By William S. Lind
The latest cruise missile caracole aimed at Syria was militarily meaningless. A few empty buildings were destroyed, residents of Damascus and Homs lost a couple hours of sleep and honor was satisfied. The only thing missing was Handel’s Musick for the Royal Fireworks.
What was not trivial was that America once again fell into its besetting policy of sacrificing the strategic level to the tactical. Strategically, we need an alliance with Russia and we need to restore the state in Syria. When someone, probably not the Syrian government, launched a minor tactical attack that may or may not have used chemical weapons we immediately forgot our strategic goals and interests and fired off some missiles. This is the response of a spoiled child, not a serious nation.
As I have pointed out before, a rule of war is that a higher level trumps a lower. No matter how brilliant your tactical performance, if you lose operationally, you lose. You can win repeatedly at the tactical and operational levels, as Germany did in both World Wars, but if you lose strategically, you lose. It follows that one of the most elementary errors in statecraft is sacrificing a higher level to a lower. And the U.S. does it time and time again.
In this case, part of the reason for the idiocy was the dreaded words, “chemical weapons!” Chemical weapons, which used to be called poison gas, are now considered a “Weapon of Mass Destruction” like nuclear weapons. This is historical nonsense.