DoD Buzz

Brennan Hints at Proxy War Redux


Reuters reports this morning that White House Senior Counter-Terroism Adviser John Brennan "did not rule out on Wednesday the eventual creation of a no-fly zone over a patch of Syria."

"The United States government always looks at situations and looks at what types of scenarios might unfold, and then accordingly looks at what types of contingency plans might be available to deal with certain circumstances," the report quotes Brennan as saying. "So rest assured that various options that are being talked about in the press, and sometimes being advocated, these are things that the United States government has been looking at very carefully, trying to understand the implications, trying to understand the advantages and the disadvantages."

The Obama administration's defense strategy has emerged de facto as one with three major prongs: The first has been a continuation of the Bush 43-era COIN-esque wars in the Middle East. The second has been the high-viz attempt at a pivot to the Pacific Rim.

The third has been the prosecution of "proxy wars" -- hostilities under banners of things other than declared war. Drone strikes in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan fall into this catagory. And, the largest scale example of a proxy war on Obama's watch was the no-fly zone over Libya -- officially tagged "Odyssey Dawn." (Wasn't that a Yes album?)

As I wrote in a Huffington Post blog piece last fall, from a political point of view, the beauty of these sorts of no-fly zones is in the optics. Fly the NATO flag over the operation and give the lead to a British guy. (Nothing to see here, Fourth Estate.)

Then start the no-fly zone flight ops -- defensive in nature, right? Let the opposition make the first move and react. Except Odyssey Dawn started with your classic integrated air defense takedown that included US Navy assets firing beaucoup TLAMs into Libyan targets. And from there the "defense" took the form of close air support missions designed to either stymie Ghaddfi's forces or allow the rebels to take ground. The Syrian IAD is more robust than the Libyan one, so you can expect a similar rollback strategy this go 'round (if it happens).

Odyssey Dawn was effective in terms of ousting the bad dictator. (Hey, I did the Line of Death stuff when I was flying Tomcats back in the day. I hated him before hating him became vogue again.) And what makes a similar effort over Syria very likely as the rebels there continue to struggle and the YouTube videos trickle out is the takeaway for the Obama administration is their critics are in fact fooled by proxy wars.

The biggest question however (for the DoD Buzz staff anyway): If NATO creates a no-fly zone over Syria, will the USAF use F-22s? The situation would seem custom made for them.

We'll see . . .

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