Looks like we're going into Syria.
Okay. As someone who may actually get roped into this thing should it happen, I have a few things I need to rant about:
First off, can anyone please explain why we're doing this? Seriously. This makes no rational sense. I get that we don't like watching the Syrian Army attacking civilians. Really. I get that. But here's what throws me for a loop: Why is siding with the rebels supposed to put a stop to that? The guys they're fighting are the Sunni-Wahabbi religious fruitcakes (as in the same general group Osama came out of). These guys are more likely to attack civilians than the Assad guys. The only difference is that the Army has more and bigger weapons, and if (when) the religious rebels go after the civvies, they're going to be targeting the Alawite minority.
While we're on that subject, what the heck are we expecting to happen should the rebels win? If anyone thinks the secular (minority, by the way) segment of the rebel forces are going to take over once everything settles down and everything is going to be all peaceful and fine, then they're smoking crack. The religious zealots are going to make a grab for power (which is the sole reason they're fighting, by the way), and it's essentially going to be the Iraq scenario all over again, except it's going to be Sunni-Wahabbi whack-jobs in charge this time instead of Shiite whack-jobs in Iraq.
Actually, I misspoke. It won't be the Iraq scenario after all -- Syria actually has weapons of mass destruction. So, I guess our strategy at play here is that we want Al-Qaeda's successors to get chemical weapons.
Oh, yeah. Chemical weapons. The "real" reason we're supposedly getting involved in this stupidity. Okay, we supposedly have irrefutable proof that chemical weapons were used against civilians. Ignoring the fact that we're heard this particular song and dance before (mainly because I actually believe the Obama Administration), what we don't know is what the circumstances of the attack actually were. For Assad to use such weapons makes little sense. He has enough problems to deal with without crossing that particular red line. Seriously. Why would he actually use the weapons if he knows it makes it more likely that the international community is going to get involved somehow? It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. For all we know, it was one of the groups of rebels that did it as a false-flag thing. More likely, it was some lower-level Army guy who did it on his own initative because he figured Assad was a pussy, or something. My personal favorite hypothesis was that it was one of those ubiquitous f***-ups that happens in chaotic situations (like combat) and it was just some stupid private or corporal who got the wrong pallet of artillery shells from the magazine because an officer or non-com was screaming at him to get the stuff right-freaking-now. In short, we still don't really know dick, and that's not a good reason to get involved in this sort of internecine nightmare.
"We don't need to put in ground troops." Um, okaaaay... Then what are we doing? Politicians are very fond of overestimating the effectiveness of air power against ground troops. Things in the real world are somewhat more complicated. I'm hearing speculation on CNN that we're just going to do a few cruise missile strikes to take out certain specific targets. Unless they're going to attempt a decapitation strike against Assad himself, that's not real smart. Even if they are going to try that, I'm not personally convinced that it's going to have any real effect. Under the present circumstances, it's somewhat doubtful that Assad really controls much of his own forces outside Damascus (and even that might be generous). Personally, I think Assad is the lesser evil here, because he may be an evil f***tard, but he's a secular evil f***tard, and as such, is really the best prospect for stability in that neck of the woods (as in, the secular technocrats are going to look at him, look at the religious zealot fruitcakes, and go with Assad, regardless of how distasteful they find him).
If we're trying to do something a little more broad, like, say, ground the Syrian Air Force, you're not going to do that with Tomahawks. Don't get me wrong, the T-LAM (Tomahawk Land Attack Missile) is a powerful system, and provides a power-projection capability to a whole range of platforms (including submarines) that were restricted to a purely sea-control mission as recently as twenty years ago. Nonetheless, there's a whole range of missions that they are patently unable to perform. If you want to knock out airfields, you are talking about much more sophisticated weapons including runway-interdiction weapons like the Durandal bomb, and area-denial weapons for the parking and maintenance ramps. That's going to require manned aircraft. This gets complicated, especially since we have limited basing options in the region. If Turkey actually allows us to base out of Incirlik, I will swallow my freaking gum. It will never happen. That leaves Israel (which would be politically too nightmarish to ever seriously consider), or an aircraft carrier. The carrier option works (sort of), but it carries certain risks since our air wings really don't have any dedicated attack aircraft anymore (the F/A-18 Hornet is really a fighter, not a ground-pounder). Moreover, the Syrians have faced for the last five decades, possibly one of the world's finest air forces (Israel's), and as such have a fairly formidable integrated air defense network. I have little doubt that we can beat it, but we may well take hits in the process. If we're really committed to this little adventure as a nation, then that's a chance you take. I, however, don't foresee that sort of commitment by the American public (especially after a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan). In that case, American service personnel in Syrian Government hands is not a prospect I much relish. The Air force is going to be rather more limited in what it can bring to the table since we do NOT have any stealth attack platforms since the retirement of the F-117 Nighthawk a decade ago (contrary to common wisdom, the B-2A Spirit is NOT stealthy in the least -- Lockheed f***ed it up as it turns out). F-22 Raptor is not really designed to do attack missions, and F-35 Lightning is a joke (or a black comedy).
I could go on and on, but the most telling thing is that there appears to be no end-game plan. I'm still waiting to hear what the plan for a post-civil-war Syria is going to look like, and how our intervention is supposed to get us there. That's where we got bitten in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I'm just not seeing it again. This whole thing smacks of the same sort of rush to intervene without addressing the vastly more nuanced reality on the ground. I don't like this one little bit.