Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Syria: What's The TPME?

In military planning, at every level from small unit to theater level strategic planning, there is a cycle known as the Military Decision Making Process or MDMP. MDMP is a proven process developed around the Principles of War. When possible, it delegates certain tasks to experts who then advise the decision maker with several options.

The first step in MDMP (a streamlined version is called "Troop Leading Procedures" at the small-unit level) is to receive the mission. Some initial analysis is conducted including what necessary tasks need to be started immediately. A commander and his staff look for key elements in that order.

One key element they look for is a clear objective. A clear objective is one of the principles of war. Part of that objective is for the intelligence geeks to identify the threat(s) so they can get to work.

The objective concerning Syria is as clear as a three-feet thick lead wall.

The threat(s) are equal from both sides of the conflict. On one side, there is the Syrian Ba'ath Party. They were old allies of Saddam Hussein. They actively supported his rise to power in Iraq. The Ba'ath Party is backed by Hiz'b'allah (or Hezbollah), "The Party of God", a state-sponsored terrorist group supported by Iran. Iran is a long-term threat to the US. Many may need to be reminded of the hostages taken during the Jimmy Carter Administration who were held prisoner for over a year.

On the other side, there are the rebels. There are more than one insurrection organization in Syria. However, the larger and more organized ones are manned, backed, supplied, supported, trained, and financed by Al Q'aeda. Have Americans already forgotten Al Q'aeda? They haven't forgotten us. Al Q'aeda trained and equipped Somali warlord Adid, leading to the infamous "Blackhawk Down" incident. Al Q'aeda blew-up our embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania. Al Q'aeda attacked the USS Cole when it pulled into port in Yemen. Al Q'aeda flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Al Q'aeda staged numerous large-scale attacks in Iraq targeting both US Personnel and the freshly liberated Iraqi citizens. Al Q'aeda incited Nidal Hassan to attack US Soldiers at Fort Hood, murdering 14 people. Al Q'aeda trained, supported and equipped those who attacked the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

During the second phase of MDMP, the intelligence weenies identify the threats. We have two of them who are facing each other. There are two drastically different threat models to analyze. One is more symmetric and conventional. It has CBRNE weapons (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, high Explosive). It may have used them.

The other is an asymmetric and global threat with whom we are already at war. They may also have CBRNE weapons. They used some of them in Iraq. Yes, they used high-yield explosives. They also used improvised chemical weapons. They attached some of those explosives into IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) affixed to large containers filled with pressurized chlorine gas. That gas is normally used for water treatment and sanitation. However, in large concentrations, it can be deadly. They employed such weapons in Iraq. They may have acquired Sarin from hidden caches in Iraq and Syria that were left over from Saddam's arsenal.

While we look at the threats, we examine their possible courses of action. Intelligence geeks have to identify their known and suspected units. They have to analytically predict at least three threat courses of action for each threat. In doing so, they need to identify the TPME of each unit. That is the Task each of those units must perform, the Purpose for each of those tasks, the overall Mission the tasks support, and the Endstate they hope to achieve.

Assad's regimes TPME in this civil war is simple. They want to rebellion quashed and defeated. They want to resume they tyrannical ways and get back to threatening Israel. They want to get back to attempting to develop into a world power. They want to get back to trying to influence politics in Iraq.

The TPME of the rebels is not so clear. We know they want to overthrow Asad's rather secular regime and tyranny. However, they want to establish a theocratic caliphate. They want a state, a base, a haven for Al Q'aeda. They want to destroy Israel and all Jews. They want to destroy the West, converting us to their version of Islam. They want to punish those Muslims who do not ascribe to their vision of Islam. They seek jihad, believing their extremist version of Islam is the only correct one, all infidels be dead and/or damned. They have no problem killing what we consider "innocents". They do not believe in non-combatants. If you are not on their side, you are an infidel and an enemy. Their endstate extends well past Syria.

Given the threats, what are our TPME? We do not have a clear objective in Syria. Strategically, the second and third order effects of backing either side are, arguably, not worth the cost. Morally, both sides are reprehensible.

Now, the government does not owe our citizens the TPME. They owe those to the military commanders and the servicemen and women who are being called to war. What they owe the US Citizens, though, is a clearly stated objective.

Those arguing we didn't have one for Iraq are the same non-military thinkers who wanted a timeline for withdrawal. We had no timeline for withdrawal from Germany after WWII. We are still there, though in much lower numbers than we were during the Cold War. For Iraq, we had a clearly defined list of objectives with a clearly envisioned endstate.

The only justifiable endstates for engaging in war in Syria are the defeat of both the Ba'athists and Al Q'aeda, the establishment of a free and independent constitutional republic, elimination of all CBRNE weapons in Syria, elimination of any credible insurrections, and stability to the region, and resettling of an refugees. Part of the objective would have to involve doing all of this, against two credible threats, while minimizing collateral effects that impact innocents and non-combatants. Those same innocents and non-combatants will be blackmailed, threatened, and used as human shields.

If our current leadership is going to take any military action in regards to Syria, I hope and pray they took all of this into consideration in developing their CONOPLAN. Whatever god(s) you worship, please pray to them to grant wisdom, patience, fortune, blessings, and, if necessary, fury to our military leaders and members.