Dempsey’s Options on Syria: But what is the end-state?

July 24, 2013

General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a letter to Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, outlining U.S. military options on Syria.  For those of us interested in how identified ends translate or mis-translate into ways and means to form strategy, this letter is mandatory reading.  The problem, of course, in the case of Syria, is we do not have an officially idenfied end-state on Syria.  General Dempsey, taking care not to speak on behalf of President Obama, presents this option: “[I]solate the conflict to prevent regional destabilization and weapons proliferation…[and] develop a moderate opposition – including their military capabilities – while maintaining pressure on the Assad regime.” This is not an end-state. This is a laundry list of desired outcomes. We need better.

This has been the bugbear of our foreign policy for quite some time, as Frank Hoffman noted on Monday.

Read Dempsey’s letter here.