing weary (AGAIN) of us tossin Tomahawks (at a cool million per, give or take; probably give since that’s an old 1990’s price in 1990’s dollars) at bullshit targets. I’d like to know if there are any TASM’s left in the inventory – actually I don’t really want to know since my cynical guess is probably very accurate.

    Reply
    1. archy

      These were E-models, which are likely a good bit over a million-per. I’m no longer in the line where I have access to overall numbers in purchase contracts, and back when I was doing it foe pay, it used to give me headaches. Also not sure if some or all of these were the enhanced version that use the remaining JP-10 fuel on board, when it arrives on target, as a FAE icing on the cake. Not sure if these are a separate block of E-models or otherwise newly redesignated, and milady is more conversant with air-launched cruise missiles.

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    2. Aaron Spink

      Last data point for new build TLAMs was 1.59 million per. As far as stockpile, we know from official accounting that as of 2015 we had 3500+ in stockpile and minimal sustainment production of ~200 missiles per year (sustainment as in keeping the plant actually open). So we were likely just short of 4k missiles before this event.

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    3. AlanH

      It puzzles me why lobbing 60 Tomahawks to heavily damage aircraft, revetments, hangers, ammo storage, and so forth, at the main airbase closest to Damascus, should bother anyone. It’s just a greeting card, a reminder someone is watching. It isn’t the way we take out air defenses. It isn’t the way we drive the remaining ruling elite to ground. They still have good options. Briefly.

      I also do not agree with the assumption that “we’re starting a war” or that we have something big we have to finish. No. We have to have certain effects, protect a group of key neighbors, and let them know we won’t tolerate certain actions, and that the Russians can’t protect them, won’t, beyond a certain points. The Russians are already over-extended financially.

      Reply
      1. Steve M.

        AlanH,

        I really haven’t much of a clue, but I tend to agree with you. To be clear, my opinion does not matter, but you have summarized my current and quite limited thoughts on the matter.

        Reply
  7. robroysimmons

    Sorry to double post but my one comment had some mild profanity and now is in limbo, but what I mentioned was “yellow rain” use in SE Asia and reports of Soviet bio agents use in Afghanistan and publicly its hypothesis not public fact.

    Reply
  8. 10x25mm

    Not a major point, but it is quite possible that the nerve agent used by Syria against civilians was of Iranian origin:
    http://www.iranwatch.org/weapon-programs/chemical
    This would not absolve the Russians of complicity, since nerve agent use in COIN operations is in accordance with long standing Russian military doctrine. Hezbollah should also be scrutinized, since they seem to be the only actual official government military forces in Syria:
    https://t.co/6vguvzT0m0

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  9. Gray

    People are stupid, so I can see Assad doing something stupid, but it still begs a few questions:

    Why would you do something that is almost guaranteed to regain the attention that just recently was starting to acknowledge as being “not our problem”?

    Why do it in such a manner to almost guarantee a response?

    Why do it on such a small scale: several dozen people in a relatively obscure village?

    If this was Assad’s tactic, what was his strategy? What did he hope to gain by doing this?

    Reply
    1. bloke_from_ohio

      Assad knows that if he losses he is dead, period end of story. He won’t get to live in exile. No one wants him. Not even Russia is interested in Assad should they lose their basing rights. More importantly, if Assad loses the middle of his country then nobody will be able to stop the gulf states from completing a natural gas pipeline into Europe through Turkey. That would mean Russia would have competition and would do little to endure the mustachio’d dictator to Putin.

      The best he can hope for is getting to keep an enclave on the coast. The Kurds and/or Turkey will carve up the north of the country if they are given a chance. The Kurds are calling it the Republic of Rojova and the Turks see it as part of Erdigon’s Greater Turkey. All that is left would be the southern bits of the Tigress river valley and a whole lot of useless desert. I have no idea who will “own” that land, but my money is not on Assad.

      Reply
      1. bloke_from_ohio

        We assume that the rest of the world cares at all what the West thinks about chemical weapons. They don’t and will do what they want, when they want, and how they want, until such time they are forced to stop doing so. Our insistence on dictating how others fight is nothing short of hubris. Haji don’t ROE!

        Why wouldn’t Assad call our bluff? We did nothing when he killed hundreds of thousands with less “icky” weapons. And, the last time he used gas we complained and hash-tagged up a storm, but did little else. The US has a history of gnashing our teeth, making threats, and then doing nothing. We did it to Sadam for decades, and we have played that game with the Norks for generations now.

        Even when we do something, it winds up in a mess. How is the Lybia liberation working out? How about Iraq? The American people are sick and tired of this garbage and the rest of the planet knows it.

        Further, outrage about atrocities only effects the actions of nations who’s cultures put value on human life. That is why only the West is ever effected when amnesty international and the rest of the “human rights industrial complex ” do a scathing report.

        But even then, the same people who demand we save the children from things like guns at home or chemical weapons abroad march by the thousands in parades dedicated to the wanton slaughter of the unborn.

        It is a silly world we live in, and it won’t get less absurd any time soon. People suck!

        Reply
        1. hjhalterman@gmail.com

          ***Why wouldn’t Assad call our bluff? We did nothing when he killed hundreds of thousands with less “icky” weapons.***

          We didn’t do very much the last time we played *let’s send a message* with the Russians over Syria [Damascus] during the 1967 Arab-Israeli *Six-day War* and 34 Americans died from an airstrike by our allies. And the President of the United States ordered the retaliatory US strike/air support [the survivors in lifeboats were being machinegunned] from one of the carriers in the area scrubbed. And cancelled his plans to run for the Presidency after his present term ended, as he didn’t want to be the one to be NOT remembered for ending the time of human beings on this planet. Yes, a Democrat.

          You know about Soviet Echo-class submarine K-172 and its payload of eight P5 / SS-N-3C, *Shaddock* nuclear cruise missiles, speed a little under Mach I, range 500 km, with 350 kiloton nuclear warheads. K-172 Captain Nikolai Shashkov was reportedly under orders to launch his nukes on receipt of firing orders, on hearing broadcast news reports that Israeli or American troops had entered or were shelling Damascus, or if radio contact with his fleet headquarters was lost. His primary three targets were the Israeli capitol of Tel Aviv, the Israeli port city and naval HQ of Haifa, and the Israeli nuclear weapons center at Dimona in the Negev desert. He did not expect to be able to prepare his second missile salvo before being sunk by US Naval aircraft. He and his crew intended to carry out their duty nevertheless; the Israelis destroyed the USS Liberty, [didn’t quite sink it!] then pulled back from Damascus, and it did not come to that. He did not shoot, there was no followon nuclear exchange, and the world did not end.

          Reportedly, when Captain Shashkov and his crew returned home to port, the welcome home committee was headed by the then-leader of the Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev.
          Has an American submarine crew ever been welcomed home by an American president? And what miracle act would they have to have performed to be so honored?

          The man who did not kill the world:
          https://yt3.ggpht.com/-fL8_zcvVwEE/AAAAAAAAAAI/AAAAAAAAAAA/juGKNcBHz34/s900-c-k-no-mo-rj-c0xffffff/photo.jpg

          Reply
          1. Larry

            You’ve got your wars mixed up. Israel never mounted a drive on Damascus in the Six Day War. They seized the Golan Heights, which I guess one might argue were on the way to Damascus, but that’s not what you meant since you also said they then withdrew. The drive on Damascus and the withdrawal from said advance took place in 1973. What I’ve read about K-172 and other Soviet submarines was that they were to fire their missiles in the event of an American and Israeli landing on the coast of Syria, directly threatening Soviet access. Perhaps in the event of Damascus falling, though I’ve not read that anywhere, and in any case was an impossibility since the Israelis never mounted an attack on Damascus in 1967 (nor, so far as I know, ever planned one). So Shrashkov wasn’t “the man who saved the world” (not least because K-172 wasn’t the only Soviet submarine with similar orders in the Med), just the man who would never have been called upon to begin its destruction only since shitty radios or other communications SNAFUs never put him in the position to make the call based upon bad information. Also, the Liberty’s UNMANNED life rafts were machine-gunned, NOT survivors in the water. There were never any men in the water, except for those poor bastards killed right off inside the flooded compartment opened by the torpedo.

        2. Paul Rain

          Assad is not Haji scum. He is a human being. The man should be an eye doctor in France FFS- he is only the Syrian leader because the alternatives happened to die (Bassel), or are not up to the superior Allawite/general non-Arab levels of intelligence (Maher).

          Assad is quite capable of knowing that if he actually used chemical weapons against the Sunni dogs, Israel and his other enemies would use that against him. He isn’t stupid. The charges are garbage.

          Reply
  10. Eric

    What we DO KNOW is that Obama had gotten rid of ALL (100%) of Syria’s chemical weapons according to a “verified” report out three years ago in the press… he had them turned over to the RUSSIANS, who of course, gave them back.

    Said 3yo news story was retracted YESTERDAY.

    So OBAMA IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CHEMICAL DEATHS IN SYRIA.

    Ya I kinda had to say it in caps :D

    Reply
  11. Y.

    The whole thing smells. The doctor prominently featuring in the reports operates in a area controlled by jihadis (al Nusrah front, whatever), and was once charged in the UK for kidnapping. Not guilty, because the witnesses against him got kidnapped again before the case got to trial.

    https://heatst.com/world/doctor-accused-of-kidnapping-western-journalists-helped-by-uk-charity/

    Assad was basically winning, and then he’d order a gas attack on jihadis, in order to force the US to get involved.

    It doesn’t make sense really.

    Reply
  12. Mike

    Conflicting BDA reports I’ve seen from various sources- unnamed American defense officials say 20 Syrian jets destroyed, no helicopters, extensive damage to the airfield, unusable. 1 of 60 TLAM-Es failed and went into the Med, the other 59 hit their targets.

    Syrian defense officials said extensive damage to the airfield, and several civilian deaths (5-9, including 2-4 children depending on the report.

    Russian defense officials said only 23 Tomahawks hit the airfield, the rest hit surrounding communities and open landscape. 6 MiG-23s under repair destroyed, no other aircraft or infrastructure destroyed, minimal damage to the airfield, usable. No Russian aircraft present, no Russian casualties.

    Unless a jet is on strip alert, I don’t think that the Syrians would have been able to scramble them in time to avoid the strike given one hour’s notice. Spinning up a jet that’s sitting on the apron and getting it in the air isn’t a fast process.

    Reply
    1. John M.

      I realize these birds are old and complicated, but is a 1 in 60 failure rate typical on these things? For a $million+ per, I’d want a better rate than that. Especially if certain types of failures mean that you have to send guys to go get it.

      -John M.

      Reply
      1. Scipio Americanus

        Actually 1 in 60 is pretty good as an overall failure rate, assuming the Russians are wrong and the other 59 hit their targets. I think people tend to underestimate how hard it is to make something like a TLAM better than 90% reliable.

        Reply
        1. John M.

          These things are essentially kamikaze jet planes minus the pilot, right? Our regular jet planes don’t have a 90% failure rate, why do these? Do they fly faster than their nav systems can “think”?

          -John M.

          Reply
          1. Scipio Americanus

            Not minus the pilot. The pilot is simply a rather complicated robot rather than a very dedicated Japanese fellow. This robot has to navigate its way to the target, which is many miles away, while carefully flying very close to the ground in any conceivable weather conditions, day or night.

            Unlike a jet fighter, it will not spend many hours a day lovingly tended to by a large team of mechanics but will sit all alone in a cold (or hot) metal box for long stretches while a rolling, heaving ship discourteously tries to shake it’s electronic brains apart. Then it will have a mission profile downloaded into it before being kicked out of its humble home at many times the force of gravity by a solid-rocket booster.

          2. John M.

            @Scipio–

            Thanks. That helps. I did forget that these things fly just AGL. It’s been a long time since the Clinton administration.

            -John M.

  13. QuietMan

    I wonder if this is the beginning of something I said a few years back: “We’re just going to have to stomp a few small countries flat before people start taking us seriously again.”

    Lord have mercy, I hope not. Sadly, I have been on staff: I know hope is not a method.

    Reply
  14. james

    Russia says it has pulled out of the deconfliction line according to this report.
    (close gaps at w ww and. com to create working link)
    http://w ww.newser. com/story/240981/skies-over-syria-just-got-riskier-for-us-pilots.html

    Reply
  15. staghounds

    1. Medically trained tyrants are pretty uniformly bad.

    2. If Assad is the problem, one Tomahawk should solve it. Why are we killing gas pumpers and blowing up runways?

    3. I’m sorry for those Syrians in a John Donne sense, but why are we risking dead Americans over it? That many people were killed right here at home last weekend, and in any other 48 hour period every year, do we not have enough room to bury our own dead?

    Reply
    1. John M.

      Old joke from circa 2003 “Shock and Awe” decapitation campaign:

      The guy responsible for managing all of the Saddam public-appearance lookalikes gets them all in a room the morning after the bombing campaign started. He looks grave. He says, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the infidel Americans were unsuccessful in their attempt to kill our glorious leader, President Saddam Hussein in their cowardly ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign last night.” Relief washes over the group. He continues: “The bad news is that one missile strike was very close and our dear President has lost his left arm in the attack.”

      And jokes aside, I’m guessing that Assad doesn’t spend much time in places where he’s easily Tomohawkable.

      -John M.

      Reply
      1. S

        And what if one hits? What new monster will one have to deal with? Perhaps someone truly competent. There is an interpretation of Biblical prophecies that goes like this:

        Psalm 83, imprecatory prayer; Israel’s near neighbours attack and are wiped out. Parallel answer in Isaiah 17 where Damascus, oldest continuously inhabited city is destroyed in an hour. Until now, the Jews have always been hindered from properly pacifying their rabid neighbours. What would it take for them to shuck the gloves, and how hard could they hit? How would the gentiles react?

        Ezekiel 38 & 39; Iran, Libya, Ethiopia, Russia, Turkey and parts of the EU attack a now peaceful Israel and are wiped out by a cosmic catastrophe. A European leader makes a treaty with Israel to guarantee their safety and allows them the Temple. This man later reneges and claims deity; the AntiChrist, or better expressed, the ErsatzChrist. He turns on the Jews, and shortly after God steps in and cleans up, Personally.

        There is a lot more detail given, and even more than can be deducted, as long as one is careful to avoid newspaper exegesis and datesetting. There is much that is still obscured. However, the time is certainly near, and that is why the birthpangs are increasing in intensity and frequency. Better get right with your Creator now. Who will supply you your missing righteousness? It must be perfect, or you must repay it all, and your account is already in defecit…time is ticking, as Dear Host so often reminds us.

        Reply
        1. Hognose Post author

          One is reminded of the sniper at the end of the runway at several A Camps, who was never molested, because he couldn’t shoot for $#!+., and any replacement might have been dangerous.

          Reply
        2. Topbuilder

          “A European leader makes a treaty with Israel to guarantee their safety and allows them the Temple. This man later reneges and claims deity; the AntiChrist”.
          I think this is becoming more and more an old theory. The final empire is the re-creation of the Ottoman/Islamic empire. Not the Roman Empire as has been falsely taught for so long. The antichrist will be moslem. They will call him mahdi.

          Reply
  16. DAN III

    In the meantime our Mexican border is under attack by invaders and POTUS Trump just initiated another unconstitutional, undeclared war, in the Middle East. Mikitary action that has nothing to do with USA national security.

    Trump. He lied throughout his entire campaign.

    For this Syrian attack of his he assuredly deserves impeachment.

    Reply
    1. Kirk

      You got this “unconstitutional” attack precisely because everyone looked the other way and whistled when Obama did his thing in Libya.

      Most of the things we’re terming “executive overreach” in the US government get pioneered by the Democrats, and then everyone looks all shocked when the natural extension of it takes place under the Republicans. If you weren’t out in the streets calling for Obama to be impeached for Libya, shut the fuck up–Your silence then got us where we are now.

      Reply
  17. Docduracoat

    Man, are you guys all paranoid!
    Occams razor says the simplest explanation is the correct one
    Assad got away with gassing his opponents before, so he is doing it again
    Trump responds forcefully
    End of story

    Reply
    1. LFMayor

      Yes, this. Or maybe Piglet got handed a hot off his very own personal, hacked email account a list of 59 North Korean “secret” facilities just in time to get news of this bombardment half a world away? Two birds with one stone and The President can lean on his house guest all at the same time.

      Reply
    2. Paul Rain

      Please feel free to join my group for those with extra 21st Chromosomes, and who believe Islam is peace.

      Reply
  18. RostislavDDD

    The use of chlorine as an aviation chemical weapon? Dear Hognose, are you serious? Now not WWI, even in third world countries.
    Chlorine-containing substances and chlorine itself can be found in any large city. Especially if there is a chemical industry in the city. I believe that in the Syrian civil war, the parties intentionally used the captured chlorine on the ground (in particular, the opposition chemists poisoned the loyalists in Aleppo:) ), but the aviation?
    Trump’s logic is clear.
    1. To bring down the wave of accusations, “the US president serves Putin.”
    2. Make a change in the goods and raise the price of the transaction (Trump businessman, yes)

    Reply
  19. USMC Vet

    Senator Seth Moulton was relieved of command at the end of his first tour in Iraq for negligence. He sent 2 of his squad leaders in a cab to downtown al hillah at night to find a dvd player and a tv… without a radio and support. After his second tour he informed his bn that he was going to be the personal aid for Gen Pretraus (a family friend of his) and didn’t return home with the Bn from Iraq. Magically, the adverse fitrep was pulled from his file (Lt. Astor, our adj, couldn’t believe it, and let all the Lt’s in the Bn know) about a month later. To his credit, he did perform very well in the battle of an najaf, but that adverse fitrep issue pissed us all off as he threw his former company commander under the bus to get his adverse fitrep out of the system (future politicians can’t have that on their records can they?). BTW, his former CO was awarded the USMC Leftwich award for the top company commander in the Marine Corps. Now Seth is the democrats mouthpiece and “expert” on military matters in Congress…

    Reply

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